I recently had the opportunity to meet up with Wil Dee and Brian Thorson, of Haven Gastropub + Brewery. We’ve met up with Wil at the opening of Provisions Market in Orange. Today is a focus on what Brian Thorson has been working on since he became the head brewer months back. Bringing his own process and style to craft beer, Haven has begun churning out some amazing beers. After talking to Wil for just a moment, it’s clear, Haven Brewing is Brian Thorson.
Brian Thorson (Left) Wil Dee (Right)
Brian started off in the master brewers program at UC Davis. Then spent some time at Harpoon Brewery and Trumer Brauerei before moving on. After 5 years at Drake’s Brewing, Brian had made a name for himself as a first class brewer.
These days you can find him at Haven Brewery in Pasadena, located inside Haven Gastropub. He’s spending his time dialing in the brewing system while keeping up with demand. This affords him the opportunity to brew and test beers to get immediate feedback from bar patrons. A process that is helping produce great beers. “Occasionally, its nice to hear back from people. Its a learning experience for me.” Thorson told me, “I started with the styles I thought needed to be done. [I’m] building a core to see what people like.”
“It is a total reversal from Drake’s.
I’m not reinventing old beers,
I’m making completely new ones.”
Going from large production breweries, to a small brew pub is a great opportunity for someone to test boundaries. “It is a total reversal from Drake’s. I’m not reinventing old beers, I’m making completely new ones.” These completely new beers clearly deserve your attention.
Simcoded ended up being the first ale Haven set out to produce. Described by Thorson as a stripped down pale ale with a little bit of malt character. A great summer beer that is light and laced with flavor. Nobody ever said summer beers need to be light. Enter Disco Pants, a dark summer beer that showcases the flavor. “I wanted to be able to drink more than one, and not have it sit on you all night,” he said. “I decided to add a little smoke malt to it, and I normally don’t use that when I brew.” He wasn’t trying to make a traditional style, he’s going for something new.
One of my favorites of the session was P.E.D. (Performance Enhancing Drink) which pairs a mellow brown ale with Portola Coffee. “Instead of doing a porter or stout with coffee. I wanted to do a light beer that highlights the coffee flavor.” Thorson shared, “I wanted a beer that drank like a coffee, in the morning.” This beer tastes exactly how it sounds, like a cup of coffee.
Haven operates a 15 barrel system producing 230 gallons of beer at a time. Their beers are distributed to both their Orange and Pasadena Gastropubs, along with Taco Asylum and other select craft beer bars in SoCal, although Haven may be the best place to try a flight of their beers. It's also a great way to taste what Brian Thorson is working on. I encourage you to make the quest and try these while they are around.