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Dazzling Glow: perfecting the West Coast IPA is both art & science for this engineer turned brewer

Much like many brewers in the industry, Julian Shrago’s journey in craft beer began with homebrewing. Nearly thirty years ago, Shrago was a college student studying mechanical engineering when he brewed his first batch. “I was hooked,” stated Shrago, “Much like engineering, I felt brewing was the perfect blend of art and science on its most integrated levels.”

He worked as an engineer for nearly a decade. During this time, his passion for beer never waned, and he became known in the Long Beach homebrew community for his signature West Coast IPAs. A longtime customer of Beachwood — then a restaurant and craft beer bar in Seal Beach California — Shrago retired from engineering and partnered with Beachwood Owners Gabe Gordon & Lena Perelman to open Beachwood Brewing Long Beach in 2011 as Co-Owner & Brewmaster. Shrago has been at Beachwood ever since where he continues to focus on West Coast IPAs. “Part of that is regionally driven, but a lot is consumer/fan driven. West Coast IPA is highly flavorful, aromatic, and very drinkable. In many ways, it’s the only style with high intensity and high drinkability. It checks a lot of boxes other styles simply don’t.”

The brewing process for Shrago begins with quality. “[It’s] always our number one focus. We’re constantly seeking ways to improve our beers, be it through better processes or innovative ingredients. I think our fans & consumers have come to expect this from us. Another key to our brewing is thinking of flavor & aroma first. What flavors and aromas do I want in a particular beer. From there I can start to back in what malt will support those flavors, what mouthfeel will be most complimentary, etc… We treat everything as an ingredient and nothing as an additive. We ensure each of our beers “has room” for the ingredients that go into it, making for well-integrated beers that everyone can enjoy. In the marketplace, we want to be trusted by our fans/consumers to always provide the best beer possible. We want people to see “Beachwood” and know they’re getting a world-class product brewed by an endlessly passionate and driven team.”

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"Craft fans have more developed palates than ever before. Being able to meet their expectations and heightened enthusiasm with new and innovative beers is super rewarding. By no small measure, this is due to the products and partnerships with our valued suppliers, such as Indie."


For this year’s CBC, Indie had the opportunity to partner with Beachwood on a collab beer that featured one of our newer hops, Luminosa; tried-and-true Chinook; and Strata in both T90 and concentrated pellet form. We asked Shrago for this take on the beer, ingredients, and more..

Q – What were your thoughts about the beer itself?

A – It was a true pleasure & honor to partner with Indie on this! Going huge with the dry hop allowed us to showcase the aromatic potential of Indie’s unique hops with an explosively aromatic West Coast IPA!

Q – This was your first time brewing with Luminosa. It’s a new hop in the market. What is your take on the hop (flavor and aroma profile)? Is there anything that stands out?

A – While a low(er) alpha hop, Luminosa provided vibrant peach & guava notes that also had a softness to them. Luminosa shows that just because a hop is low alpha, doesn’t mean it can’t have a significant aroma impact.

Q – Strata is a hop that most brewers are familiar with, but we’d love to hear your perspective on this hop — as it’s still a relative newcomer and this year will only be the sixth commercial crop. What does Strata bring to the table? How do you like to utilize this hop? Is there anything that you’ve learned about this hop from brewing with it for several years now?

A – When I first tried a beer with Strata, I was struck by the intense strawberry notes. It was really unique and seemed to work very well in West Coast IPAs. We prefer to utilize Strata in both late & dry hop additions when we’re seeking an overripe (and slightly dank) berry character. It plays well with a lot of other “modern” varietals. As a maturing crop, we’ve seen Strata’s aromatic/flavor identity become more consistently defined.

Q – Also included in the hop bill was Strata CGX. How did you use this concentrated pellet form? How does it differ from Strata T90s in flavor/aroma? Could you provide some insights on ratios?

A – We used Strata CGX as roughly 25% of the dry hop (by weight). It tends to bring a darker, danker fruit character compared to it’s T90 counterpart. The traditional T90 pellets impart that bright strawberry that we’ve come to love.

Q – You also used some of our Chinook. This is a hop that we’ve dubbed “the terroir traveler” because the flavor profile changes quite a bit based on terroir. Any thoughts on our Chinook?

A – I absolutely LOVE Chinook! In my opinion, it’s underutilized as an aroma hop. It has a coarseness when used as a kettle hop, but hey, we want some edge in our IPAs because hoppy is an “adult” flavor! Yes, terroir can certainly be a factor with Chinook’s overall characteristics, but it always has that pithy grapefruit I’m looking for.

Q – The craft landscape has changed dramatically in the past five to ten years, with so many new hop varieties and hop products now available to brewers. In general, how do you approach all of the new varieties and hop products that are available?

A – The sheer variety of hops and products available today can be somewhat overwhelming, but as a brewery whose primary focus is West Coast IPAs, it’s been a source of inspiration and curiosity for us. It’s awesome to see how changing one fundamental ingredient can have such a huge impact on a beer. Being able to create new flavors & aromas is always something we’ll seek out. The newer hop products also have more aromatic impact that before, creating more intense flavors/aromas, which I think we all enjoy.

Q – Have you noticed any changes in consumer preferences, and if so, what have you observed?

A – There’s been a renewed interest in small-batch lagers amongst craft beer fans. In general, brewers love lagerbier and any excuse we get to brew more is good! Craft fans have more developed palates than ever before. Being able to meet their expectations and heightened enthusiasm with new and innovative beers is super rewarding. By no small measure, this is due to the products and partnerships with our valued suppliers, such as Indie.