edible notes

Brewing More Than Beer

By Erika Bolden | August 30, 2017
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“The goal is to use the brewery to promote organic,” says Leashless Brewing’s founder John Gonzales.

Social responsibility infuses the beer at Leashless Brewing Company. Pouring certified organic, Belgian-style and gluten-reduced beers, founder John Gonzales stays true to his values by advocating social and environmental responsibility.

“The goal is to use the brewery to promote organic,” says Gonzales. He noticed years ago that his consumer purchasing habits didn’t extend to the beer he drank. Now, by introducing his guests to organic beer certified by the USDA and Ventura’s local Organic Certifiers, Gonzales, a scientist by trade, hopes he can effect change in consumers and, ultimately, the community food system.

Citing Belgian Trappist brewery Westmalle among his inspirations, Gonzales says Belgian beers lend themselves well to the organic category because much of the aroma and flavor comes from the yeast. Saddle up at the taproom and you’ll find the flagship Tri Fin Tripel 9.3% alcohol by volume (ABV), the first Belgian-style in Leashless’s Fin Series, or World of Hoppiness 5.6%, a farmhouse IPA in the Hoppy Series.

Brewing organic beer is not an easy route. Gonzales pays 50% to 75% more for grain than a conventional brewery would. Likewise, hops are significantly more expensive because plants grown using organic fertilizer yield less and are more prone to infestations.

The challenges for opening Leashless Brewing Co., whose name refers to surfing without a leash, extended beyond sourcing organic ingredients. Renovating a former Goodyear Tire service station proved extremely difficult for the recently opened Ventura brewery. “This building is like the sirens from The Odyssey. We just got lucky to survive it,” says Gonzales, noting delays in opening such as permitting setbacks and the unexpected subterranean discoveries of tire piles and a 1970s gas tank.

Erected in the 1930s, the building’s prominent tower and L-shaped layout are lined with arched garage doors that used to delineate service bays. Where once you could imagine Clark Gable rolling up for repairs, now the patio seats 50 people and their furry friends.

Leashless is the first Ventura County brewery to offer a line of gluten-reduced beers. Gonzales says he brews gluten-reduced beer so that his wife, Leila, who is gluten intolerant, always has something on tap to drink. His gluten-reduced beer has less than 10 ppm gluten.

Leashless dedicates a fermentation vessel to its gluten-reduced beers, as well as a set of glassware to limit the chance of cross-contamination. One recent brew is Island Style, a Belgian chocolate stout with coconut that Gonzales hopes to have available in the fall. Why a dessert beer? “Because my wife likes it.” Happy wife, happy life.

He plans to have rotating taps with 10 regular beers and four gluten-reduced beers.

The holistic surf sensibility that carries through this operation extends to giving organic spent grain to Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark for their pigs. All this in a brewery with a welcoming, relaxed ambiance. It’s worth raising a glass to business owners dedicated to contributing to the community and improving its environment.

“I hope this simple little brewery will help change purchasing habits on both sides of the spectrum,” says Gonzales.

—Erika Bolden

Leashless Brewing Company
585 E. Thompson Blvd., Ventura
805-628-9474; LeashlessBrewing.com

Article from Edible Ojai & Ventura County at http://edibleventuracounty.ediblecommunities.com/drink/brewing-more-beer
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