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Yorkshire Square Brewery brings English-style ‘real ale’ to Torrance

The Early Doors ale at Yorkshire Square Brewery, a new brewery in Torrance.
The Early Doors ale at Yorkshire Square Brewery, a new brewery in Torrance.
(Julie Verive)

Yorkshire Square Brewery, the latest beer destination in the South Bay’s vibrant community of craft breweries, looks to traditional British beer styles and techniques to stand out in a crowded market. The brewery opened in Torrance on Wednesday.

The beer isn’t flat, and it certainly isn’t warm, but the brewery is dedicated to serving proper pints — the type of beer you’re likely to find at a local pub in Britain. Known as “real ale” in England, the beer is matured in metal casks and allowed to naturally carbonate instead of being kegged under pressure. The cask ale is delivered to the glass via a hand pump on the bar, instead of being pushed from a tap by CO2. It’s served at a cool 50-ish degrees (instead of the sub-40 degrees that keg beer is usually served at).

Classic English ale styles — the bitter, the mild, the stout — shine when properly cask-conditioned. The softer carbonation and rich and creamy head showcase the distinctive English ingredients, and the warmer serving temperature and lower alcohol content allows the subtle flavors of the ales to stand out.

It’s a tradition that brought founder Gary Croft and brewmaster Andy Black together in Torrance. Black is obsessed with English brewing tradition. In addition to working as brewmaster for L.A.’s other cask-focused brewery, MacLeods Ale Brewing Co. in Van Nuys, Black learned the brewer’s craft interning at breweries in England. Croft emigrated from England in the ’80s and just wanted a place to drink his beloved British beer. He decided to open his own place and asked Black, who was working as a brewer at El Segundo Brewing Co. and planning to move back east, to help find the perfect person to handle actually making the beer.

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Yorkshire Square Brewery co-owner Charles Croft pulls a pint of ale at the Torrance brewery.
(Julie Verive)

“We talked about his vision for beer, and it was my vision,” Croft says. He knew Black would make the beer that he wanted to drink, and while it took some cajoling, Croft persuaded Black to come to Yorkshire Square. The pair worked together for nearly a year to develop beer concepts and strategize how best to shepherd beer drinkers into the British beer tradition.

But turning drinkers onto the charms of real ale isn’t difficult, once you get them over the “warm and flat” thing. Real ale is eminently approachable and endlessly drinkable. There’s none of the aggressive flavor assault that characterizes so many American styles. Instead of shouting, British beers enunciate each delicate flavor. They’re restrained, but as complex as any Belgian brew with malt, hops, yeast and even the subtleties of water are deftly balanced.

“The essence of British beer is drinkability,” Black says. “The goal is to turn flavorful ingredients into beer that won’t fatigue the palate.” The key is the distinctive English barley that provides the backbone to Yorkshire Square’s brews. British malts are known for a richness and depth of flavor, and the first beers brewed at Yorkshire Square demonstrate the impact of British malt.

The pub bitter Early Doors shows off the graham cracker flavors of Golden Promise barley, but the finish is round and, despite the nomenclature, only bitter enough to offset the malt’s fullness on the palate. A notch stronger is the Tenant, a Yorkshire-style pale ale that hits 4.2% alcohol (the bitter is just 3.6% alcohol) and tastes of honey-on-bread with the herbaceous zip of English hops poking through the end. Wuthering Stout (4.8% alcohol) is made with oats, along with six other malts, and it’s nutty and sweet with a creamy texture and a balancing roasted bitterness in the finish. It’s easy to have a pint of each.

The exterior of Yorkshire Square Brewery in Torrance. The brewery specializes in English-style "real ale."
(John Verive)

The tap room of the brewery and restaurant attempt an Anglo atmosphere with a stone slab hearth, dart board, and pub games, but the long and shaded patio adds some Southern California vibes. While the kitchen remains dark for now, Croft hopes to begin serving food later this year and says the menu, like the decor, will nod towards British pub favorites but lean on fresh and local ingredients for further inspiration.

Yorkshire Square is in a soft-open phase now; the grand-opening celebration is set for Saturday. 1109 Van Ness Ave., Torrance, (424) 376-5115, yorkshiresquarebrewery.com.