Ten miles high and climbing

Jesse Sundstrom (left) and Dan Sundstrom (right), owner-brewers at Ten Mile Brewing Company in Signal Hill, where the brewery recently marked its first anniversary.

As evidenced by new breweries and the proliferation of unusually labeled bottles and cans, craft beers have become increasingly popular. Ten Mile Brewing Company in Signal Hill “hopped” into the industry last year, celebrating its first anniversary in September.
“We’re really happy to be here and proud to say that we are the one-and-only [brewery] in the city right now,” Dan Sundstrom, Ten Mile’s owner and brewer, told the Signal Tribune.
Located at 1136 E. Willow St., across the street from the Sunnyside Cemetery, Ten Mile Brewing resides in a cavernous space strung with warm bulbs and featuring a large roll-up front entrance, which remains open during business hours Wednesdays through Sundays.
“The roll-up door gives [the brewery] a unique indoor-outdoor feel,” Sundstrom said. “You’re not really going through a doorway– it kind of just flows inside to outside, […] like a giant patio in a way. We do have our outside patio, too, which was just approved by the City a couple of months ago. […] We’re going to be putting some heaters out there and making it nice even in winter.”
With 16 beers on tap, Ten Mile offers a variety of tastes, which Sundstrom believes is part of the its appeal, distinguishing it from other local breweries.
“Most of the other breweries tend to have a focus,” Sundstrom said, noting some of the specialty types that other local breweries make, such as sour, barrel-aged and flavored beers.
[snoadrotate_group group_ids=”761″ align=”left”] “We tend to stick to traditional styles from all over the world,” he said. “Right now, we have […] Forbidden Hollow Kentucky Common, which is a uniquely American historical beer– the most popular beer in America between about 1850 and 1890. Nobody [now] had heard of it. We’ve won multiple awards for that beer.”
Sundstrom said the brewery also serves IPAs– which he said is the most popular beer for the current brewery crowd– as well as German lagers, Belgian and barrel-aged beers.
“Our first-anniversary beer was a whiskey-barrel-aged Russian Imperial Stout,” Sundstrom said. “We’ve bottled that [and] we have it on tap– it’s getting great reviews.”
Brew mastery
Never a big beer drinker before, Sundstrom’s journey to become Ten Mile’s master brewer started 13 years ago during a family camping trip to Oregon, where an old friend shared with him a “growler,” or jug, of beer he had brewed at home.
“I don’t know if it was the mountains and the river and the color of the stars– or everything together– but it was like an ‘Oh, wow!’ kind of moment,” said Sundstrom, as he recalled tasting that beer. “It was like nothing I’d ever had before, and [the fact] that he made it was fascinating to me.”
Sundstrom’s friend showed him his home-brew set-up, walked him through the brewing process and gave him the recipe, which Sundstrom replicated after returning home.
“It actually came out pretty good!” he said. “People liked it, and that was very encouraging.”
After that, Sundstrom expanded his equipment and he and one of his sons, Jesse, who also took an interest in brewing, were asked to make beer for events, such as golf-tournament fundraisers and weddings.
At the same time, the father-son pair entered competitions, scoring highly and earning blue ribbons, Sundstrom said.
A turning point came three years ago when the pair made five different kinds of beer for Dan’s daughter, Emma’s, wedding, during which he was asked by two restaurateurs to make beer for their establishments.
“At that point, we decided to go ahead and make the leap into the commercial world,” Sundstrom said.
Brewery design
Sundstrom had looked around for an area location, ranging from north Orange County to Long Beach and Paramount, when a family member noticed the Signal Hill building being refurbished.
“It kind of fell into our laps,” Sundstrom said of the space.
However, since Signal Hill had never had a brewer, Sundstrom had to jump some hurdles for the Planning Commission to secure City permits, including producing a report of how surrounding cities handle alcohol production.
After that, Sundstrom and his family worked on the space to make it their own, building everything themselves, from flooring, drains, a bivalve system, a cold room, tables, bars and even the bathroom.
“We have a very unique bathroom,” he said. “We made custom-cast concrete countertops, and we used exposed-copper piping that has industrial valves.”
Sundstrom said all his past skills came together in creating the Ten Mile Brewing space, from being a food photographer for 22 years to working as a set builder in the film industry.
He also worked for 15 years as a facilities manager for the Bethany Church in Long Beach, during which he oversaw the construction of a $3-million education building, including concrete, plumbing and electrical components.
“I learned a lot of skills in doing that and had an artistic eye from photography, too,” Sundstrom said. “When I came into this [brewery] context, I could use a little bit of everything in making something visually appealing and having the skills to make it happen.”

Anita W. Harris | Signal Tribune
Ten Mile Brewing Company, Signal Hill’s first brewery, recently celebrated its first anniversary September and features an open front entrance.
Family affair
Operating the brewery continues to be a family affair, as Jesse is still brewing with Sundstrom and bonding over the process while still in high school.
“[Jesse] took an interest in cooking and chemistry, and so he came alongside and got interested in what I was doing, and so we started brewing together,” Sundstrom said. “And now it’s really a whole family business.”
Sundstrom’s wife, Joanne, keeps the brewery’s books, and his daughter, Emma, handles event planning and festivals and acts as City liaison.
Older son, Aaron, has other employment but helps with human-resources policies and interviewing employees, whom the family realized were necessary to hire.
“Typically one of us will always be behind the bar here,” Sundstrom said. “For the first seven months, we did virtually everything. […] We were just to the point of burnout. Now we’re up to eight employees.”
“We all have a part in it, and all the kids are part owners in the business also, so they have something vested here,” he said.
Sundstrom was sure to mention another presence at the brewery.
“Another family member that’s become very well-known is Barley, which is our brewery dog,” he said. “He’s a 110-pound Akita. […] He’s just a big teddy bear and he lays right in the middle of everything and meets everybody.”
Communal atmosphere
Sundstrom credits his family’s involvement as part of the brewery’s appeal.
“The family part of it is really huge,” he said. “Families are attracted to other families.”
He said patrons appreciate being able to bring their kids and play shuffleboard and the board games stacked on a shelf.
Meg Penny, who has been employed at Ten Mile since May, said that it is the most communal brewery she has worked in.
“We’re very lucky in that we have this space, specifically,” she said. “It’s difficult for a lot of newer breweries to operate within certain spaces and also bring in a large of group of people and enjoy the atmosphere.”
She note that many patrons have become regulars because of that communal atmosphere.
“They hang out for hours, and not just drinking– they bring in their families, they play games, they watch football or hockey,” Penny said. “It’s like a decompressive space here. […] It’s like a community space.”
On tap
The brewery is already expanding through canning their beer, opening a satellite-taproom location and developing its lagers, Sundstrom said.
“We did our first canning run about a month ago,” he said, adding that Ten Mile’s beers can be found in local stores, such as The Wine Country, Corked and Liquor Land.
“We’re starting to get exposure outside of the brewery now,” he said.
Ten Mile will also expand into a new SteelCraft location in Bellflower by early 2019, Sundstrom said. SteelCraft’s location at Long Beach Boulevard and Bixby Road uses repurposed shipping containers to house food-and-drink vendors.
Sundstrom said SteelCraft has been selective about choosing vendors for its new Bellflower and Garden Grove locations, sending in secret shoppers to evaluate them.
“We were thrilled that they chose us,” Sundstrom said, noting that the other breweries selected for SteelCraft locations are larger and more well known. “To have a second location within your first year is astounding to me. We feel very blessed that this opportunity has happened.”
Another development Sundstrom is focusing on is the brewery’s lagers, which he says are the “new wave” in craft beers.
“Lagers traditionally haven’t been real widely produced in the craft-beer world because of time,” he said. “The world ‘lager’ itself means ‘cold storage’ and so when you make a lager, you need to count on it sitting around for a long time, […] and you can’t use that [tank] space for something else.”
The family had built a “lager wall” of tanks in the brewery dedicated to just that type of beer.
“That’s where they sit and condition, and we don’t touch them for a month,” he said. “Those beers will continue to improve even in three and six months. No commercial breweries really let their beer sit around that long.”
Sundstrom said he and Jesse formulate all their own recipes, many of which stem from their home-brewing years, adjusting them over time.
“Beer is a living thing, really,” he said. “It’s in constant evolution. It’s going to be green, if you will, and then it’s going to mature and come into its prime, and then it’s going to go out the backside. So we taste it at different times […] and we’ll go out next time and change a few things and do it all over again.”


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