For Ten Mile Brewing, the pandemic has been a sobering experience, but reopening brings hope

Co-owner Dan Sundstrom stands at the counter of Ten Mile Brewing, which has been closed to in-person dining for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Emma DiMaggio | Signal Tribune)

On Tuesday, Sept. 29, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors announced some long-awaited news for wineries and breweries— reopening was on the horizon.

A week later, the reopening has come to fruition. But unlike restaurant reopening, it comes with extra contingencies. Patrons must make reservations 24 hours in advance for an outdoor table and breweries must pair their alcoholic beverages with a meal from a third-party vendor.

Though not particularly ideal, the news prompted a sigh of relief from brewery owners, whose business has suffered under take-out only mandates and lowered foot traffic.

Across from Sunnyside Cemetery in Signal Hill, Ten Mile Brewery co-owners Dan and Jesse Sundstrom have their tanks primed and ready for reopening.

“It’s certainly a relief, definitely,” head brewer Jesse Sundstrom said. “To be able to do this again, to start having at least a fraction of our business back.”

For the Sundstroms, the pandemic has been a sobering experience.

“This location has suffered extremely,” Jesse said.

His father Dan Sundstrom said that business was down around 70% from last year. Summer, their most popular time of the year, was fraught with closures and uncertainty.

Just hours before the reopening was announced by Los Angeles County Supervisors, Dan acknowledged that it was “crunch time.”

That’s not to say that the alcohol business is suffering. A report by the online journal JAMA Network Open reported that alcohol consumption has risen 14% among adults over 30 during the pandemic.

Despite an apparent thirst from the public, the taproom has been relatively quiet for the past six months.

“The biggest reason was because of the shutdowns. Obviously, because of COVID, those actions were taken,” Jesse said. “99% of my business is done over that counter right there. To not have people be able to come in and do that really destroys the business.”

He said that reopening is “bringing excitement back” to the brewery. The Sundstroms, who have partnered with food trucks in the past, have already created a calendar of rotating food truck vendors to ensure that they’ll be able to serve their customers daily.

Father-son duo Jesse (left) and Dan (right) Sundstrom stand in front of their brewing tanks, a feature of their open-layout taproom. (Emma DiMaggio | Signal Tribune)

Origins of Ten Mile Brewing

Dan’s foray into brewing began on a camping trip in Oregon, as previously reported in the Signal Tribune. He had his first taste of home-brewed beer when an old friend offered him a drink of his growler.

Fascinated by the process, he put together his first home-brewing setup. His son later joined the team, and the two began their journey into becoming bonafide brewers.

After years of homebrewing, the father-son duo joined the Long Beach Homebrewers Association, a treasure trove of information and feedback from more experienced brewers. From there, they began crafting their own signature beers.

Then, the awards started rolling in.

“These were not only from our peers that are judging us but also from [the Brewers Judge Certification Program], which is kind of an overarching group,” Jesse said. “They’re the ones that actually define beer styles, so to have that kind of validation as well was ‘Wow!’”

Jesse said that the two had a “come to Jesus” moment and decided to take the plunge into commercial brewing.

“We just fell in love with it,” Jesse said. “The opportunity came up, we seized it and here we are.”

Despite decreased business, the Sundstroms are in high spirits. The brewery is a family affair. Dan and Jesse brew the beers, Dan’s daughter Emma handles planning and monitors regulations, and Sundstrom’s wife Joanne keeps the brewery’s books.

A post from the brewery’s Instagram page shows the Sundstrom family and staff pose for the third anniversary of Ten Mile Brewing on Sept. 16, 2020. (Courtesy Ten Mile Brewing)

The team celebrated the brewery’s third anniversary just weeks ago. Given the pandemic, there was no big celebration. An Instagram post of the smiley Sundstrom family and staff sufficed.

The brewery prides itself on its traditional take on brewing. Unlike more contemporary breweries, Ten Mile strays away from sours and fruity brews, instead opting for classic IPAs and lagers.

Their take on traditional beer led them to create Hidden Hollow, a pre-prohibition era Kentucky Common that was the most popular beer from 1850 to 1890.

The team uses heirloom-style barley called six-row that differs from the more refined barleys that are commonly used today.

“That’s my desert island beer,” Jesse said about Hidden Hollow. “If that’s the last one I have to have for the rest of my life, it’s a decision I wouldn’t even think twice about.”

The dark beer with an amber undertone is surprisingly light thanks to the six-row barley. Unlike more hardy IPAs, Hidden Hollow is a session beer. It doesn’t have the throaty kick that comes from hops, though the brewery is stocked with hazy IPAs and double IPAs for those seeking a more overt flavor profile.

Ten Mile Brewery’s taproom was remodeled by Dan and Jesse Sundstrom. The room features warm bulb lights and an industrial-style open layout. The taproom has been closed for months due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Emma DiMaggio | Signal Tribune)

Like their beer, the brewery itself is a labor of love. The father-son duo did the entire build-out of the brewery themselves, from plumbing and electrical down to the tables themselves. The ceiling lacks finishings and the large brewing tanks are open for all to see, giving the room an immersive and industrial feel.

Chairs are stacked on alternating tables to abide by social distancing. Kegs are stacked in the corner, ready to be tapped and poured at a moment’s notice.

“To be able to start doing this again is a huge relief,” Jesse said. He’d just filled a tank to start a new batch of beer. “We are well-stocked and we are ready.”

The Ten Mile Brewing taproom is set to reopen on Thursday, Oct. 8. The brewery is open Tuesday through Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. at 1136 E. Willow St. They’ll continue to offer to-go and delivery options for their canned beers.


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