Shade Tree Brewing is the name of my home brew operation in Valley Village. I started brewing in 1994. There was a decent amount of homebrewing literature around at the time BUT I didn’t know where to find it. So, I learned all I could from the college library. Unfortunately the books were very outdated, especially in the area of proper equipment. I eventually found a liquor store in Upland, CA that sold homebrew equipment and kits and was able to learn more from them. My first batches were entirely made from kits. In fact, I don’t think I even saw any hops in those early batches (they were already brewed in with the extract in the cans). I didn’t know anything about what I was doing and I thought the kits would take care of what I didn’t know. The descriptions on the cans certainly made it sound easy. I just used tap water—chlorine and all—and fermented in my closet. Needless to say, the beers were not very good. Big ups to friends and family who dared to drink them with me.

After that run, I took a break from brewing for about 2 years after graduating, moving, and getting a job. When I started back up again in the late nineties, equipment and ingredients were better, and literature was easier to find. I bought my first starter kit from HWBC in Woodland Hills. I remember it was a wheat beer. The ingredients were fresher and the beer turned out better, but still not great. I experimented with different setups and even built some kind of a ferm temp controller out of a trash cash, Styrofoam cooler, and a thermostat. It was very crude but did seem to have a positive effect. I continued along like this until about 1999 when I again took another break after moving.

I didn’t start up again until late 2006, but this time I decided to do it as rightly as I could. I found a new shop (Culver City Homebrew Supply) and they helped a bunch. I bought some new books; Invested in better equipment; And started doing all grain batches. Each year since I’ve learned so much more about brewing techniques, equipment, and how to judge the quality of my beers. It’s been 4 years or so now and I have learned a great deal through trial and error. Looking forward to many more batches!

— Chris Simental

Leave a Reply