The Dale brothers brew local beer with big taste
by Nolasco Pesina
photography by Christopher Guzman
“Fill it up again! Once it hits your lips, it’s so good,” Frank the Tank (Will Ferrell) says in the popular movie “Old School.” Meet Pomona Queen. From the moment a bottle of Dale Bros. Pomona Queen slides in front of you, the smell of balanced malt and hop fills the air. Its smell is not too strong but just enough to entice. Its taste is rich and full; both are smooth enough to appeal to a wide variety of critical tastes. “Typically, the type of people who buy Dale Bros. beer are 21 first off,” jokes Ricky Rossman, an employee of The Corner Butcher Shop, warming to his unexpected role of connoisseur. “It is someone who enjoys the taste of a good beer to go along with their food, someone who isn’t looking to get drunk, someone who appreciates beer.”
Pomona Queen is an American-style amber lager brewed by the Dale Bros. Brewery. It is their flagship beer. Run by brothers Curt and Andy, the business is a small operation brewery with big beer taste. Everything is run out of their 3,000 square foot suite in Upland, where they handcraft and bottle every beer.
How it started
Curt first realized he had something unique when he brewed 10 gallons of his original Pomona Queen for a friend’s wedding. “I had seen strangers with half empty cups heading back to the bar to get refills of my beer,” he says. “Strangers actually liked my beer; granted they were getting it for free, but they liked it.” Not soon after that, Dale Bros. Brewery delivered its first Pomona Queen order to Pizza ’N Such in Claremont. “My original blend of Pomona Queen was based on a California beer called Anchor Steam,” Curt says. “It was heavy in taste, so my goal was to make it more drinkable, and, after trial and error, I believe I perfected the recipe. We try and stick to the West Coast for what goes into our beer, but sometimes we do have to go to different countries because they just produce different types of barley and hops [ingredients] out in England or France.”
Like many local beers from around the world, a sense of pride is associated with brewing location. You drink it, and you feel like the beer and location are all in the bottle; you are in the moment. You drink Natural Ice because you are a college student on a budget; you drink Coors Light because your dad used to drink it after a long day out in the field; you drink Budweiser because that is what you and your friends used to drink on your nights out. And you drink Pomona Queen because you enjoy the great taste of a well crafted beer, with the local taste.
In the United States there are more than 2,500 professional breweries. Locally brewed beers tend to be the freshest beer, and the more likely they will be better tasting. Curt says local beers always taste better than any other beers. “We are a small operation brewery, which is why we would like to keep our distribution as close as possible,” Andy says. “We would like to grow within, then expand.” Andy and Curt plan on moving a few hundred yards down the road to a building twice as large. This will allow them to bring in two fermenters that will double their production capacity. This expansion will allow the brewery to hold events and to offer beer tasting. Just like any good business, Dale Bros. contributes its fair share of work with charitable organizations. “We have a lot of requests to participate in events, but we have to pick and choose which to attend because we are small,” Andy says. “We show up, hand out tasters, and it allows us to meet people one-on-one.” The brothers generally participate in events for disadvantaged youth, education and cancer prevention.
Nearly 99 percent of the Dale Brothers’ beer is distributed within 12 miles of their office, with Pomona Queen being their flagship beer, totaling nearly 70 percent of their sales. Other labels include their seasonals and California Black Beer. All of their beers fall into the lager beer category. Lager beers generally have a lighter, smoother more crisp taste, unlike ales that normally have a fruiter, heavier taste. The difference between the two is the type of yeast used in the brewing process. Ales use warm fermenting yeast that floats to the top in the brewing process. Lagers, on the other hand, use colder fermenting yeast that sinks to the bottom during the brewing process.
Pomona Queen, California Black Beer and the associated seasonal beers are all brewed in 310 gallon batches that start with 600 pounds of barley, which increases to 800 pounds for heavier beer. The barley is then put in the mill to expose the starches in the barley. Next, the mixture is put into the mashtun, where the starches process into fermentable sugars. The resulting extract is boiled in the brew kettle, where hops are added at the beginning of the boiling process to contribute a bitter flavor and added at the end to enhance aroma. Yeast is then inserted in the fermenter to create alcohol. Following, the beer sits in the fermenter an average of 28 days for heavier beers, 17 for regular beers and 14 days for the lighter beers. Next, the beer is moved to bright beer tanks and spends 14-24 hours carbonating before it is kegged and delivered.
Lucky number seven
Dale Bros. Brewery brews two year-round beers, the flagship Pomona Queen and California Black Beer. Pomona Queen is a medium-bodied amber lager that appeals to craft beer drinkers as well as those who generally drink lighter beer. California Black Beer may look like a heavy, dark beer in the glass but is actually an easy drinking lager that finishes with hints of chocolate and coffee.
“We brew the seasonal beer to keep our customers excited and give them something else to taste,” Andy says. The five seasonal beers include Oktober-Fiesta, an autumn seasonal that is a darker amber version of a traditional Okoberfest and a winter seasonal, Winter-Haze, brewed with many of the same ingredients as Pomona Queen but with more of them, allowing for a full-bodied taste. In the spirit of early spring, Shameless McDale is a green beer with a slightly roasted, malty finish and light hop bitterness. Brewed in late spring, Dude of York is a tasty medium bodied beer that features a California take on a classic Yorkshire beer. During the summer months when one is looking for a traditional American-style premium lager with crisp flavor and a light feel, Pacific Daylight hits the mark.
“All of their beer tastes good; their Pomona Queen and California Black Beer are really good, and their seasonal beers are always different from what others do,” Kristin Gallon, assistant store manager for Bevmo Rancho Cucamonga says. “The owners are awesome and business savvy, and they have good beer. To me, that’s No. 1.”
Dale Bros. Brewery has a fair share of multiple awards to back up its saying, “Fresh beer from nearby.” Pomona Queen is a gold medal winner at the Los Angeles County Fair, 2007 and 2008. California Black Beer is a gold medal winner at the California State Fair, 2009, and Pacific Daylight is a silver medalist winner at the Great American Beer Festival for English Summer Ale, 2010.
The brothers have won over a strong local following. For them, the difference between a drink and their drink, is the Dale Bros. taste.
Find Dale Bros. beers
The Corner Butcher Shop
dba256 Gallery Wine Bar
Characters Sports Bar
Drink Tapas Bar
Fox Sports Bar & Grill
San Dimas Wine
Big D’s Pizza
The Press Restaurant
Pizza ’N Such
Hip Kitty Jazz & Fondue
Packing House Wine
Eddie’s New York Pizzeria
The DoubleTree Hotel
The Cheese Cave