Most brewers aspire to have their beers served in the hippest bars with the most highly curated tap lists. But if the makers of Day Beer – a new light lager out of Los Angeles – get their wish, their product will be served not at the trendiest taverns in town, but at temporary bars cobbled together from sawhorses and plywood.
Day Beer is a project from Daron Hollowell, Kelcie Jadkowski. and Brent Nichols, all of L.A. creative agency Ring The Alarm. Based in the city’s Boyle Heights neighborhood, the company deals primarily in music for film, television, and advertising and has collaborated with mega-brands including Beats and Apple. Their Ring The Alarm record label reps local artists including synth producer Kron and garage punk act No Parents and holds dear to the DIY ethos of the underground indie, hardcore, and punk scenes its founders came up in.
But with the digital nature of most of Ring The Alarm’s output, the trio wanted to make a tangible product that tied into the music world and the raucous monthly parties they throw in the outdoor space behind their office, a sprawling former massage parlor filled with vintage synths and other gear.
In short, they wanted to make beer.
The goal was to produce a highly drinkable, low-alcohol light lager akin to the Tecate, Modelo, and PBR they and their friends loved drinking, but done in small-batch style. Their big idea was hampered only by the fact that none of them had any brewing experience.
“At the time we were like, ‘It’s a lager, it’s probably easy to make; it’s not a big deal!” says Hollowell. “Two years later we realized it’s actually not easy to produce a lager; it’s one of the hardest beers to make.”
Hollowell, Jadkowski and Nichols did 'hangover tests' for which they each drank a six-pack on a weeknight.”
Indeed, the simplicity of light lagers leaves no room for error. Flavor profiles can’t be masked or filled out by hops or other domineering components. Ingredients must be simple, high quality, and perfectly balanced.
“It’s like playing an acoustic set,” Hollowell says. “There’s no hiding.” The trio went into research mode, driving up and down the California coast to check out microbreweries and determine what they were going for with their own beer.
For help with this self-funded passion project, they turned to Los Angeles craft beer experts The Brews Brothers, who have consulted on a variety of local beer-related projects. The owners – Billie and Joey Anderson – brought dozens of beers to the Ring The Alarm office and had the trio take notes on elements including mouthfeel, balance, and freshness.
After many test batches, The Brews Brothers did larger runs on three slightly different light lagers, which were handed out in unmarked bottles at Ring The Alarm parties. The crowd – musicians, managers, artists, editors, directors and other friends – eventually selected the batch that would become Day Beer.
To ensure their product was really session worthy, Hollowell, Jadkowski and Nichols did “hangover tests” for which they each drank a six-pack on a weeknight. At a friendly 4.5% ABV, Day Beer passed, with the trio showing up for work the next day feeling fresh.
The U.S. beer market is dominated by mass-produced light lagers; according to a 2015 study, just 11 breweries produce 90% of the beer sold in the country. Day Beer is certainly not intended to compete with the mega-brands that inspired it.
Instead, Hollowell, Jadkowski and Nichols hope their beer will become the light lager of choice in the L.A. arts scene and gain underground cachet much like a local buzz band on the come up. Their second product will, naturally, be Night Beer, a hoppier, higher ABV brew that will debut next year. Both beers will exist under the 24 Hour Beer label.
While the trio plans to eventually sell Day Beer in bars — their sales sheet includes a recommended soundtrack featuring Neil Young, Black Sabbath and A Tribe Called Quest— the primary marketing plan is to place Day Beer at gallery shows, art events and in the L.A. music scene where its makers are already established.
“I hope that if you’re out and about at some weird party or going to see a band,” Hollowell says,” you walk in and you see Day Beer at the sawhorse plywood bar.”
Focusing on the community will, ideally, establish Day Beer as a go-to for L.A. creatives looking for a locally produced light lager made with as much love as the art and music they’re drinking in celebration of.
“To be clear, there are thousands of light lagers out there,” says Hollowell. “Our goal was to make a craft version with care, passion and a great level of attention to the flavor profile — the best parts of the craft beer world put into this style of beer.”
“We want this to be an L.A. beer first and foremost,” Nichols continues, taking a sip of a Day Beer poured from the office’s newly installed kegerator. "We wanted to have something that feels local and special.”
There’s no real difference between making a great album, making music for a great ad, and making a great beer.”
This community aspect is something that has largely fallen away in the music world as the internet has broken down barriers and fostered online musical communities. The world of craft beer, however, still maintains a tight-knit, IRL atmosphere as producers make beer beloved by, and specific to, particular regions, cities and breweries. In this way, Hollowell, Jadkowski and Nichols feel parallels between their world and the beer scene they’ve entered into.
“The people who make these craft beers are artists in the same way musicians are artists,” says Hollowell. “They’re putting the same level of love and soul into what they’re doing. That was really exciting to be introduced to. In a way, there’s no real difference between making a great album, making music for a great ad, and making a great beer.”
Day Beer is made by contract brewers at Concrete Jungle, a recently opened and well-respected brewery five minutes down the street from Ring The Alarm. The can’s simple design – the Day Beer logo on a white background with yellow trim at the top and a black barcode around the bottom – was inspired by the 1984 cult classic Repo Man, in which a baby-faced Emilio Estevez works at a Los Angeles grocery store where products are all slapped with generic blue and white labels. Day Beer coozies are an exact replica of the can.
If you spot this can the next time you’re grabbing a drink at the plywood and sawhorse bar temporarily set up in the corner of a warehouse party somewhere in L.A., the makers of Day Beer will have succeeded.