The Session: 6 Questions With Eagle Rock Brewery’s Ting Su
Eagle Rock Brewery has plenty to boast about. As far as the current craft beer boom is concerned, they essentially made it happen in Los Angeles, as they’re the O.G. brewery in the city of Los Angeles proper thanks to launching in Glassell Park in November 2009. Their restaurant, the Eagle Rock Public House, has been up and running in the Eagle Rock neighborhood for five years, and Su also runs the Women’s Beer Forum, a monthly gathering at the back of the production brewery which is one of the premier spaces in L.A. to learn about beer styles and enjoy a proper tasting from a series of breweries; it’s even launched the beer careers of quite a few former attendees.
In her previous life, Ting Su, a native of Florida who went to college in Georgia, was a pediatric physical therapist. These days, she is the general manager of the public house and runs Eagle Rock Brewery with her husband of 15 years, Jeremy Raub (they originally launched the brewery with Raub’s dad, Steven Raub — the father-son duo had been homebrewing together for years back in Upstate New York before they went all-in on running the brewery).
Eagle Rock will celebrate their 10th anniversary with a party on January 18th, where they will release a special anniversary beer, appropriately called “Ten” (Editor’s Note: we’re giving away 2 free tickets to the party, which you can enter to win here).
To celebrate the milestone, our own Emily Krauser talked to Su to learn more about this City of Angels beer stalwart and her kickass brewery and career.
Emily Krauser: How did Eagle Rock come to be?
Ting Su: We bought a house back in 2003 and it had a two-car garage, and Jer’s parents had moved down to Thousand Oaks around that same time, so he and his dad kind of rekindled their homebrewing. They used to have their pipe dreams, talk about eventually starting the brewery someday and all that good stuff. Eventually, I think it was for Jer’s 30th birthday, I established a DBA. I basically just pushed an envelope over to him and was like, ‘Happy birthday!’ And he’s like, ‘What’s this?’ I was just like, it’s time for you to put your money where your mouth is. If you’re gonna do this, now’s the time. Because at the time, if shit hit the fan, we could go back to our respective careers and make it all back. So in 2005, he started actually working on a business plan. We were both still working full-time and as a music editor for films, his hours were long. It took him about two years to get the business plan altogether and present it to investors and try to get help financially for it. We secured the location in, I believe, in early 2007, and it took us about two and a half years of red tape before we finally opened our doors.
EK: You are incredibly knowledgeable and run the Women’s Beer Forum to teach others about beer. Were you also a homebrewer?
TS: I did some homebrewing with my husband and his dad. When we first started, it was just the three of us, so I was doing some of the brewing back then as well. But I actually have a degree in biology, so my fascination is the microbiology and the biochemistry of it all. Aside from that, during the development phases, I don’t think that I brought much to the father-and-son team that was already brewing together beyond the palette. I had the most well-developed palette because of the fact that I grew up in a restaurant family. We traveled to taste and I was constantly scrutinizing flavors, so I had a very sensitive palate to flavors… My family is very fixated on food, so every time we traveled, it was, like, to eat. It was just like, fuck the sites, let’s eat. We sit there, take the dishes, pick it apart, identify the ingredients, and if it’s something that you really dig, you’re just like, oh, we’re gonna try to cook this.
EK: Do you do that when you go to other breweries now?
TS: Yeah. It’s good because I can continue to develop my palette. It’s bad because sometimes — I mean, I guess I probably shut it off more than our brewers do, because now that I’m not on that side of things anymore, sometimes I can drink beer just to drink a beer without having to dissect it or totally geek out over it. If there’s a flaw, generally, I’ll catch that. It’s hard to turn that off. It’s in the subtlety and masking of said flaws that sometimes I’m just like, I can’t finish this beer — I can’t shut that part of it off. But otherwise, stylistically, there have been beers from other breweries that are really drinkable and our brewers are like, no, man.
EK: Where did your slogan, “beer for the people,” come from?
TS: When we were developing the concept — our original beers being Solidarity, Manifesto, and Revolution — it’s really because beer has historically been the working man’s drink. It’s kind of like the every person, so a lot of our original beer names and iconography were inspired by the social labor concept. That was the directionality we went with, and we came up with that slogan very early on, so we’ve just stuck with it.
EK: Lee Barowski is your current brewmaster. At what point did you guys hand over the reins, as far as brewing your own beer was concerned?
TS: Probably after a year or two. It was pretty early on. My memory is hella dodgy, though, in those early years because I was still working full-time. I had to work full-time to keep everything afloat, because Jeremy had jumped ship and stopped picking up projects for the film industry, so I needed to keep all of our finances going to see if this ship was going to float. Before I jumped ship, I was doing that, treating patients from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., then coming into the brewery, working all night, sleeping about four hours and working seven days a week for the first three years that we were open. I still work seven days a week.
EK: Do you remember what your first craft beer experience was?
TS: That was many hazy days ago. My first craft beer experience was the Flying Dog products because I was entertained by the names of their beers. There was a beer festival in Decatur, which is a little kind of subdivision of Atlanta. I experienced that beer and was like, there’s a lot more flavor to this, you know? Back then, what I would drink a lot of was actually premium imports. I tried to get my mom off of that stuff for years. It literally took opening a brewery to get my mom to stop drinking it!
Emily Krauser is an entertainment journalist and freelance writer focusing on craft beer, pop culture, and music. A Jersey native and Ithaca College grad, she watches Gilmore Girls on loop and bleeds blue and orange for the Mets. You can almost always find her taking a road trip or in a brewery or on a road trip to a brewery. She lives in Los Angeles.