18 Jul Brewing Beer to Build Community
Brewyard Beer Company, Glendale’s first microbrewery, opened its doors in 2015. A passion project by childhood friends Kirk and Sherwin, Breyward focuses on brewing world class beers, often experimenting with Asian ingredients and flavors.
In 2022, Brewyard developed “Yoi Yoi” in collaboration with the Little Tokyo community. This seasonal and limited edition craft Japanese rice lager is brewed with premium Koshihikari sushi rice and a splash of Japanese plum (Ume). Yoi Yoi will be available at LTSC’s Sake on the Rocks fundraiser this coming Friday, July 28, 2023.
Kirk Nishikawa, Brewyard co-owner, shares his thoughts on how brewing beer and community-building go hand-in-hand.
Yoi Yoi is quite a unique beer in its ingredients and its purpose. From tasting notes to can design to distribution and sales, it’s been a true community collaboration every step of the way. How did Yoi Yoi come to be?
Kirk: I think we’re one of the only 100% AAPI-owned craft breweries in LA. So when Covid hit and we thought we might shut down, we thought ‘why not try making beers that are truer to our roots’? And the craft beer scene is 99% Caucasian, so from a business perspective it doesn’t make sense to make beers that don’t cater to 99% of your market, but we felt it was important to create something that celebrated our roots. And it worked.
We wanted to do a Japanese flavor that wasn’t tokenized or in the mainstream, like matcha or yuzu, so we did ume. Ume harvesting is only like 3-4 weeks out of the year, so it’s limited–just a single batch annually.
Through donated or discounted Yoi Yoi, Brewyard is supporting various Little Tokyo institutions from nonprofits to small businesses to churches and temples. Why is it important for you to give back to the Little Tokyo community?
Kirk: As a business, the community is investing in you and if you don’t give back or reinvest it, you’re basically just siphoning that money out of the community and putting it into your pocket. That’s not good for us or the health of the neighborhood overall. We’re here because of our community. Without their support, especially during Covid, we wouldn’t have made it. Without the Japanese American, Filipino, Little Tokyo communities and the Glendale community saying ‘You are valuable to our community’ and supporting us, we wouldn’t be here today.
Initially, we wanted to do a collaboration with LTSC, but LTSC being LTSC, you know, ever the unselfish true community-minded folks, they suggested a better fit with another organization that could support the community more broadly. And that’s how we were introduced to the Little Tokyo Community Council (LTCC). And it’s a great fit. We’re able to collaborate with small businesses and bars in Little Tokyo, local temples for their obon festivals, and other nonprofit organizations in the neighborhood to raise as much money and promote as many businesses as we can.
Tell me about your background and your connection to Little Tokyo and the Japanese American (JA) community.
Kirk: I’m Yonsei and grew up in the JA community in Venice and WLA. My parents were really involved in the JA and Little Tokyo community through Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress (NCRR), Gidra, you name it. So I grew up in the community and saw my parents really involved.
Actually, my first job was at LTSC on the CDC (community development corporation) side. I worked on helping Erich Nakano and Dean Mastubayashi acquire funding for CDC projects, I worked on renovating Far Bar in Little Tokyo, and helped with Cesar Chavez Gardens (affordable housing). I also helped organize the San Tai San basketball tournaments to raise money for what eventually became Budokan. I almost cried when I heard about Budokan’s grand opening. So many people had worked so hard on that project, that when it finally happened, it was emotional.
Brewyard has supported LTSC’s Sake fundraiser going on 6 years now. What motivates you to continue supporting LTSC?
Kirk: Supporting Sake–I’m really just following in my mom’s footsteps. She’s been donating food from her business Feast from the East since the very first Sake Festival LTSC ever held. And as long as Brewyard is around, I’ll be there every year too.
To me, LTSC operates at another level. It’s hard to put into words how effective and responsible the organization is. You’re going to be hard pressed to find another organization that really maximizes the results from the dollar you donate.
Visit the Brewyard booth at LTSC’s Sake on the Rocks fundraiser to try Yoi Yoi. Tickets on sale now at www.LTSC.org/sake
Learn more about Brewyard at www.brewyardbeercompany.com and follow them on social media @brewyardbeerco.