Getting that bread
Long Beach Beer Lab co-founder on the release of her first book and future expansions
February 6, 2020
In the middle of a busy workday prepping artisan bread, pastries and other items for her businesses, Long Beach Beer Lab and Long Beach Bread Lab, co-founder and owner Harmony Sage spoke to the Signal Tribune about the release of her first book, her new bread-making certification and future plans for Long Beach’s first vegetarian brewery.
Nestled in the Wrigley neighborhood, Sage and her husband Levi Fried opened Long Beach Beer Lab in 2017 with a few beers on tap and artisanal breads that Sage baked. Since then, they have expanded to a full-on vegetarian menu with snacks, sandwiches, soups, salads, pizzas and desserts.
Sage found her love for baking artisan goods after going to culinary school in New York where she concentrated on pastries and bread.
A stint at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta, Georgia taught her how to work like a professional, and helped her fine tune her techniques.
She later moved with her husband and two small children to Israel but struggled to find work in her field, eventually getting a job as a lifeguard.
On their free time, Sage and Fried would brew beer as a hobby, eventually sharing it with others.
“People started really liking our beer and we ended up opening like a small brewery out of our house that we would open up every Friday,” said Sage.
Sage also made snacks to go along with their brews.
“We didn’t really charge people–– people just left us tips, because it was not the most legal kind of thing,” she said.
Their side hustle helped them pay the rent, but they still wanted to open up their own space. Though they attempted to, it was difficult to do so in Israel.
After living there for nine years, they decided to move to Long Beach in 2016, where Fried was originally born and raised.
Originally from the valley, Sage initially didn’t see herself moving back to California, until her husband convinced her.
“I love how Long Beach is this huge city that feels like a small town,” said Sage, “You just feel like you kind of know everybody, but it’s impossible,” she continued.
After a little over a year of getting permits and preparing, Long Beach Beer Lab opened in 2017.
Initially it was just Sage, her husband and one employee working at the lab until they felt comfortable expanding their staff.
“We kind of grew into ourselves,” said Sage, who now has eight employees working in the kitchen.
What sets Long Beach Beer Lab apart from other breweries in the area is that it’s the only one to offer a completely vegetarian menu.
Sage harks back to the meat-free mentality her mother raised her with, and is still devoted to, as the inspiration behind its uniqueness.
“She raised us with very low processed foods, it was mostly things that she would make from scratch,” said Sage.
The menu is made up of Sage’s recipes, but she does collaborate with and encourage her employees to put items on the menu.
Such as Alex Benavidez’s Taco Tuesday’s which feature weekly variations of vegan and vegetarian tacos made with homemade flour and corn tortillas.
Fast-forward two years later on November 2019, Sage opened up the Long Beach Bread Lab kiosk at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, which people have been very receptive to during the two months that it’s been open.
Currently, the menu consists of coffee, vegetarian sandwiches and features pastries, which sets it apart from its Beer Lab sister.
Sage hopes to invest in grab-and-go refrigerators to sell juices, hummus, yogurt and fresh salads for people who want something a little more wholesome.
She’s also still debating on whether or not meat options will be offered once a grab-and-go fridge is set in place.
“I want to give people a better product, a wholesome product,” said Sage. “We do charge accordingly for what it is, but I think it’s gonna treat your body better than if you’re just buying junk.”
Sage also recently became Long Beach’s first certified Artisan Bread Baker from the Bread Bakers Guild of America.
“That was probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever done,” she said.
She spent two months preparing for the series of exams, which usually take 4 months.
She decided to apply for certification after Mitch Stamm, Vice Chair of the Bread Bakers Guild suggested she do so at a conference.
After paying her dues, Sage took a timed online test that had 100 questions. Once that was passed, an outline was given on what to study for the practical exam which consisted of a baker’s math quiz and baking five different recipes. Judges then critiqued the products in multiple aspects.
“They put you through the wringer,” Sage said.
After countless days of stress and studying, she ultimately passed.
“I felt very honored to take the test alongside amazingly talented, professional people,” said Sage. “It was great.”
In the midst of all the madness, the mom of two teenage boys also released her first book titled Yeast Fermentation Handbook: Essential Guide and Recipes for Beer and Bread Makers in November 2019.
“I think it’s a really fun book for the homebaker, and to kind of look at the relationship between beer and bread, which I think is what almost our whole life is based on–– what the relationship is with beer and bread and fun ways you can use it together,” Sage said.
She’ll be having her book signing on Sunday, Feb. 9 at Beer Lab from 12:30pm to 2:30pm. Folks can purchase advanced copies on Amazon.com
As for what’s in store for the future of Long Beach Beer Lab, Sage and Fried plan on putting a bigger brew system next door, and they’ve just secured their distilling license with the intent of using it for sustainability reasons.
“If there’s a batch of beer that we don’t feel comfortable serving, we can just distill it, and then fill bourbon barrels, that’s like the long game,” said Sage.
Long Beach Beer Lab is located in the heart of Wrigley at 518 W Willow St. and is open seven days a week with varying hours that you can check out here.
Long Beach Bread Lab is located in the center outdoor quad at Long Beach Memorial Hospital at 2801 Atlantic Ave. and is open Monday through Friday.