Interlude: Inland Empire Beer/Business Report

By James Fallows

I have been off the grid for several days and will be for a while more, as obligations of different sorts pile up all at the same time. As a placeholder, and instead of anything about tonight's Newt-mania, a closing-the-loop home-news update.

Last week Derek Thompson pointed out that the Riverside, California metropolitan statistical area was "in an economic freefall" and among the worst in the nation in both job-loss and real-estate terms. This got my attention. By its full name, the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario MSA covers the generally unloved (notably by Joan Didion*) "Inland Empire" of California -- but also my wholly lovable hometown of Redlands. Wikipedia panorama of Redlands in its orange-growing heyday:

800px-Redlands,_California_1908.jpg


So let's look on the bright side. I have seen evidence that at least one local business is booming during the hard times, apart from the big home-grown high-tech titan. Happily this latest success story is the Hangar 24 craft brewery, conveniently located at the local small airport. From a shoestring family startup less than four years ago it's become a big success. Here is my nominee for the absolutely perfect panorama -- small airplanes, brewery, blue skies, same mountains as in the older photo -- during our visit to Hangar 24 just after Christmas:

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And part of the brewing floor:

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I mentioned before my latest visit to Hangar 24 that I would report on its newly released Double IPA. Here's the report: I liked it a lot. Some people on Beer Advocate and elsewhere agree. Some sound a little too picky abut it, in my view. Ideally you'll have a chance to judge for yourself.

Back to business in this space shortly.
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* Here are theĀ  opening words of a famous Joan Didion Saturday Evening Post story from the 1960s about my home turf. It didn't go over that well locally:

This is a story about love and death in the golden land, and begins with the country. The San Bernardino Valley lies only an hour east of Los Angeles by the San Bernardino Freeway but is in certain ways an alien place: not the coastal California of the subtropical twilights and the soft westerlies off the Pacific but a harsher California, haunted by the Mojave just beyond the mountains, devastated by the hot Santa Ana wind that comes down through the passes at 100 miles an hour and whines through the eucalyptus windbreaks and works on the nerves. October is the bad month for the wind, the month when breathing is difficult and the hills blaze up spontaneously. There has been no rain since April. Every voice seems a scream. It is the season of suicide and divorce and prickly dread, wherever the wind blows.

The Mormons settled this ominous country, and then they abandoned it, but by the time they left the first orange tree had been planted and for the next hundred years the San Bernardino Valley would draw a kind of people who imagined they might live among the talismanic fruit and prosper in die dry air, people who brought with them Mid-western ways of building and cooking and praying and who tried to graft those ways upon the land. The graft took in curious ways....

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/01/interlude-inland-empire-beer-business-report/251763/