Written by Tom Becham
In a previous article, I wrote about the Salute! beer festival, sponsored by the Ojai Beverage Company, or OBC as they often refer to themselves. I also promised an article specifically about OBC: here it is!
Ojai Beverage Company (Ojai, pronounced “O’-hy”) is a relatively recent addition to the Ventura County area of Southern California. Owned and operated by Joby Yobe and his cousin Jorge Alem, OBC has quickly established itself as a fixture of the local craft beer world.
To understand OBC, and the magnitude of what it has been able to accomplish, one has to understand Ojai and its surrounding area a bit first.
The Ojai Valley first came to national prominence by standing in as Shangri La in the classic film Lost Horizon. To this day, Ojai retains a small, rustic flavor and wild beauty, despite the influx of entertainment industry types and wealthy Los Angeles area vacationers. The total population of Ojai is just over 8000 people, as compared to other area cities like Oxnard (170,000) and Simi Valley (110,000).
Indeed this next story is a parable for the Ojai experience. When my wife and were in Ojai in late 2009 (actually for the OBC Oktoberfest event), we witnessed something very interesting. A 30-something Asian woman was riding her bicycle down the main street. She was wearing a very brief bikini, and her bike sported a sign that read, “Nude isn’t porn, it’s the way that we’re born.” Obviously, she was protesting the local laws against nude sunbathing and such. Well, she rode up and down the main street a couple of times. On one pass, she had removed her bikini top. On the next one, she ditched the bike and was running by, topless. She pushed past crowded sidewalks full of ‘tweens who were simultaneously texting and skateboarding, tie-dye clad burnouts, and dorky-looking tourists, and through traffic consisting mostly of luxury sedans owned by wealthy locals, and Escalades driven by soccer moms. The locals took little or no notice of her, as she was apparently just one of the local eccentrics.
This, in a nutshell, is Ojai.
That OBC started in what was once a wine shop is thus no surprise. In fact, I believe Joby Yobe has claimed the previous tenant left some of his stock for OBC. Thus, OBC boasts not only over 700 kinds of beer, but hundreds of different wines, a sizable humidor, and more single-malt scotch whiskeys than I have ever seen collected into one spot.
And OBC is not just a liquor store by any means. With its kitchen staffed by crack chef Jerret Gilden, and outdoor patio with live entertainment on weekends, it is quickly becoming a local gathering spot.
The dining/tasting room has 12 rotating beer taps. Many are seasonals, and they usually include one or two imports, and domestics from all over the country, including (but not limited to) breweries like Dogfish Head, Victory, Flying Dog, and Alaska.
The 700 beer selection in the refrigerator cases is a joy to behold as well. Unlike the large beverage chains, the assortment at OBC changes due to turnover. Joby is always trying to find something new, different and interesting with which to stock his shelves.
In a recent visit, my wife and I, along with a friend visited OBC for dinner and a pint. The menu items we sampled were a pulled pork sandwich, a tri-tip and melted brie sandwich with mushrooms on ciabatta bread, and a peppered turkey croissant sandwich. All were delicious. Of course, so was the beer, which included Belhaven Stout (on nitro tap), Sierra Nevada XXX Anniversary Helles Bock, and Abita Purple Haze.
If you are ever in Ventura County, California and want an enjoyable beer experience, Stop by Ojai beverage Company. Even if we had a lot more choices here, the trip would be worthwhile.
The first photo (after the logo) features Joby Yobe on the left, and Jorge Alem on the right.
Tom Becham lives in California, he’s a homebrewer and reviews beer, brewpubs, breweries and beer events for professorgoodale