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Left Coast, A Company Brewed from Family
by Jamie Brinkman, photos by Jonie Millhouse
Pizza and beer go together like peanut butter and jelly, so it is no surprise that Left Coast Brewery was founded by a family that already owned and operated a successful pizzeria. The pizza joint, Oggi’s, opened in Del Mar, CA back in 1991, and has since turned into a 17 restaurant franchise across two states, opening the door for Left Coast Brewing Co. to become what it is today.
The Hadjis Family started Oggi’s Pizza as a family owned and operated restaurant, where they would exclusively brew their own craft style beer on location. When additional Oggi’s opened in other locations, brewing beer on site became more difficult and they decided to open a central brewing location for just the beer production.
After finding a spot in San Clemente that was over 5000 sq. ft., it became clear that they would have the ability to brew much more beer than needed just for the restaurant, so the family decided to create a brewing company that could still provide Oggi’s with 100% of their beer, but also could be distributed elsewhere. With Hadjis family origins based on the east coast, San Clemente has always been jokingly referred to as the Left Coast, and since this is where the brewery is located, the name stuck.
Left Coast Brewery was officially established in 2002. When it opened, they decided to launch only three different types of beer, Hop Juice, Voo Doo Stout and Trestles IPA, and to exclusively sell to liquor stores. However, within that first year of opening, they had already started to receive recognition far beyond the reach of just Southern California. Upon taking their eight beer lineup from Oggi’s to the World Beer Cup, they won the prestigious Best Small Brewing Company in the World!
In the first year of business, they produced over 3,500 barrels of beer (approximately 7,000 kegs of beer)! With increasing local popularity, three other beers were added to the lineup as the popularity of the first few grew, making a total of six full time beers - the Asylum Belgian Style Triple Ale, Del Mar St Dortmunder Style Export Lager, and Una Mas Amber Lager. Four seasonal beers were also developed to release throughout the year - Red Tide Belgian-Style Red Ale during spring, the Big Office IPA during summer, Ale Epeteios Imperial Stout in the fall and the Wedge Black IPA in the winter.
With all of the beers selling so well in stores Shawn Hadjis was brought in as a sales and marketing director. Having the experience as Director of Operations for Oggi’s, Shawn’s goal was to make Left Coast the San Clemente beer. Though it took time, and some serious “pounding of the pavement” , Shawn used his networking skills to get the beer into restaurants like Board and Brew and Sunsets by the pier (now Pierside), which officially launched Left Coast Brewing Co. into the San Clemente restaurant scene. Left Coast’s beers can now be found in almost every San Clemente restaurant, as well as other Southern California restaurants, major store chains, and even some Costcos.
The company’s success has stemmed from its great beer of course, but also from its foundation as a family owned and operated business and their decision to give back to the community. As far as being family run, almost every single position in the company is held by a family member. George Hadjis, who originally opened Oggi’s, is president of the Left Coast company, his wife is CFO and his son Tommy is the general manager. Tommy’s cousin Shawn is in charge of sales and marketing, Tommy’s uncle John, also co founder of Oggi’s, runs the tasting room and on and on. In fact, Tommy Hadjis says they only recently created a position for someone outside the family to help with their social media and marketing.
Giving back has always been an integral part of the business as well, and they take every opportunity to do so. Every year, they put on a beer fest at their brewery and 100% of the profits go back to the city of San Clemente. Though they love educating the people of San Clemente about the brewing process and introducing people to their beers and brewery, their main focus is to raise money for the Chamber of Commerce Military welcome home celebrations. Over the years, they have also donated hundreds of kegs to non-profit organization run events from military homecomings to the San Clemente City’s “Fiesta”.
A lot of love and passion has been put into this company and if you meet any one of the Hadjis family members, you'll see that right away.
“This business is my passion,” says Tommy Hadjis, and the success of the business reflects just that.
The brewery is home to a tasting room that is open seven days a week, so make sure you drop by to see the friendly faces of the Hadjis family and try one of their twelve amazing beers. To enjoy it at home, stop by one of your local grocers, Costco, or your favorite watering hole.