Locals are buzzing about Cask & Hammer, La Habra’s first craft beer bar.
Owner David Mora didn’t expect about 100 comments when he posted a picture on Instagram of the bar’s logo and the bar’s opening date, July 24.
Let’s go try this place out.
Take me here!!
It’s already on my calendar!
The first day of business drew a standing room-only crowd, said Mora, 29, who opened the bar with his father, Raymond Mora.
Craft beer is exploding all over the United States, and particularly in California: the Golden State ranks No. 1 with the most craft breweries in the nation and the biggest economic impact, raking in $6.5 billion in 2014, according to California Craft Brewers Association. The number of craft breweries in the state is up 60 percent, at 431 of the businesses in 2014, compared to 270 in 2011, according to the Brewers Association.
Richard Garcia of La Habra said that he went to the Cask & Hammer during its first week, after learning about the bar through Facebook. Garcia, 35, left one of the first Yelp reviews for the business – positive, of course.
“In La Habra you don’t have anything like this, that offers craft beer,” Garcia said. “You have to go to Red Robin to get Stone IPA on tap.”
La Habra’s bars are old-school, serving domestics like Budweiser and maybe a few Mexican brews.
Cask & Hammer is a little different. Murals of Los Angeles, La Habra and a barrel room adorn the walls, designed by a street artist who Mora saw painting electrical boxes in downtown L.A.
There are 30 rotating beers on tap, mostly from Southern California and Orange County, such as Stone, The Bruery, Left Coast, Bootlegger’s, Ballast Point and Golden Road.
Still, some customers are disappointed that Mora doesn’t serve mainstream labels like Coors or Budweiser. He tries to get them to try something similar – maybe a lager from Glendale’s Golden Road or a Mexican-style ale from San Clemente’s Left Coast.
Mora, who is living in downtown Los Angeles as he completes an MBA at USC, said he got some flack after telling people that he was opening a bar in La Habra. But, the monthly rent is about $2,000 less when compared to downtown Los Angeles or Uptown Whittier.
“Everybody was telling me it’s never going to work in La Habra,” said Mora, who grew-up in nearby Whittier. “I’m like, that’s not true.”
Like much of North Orange County, La Habra is an under-served market for restaurants, particularly because it’s far from any major freeway, said Greg Stoffel, a retail analyst from Irvine. In 2013, the city’s restaurants brought in $1,535 per capita compared to the county average of $1,996 per capita, according to state data analyzed by Stoffel.
“That means it’s not doing well now, but there’s plenty of potential,” Stoffel said. “If (Cask & Hammer) turns out to be good – even better, then it can have a wider draw.”
Mora’s bar could already have that wide draw. Michelle Dominguez drove about 30 miles from the Highland Park area of Los Angeles to visit Cask & Hammer.
“I actually found them on Instagram before they even opened up and I thought it was amazing that someone is bringing only cask and craft beer to La Habra, especially since no one else has that out there,” Dominguez said.
On a recent weekday, Mora was at the bar before it opened, taking a delivery of Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin.
Larry Johnson, 23, saw the sign as he drove by, recognizing it from Instagram. He walked inside and asked Mora if he could look around.
“I’ve been telling everyone about it,” Johnson said.
Mora says that happens quite a bit.
“I’m worried this place might actually be too small for how excited people are,” he said with a laugh. “People refuse to leave during the week.”