Paperback Brewing Co. is celebrating its ofﬁcial southern California launch, as well as the one-year anniversary of brewery operations. The Glendale-based microbrewery quietly began selling beer to-go only (in limited-edition cans and crowlers) in early July 2020, due to COVID-19 restrictions on tasting room operations. Brewmaster David “Zambo” Szamborski (former head brewer of 21st Amendment) brews ﬂagship and seasonal beers which all feature the brewery’s signature pulp ﬁction cover-inspired can art with names including “Bunny with a Chainsaw,” “Tucked in by Strangers,” and “Attack of the Space Cats.”
Despite and in spite of pandemic-related challenges, Paperback produced nearly 2,000 bbls in its ﬁrst year and added 400+ off-premise accounts from San Diego to Los Angeles, including 188 Trader Joe’s retail locations. The brewery is on track to increase production by 50 percent in 2021 and is planning to increase off-premise distribution in other major California markets.
An enterprise eight years in the making, Paperback is a collaboration that evolved from a proliﬁc home brew (or garage, to be speciﬁc) operation nicknamed “The Lab” by friends and former colleagues Brandon Monroe and Chris Cesnek. The two co-founders met fortuitously by way of an arbitrary interofﬁce email exchange at an entertainment advertising agency and discovered a mutual passion for craft beer — and a growing disillusionment with corporate culture. Over the years they reﬁned their recipes on a 1/2-bbl brewing system and completed programs at the renowned University of California, Davis and White Labs. In 2019, Paperback became their full-time pursuit. Monroe oversees operations and business development, while Cesnek acts as chief creative ofﬁcer, shepherding every aspect of the Paperback brand.
“COVID closed Paperback before we could open it. We’ve been waiting patiently and experimenting with our beer styles,” said Cofounder Chris Cesnek. “For us, this ﬁrst anniversary is more like our grand opening. We’re excited to share what we’ve worked so hard for and everything we love about beer.”
“Paperback has been a true labor of love,” added Cofounder Brandon Monroe. “We set out on this journey eight years ago to create an experience. Now to see people at the bar enjoying our beer, talking to customers, and seeing all the smiles is the most rewarding feeling imaginable.”
At the heart of Paperback is a 15-bbl brewing system, plus six 30-bbl and ﬁve 60-bbl fermenters. Award-winning Brewmaster Szamborski has led production for acclaimed breweries throughout the Golden State, most notably at 21st Amendment Brewery, where his efforts were recognized with a myriad of high-proﬁle accolades (including six Great American Beer Festival medals) . He’s celebrated for his fearless experimentation and best quality brews (he’s moonlighted as a GABF judge the past six years). Szamborski’s prodigious output at Paperback, releasing 37 brews in the brewery’s ﬁrst year of operations — was a deliberate endeavor that helped the brewery withstand the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paperback’s ﬂagship beers include:
- Bunny with a Chainsaw,Hazy Double IPA (Idaho 7, Mosaic): ABV 8.4%, 48 IBUs
- Tucked in by Strangers, West Coast IPA (Mosaic): ABV 6.5%, 25 IBUs
- Czechs Who Wear Leather, Czech-style Pilsner (Motueka): ABV 4.9%, 34 IBUs
- Backyard Crusher, American Lager (Sterling, Cluster): ABV 4.5%, 15 IBUs
- Attack of the Space Cats, Hazy IPA (Galaxy): 6.6% ABV, 40 IBUs
- One Night with Nora, Blonde Ale (Sterling, Cascade): 5.1% ABV, 11 IBUs
Cesnek, a BFA graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is the creative mind behind Paperback’s one-of-a-kind label artwork. The humorous illustrations take inspiration from pop art and pulp magazines (a nod to the inexpensive paper the stories were printed on) popular in the ﬁrst half of the 20th Century, featuring colorful, action-packed, and sometimes lurid cover art. His references include music and pop culture, for example The Smith’s Death of a Disco Dancer, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks (Paperback’s Sour Peaks Raspberry Lemonade Sour Ale), and Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (Paperback’s A Milkshake Orange Milkshake IPA).
The 1,600 sq-ft Glendale tasting room (422 Magnolia Ave) has 16 Paperback brews on tap and was designed by Boston-based Jennifer Sullivan of Studio Twenty Two. Situated in a World War II-era quonset hut aircraft hanger, which housed a mechanic shop for six decades before sitting vacant for many years, the 6,000+ square-foot structure (which also encompasses the brewery’s production) was completely reimagined to embody the Paperback brand aesthetic. Inspired by the concept of storytelling, the space was designed to facilitate conversation and inspire comfort — akin to a traditional family living room or den. The mezzanine sits overlooking the tasting room and offers a bird’s-eye view of the brewery’s production area. Like Paperback’s beer, great attention was paid to detail, from the purposeful color palette to the curated objects throughout the space. Bespoke woodwork, tables and bar, by Los Angeles-based Surfridge Design, are a nod to a bygone era of craftsmanship.
Furnishings, both new and vintage, feature a rich patina (much like an old book). The tasting room is open from 4 to 10 p.m. on Wednesdays/Thursdays, 4 to 11 p.m. on Fridays, 12 to 11 p.m. on Saturdays and 12 to 10 p.m. on Sundays. For a complete list of Paperback’s ﬂagship and seasonal releases, please visit: https://www.paperback.la/#ontap.