Craft Beer Issue 2018
If ever there was an argument for the existence of gnomes, Shay Hosseinion is it.
Wearing a pointy red knit hat, a beard, and a giddy smile, Hosseinion is walking me through the tap list for his Brewed by Gnomes beers, now available only at Tabor Bread on Southeast Hawthorne. The beers are unlike just about anything else you’ll find in a beer glass: whimsical, herbal, and certainly magicked into existence by what Hosseinion calls “the gnomes.”
Made nearby—just off Hawthorne at Leikam Brewery’s backyard nanobrewing facility, operated by Hosseinion’s neighbors—Brewed by Gnomes specializes in organic and mostly European-influenced wild yeast beers like a linden flower lager; a pale brown abbey ale flavored with fennel and licorice; and a Belgian ale made with Hawthorne berries, aged in a Pinot barrel on cherries and figs. It’s as if the now-defunct Commons Brewery dropped acid and joined a commune.
“I’ll be on a walk, smell a flower, and be like, ‘Oh my God, you’re going in that beer,’” he says. “I’ve always had an affinity, fascination, and attraction to different plants and flowers—the gnomes tell me, and I listen.”
Hosseinion, 42, is a physician who specializes in herbal medicine, and his passion for nature extends easily to his brewing style. He didn’t really drink much beer until his late 20s, but in 2011 the “gnomes spoke to me,” he says, and he started homebrewing. He attended the American Brewers Guild and interned at the Commons, and by 2016, he was self-distributing his own creations to taprooms like Bailey’s and Imperial. But the work it took to sell a single keg was taking its toll.
“I was always looking for a little home for the gnomes to come to,” he says.
Hosseinion says he was considering opening his own tasting room when he started talking with Tabor Bread owner Tissa Stein, and the plan to join forces gelled over the course of just a few months. On June 14, the Gnomes on Tabor space opened.
The beer is available whenever the Tabor Bread shop is open, and Stein worked with longtime friend and chef Gevara Teebi to create a beer-friendly menu available during their new extended hours, which run 4 to 9 pm on Thursday through Saturday. The food makes excellent use of the bakery’s great bread, with cheese and charcuterie plates, and a perfect Madras curry roasted cauliflower with onions and cranberries served on griddled toast ($7).
Sometimes the fanciful flavors seem like they might not work—I expected a lemon verbena golden ale to taste like my dish soap. But the result is almost soothing; as someone who gets bloated after more than one pint, the herbs and yeasts kept it light. And while a linden flower ale sounds like it could sway toward potpourri, I found most of the floral aspects in the smell, while the beer itself was only lightly hinted.
Hosseinion says his signature ingredient is fennel, and that’s on display in his brown abbey ale, Sno-Fo, and with the addition of coffee in To-Mo Arigato, a North African dark French ale on nitro. One of his first IPAs, with honeysuckle, will be on tap next. “That’s as traditional as the gnomes get,” he says. (My response: “Yeah, when I think of traditional beer, I definitely think honeysuckle.”)
The permanent home for Brewed by Gnomes comes just as beer drinkers are growing more familiar and interested in sours and herbal fermentations.
“When I first started doing this, people were like, ‘What? Beer made with something other than hops? Get right out of town,’” Hosseinion says. “Now, most breweries will have something with a botanical or flower. But this is my signature. It’s my jam. It’s not just portfolio diversification.”