This unique and beautifully themed brewery offers a variety of handcrafted beers to suit every taste.
By Jenny Gardner
I always feel happy when I visit Upshift Brewing Company, a motorsports-themed brewery located on the east side of El Segundo’s Smoky Hollow district. Walking into the garage-style taproom, I see colorful license plates adorning the far wall. A dirt bike hangs from the crossbeams of the ceiling. Highway guardrails divide the seating area from the brewing equipment. The low-top tables feature maps, and the high tops are mounted on car wheels as their base.
When I step up to the counter to order, I’m welcomed with a smile and friendly conversation by the “beertenders,” who pull the brews with old-school shifters as tap handles. Then I head to a picnic table outside, grab a bite from the day’s food vendor, and, on certain evenings, enjoy some live music.
On many of my visits, I also share a quick greeting with Upshift’s co-owners, CEO Steve Behar and brewer Steven Torres. These two have a great rapport and clear passion for what they do, and their recent partnership has made Upshift a top-notch beer destination.
Their journey to co-ownership follows an unlikely route, with their friendship formed long ago through Behar’s mail carrier, and a major career change for Torres along the way.
Behar began dreaming about opening a brewery in 2015, and he knew exactly where he wanted to go: “I wanted to be in El Segundo. I love this town,” he said. A 30-plus-year resident of nearby Holly Glen, Behar’s kids attended school in El Segundo and the family spent significant time there.
After a lengthy search, he found the 339 Indiana Street location in 2019. With the help of family and friends, he turned a pile of dirt in a bare warehouse into a polished tribute to his passion for all things car- and motorcycle-related. Upshift opened in fall of that year, building a buzz over its first few months. But in March 2020, COVID brought that momentum to a standstill. The brewery weathered various pandemic regulations to return to new-normal operations in 2021. Along the way, the original brewer moved out of state and a replacement needed to be found.
Torres had been a mail carrier for 15 years when he too decided to follow his dreams. “I was a beer geek first, then a cool hobby turned into an obsession,” he said. In the years before his career change, he loved visiting craft breweries and talking to the brewers, as well as devouring books on the subject. He befriended Victor Novak, a renowned brewer who at the time headed up TAPS Fish House & Brewery, which has locations in Brea and Corona. In 2014, Novak offered Torres an assistant brewer position, and in a total leap of faith, Torres took four weeks of vacation from the post office to give his dream an honest go—and he’s never looked back.
Four months into Torres’ tenure at TAPS, Novak left to join Golden Road Brewing. Thanks to Novak’s mentorship, Torres was prepared for the transition, and he and the rest of the TAPS brewing team won the Great American Beer Festival’s Mid-Size Brewpub of the Year in 2015.
Torres had been at TAPS for two years when Novak again offered him a job. Novak had been named brewmaster of Golden Road’s new Anaheim location, and he invited Torres to join him there in the position of head brewer. Over the next six years, Torres focused on innovating new recipes, including collaborating on Golden Road’s popular Mango Cart wheat ale.
So, given Torres’ wealth of experience, it was no surprise when in 2019 Behar asked for his buddy’s feedback on the beers being created for the soon-to-be-opened Upshift. Over the next two years, the Steves kept up their conversation about the brewing industry, with Torres providing valuable advice to Behar, including screening résumés in 2021 when Upshift was hiring a new brewer. And this is when the idea of their partnership first formed.
“I wasn’t in a rush to go anywhere from Golden Road—I appreciate the pride and passion of the people there,” Torres said. But he’d also realized that owning his own brewery would be his logical next move, and he saw an ideal partner in Behar. “I knew his work ethic, his attitude, the pride he put into Upshift. He has the same pride in this place that I have in our beer,” Torres said.
Behar felt the same way. “It was important that it was Steven Torres,” he said, pointing to Torres’ passion, dedication, and expertise. And in October 2021, their partnership as co-owners became reality, opening a new chapter for Upshift.
They shut down for the month of November to focus solely on brewing a stellar new batch of beers. They then reopened last December and have been building momentum and brewing great ales and lagers ever since.
“We want to have something for everybody,” Torres said of their offerings. Recent selections have included kolsch, witbier, oat pale ale, hazy pale ale and IPA, an extra special bitter on nitro, plum ale, and a DIPA, among others. “We try to hit the whole spectrum of beers, from light to dark,” Behar added.
Torres has a special appreciation for German beer styles, currently showcased by their Ölleck Schwarzbier, a black lager available on tap and released in cans as part of a promotion with Oilstainlab’s Half 11 custom car build. He’s also working on a single-hop IPA series; the first iteration spotlights Michigan Cashmere from Hop Head Farms.
Beyond its beer, Upshift also regularly hosts a variety of great food vendors every day they’re open (Wednesday through Sunday) and has live music most Thursday evenings. Other recent events included Bends & Brews yoga, a run with LA Craft Runners, and a Formula One viewing party. Upshift will also have a tent at the weekly Cruise at the Beach in Redondo on Fridays this summer.
Upshift Brewing Co.
339 Indiana St.
Open Wednesday through Sunday
Jenny Gardner lives in El Segundo
This story appears in the June 2022 issue of The El Segundo Scene.