Meet Paul Ryan Elliott, who at 29 is one of the youngest distillery owners in the country. YSA (Young State America) Distillery is located in Elliott's hip commercial loft space in the flourishing Arts District in Downtown LA. Loft & Bear is the first spirit released by YSA and is an ultra premium, small batch, and handcrafted vodka, developed to please an expansive audience.
Elliott's humble beginning started with almost no money in his pockets, but with enough belief in his dream that that he journeyed to Los Angeles in 2011. After spending two years polishing his business model, the move paid off when Elliott founded YSA. After a couple of years, YSA is still a very small operation, only capable of putting out 100 cases per month with full production (and no social life). The mash is cooked and fermented in one corner of the loft and then taken about 10 steps to the right to distill four times in the still.
Loft & Bear Vodka uses pure California mountain spring water and is characterized by its sweet, rich aroma with a silky smooth mouth feel and an understated light flavor. It derives its character from soft winter wheat grains sourced seasonally from North Carolina and Michigan, in which, results a clean and less neutral tasting flavor. The nose is full, sweet, with vanilla bean and a mild, buttery, pleasant and herbal taste. Loft and Bear has won a variety of awards including Gold Medal for The Fifty Best Domestic Vodka Awards 2014 and Gold Medal for the Microliquor Spirit Award.
Loft & Bear retails on average at $40 a bottle. However, it can be found in a variety of restaurants around LA, including Baco Mercat, Craft, Bar Keeper, K&L Wines, Mess Hall, Harlowe, and Crustacean Beverly Hills. Eventually, Elliott plans on distributing to different markets like New York, Miami and Washington DC, but for now, it's exclusive to Los Angeles.
With expansion plans in the works, Elliott has teamed with up-and-coming mixologist Karl Frederick. Although Paul's favorite way to enjoy Loft & Bear is on the rocks with a little lime while listening to his James Bond records, Frederick is developing a delicious cocktail program including Go FIGure, which incorporates homemade fig puree, coconut water, lemon juice and rosemary or the Bear's Knees, with a mustard-infused Loft & Bear, fresh squeezed lemon juice and a honey syrup. Frederick grows his own herbs to make infusions and bitters at the loft.
YSA's motto is Distill.Drink.Donate. They have teamed up with PATH, an organization working to end homelessness and help distressed families, veteran affairs and human services. By giving 5% of all profits it is "implementing these practices at the outset of our inception that has insured solid values at the core of our brand."
Paul Ryan Elliott's award winning artisanal Loft & Bear Vodka is worth picking up and taking to your next party. With a classic, refined bottle exterior decorated with a simple black ribbon and covered cork stopper, the 80 proof hometown spirit will definitely produce some local pride.