KCET.org features Chemistry alumni.

Posted on


UCLA alumni and their craft brewery were recently featured in KCET.org on-line magazine.  

Progress Brewery in South El Monte was founded by Dr. Diego Benitez, a former postdoc in Professor Fraser Stoddart’s group and Kevin Ogilby, a former undergraduate in Professor Paula Diaconescu’s group.

Excerpt from KCET.org (by Melissa Hidalgo)

Somewhere in the working-class, mainly-Latino eastern Los Angeles suburb off the 60 Freeway, East Kent Goldings hops are boiling and Belgian yeast is fermenting for the next batch of Bronco Belgian Pale Ale. Malt from England, Germany, and Canada are mashing for the next barrels of Derringer Dunkelweizen and Alamo Cream Ale. At the bar, hardworking Budweiser and Dos Equis loyalists raise eyebrows at the chalkboard above the impressive row of sixteen taps that pour hand-crafted kölsch style ales, sour stouts, imperial double reds, and other varieties of beer brewed in the room next door by guys with chemistry degrees from CalTech and UCLA. The chalkboard announces today’s beer lineup, the names reading like something out of an old Western: Pioneer American Red Ale, Cavalry Double IPA, Rio Bravo American Wheat Ale (with Cranberries), and other styles of ales that you can’t find at the local liquor store or grocery aisle.

Brewery Image

Dr. Diego Benitez and Kevin Ogilby, founders of Progress Brewing (left).  The brewery in South El Monte (right)

No Bud Light? No Miller High Life? No Tecate?

Welcome to Progress Brewing, a welcome haven for local craft beer lovers and Bud lifers alike in the San Gabriel Valley. 

The Founders

Progress Brewing was founded by chemists, Dr. Diego Benitez and Kevin Ogilby. Benitez hails from Mexico City and Ogilby is a Long Beach native. Benitez holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from CalTech. He met Ogilby, then an undergraduate studying chemistry at UCLA, while working as a researcher in biotechnology. Benitez and Ogilby only knew each other as colleagues. They met once, casually, then again in 2008, this time at a holiday party at a co-worker’s home. Benitez recalls the host’s four home brews that were being poured at the party. He bonded with his colleague over the impressive quality and variety of their host’s home made beer. Benitez then began brewing his own beer at home, taught Ogilby the ropes, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Although Benitez had a background in wine making — he took courses in the prestigious viticulture and enology program through UC Davis — he had “zero beer experience” before trying his hand at home brewing with Ogilby. Before the two chemists embarked on the project that would become South El Monte’s first brewing company, they both completed the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP). Doing so allowed Benitez and Ogilby to take their brewing practices and recipes to another level. Ogilby explains the beer judging experience taught him and Benitez to pay attention to the small elements and details that characterize a given style of lager or ale. As certified beer judges, they learned how to train their palates to pick up the subtle differences that distinguish one beer from another in the same category, while learning the technical aspects of brewing different styles of beer. The goal of brewing a good beer is to achieve a balance of flavors. “It’s like painting,” says Benitez. “You learn what hops to mix with which malts to achieve a balanced and cohesive beer.” 

Continue reading KCET article here.

Inset photo of Kevin Ogilby by Sarah Bennett, LAWeekly.