It is now 30 years that the California Craft Beer Association has been advocating on behalf of small, independent breweries. The Golden State, by their calculations now has over 1,000 operating breweries which is a far cry from when John Marting of Drake’s Brewing wondered if San Francisco had enough market for two breweries in the city.
Headwinds are greater now. The days of double-digit growth have given way to a steady if not spectacular 4% to 5% growth. Hard Seltzer and cannabis are in the picture and America’s two most populous generations are entering / have entered into a new phase of life and their beer drinking habits will change with that. As of yet, the next as yet unnamed generation really doesn’t have a full and clear profile when it comes to alcohol.
We may be far from a time when you could buy a brewing system from a guy who was literally behind bars, but as David Walker succinctly put it, due to plenty of choice and a distribution back-up, there is “indigestion” in the industry.
Gloom aside, when brewers and equipment suppliers, fans and media descended upon the Long Beach Convention Center, the beers and creativity and passion were still evident. The Los Angeles County Brewers Guild went Tiki. Sacramento brought a full slate of beers and relaxing while still being branded area to drink them. You could taste appetizers from local restaurants paired with beers from one table, then move to the next over and try a second pairing. I counted seven different pairings if you tried all over the two days.
Upstairs, seminars spotlighted everything from diversity to Kveik yeast, sightless tasting, and pairing junk food with craft beers. The CCBA pours a lot of resources into finding seminars that are both fun and educational while also ensuring that plenty of beer flows.
One of the reasons why the Summit has moved to Long Beach while the Sacramento Convention Center is renovated is pretty clear. A ten-minute walk takes you to both Beachwood BBQ and Brewing and their Beachwood Blendery. The brewing scene is thriving all around Long Beach’s various neighborhoods.
The Summit finished with a festival on the Marina Green and even if you weren’t going to drink a single beer and just had to gaze longingly at the people inside, you would have been amazed by the sheer amount of tents that brewers set up. A visual example of how big beer is in California was visible as far as the eye could see.
The Non-IPA of the Week is the annual Oktoberfest collaboration from the venerable Sierra Nevada. Over the last few years, Sierra Nevada has traveled to Germany to find partners. For 2019, they tapped Bitburger for the job. They also leaned on a couple of Bitburger secrets as well. First is their custom yeast and second is their hop blend, “Sealed Hops” or in the German Siegelhopfen. The result is a lighter more lager-y version than past years that places focus directly on the malts.
This Saturday, September 21, wherever you may be in the Los Angeles area, expect to find an Oktoberfest to attend. You can attend the oldest L.A. brewery fest at Eagle Rock Brewery or head down the 105 freeway to Common Space for one of the newest. Smog City Brewing will host one at their Bixby Hills location so that you can pair their version with food from one of the vendors at Steelcraft. Or you could head further out to 8One8 Brewing for their Canoga Park version or even further out to Pocock Brewing as they will be celebrating that day as well. Wherever you end up, you will find an L.A. twist on this grand worldwide beer tradition.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.