The idea of growing hops in Los Angeles is kind of audacious. This key beer ingredient typically grows in places like the Pacific Northwest and New Zealand, more temperature climates that have things like precipitation, something that seems like a distant memory in Southern California. Still, Angel City Brewery persisted with the help of gardener Ray Narkevicius, and head brewer Dieter Foerstner was able to produce Rooftop Ale after two years of trials in the Arts District, using hops grown on the roof of a mural-coated building in what amounts to a paved-over desert. The bottled results were pretty convincing.
Narkevicius is an airplane mechanic by trade and a frequent repurposer. The home farmer hauled away Angel City’s spent grains after answering Craigslist ad. He fed chickens and composted for fertilizer to feed his plants. Once Angel City started producing more spent grains he could use, he sent the rest up north, for familiar cows to eat. Alan Newman, the co-founder of Alchemy & Science, Angel City’s parent company, asked Narkevicius to build a garden on the roof, which he accomplished using accumulated ingenuity.
Narkevicius planted hops like Cascade, Chinook, Columbus, Pearle, Tettnanger and Mt. Hood. With L.A. suffering from a drought, pH levels spike in the hop vines, locking out nutrients, and turning plants yellow. He adjusted adding hydrochloric acid (and water), which provides balance and makes the plants happy. It wasn’t long before Foerstner was brewing trial batches of beer with the aforementioned hops, and after two years, he decided to release the results. Rooftop Ale (5% ABV, 40 IBUs) is a crisp, mildly bitter beer that incorporates a soup of eight different hops: Saaz, Galena, Cascade, Chinook, Columbus, Pearle, Tettnanger and Mt. Hood. Foerstner fermented the beer for seven days, aged the ale for seven more days, then bottled and packaged the beer, which is now available on a limited basis.
Narkevicius is also growing fruits like strawberries, pomegranates, and bananas, and Angel City’s hope is to add a rooftop biergarten by 2016. Who knows, it might not be long before we’re sipping pomegranate ale brewed with ultra-local hops while soaking up skyline views.