Los Angeles has been graced with two iconic forerunners to today’s food hall: Grand Central Market downtown and The Original Farmer’s Market in Mid-City. 2018 is seeing a boom in plans for new food halls (up to seven in the Los Angeles area) with L.A. County Brewers Guild members becoming prime tenants.
Steelcraft in the Bixby Knolls section of Long Beach was the second outpost for Smog City Brewing and the upcoming Garden Grove Steelcraft location has tapped Beachwood Brewing to occupy a shipping container. Not to be outdone, Smog City will open their third spot in Glendora at another new food hall that is in process.
This is in addition to a possible new brewery in a food-centric spot at the La Brea Firestone Building and the Apiary that is going to Chinatown that will include the beer friendly Iron Press that already has a spot in the Anaheim Packing District food hall. Throw into the mix the vegan food hall Billie Bird in Highland Park and Edin Park on the Westside that may not have a specific craft / #independent brewer on site, but will probably have some taps, and the intersection of beer and food is growing.
The food hall has stolen the thunder of the food truck with event pop-ups like Smorgasburg and 626 Night Market becoming popular, especially on Instagram. Is this a fad that will fade into a less prominent place of the Los Angeles foodie scene or will they disappear altogether? Also, are there L.A. County breweries that would fare well in food hall environments that are not currently participating?
To answer that first question, I think that the newness will wear off, but if the mix of food to beverages is right and there is some planned or unplanned tenant turnover to bring back people who have moved on to the new, new then a food hall can stay vibrant. To that end, I would love to see a Los Angeles County Brewers Guild stall amidst the pizza, ice cream and pressed juice. Maybe only open on the weekend featuring the beers of one Guild member and then change the next weekend to another brewer. That wouldn’t have been possible a mere few years ago, but now with 65+ breweries, there is more than enough available rotation.
In regards to the second question that I posed, I think that a prime mover could be The Bruery. They already have two locations in Orange County and one in Washington, D.C. A spot in L.A. seems logical especially for a brewery that already has such deep ties with food that they had Brooke Williamson from “Top Chef” design two beers for them. Another possibility would be the fast growing Hangar 24 Craft Brewing who also has multiple locations but none in L.A. proper. And you cannot discount Figueroa Mountain Brewing who have been marching southward as far as Westlake Village.
Whatever happens and whoever is pouring in this wave of food halls, being able to find local hand-crafted beer in places other than a tap room is an integral piece to growing L.A.’s brewing scene.
Wax-topped bottles have gathered some scorn. I do admit that they are beers that take some time and careful blade work to open. That being said, I was able to get to the liquid inside of two Private Collection beers from DTLA old-timer Angel City Brewing, so let’s Compare & Contrast.
Funky Wit 2018 is the 4th vintage of this base wit beer. The beer is aged in French oak white wine barrels and utilizes both Brettanomyces and Roeselare yeast. Aroma wise, I would quantify as medium. There is a little bit of zippiness in the outset before a mixture of wood and toast notes take over for the rest of the sip. There is not much of a head and I am not getting much coriander and orange peel that are hallmarks of the style. Both would have added layers if amplified a bit.
Mattole River is a Tripel that uses wine barrels for aging as well, but there is another addition. The Belgian Tripel is aged in Chardonnay barrels for six months with freshly pressed Chardonnay grape must. That must is from brewer Alex Kennedy’s uncle’s vineyard, which is on? You guessed it, the Mattole River, up in Humboldt County, a mere 600 miles away. This tripel has big grape tannin notes. Lots of wood accents follow. This is a big beer. Belgian notes are a bit buried here and it is a bit hot on the roof of the mouth.
Once you get past the wax covering and look past the style category that these two beers are in, you will be in for interesting riffs on barrel-aged beers.
Time to Tiki up the calendar with the 2018 edition of Firkfest in Anaheim. On Saturday, March 24, from Noon to 4pm you get to sample a taste of the tropics as brewers from both Los Angeles and Orange county offer up their interpretation of Tiki at the Anaheim Packing District Farmers Park.
The event is unique in that it is all cask beers in addition to island tropical theme AND all are made specifically for Firkfest and may never be seen again. Food comes courtesy of Adya: Fresh Indian, Urbana, The Butchery, and Promenade Pub. New this year will be Tiki cocktails presented by the OC Bartenders Cabinet.
Tickets are $50 including fees, with all profits supporting the historic Anaheim Fall Festival and Halloween Parade, an event that is 95 years young. Tickets are limited to keep an intimate feel and the lines shorter.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.