For the second installment of the occasional series, “The Person Behind the Taps,” we head to Alhambra and 38 Degrees. I spoke with Clay Harding about the bounty of beers available to Angelenos, IPA’s and beer flights.
First, a little back story to set the scene. 38 Degrees has been serving great beer in its spacious location on Main Street since June 2009. They opened just in time to be part of the first Los Angeles Beer Week. But Harding has been part of the beer scene for longer than just one year. His father brought craft beer to the people of Pasadena from Crown City Brewery.
When Crown City unfortunately faltered, 38 Degrees took up the mantle and offers a multitude of taps and bottles that will make any beer geek smile. Tokyo from Brewdog or Full Sail Imperial Porter 2010 are on tap, or you can pick up Cascade’s Sang Rouge or Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea in bottles to share with friends. You get this selection because Harding truly loves beer. And he is willing to try 25 to 30 beers a week to find new brews for his customers so that he can represent as many styles as possible while still retaining old favorites that may not be as trendy but are customer favorites. Beers like Liberty Ale from Anchor Steam that Harding started his beer adventures with.
His favorite style is the IPA and he admits to being a hop addict. (Like many of us are, myself included) It is the style that sells the most but Harding has not created a list just for himself and other hop heads. He knows that some people are at the start of the beer journey and can’t be dropped into the deep end so he endeavors to make 38 Degrees a comfortable place for beer exploration.
One of the ways he hooks people in is by offering two different tasting flights. Currently you can sample from the Cali Coast flight that includes Port Brewing. Or you could try the International flight that includes Hitachino Nest. If you prefer to create your own flight, you can purchase a sampler of the draught beers.
Harding has learned from the past that running a brewery, tap house and restaurant hasn’t taken off in the Los Angeles market so he has focused his attention on items two and three. He has created a great food menu, educated his staff about beer and because the amount of great craft beer flowing into the city is large and still growing, time needs to be spent cultivating relationships with the distributors.
It is clear that Alhambra has embraced what Harding and his partners have created. Every time I have been there, the bar has been full.
Your HOMEWORK is to head over to your favorite beer bar. Be it Naja’s Place, Blue Palms Brewhouse, The Surly Goat or Beachwood BBQ, and raise a pint to celebrate American Craft Beer Week which started on Monday and ends Sunday.
The BEER OF THE WEEK is actually 3 beers in one six-pack. Sam Adams sponsors the Longshot contest each year. Homebrewers and Sam Adams employees send in their beer recipes and then three winners are selected and get their photo on a bottle of beer that is distributed nationwide. There is a barleywine and old ale and my favorite this year, a lemon pepper saison.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.