The downtown Los Angeles of 2018 is so different from the version of just last year. Modern Times and Mikkeller are becoming entrenched nearby and Karl Strauss is still plugging along as well. At L.A. Live you can find a Tom’s Urban pour-your-own beer location. It is multi-level with more TVs than a Best Buy and a loud, loud atmosphere.
First Draft DTLA is also a pour-your-own establishment, with two levels and TVs, but the two couldn’t be farther apart for craft beer fans. Because the beer is center stage and not just a gimmick. Beer is literally on display. Kegs are on full view for all to see in the middle of the restaurant.
First Draft has locations in Denver and Minneapolis – both also near major sporting arenas – but when you look at their tap list, it is a roster filled with L.A. breweries and not just the easier, bigger ones. Sanctum from Pomona was on the list, as was Wiretap Brewing from East L.A. The variety was also eye-opening. There were IPAs to be had, but they did not dominate the list. You could find many choices that did not include dry-hopping. In a word, the beers were curated.
These pour systems are kind of like mini-beer festivals and careful and community-driven beer choices are very important when it comes to this format where customers can sip an ounce here or get a full pour three taps over. The fact that they have all the data on each beer is very helpful as well.
Another separation point is that they have bottles and cans to go. Which shows that they just want to have people enjoy the beer whether it is in the restaurant or at home.
Leaving aside the concept of pouring your own, the space is much more inviting with a large bear on bridge mural dominating one wall and a patio and upstairs space that allow one to escape the hubbub around the taps. It is less frenetic but you can still watch King James or just the L.A. Kings.
Instead of picking two packaged beers, instead I would point you towards comparing and contrasting different beer styles served on cask. Yorkshire Square Brewery has teamed with the Los Angeles County Brewers Guild to present Cask’s Not Dead Festival. The festival will crown a Lord of the Old School and The Magician of Weird, but you can decide which style really suits the cask format the best.
Maybe it is a throwback British Mild or ESB, but maybe there is a Saison that really slays the palate or an IPA that benefits from a different treatment. Either way, considering the width and breadth of breweries pouring, you will find plenty of chances to find out what cask presentation can do for a beer and which beers work best for you.
Add visiting the cellar to your beer calendar for the month. On November 10, Smog City Brewing will Welcome (you and all) to the Wood Cellar. The “past, present, and future” of the Torrance brewery’s sours will be poured. Classic bottles will be available for you to purchase as well as a new bottle release.
This could be your chance to sit out on their new patio as well as taste wild, blended, sour, fruited ales from one of L.A.’s finest breweries. Here are some selected picks that I recommend:
- Quercus Circus – “classic lambic inspired wild ale that blends 3 different vintages of 3 beers aged in 3 different types of oak.”
- Floret 2.0 – Foudre Saison made with a hand selected blend of botanicals and honey. Brett Conditioned.
- Spiced Summer Saison – Saison with green cardamom, Meyer lemon zest, and lemon basil
- Moroccan Cuddlebug – Sour Blonde ale with peaches and apricots with Moroccan spices
- Kabocha Squash Dark Saison – Dark saison with buckwheat honey and 23 pounds of raw kabocha squash roasted in house and re-fermented with 2 Brett strains.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.