Alex P. Davis earned his JD from UCLA and passed the California bar, but decided to work with craft beer instead of for a law firm. Davis, a longtime craft beer aficionado, became a Certified Cicerone and worked his way up to becoming General Manager of Library Alehouse in Santa Monica, one of L.A.’s top beer destinations. We recently corresponded by e-mail, and he shared several hop-fueled insights.
How did you first become interested and involved in the craft beer community?
My interest in craft beer began as soon as I was able to legally purchase it. My refrigerator would always be stocked with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or the latest Samuel Adams seasonal. However, it wasn’t until my first visit to Lucky Baldwin’s that I became truly infatuated with great beer. My first bottle of Westmalle Tripel was followed with a bottle of Kasteel Donker and it was down the rabbit hole from there. I searched out any and all knowledge I could get my hands on, becoming heavily involved in the online craft beer community through Beer Advocate. I visited all of the craft beer bars and breweries I could, attending numerous bottleshares and getting to know those who made the craft beer community what is was, and what it is. I eventually decided that I’d like to pursue a career in the field. After I graduated from law school, I took the bar exam and, while waiting for my results, took an entry-level position at Library Alehouse in order to learn both the business of beer and the business of restaurants. Nearly three years later, I am now the General Manager at the Alehouse and am ecstatic to be part of a growing and maturing craft beer community in Los Angeles.
What does a beer need to be to make it onto a tap list that you oversee?
It has to be made with integrity, it has to be of high quality, and it has to properly fill the niche into which I’m placing it. Outside of style-focused events (such as the Benedicts and Barleywines event the Alehouse recently held), I like to maintain a certain amount of stylistic breadth at Library. I’m concerned not only with making sure that anyone who comes in can find a beer they’ll like, but also with giving those who want to explore different styles the opportunity to do so with beers that are representative of those styles. I also always make sure to leave room for beers that don’t fit neatly into particular style guidelines.
Is there a beer or style that you always want/need on tap?
IPA, without a doubt. It is the only style that you will regularly see on more than one handle at the Alehouse. The beer-drinking public’s thirst for hoppy beer seems endless.
Which beer style would you like to see develop a bigger following?
I’d love to see more well-made Berliner Weisse. When done properly, it’s a pleasure to drink. Having Beachwood’s Tart Simpson on draft at Library recently was a treat.
What are some of your most satisfying moments in working with craft beer?
Some of the most satisfying moments are when a guest at your bar tells you what they want and the beer you hand them fits the bill. The look of instant satisfaction that spreads across someone’s face when they genuinely enjoy what they’re imbibing is a pleasure to see.
It’s also always a (rare) pleasure to be able to spend time with fellow beer professionals, when none of us are working, and we can simply sit down as friends and colleagues and have a beer (or several) together.
Where do you see the Los Angeles craft beer scene in five years?
I see a drinking public that is better educated about what it’s drinking and how it’s being served. I see quality in craftsmanship and service ever increasing as customers, and those of us in the industry continue to push for improvement. I see a more mature, organized beer scene with less focus on opening new beer-centric restaurants and bars and more focus on ensuring that there is properly served, quality craft beer available wherever one travels.
What’s an aspect of craft beer culture that you’ve found in another state or country that you’d like to see in L.A.?
I’d love to see the focus of San Francisco’s beer culture in Los Angeles. San Francisco Beer Week is incredibly well thought out and organized, with a variety of events spread around the city, all offering beer drinkers unique experiences. There are so many well-run places to drink beer (and have awesome food) in and around San Francisco. It seems as though most beer-related ventures in the city are undertaken with great purpose, thought and conviction and I’d love to see more of that here in Los Angeles.
Is there a brewery or beer that you wish you could get in L.A. but can’t?
With so much great beer available in this market, it’s hard to think of anything. There are phenomenal beers being made at tiny little breweries all around the country (Hill Farmstead and Lawson’s Finest Liquids come to mind), but I’d rather focus on enjoying our current and ever expanding embarrassment of riches than yearn for something I can’t get.
Who are some of the other people in the craft beer community that you look to for advice, guidance or inspiration?
I look to those whom I consider both friends and colleagues. I gain inspiration and knowledge from seeing what they’re doing and through the friendly exchange of ideas. Some of the people on that list are Gabe Gordon, Ryan Sweeney, David Watrous, Thomas Kelley, Martin Svab, Brian Lenzo, Nate Soroko, and Steve Almaraz.
What will it take for you to consider the work you’ve done with craft beer a success, if it isn’t already?
Every day I’m in the craft beer industry brings its own successes. Any time I get the opportunity to open a guest’s eyes to what’s possible in the realm of beer is a success. Any time I get to advance craft beer culture, whether through education or events, is a success. In that regard, I consider the work I’ve done thus far successful. If I can continue to grow and push the conversation surrounding craft beer in a positive direction I will consider my future work successful as well.