Interview: beer pro Hal Mooney (L.A. Beer Hop)

Beer Tour Los Angeles

L.A. Beer Hop founder Hal Mooney provides behind the scenes insights into L.A. breweries. [KCET/Paul Bartunek]

I ran into Hal Mooney at Smog City Brewing while he was in the midst of a L.A. Beer Hop, so no interview then. But the very next day, Mooney answered some questions about the craft beer scene in Los Angeles from his bus-based point of view. He regularly tours visitors and locals alike through our breweries in the Beach Cities and on the Eastside.

Sean Inman: How did you get drawn into the world of craft beer?

Hal Mooney: You can order the best beer in a bar for just about the same price as a beer of a lesser quality, so why drink something that’s not delicious? That’s what initially drew me to drinking good beer and I drink beer because I get thirsty at bars and I like the action of “drinking”, so I’m drawn to beer over cocktails and wine for the very reason that I’ll put down a Bulleit on the rocks just as fast as a pale ale, which can be dangerous. I also really enjoy getting to know people and cities through bars and drinking culture, so take all of that and I think you get a craft beer person.

SI: Where did the idea for L.A. Beer Hop come from?

HM: The concept isn’t anything new, it works in all of the great beer cities and has been working in the wine country for as long as there have buses and wine. I got the idea about a year and a half ago was when everything started congealing and LA had enough places to make doing a beer tour a real possibility.

SI: How many regular routes does L.A. Beer Hop have and how many special “hop” hops are there?

HM: We have an East & Central loop with Golden Road, Eagle Rock and Angel City. A South Bay loop with Monkish, Smog City, Strand and El Segundo. And we have an Orange County loop with Bootlegger’s, Bruery, Noble Aleworks and TAPS. Special hops? I really love going to Sunset Beer Company in Echo Park and doing bottled beer tasting, and at Select Beer Store in Redondo. And there are such great beers, people and food at Beachwood, Ladyface, and Hangar 24 and we’re happy to go to those places when people want to.

SI: Do you get a higher percentage of beer newbies or beer geeks?

HM: Much higher percentage of beer newbies. A lot of people come in loving Stella, Guinness, Blue Moon, Shock Top, etc… Our goal is to show them some beers that may be similar that they may enjoy instead and some beers that may be different that they didn’t previously think they would enjoy. Ultimately, we want to let them know what’s out there locally, how to get it, and why it’s important to drink it.

SI: What is a typical response at the end of one of the hops?

HM: “Burp”. These people are really excited about beer and drinking local. They buy t-shirts, glasses, growlers, and bottles and want to share it with their friends.

SI: Have you noticed a change in the people’s beer knowledge since you first started

HM: Not on my tours, but at the breweries certainly. Everywhere we go has gotten more popular since we started doing this. With maybe the exception of Eagle Rock, which has had a pretty solid crowd for as long as I’ve known.

SI: Where do you think the L.A. craft beer scene will be in five years?

HM: Bigger. I see a lot of people coming in and getting hooked by delicious locally brewed beer. There’s a lot of people in Studio City and the valley that are clamoring for a brewery on that side of the hill (Golden Road is close, but not close enough). And there are still sooo many people who don’t even know we have breweries (but then again there are so many people who don’t know we have a metro system and that’s been here since 1990).

SI: What are your favorite beer styles?  And what would be your “desert island” beer?

HM: I love local beers. My fridge always has bottles (and cans) of local beer and it always will. And for desert island? An endless flight of beers. A saison, a dry-hopped pale, an imperial stout, and a sour.


Sean Inman

Find more of Sean Inman's writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

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