The Wednesday before Halloween, I was standing in the lobby at the JW Marriott hotel inside L.A. Live with a bunch of pumpkin beers of all shapes and sizes.
Chilling beside the autumnal meets Day of the Dead display were a variety of different pumpkin styles and ingredients. My job was to introduce passersby to the world of pumpkin beers from Elysian Brewing‘s Dark of the Moon with pumpkin seeds and cinnamon, to Ninkasi Brewing‘s Imperial Pumpkin Sleigh’r with brown sugar to Almanac Beer Co.‘s Sour Pumpkin aged in bourbon and wine barrels.
Why would a hotel pass out free beer? It is part of a rotating program called Liquid Intelligence. Each Wednesday is devoted to a different beverage. One week it is cocktails, the next wine, and the next beer. LI is just getting off the ground and the plan is to grow it into a weekly seminar of sorts where people can learn about what they are drinking and not just drink.
The Marriott has two bars (gLAnce and The Mixing Room) as well as a restaurant in Ford’s Filling Station that make an excellent setting for teaching beer basics and exploring beer styles. They also have a desire to not just be the typical hotel bar. The previous week was a taste-off between DTLA’s Angel City and their corporate kin of Sam Adams. Oktoberfest v Oktoberfest and Boston Lager vs Angel City’s Pilsner.
The bold folks that approached the haunted table of gourd ales were not the only ones learning that night. I gleaned many insights from being in the company of people who were not waist deep in craft beer culture and finding out which beers were favored and why. Plus I got to see their faces when they tried that Sour Pumpkin.
The Beer of the Week is 19 years in the making. Sort of. Firestone Walker Brewing Co. recently released its 19th Anniversary blended beer. Each year they invite winemakers to compete to see who can create the best blend. This year there was a little, tiny rule change. No hoppy beers allowed. So off the table came many beers and what won was a simple but powerful blend of four beers: Parabola, Stickee Monkee, Bravo, and Velvet Merkin. Buy one for now and one for later. It is a perfect cellaring beer that is also way too good right now.
Your Homework is to be friendly. Allagash Brewing and Little Bear in the Arts District are combining their Belgian skills for a “Friendsgiving” dinner on Thursday, November 19. They’ll feature rare beer flights with rarely seen beers such as Interlude, Midnight Brett, Little Brett and Confluence. No tickets are needed and a portion of proceeds will benefit the Downtown Women’s Center.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.