Now to step back into the past. Seemingly all of the brewing talent of Los Angeles was in one spot downtown on Saturday. Chinatown’s main plaza was the host for the L.A. Brewers Beer Week Kick-Off. Over 25 local and close to 50 total breweries were pouring for the beer curious. Practically everyone from the brewing community was on hand. King Harbor Brewing from Redondo Beach, Pacific Plate Brewing from Monrovia, and Progress Brewing from South El Monte joined long-time SoCal brewers like Craftsman Brewing, Eagle Rock Brewery and Ladyface Ale Companie to present a snapshot of craft beer in L.A. Despite hiccups with beer tickets and too few bathrooms, the festival was splendid. I simply could not get to all the beers that I wanted to try. Standouts from the day were Hem & Haw, a dark Belgian ale from Monkish Brewing that was complex and funky and a candidate for my top 10 of beers, as well as Swirly from the aforementioned King Harbor, which was a tasty mix of vanilla and chocolate notes.
Sunday might be a day of rest but there was much to do. First stop was MacLeod Ale Brewing in Van Nuys to sample two special beers. Session Gap dry-hopped with Willamette hops and an oak version of Nutty Broon, the seasonal brown ale. Both excellent. Then it was over to Echo Park and Sunset Beer Co. to try cider from a non-local cidery. Reverend Nat’s was in town with their Ginger, Hopricot and the over-the-top, 11-hop Envy cider. As traditional as MacLeod’s is to British ale, Reverend Nat’s is un-traditional.
Monday night was the first of three events with Celebrator and Beer Paper LA writer Tomm Carroll for L.A. Beer Week, and it is one that brought out a crowd. “So You Want to Open a Brewery in L.A.” was held at the original Rock & Brews across the street from El Segundo Brewing. The event featured a wide variety of breweries, most of whom weren’t around during LABW5. Plus three contract/gypsy brewers were on hand to add their perspective as well. The common refrain of the night was how a brewer not only had to make a great product and be an excellent financier but also be the best government liaison as well. When the question was posed, asking who in the audience was planning their own brewery, it should come as no surprise that many raised their hands. A good sign for the future.
Thursday brought three brewing guilds under one roof in what could either described as a Battle or a Meeting. Mohawk Bend hosted the San Diego Brewers Guild, San Francisco Brewers Guild and our own Los Angeles County Brewers Guild. When I saw the calendar of events for the week, this was highlighted as a can’t miss and it lived up to the hype with an eclectic beer list that would take days to get through. Congrats to our Guild for winning the trophy that will next be contested at San Diego Beer Week in November.
The theme for Saturday was North and South. First stop was at Tony’s Darts Away for one of the stops in Walker’s Wild Ride. A now yearly event where mystery kegs of sour beer are delivered to four beer bars but only unveiled when Firestone Walker co-founder David Walker and his trusty jeep Olivia have arrived. You can follow and hit all of them or drop in one spot and see what beer is poured. Burbank tapped a young Lil’ Opal and it was quite oaky with a bit of tartness to it that really showed that a light beer can be full of flavor.
From Firestone Walker and Paso Robles up north to Liberty Station and Stone Brewing in the south as I sampled some special creations from the Small Batch series in Pasadena at the Stone Company Store near the Metro Gold Line. Tiger Cub is a saison aged in white wine barrels and Kick Rocks, a British Mild, were just two of the special beers that normally don’t venture north of San Diego. Stone had a bevy of events all week that showed how much they value the L.A. customer base.
To finish off the 9-day blitz through L.A. Beer, I headed over to my local hangout, The Glendale Tap, for a neighborly block party featuring the Torrance neighbors, Smog City Brewing and Monkish. Two special casks were tapped and the brewers were in attendance to bring down the curtain on the celebration. Double Dry Hopped Amarilla Gorilla was spectacular as was the Hem & Haw from Monkish.
And as I sat at my barstool watching the crowd grow bigger, watching the beertenders pouring glass after glass, I knew that L.A. was the place to be for great craft beer. Now, and in the future.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.