In late August, while the sun beat down on the city like a Dodger bat to a baseball, a group of beer lovers gathered at Eagle Rock Brewery to help brew Unity 2012.
Each year, for L.A. Beer Week, Eagle Rock has brewed Unity to celebrate the togetherness of the beer community in the City of Angels. Last year, they brewed a Tamarind accented ale with Mark Jilg and Craftsman Brewery. The year before was a California Common named L.A.’s Team Beer. This year the organizers behind the ten days of beer frivolity later this month chose the prickly pear as a signature ingredient in the 2012 Unity over both jasmine and guava.
With that choice set, LABW committee members selected a style and Berliner Weisse was the choice. Napoleon famously declared that this style was the “Champagne of the North.” It was a very popular beer in Berlin that fell out of favor to the point where it was almost lost to history like the Gose style of Eastern Germany. But ingenious American craft brewers have taken to it including Golden Road and Strand Brewing most recently. According to the Beer Advocate website description, a Berliner Weissbier is “refreshing, tart, sour and acidic, with a lemony-citric fruit sharpness and almost no hop bitterness.” And usually it comes with a straw and a syrup (either raspberry or Woodruff). But in this case, you might be able to try it with prickly pear syrup instead. Ask for “mit Schuss” (with syrup).
The night before the grains were mashed in and let to sit overnight to acquire the proper pH level. Then the next day, yours truly, peeled a few “pears,” watched as people hauled two heaving sacks of grains from the brew kettle and as yeast and hops were measured for their time to shine and create the special beer for 2012. Mostly, there was a lot of cleaning. Brewing involves cleaning more than anyone probably realizes. It also involves sauna-like conditions in the brewhouse. All to provide a well crafted refreshment.
And since prickly pear is the ingredient (Iron Chef style) of this year’s L.A. Beer Week, you will see other breweries taking up the challenge of brewing with this unique fruit. And by other breweries, I mean (as of this writing) nine breweries putting a different spin on the prickly pear. Golden Road is smoking them. Ladyface is infusing them into an IPA. Cismontane will press them into a hefeweizen and the list goes on to include Monkish, Beachwood, Hangar 24, Kinetic, El Segundo and Smog City. Try to try all of them and compare.
The Beer of the Week comes from Crazy Mountain in Colorado. Their beers first hit my radar when they landed at Rock and Brews in El Segundo. Now you can find cans of this Rocky Mountain beer at BevMo stores in the Southland. Their Amber ale is a “floral American style Amber Ale displays a wonderful balance while still maintaining a profound hoppy goodness. We load this beer with a ridiculous and obscene amount of West Coast hops that are added late in the boil, resulting in a hoppy beer without any bitterness.” And 1% of all proceeds goes to the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability. So remember to recycle the can!
Your Homework this week is to check out a different kind of brewery tour. One where you do not have to drive. L.A. Beer Hop is now open and ready to get behind the wheel, so you don’t have to. They have a Beach City tour and an East & Central L.A. Tour in addition to customized tours. On the Beach City tour you hit up Monkish Brewing, Strand Brewing, El Segundo Brewing, Select Beer Store, Beachwood BBQ and Brewing and Belmont Brewing Company. Both of the public tours are $65 and you get tasters at each stop as well as a “well-versed” tour guide and a cooler for your purchases.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.