Beer epicenters like San Francisco and Seattle already host their own beer weeks. This year, the L.A. beer scene finally advanced enough to justify its own Beer Week, filling 11 days with events at 35 establishments and drawing participation from over 50 breweries. The “week” culminated on October 24 with a massive beer blowout at La Cañada-Flintridge’s Descanso Gardens, which just might be the L.A. beer event of the year (other than the L.A. Beer Float Showdown, of course).
Four brewery clusters were spread out across the five-acre rosarium. It must have been too late in the year for full bloom, but the setting was still spectacular, with a San Gabriel Mountain backdrop, gurgling mountain streams and plenty of shade. Best of all, the lines were short.
Participants were entitled to unlimited four-ounce pours from 50 plus breweries. Some people no doubt attempted to try them all, but we had to show some restraint in order to drive home. My goal was to stick with beers I hadn’t tried before.
My only repeat of the day was Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, at this stage a fairly tame but still highly drinkable IPA. Sam Calagione’s killer Delaware brewery also represented with hoppier 90 Minute IPA, Palo Santo and the mead-like Midas Touch.
Duvel Green is a recent release from the famed Belgian brewery, a crisp amber-hued draught beer with citrus notes. For comparison’s sake, of course I had to try Duvel Red, which was spicier, higher ABV and more enjoyable, though the Green was more appropriate due to the late October heat.
The Bruery was pouring two beers from the jockey box, including Rugbrod, a Danish style rye beer. Somebody tipped me off to some behind-the-counter bottles of 2 Turtle Doves, their 12% ABV Christmas release, a delicious dark brown beer brewed with cocoa nibs and pecans, mildly bitter and fairly heavy but oh so smooth.
Mark Jilg from nearby Craftsman Brewing (pictured right) made the strongest showing. Jilg, head brewer Todd Peterson and staffer Patrick Curran poured eight different Pasadena-produced beers on tap, including the killer Poe-inspired Edgar’s Ale and my favorite of the day, Craftsman Oktoberfest Lager, which had an almost clove like flavor. Jilg also poured a wet hopped IPA on the engine, which wasn’t overpoweringly hoppy and had a great finish.
Lucifer, a Belgian golden ale, was new to market and available at the Delirium table. It was too mild for my taste, with very little of the spice that I appreciate in Belgians.
Ballast Point brewmaster Colby Chandler cooked up bourbon barrel aged black currant hout, a cloudy purple-brown gueuze with some serious sour tang.
The festival was one of the first appearances for Black Xantus, a 12% Russian Stout from Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson. This was a big beer in the Nectar Ales line with a malty molasses body and a bitter coffee finish.
Naja’s Place manager Martin Svab and business partner Gianni Diaz debuted The Gentleman Scholar, an espresso stout that they’re contract brewing at Skyscraper. This was the second beer of the day to honor Edgar Allan Poe, but it was completely different from Craftsman’s Edgar’s Ale, with more of a bitter coffee flavor. It’s a promising start from the malty duo. It will be interesting to see what The Gentleman Scholar comes up with next.
Chimay head brewer Dominique Denis was in town from Belgium for L.A. Beer Week and popped the top on a gigantic bottle of Chimay Grand Reserve, which was aged in the bottle for 10 months, endured less oxidation than a smaller bottle and delivered a sweeter pour.
Overall, the L.A. Beer Week Festival was clearly a success from a participant perspective. Congratulations to organizers Jay Baum, Dennis Hartman (Paulaner USA), Ryan Sweeney and Brandon Bradford (Verdugo Bar), Scott Wiegand (Stone), Tim Lynch (Total Beverage Solutions), Rich Rippee (Wetten Importers) and Tomm Carroll (The Celebrator). I just have two requests: lock down Descanso Gardens for 2010, today. Also, try to get the word out a little better (and a little earlier) next year, so more people can enjoy the festival.