My last sojourn in Beervana (aka Portland) was in June of 2009. The Los Angeles beer scene was a growing toddler that consisted of a few great beer bars spread over the sprawl of the southland. That visit confirmed that Portland was light years ahead of Los Angeles when it came to an ingrained beer culture.
Fast forward to 2010 and my recent trip north. I was going back to the Oregon Brewers Festival for the first time in 11 years. I was happy that between ’09 and ’10 that Los Angeles has grown into a thriving beer scene. Thanks to Eagle Rock Brewery, I have a growler fill station 10 minutes from my apartment! New beer bars are popping up and filling in craft beer gaps. All you have to do is look at the L.A. Beer Blast to see the improvement.
Well, fellow LA craft beer aficionados. Portland is even further ahead of us. You want statistical proof?
• Lucky Labrador Brewing now has four locations in two states. Proving that people will walk their dogs to a beer joint.
• Hair of the Dog Brewing is opening a tasting room so that you don’t have to buy their aged creations off of a loading dock.
• Cascade, the King of NW sour beers is getting new east side digs.
• Beer terminology is influenced by what is fermenting in Portland. Cascadian Dark Ale. Nano-Brewery. You probably heard it in Portland first.
• Three new breweries had just opened in one of the most crowded markets in the country. Hello Coalition, Mt. Tabor and Migration!
And those are just the places that I DIDN’T get a chance to visit. Here is what I did accomplish beer wise:
I spent three hours at the main OBF festival and tried a great many beers. Two renowned beers and breweries from Minnesota – Surly Brewing and Summit Brewing – were pouring their Bitter Brewer and Red Ale. I sampled Cascade’s Summer Gose which smelled horrible but tasted really, really good and the Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA which smelled like a fresh, newly sliced grapefruit but had a bit of a strange taste to it.
I bar hopped on North Killingsworth, home of a new Lucky Labrador as well as a McMenamin’s outpost and two of the best beer bars / beer stores that I have had the pleasure of the barstool in. Saraveza has a limited tap list but they are all great choices on a vast spectrum of styles plus you can pluck a bottle from the many old school fridges and pop one of them while you eat at a table adorned with bottle caps in amazing artistic patterns. Then a few blocks away is Hop & Vine. Again with a small tap list and bottles and fresh pie. Pie and Beer on the patio in summer? Pure bliss.
I missed out on the Upright Brewing tasting room but no worries. Two restaurants had two of their beers on tap. Anywhere you go in Portland is a great restaurant, cafe or even a bakery that has beer, usually two or three choices from local producers. There is choice wherever you go.
Enough reverie. Here is what Los Angeles needs to become a player on the beer stage:
• More breweries. At least 10 more to start, and we need them from small boutique size to medium to national presence.
• More beer stores. Los Angeles has a lot of people but dedicated beer stores are few and far between. Portland has Belmont Station and BeerMongers in addition to major supermarkets that carry aisles of craft beer.
• Restaurants that aren’t afraid of good beer.
Your Homework this week is a bit personal to me. You may have noticed an absence of columns of late. My dad who was a great lover of wine and beer and Irish coffees passed away. I wish I had hoisted more beers with him. So if there is a special someone out there who you haven’t seen in too long of a time, GO and buy that person a beer and thank them for being in your life.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.