A sign that something is going awfully right for craft beer in L.A. is when there are more people writing about it. With the premiere of Beer Paper LA, the craft beer community of Los Angeles has hit that mile marker. Aaron Carroll, the Co-Publisher and Executive Editor, took time out from pulling together the debut issue and became the interviewee instead of the interviewer to tell Food GPS about this new endeavor.
Where did the idea for Beer Paper LA come from?
It’s something that’s been in the back of my head for several years now. For a long time regional magazines like Celebrator or even national magazines were enough for LA because our craft beer scene was so small and so fragmented. But in the last several years, LA and OC have grown so much in terms of craft beer that I just figured we needed something that could cover more of the local stuff than the regionals can. I guess as a beer enthusiast, I just wanted something that was more local and pointed like a blog but more comprehensive and curated like a magazine. Anyway, fast forward to this past October when I spent some time at San Diego Beer Week. I talked a bit to West Coaster co-founders Ryan Lamb and Mike Shess and mentioned how I would like to do something for LA like what they’re doing for San Diego but I didn’t think LA was ready for it yet–they helped me realize now was as good a time as any. It’s funny, I know those guys are following our progress through social media, but I have no clue if they remember that conversation. Somewhere along the way, my good friend Rob Wallace who originally wanted to “help out a little” became my full partner as co-publisher and managing editor. Having someone else you trust on board really helps in those times of doubt and hesitation.
What first drew you to the beer scene in LA?
At first it wasn’t really the scene, there wasn’t much of one back in the ’90s, it was just craft beer in general. Things kind of grew up around us. In the ’90s, unless you were a serious homebrewer (which I’m not–always been a dabbler) and part of one of the major clubs, your craft beer experience in LA was limited to a few friends who you went with to bottle shops and the very small handful of brewpubs and beer bars anywhere out there. Bottle shops and bottle shares were really the thing if you weren’t lucky enough to live near a place like Naja’s or Lucky Baldwins or the Stuffed Sandwich. But things started to pick up about 6 years ago. There a several areas developing really good scenes: North LA, the Westside, the South Bay, Long Beach, Pasadena, Central OC, and parts of the IE. The next step, and this is part of the vision of Beer Paper LA, is to bring these different scenes together into a broader community.
What is the goal of Beer Paper LA?
There are many goals for us, but the primary one is to build a stronger, larger, more cohesive craft beer community in greater Los Angeles. We want to educate beer curious people throughout the region about beer in general and about Greater LA craft beer makers and retailers in an approachable, comfortable way. We want to avoid the kind of endless talk about super rare whales that we scored and nobody else has. We want to help to start and shape a conversation about the direction and future of craft beer in LA. We want to announce and help promote special events that promote our local scene. There are a lot of people out there that think Eagle Rock and Golden Road are the only things happening in LA, that The Bruery is the only thing in OC, and that Hangar 24 is all there is in the IE. Those places are great and important, but that’s simply not the case. If things are going to continue to thrive here, we must help the average craft beer drinker know about places like Ladyface and Monkish and Beachwood and Noble and dozens of others like them.
Where will be able to find Beer Paper LA?
It will be a free publication, and our goal is to have it in every brewery tasting room or pub in the region, every homebrew shop, and most of the more recognized taphouses and bottle shops. If you don’t see it at your local spot in the second week of May, ask them if they got it, and if not shoot us an e-mail and we’ll make sure they get the next issue. We’ll also post a PDF version on our website a week or two after print distribution for those that weren’t able to pick one up.
What are some of your favorite craft beer locations in LA?
Man, that’s a hard question to answer. It seems like every week these days there’s a new, awesome place to go to. I live in Long Beach, so I spend more time at Beachwood and the Factory than anywhere else–and both those places are fantastic. I’m on a big Noble Ale Works kick right now. Ritual in Redlands is great. I like doing the South Bay brewery crawl on a weekend day. Ladyface, Blue Palms, Library, 38 Degrees, and Haven are also some favorites. There are too many now to name–but that’s a good thing.
Where do you see the LA craft beer scene in five years?
I have no clue. LA is prone to grabbing on to fads, chewing them up and spitting them out in a matter of a few years. We all need to work to make sure that doesn’t happen with craft beer. Education and awareness are keys to this. Helping people to understand the difference between “craft” and “crafty” is really important in making sure positive things continue to happen.
What beer will you drink to celebrate the first issue?
As many local beers as I can responsibly. I will definitely be opening a bottle of Beachwood Brewing Barrel-aged Full Malted Jacket.
Your Beer of the Week is 24th Street Pale Ale from Strand Brewing. It is available in bottles now so there is absolutely no excuse not to have some of what I consider a quintessential Los Angeles beer. It has a big hop profile but it doesn’t wreck the palate. The aroma is fragrant without being over the top and it has a lovely balance of malt and bitterness. When I think of Strand, this is the first beer that comes to mind.
Your Homework is carve out some craft beer time on May 4th. It is one of my favorite yearly events on my Los Angeles craft beer calendar. The annual Session Fest at Eagle Rock Brewery. Each year brings a new favorite “light” beer. And before you scrunch up your face in hatred of that word when used with beer, you can make a great and flavorful beer with low alcohol. Just like color does not portend the alcohol level, ABV does not make a beer wimpy. It just needs the creativity that is displayed by the staff at Eagle Rock.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.