I often roll my eyes when people from Orange County or San Diego mention the LA beer community and are quick to dismiss it. These conversations usually include that same person admitting that they haven’t tried many LA beers in the last two years and are basing their opinion on beers and breweries of years past. Its frustrating that this burgeoning community is still forced to prove itself again and again, but with hordes of people descending on Chinatown Plaza this past weekend for the kick off of LA Beer Week, its pretty clear this community has very little to prove.
This year the reigns for LA Beer Week were taken over by the Los Angeles Brewer’s Guild, who promised better organization for the kick-off party and a more local focus. The LABG certainly delivered on their promise and I was only in line for about 10 minutes before entering the festival (about 20 minutes after doors opened). Of course there were your typical complainers in line who, upon arrival saw that a line merely existed and started to rant to the people around them how they would have organized this better. But sure enough, minutes later they were all inside, smiling with a beer in their hand.
Breweries were scattered around the festival grounds which gave guests enough room to mingle while also making it easy to grab your beers. I have to admit that I let down the LA community a bit by heading directly to the Noble Aleworks booth to grab the latest in their ‘Showers’ single hop series. Despite being an O.C. brewery, Evan and the team over there have been big supporters of the LA community over the last year and this single hop double IPA series is always a treat. This entry in the series – Galaxy Showers – shows off this popular Australian hop that highlights grassy citrus and tropical flavors. With its signature spicy musk, its certainly not a hop for everyone and perhaps not the best way to start off a day of heavy tasting. I’ll definitely grab a bottle at my local store to spend a bit more quality time with it.
Next I made my way down to the Beachwood BBQ tent where they were pouring their new Vulcanizer IPA, a collaboration with Drake’s. This is another great classic West Coast IPA from Julian Schrago & co that rounds out some nice bitterness with a bold citrusy profile. This is a beer you’ll likely see a lot of over the course of LA beer week so keep an eye out.
I dropped by a few more tents as I not-so-patiently waited for 4:30 to hit – the time where a number of breweries were planning to break out some special edition bottle releases. I ran into Sean from Beer Search Party by the Hangar 24 booth right as they cracked the new bottles of Chandelle – a nice barrel-aged version of their Polycot which showcased some complex tartness followed by clean residual sweetness left by the big additions of apricots. It was a nice refresher after my IPA-heavy start to the festival.
Next I rushed over to Smog City where a line had formed for pours of their soon-to-be-released Saison Contraire (brett saison) and Goldie (barrel-aged golden strong). Saison Contraire showed off classic a classic dry saison yeast with nice grassy hops in the middle of the palette and a lovely complex, but still young brett character. This is definitely a bottle to buy a few of and sit on for a later date. This brett is going to develop beautifully. The Goldie on the other hand was tasty but the barrel character really was front and center, which isn’t really to my taste but I know will be a hit for a certain contingent of beer nerds.
Deeper into the day I decided to take a break from beer and stop by the Beer Paper LA booth where the Hopheads were pouring hopped cold brew coffee. This was one of the highlights of my day for sure. The first coffee they poured was quite hop forward but not in the way you would think. There’s a strong hop flavor but it comes through in the coffee by way of a grassy tea character. There’s no missing it, and it adds a layer to an already complex profile that I had never experienced. The next coffee featured amarillo and was a little more subdued on the tea flavors. After speaking with Conor Hunter and his partner for a few minutes I managed to finagle a taste of their barrel-aged coffee, which was really something special. It was like a dessert in itself, rich with toffee and oak and a sweet, slightly boozy character that warmed your whole body. The plan is to start selling these beans online in the next couple months and they might as well just take my money now.
As the day drew on, beer highlights for me included Macleod Ale Nutty Broon, Brewery at Abigaile‘s Illuminati Pils, Monkish‘s Arrivant Rye Brett Farmhouse, and the Octoberfest from Highland Park Brewing. Its easy to become overwhelmed by the selection at an event like this, especially when you spend just as much time catching up with friends in the community, meeting the brewers of your favorite beers and dishing the about fall releases you can’t wait for. Its really that aspect of the event that settled any arguments for me about LA’s status as a beer community. This is a big city, full of people who are passionate about the great beer we are producing and ready to gather en masse to celebrate it.
So next time someone tries to tell me that LA is slacking in the craft beer market, I’ll just smile, nod and tell them to come out to LA Beer Week next year so they can see what we’re really up to.