Smog City Brewing opened its doors this past saturday to about one hundred patient beerfans, anxiously awaiting their latest bottle release – their Imperial Chocolate Stout The Nothing and its bourbon barrel-aged cousin Infinite Wishes. About two hours later I was down the street sipping on a Selah at Monkish and confidently quipped to a friend:
“In an hour that line-up is going to die down and you’ll be able to walk in and grab all the bottles of Infinite Wishes you want.”
I thought it was a safe assumption. Smog City has released two special vintage bottles in the last 6 months (the barrel-aged Goldie and their first wild release Saison Contraire) to much fanfare and I expected the release of Infinite Wishes to be much the same. Sure, the first few hours would be busy, but once the initial over-eager crowd dissipated there would be bottles in stock at the taproom for at least a few weeks to come. I mean, Smog City is a fantastic brewery that draws very solid business, but they weren’t about to sell over 1000 bottles in an afternoon.
Boy was I wrong. Within three hours every bottle of Infinite Wishes was gone.
This feels like a big moment for Smog City and its incredibly well-deserved. The small Torrance brewery has built a passionate following since opening in 2013 and have come to be respected as one of the top breweries in the emerging LA market. With bottles of their flagship Coffee Porter hitting shelves this past year, their footprint is expanding even further with the help of bottle-trading and word of mouth. Infinite Wishes is a giant leap forward – one that capitalizes on the ‘whale’ status of bourbon-aged imperial stouts and its backed up with some serious brewing pedigree from Jonathan Porter & his team.
Luckily for me I drove to Torrance early on Saturday and managed to claim 3 bottles of this barrel-aged beauty well before the sell out. The beer itself is truly an exceptional example of what this brewery can do. Rich layers of velvety chocolate blend beautifully with the deep roasted malts and are in perfect balance with the vanilla and bourbon from the barrels. Often I find barrel-aging can impart a bit of muddiness to a beer, and what impresses me most is how much clarity there is to each piece of the flavor profile. Its almost as if they managed to retain a freshness in the beer despite sitting in used bourbon-barrels for the last twelve months.
There’s also a confidence behind the beer that everyone at Smog City seems to have trouble hiding. Smog City always stands proud behind their line-up, but its clear that the Porters and their team knew they had something special with Infinite Wishes and couldn’t wait to get it out into the world. And believe me – this is a beer that is going to get out there. With countless people buying a full 6 bottles (the maximum allowed) during the release, this beer is going to be a big hit on bottle trade boards across the country.
As jonny-come-lately beer-geeks from all over Los Angeles County come to terms with the fact that this beer has already come and gone, I’m left wondering if this is a sign of things to come for the LA beer community. As we evolve from an ‘emerging‘ scene to a ‘totally awesome and everyone knows it’ scene, there’s going to be longer lines at bottle releases and less beer to go around. And while some craftbeer fans will find that frustrating, I’m struggling to feel anything other than pride for a brewery that has truly earned the attention that Infinite Wishes will undoubtedly bring.