Another L.A. Beer Week is in the books and this year, I took a more relaxed approach to the “Week+”. I did not schedule an event (or two) each and every night. In years past, I would scurry around Los Angeles hoping to not miss a single beer. Now I know that I should enjoy each beer as it comes and not worry so much about the next. And not go chasing waterfalls.
With that as a reference point, my personal version of LA Beer Week was quite fun. My quick snapshot:
I had a taste of Double Mountain beer from my home state of Oregon at Sunset Beer Co. Tasted three versions of Eagle Rock’s Solidarity at Story Tavern. Learned about beer writing and writing for the interwewbs at at the L.A. Beer Bloggers meeting at Angel City. Volunteered at Union Station and marveled at how fast it came together. Went on a Brue D’Etat at Glendale Tap. Was treated to some great food and Green Flash beer at Tuning Fork. Sampled beers (and found two favorites) from new San Diego brewery, Modern Times. Went rare at Smog City and El Segundo breweries with grapes and melons. And ended by Taking the Black on the roof above Blue Palms. Not a bad line-up considering I also took two days off to recharge my beer batteries.
My favorite beers were Blue Sugar Cubed from El Segundo and Grape Ape from Smog City with Fortunate Islands and Blazing World from Modern Times in my third and fourth slots. Golden Brett from Allagash would round out my top five for the stretch of time. Craftsman’s Oktoberfest would also be close in there.
The only event that I really wish I could have gone to was the Craftsman/Maximilliano dinner. After seeing what Craftsman brought to Union Station and knowing what the food is like at Maximilliano, I can imagine a tremendous experience. Count yourself lucky if you were there.
I know in some minds, the festival, be it at the end as in years past, or as an opening gala like this year is the measuring stick for the success L.A. Beer Week. For some, it is the only event people attend. (Which I think is crazy) I have not written much about the Union Station event because I was a small cog in the group that arranged and executed the event. Moving to a new space inside Union Station created a new set of issues that the craft beer selection eventually bested, but I think with some medium sized alterations that it could be improved.
First though, gotta talk about the elephant in the room. Much blog ink has been spilled about the entry cost but, to me, the first to complain are those that don’t look at all at either the price tag for Union Station or the donations to the LA Brewers Guild and The Spero Foundation. You, the customer, get unlimited tastings from a wicked set of brewers in exchange for helping out two organizations doing good in the real world and the LA Beer World. Most times when you donate charitably you get a happy feeling for doing good and maybe some address labels. Here you got beer! And instead of organizing so called Fest Boycotts, how about patronizing a craft beer bar and spend your money there? Help create a stronger L.A. Craft Beer Community. Don’t set yourselves apart from it. Maybe create a fringe beer festival or a home brew fest? I am a fan of positive suggestions instead of kvetching and moaning. Turn the spent grains into something.
Now that my mini-rant is over, my suggestions start with… Better signage akin to what the Downtown LA Beer Crawl created is really needed. From where to line-up, what beers are available and where food is located. Professional signage with the logo emblazoned on it is a must. The smaller space also requires more bathrooms and a food solution needs to be found. (that may be logistically hard but maybe there is a way to squeeze into another room). I would also split it into two sessions and skip the after party. Lastly, I would have a pair of Festival volunteers roaming the area available to answer questions, talk about the Untappd badge and generally let people know about other events during the week.
I have been asked repeatedly what makes a successful beer week. That can be split into personal and the entire city. From my personal standpoint, each of the five iterations of L.A. Beer Week have had enough fun and odd events to make it fun. From an overall standpoint, if the craft beer profile is raised a notch in the L.A. area, then it is worth it. And from my journeys over the past ten days, I think that goal was achieved.