L.A. Beer Week 2011 Wrap-up

L.A. Beer Week – Year # 3 is now safely in the books. I careened from one part of town to another in search of great beer and here are my impressions.

It is hard to top the Deconstructed event that Firestone-Walker put on with the Home Brew Chef, Sean Paxton. Damn good (and exclusive) beer, excellent food and gracious hosts in a cool Hollywood venue.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Beer Float Showdown as well. For some of the same reasons as I enjoyed Deconstructed. Great beer paired with creative food. I could see that the float makers were both working hard and having fun.

I also enjoyed the three year vertical of Ten Fidy that Boneyard Bistro provided. The array of stouts and big beers they had that night was amazing and I wish I had more nights to have tried out a few more.

The big, big plus of the last two weeks was the sheer volume and variety of events. There were huge pairing dinners and simple meet the brewer nights, there were new beer releases and celebrations of our local brewers. There was something for every beer geek across the area. But within that bounty were some missed chances.

I would love to see a “New to craft beer” event that roved from bar to bar. A welcome mat of an event that would encourage people to try a variety of beers to acclimate palates to the good beer of the world and be able to get questions answered.

I would also like to see more signage with the L.A. Beer Week logo that could catch the eye of the passersby, if you will excuse the rhyme. Maybe an official L.A. Beer Week stop sign to hang in a business window or a sandwich board outside. Having an Untappd badge and the other social media kicking are great but I would like to see outreach to the non “in-the know” folks. And if people see enough of them as they drive around L.A., they might get curious.

Lastly, as much as I liked the plethora of beer, two weeks was a bit much. I know America is the land of outsized ideas but by the end on Sunday, I had heard the lament of “ready for Monday” many times and not just from myself. I am a proponent of the 10 day week. Coming on the heels of the Great American Beer Festival and before the November San Diego Beer week, ten days allow some rest for the wicked. Not that everyone attended an event a day like me but I think that L.A. has enough of a craft beer culture where we can start having mini-festivals throughout the year to augment the many other events that are happening so that beer can gain a momentum that a once a year event cannot generate.

That being said, kudos to all the organizers for taking on the extra workload and less sleep and loads of driving to bring beer to me and to all of the people of L.A. The city is better for your efforts.

L.A. Beer Week – Day 14 – Union Station

What a beautiful Sunday to have a beer festival. There were three “must” attend events for this two week bonanza called L.A. Beer Week. One was Deconstructed, the second was the Beer Float Showdown and the third was the festival finale.
First on my list was to sample the beers from L.A. newcomer Ohana. They were pouring their new Black IPA by the gritty L.A. name of Black Dahlia. As well as two versions of a Muscat barrel lambic. And as good as the IPA was to this hophead, the lambics were great. One was milder and really showcased the grape tastes with a bit of tart. The punchier version was much more Belgiany and pucker inducing. I liked both equally precisely because they were so different but with common flavors.
The other spot that I honed in on was the Pro-Am area. And I was lucky to get the last of the collaboration of Strand Brewing and the Beer Chicks. It was a combination of hops, nuttiness and caramel that I really enjoyed. I ended up trying close to (15) samples while alternately hiding in the shade and warming up. But there was just too much good stuff being poured. From Beachwood…. to Craftsman…. …to Dogfish Head…. and many more inbetween.

The first two iterations of the festival, I volunteered. But this time around, I played the role of media and got to see the event from a new perspective. There was quite the equal representation. Both genders and all ages in equal amounts. This was definitely not a Beer Geek dominated party. There was also a wide representation of beer with a nice amount of focus on SoCal. I was really impressed by the amount of beer that Craftsman brought too. Angelino Weiss, Ruddy Bloke, Sour Grapes among the many they were pouring.

On the downside, water stations were nowhere to be found and I walked around a few times looking. At a festival with unlimited pours, there needs to be easily accessible water. There was a hiccup getting people inside but that was an unforeseen complication that was not the fault of the organizers.

Overall, it was easy to navigate and get beers. Not many lines and the ones that were there were fast moving. Couple that with the selection and the weather and this event was a winner.

L.A. Beer Week – Day 13 – Beer Belly

It has been a long Week(s) but the finish line is in sight. But instead of looking past a day, I and beer buddy Richard headed to Koreatown and Beer Belly for a night that featured the beer of El Segundo and the social networking of Untappd.

I got to try the new Picket Fence Wheat IPA. Which is another winner from El Segundo. Rob and Tom from the brewery made the eastside trek to be on hand as well as Untappd to celebrate.

I also had the Double Dry Hopped Nelson which is really tremendous. The Nelson hop balances out the bitterness that really is strong on this one without being overpowering.

Oh and both Richard and I got badges tonight!

LA Beer Week – Day Six – Beer Floats

Friday was a day of rest. Two big events past and two on the weekend. Pacing myself. Anyway, here is my take on the 3rd Beer Float Showdown (full disclosure – I volunteered at this event and write for FoodGPS that was the presenter of the showdown)….

The challenge was set forth. Five floats created by a combo of brewer and chef. And not just any chefs. Ilan Hall and CJ Jacobson of Top Chef fame, the Trans of Starry Kitchen, Andre Guerrero of Oinkster and the new Maximlilianos and Laurent Quenioux of Vertical Wine Bistro.
Serious fire power and the beer wasn’t from slouches either Ladyface, Eagle Rock, Beachwood, Firestone Walker and the new Smog City were all there.

I only tried three of the floats and in fact did not get to taste the eventual winner. But I was mightily impressed by the Ladyface / Starry Kitchen effort…..….which had fruit, pop rocks and habanero! My personal favorite was the Firestone / Yard combo … It had a rim of caramel and potato chips, the famous hemp ale and a nice light ice cream. Primo stuff from CJ and Jace. I also enjoyed the creation of Beachwood and Laurent Quenioux. Herbs with saison and another light ice cream. Three creative and tasty floats.

But the winner was Andre Guerrero and Jan Purdy who were paired with the host of the event Jeremy Raub and Eagle Rock Brewery. Their secret ingredient? Bacon with Vanilla Bean Solidarity.

The Beer Float Showdown champions of 2011!

If you think this event looked fun then check the official website for more information on events during week 2.

LA Beer Week – Day 4 – Bottle Room

As if last night wasn’t enough, back on the road to Whittier and The Bottle Room for Deschutes beer and chocolate….

Who needs dinner when you can start with dessert. Well, I almost did that last night. Placed an order for the chocolate dessert sampler and the two Deschutes beers (Black Butte and Jubelale) after sitting down. Then realized I should probably have some food first. And since I wanted to save the beer to pair with the desserts, I sampled Strand Brewing’s 2nd Anniversary braggot.
It was quite good. Braggots are hit or miss for me but this had a nice interplay of honey, vanilla and spice. A great fall beer for cool nights. (LA should get one of those in November).
Then it was on to the dessert.
. The cake was soooo rich. That was a wicked mixture of caramel and chocolate that came oozing out of the middle. I am much more a pie guy, but molten cakes rank really high too. The chocolates were also great. There was blue cheese lurking in the small square and it was good. Again, I shall close with the beer. I had the Jubelale 2011 at the Beer Bloggers conference this year and this was a chance to see if my initial reaction would be changed. It hasn’t. But it doesn’t scream winter ale to me. The Black Butte was quite good and matched the richness of the desserts better..

As usual, I was wowed again by the food of Tony Alcazar and the great tap list.

LA Beer Week – Day One – Lucky Baldwin’s

Since I spent most of Sunday driving, I did not relish a trip (in traffic) to Redondo Beach. And besides, I was planning on going there for the Local Breweries night next week. SO to kick off the 2 weeks of beery goodness, I and beer buddy Richard headed to the old school Lucky Baldwin’s in Old Town Pasadena to ring in the 2011 edition of LA Beer Week.

I had the double dry hopped Ruination to start, then a year old Emperial IPA (the 14th anniversary ale). It was a restrained start to a two week marathon of great beer.

Stone 14th Anniversary IPA

L.A. Beer Week starts…..


Here are my picks for this week:
10/10 Naja’s Opening Night Stone Festival
(but if you can’t make it or can’t get a ticket, try Lucky Baldwin’s for Craftsman and Stone beers)

10/11 Musical Beer Crawl

10/12 Firestone-Walker Deconstructed. If you can’t get into the main event. Blue Palms has a post party and the anniversary beer will be released into the wild around this time too.

10/13 Deschutes Beer and Chocolate at the Bottle Room

10/14 Lucky Devils will be pouring Lost Abbey beers.

10/15 Beer Float Showdown 3
(you can also hit the nearby Verdugo for their annual Oktoberfest celebration)

Check out the official website for more information on each event.