Review – L.A. Beer Week 2014

LABW6 hashtag

Another L.A. Beer Week is in the history books. This is my sixth year experiencing it and writing about it on this blog. So, I have enough stored memory to write critically about how L.A. celebrates beer.

2014 though saw new leadership take over in the form of the Los Angeles County Brewers Guild. That means viewing the week through the lens of new management without comparing it too much to the past. The hand-off obviously affected the timing so that too has to be taken into account. So, I will review it like a sportswriter does a football or basketball team. Instead of talking points and grades on offense, defense and coaching however, I will substitute the items that I believe make a beer week successful.

First up, is how Beer Week was presented before Beer Week started (the coaching, in my tortured analogy). The results are mixed in this regard. The website looked good but the functionality was a bit off. The export calendar function worked but most of the information was buried and on some devices, getting past the first event page was a chore. Other people I spoke too did not have that problem.

Those technical issues aside, I would like to see a more easy to use calendar. Something that showed you events by area of L.A. or by day. That functionality was there in 2013 but was lost this year. Or at least, I couldn’t get it to work. (It was added in later which helped)

On the plus side, there was a good amount of information from the social media side and the logos and branding were really nice. The artwork was really striking. And I really liked the Beer Paper LA guide. That was a great and handy item to reference. I would also like to see a create your own L.A. Beer Week schedule where you add events and when finished you can print out a personalized calendar. Selfish reasons, really. I have to make my own each year and I would like to make my job easier.

In the football analogy, the main festival is the quarterback-the offense. And the kick-off festival for L.A. Beer Week performed like Peyton Manning. My main worry was that the alleyways and limited space given to the event in Chinatown might create a jostled and packed crowd. That did not come to pass. There were a couple of instances of lines but they moved quickly and even the late insertion of paper tickets wasn’t a hassle and was actually made into a plus by having brewers pass out extra tickets and asking beer related questions. It probably also staved off some people from getting too many beers too quickly.

With the weather cooperating, this made for a very pleasant drinking environment. The quality of the beer was high and the amount of choices was large. There was no way I was going to taste all the beers that I wanted to. Some might find that discouraging but I find it freeing. The pressure to make safe choices is removed because you getting one “wrong” doesn’t materially impact how many you miss. And the best fact was that instead of driving all around LA to try the new breweries, they were all in one spot.

The “guest taps” were also well chosen. Some festival regulars but also a few not normally seen like Reverend Nat’s cider. I didn’t patrol the two alleys of guests as much but they were quite busy most of the time. That will happen when you have sought after beers like Duet from Alpine and Galaxy Showers from Noble Ale Works. I would like to see some foreign beers represented as well but maybe that could be a separate event during LABW. And I love that coffee and sodas are available. Hopped coffee was an inspired idea.

So I was mostly happy. Two items will need to be addressed though. Bathrooms. There are never enough. But the amount allocated was way too low. The placement was good. Away from the fest and not visible from the beer booths. The lines just kept growing and impacting the nearby food trucks to the point where some folks were being led to alternate bathrooms. And the panels of speakers may have been good but even mic’d up they were practically unhearable from even a short distance. I think that those educational panels are best held indoors. Have the music outside and just post a schedule of who will be speaking and the topic with an arrow pointing where it is and maybe have announcements from the stage about what is coming up next. Maybe the space did not have anywhere to accommodate the talks but if you give people a quiet place to sit and listen, they will. When people were on stage this year, even I was tuning them out to speak to others.

But overall this festival gets an A- for showcasing LA beer and for creating a fun atmosphere for beer drinking.

When it comes to other events, there was a plethora of choices. This is the bench play to continue the analogy. Beer Cocktails and Beer ice cream were available as were many, many events but the best of the week for me was the Meeting of the Guilds at Mohawk Bend. Beers from SF and SD in LA. Again too many tap choices, but new ones that you don’t normally see from producers like Cellarmaker, Societe, Headlands, Bartlett Hall to name a few.  Best Guild was won by us.  Maybe due to home field advantage.  The next bout takes place at SD Beer Week!

Other events that merit honorable mentions are the Cask Night at MacLeod’s that drew big crowds, the aforementioned beer cocktails whipped up by Brady Weise at Plan Check and my local Glendale Tap hosting a Block Party of Monkish and Smog City to draw beer week to a close.  What I missed were beer pairing dinners.  It seems like the price point for those events is too much for people so it would be nice to see slimmed down or specific versions.  There were beer and cupcakes at Kinetic and a beer and chocolate event which is good but maybe a 3-course meal with beer would work better.

This post is longer than my usual blurby self because L.A. Beer Week is really important as a signpost to the culture of craft beer in the City of Angels and thus demands more attention.  The fact that I wrote as much as I did should drive that point home.  There is a lot going on in craft beer in L.A. and the momentum is growing.

#LABW6 – But this is at the SAME time – Sunday the 28th


Last chance.  Have you made the most of #LABW6?  Well, there is one day to make craft beer amends.  So how about head over to your local brewery.  The taprooms that stretch from South Bay to Agoura Hills to Monrovia and Downtown LA are what make the week special and distinctively City of Angels.  So go out and have a flagship brew and discuss with friends what your favorite part of the week that was.

#LABW6 – But this is at the SAME time – Saturday the 27th


I know it seems odd to call something that is Ultimate, a 2nd choice but that is how wacky it gets with L.A. Beer Week.  It is the Olympics of LA Craft beer and what may be in a class by itself is suddenly beset with competition.

I will be attempting to do two events that day but if you are looking for a great place to relax on the penultimate day of Beer Week, then you should head to 38 Degrees for their Ultimate Flights.  “Ultimate Flight Night showcases hand selected craft beer flights from the top craft breweries around, and we will be joined by some of the top Beer-Leberties for the evening. Last year we featured 20 different varieties of flights from 9 stellar breweries.”

#LABW6 – But this is at the SAME time – Friday the 26th


Only three days left!  By now you should have had a few memorable beers but if you haven’t, here is an event that just might add a best beer of 2014 to your list…

It will require some math and a trip to the Library Alehouse for Addition by Addition with Smog City beers. Teaser, “4 Core Smog City Beers along with 4 One-Off versions of those beers created through the addition of new ingredients.”

#LABW6 – But this is at the SAME time – Thursday the 25th


Your daily “alternate” L.A. Beer Week event source is right here. Do you know how in the World Cup, there is the so-called, “Group of Death”.  The group with the four toughest teams in the tournament.  Well, that is what the 25th is for L.A. Beer Week.  Way too many good things to choose from. So, today, you get two suggestions for where to go!

First up is a special Ballast Point night at Plan Check on Fairfax.  They have great food and you will get to try not only BP beers but their spirits and cocktails made with those spirits.

Or you could get tart and try two new sours from Highland Park Brewery.  One with peaches and one with nectarines! Then see what else the Hermosillo has on tap!


#LABW6 – But this is at the SAME time – Wednesday the 24th


Your daily “alternate” L.A. Beer Week event source is right here. Halfway through what may seem to be a craft beer marathon.  But the fun continues.

Your selection for hump day is to head to Library Alehouse as they present their 4th annual Dogfish Head Study.  12 taps of unique beers from this unique brewery on tap for you to take notes on.  It might take 120 minutes or more to finish this test.

#LABW6 – But this is at the SAME time – Tuesday the 23rd


Your daily “alternate” L.A. Beer Week event source is right here. I’ve already posted about the events that have piqued my interest but there is a wealth of events each day so here is the pick for Tuesday.  It’s a whopper.

Starting at the ungodly hour of 11am, Stone in Pasadena will be digging deep into the VE archives….

Beers on draft include:
Stone 03.03.03 Vertical Epic Ale (pours only)
Stone 04.04.04 Vertical Epic Ale (pours only)
Stone 05.05.05 Vertical Epic Ale (pours only)
Stone 07.07.07 Vertical Epic Ale (pours only)
Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale aged in Red Wine Barrels
Stone 11.11.11 Vertical Epic Ale
Stone 12.12.12 Vertical Epic Ale

Review – #LABW6 in Chinatown

This year’s L.A. Beer Week signature festival moved both temporally and geographically.  From Union Station to Chinatown.  From End to Beginning and from Sunday to Saturday.


Here are my thoughts on the festival in it’s new regeneration run by the Los Angeles County Brewers Guild.

The weather gods smiled on the crowd of beer lovers and the brewers pouring in Chinatown for the sixth go-round of the L.A. Beer Week festival. A week earlier and everyone would have roasted beet red.

I will leave the review of the fest in general to a later time. This post shall focus on the beers tried and the beers missed. And the beer that missed the mark.

I shall start with the middle option. When I refer to missed. It was not due to a beer running out which I didn’t see happen by the time I left at 6pm, an hour before the fest was due to close.

Vulcanizer from Beachwood and Drakes was there for the taking but I never sauntered over to that booth with an empty glass. I missed Timeless Pints and the Brewery at Abigaile’s entirely. I got a taster of Chandelle from Hangar 24 but did not taste the new Pro-Am beer. Bad me.

On to the more fun topic of what I did taste, I have one word, Monkish. Hem and Haw and Arrivant were spectacular. I told multiple people to get those beers at all cost. The other brewer with two winners was King Harbor. I had been waiting to try their ode to ice cream, Swirly, for awhile. I was not disappointed at all. A not sweet mixture of chocolate and vanilla. Their “50 Cent” grapefruit Belgian was also a treat. Very juicy without being too acidic.


There were a couple beers that fell into the “I was hoping would be better” category First was the Mai Tai HopTonic and the Longevity Baltic Porter. Both from breweries that I rarely find fault in. The Eagle Rock Baltic porter I will chalk up to the end of day dead palate issue but it was bland to me. Not that I was expecting fireworks from that particular style but for it to be a Pro-Am winner, I expected something that wowed beer judges. The Mai Tai from Smog City was too sweet and too coconut for me. The IPA portion was buried. I wished the base was a tripel or saison instead.

All in all, I wish there was a dinner break and then another couple hours to try the remaining beers that I wanted. It is the sign of a good festival when you leave full but wanting more.