While glycol jacketed fermenters reaching towards the cloudless skies of Southern California still is a comparably rare sight in present-day Los Angeles, its craft breweries have come a long way in just the last past five years, in many ways. And while big brother LA always has been in the shadow of little brother San Diego, I believe the future won't look as one-dimensional as today.
In June I attended LA Beer Week's Kick Off Fest, a fantastic event where one can in a flash get an overview of what currently is tasting and happening in the way of craft beer in this SoCal megacity. Because most breweries still are small operations and everything still pretty much is in its infancy, there's a good chance that you'll get to meet and talk to the owners and brewers themselves. It's an opportunity to connect with the industry, one of the strong points and positive sides of this growing trade.
Angelinos have long been faithful consumers of carefully crafted barley pop and today production is mushrooming all around town. From an echoing absence no more than a decade ago, Los Angeles County is now experiencing a boom in locally owned and operated breweries and brew pubs. With places such as Torrance's Strand Brewing Co. forerunning things back in 2009 there are now somewhere in the vicinity of 35 commerial breweries in the county, from Beachwood in the south to Kinetic in the north, from Ladyface in the west to Sanctum in the east.
Although the scene has been and still is a hop centered one, looking closely enough you'll notice a change taking place. You can still get a solid hop fix enjoying offerings from the likes of El Segundo and Golden Road, but finding their ways into the scene are not only revived German sour styles like berliner weisse or gose, but English milds and experimental white stouts.
Aforementioned Torrance in South Bay, the pioneering and power house region of Los Angeles craft beer culture, currently boasts no less than six breweries. Just in and around Western Ave. is The Dudes', Monkish and Smog City among others. Another area on the up and up is Downtown LA, notably the Arts District. Already today you can stroll from watering hole to watering hole, starting off at Angle City, continuing to Mumford and Boomtown, one day soon ending up at Iron Triangle. If things continue at this pace DTLA will soon be able to boast its very own version of the Bermondsey Beer Mile. How many saw this development coming five years back?
The people of LA have a serious crush on craft, a fact shown in the numbers of folks that attended this year's edition of the LA Beers Week's Kick-Off Fest. The event took place in beautiful Exposition Park adjacent to historical Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Defying the blistering mid-day heat some seventy-five brave breweries turned up.
Contradictively enough Anaheim-based (that's in Orange County) Bottle Logic was one of the first breweries at the event to catch my eye. Founders Wes Parker and Brandon Buckner introduced me to their year-round blonde ale Mixed Signals, this version with the addition of tropical tea. A true thirst quencher bursting with exotic fruit flavors. Loved it. Another, perhaps more talked about offering is Fundemental Observartion, an intimidating imperial stout with Madagascar vanilla aged in former bourbon barrels. This massive monster is most likely this Greater Los Angeles brewery's one-way ticket to stardom in the rock 'n' roll world of craft beer.
Phatom Carriage out of Carson focuses solely on brett and wild ales, quiet a daring yet refreshing feat considering the hop domination in the area. Perhaps an advantage is the way their beers stand out from the rest. Assistant brewer Brendan Lake (formly at Stone's and The Dudes') poured me a glass of the Muis, their core Belgian-style wild blonde fermented only with brettanomyces yeast. Also helping to suppress the heat was their berliner weisse Broadacres. These guys make neat beers and they have the future lying ahead of them if they can target their niche market successfully.
Most people visiting the city come by the way of LAX. Three Weavers Brewing Co, located on the border of neigborhoods Westchester and Inglewood, is a mere stone's throw away once your clear of customs and security. Founded by Lynne Weaver and with brewmaster Alexandra Novell in charge of recipes there's thankfully and finally a female dominated brewery. Alexandra is by way of Sierra Nevada, Moylan's, Drakes and Kinetic Brewing. How's that for experience? Their beers are no-nonsense, down-to-earth type of beers on the hoppier side. Pouring at the fest was We Saw Them Coming, a watermelon saison brewed together with 21st Amendment. Needless to say, with a slice of melon as garnish, this was the festival eye-catcher.
With 75 breweries attending there are simply to many to mention. But if you find yourself in the city of angels please do go out of your way and look up places like Ladyfale Ale Companie in Aougra Hills, Highland Park Brewery ( located at The Hermosillo Ba) in Highland Park and Mac Leod in Van Nuys for a true taste of what's to come in beer in Los Angeles.