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The Craft Beer Guy 2015 Year in Review

HopSaint brewpub

HopSaint Brewing Company Now Soon!

Well, there are still a couple of days left in 2015 but I think it is safe to write my year-end review of 2015. To be honest, there has been so much activity in the craft beer world this past year that I would not be surprised to have something new pop up before Thursday night.(So, this is taking me a while to write, and yes, there have been updates since I started).

There were several beer buyouts that seemed to dominate most other craft beer sites, but the craft world in my immediate domain only seemed to increase. Yeah, Golden Road got bought, but I only went there for special events and I guess that means there will be fewer of them there in the future. In the meantime, the reach of this site seems to be increasing. In the beginning people pretty much pigeonholed this site as covering the South Bay craft beer scene only. This year I covered various local beer events from the Antelope Valley to Orange County. Attendees have come up asking if I am now covering the west side, or wherever we might be. I guess the answer is yes; and I will expand my area as long as it is requested.

2015 in the South Bay ended pretty much as it started, with the soft open of a new brewpub. In January Phantom Carriage officially opened, and at the end of December HopSaint Brewing Company opened their doors. While they are open daily, the official opening of HopSaint will be January 1, 2016 when they will start serving lunch at 11:30 AM. Continue reading

A Tour of Beachwood Blendery

Readers may recall that at the beginning of October I was invited to an advanced tasting of Guinness’ new Nitro IPA; while the beer and meal was quite nice, the best part of the evening was meeting a couple Guinness representatives, Keith Dunne and Jonathan Urch who had hosted the event. Dunne came out from St. James’ Gate in Dublin while Urch came out from New York City. By the end of the evening we had formed a pretty good relationship and before I left they informed me that they had one day to explore the LA craft beer scene and asked what breweries were a “must” to visit before they left. While we have several breweries that could fall under that category, one that really stands out is Beachwood Brewing & BBQ; after all, they won gold in 2013 and 2014 for Best Mid-Size and Best Large Brewpub at GABF. When I suggested Beachwood and told them of some of the awards they had received it was decided that we would meet at Beachwood BBQ & Brewing the next day. Dunne mentioned that it would be great if he could meet the owners and I said I would do my best.

I reached out to Beachwood’s Creative/Marketing Manager, Aaron Carroll and was informed that co-owner/head brewer Julian Shrago was out of town and the other co-owner, Gabe Gordon might be at the Seal Beach location but he would do what he could.

The next day we all met at Beachwood and the Guinness reps loved everything they tried. During our tastings Carroll joined us at our table and informed us that Gordon would not be available, however, he did invite us to tour the new Beachwood Blendery. They jumped on the opportunity. Continue reading

Photos from the 2015 Taste of Brews Long Beach

These photos are of the 2015 Taste of Brews Long Beach which was held Saturday afternoon at Lighthouse Park in Long Beach. The event featured dozens of craft breweries, food trucks, live music, games and great weather. A portion of the proceeds from this event were donated to the Long Beach Marine Institute.

As you know, I attend a lot of beer festivals; and there is no question that some are a lot better than others. For me personally, I like to find the breweries and beers that I have never had before. With the number of beer festivals that are held around here every year, I have come to accept that this goal is going to be more difficult with each successive beer festival I attend. The thing about Taste of Brews Long Beach is that they could have the same beer every year and I would return just because it is a great venue to hold a festival.

Yesterday was my third time attending Taste of Brews and this event just keeps getting better. There were supposed to be between 60 and 70 breweries; I did not count them but there was beer enough for everyone. The food trucks were spread around evenly throughout the park and there were two stages for the live music which featured The Tomcats and RedEye Redemption. And then there was the beer. Continue reading

Beer festival season: Upcoming events for August

It is hard to believe that it has been over a month since the last beer festival I attended, but the break is over as there are three local beer festivals coming up between now and the end of August.

The first up will be Beers Summer Fest which will be held Saturday, August 15 at The REEF, Chair Parking Lot, 1933 S. Broadway in Los Angeles. This event will feature 10 breweries; Anchor Brewing, Wicks Brewing, Absolution Brewing, The Great Brewing Company, Solarc Brewing, Mission, Figueroa Mountain, Fireman’s Brew, Escape Craft Brewery and The Dudes’.

Presented by BEERS Magazine, this inaugural event is a little different in that it costs $10 to get in, but if you want to drink beer you will have to purchase one of their commemorative pint glasses. The glasses are $25 at the door, or you can purchase them in advance via Eventbrite for $20. I am told that the entire $10 from the admission price will be donated to the beneficiaries, RISE – Reaching and Improving Society with Education and Smiles for M.I.L.E.S. Foundation.

There will be food, games and music in addition to the beer. You can get more information at http://beersfest.com/. Continue reading

Beachwood BBQ & Brewing 4th Anniversary Photos

These photos were taken at the Beachwood BBQ & Brewing 4th Anniversary celebration which was held Saturday, July 11 at the Long Beach brewpub.

One of the best things about writing about my travels is that I am easily able to refer back to the first time I visited the Long Beach location or any of the three prior anniversary parties and easily see how much they have grown in just a few short years. I had to chuckle when I looked back and saw that they had nine beers available the first time I went there; yesterday they had over 40 on tap and even more on cask. And it is not even just about the number of beers they brew, but how well done and true to style they are. I feel really fortunate to have them so relatively close to home.

I initially went to Long Beach in the morning, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I got there later than I planned on and the line was just too long so I decided I would come back later. I watched conversations on Facebook and around 3:30 the lines were done. When we arrived it was still busy with their fans ordering up from the dozens of brews available. Since Beachwood staggered the tap times of their barrel-aged brews, just about everything was still available except for the big barrel-aged brews that were available early on. Continue reading

4th Annual Firestone Trilogy at Congregation Ale House

After the Euro Bierfest and Smog City’s Rarest of the Rare event, we went home, fed the dogs and relaxed a little before heading out to Long Beach for the 4th Annual Firestone Walker Trilogy Event at Congregation Ale House, Long Beach. Since Congregation is essentially next door to Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, the first few photos are from there; where we stopped for dinner. If you have not been to Beachwood Long Beach lately, prepare to be surprised. In the past they would have maybe 10 of their own beers and 25 guest taps. Now, because of their expansion, they are able to provide close to 25 of their in-house brews so the guest taps are closer to 10, but you know they will be good.

After enjoying some Macaroni and Cheese and a lamb burger we walked over to Congregation Ale House to join up with Firestone Walker’s own David Walker on the final stop of the 4th Annual Trilogy event. “The Trilogy” included stops at the three Congregation Ale House locations; Azusa, Pasadena and Long Beach. Each location featured core Firestone Walker beers and each had at least one special brew that was not readily available, if at all, outside the taproom. Those included Tequila Merkin at the Azusa location, Bravo in Pasadena and the Maltose Falcons collaboration in Long Beach.

The fact that this was going on during LA Beer Week was purely coincidental; this was the 4th Annual Firestone Trilogy and it always happens during June or July. The fact that it coincided with David Walker’s birthday may have been coincidental, I did not ask. The fact that it was a Firestone Walker event was enough to convince me to be there. It was a nice end to a great beer day. Cheers! Continue reading

LA Beer Week 2015: Rarest of the Rare at Smog City

These photos were taken Saturday afternoon at Smog City Brewing Company’s Rarest of the Rare LA Beer Week (LABW7) event. Smog City did this once before, during the 2013 LA Beer Week (LABW5) and if you attended the last one, I am sure you came away with a similar thought, oh what a difference 18 months can make. While the first time was pretty amazing, yesterday’s event was just that much more.

I guess if there is a disadvantage to living in the middle of the current craft beer central it is that sometimes there are just too many events and not enough time to cover them all. As I was involved with the Euro Bierfest at Alpine Village I did not arrive until a few hours into the event which meant that the highly sought, limited availability Spittin’ n Cussin’ was tapped out but that could not prevent one from having a great time with options like their Bourbon O.E. from 2011 through 2015, their collaboration with Beachwood Brewing, Bourbon Collaborative Evil, Infinite Wishes, 2015 Unity with variations and beer cocktails. It was one of those kids in a candy store experiences and it seemed like I was not the only one to think so.

With all the beer options that were available, I would be willing to bet that there is still a very nice selection available. I think I will wrap this up and head over to see what I can try. Cheers! Continue reading

LA Beer Week 2015: Pink Boots Takeover at Three Weavers

Monday was day three of the 2015 LA Beer Week (#LABW7) and the celebration of Los Angeles’ craft beer scene continued with numerous events. I decided to head over to the Three Weavers Brewing Company tasting room in Inglewood where the Los Angeles Chapter of the Pink Boots Society held a fundraiser for their scholarship fund in the form of a tap takeover featuring craft beers from 20 breweries.

I have to admit that when I first heard about the event I figured we would attend primarily because it was a fundraiser for the Pink Boots Society and it would be one way I could give back to the industry. When I got there I discovered that there were some pretty outstanding beers featured and a fun group of people to enjoy them with.

The Pink Boots Society was created “to empower women beer professionals to advance their careers in the beer industry through education.” This is done via regional meetings, seminars and their scholarship fund. An example of the types of scholarships they fund would be the two-day Barth-Haas Hops Academy held in Yakima, WA this coming August. The scholarships are open to Pink Boots Society members and to become a member you must be a woman that has a paying job within the beer industry. Continue reading

L.A. Brewers Beer Week 2015 Kickoff Party Photos

These photos were taken at the LA Brewers Beer Week Kickoff which was held Saturday afternoon, June 20 at Exposition Park. The kickoff was the official launch of LA Beer Week 2015 (#LABW7) and was a fundraiser with a portion of the proceeds being donated to L.A. Kitchen. The event featured more than 75 breweries pouring a reported 200+ beers, ciders and home brewed sodas. I did not count them but I can assure you there were so many outstanding options that it would have been virtually impossible to try them all in the five hours we had available. There were numerous times I headed off to try a beer that I wanted only to be distracted by something else on the way. I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the available options were brews I had yet to try.

In addition to the massive quantities of beer, there were eight food trucks, four bands, educational panels and a few games. There were about 3,000 people including attendees, volunteers and the breweries but there was very little in the way of lines. I think the longest line I saw was for people waiting to buy tote bags that were being offered there.

As it is Father’s Day and there are a lot of things going on, so I will go ahead and post the photos now and give an in-depth review later in the week. Suffice it to say, it was a great time with very little to find negative about the entire experience. The LA County Brewers Guild did a great job and is to be commended on putting on a great event. Of course, I am extremely appreciative of Absolution Brewing Company for sponsoring me at the LA Beer Week Kickoff. Cheers! Continue reading

Photos from the 4th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival

These photos are from Saturday at the 4th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival (FWIBF15) which was held at the Paso Robles Event Center. The festival included craft beer of 53 breweries from all over the United States, Europe and beyond. This was my first opportunity to attend and I did not attend as any type of “official media” so my experience was probably similar to that of any other first time attendee; except I probably waited in line longer to get in. On Friday night I had heard stories of lines just to get in reaching down the street and around the block, so I walked over to the event center and was there before 9:00 AM. If you are taking notes, the event did not start until noon and there was nothing to be gained by being among the first 20 to be there. If you get there at noon you will be fine.

To be honest, I was not aware that this was only the fourth Invitational and it is definitely run like they have been doing it a lot longer. I had the opportunity to speak with individuals that had attended multiple times before and the one thing that became obvious is that Firestone Walker listened to the feedback they received after each event. For example, in the beginning, attendees had to buy food and water. As the event evolved it now has free food from 26 restaurants and multiple free water stations with enough filtered water to hydrate the 3,000 plus attendees. Now, I have to say, I am not really sure how many tickets were sold but between comments I heard, articles I read and a personal guess, I would guess between 3,000 and 4,000. The thing is, the location can hold a lot more than that and when you divide them between 80 booths there was not much in the way of lines. Naturally, there were some breweries like Three Floyds and Alchemist that had long lines all day; and when breweries like Beachwood or The Bruery had their special pours people started waiting; but most of the lines that I experienced moved rather quickly. Continue reading

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