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LA Beer Week comes to a close

Sunday, day 11 of LA Beer Week (LABW5) and congratulations to those of you that survived. While I did not attend the event at Union Station a week ago, I cannot imagine trying to do it at the end of an 11 day week. I started the day by heading over to King Harbor Brewing Company where I got the opportunity to meet their head brewer as he christened the location by brewing a small batch saison. A little later in the day I was informed that Smog City Brewing was hosting a panel, School of BJ’s Brewer Panel Discussion featuring Jonathan Porter of Smog City, Tyler King of The Bruery, David Griffiths of Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie, Evan Price of Noble Ale Works and Owen Williams of Ritual Brewing Company. It turns out that the common denominator between the five of them is that they all brewed at BJ’s; who would have guessed? We decided to begin by going to Monkish Brewing to try their LABW5 entry, End of Summer, a Belgian Honey Ale. We then headed around the corner to Smog City.

As it turned out the event was not really supposed to be public as Beer Paper LA was using the opportunity to interview the brewers for an upcoming issue and they were concerned I would scoop them; so I bailed. You should be able to read about it and see any photos in their upcoming issue.

It really was a fun week and I had a great time. I would like to extend special thanks to The Brewery at Abigaile, Naja’s Place, Rock & Brews PCH, Monkish Brewing Company, Strand Brewing Company, San Pedro Brewing Company, Alpine Village and El Segundo Brewing Company for their hospitality and generosity over the past week. It was truly appreciated. Cheers! Continue reading

Beer, beer and more beer for day 10 of LA Beer Week

It may have been day 10 of LA Beer Week (LABW5) but the list of available events to attend gave no indication that we were wrapping things up as far as “beer week” was concerned. I could not help but think back to an article I read while researching American Craft beer Week; at one point it was actually American Craft Beer Month! I can understand why they decided to cut back to a week, but I had to wonder how long an LA Beer Month would last. Luckily, there were lots of great events in my own backyard, so I kept it local.

I started Saturday off at Smog City Brewing in Torrance and their Rarest of the Rare and event that pulled in beer geeks from all over the LA and Orange Counties. Their owner, Porter, has a reputation for “hoarding” beers and he brought out a good number of them Saturday. There were barrel aged, sours, and collaboratives; there were 19 or 20 different brews in total. As I knew I had a long day ahead of me, I stuck to taking photos knowing I would return later.

A little later I headed over to El Segundo Brewing Company (ESBC) for their Hop Tanker DIPA Release Party. To celebrate LABW5 and the addition of Hop Tanker to their tap list, they brought out many of the different beers head brewer Rob Croxall has produced over the years. As expected, they had a great turnout so they opened up the entire brewery, utilizing taps in the front and rear as well as a separate filling station for growlers. Making special on cask appearances were Melon Collie, White Dog on Ogen heirloom melons; Blue Cubed, Blue House IPA with Sugar Cube heirloom melons; and Blue House IPA on peaches. Continue reading

LA Beer Week visit to Library Alehouse & San Pedro Brewing Company

I have some friends that just flew into LA from Paris, France to begin a road trip around the southwest; as they are fans of Craft Beer Guy and LA Beer Week (LABW5) is still going on they expressed a desire to go somewhere that served craft beer. Since they were staying in Santa Monica and I am not all that familiar with the gastropubs in the area, I put out a request for suggestions on my Facebook page; one of the suggestions was Library Alehouse, located at 2911 Main Street in Santa Monica.

The Library Alehouse looks pretty small from out front, but they have a pretty spacious patio in the back; if you have a party of more than two, that is probably the direction you want to head. They have a pretty respectable tap list and they do offer flights of four for $10; well, it is theoretically $10, but you have to be careful about the beers you choose as they can easily hit the $15 range. Our French guests both had the bison burger and really enjoyed it; we had the All-American and it was okay. It’s a burger, what can I say. I don’t spend a lot of time in Santa Monica, but I would not hesitate returning or recommending it to someone that wanted a good craft beer.

Since it was Friday and I had visited two of LA’s gold medal breweries the day before, I decided that I would head over to San Pedro and visit another award winning brewery, San Pedro Brewing Company (SPBC). SPBC is a brewpub nestled on 6th Street in San Pedro that has been in business since 1999. Back then there were a lot of “Brewcos” in the area with Manhattan Beach Brewing Company, Redondo Beach Brewing Company and San Pedro Brewing Company as just three of our local examples. It seems that most of them that opened back then either threw in the towel as far as brewing was concerned and became gastropubs, or they settled into a comfort zone and kept producing the same beers using the same recipes for years and years. SPBC is different in that they kept changing it up, being innovative and experimental, and the list of awards they have won under head brewer Jason Welke since they brought him on in 2006 shows that this is working for them. Continue reading

Day 8 of LA Beer Week: Champions and Judges

LA Beer Week (LABW5) plods along as Thursday was the eighth day of LA Beer Week; an 11 day event. I decided that since it is LA Beer Week I would be remiss if I did not attempt to try and visit all the gold medal winners that the Los Angeles area has produced. Okay, being completely honest, I was looking for a reason to visit Beachwood BBQ and Brewing in Long Beach and I remembered that they were gold medal winners at the Great American Beer Festival so I decided that I needed to dedicate a portion of this week to the brewers that help make LA the pLAce for craft beer.

The fact of the matter is that I need very little in the way of excuses to drive down to Long Beach; however there was one with the recent release of Mind Melder IPA, a collaboration with Drake’s Brewing that I had yet to try. All I can say is that I am really looking forward to some of the South Bay’s brewers doing some collaboration brews with each other and I think Beachwood’s head brewer Julian Shrago is close enough to be included with that group. Since I had ordered an IPA flight, none of which are award winners (yet), we put together a combination of two of their gold medal winners; Udder Love, 2012 Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and Foam Top, 2012 World Beer Cup. It won’t be long before one of their IPAs brings home gold.

After a quick stop to another GABF gold medal winning brewery, Smog City Brewing, I headed out to Four Points by Sheraton for a panel on “Do you want to be a beer judge?” The panel was moderated by Tomm Carroll of Celebrator Beer News and consisted of a panel of high-ranked, certified Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) judges. The panelists included Bruce Brode (Master rank, Maltose Falcons home brew club); Carl Townsend (National rank, Pacific Gravity home brewers club); and Jim Wilson (Grand Master II rank, Strand Brewers Club). The purpose of the event was to explain the BJCP program and what you would need to know to become a certified judge. Ever since I went to the Pacific Brewers Cup two weeks ago I have been thinking that I would like to expand my beer horizons more, by at least learning what it is judges look for in each style. Continue reading

LA Beer Week tasting dinner at The Brewery at Abigaile

Over the past year or so I have been invited to attend several beer events that involved pairing various foods with different beers. Sometimes it seems like there was not a lot of thought put into the combinations and then there are pairings like the LA Beer Week (LABW5) Beer Tasting Dinner put on by The Brewery at Abigaile brewpub on Wednesday evening. It really shows what can happen when you have a chef like Tin Vuong who not only prepares unique menus with global flavors; but also enjoys craft beers.

I will admit that there have been times that I have opted for an entree that conflicted with my choice of beer; primarily due to a sauce or seasoning that was so hot that I might as well be drinking Bud Light because my taste buds had lost all sensitivity; last night’s dinner eliminated all risks as Chef Tin’s menu melded perfectly with the beers provided by The Brewery at Abigaile’s Brian Brewer. Our menu included Wit Cured Wild Salmon paired with Tangerine Honey Wit, a Belgian-style witbier; Mary’s Chicken Milanese paired with Sir Charles Mild, an English-style brown mild; an amazing Duck Confit paired with Sticky Fingers IPA; Braised Oxtail with Flat Iron paired with their Nihilist DIPA; with Perfection in a Glass beer float for dessert. It was made with Sarsaparilla and their Black Mass Porter. Brian also brought out some of his Black Mass Porter that has been aging in rye whiskey barrels for the past four months and it is delicious.

If you enjoy beer and food tastings, I recommend following The Brewery at Abigaile’s Facebook page so you can be kept in the loop. They do these on a pretty regular basis and I know there are more planned for the near future. When you have an executive chef like Tin Vuong combining his skills with a brewer like Brian Brewer only good things can happen and you do want to be a part of it. Trust me on that one.

The Brewery at Abigaile is located at 1301 Manhattan Avenue in Hermosa Beach; that is the northwest corner of Manhattan Avenue and Pier Avenue. They even have free parking in the underground structure at their location. Cheers! Continue reading

Goose Island migrates to Rock & Brews PCH

Anyone is the LA area that has been paying any attention to the craft beer scene has probably noticed that the name “Goose Island” has been appearing at more local locations than ever before. Goose Island Beer Company originated in Chicago, IL in 1988. While they may not have been well known out here, Goose Island is most certainly a popular craft beer brand that I would notice in my travels around the mid-west. In 2011 AB-InBev, parent company of Anheuser-Busch, acquired Goose Island; one might guess that with the additional revenue behind them, Goose Island was now made available in all 50 states. In fact, Goose Island is having migration campaigns around the country. Last night I attended the Rock & Brews PCH LA Beer Week Goose Island Craft Beer Dinner, a five course meal paired with eight varieties of Goose Island brews.

This was my first visit to Rock & Brews PCH, so I was looking forward to seeing how it compared to their El Segundo location. At first glance it seemed like the El Segundo location might be a little more spacious, but it is close. Noticeably missing from the PCH location is the electronic scoreboard that lists all of the available beers on tap so I am not really sure how they handle making the available rotating taps known, but they do have a very extensive printed menu of draught and bottled beers that are always available. They also have a few tables that have four beer taps with lines going directly back to the cooler so you can serve yourself. Each table has its own combination of beer but I did not get a chance to really investigate the combinations. That idea definitely has potential. I guess what really surprised me was the food.

As a firm believer of the “happy wife, happy life” policy, I have never really looked at the food menu at Rock & Brews; primarily because I was there for the beer and Tanya and I are just going to split the food anyway, so whatever she wants is fine with me. She really likes their Chicago dog and it is big enough for the two of us so that is pretty much what we always order. Since last night was a 5-course meal, I had an opportunity to try some of their other offerings; Strawberry Fields Salad, Asian Wings, Bleu Cheese Bacon Burger, Pulled Pork Pizza and Purple Rain Drops for dessert. We were stuffed by the end and I think I found a couple substitutes for the Chicago dog as I really enjoyed the salad and wings a lot.

For the pairings they had two options with Goose Island’s classic or vintage craft beers. The beers sampled, in order, were 312 Urban Wheat Ale or Matilda Lambicus, Harvest Ale or vintage Matilda, India Pale Ale (IPA) or Pere Jacques, Honker’s Ale and Sofie Paradisi. While Goose Island may have been acquired by a corporate giant of the beer world, it is apparent that their 25 years of brewing craft beers will result in interesting brews for years to come. I asked someone in attendance last night, that works for Anheuser-Busch, what Goose Island’s plan is as far as experimental batches were concerned and he told me that Goose Island still tweaks their brews and those experimental batches will be shipped around the country to be found in the better gastropubs and bottle shops as well as the Goose Island brewpubs. Cheers! Continue reading

LA Beer Week – “Meet the Brewer” Open House at Abigaile

A few days ago I was at the LA Beer Bloggers Summit and one of the panelist made a comment about how some beer blogs come across as “cheerleaders” and they never have anything negative to say about anyone. I thought about it and in retrospect, thought I did a pretty good job about spreading the love and not really showing favoritism beyond favoring IPAs. As far as negative reviews are concerned, I do not have time for them; it is that simple. That being said, it is really tough to not be a cheerleader when it comes to The Brewery at Abigaile, located at Abigaile in Hermosa Beach.

It is hard for me to believe that I have only known about The Brewery at Abigaile for a mere 16 months. I remember with specificity the first time I learned of them and my first visit there. The Brewery at Abigaile is the only brewery in Hermosa Beach and they set the bar when it comes to brewpubs. In addition to the five beers that will be brewed in-house, they have a very interesting food menu and a great guest tap list as well as offering a variety of wines and a full cocktail bar. In my opinion, it is one of the South Bay’s best kept craft beer secrets. If you have the opportunity to visit Hermosa Beach, I highly encourage you to visit The Brewery at Abigaile.

For LA Beer Week (LABW5) Abigaile held a “Meet the Brewer” open house on Monday evening. Abigaile usually has a couple open houses every year as owner, Jed Sanford put it, to show his appreciation to all those that spend time there. The free food and beer samplings were enjoyed by all; including a couple of gentleman that came all the way from India to join the festivities. Yeah, The Brewery at Abigaile is that good. Continue reading

Oktoberfest: More than a style of beer

Sunday was day 4 of LA Beer Week (LABW5) and as I did not feel inclined to go out to Union Station I decided to take a little ride around the South Bay. My friends at Alpine Village in Torrance told me about a Street Toys car show they were having in conjunction with Sunday’s Oktoberfest festivities, so I pointed my bike out that way. After an hour or so of photographing cars I headed into the big tent they hold Oktoberfest in.

Alpine Village has been having Oktoberfest there for the past 46 years which makes it the largest and longest running Oktoberfest celebration this side of the Rockies. If you have never been, it is a lot of fun. They sell Warsteiner Oktoberfest and Pilsener as well as PBR in the big tent as well as brats and pretzels and other good German snacks to go along with your beer. They have oompah bands, the Chicken Dance and lots of general insanity on Friday and Saturday nights. These photos were from early Sunday, so you can see it is okay to bring your kids, they will have a good time too. You can find out more about the 46th Annual Oktoberfest and purchase tickets online by visiting the Alpine Village website.

Since it was a nice day and it was LA Beer Week, I decided to take a ride out to El Segundo and see what was happening at El Segundo Brewing Company. I had to try that Casa Azul again. Cheers! Continue reading

LA Beer Blogger Summit #7 at Angel City Brewery

Saturday afternoon I headed out to Los Angeles and visited Angel City Brewery as they were hosting the LA Beer Bloggers Summit #7; a networking event made up of beer bloggers from all over LA and Orange County. This is the third one I have attended and each gathering seems to be larger than the last. This particular event we were treated to a short talk by head brewer Dieter Foerstner who told us a little about his LA Beer Week (LABW5) release, Honey Chrysanthemum Ale, and how he was able to purchase the tea at the Japanese market across the street from the brewery and how he got his honey from a local source that never considered using honey in beer. After Dieter’s talk and some samples of their Scrumdiddlyumptious Brown Ale they had a panel moderated by John Verive of Beer of Tomorrow with panelists Tomm Carroll, LA correspondent for The Celebrator; Sarah Bennett, a writer for LA Weekly and Beer Paper LA; and Whitson Gordon, the Editor in Chief of Lifehacker.com. It was interesting and I know I got some ideas on the direction I should take with this craft beer adventure.

It was my first time visiting Angel City Brewery and I must admit I was not expecting what I discovered. The place is huge and quite photogenic, I could spend some time wandering around and catching interesting sights. My one disappointment was self inflicted; for some reason I did not even ask about flights until after I ordered a pint, so I only got to try two of the eight they had on tap. I guess I have no choice but to go back there and try again. Angel City Brewery is located at 216 South Alameda in Los Angeles. They do not serve food, but they have food trucks that stop by; you might want to look around at one of the nearby restaurants though as they allow you to bring food in and have plenty of tables to enjoy your food and beer at.

On the way home we stopped by to check out the crowd at Smog City Brewing. Cheers! Continue reading

Day two of LA Beer Week #5 – Drinking local

Friday was day two of the 5th Annual LA Beer Week (LABW5) and since I knew that there would be plenty of driving involved over the duration of LA Beer Week (which runs through September 29), I decided I would take the bike and dedicate today to the Torrance microbreweries, Strand Brewing Company, Monkish Brewing Company and Smog City Brewing Company. However, I did make one exception; this morning King Harbor Brewing Company (KHBC) had some of their tanks delivered so I popped over to get a few shots. I can only guess the move went smoothly because when I returned an hour or so later, they were gone. KHBC is really making progress; just a few more months until it is beer.

I began my tour of the Torrance microbrewery tasting rooms with a visit to the oldest of the Torrance microbreweries, Strand Brewing Company. While they are probably best known for their Atticus IPA and Beach House Amber Ale, I think their Second Sleep Imperial Russian Stout is one of their best beers. Today they tapped a cask that has been oak barrel aged for the last six months; it is delicious. If you are in the neighborhood I highly recommend it (if it is still available).

I then headed over to the second oldest microbrewery in Torrance, Monkish Brewing Company. Monkish Brewing specializes in Belgian style ales and has 10-12 different varieties with everything from singles and saisons to dubbels and tripels. He has a new single hopped Belgian pale called Galaxy Defender that I, as a hophead, find amazing. They now have something for everyone.

I ended my journey at the newest of the Torrance microbrewery tasting rooms, Smog City Brewing. The one thing I can count on about Smog City Brewing is that even if I go there every week, every week they will have something new to try. There is always an “experimental” on tap and today it was their Grape Ape IPA. The grapes really made it different from any of the IPAs I have tried from Smog City thus far. They are also offering their Bloody Knuckle porter which is the base beer for their award winning Groundwork Coffee Porter. I would like to try the two of them in a blind taste test; it was very good. Cheers! Continue reading

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