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Shane Kral

A Review of LA Beer Week 2015

LABW7 schedule

Unity release at Smog City Brewing

It has been a week or so now since LA Beer Week 2015 (LABW7) and I think I am ready to give a review of the “week-long” event. I say “week-long” because LABW7 officially ran from June 20-28 but some venues started celebrating early and others ended on the 27th. Heck, Smog City Brewing held their Unity (the official beer of LA Beer Week) bottle release on the Wednesday before, and Absolution Brewing released their LA Beer Week brew, AD/JD on Thursday. No matter when you started, it was a very long week with some very good beers to be found. There are a few events I attended but did not write about; if you want to see those photos please visit my Facebook page.

The LA Beer Week Kickoff Party was held Saturday, June 20 at Exposition Park. I have to be honest, even though I have been documenting LA Beer Week since LABW4 in 2012 I have never attended any of their kickoff events. This was due primarily to preconceived misconceptions of what a madhouse it would be; plus I really do not like driving to DTLA. On the Wednesday before the kickoff party I happened to notice an email that came in from Absolution Brewing to members of their Mug Club in which they were offering VIP tickets to the first five “Muggers” that asked for them. I asked Tanya if she wanted to go and she responded immediately with, “No!.” This was because I had been saying we were not going for the past week, so I think she was just making sure I knew she was okay with it.

As I was going to the Torrance City Hall that night anyway for a Planning Commission hearing and Absolution was basically on the way home, it was decided that we would stop by after the Planning Commission hearing and see if any passes were still available. In other words, I was going to let others have an opportunity to score the passes before me. We showed up to Absolution shortly before they closed and no one had claimed any of the passes, so we decided to attend the kickoff.

Absolution Brewing staff

Thank you to Absolution Brewing for the VIP passes

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

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

Road to the Firestone Walker Invitational

This past Friday morning I decided to start working my way north for the 4th Annual Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival in Paso Robles. I left a little early as I was going to take the 101 and try to find a brewery that I had yet to visit. I had posted on the Craft Beer Guy Facebook page asking for suggestions and one of my followers and personal acquaintances, Charles Mumford, recommended a few, but the one that I knew would be open at the same time I was in the area was Rincon Brewery, a brewpub located in Carpinteria.

I arrived just before noon and their outside patio seemed packed with customers enjoying the warm sunshine. As I entered I noticed that they had about 10 of their own brews and several guest taps. It was a nice looking room with a surfer vibe, which should probably be expected considering the name Rincon and its proximity to the beach. To the left I noticed a large window that displayed the brewery on the other side. Since I was traveling solo this trip, I decided I would just get one flight and ordered their Bates Blond Belgian Style Blond, Indicator IPA, 17 @17 IPA and Rivermouth Stout. All four were solid beers and made me think they must have been open for years because things seem pretty dialed in, especially considering they were offering 10 varieties.

The beertender, who happened to be co-owner Alma Billgren, noticed I was taking photos and asked who I was shooting for. When I told her she suggested I meet their brewer, another co-owner, Shaun Crowley. He invited me back to the brewhouse and told me a little of their history and his own. Apparently they have only been open a little more than six months, which really surprised me. Crowley later informed me that he and Billgren had met while working at Island Brewing Company where he was the head brewer. While there, he took home medals at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival and got the desire to open his own place. Continue reading

National Beer Day 2015 with Firestone Walker’s Traveling Oak

Tuesday, April 7 is National Beer Day which commemorates when prohibition on beer was lifted on April 7, 1933. To commemorate this milestone event, I accepted an invitation from the Yard House in Long Beach to attend an event they were having in conjunction with Firestone Walker. Firestone Walker had a very limited release of their Traveling Oak which is Parabola aged in oak barrels that originally aged Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbon for over 10 years and then were used to age Del Maguey Mezcal. After that, Firestone Walker’s Master Brewer, Matt Brynildson got a hold of them. The Parabola was added and aged for a year. To say it was different would be an understatement; pretty much everyone said they really enjoyed it.

Now, I visit Yard House at various times, usually because they are somewhere close that I know is going to have something I like. If I go to Staples, there is a pretty good chance I am stopping at Yard House. What I did not understand was why a limited release beer, that they say will never be made again, would only be made available at six locations in the country (Boston (Fenway), Denver (Downtown), Long Beach, CA, Portland, OR and Seattle), and they are all Yard House locations. Well, Yard House, in addition to having what must be a couple hundred taps of craft beers from around the world, also have a few house brews. While they are currently contract brewing with Uinta Brewing Company out of Salt Lake City, Firestone Walker brewed their beers beforehand.

To help welcome the Traveling Oak, Firestone Walker Master Brewer, Matt Brynildson was spotted serving snifters to customers while such beerlebrities as Firestone’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Dave Macon and Regional Sales Manager, Shane Kral chatted to the fans that showed up. As there is just a small amount of Traveling Oak available for each location, I do not know if they blew the keg or not; but I would not expect it to last past Wednesday if it makes it through the night. Like I said, they have a couple hundred taps so if it is gone, do not despair; I am sure they will have something you like. If you live in one of the cities I named above, check out your local Yard House to see when Traveling Oak is traveling there. Continue reading

Firestone Walker Tap Takeover at Library Alehouse

On Thursday evening, Firestone Walker’s Regional Sales Manager Shane Kral hosted an OAKstravaganza tap takeover at Library Alehouse in Santa Monica. If you have seen any of my previous articles on the Firestone Walker tap takeovers I have attended, you know that Kral knows how to takeover a craft beer bar and last night was no exception.

With selections from Firestone Walker and Barrelworks, there really was something for everyone. Library Alehouse set up three flights for those that wanted samples over full pours. There was the “Pucker Up” consisting of Agrestic, Lil Opal and Bretta Weisse. They also offered the “What’s the Darkest Beer You Have?” made up of XVIII Anniversary, Parabola, Velvet Merkin and Velvet Merlin Mocha. The third flight was the “Stop (Barley) Whining” made up of Stickee Monkee, Double DBA and Sucaba. In addition, the Library Alehouse provided food pairing suggestions to go along with the flights. If that was not enough, with every flight purchased a raffle ticket was given for several drawings Kral had giving away a lot of Firestone Walker and Barrelworks swag. As you can see by the smiles in the photos, everyone had a great time.

My understanding is that the next Firestone Walker tap takeover in the area will be in February at Naja’s Place in Redondo Beach; you will want to watch for that as it should have lots of special treats because Firestone really like Naja’s Place. I look forward to seeing you there. Cheers! Continue reading

Firestone Walker Tap Takeover at Brewco Manhattan Beach

When I was a young speed demon, racing fast cars and motorcycles, we had a saying; “there is no substitute for cubic inches.” I have come to the conclusion that in the craft beer world, specifically when it comes to tap takeovers, there is no substitute for experience. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy each of our local craft breweries and I attempt to go to as many of their tap takeovers as possible; but the oldest production brewery in the South Bay is Strand Brewing Company and they will be celebrating their fifth anniversary in December. Last night we headed to Brewco in Manhattan Beach for a Firestone Walker tap takeover and Firestone Walker Regional Sales Manager Shane Kral pretty much pulled all the stops with this one, featuring brews ranging from their 2011 Parabola to their XVIII Anniversary Ale.

This was a tap takeover that drew people from near and far as the tap list was something that you would have difficulty emulating without taking a trip to Firestone Walker’s Buellton or Paso Robles locations; even then it might prove difficult. In addition to Firestone’s core beers on tap, DBA, Union Jack, Pivo Pils and Velvet Merlin, they also offered 2011 Black Xantus, 2013 Double DBA, 2014 Agrestic, 2014 Velvet Merkin and the Firestone XVIII Anniversary Ale. For good measure there were bottles of 2011 Parabola and 2013 Sucaba also available. As if these were not enough, for dessert they offered Pazookis (a hot brownie cake) topped with Velvet Merlin Ice Cream crafted from Sweet Rose Creamery in Santa Monica. To say it was delicious would be like saying Union Jack is hoppy.

Since the main problem with an event like this is how to sample all these wonderful [and somewhat high-octane] brews in one sitting, Brewco created a couple flights for the occasion. The Lion and Bear Flight consisted of Pivo Pils, DBA, Union Jack and Agrestic. Their Vintage Flight was made up of tasters consisting of 2011 Black Xantus, 2013 Double DBA, 2014 Velvet Merkin and the 18th (XVIII) Anniversary Ale. Those that opted for full pours also got to bring their Firestone Walker glassware home with them. Rumor is that there are only one or two kegs of the 2011 Black Xantus left on the face of the earth, so that beer alone pretty much made this a one-of-a-kind event. Continue reading

Aloha Linda Fundraiser – A true craft beer mom

This article is a little different than most of the articles you will find here; but this is a special situation that I find deserving, and I hope you will as well. While you may not be familiar with the name “Aloha Linda” Aloha’s real name is Linda Kral and anyone familiar with the Southern California craft beer scene has probably heard the name Kral. Aloha Linda is the mother of Firestone Walker Head Brewer Dustin Kral and Firestone Walker’s Regional Sales manager, Shane Kral. It would be difficult to deny that she has had a direct influence on craft beer in Southern California and anywhere else Firestone Walker is sold.

In 2008 Aloha Linda was diagnosed with kidney cancer. In the beginning she was treated by doctors in the United States and Mexico with some success. About a year ago year ago she found out that the tumor was back and she began doing natural remedies to shrink and kill the tumor. She recently had another CAT Scan that showed a very large malignant mass 10.7cm (tumor) on her left kidney again; it has metastasized and may spread to surrounding tissue. The reason for this article is that tomorrow Aloha is scheduled for surgery to have the tumor and her kidney removed. As you can imagine, this is a very expensive procedure so her friends and family are asking for our help.

A fundraising campaign has been started by a friend of Aloha’s as well as her sons Shane and Dustin on MyEvent.com. MyEvent has been around for 11 years and is a secure way of making donations to the cause. If you choose to mail a donation to her instead, her address is:
Linda Kral, 2052 Newport Blvd. 6-234, Costa Mesa, CA. 92627.

Any donations, large or small would be appreciated. If you cannot afford a cash donation, spreading the word via your favorite social media platform would be appreciated by the entire family. You can find all the details at http://www.alohalinda.myevent.com/. Thank you in advance and good luck to Aloha Linda.

LA Beer Week 6 Day 5: Tap Takeovers at Simmzy’s & Naja’s Place

Wednesday was day five of the 2014 LA Beer Week and in the South Bay we had a tap takeover by Firestone Walker at Simmzy’s in Manhattan Beach and another by Allagash Brewing Company at Naja’s Place in Redondo Beach. We started off at Simmzy’s where Shane Kral, Regional Sales Manager at Firestone Walker hosted the event. In addition to the Firestone Double DBA, Union Jack, XVII Anniversary, Pivo Pils and Bretta Weiss, he also brought along Jeffers Richardson, the original brewmaster for Firestone Walker and the current Barrelmeister and Director of the Firestone Walker Barrelworks in Buellton. It was interesting to talk with him a little about Firestone Walker and their planned location in Culver City. As of now, look for that location to open sometime in the middle of 2015.

I have only visited Simmzy’s a few times, but I have always been impressed with their tap list and the food is pretty good too. We had a salad that was delicious but I admit I saw a coupe burgers come out of the kitchen that looked really good; I just do not know that my mouth would open wide enough to fit one in. Simmzy’s is located at 229 Manhattan Beach Boulevard in Manhattan Beach.

After leaving Simmzy’s we headed over to Naja’s Place in Redondo Beach where they were holding their Allagash Brewing Company tap takeover. This was a “must attend” event for any Allagash fan as Naja’s brought out several archived Allagash beers and Allagash brought some special beers that have never made it out here before. With 20 different taps pouring Allagash brews there was definitely something for everyone. Continue reading

Firestone Walker Takes Over LAX

If you are a fan of Firestone Walker Brewing Company, this was a great week to be close to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) as Shane Kral, Regional Sales Manager at Firestone Walker hosted two tap takeovers featuring several hard to find Firestone brews. This gallery covers both events; the first being held Wednesday evening at Brewster’s Beererie which is located in Four Points by Sheraton and the second held Thursday evening at the Tapas Bar located in the Whole Foods El Segundo.

Wednesday’s event at Brewster’s Beererie featured an amazing selection of Firestone Walker brews; Bretta Weisse, Agrestic and Pivo Hoppy Pils got us started which was followed by 2012 Double DBA, 2013 Sucaba, 2013 Velvet Merkin, Wookey Jack and Double Jack. In addition to these fantastic craft beers, attendees were able to take home a wide selection of Firestone Walker glassware. I had to donate some books to my local library to make room for all the new glassware additions.

While Wednesday evening selection of Firestone Walker delicacies might seem tough to beat, it was really just a warmup for what Shane brought to Whole Foods on Thursday. The event started off with Firestone’s Union Jack and Opal; then kicked it up a notch featuring a Parabola vertical flight with Parabola 2012, 2013 and 2014! I have to say, that alone would have made it a great event for the craft beer aficionado but that was just part of it. It turned out that the Whole Foods beer buyer, José, had somehow saved up some very select bottles that were sold at retail prices. Some were less expensive than if you drove to Buellton or Paso Robles. They had Firestone XV and XVII, 2014 Stickee Monkee, 2013 and 2014 Sucaba, 2013 and 2014 Parabola and 2013 Velvet Merkin available to take home; which we did. As if all this great beer was not enough, Firestone Walker’s own David Walker came out to meet some of Firestone’s fans, talking about their beers and the progress of the upcoming taproom and brewery in Venice. Continue reading

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