I would be remiss if I didn’t use LA Beer Week as an opportunity to crawl out from under my rock of procrastination and laziness. A rock that’s held me down for too long. A comparison to the resurrection of Jesus would be too strong, obviously, but I have risen. The gods of beer have awoken me from a long slumber and I am ready. My mind is still fuzzy but when a cold beer is placed in my hand or poured down my gullet I suddenly see clearly. That has happened.
LA Beer Week kicked off on June 20th and I’ve had the pleasure to sample some (if sample means downing multiple pints) of the finest that Southern California has to offer. As I write this I am drinking the very thirst quenching Golden Road 329 Lager from Golden Road Brewery in Glendale, CA.
Anyone who knows me however, knows I am a huge lover of IPA’s. But more than that I’m simply a fan of good beer. The craft beer scene has exploded in many areas of the U.S. and Los Angeles is no exception. There are too many good breweries to name them all, but I’m going to lay out a few and give my suggestions, and also my wish list. And maybe ask if beer has become a bit too complicated?
There are tons of events across the Southland this week but I started somewhat close to home. On Monday a friend and I went to City Tavern in Culver City. Personally I prefer bars that are little more down and dirty but this did the job for a Monday. We had a few good brews, but the winner on the night (first keg to tap out) was Ballast Point’s (San Diego) PINEAPPLE SCULPIN. I’m not one to prefer fruity variations or infusions but this was nice. The pineapple was very subtle. I usually like simple, hoppy, even bitter IPA’s, but this had a nice balance of sweet that made it a little smoother than the regular Sculpin. I didn’t say better, because in my opinion the Sculpin IPA is great as is.
El Segundo Brewing Co. (just south of LA, near LAX) is another one of the LA Beer Week participants. They have a new tap room that’s larger than the old one and they lay claim to the creation of some outstanding beers. Their IPA’s are delicious and they have a Citra Pale Ale that I plan on sampling tomorrow. They have an event on Saturday alongside Cascade Brewery of Portland. Obviously a huge craft beer scene up in Portland. You can get tickets to that here, assuming they haven’t sold out. Perfect Strangers Release – El Segundo
Damn, that Golden Road Lager went down easy. I’ve now moved on to drinking a Green Flash West Coast Double IPA. Another San Diego brewery. I don’t love this beer, I’m IN love with this beer. I would make love to it. It’s a perfect combination of hops, malty sweetness, and that IPA bitterness without too much bite. Green Flash Brewery is another participant in the week’s festivities.
Speaking of IPA’s, and sour ales for that matter — If you’re a fan of combining the two, Johnny’s Bar up in Eagle Rock has been pouring some excellent IPA’s and sours as a part of their “Punish The Palate Week.” LA Beer Week – Johnny’s Punish The Palate. Check it out.
Other great not yet mentioned participating breweries in the LA area you should try, if you havent already, are Phantom Carriage, Smog City, Eaglerock Brewery, and Ladyface, just to name a few. I also love Lagunitas from Petaluma, although not in the LA area it is an LA Beer Week participant. Their Czech Style Pilsner is fantastic, and the IPA’s are very good.
I must also mention a brewery, that although not a participant for whatever reason, holds a special place in my heart. That is Craftsman Brewing Company in Pasadena from founder/owner Mark Jilg. More specifically, a brew of his that I constantly crave is his 1903 Lager. I’m not one to ever lust after a lager, but this one is hoppy (for a lager), highly carbonated, and great. I don’t like to lay out a bunch of tasting notes, so I’ll just say this beer is refreshing and crisp and underrated. It’s not bottled, that I know of. It’s only available at a handful of restaurants/bars in Los Angeles. If I see it on tap, I order it.
That brings to light the only issue that I sometimes have with the craft beer scene. Like everything else that becomes successful or popular, craft beer has become so big and varied that many beers are selling themselves as craft beer when in fact they are not that craft. Yes, I know, a few of the aforementioned breweries could be considered not so craft. There is nothing wrong with becoming big and profitable like Ballast Point or Sierra Nevada but I think to differentiate their beers some companies have gone so extreme with their brews. It has complicated things a little.
I like trying a new coffee stout or wheat ale or whatever, but I also don’t want the simplicity of great beer to be lost. Sometimes on a hot day, or on a boat, or fishing, a small ice cold mug or can of light beer hits the spot more than anything. A 1903 lager perhaps, or do I dare say a Bud Light. I’m not afraid to say it. Not to say the 1903 is on the level of Bud Light. No, its far above that, but sometimes you want an ice cold easy drinking beer. A Sagres from Portugal maybe. Yes please! Not that there shouldn’t be variety, because I drink all sorts of different beers, but sometimes beers get undeserved attention because they are simply unique or different, and not necessarily that great.
So, as amazing as LA Beer Week is, and tasting all the different offerings from local breweries, I think it’s important to remember how to enjoy a simple beer. Or at least appreciate them. As with coffee, and food, and even spirits, sometimes the focus gets pulled to something because its new or different or a tiny sub group that is supposed to be rare. And then that is what people consider good. At least some of the beer “aficionados.” These new beers are great for tasting notes but often times they aren’t geared towards everyday drinking or even drinking more than one. So enjoy LA Beer Week and try all the great beers out there but keep an eye out for a tasty but simple lager or pilsner. Sometimes it’s harder to find than you might think.
I’m not saying drink cheap beer to be trendy, or that Pabst Blue Ribbon is good beer, but I think we can enjoy both the simple crisp lager and also the more complex craft brew without being a trader to the beer scene.
LA Beer Week Site for more info: LAbeerweek.org