Advocating for LAX-treme Beer
The City of Angels continues to establish itself as one of the world-class craft beer centers in the U.S. The latest proof of this claim is L.A.’s choice as the location for the first BeerAdvocate Extreme Beer Fest to be held outside of BA’s home base in Boston — let alone the first of the largest global online beer community’s many festivals not to be held on the East Coast. Sponsored by longtime EBF supporter Sam Calagione and his Dogfish Head Craft Brewery of Rehoboth Beach, Del., Extreme Beer Fest Los Angeles — “the ultimate throwdown of craft beer creativity” — comes to the California Market Center in downtown L.A. on December 9.
So, why Los Angeles? The Celebrator asked Todd Alström, who, with his brother Jason, launched the online grassroots beer community, BeerAdvocate.com, in Beantown in 1996 (making it now old enough to legally drink!).
“Extreme Beer Fest is our signature concept, and we really wanted to expand it,” Todd explained. “When we were looking at locations, we realized that L.A. was one of our top demographics for not only our website users but for BeerAdvocate magazine subscriptions, so it made sense from that point of view.”
Also, the Alström brothers really like the L.A. scene. “Despite it being one the largest cities in the world, it’s still a little bit behind everyone else in terms of [craft beer] growth,” Todd continued. “It’s still growing, of course, and it’s happening very quickly, but it feels different. A lot of other cities are well-established craft beer towns and have a lot of history. Not so much L.A., which brings a very fresh attitude. It’s exciting and nothing but love. And the quality of the beer is really high, too. It was all these little things kinda taken together …”
In fact, Todd, the less hirsute and more talkative of the Alströms — making him the lead BeerAdvocator (now that’s a name for a doppelbock!) — was so impressed with Los Angeles that he’s now a denizen. “We loved it so much here that we didn’t just want to come out to do a fest and then leave,” he said. “So my family and I, who were in Boston for the longest time and then moved to Denver for a while, decided, ‘Why not just make the jump and go all the way to the West Coast and do L.A. as well?’” Todd, his wife and two-year-old daughter made the transition earlier this year.
“Dogfish is super-proud to be the founding and ongoing sponsor of BeerAdvocate’s Extreme Beer Fest in both L.A. and Boston,” Calagione told the Celebrator. “It warms my heart to see adventurous, creative brews from so many intrepid, indie craft breweries gaining traction and creating excitement across the beer landscape. I can’t wait to get behind my booth and pour at EBFLA!”
Extreme Beer Fest Los Angeles is also benefiting the local craft community. “When we were looking at California early on for a location, we discovered that one of the requirements of doing a fest here is that you have to work with a nonprofit organization,” Todd revealed. “Every state’s different; that’s the first time we had to deal with that. So, when looking at nonprofits, we figured, ‘Why not give back to the industry we’re helping to promote — and the local scene especially?’”
Mutual friends put the Alströms together with Frances Lopez, executive director of the Los Angeles Brewers Guild. They hit it off, and the LABG is the fest’s nonprofit partner. “It just made sense,” Todd confirmed. “We’re very excited, not only to be hosting the event in L.A., but also that it benefits one of the top brewers guilds in the country — and a lot of that is owed to Franny’s hard work; she is really kicking ass!”
For her part, Lopez wrote in a post on the LABG website: “We are thrilled to align with an organization that has the integrity to take a transparent and defined stance on issues that resonate in our communities. We can think of no better way to show that L.A. beer has finally joined the ranks of world-class brewing talent.”
Over 200 beers from more than 60 brewers (most from the U.S., and many of them local) will be featured over the two sessions of Extreme Beer Fest L.A., and all booths will be manned by brewery staff.
BeerAdvocate defines extreme beer as “a beer that pushes the boundaries of brewing.” According to Todd, that definition developed over the course of EBFs, which have been held annually in Boston since 2004. “The perception had become that it was beer that was strong, but we had to change people’s minds,” he says. “Extreme beer defines modern American brewing in many ways.” On Dogfish Head’s Project Extreme Brewing website, Calagione describes extreme beer as “creative brews, innovation, brewing outside the Reinheitsgebot …”
Project Extreme Brewing is also the name of a new book by Calagione and the Alströms, inspired by over a dozen years of EBFs and featuring recipes for professional and homebrewed beers that fit the definition. The book was published in mid-November, accompanied by book-signing events around the country and a six-part Web series on YouTube.
For each EBF, the Alströms and Calagione collaborate on a beer, and the L.A. fest is no exception. Based on a Christmas pudding recipe by Todd’s taciturn sibling, Jason, the 10.5% Puddin’ Wine is, in Calagione’s words, “a traditional English-style barley wine, but on steroids … with the additions of both fruit and Christmas-y spicings.”
And you can taste it on December 9 at L.A.’s first (and likely annual) Extreme Beer Fest. For the beer list, more information and tickets, visit BeerAdvocate.com/extreme/los-angeles/tickets.
L.A. brewers held their own at the increasingly competitive GABF awards this year, again mining seven medals (eight, if you count Pabst’s) despite California’s overall tally decreasing. However, there was only one gold medal among them, and it went to the reigning winningest L.A. brewery, Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, whose sibling, Beachwood Blendery, also medaled. All other breweries were first-time GABF winners. Reportedly, 40 L.A. Brewers Guild member breweries entered beers. The winners were as follows.
Gold: Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, Hoppa Emeritus (American-Style Black Ale).
Silver: HopSaint Brewing, Pure Intention Pale Ale (Australian-Style or International-Style Pale Ale); Sanctum Brewing, Solar (Munich-Style Helles); and Three Weavers Brewing, Seafarer (German-Style Koelsch).
Bronze: Ohana Brewing, Spa Water Saison (Field Beer); Beachwood Blendery, Dia de los Mangos (Chili Beer); and Claremont Craft Ales, Jacaranda Rye IPA (English-Style IPA).
In case you were wondering, L.A.-headquartered Pabst Brewing’s PBR won silver in the American-Style Lager or Malt Liquor category for the second year in a row.
As usual, hardly a month goes by without a new brewery opening in Los Angeles County. The husband-and-wife team of Levi Fried and Harmony Sage hatched Long Beach Beer Lab at the end of August. This fermentation-forward, 10-barrel brewery and sourdough bakery, which includes a taproom (open Thursday through Monday), is in the Wrigley neighborhood of Long Beach.
Nearby, in Signal Hill, the father-and-son partnership of Dan and Jesse Sundstrom built most of the 10-barrel brewery themselves for their Ten Mile Brewing Company, a family-owned and -staffed brewery and taproom (open Wednesday through Sunday) that debuted in mid-September.
Monrovia’s Hop Secret Brewing, a seven-barrel brewery and attached tasting room (open daily), began business in mid-September as well and is conveniently located near the Monrovia stop on the Metro Gold Line. Owner and brewmaster is Gary Gates, formerly the financial officer for the Pasadena Fire Department.
Also, in what could be considered another “anticraft craft beer” — not unlike the SoCal-based but Denver-brewed House Beer (the name of the company and the lager), which launched several years ago — comes 24 Hour Beer, a contract beer brand from Ring the Alarm, an L.A. music-related advertising and licensing company. In mid-September, the group unveiled Day Beer, an “easy-drinking,” 4.5% lager developed and brewed by Will Shelton (formerly of the Shelton Brothers distributors) at his new DTLA brewery called Concrete Jungle.
Ji-biiru (Japanese for “craft beer”) comes to L.A.! Not a brewery, but an izakaya (a casual Japanese gastropub), Harajuku Taproom L.A. opened in Culver City in late October. The first U.S. location of Japan’s Baird Brewing’s chain of six taprooms throughout the Land of the Rising Sun, Harajuku — named for the Baird taproom in the eponymous neighborhood of Tokyo’s popular Shibuya district — features a dozen of Baird’s year-round beers, plus seasonals and a few local guest beers, all tappu suru (on tap)!
Proprietor Adam Guttentag, who has worked and traveled in Japan for years, is good friends with American Bryan Baird and his wife, Sayuri — founders of Baird Brewing in Numazu, Japan, in 2000 — and collaborated with them to bring their taproom concept, as well as omotenashi (Japanese hospitality), to Southern California. Kanpai!
Soon To Come
By the time you read this, a new craft beer bar called The Empire Tavern should be open on North San Fernando Boulevard in Burbank, where the dive bar Jimmy’s Place used to be. Dave Ochoa, a member of the Yeastside Brewers homebrew club, is the owner, and he promises two dozen taps of local, domestic and international brews.
Hopefully by now, Gardena’s State Brewing Company also will have its long-awaited taproom approved and open for business. Until then, it is open for occasional Crowler fills only.
Hizzoner Dizzoners Craft… Again
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti took some well-deserved crap from local craft brewers and beer fans back in late spring 2014 when he was shown on live TV celebrating the Los Angeles Kings’s Stanley Cup win by dropping the F-bomb and hoisting a bottle of AB InBev’s Bud Light (the real obscenity). Golden Road Brewing (then still independent) responded by sending him some of its beer, reminding him that L.A. had local beer he should have been seen drinking.
Flash-forward to the 2017 World Series, where the L.A. Dodgers met the Houston Astros for the championship. As has become tradition, the mayors of the competing teams’ hometowns make a wager in which the losing city will send food and beer, representative of its town, to the winner. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner promised to provide Killen’s BBQ and beer from the independently owned, Houston-based Saint Arnold Brewing Company, Texas’s oldest craft brewery. Meanwhile, Garcetti offered up Kogi BBQ and beer from (you guessed it) the now-owned-by-AB InBev Golden Road — again pissing off L.A.’s now-even-larger craft beer community!
You might think that at least he remembered to celebrate the beer sent to him by that brewery over three years ago — but then there also is the little fact that Anheuser-Busch and its foundation has donated $85,000 to the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles since 2015. Plus, Golden Road has its own stand-alone beer bar behind center field at Dodger Stadium.
Wonder if Meg Gill dresses up in a cute little AB InBev baseball outfit and carries an insulated backpack with a keg of Golden Road brew in it to dispense draught beer to the folks in the bleachers, like the Japanese biiru no uriko (beer girls) do in Japan’s ballparks?
Unfortunately, we lost the World Series. But now we look like sore losers because Houston, despite winning, is forced to drink pseudo–craft beer owned by a multinational corporation supposedly representative of L.A., instead of a mixed case of some of the best craft beers our independent breweries produce.
Strike two, Garcetti.