Friday, August 22, 2014

Dispatches from the BBC: There Finally Is a There Here

The first of what will hopefully be more than one post from the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference in San Diego, California.

Of her hometown of Oakland, California, Gertrude Stein famously remarked, "There is no there there." The same could be said of the craft beer scene in Los Angeles. During my last visit in 2009, I searched high and low for a brewery anywhere in this sprawling megalopolis of nearly four million souls. The result was a big, fat goose egg. Could hardly even find a decent beer bar. This, in the largest city in the very state that launched the American beer renaissance? There really was no there here, and most Angelenos didn't seem to notice or care.

I'm happy to report the situation has changed in the past few years, as I got to see during a pre-conference excursion around several of the City of the Angels' new and growing breweries. First up was Golden Road Brewing Co., situated in an industrial campus located somewhere in a lot of traffic. (Seriously, man, the traffic here.)

Founded in 2011 by twentysomething and former Oskar Blues rep Meg Gill, Golden Road has enjoyed explosive growth in its three short years. With her partner Tony Yabow, Gill expects to produce 30,000 barrels this year at a multi-building facility that now employs 115 people, who do everything from brewing and packaging to marketing and logistics to running the large and busy pub.

Golden Road produces a variety of different beers, from a tart, 2.8% ABV Berliner Weisse (yes!) to a nicely hopped and toasty brown ale named Get Up Offa That Brown in honor of James Brown. (Because why not?) Not everything we tried I found to be wonderful; in particular, their flagship Point the Way IPA puzzled me with its thin body and utter lack of any nose – presumably it was designed to be a "gateway" beer into some of the brewery's other, more aromatic and flavorful IPAs, like Wolf Among Weeds, an 8% ABV brew with the requisite Simcoe and Columbus resiny stank.

We also got to sample, straight off the impressive new multimillion-dollar canning line, the soon-to-be-released Might As Well IPL, Golden Road's take on the suddenly hot trend of hoppy lagers.

Golden Road's beers are distributed up and down almost the entire breadth of the Golden State, and in select locales in Las Vegas. Once they're running at their current capacity, they expect to be producing 80,000 barrels a year. Not bad for a place that didn't exist just a couple years ago.

Next we made our way (slowly) to downtown-ish L.A. and the ghetto chic Angel City Brewery. Located in a hundred-year-old building that used to manufacture components to build some of the world's largest suspension bridges, this place is a beer hipster's paradise. All the trappings are here, from the graffiti art to the food carts stationed outside to the sprawling loft bar and lounge to the ping-pong devotees rocking the game area.

But Angel City isn't all affectation – they're serious about their beer. Head brewer and Arizona transplant Dieter Foerstner knows his way around an IPA, as evidenced by flagship brew Angeleno IPA, but he also likes to experiment with different ingredients, producing an interesting Avocado Ale, which pretty much tasted like a pleasant cream ale with just a hint of vegetative umami. (The avocado, Dieter explained, was harvested from his 92-year-old grandmother's ranch.) We also tried the delicious Eureka! California Witbier and a very vanilla-y Vanilla Porter, which I don't think had a name.

Of most interest was the rooftop garden, which used recycled materials (including spent grains) to sprout hop varietals as well as a host of other veggies and featured nice views of downtown L.A. Right now the space needs a lot of work and is inaccessible to the public, but Dieter anticipates plans to put a bar and pub space up there eventually.

Angel City produces about 5,000 barrels a year, all of which is sold in bottle or draft form exclusively in the Los Angeles area. Angel City has no particular plans to expand outside of the metro region. Dieter says it's all they can do just slaking the thirst of one of the most populous cities in the country.

We also went to three other area breweries, which I'll chronicle in part two of this post because it's time for me to get downstairs for the opening luncheon of the conference.

No comments:

Post a Comment