Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dispatches from the BBC: There Finally Is a There Here, Part 2

The second of what will hopefully be more than two posts from the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference in San Diego, California.

When last we left our intrepid explorer he had visited Golden Road Brewing and Angel City Brewery in Los Angeles. But that was not all the night held in store for this Midwestern naïf. At the time most respectable people were considering turning in for the evening, the bus of nocturnal adventure was hurtling him toward destiny, in the form of The Bruery's barrel warehouse.

This place is in the middle of some dark, nondescript, industrial park nowheresville in Anaheim. Mickey Mouse doesn't even know where it is. As someone on the bus said, "This is where you go to dump bodies." Yet Cambria Griffith and the Bruery crew left the light on for us in the inky blackness, just like the unnamed woman in Hotel California welcomed Don Henley's narrator for the night.

OK, no, this was not a sinister occasion. It was more like a sour beer rave in a secret location that only the cool kids knew about. Yeah, beer bloggers as cool kids. Who knew? As they explained, "We brought you here because we knew you've already gone on plenty of brewery tours, and all the stainless stuff looks the same." Indeed. Wood barrels are prettier, and so are the beers within.

We sampled various and sundry wonders, including a year-old Sour in the Rye Ale straight from the barrel, which was cool but truth be told had some solventy acetone character to it. For me, the winners of the night were the bottles of Sour in the Rye with Kumquats, which a few lucky bastards got to try during my birthday sourfest in June, and Sour in the Rye with Coconut and Pineapple, which didn't initially sound appealing to me but in reality was awesome. Their sours are so awesome, in fact, The Bruery is actually separating their entire sour program from their "regular" beers, to be marketed under the new Bruery Terreux label. You heard it here first. Probably.

Despite my efforts to hide somewhere under a barrel and wait for the lights to go off and everyone else to leave, I was bounced back out to the bus to travel to our next stop, Smog City Brewing in Torrance, a 'burb that is apparently where you should open a brewery around here because there's cheaper property and less government assholery to deal with. Co-founder and owner Laurie Porter enthusiastically greeted us at yet another nondescript industrial parky place and gave us a tour of the austere brewery. 

This is the part of the night where being awake for 20 hours straight after only two hours of sleep the night before really began to catch up with me, so, like, they had stainless steel and barrels full of beer and stuff. They also had a Coffee Porter, which to my taste was too much coffee and not enough porter, but their Little Po Pils was decent. Laurie expressed an interest in building the Smog City brand as "the" L.A. brewery, but I'd say they have a real uphill climb against the aggressive growth and marketing of Golden Road (see part one).

We wrapped up our night at Monkish Brewing, totally putting the lie to Missing Persons' insistence that nobody walks in L.A. (rawr, Dale Bozzio) by walking there from Smog City. Of course, it's technically Torrance, so never mind. It's a pity I was at my slappiest and most exhausted when we visited this joint, because I think they actually had the best beers of the evening (well, probably after The Bruery's). There was no presentation or anything special when we arrived because it was so late, but I later learned co-founder and brewer Henry Nguyen had gone to divinity school before realizing that what God actually wanted was for him to make beer. This background was reflected in the old salvaged church pew in the tasting room and the looping Jesus-esque videos playing on the monitor. 

But, man, the beers were really good, from the Sem-I Della Vita tripel with pistachios and vanilla to the not-yet-released Arrivant, a farmhouse-style ale brewed with rye, dry-hopped with Santiam, and fermented with Brettanomyces. They wouldn't sell me a bottle of that, so I settled for grabbing a Selah, their Brett farmhouse dry-hopped with Mosaic, Galaxy, and Sorachi Ace (!). (Local friends, look for it at next year's sourfest, if the TSA doesn't steal or destroy it on my way home.) The surroundings were unimpressive, but if you're ever in the area of an otherwise completely unremarkable L.A. suburb, check it out.

This is the part where I would normally write some kind of pithy conclusion about everything, but it's two in the morning West Coast time, which my body translates as 5 a.m., so, like, whatever, I'm going to bed now. Beer.

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