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Phantom Carriage Brewery may have opened somewhat quietly last December, but this weekend they are making things official with a grand opening celebration that will bring beer lovers from all over to the lovely city of Carson. The brewery is one-of-a-kind as it focuses on barrel-aged wild ales, and they do it well – really darn well.

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I’ve already started to have the stress dreams – waking up too late in the morning to buy tickets, having to jump through crazy, dream-like hoops and challenges to get a ticket, only to end up not getting a ticket and being SO disappointed I could actually feel my heart breaking. But it’s just a dream! Tickets for the 2015 Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival are going on sale very, very soon – February 8 at 9am.

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For the October issue of Beer Paper LA, I wrote an article on one of many brew days at Monkish Brewing in Torrance for the new Sunset Beer Company anniversary beer collaboration. This is that story – elaborated, elongated and with a couple of more photos. Look out for the article in the latest issue releasing after October 4 around Southern California craft beer spots. My thanks to Aaron Carroll and John Verive of Beer Paper LA for their guidance and for the opportunity.

When Monkish Brewing first opened, co-founder Henry Nguyen would drive kegs and boxes of his beers all the way from the Torrance location up to accounts like Sunset Beer Company in Echo Park. Although Nguyen no longer self-distributes, the relationship he had developed with the Echo Park bottle shop led  Sunset Beer Company manager Jeff Sapsford to ask Nguyen to help them do something they’ve never done before: brew an official Sunset Beer Company beer.

The two teams have been meeting up over the past few weeks at the Torrance brewery for brew days, during which Sunset Beer employees have helped with the brewing process from mashing in to cleaning, bottling and kegging. Brewing in this size of a brewery takes some effort, so it’s helpful to have the extra hands although I was happy to stand aside and let the staff rake out all the spent grain (which Henry gives to a local farmer which he feeds to his dairy cattle).

As the brewing process ensues, there is some down time. After mashing in, Henry gave us a tour of the brewery, taking us through stacked bags of malts, past dozens of barrels they’re holding for Phantom Carriage (opening soon in Carson), to their bottle conditioning room and past a few new foudres. Though they are each about 22 years old, Monkish has had them for a couple of months now and are producing some sours in them, which I’m sure will be amazing but also a new challenge for Monkish.

“There’s the element of the unknown with wine barrels,” said Henry. “The risk of failure is high… and I like that challenge.”

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If you haven’t been on a craft beer tour before, this is the one to go on!

For the special Beer & Cheese pairing on Sunday, October 5, LA Beer Hop is hitting some of the best bars on Los Angeles: Sunset Beer Company in Echo Park, The Surly Goat in West Hollywood and Beer Belly in Koreatown.

This is not your cheddar cheese and Amstel Light pairing (yes, I’ve seen that on pairing menus) – this is the creme dela creme of artisinal cheese together with mind-blowing craft beer. The selections have been carefully chosen by Hal Mooney of LA Beer Hop and John Verive, a certified Cicerone and craft beer writer for publications such as Beer Paper LA and the LA Times.

See if you can identify why these pairings work – there are only a couple of tickets left. For $65, it’s worth every penny (includes the beer, bread and cheese!).

Click here for tickets!

sriracha-festival-los-angeles-chefs-restaurants-2014Now that we’ve survived the sixth annual LA Beer Week (phew!), it’s time to start planning for the next great beer adventure! Luckily you don’t have to wait too much longer.

The Second Annual Sriracha Festival is coming up on Sunday, October 19 from 3-6 pm in the Central Plaza of Chinatown. That red, spicy stuff recently became an icon of Los Angeles after Irwindale resident complaints almost led to a shut-down of its factory. Thankfully, the factory is still churning out the stuff (chili processing/grinding was in August) and this festival is a great way to celebrate.

Buy your tickets soon – regular admission is $59, while VIP will cost you $90 but you’ll get reserved seating and an hour early admission.

Click here for tickets.

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Jeremy of Eagle Rock giving the crowd some love

Tuesday morning, after waking up in a bit of a fog and a couple of questions about how the night ended, I thought to myself: Forget about the rest of LA Beer Week, last night was so EPIC we didn’t need anymore beer week.

Monday night was the first Battle of the Bands, organized by Eagle Rock Brewery at Bootleg Theater in Echo Park as part of the sixth annual LA Beer Week. Twelve breweries and two non-breweries participated in show, battling it out for the honor of bragging and a trophy.

Now we’ve been to Battle of the Bands before – in high school, where there were fewer beards being grown and even less talent. And thank goodness for talent as everyone brought out the bigguns for the show, each playing a couple of songs ranging from Metal, classic Rock, classic Pop, and even a smattering of Disney (say what?).

I took a few videos and posted them as quickly as possible on my Instagram – which you can check out here (those bands I did not post were swallowed by some Instagram app crashes). I really enjoyed everyone, but felt a little swayed by the sweet sounds of a certain drummer (my husband) in a certain band (Sunset Beer Company), which opened with Wild Sex but really brought Van Halen’s Jump to life. I really forgot how much I freaking love that song.

In the end, the Orange County breweries convinced the crowd as The Bruery took home first place, Noble Ale Works second and Eagle Rock Brewery third.

We can’t wait for the next one!

You could tell this was going to be a great year for LA Beer Week. The kick-off festival last Saturday got us in the mood with some fantastic freaking weather, special taps, great breweries and a very enthusiastic crowd. And, being the LA Brewers Guild’s first year taking the helm of organizing the kickoff and beer week events, we’re impressed and already can’t wait until next year.

A couple of things I always critique at festivals are usually having to deal with overcrowding leading to long lines, emotionless staff/security (such a downer!) and the same beers being poured at the last festival you went to. Pretty much none of that happened – everyone was cheery, there was plenty of beer to go around, I didn’t have to wait in line at a food truck and I even tried some new brews. Yeah!

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It’s already starting to feel like LA Beer Week! Even though we have a few more days to go, Eagle Rock Brewery debuted its pale ale Unity (the official beer of beer week) at its taproom on Friday, and our dance cards from September 20-28 are filling up quickly.

What is LA Beer Week?

If you’re new to the scene, LA Beer Week is a celebration of the Los Angeles craft beer culture for one week each year. Bars, breweries, restaurants and other venues host events throughout the week and all over Los Angeles – tap takeovers, music and beer entertainment, dinners/pairings, cask events… you name it!

The events themselves are not hosted by the LA Beer Week organizers – they are hosted by the venues themselves, so any beer/food or ticket purchases must be made through that venue. But all LA Beer Week participating events are posted on the official website, so the best way to see if there’s something in your neck of the woods is to click here and filter through the calendar.

Otherwise, there are a few things we’re really looking forward to on the east-ish side of town if you’re over here, including:

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It’s been officially summer for a couple of weeks now, but this week we’ve been really feeling it. Although you’ve probably had your fill of summer beer suggestions, with the 4th of July holiday and many more summer festivities to come, it’s time to share our favorites.

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This is part 3 of 3. Read part 1 here and part 2 here.

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After a delicious lunch at the Firestone Brewery, we’re back on the bus for a super top secret “surprise.” We arrive at Villicana Winery, where owners Alex and Monica Villicana have not only set up a beautiful, long table on the lawn for dinner, but they’ve got something special inside.

They greet us with a palate cleanser of not anything wine-related, but with vodka, lime and dill. A quick rundown of the winery: the 13-acre winery only produces about 2,000 cases annually of nine different wines. After sipping on our palate cleansers, we’re still wondering where this is leading… where does the beer fit in?

Villicana is also home to an extremely unique craft that you don’t see at wineries – a distillery! They call the brand RE:FIND because they actually refine saignée (the runoff grape juice removed prior to fermentation), turning this juice into spirits like brandy, vodka and gin. It’s sustainable, eco-friendly and practically genius – typically about 10-30% of the entire production of wine goes down the drain before the even start making the wine. Some wineries turn the juice into a Rosé. Ultimately, RE:FIND collects about 20,000 gallons of juice from the 16 wineries in the Paso Robles area.

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