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.”

Back to the beer brewing

The beer itself, aptly named Sunset Beer, is a Belgian-style Wit with an expected ABV of around 4.7%. The brew contains German Pilsner malts and wheat malts, is spiced with orange zest, and hopped with East Kent Goldings and Santiam, plus Mosaic, Galaxy and Citra varieties. Officially, they are describing it as a “hoppy wheat with orange zest and lotus seed.” The brew gets a real Echo Park flavor from the addition of lotus seeds.

Why lotus? Just down the road from the shop, Echo Park Lake has a newly renovated Lotus bed that has been a long-time symbol of the community. Traditionally, the lotus seed is used in everything from teas to dessert to Vietnamese sweet soup as well as traditional Chinese medicine. For brewing, the germ of the seed is first removed – it has an intense bitterness that wouldn’t go over well in the beer. But while the raw seed itself has little flavor, it’s on the starchy side (which may add to mouthfeel) and the brewing process may actually bring out more flavor as it’s cooked.

“We first talked to Henry before our second anniversary last year about doing a collaboration,” said Sapsford. “From the get-go we wanted to brew with an ingredient that would pay tribute to Echo Park, and with the lake reopening it did not take long before we both thought Lotus. We can only hope that our Sunset Beer is half as stunning as the lotus flowers that keep our neighborhood flocking to the lake every day.”

The brew will be poured for the first (and limited) time at Sunset Beer’s Three Year Anniversary Celebration this Saturday, October 4. Bottles will also be available once they have conditioned – look for them on the shelves of both the Monkish tasting room and at Sunset Beer Company around mid-November.

 

 

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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.

battle-of-the-bands

Battle-of-the-Beer-Bands

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!

A couple of very local LA brewers that couldn’t make it to the festival were missed, I mean this essentially the LOVE festival for LA Craft Beer. But there were a few newcomers to the LA Beer Week kickoff (and to LA Beer Week as some of the breweries are pretty new), including:

  • Northeast LA’s Highland Park Brewery
  • MacLeod Ale Brewing from Van Nuys
  • Three Weavers Brewing Co. of Inglewood (opening soon)
  • Alosta Brewing from Covina
  • King Harbor Brewing Co. from Redondo
  • Progress Brewing of El Monte

As expected, the sours were a’plenty. We started with Highland Park Brewery’s Vacation with Brett (a Belgian style with Brettanomyces), ending up very shortly after that at The Bruery tent for some Oude Tart with Cherries (and of course the Sucre, the anniversary beer aged in whiskey barrels). Then to Brouwerij West for the Brilliant but Lazy and My First Rodeo sours, and The Lost Abbey’s barrel-aged raspberry sour, Framboise de Amorosa. Alpine’s Duet was refreshing and harmonious, while Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider kicked us in the pants with a 10.2% Imperial Hopped Cider by the name of Envy. By around 4:30 (or was it 3:30?) Smog City whipped out some crazy bottles of its barrel aged beer.

After that… I recall enjoying a couple of Beachwood’s Vulcanizer because heck it’s just delicious.

As usual, I wish I had taken more notes and more photos, but at some point you just have to sit back and enjoy a beer fest like you’re supposed to – drinking, eating and enjoying the company of good friends.

Cheers!

 

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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:

LA Brewers Beer Week Kickoff – 9/20 in Chinatown

This is THE event of LA Beer Week on Saturday, September 20. Hosted by the Los Angeles County Brewers Guild (which took over the LA Beer Week organizing this year), over 35 LA craft breweries will be pouring the unlimited 4 oz. samples. This year the event will be in Chinatown. Tickets are $45 general admission, $65 VIP (early admission) and $10 designated driver. Click here for tickets and make sure you get them soon, they tend to sell out!

Battle of the Beer Bands – 9/22 at Bootleg in Echo Park

It seems like in LA, every bartender/server is an aspiring actor, screen writer or musician. In this case, the latter is a huge benefit when it comes to craft beer bars/breweries battling for the title of Best Beer Band. I might be playing a little favoritism here – Sunset Beer Company is participating and they happen to have an amazing drummer (my husband). Nonethless – it’ll be a great time watch Eagle Rock Brewery, The Bruery, Golden Road, Ladyface, El Segundo, Noble, Monkish and a other fantastic breweries battle it out. Tickets can be bought in advance for a mere $10 – click here.

Musical Beer Crawl – 9/23 in Echo Park

This is a free beer crawl but you do, of course, have to pay for your drinks. Along Sunset Boulevard in Echo Park there will be some special beers being tapped The Bruery’s So Happens It’s Tuesday starting at 5:00 pm at Sunset Beer. Get a passport for special deals at participating venues, including Origami Vinyl, Two Boots Pizza, Mohawk Bend , El Prado, and The Short Stop (so far).

Sour Beer Night at The Hermosillo – 9/24 in Highland Park

If you haven’t been to one of Highland Park’s newt brewery, now’s your chance! Highland Park Brewery has been serving up some pretty mean (and really pretty) beers since their recent opening. Sour Beer Night will feature some favorites like Lazy Susan Peach and Nectarine Sour.

Walker’s Wild Ride – 9/27

Well, shoot they aren’t coming to Mohawk Bend like last year, but Firestone is bringing down four of their really amazing sour beers and you just can’t miss this. First stop is at Tony’s Darts Away at 12:00 pm (you’ll find me there!), Library Ale House at 2:30pm, Naja’s Place at 4:30pm and The Federal Bar at 7:00 pm.

The festivities will wrap up with Brewers Guild brewery members holding open house tours on the 27 and 28.

There are just a TON of great events – be sure to check out the official LA Beer Week event calendar here.

Summer-Beer-2014

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.

For brunch

The best way to get you through your consistently 85 degree house is a nice, cold Stiegl Radler. At around 3% ABV, it’s extremely sessionable for any time of day, but serves as a really great brunch drink. If you’re a fan of the Shandy (lemonade and beer mix), this grapefruit soda with beer is a pleasant and incredibly refreshing alternative.

Something basic

Summer beer isn’t always about choosing seasonals, but when you do the Sierra Nevada Summerfest is a pretty good choice (plus you can find it pretty much everywhere). Also not that this really matters, but supposedly Summerfest is extremely low carb if you’re watching your figure.

Sunshine in a can

One of the best things about living in Los Angeles is the sunshine, and despite the heat of the summer you really can’t help but love it. 329 Days of Sun by Golden Road pays homage to this with a low ABV, crisp and easy drinking lager. Since it’s canned, you can toss a few in the backpack for a trip to the beach or hiking.

Summah summah summah time

Backyard BBQs, poolside parties, whiffs of sunscreen and never ending sunsets are what the Victory Summer Love Ale is all about. This has been one of my favorites since we started blasting our tiny air conditioner this season, and is a nice shift from my normal summer IPAs as it’s a bit more malty yet still well balanced and crisp.

There are a lot of great summer craft beers out there – what’s your favorite?

 

Epic Hop Syndrome / Blue ski

Epic Brewing is well known for making delicious and very hop-forward beers, and it appropriately took home quite a few medals last year. The original brewery was opened in Utah, where it was the state’s only high alcohol content beer produced, but last year it opened a second brewery in Denver, Colorado. The second brewery was really meant to help the brand expand its distribution and line of beers, but also includes a large tap room.

What’s really interesting about the two brewhouses is what we have pictured above. Two Epic beers with different names and different labels. But from what we hear, these two beers are more alike than you think – they are, in fact, made using the same exact recipes.

But they taste completely different!

(Gasp!)

Why? Hop Syndrome is brewed in Salt Lake City, Utah. Blue Ski Lager is brewed in Denver, Colorado. Hop Syndrome has Weyermann Pilsner and Munich malts, so does Blue Ski. They seem to have the same ingredients except for one thing: the water!

Just like those New York bagels everyone loves so much, water can affect the flavor and character of your product. There are different levels of sulfates, chlorines, carbonates…. A lot of breweries have sophisticated filtration technology to maintain consistency with their beer, but in this case the same beer is in different states.

Hop Syndrome, which was brewed on March 3 in Utah, is a much more bitter beer and has an ABV of 4.8%. The aroma is bitter and sharp, the flavor has that dry, Pilsner finish. Blue Ski tastes, to me, much more like a lager as it has that kind of creamed corn flavor that I’m sooooo sensitive to when it comes to lagers. It’s a little nuttier but much lighter on the bitter hops flavor and has a 5.3% ABV.

The first time I tried these beers, I liked Blue Ski better as it seemed smoother, less bitter. The second time I did the side-by-side, I liked Hop Syndrome more. I recommend doing a little side by side taste test, and let us know what you think!

Update:

A big thank you to Matthew over at Epic, who assured us that our source is incorrect and the two beers are two different recipes.

“The hop bill in Hop Syndrome,” he writes, “is much more aggressive and is what some consider as an emerging style of Hoppy Lager or IPL. The real UT to CO lager comparison would be between Pfeifferhorn lager and Blue Ski lager. There is a discernible water chemistry difference. Pfiefferhorn has a closer chloride to sulfate ratio and seems to be crisper on the finish with slightly more hop perception.”

While we’re slightly disappointed we hadn’t cracked the case on this one, we’re always happy to have an excuse to drink more Epic beer!

This is part 2 of 4. Read part 1 here.

Breakfast ber

Breakfast beer

The morning after our night of glamping in Los Olivos, we board the bus for Paso Robles. My husband wins the award for the first beer cracked, a Stiegl Radler (best breakfast beer ever). Upon entering Firestone’s production brewery for a tasting session, the first thing our host Norm Stokes says is, “I apologize up front, but I’m the guy that gives you the bad beer.”

Reference beerIn reality, his job is to make sure Firestone beer is of consistent quality. But for these intents and purposes, we’re getting a lesson in sensory analysis.

The first set of beers were loaded with Diacetyl, Dimethyl Sulphide (DMS) and Acetaldehyde. Then a sampling of Union Jack that had been aged 3, 30 and 300 days at different temperatures. As you can probably guess, those that were aged longer and in warmer temperatures lose their aroma almost completely. It makes me feel guilty for not having an extra beer fridge at home.

Sensory analysis is a great way to refine your taste buds, but Firestone does this all the time. Their shelf life is four months, but really should be consumed within a 30 day period. Always, always check those expiration dates!

Brewery tour with Dustin

Brewery tour with Dustin

Next up, head Brewer Dustin Kral once again leads us on a brewery tour; under his term the brewery has gone from a 4-vessel to a 7-vessel brewery. They brew 24 hours a day, six days a week on an automated brewhouse system, which the team likes because they can monitor and maintain quality much more easily.

And that’s the question most breweries face: How do you manage huge growth, increasing quantity by maintaining quality and consistency? Firestone has really done such an incredible job managing this all.

Firestone-Beer-Bloggers29In addition to walking through the brewery’s stainless steel innards, we get to see the barrel room once again (which holds 1432 barrels) and the new canning facility with a 30-head filling machine that filles 400 cans per minute. Just what are they doing with this new canning facility?

805 cans! As of May, you can expect to see these cans on the shelves for your camping, beaching, hiking adventures.

Next stop: hop on the bus for a super, top secret destination….

Next up…. Part 3!

This is part 2 of 4. Read part 1 here.

 

It was quite a warm day on May 17, the day of the Los Angeles Vegan Beer Fest. Just a couple of days prior we hit triple digits, so 85 degrees was quite manageable to say the least!

Apart from the weather, there are a few things that makes this beer festival quite special:

Not too much beer, not too little

You don’t get overwhelmed by how many booths you have to visit, how much beer you have to taste. It’s a perfect balance of intimate meets abundance. Also, you don’t have to go home drunk.

Craft beer geeks love it

You don’t have to be a beer blogger to join in on the festival, but craft beer geeks are right at home. I certainly wasn’t going to miss Noble’s Gosebusters! There was a lot of great beer!

Great crowd

The staff is great, the brewery representation was fantastic, and the crowd seemed fairly lacking in douchbaggery. Cheers to that!

It’s Vegan!

The food was fantastic! A lot of great local options. But what’s the deal with vegan beer? The short story is that animal products can be used during filtration, and sometimes it’s as simple as using milk products (like a milk stout). There are many resources out there if you’re curious about what beer is vegan, but you can start here.

We had a great time at the festival, keep your eye out for the next one on the festival website – tickets sell out fast!