Hopping a train for LA Beer Week’s festival makes me feel a tad “Harry Potterish”. L.A.’s Union Station is set to be full of magic potions, beer goggles, and hopefully a hundred Emma Watson lookalikes simultaneously casting the “Dongus Penetratio” spell at my crotchal region. My train is pregnant with pretzel-necklace wearing beer types, pre-lubing their gastrointestinal tracts with Gatorade.
Squeeking into Union Station an hour early gives me the chance to romanticize about this building’s past. The pre-WW2 architecture seduces me into absorbing the ambience and to snap a few shots. A young lady in 4″ heels walks nearby on the travertine marble floors. As her walk echos, every man and woman near me watches the show. Being inside this space feels dramatic and perhaps a bit historically glamorous.
Briefly continuing my self guided tour, a homeless man having a nap in the wooden throne-bench style chairs looks like a work of art. The only thing corrupting the space is the wafting aroma of Subway Sandwiches and Wetzles Pretzels bread ovens. I check my watch as hot sunlight pours through the windows and warms the station. Outside, festival goers ripen in the hot high noon sun, ready to be revived with revelry and perhaps a cold craft beer or
The clock strikes twelve as festival goers head to the nearest jockey box. My main goal of the day is to sample as many of the LA Beer Week themed-beers as possible. I can’t say that I’ve ever had Prickly Pear in a beer, but I’m sure the odd fruit will lend some earthyness and a beautiful violet hue. With a Noble Ale Works Tall Dark & Handsome in hand, I head out for a little beer-fest cartography.
The Fest is laid out into two sections, blazing hot sun and a covered hall. Outside, most people cram into the shady area, only running out to get a beer like a Meerkat at the zoo running to fetch a peanut. Bravery Brewing, despite the name, is stationed in the cool comforts of the covered area; whereas most Orange County breweries were sentenced to the confines of the sun’s evil death rays. Anthony of Coronado Brewing Co. may break out the Geneva Convention next year if he doesn’t get an umbrella! Poor fellah!
Among all the Prickly Pear beers offered, the festival’s flagship beer, UNITY, (Rye Berliner Weisse brewed with the cactus fruit) was one of the most interesting of the dozen or so offered. Not knowing anything about it before I took a drink, I had a full on shart face trying to figure it out. For a 3%ish beer, there’s a lot going on in terms of yeast/bready/fruityness. It’s tart, super pale and a light, yet bubbly effervescence that makes it super drinkable.
Local OC guys from Cismontane Brewing Co. brought up Nopal de Trigo (Hef brewed with hand-pressed prickly pear juice). I’m impressed how many breweries brought a theme beer! I was shocked the Bruery didn’t have something, it seems right up their alley. I was surprised there were no porters or stouts done with the pear. To test the theory, I got a 1″ pour of Deschuttes Black Butte XXIV and topped it off with Haven Brewing’s Hef with Prickly Pear. To my surprise, it tasted like a watermelon Now-N-Later!
Aside from all the Prickly Pear business, nobody held back with their standard lineup. I had beer after beer on my wish list, Untapping each on my quest for the Legendary badge. New Belgium/Alpine Beer Co’s Super IPA, Bootleggers Brewing Co. Knuckle Sandwich, Beachwood BBQ & Brewing Co’s System of a Stout with Portola Coffee, Cismontane’s Black’s Nocturne, four solid beers from Logsdon, Hangar 24’s Fresh Hop IPA, Stone Brewing Co’s Suitable for Cave Aging and many more were savored in the hot sun!
Food Options are a little thin without a long wait in the hot sun. Sticking with a liquid lunch in this heat isn’t a great idea, so I insta-chug three Coconut Waters (free) and an Iced Coffee from Portola Coffee Lab’s table. Their coffee totally ruins all other coffee! I can see why many brewers prefer their beans. Revived, I stalk Hallie Beaune of the Beer Chicks to say hello. She’s the only person wise enough to bring an umbrella to this hootenanny. I also run into David Logsdon and rave in his ear for several minutes. His Saezon Bretta is hands down my favorite beer of this summer. His Wit? Yeah, he’s pretty witty.
Late in the day I use my fest-cartography skills and touch upon some breweries I’ve never sampled. Ritual Brewing, Kinetic Brewing Co, Monkish Brewing Co, Smog City Brewing Co, Figueroa Brewing, and Surf Brewery all have some nice unique beers. Smog City’s Weird Beer and Quercus Circus with Citra Hops floored me…How do I get this again? I look forward to trying more from this crop of brewers!
Overall, everyone I spoke with said they were loving it! LA Beer Week is on the map and should be treated seriously. The festival to cap the week off is super classy! Having a beer festival in a historic train station is even classier.
As LA Beer Week claims OC as part of it, I’d like to see way more participation from restaurants and Gastropubs in my neck of the woods. Haven Gastropub and Beachwood BBQ were on board with special nights, whereas most breweries displayed their wizardry well out of Orange County. Why not have some LA Breweries come down to OC for some special events? If we’re all in the same family, we should act like it.
So, I head back home…perhaps a bit ripe from the festivities. Lady next to me offers a squirt of her body butter and gladly accept. Now feeling a bit “Buffalo Billish” ala Silence of the Lambs, I had a great time! See you next year, LA Beer Week!
Shout outs! Great to meet ‘Social Spitfire’ Cambria Griffith at Golden Road Brewing, Anthony Levas from Coronado Brewing Co, David Logsdon from Logsdon and Kevin Kansy from Artisan Ales, Jeff Clinard and Jeff Duggan from Portola Coffee Lab, Serena Montenegro, and the always lovely Randy Clemens. Stay classy, you sexy sons of bitches.