Blazing Saddles | Los Angeles Vegan Beer & Food Festival – 4th Edition

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el segundo breweryWith the sun’s death rays beating down on the Sunset strip, beer-drinking vegans take to the streets for some free supplemental vitamin D…but mostly for the fourth annual Los Angeles Vegan Beer & Food Festival. Mainly meatless since March, I’m all about getting in on this action. As a vegan beerfest virgin, I’m looking forward to grazing the bazaar of LA and OC’s best vegan food plus great local beer choices produced without any cow, fish, bee, or bull testes.

Noble_Komineks

“I want it NOW” – Bridgette “Veruca Salt” Kominek with Husband Brad of Noble Ale Works pulling out all the money.

Many types of Vegans made it out for the fest: the beegans, then gleegans, veganics, v-sluts and the v-curious…all here with one thing in mind – eat, drink and be merry. With such an abundance of food, Bridgette Kominek tweeted, “I plan to run around singing the Veruca Salt song from Willy Wonka.” Indeed, she wants it NOW. The fest is laid out like the replica town in the movie Blazing Saddles, complete with hay bales, dirt, and a festive maze to get to the restroom. Food trucks and tents sandwich in the central beer garden and seating area neighboring the stage/music venue. Goers were encouraged to BYO chairs and towels, which makes the middle area look like Florida’s South Beach on a 90 degree day. I will say that this festival has an overall better-looking-than-average clientele than a typical beer fest. The stereotypical beer belly’d Pliny shirt/bearded dudes didn’t make it out for this one, sadly. Untappd only had around 300 checkins during the event.

TDA_Chef RandyTony Yanow, owner of vegan friendly craft beer bars Tony’s Darts Away, Mohawk Bend and part owner of Golden Road Brewing spurs the vegan/craft beer scene in LA. He, along with power vegans Quarrygirl (vegan blogger) and Nic Adler (owner of the popular Hollywood venue The Roxy) blaze this annual festival. The best part about about this fest is vegans can safely eat and drink anything without asking questions. Food options range from inventive menu options like beer battered avocado tacos (a local favorite of mine from Seabirds Truck), meatless tamales, desserts and even a French dip sandwich from Tony’s Darts Away chef Randall St. Clair complete with Au Jus (Randall is pictured in green above, grub pictured below with a Maui Brewing Mana Wheat).

TDA_French DipTDA_chili

bootleggers

Bootlegger’s Jose and super lovely wife served up one of OC’s best hef’s with a kiss.

The beer choices on hand aren’t that much different from any other beerfest. Brewers towed typical summery IPA’s, wheats and pilsners. Some of my favorites of the day were Monkish Brewing‘s Oblate (Belgian Blonde w/Chamomile), El Segundo Brewing’s White Dog IPA (Nelson hopped and super fresh), as well as Firestone Walker’s Pivo Pils (described in this blog post).

GoldenRoad _Almond Milk Stout

Golden Road Brewing brought an Almond Milk Stout. The whole point of a milk stout is to have a mid to high level of sweetness that carries the roastyness. Traditionally, milk stouts use lactose sugar (not vegan friendly, moo) that is unfermentable by yeast to add sweetness. The problem with almond milk is that it’s largely sweetened with sugar cane juice which is ‘edible’ to yeast. I perceived GR’s Almond Milk Stout as fairly dry, tasting and finishing similar to a sessionable dry Irish stout, which is strange for a beer finishing above five plato. I would have expected more hints of creamy nuttyness and a little bit more sweetness. I’d like to try the beer in their pub on nitro. Fun beer though, and I applaud their experimentation. I would have thought Coconut Milk would have been the obvious choice.

veggie-lovers-sriracha-cookbook-144(sponsored) Click to pre-order noted author and vegan handyman Randy Clemens The Veggie-Lover’s SRIRACHA Cookbook! Release date is July 12, just in time for all those backyard summer sizzles with your veggie-crazed buddies. Seriously, the book costs the same as like four bottles of Sriracha. You should buy it with four bottles, then squirt ropes of the cockish Huy Fong goodness all over your eggplant!

food area near 3pm

Normally, live music at a beerfest is a sub-par list of cover bands. Not today! I actually sat through an entire set of The Janks. This is the first beerfest I’ve actually discovered new music. I actually bought their album for the ride home! During other bands, people are actually shaking their groove things. I’m smiley. Great times are being had! The people watching here is also top notch.

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I tried to talk her down to $2.

Overall, I can’t really knock this fest as it’s the only vegan beer fest in the world. Pretty much, if you’re vegan (or v-curious), you should go. The food and beer options are aces, but a few logistical issues should be addressed next time. (see bottom) I had a fantastic time and the great far outweighed the issues. If you’re a fruit and vegetable murderer, it’s well worth the trip up to LA for the vegan food and revelry. If you’re not…well, save it for another fest. Cheers! May the fourth be with you.

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Gripes: Being in a field on Sunset Blvd looked like a nightmare for brewers to haul stuff in, grab ice and such. Flavored vitamin-type water bottles were handed out at one point, but ran out a couple hours in. The hand wash stations were also out of water…I saw a girl wash her hands with beer! That’s a first. I’m also not sure if the grounds were 100% handicapped friendly. There was no circular flow to the grounds, making a trip to the bathrooms a bit of a task if you were near the entrance. Brewers were given scarlet letter DD armbands even though they weren’t pouring. Harsh. Some people complained about parking as well but I can’t really speak to that. Maybe a better location next year? I hope so.

Beachwood BBQ & Brewing / OMGWTFBBQ!

Beachwood BBQ & Brewing. If those words aren’t part of your craft beer vocabulary, I’m going to send you a free copy of Rosetta Stone’s craft beer language edition* and whip a piece of pulled pork at your eyes, you filthy swine.  Not only does Beachwood ‘que up some world class BBQ and sinful Americana style dishes, the house beers brought home some serious hardware at the Great American Beer Festival 2012. Co-owners Gabe Gordon (chef), wife Lena and Brewer Julian Shrago’s food and beer recipes are a match made in heaven; and worthy of a solid write-up, Gonzo style.

Thurs. Nov 15, 5:45 P.M.

If I told you that I received a full frontal body massage while standing on a street corner, you’d probably ask, “Long Beach, right?” and I would say, “yep, but it’s not what it sounds like.” See, I was in fact on a street corner, in Long Beach, punching a crosswalk button like Bruce Lee as two vintage lowriders roll up. Each car’s stereo is easily bending the space-time continuum with bass so loud it feels like I’m being attacked by a swarm of french ticklers. A young lady passes me by mid-crosswalk pulling pomeranians like she’s flying a kite. “Where’s…..Beachwood……BBQ?” I ask in-between bass thumps. She points ahead and rushes off.

The dark drizzly night puts me in the mood for comfort food and a nice roasty stout. Ashley (hostess), welcomes me like I’m family. “Sir, the Zymatore Project is in-house tonight, there’s special beers paired small plate dishes”, she says while handing me a page that reads like a menu at a French brothel. I stutter like a drunken Texan trying to say “BFM Abbaye De St. Bon Chien Aged in Pommeau Barrels from Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes from Jura, Switzerland. (view the evening’s menu here: 1 2 3 4 + food) “Wait, wait, wait a fucking minute. I pick a random night to come to Beachwood and and I’m here with some of the rarest barrel aged beers in America?” Indeed.

Ignoring the details of each beer, I roll up my sleeves and start with the lowest ABV; a 5% Italian Wit beer aged in “Orange” Wine barrels; Birrificio Barley’s Friska. I play coy as she gently touches my lips. She’s tart, provocatively dressed to style and teases my tongue. Friska is flogged with natural orange zest while her friend Coriander bats her lashes from afar. “Respecte le donne!” I yell, getting strange looks from the bartender. “It’s an Italian Spiderman joke, google it.”

Striped shirt wearers Justin of Beachwood and Mike Harman of B.United

Briefly, the Zymatore Project is kind of like an art museum getting the Mona Lisa, touching her up with some eyebrows and cleavage, then loaning her out for parties. Not only does B.United import rare beers from around the globe, they go another step creatively and re-age beers (also meads and ciders) in specialty barrels for this project.  Some beers they evoke a secondary fermentation with fruit, adjuncts and wild yeast, boosting the character and alcohol. Michael Harman, B.United’s West Coast Division Manager says “We will only do a secondary fermentation if the brewer is okay with it.” Just when I’m comfortable with American craft beer, discovering the Zymatore Project quickly makes me feel lost in a vast landscape of ever-evolving beers.

Aside: Just as Beachwood is collaborating with B.United for the night, I’ve joined forces with Orange County Gayot food critic and OC Executive Magazine mogul Richard Manning as well as the highly acclaimed food photographer Anne Watson. Any time I can get a solid opinion on food and professional photography on the blog, I’ll take it! I highly suggest browsing their work as they’re both huge parts of the Orange County food scene. I love and respect both immensely!

On to tasting… Of the five Special Appetizers offered for the Zymatore event, each has a suggested beer pairing with prices ranging from $7-$12 for each. (click to view). The Grilled Chicken Breast on wilted greens appetizer, for example, is cooked with with orange and coriander; the same ingredients brewed in the Friska Wit Bier described above. Each dish is well thought out and crafted around the special beer selection for the evening.

The Chicken & Duck Liver Pâté with toasted bread rounds is a perfect entry into Fall/Winter. “November is finally here!” says Rich as rain drops pelt the outside tables. He adds, “Mason jars are popular these days in fine dining.” I note that the bread rounds crunching in my mouth sounds like someone walking in freshly fallen snow . The Pâté is delicate yet full of mineral goodness. The suggested beer, Hofstetten Granit Bock aged in fortified wine barrels plays well with the Pumpernickel rounds and cleanses the rich fat as it melts across your palate. I wish I could fit my face in that mason jar, dammit. Anne quips, “doesn’t Pumpernickel literally translate to Devil’s Fart?” Yes!

My other favorite dish on the special menu is the Duo Smoked Game Sausage – Venison and Duck sausages on top of a red onion marmalade. The sausage is bundled handsomely with a mild smokey heat and rustic earthiness, sort of like Hugh Hefner in the 50’s. The filler is grainy like black pudding dotted with wild berries to twang up the sweetness. Cranberry in the filler screams “Autumn!” and I’m left screaming for more. The sweet marmalade hiding out underneath brings out the best of our beer choice: J.W. Lee’s Moonraker with Wild Yeast. When I think wild game, I think British beer to wash it down and to boost an earthy sweetness.

Other dishes you MUST try when visiting Beachwood BBQ:

  • BBQ! If you can’t decide, do the “Choose three items” option to get the best of each world. The pulled pork is a masterpiece and must be tried. Seriously, if I was a pig, I would gladly offer myself up to Gabe. “Oink Oink, Gabe! Please put me in your smoker and dry rub my butt kind sir!”
  • Baked Mac and Cheese! You’re probably like, “yeah yeah, what’s so special about it?” Rich Manning says, “It’s probably the best Mac and Cheese in the Greater Los Angeles area. It’s smoked and dense with a huge flavor depth”. “Ooooh, this is worth every calorie!” says Anne.  The Gruyere cheese beer sauce oozes, coats and stretches with each bite. The crunchy crumb topping lends it a light crunchy shell. “But is there bacon?” Yes, there is bacon, you filthy, filthy pork slut.
  • The Wild Mushroom Stew is another favorite although probably overlooked on such a deep menu. The “umami-bomb” Mushroom Stew sits on a sinful double dollop of blue cheese grits, the kind your momma used to make, if your momma is Paula Deen.

But wait, there’s beer! If you need yet another reason to visit Beachwood BBQ, the beer program is one of the best I’ve seen. Here’s why:

  • Full set of award winning house brewed beers. Each has a distinct full body and bold flavors that stand up to the rich food. Belgian style ales, Stouts, IPA, ESB, Pale’s, etc. There’s something for everyone and all brewed in house and super fresh. Do a flight, grab a growler to go.
  • Lineup of rare and classic craft beer from around the world. Whenever Pliny the Elder is ‘just another beer’ on the draft board, that’s saying something. The revolving taps alone are worthy of a trip, not to mention a full cellar of rarities. The list is thoughtfully planned with many styles covered, big beers to sessionable, low to high IBU, fruity, roasty, no ‘tap overlap’ with ten IPA’s…I could go on and on.
  • A bar packed with craft beer fans. There’s something to be said about the craft beer community. We like to talk beer with each other. Beachwood’s bar is packed solid with geeks, newbs, homebrewers, pro-brewers, and craft beer celebrities. The bartenders and wait staff are also highly knowledgeable and not snooty.
  • Multi-zone draft temps! This is seriously insane. Some draft handles are served at cellar temp, some are served at colder temps. Gabe Gordon created the “Flux Capacitor” which monitors CO2 and allows for per-line adjustments. At Beachwood, you can get a Barleywine or rich Russian Imperial Stout served at suggested cellar temps! No more coddling your beer like a baby until it warms up! It also allows for certain styles to have more or less gas, making ‘mouthfeel’ fine tunable. This is the geekiest thing I’ve ever seen at a bar.

  • Special events! The Zymatore project listed above is only a small part of what Beachwood brings to the table. I seriously couldn’t be more blown away by what the B.United guys are doing and for Beachwood to bring it to the public. Check their website or Beer Advocate for details on future events.

Beachwood BBQ has a smaller location in Seal Beach without the brewpub; same great food and superb draft list. Both are craft beer beacons of Orange County! Make sure and check out the rest of our pics! Thanks Beachwood

*Rosetta Stone doesn’t have a craft beer language edition, silly. Go buy Tasting Beer by Randy Mosher and learn super geeky stuff. 

OC Beer of the Week: The Bruery Vitis Series Oui Oui

Thanks for stopping in to check out this new feature on OC Beer Blog! Each week, I will focus on a beer brewed in Orange County, talk a little bit about it, and suggest something fun to pair with it. Note that it may not always be food! Sometimes it may be paired with an album, a movie, or hell, even a festive blueberry flavored glow-in-the-dark condom. Today? Not so much. I’m starting out the new feature with The Bruery’s Vitis Series: Oui Oui paired with food from the craft beer friendly restaurant Carolinas Italian in Anaheim.

As The Bruery’s Reserve Society opens up for sale on 10/25, what better way start things off than a beer that came to me via the Reserve Society 2012.  Oui Oui is a one-off American Wild Ale brewed with Chardonnay grapes. From the Bruery’s Website:

via Untappd.

For Oui Oui we used a first running press of Chardonnay grapes from the central coast and added them to our sour blonde ale. The beer was then aged in oak barrels that had originally been used to store wine, imparting even more of that chardonnay-like quality.

To pair, I crack the bottle and and decide on a zippy Italian seafood dish; Scallops Pomodoro from Carolinas Italian Food in Anaheim. If you’ve never been, Carolinas has a ten page beer menu sorted by region of the world…over 286 beers! As craft beer becomes more of a ‘thing’ in OC, keep in mind Carolinas has been operating like this for over 30 years!

Pouring the beer into a flute glass, even the most aggressive pour coaxes no head. The carbonation is aces for the style, lending a vinous mouthfeel that is dry, sour and satisfying. Chardonnay grapes, funk and plenty of sour cling to your teeth well after a sip. Licking your teeth well after gives continued beer flavor, and also lets your partner know you’re feeling randy! Any beer that coats your palate and lingers makes a great beer to pair with food. This is such a pleasant sour, I wish I would have gotten another one!

As a pairing: The beer accentuates the basil, complements the acidity of the tomato, and cleanses the rich garlic pasta from the palate. My wife added some capers from the fridge which really brought the dish and the pairing to a whole new level. If you still have a Oui Oui sitting in your cellar, any dish with basil, capers, or some light acidity is a perfect match. Strong cheese is also a great option to match intensity.

Overall: I’ve always had trouble pairing a sour beer with food as I disagree with those that say to match acidity with acidity. A highly acidic sour + an acidic dish = puckered punum and heartburn. I look for a dish that is simple, light and fresh. Salad, seafood, tomatoes, bruschetta, super stinky cheese, fried green tomatoes, or shrimp cocktail are some other ideas to pair with a sour beer.

Other stuff: The Bruery Provisions is kicking off a week-long Harvest with events every night, check their site for details. The Bruery Reserve Societe goes on sale 10/25. Bottles of Black Tuesday go on sale 10/30.

Meat, Cheese and Beer Class!

It’s no secret among my friends that I’m in love with the Bruery Provisions in Orange. I check her Facebook daily, I look at her Twitter. I stop in sometimes for a quick flight and wedge of La Tur cheese. BP totally gets me. I wish I could quit you, BP!

I signed up for the “Throwing a Party with Charcuterie and Cheese” class with my wife and some friends. Why would I want to throw a party with cheese and charcuterie you ask? What the hell is charcuterie anyway? Spell check has no clue! Charcuterie is meat that has been prepared by salting, aging, smoking, etc. Think bacon, pâté, sausage, jerky, etc. It’s what our forefathers did before refrigeration to make their meat last longer and make them delicious.

Upon arrival, the plates were already prepped with five cheese, meat, nut and dried fruit pairings. I was happy to see a provided notebook describing everything in great detail, and a pen to take notes. BP doesn’t mess around! The class was moderated by Cheesemonger and Culinary Manager Kendra Birdwell, which seriously puts the “cute” in charcuterie. Single people should be asking this gal out! Seriously…she reminded me of a mix of Amy Adams and Zooey Deschanel, but with cheese breath. That might be a deal breaker for some of you love birds.

The class began and Kendra broke out into an introduction to tasting. “Sniff, look, taste, swirl, sniff, taste, swish, eat, taste, repeat!” For some reason all this stinky cheese and cured meat got me a little frisky. Matters got worse as my wife was rubbing my leg under the tasting room table! I was totally freaking out! I even had a daydream in slow-mo where my wife pulls the barrette out of her hair and waves it from side to side, revealing her gorgeous flowing hair. As her hair flies across my nose, I inhale deeply and quickly snap back to reality when all I smell is Goat Cheese and Truffle Mousse (cue the fog horn).

First Pairing: Journey to the Center of the Earth. The Bruery Salt of the Earth Beer, Humbolt Fog Goat Cheese and Fabrique Delices Truffle Mousse. I was excited as I’ve never had this beer as it’s not available really anywhere aside from here. The beer is cloudy with minimal head, aroma consisting of some coriander and some funk. It had some earthy and grassy notes on the quaff with a chalky-wheaty mouthfeel. I’m not a big goat cheese fan, and my wife isn’t a big funky beer fan. We were both shocked that we liked what we usually don’t care for! The beer paired exceptionally well with the cheese, heightening the flavors. The pâté also has earthy notes of mushroom and truffles. The entire package when consumed simultaneously was a perfect match, each one heightening the flavors of the other. The cheese flavor quickly ramps up and the pâté smooths it out. The beer brings it to a higher level, then cleanses for the next bite so it doesn’t cloy. In the photo above, the cheese and pâté are on the left with the dried apricot resting on top. The pâté looks like a small piece of pumpernickel bread, but it’s Mousse, with the consistency of a creamy hummus.

Second Pairing: Silence of the Lambs. Pictured on the lower left corner. Bruery Snicklefritz! with P’tit Basque Sheeps milk cheese and Molinary – Finnochiona Pork fennel salami. Beer was clear bronze, notes of coriander, ginger and maple on the nose, taste was typical Belgian strong with notes of toffee, spice, and dark fruits. The strong fennel in the salami brought me back to 1978 Pizza Hut Pepperoni. It was a total Ratatouille moment where the food critic goes back to his childhood on one taste of the dish. The cheese was too subtle to stand up to the big flavors in the beer, but was a nice contrast. “toughened your nipples didn’t it?” – Dr. Hannibal Lecter. By they way, I’m naming the pairings, they weren’t named.

Third Pairing: Cheesing My F’ing Brains Out!: Pictured on the top left corner. Bruery Batch 300, Cypress Grove – Midnight Moon cheese and Molinari Hot Salami. It’s always nice to taste some Citra hops as they usually have a tropical-citrusy aroma, but in this case all I got was a slight cat pee scent. Sometimes that hop can give ‘off’ aromas at less than ideal temperatures or ages, or perhaps the remnants of my cold threw off my nose. I was glad to see I was the only one getting that aroma. The cheese really worked well bringing the heat down from the salami and it also had those little dried calcium lactate crystals that I love so much. God I love those things…and they’re good for you too! Also paired was a simple olive oil cracker which helped cleanse the pallet.

Fourth Pairing: Autumnal Flavorgasm. Pictured on the upper right. Out of the five pairings, this was all of our favorite. The Bruery Autumn Maple, Beemster – XO Gouda, Prosciutto De Parma and candied walnuts. Alone, each of these were good, but altogether worked like the cast of Friends in my mouth (without Ross of course). Beer poured a hazy auburn with hints of allspice and nutmeg on the nose. Taste is a boozy clove yam-fest. Interesting fall beverage, although it’s got nothing on my Maple Wheat! Gouda is one of my favorite styles of cheese and this was like nothing I’ve ever had. The prosciutto was aged  18 months, was floppy, fatty, salty, delicious. I made a little mini-burrito with the meat as the tortilla, two wedges of cheese and the candied walnut. Flavorgasm with the beer! So no one told you life was gonna be this way *clap*clap*clap*clap* Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s DOA! It’s like you’re always stuck in Richard Gere….Sorry for getting that song stuck in your head.

Fifth Pairing: the Big Pickle. I say that because we were all feeling a bit pickled at this point! Pictured on the bottom right (above). Beer is Bruery 3rd anniversary Cuir (pronounced queer?), Bleu De Causses cheese and Bresaola beef charcuterie. Beer had big time dark fruits on the nose and appeared a deep murky plum juice. Taste was booze, figs, raisins, molasses. I don’t remember much of this, luckily I took notes! Don’t laugh at my ‘taste of cheese’ comment! The drawing depicts how the flavors ramp up on my tongue, the vertical line is when I take a sip. I know it’s weird! Don’t be a hater!The class as a whole was extremely informative and Kendra was great at answering questions. She walked around to talk to people to get their opinions on everything. The booklet was thorough at explaining every detail. The Bruery is such a gem to have in Orange County and I couldn’t recommend taking a class there more. I was surprised at the older crowd; maybe the younger crowd thought it was too pricey? $35 was well worth it for the supplies alone.

The thing I really learned from the class is how to break down a cheese and meat selection at the store. I’ve always found it daunting to drop some serious cash on something that might not pair well. With my knowledge of beer, I’ll start with that and work my way to a cheese and meat that might work with it. Or, I can easily go with one of the pairings above. It really made it seem easy. Thanks Bruery Provisions!

Classes are usually on Wednesdays. Contact the Bruery Provisions, or check her twitter and the facebooks.

Next class:

Belgian Cheese and Beer
with Kendra, The Bruery Cheesemonger @ The Bruery Provisions, $30

Wednesday, September 21st 2011

8pm-9:30pm