L.A. Beer and Food Festival

The Los Angeles County Brewers Guild’s inaugural L.A. Beer and Food Festival took place in late January at the historic Mack Sennett Studios in Silver Lake. Built as a silent movie studio in 1916, the rustic artistic charm of its interior provided a complementary setting for attendees to enjoy beer from L.A. County member breweries, as well as food from participating restaurants and brewpubs.

Two separate spaces were utilized inside for the breweries and brewpubs to share their wares. The smaller stage showcased delicious bites and accompanying beer pairings from Eagle Rock Brewery Public House, Ladyface Ale Companie, Wolf Creek Brewing Company, Kinetic Brewing Company and Twisted Oak Tavern. Each brewpub offered a recommended pairing beer as well as others to enjoy. Standouts included beer braised short ribs and a couple of tasty desserts, including a spiced cake made with Wolf Creek’s Winter Wonderland spiced ale. Pairing beers were Wolf Creek’s Midnight Howl Black IPA and the aforementioned Winter Wonderland. Cyrena and Jean-Luc Nouzille, the Ladyface Ale Companie crew, brought some tasty lamb meatballs that paired very well with their own black IPA.

All of the non-restaurant breweries lined the walls of Mack Sennett’s larger stage area. Two factors truly contributed to the enjoyment of this event. First, attendance was capped at a very manageable figure that resulted in virtually no lines. Second, each brewery pouring station was staffed by its own brewers, owners and brewery staff. This provided ample opportunity for attendees to comfortably converse with the folks that made the beer.

Space constraints prohibit speaking about all of the great beer on hand during this event. Needless to say many breweries, both new and established, brought their A-game beers. With 46 breweries in attendance and at least two beers from each brewery, it was impossible to taste everything. Newcomer Dry River Brewing Co Boyle Heights brought out a couple of surprisingly well-finished brews. Dry River’s tart saison-style Lady Roja highlighted botanicals in its mix, while Arantia, a beautifully aged dry-hopped sour cuvee, imparted great body and a depth of flavors that continued to awaken ones palate well after it finished. These two beers verify Dry River’s commitment to slow brewing. Fermenting and aging in used oak barrels, the team appears committed to waiting for a beer to be ready before bottling and bottle-conditioning for release. Dry River is looking to have its tasting room open this spring. Bob Kunz and the team at Highland Park Brewery didn’t disappoint with two HPB beers from opposite ends of the flavor spectrum, Big No No Baltic Porter and Neon IPA. Eagle Rock Brewery’s La Suerte, the Imperial Mexican Stout with Chocolate, Vanilla, & Chile brewed for its recent 4th Anniversary had some enticing culinary appointments. It was poured along with Le Banquet Bier, an amber brett-saison-style beer brewed in collaboration with L.A. Ale Works.

Vagabond Cheese was also on the floor with artisanal cheeses for the lactose tolerant to enjoy with any number of beers being dispensed.

The rest of the food was outdoors. 3941 Tamales provided samples of its signature chicken tamales and pork tamales. Fat Dragon had spicy Szechuan cold noodles to open the taste buds. The chefs from Simmzy’s Burbank were out, along with brewer Brian Herbertson, and wood-fire grilled Thai turkey burgers. Brian formerly head brewer at Riverside’s Wickes Brewing was recently recruited to assist Simmzy’s with its first restaurant brewery. As head brewer he will assist with the installation of the in-house brewery and will soon be back at work brewing beer in Burbank, one of the few L.A. municipalities that has been lacking in locally sourced craft beer. Waffle Love served some of its sweet Belgian liege waffles while Poppy + Rose served fried chicken and stout waffles. The food side was rounded out with pork chili verde from Sausal and wings from BrewWings.

The next big event or events for the L.A. Brewers Guild is L.A. Beer Week, June 17th - 25th.

Boomtown/Arts District

In a prior issue I detailed some of the Downtown Los Angeles Arts District Breweries, only two of which I had previously visited. On the occasion of Boomtown Brewery’s tasting room opening, two more have been added to the list. Saturday, February 4th, marked the opening of Boomtown’s tasting room. Rather than facing freeway traffic from South Orange County, this reporter and his wife opted instead to take advantage of the $10 Metrolink weekend fare which also includes transfer-free access to the L.A. Metro Rail lines. Less frequent weekend Metrolink scheduling requires departing early and returning via Union Station well before 5 p.m. There is plenty to keep you occupied before the breweries open at noon. Consider taking the red line to Pershing Square and having breakfast, coffee or an early lunch at Grand Central Market. You can also take a quick tour of the Bradbury Building across the street.

One stop south of Union Station on the gold line is Little Tokyo/Arts District Station. This is where you can begin your brewery hopping.

The Arts District area has experienced a complete transformation in the past year or two. It is now occupied by many shops, restaurants and beer-centric destinations. In-between brewery visits, consider lunch at Wurstkuche 800 E 3rd Street, or The Pie Hole, just across the street. Wurstkuche has an interesting assortment of classic and gourmet sausages as well as a great beer list. It tends to get crowded, so another quick and satisfying choice is The Pie Hole. It has a nice selection of both savory and sweet pies. There are many other dining options within the neighborhood. Also, just down the block is Salt & Straw, a great place to pick up an ice cream before returning to the train station.

From Little Tokyo/Arts District Station, there are breweries in every direction. Mumford Brewing is a 10 minute walk SW. Angel City Brewery is just 5 minutes directly south of the station on Alameda. Arts District Brewing is another 5 minutes SE of Angel City on Traction.

Our first brewery stop this day was Boomtown Brewery, about 8 minutes walking NE from the station. A happy crowd was already enjoying the welcoming new space when we arrived. The tasting room is outfitted in a communal wood-tone setting that includes long tables in the center, couches and easy chairs around the perimeter with a pool table, shuffle board and a substantial bar. 12 Boomtown beers were offered. These included the well-appointed pilsner-style, Mic Czech Pils; on the lighter end of the spectrum, Smaller Half, a tasty session IPA with some nice dry citrus notes; and an amicable 7% ABV IPA, Limelight IPA. At press time Boomtown’s tasting room schedule showed open hours Thursday through Sunday. Adjacent to the tasting room is another substantial event space that is used for special events and can also be rented.

As stated earlier, Boomtown’s brewery was opened in 2015 by managing partners Samuel “Chewy” Chawinga also Brewmaster, Charles Lew, Alex Kagianaris and John Rankin. Boomtown Brewery is located at 700 Jackson Street.

From Boomtown we headed about 12 minutes south to Arts District Brewing after a brief stop to share a chicken ‘n waffles pot pie at The Pie Hole. ADB’s “old L.A.” industrial setting provides a comfortable setting for visitors and locals to enjoy some amazing beer, food from Fritzi’s take-out window in the corner, Skeeball, darts and ping pong. The loading dock outside has been converted to outdoor patio, an additional setting for patrons to enjoy. There is even a full bar, but at the forefront is the beer, expertly crafted by Devon Randall, formerly of Pizza Port Solana Beach in San Diego County. There is lots of beer to choose from. Among the golden ales, English pale, and lighter-style brews was the 3.4% ABV Stumblin Dublin, an Irish-style red ale on nitro. It was traditionally structured, light and creamy, with essences and body reminiscent of finer reds in Ireland. An ample selection of IPAs included Redbird, citrusy in hops and nicely supported by its rye backbone. On the dark side were a selection of porters and stouts including Dalia, a classically brewed Baltic-style porter.

Also in the Arts District is Iron Triangle Brewing. It’s a much longer walk, so this brewery is more accessible via car or Uber.