Why L.A. Beer Week? Highlights From and Reflections On A Celebration of Suds

Dogfish Head Sah'tea Paired With Salted Cod Brandade at The Foundry on Melrose

It’s a beautiful thing when you can find a beer – or, what’s more, an entire beer culture – right in our own backyard. And the latter became increasingly evident as L.A. Beer Week events were curated and celebrated around the city. It was a beautiful thing to witness Angelenos walking away from events, bars and gatherings ever more appreciative and knowledgable about suds the past ten days.

Now, there were plenty more people with better stamina than I who attended probably double or even quadruple the number of events that I did – and props to you whether you’re also press or a beer distributor by trade. Whatever the degree of which you decided to participate, one thing was certain: Beer Week is an exciting time to be in Los Angeles. Here’s why:

  • You may witness a celebrity chef’s decision to revamp his beer program. Nobody is exempt from learning – nobody – and at the first ever Dogfish Head beer dinner held in Los Angeles, Chef Eric Greenspan confessed that his appreciation for craft beers has been renewed since his college brewing days. Now, at The Foundry on Melrose, you can find a highlighted craft beer for the month paired with an entree expressly by Chef Greenspan, himself.
  • You get to experience the evolution of a dessert that just a couple years ago never even existed. Yes, I’m talking about the now-popular beer float. There were four such creative renditions of beer floats at Food GPS’ Beer Float Showdown II with Boneyard Bistro‘s Floris Apple with salted Bourbon and cinnamon ice cream taking the prize. A close second was Simmzy’s cherry pie rendition … oh, was it so hard to vote for the winner!!
  • Hot Knivez's Brugge Rodenbach Cherry-Ciabatta Grilled Cheese with The Bruery's Oude Tart
  • It’s a great occasion to try an L.A. beer you’ve never tried and/or visit an L.A. pub you have never been to. Beer is really hot in L.A. right now, and Beer Week is only helping. One only needs to reference the entrance of The Bruery a couple years ago and Eagle Rock Brewery one year ago into the foray. Or the opening of Nibble Bit Tabby just last Spring. Naja’s Place, the place where all beer taps go to heaven, ranks up there as one of the only reasons I will visit the South Bay.
  • You get to experience food-beer pairings that blow your mind. Like the Dogfish Head Sah’tea paired with Chef Greenspan’s Smoked Cod Brandade with potato, cauliflower and eggplant. The juniper berries, black tea, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and black pepper in the Sah’tea were highlighted so well against the salty brandade (yet tempered by the cauliflower and eggplant), I’m salivating just thinking about it again. Another mind-blowing pairing was the Hot Knivez‘s Brugge Rodenbach cherry-ciabatta grilled cheese paired with The Bruery’s Oude Tart, a sour Red Ale which had dark fruit and oak notes that matched the Rodenbach-soaked cherries in the homemade ciabatta so deliciously. The Hot Knivez-Bruery Symposium at Verdugo Bar was another delightful event.
  • Floris Apple, Bourbon-salted caramel-cinnamon ice cream and Green Apple Coated with Caramel Cinnamon Crumble Beer Float
  • You may have dibs on the first batch – of something – to exist or hit the West Coast. The beer industry knows that L.A. Beer Week is the place to be, so you best know it, too. The Delawareans at Dogfish Head sent over its 10% ABV Burton Baton, an oak-aged old ale and Imperial IPA blend, to Los Angeles just for this event.
  • You get to try rare beers you have never tried – or even heard of – before. File this under Category: Obvious. Yesterday, at the culiminating event of all L.A. Beer Week events, the Union Station party in which you got unlimited 4 oz. pours for $40, you could taste a Samuel Adams sour ale in one sip and Craftsman Triple Sage in the next – with Victory Brewing Company’s version of Saison du Buff in the next. Be sure to walk around the party with at least one beer geek on hand (and mini stein in the other) to expedite the best recommendations and tastes to your lips.

It’s an exciting time for beer right now in L.A., and with this being only the second beer week – and a super successful one – I can see the excitement only growing. And brewing. 😉 I’d like to thank everyone I’ve bumped into along the way for making it a great few days to suds it up. There’s really nothing like great beer and great company.

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October 7 – 17, 2010

Stay tuned for 2011 dates

L.A. Beer Week

Venues all over Los Angeles

Kicking Off LA Beer Week: Pairing Cheese With Russian River Consecration Sour Ale

Funky Cheeses In Question: Which can stand up to Consecration?

It all started out with a contest. Hot Knivez, the beer-loving, meat-hating blogger-chefs in town, sent other bloggers and me a proposal. Said the email in my inbox: Pair cheese with beer. And write about it. If we love it, the winner with the best post will get to attend a private beer-cheese pairing symposium at Verdugo Bar with The Bruery.

Consecration Under Investigation

I love a challenge, and beer and cheese are two of my favorite things. Factor in Verdugo and The Bruery, and I am yours. I am a native Wisconsinite-turned-Angeleno, after all. Thankfully, Barrie Lynn Krich of The Cheese Impresario came to my aid by reconnecting me with my roots and her supply from Wisconsin cheese-makers.

Of course, the fun part was coming up with the control – the beer that would be lucky enough to have so much lactic love paid to it. Inspired by a particular Orange County-San Diego beer tour in which I discovered the wonders of sour ales, I found Russian River Valley’s Consecration within walking distance of home. Just knowing there was good beer stock so near was really the icing on the cake. It wasn’t the only sour ale but indeed probably one of the most approachable ones I’ve ever had. It isn’t a beer to smack you upside the head with overpowering citrus. In the 10% ABV Consecration is a blend of five different beers, including dark malts, which are then aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels for 4-8 months. Tobacco and fruit are prominent notes, particularly cherry (oh, look at that: currants are added). Carbonation comes from having fermented the beer in the very bottle it comes packaged in – and this further adds punch to its sour, my tasters and I found. Not only was it fun to pair this particular beer with cheese, it served as a palate cleanser as we went from candidate to candidate. Perfect.

Research Fellows

Barrie Lynn had given me five cheeses in all, which ranged in funkiness with the intention of standing a chance against the sour ale’s…well, sour properties. We tried the first, aptly nicknamed “Cheese Sex,” – which was an aged cheese spread, or a blend of Widmers Aged Brick Cheese and aged cheddar. No, it wasn’t funky. Yes, it was divine; it reminded my friends and me of a really well-executed version of the cheese in the Handysnacks cheese and crackers snack pack we all got in our lunches as kids. That is, probably the best execution that we had never dreamed of. (Seth noted as a parallel that we’re still waiting for the gourmet chicken nugget.) Don’t underestimate the Cheese Sex, okay? As far as a pairing, however, Consecration – and probably any other sour ale – overpowered the dream. The beer was too strong for even its slightly salty aftertaste, but all the same, I could understand why this spread is in such high demand, as evidenced by the sliver we were given. There be rations!

The next cheese candidate was Italico, which was appropriately named because it reminded us of mozzarella. It was an ivory-colored cheese and was even milder than the Aged Brick Spread – without any finish at all. It was almost like there wasn’t any cheese at all. After some research, I found that Italico is better paired with fruit. Truly, there would be stronger cheeses that could hold their own in this tasting.

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