Saturday, May 17, was the perfect day for a cold beer. The fifth Los Angeles Vegan Beer Festival saw the close of American Craft Beer Week and the end of a scorching heat wave, with crisp, low-alcohol beers that were more popular than ever. Lagers and fruity beers were highly appreciated, but it was a salty Gose beer from Noble Ale Works that enjoyed (and induced) the most buzz.
The sold-out event included a spectrum of beers from 40 breweries, live music from six bands, and L.A.'s best vegan street food from many trucks and vendors. Presented by Quarry Girl, Tony's Darts Away and Nic Adler, the event took place in the lot across from the Roxy in West Hollywood. Attendees turned out in hordes for their favorite local breweries and the strictly vegan spin. The mass of people was hipper, more tattooed and less clothed than we've seen at any beer festival.
Not all beer is vegan; some filtering methods use animal byproducts. At this festival, any filtered beers were clarified using a centrifuge, or simply left unfiltered. Other nonvegan beers feature milk sugars or honey, modifying the flavor and body of the beer. Golden Road Brewing Co. offered an interesting alternative with its Almond Milk Stout. Related to its dairy-using cousin, this creamy ale won over even the most omnivorous skeptics.
We spoke with Golden Road brewmaster Jesse Houck about the event: "It's a really great festival," he said. "The music is more cohesive than last year - I'm especially excited for [headlining band] He's My Brother She's My Sister. For beer, I really like Faction Brewing's pale ale and Noble Ale Works' Gosebusters."
Gosebusters was one of the most talked-about beers of the day. Gose (sounds like rosa) is a historical style of beer originating in Leipzig, Germany. It's brewed with barley and wheat malts, and traditionally seasoned with coriander and salt. The salt addition in Gose amplifies the mouthfeel and adds a savory note to this earthy but light beer. Noble Ale Works' accessible version of the style is gently salted and tart, omitting coriander but adding a unique tea infusion. Perhaps it was the blast of the restorative electrolytes this beer offered on a sweaty day, but everyone went back for more.
Also popular were lagers from Golden Road (329), Sierra Nevada (Summerfest) and Anchor (California Lager) brewing companies. A grapefruit Kölsch from Kinetic Brewing Co. had a nice, dry finish, which made for a perfect palate cleanser. Automatic Brewing Co. actually incorporated freshly squeezed orange juice in its Witbier, White Bronco, to make a satisfying "beer-mosa."
To satiate hungry drinkers, vegan food vendors offered vegetable-centered items and meat imitations. Among them, the Buffalo cauliflower from Mohawk Bend was especially good, along with the bánh mì from Mandoline Grill. For the make-believe-meat lovers, there was a sausage from the Franken Stand with jalapeños, and a substantial vegan Big Mac from Doomie's.
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The crowd was divided on whether the biggest draw was the beer itself or the vegan requirement. "If you're vegan, it's just so liberating to order anything safely and not even think about it," reported one festivalgoer. Whether you were there for the food or the beer (or both), the Vegan Beer Fest delivered on its wild, animal-friendly rumpus.