It might not have the same prestige as the renowned Great American Beer Festival, but the Los Angeles International Beer Competition is still the oldest and best commercial beer contest in the region.
Starting in 2000, certified beer judges descended on the Fairplex in Pomona each April to taste and rate entries from around the world in 88 categories. Medal winners were announced on the competition's website by the end of the month, but beer fans had to wait until the L.A. County Fair in August to taste a small selection of them in one place.
Not this year.
With American Craft Beer Week starting Monday and L.A. Beer Week moving to June, LAIBC organizers decided it was time to host their own festival. L.A. On Tap debuts Saturday, May 9, with more than 65 breweries pouring more than 100 beers. The lineup includes hard-to-find SoCal winners — Wicks Brewing in Riverside, Bottle Logic Brewing in Anaheim and Coachella Valley Brewing Company — along with larger national brands like Goose Island, New Belgium and Sam Adams.
"Imagine a GABF style event but in L.A.," says LAIBC chairman Jason Torres, who also runs the beer blog Bier Buzz. "This gives the public a chance to try out the beers that have been entered into the competition and to taste many of the medal winners."
For most of its life, the competition served out-of-town breweries, but as craft beer has grown in Los Angeles in the last five years local entries have increased. Torres says that in the last two years entries have increased 40 percent — and this year more than 50 of the breweries that entered were from greater L.A.
While many of the past winners were from the Inland Empire, San Diego and Orange County, a few L.A. County names brought home gold. Golden Road's Get Up Offa That Brown has won in the English-style brown ale category; Eagle Rock Brewery took top honors for Solidarity in the English-style mild ale category, and old-school brewpub San Pedro Brewing Company earned a gold for its pumpkin red ale.
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Two beers from Dr. Jekyll's — a new L.A. contract brewer that incorporates unusual ingredients like flaxseed oil, turmeric and powder extracts into its beers — also won medals, In Beer Belly (made with berries, green tea, green coffee beans, raspberry ketone and grapefruit fibers) won in the fruit beer category, and Bio Beer (an IPA with superfoods and spices) won silver in the specialty ale category.
L.A. On Tap, Saturday May 9, 2-6 p.m. at the Fairplex, 1101 W. McKinley Avenue, Pomona; $50-$75. Tickets available here.