At the end of 2014, there were 431 craft breweries in California, more than any other state in the country. Around 40 of those are here in Los Angeles, and that's at least 35 more than there were five years ago. L.A. was a little late to the craft beer game, but it has more than made up for it in the last few years, with award-winning breweries like Beachwood BBQ & Brewing and a diverse range of styles from the likes of Monkish, Highland Park and MacLeod.
Problem is, consumers outside of L.A. don't really know about all these offerings. Most of the beer brewed in L.A. never leaves (when it does, it's usually from the few breweries large enough to spare extra kegs). Aside from traveling to L.A. or drinking through the tap list at one of the epic Meeting of the Guilds events during San Diego and San Francisco Beer Weeks, there aren't many opportunities for non-Angelenos to taste L.A. beers such as Ladyface's La Grisette, Smog City's Coffee Porter or Three Weavers' Expatriate IPA.
In a few weeks, however, L.A. gets its statewide debut when 17 L.A. breweries, both large and small, head to Sacramento to represent our local scene at the California Craft Beer Summit, a first-of-its-kind, two-day beer festival, trade show and educational conference that's equal parts for consumers, brewers, wholesalers, retailers, vendors and even legislators.
"I think a lot of people in California, who live outside of L.A., don't realize what's happening in our city in terms of good beer," says Los Angeles Brewers Guild president Jeremy Raub. Raub opened Eagle Rock Brewery in 2010, making it one of the oldest breweries in the county. "I think L.A. brewers will be turning a lot of heads during the Craft Beer Summit weekend."
In addition to a suppliers expo, ongoing chef demos and concurrently running education sessions (where Three Weavers' Lynne Weaver will be talking about how to open a brewery), the Craft Beer Summit also will see L.A. breweries — from Claremont Craft Ales to Golden Road — pouring on the festival floor alongside some of the biggest names in craft beer, many of which hail from two of the country's two oldest craft beer regions.
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Because while L.A. might be relatively new to beer, California is still where the modern revival began. The state's rich beer history spans from Anchor Brewing's decades of groundbreaking beers, which emerged from the Bay Area's counterculture movement of the 1960s, to San Diego's Stone Brewing Co., which made aggressive bitterness the norm in the '90s. Even today, both San Diego and the Bay Area continue to be on the cutting edge of the industry's trends, with small neighborhood breweries and regional powerhouses both churning out some of the best beer in the state.
"The summit is more than just industry," says Tom McCormick, executive director of California Craft Brewers Association, which organized the festival. "Part of the uniqueness of the event is that it's for everybody who craft beer touches, not just industry. It's an opportunity to bring everybody under one tent for two days to learn from each other."
At the summit, old will learn from new, big will learn from small, chefs will learn from brewers and brewers from consumers (and vice versa). Who knows? Maybe San Diego or San Francisco will learn a thing or two from L.A., too.
"[It's about] everyone having fun and learning together," Raub says. "Community is essential to the well-being and continued success of our industry, and this event exemplifies community."