[Updated Again] Q & A With Sam of the Los Angeles Beerathon: Manifest Destiny, Avoiding the Frat-Boy Demographic + How Drinking Beer Is Like Climbing a Mountain
Update: (Friday, 1:51 p.m.) A few hours ago, the CABC released a statement stating that the real reason for the cancellation (which they claim was Beerathon LLC's decision, not theirs) was that Beerathon does not have a license to sell alcohol. Never mind that all alcohol will be served not by the company but by the venues who have stocked up on beer for the 4,000+ participants who paid for tomorrow's event.
Alas, all ticket money for the event is currently being refunded and the Los Angeles Beerathon is being rebranded as a quotation-marked "beerathon," where (according to an email organizers sent to the venues yesterday) "Venues will still be open for business, still will have excellent drink specials, and it still will be an amazingly fun time in downtown Los Angeles."
So, in the end, L.A. beer lovers will still be able to go on a beer-tinged marathon, albeit without Beerathon LLC's involvement.
To keep up with all the twists and turns of this tale as it unfolds, check out The Informer's updated post.
Update w/ editor's note: (Thursday, 5:16 p.m.) Because of a dispute with the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, the organizers of the first L.A. Beerathon are currently refunding all money to the 4,000 or so participants of Saturday's event. At issue is the idea that the beer to be consumed in possibly large quantities this weekend was "free." Thus the event is not being canceled exactly, but rewired so that it is not technically a "Beerathon" but a very fun event with all the beer and food and entertainment that it was going to have in the first place. It will simply not be "free." Of course, since you all paid $55, it wasn't exactly free, but that's the kind of semantics you'll have to take up with the ABC. The Beerathon's organizers very much hope that you'll go anyway, since the venues in question are still there and still have all that beer. You were planning on staying home and drinking by yourself? Please. (The original post, published 11 a.m., is after the jump.)
Yes, this weekend's inaugural Los Angeles Beerathon will ask participants to drink beer at 26 locations throughout downtown. But please don't call it a "pub crawl." Instead, the event's co-founder Sam (who keeps his public presence on a strictly first-name basis) sees the daylong endurance test as a "tasting tour" -- a chance to explore neighborhood bars, meet new friends and drink a lot of beer that isn't Bud Light.
That's not to say that fans of mass-produced lager are out of luck. But neither are craft-beer geeks. Similar to New York's Beerathon, which has been running annually since 2006, L.A.'s -- the first city outside of NYC to host -- is featuring a variety of brews, some that are supermarket-friendly and others made by small local breweries.
It works like this: There is one participating downtown establishment for every mile in a real marathon, and each will be serving a predetermined beer to entrants. Badges get you a 12-oz. pour from every place on the map (which isn't released in its entirety until day-of, on March 31), but the route you take and how many of the 26 you actually manage to drink is totally up to you. The event's planners don't actually expect anyone to finish all 312 ounces of beer allotted to them (though a guy who is currently bulking up on Pedialyte says he will attempt it), but more than 1,200 people have already signed up to at least make a dent.
We checked in with Beerathon chief Sam earlier this week and talked to him about his first West Coast Beerathon.
Squid Ink: What brought a Beerathon out to L.A.?
Sam: I think L.A. and New York are the two most dynamic cities in the United States, and we figured it would be a real testament to the concept if we could take it from coast to coast. You know, Manifest Destiny.
SI: Then what drew you to downtown, specifically?
S: Los Angeles is a really tough place to do anything that you have to walk for, but we saw downtown L.A. as a really neat place that's undergoing a resurgence. What attracted us was just as much the diversity of venues as the concentration of them within a smaller space. We have places like Downtown Independent -- which is a movie theater -- and the Bonaventure Brewing Company by the pool on the fourth-floor patio of the Westin Bonaventure. We really tried to curate an interesting and diverse list, so you'll notice they're not all dive bars, they're not all classy bars. It's a nice mix.
SI: You've been releasing the names of the beers and venues one each day on the event's official Facebook page. Did you let the venues pick which beer to serve?
S: We didn't want to force any brands onto any of the venues. The idea is that it's just as much a celebration of the venues itself as it is of the beers, so it would be pretty peculiar if we were trying to shove German beers down the throats of venues in Little Tokyo or forcing King Eddy's to serve Sapporo.
The event is not a messy, fratty pub crawl. We've taken the time to cultivate our brand as a better-quality tasting tour, so none of the beers being served is anything boring. No Coors Light, Miller Light or Bud Light -- the usual suspects were not allowed to be included. It was craft beer-driven and the list turned out great. Half of these beers I've never even heard of before.
The Bonaventure Brewing Company -- on the fourth-floor patio of the Westin Bonaventure in downtown -- will be serving its house Black IPA during the inaugural Los Angeles Beerathon
Photo by LA Wad via Flickr
SI: What kind of crowd do you typically get? Do the college kids go crazy at the amount of beer you're offering up?
S: We try to stay away from the frat-boy demographic as much as possible, just because of the elements associated with it. We want everybody who participates to be responsible adults. The idea is that there are 26 beers that you can potentially drink but we don't want you to binge drink. You're not encouraged to make yourself sick by any means.
The majority of people participating probably have a good idea that they're not going to be able to finish unless you're a truly extraordinary individual. You look at the map, you chart your course and you find interesting beers you want to try and you just go along. You get a 12-oz. pour but you by no means have to drink it. You can go around and have a sip at each place.
SI: So is it somewhere in between a pop-up beer festival and a pub crawl? You don't seem to be too keen on that term, though.
S: Yeah, I really don't like that word. The association with that is something cheap, poorly organized, messy, something that draws a demographic we're not trying to attract. We've always billed ourselves as a tasting tour. I think the phrase "pub crawl" is counterintuitive when you talk about quality beer. I really try to stress that, yes, you may associate it with a pub crawl because that's the only thing you've been familiar with, but there's never been anything like this.
SI: Do you think anyone will actually finish the 26 beers?
S: No. People may try, but I'd be surprised if anybody does finish. But there's always a possibility. Competing in the Los Angeles Beerathon is an honor in itself and finishing it in any capacity is an honor, too. If you climb a mountain like Mount Kilamanjaro, when you get up to the top, it's an accomplishment in and of itself. You don't get an award for it. You just do it for the personal gratification of taking on a seemingly impossible challenge and conquering it.
Honestly, it's more about spending time with your friends. It's a really great group activity. The neat thing is -- and we saw this a lot in New York -- you're walking around your city and you see all these other people with their badges for the event and it's almost like you're in it together. You can make a lot of new friends like that.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Los Angeles dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.
404 S. Figueroa St.
Los Angeles, CA 90071