With a steep ticket price for a relatively new event, there was a knot of anticipation about whether this year's L.A. Craft Beer Crawl would prove worth its malt. By every measure, it most certainly was.
On Saturday, Aug. 18, two thousand eager beer nerds and bar regulars received their wristbands and tasting glasses for the crawl at Casey's Irish Pub. The excitement for the high attendance of local brewers was amplified by hard-to-find releases and pricey pours. For those with Early Admission tickets, full access was granted to rare beers, which made building an itinerary based on specific brews especially easy. Entry to the seven bars hosting was exclusive to ticket holders until 7 p.m., so not only was it a great opportunity to drink in some fine L.A. beer, but it was the perfect chance to see these venues intimately.
Unlike most beer festivals held in the summer, when the heat is so intense that it can expedite your feeling of drunkeness -- and lessen the satisfaction of getting your money's worth -- these establishments were dark and cool, providing a place to rest and refresh your faculties. And the route spun through some of downtown L.A.'s most beautiful historic structures.
It was the beer and the attending brewers that made the day great. The Beer Chicks' picks for the day included Deschutes Conflux, TAPS Balinese Porter, Sculpin IPA, Sans Paigaie from the Bruery, and of course the debut of their own collaboration with New Belgium and Elysian -- Chamomile Honey Blonde-- the recipe for which is available in the Chicks' upcoming book, The Naked Brewer. Gueuzehound Dave Watrous also recommended Sans Paigaie, in addition to Firestone Double DBA and Peanut Butter and Jelly Time from Kinetic Brewing.
Also notable were the Obscura Vulpine from Telegraph Brewing, Green Flash Rayon Vert, Black Butte XXIV from Deschutes, Allagash Four Quadrupel, and an unadvertised Melange #3 from the Bruery.
Four seminars were a worthy addition to this year's event, but the highlight was the quantity of local offerings. According to Beer Chick Christina Perozzi, "there are more local beers available this year simply because so many more breweries have opened." Dave Watrous added, "beer is accessible, friendly, and fun, and the L.A. community is young. 10 years ago Lucky Baldwins and the Stuffed Sandwich were the only places to get good beer. Now there are over 200. We can attribute this growth to breweries, bars, and all the people pushing beer."
To brewers and a few very lucky media representatives, a speakeasy -- in the true sense of the term -- was held at The Varnish. Behind an unmarked door, members of the Yeastside Brewers and Pacific Gravity homebrew clubs poured some of their most unusual and impressive concoctions. A Chimay Red clone was accurate note for note; a very hush-hush opium-based beer was leaving everyone wondering about the active ingredient; but it was a modest Flanders Red on brandied cherries by Lee Bakofsky of Eagle Rock Brewing that was the single best beer at the event -- if you could get it.
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Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Erika Bolden writes of her compulsive beer and food habit at The Weblog and @Erikabolden.