L.A. Beer Week was a 14-day nonstop party that required four days of recovery. But what a blast. Dozens of events at beer bars across Los Angeles were packed with beer fans, new and old alike. After some reflection, we made our picks for the five best beers we tasted during those two exhilarating weeks. Share your own favorites in the comment section; we're always excited about beers we haven't tried. That's the camaraderie we love about the L.A. craft beer community, and that's what makes it strong.
NOTE: Our Top 5 IPAs in the World list elicited an email from a reader asking for tasting notes on each beer. We respectfully replied that we're more interested in telling stories about the great beers, fantastic beer bars and wonderful brewers we encounter as we drink our way through the city. As for the beer itself, we don't like to overanalyze its elements. We simply want to enjoy it, and we hope you enjoy it too. For tasting notes, we recommend Beer Advocate and Rate Beer.
5. Dogfish Head Bitches Brew. Imperial Stout (9% ABV).
We actually missed this relatively rare beer at the Far Bar Dogfish Head/The Bruery Collaboration event when we got caught up drinking The Bruery's Oude Tart as if we had just found a canteen of water after being lost in the desert for a week. Luckily, we found it at Naja's Dogfish Night later in the week and it lived up to the hype. Dark, rich and delicious (there's your tasting notes), the beer was brewed in honor of, and named for the 40th Anniversary of Miles Davis' iconic album. Beer doesn't get much cooler than that.
4. Ballast Point Indra Kunindra. Stout (9% ABV).
Only three venues got to have this incredibly unique beer, Naja's, Blue Palms, and Far Bar. We don't know how Far Bar beer sensei Jimmy Smith got the BP crew to bring it up from San Diego, but we're damn glad he did. Unlike anything we've had, this beer explodes with flavors such as curry, cayenne pepper, cumin and toasted coconut. It was kind of like having a spicy Indian meal liquefied in a glass. Head-shakingly good and, best of all, different. This could have easily been our number one beer of the week.
3. The Bruery Oude Tart. Flemish Red Sour (7.5% ABV).
This is one of our favorite beers anytime the Rue Crue brews a batch, and we keep it stocked in our fridge at home. Still, there's nothing better than having it fresh on draft, so, as previously mentioned, we got so excited to see it at Far Bar, we forgot to drink anything else. If you like mellow sours with superbly balanced flavor, it's that good. Head brewer Tyler King took a traditional Belgian style dating back centuries and made it better. That's just how they do it at The Bruery.
2. Kern River Brewing Citra. Double IPA (8% ABV).
Worshiped by beer geeks from here to eternity, Citra is the “it beer” of 2011, winning the gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. It earned a perfect score of 100 on Rate Beer and a rare A+ from Beer Advocate. Even cooler, we hung out with Eric and Rebecca Giddens, the owners of KRBC, at the Surly Goat and 38 Degrees event nights, and they are remarkably down to earth for former U.S. Olympians. Brewer Kyle Smith, who we met at Far Bar, is a Deadhead who we can just picture brewing Citra while Sugar Magnolia blasts over the speakers. The kids from Kernville had one other event at Blue Palms and their perfect double IPA, which they had kegged the previous weekend, was exceptional.
1. Moonlight Brewing Homegrown. Fresh Hop Pale Ale (5.6% ABV).
Even our Olympian couple from Kern River Brewing probably wouldn't mind us choosing this upset winner for best brew at L.A. Beer Week. The biggest compliment we can pay a brewer is drinking a second pint of the same beer while there are dozens of other beers we are dying to try. Beachwood BBQ had the elusive keg of Moonlight Homegrown. They do not distribute to L.A., so someone had to go up to Santa Rosa and fetch it. Lucky for us, Beachwood owner Gabe Gordon is from Santa Rosa. Owner/brewer Brian Hunt told us he likes to brew beers that are drinkable, “So you can have five or six, if you like them.” Over the course of the week, we had eight full pours of Homegrown (not counting the last one in which we killed the keg). If Hunt was aiming for drinkability, he hit it dead center. Not a fan of the crazy big beers, high alcohol beers or the even the super-hopped beers, the masterful Hunt brews beers to simply be enjoyed. In that, he is a man after our own beer-loving heart.