Last week we had the chance to bring Solemn Oath to pour beer in Los Angeles as part of a truly unique event called Uppers & Downers. Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting and Intelligentsia teamed up for the first in what will be a series of events highlighting the past, present, and future of beer brewed with coffee.
The event drew a select group of some of the nation's most highly respected brewers and then a few, like us, representing the smaller wave behind them. Read more about the event on Good Beer Hunting, but the takeaway from the group revolved around the idea that coffee's infusion into beer is still very much in its infancy. A panel driven by Kiser and Intelligentsia's Jay Cunningham consisted of David Walker of Firestone Walker, Mitch Steele of Stone, Matt Websiter of Lost Abbey/Port, Dieter Foerstner of Angel City, Jeremy Raub of Eagle Rock, and myself. We dove into the complexities of the beer/coffee process, but also the culture itself.
That element of culture connected with me beyond the event itself. California is a destination rich in beer, and my favorite part of the trip was going from place to place with Kiser and Erin meeting the brewers and business minds behind this market. LA, like Chicago, is undersaturated. And while kicking around town we had the chance to gather fresh ideas, make new friends, and learn a little about ourselves and our future as a brewery.
There are others for sure, but here are some of the breweries we took the time to seek out, and you should too:
The Bruery is not really in the Los Angeles area, but when you are on a trip this close to what I would argue is one of the most innovative breweries in the country, you go. Something like 32 miles from where we were staying in Echo Park, The Bruery is actually a combination of several different facilities across a few towns. One serves as primarily a barrel facility along with a few administrative offices and another their main production house and taproom. In addition to their beers your familiar with, the taproom features some brews that are less available on the national market and some that are made on their pilot system. Their beer is avant-garde and well executed, what the hell else is there to say? Go there.
Los Angeles, California
One of the guiding hands in the LA beer scene, Jeremy Raub and his crew at Eagle Rock are active as hell. We hung out a few times during the five-day trip and I'm pretty sure he had events scheduled during each and every one of them. This crew takes a lot of pride in getting the word out. Great people, smart people, a very chill vibe, and some fresh takes on classic styles. Stimulus, a Belgian amber featuring Intelligentsia's coffee, was a prime example of coffee beer not having to be a porter or stout. But these guys really got me with Yearling, their Flanders red-style ale. Enjoyed at an awesome bar in Highland Park called York, Yearling is a tart and complex American sour with very little linger. Just very, very well done. If you come across it, drink it. Not far from where the five and the two intersect, this humble and natural taproom fits the vibe of the people I had the fortune to meet from the brewery perfectly: super chill and welcoming.
Strand Brewing Co.
What the hell is going on in South Bay? Dudes', Strand, Monkish, and Smog City are all after it. Much like SOB, Strand is tucked away in a nondescript light industrial park with a small taproom in sight of the steel. Co-founder Rich Marcello was behind the bar and showed us around the space. Run by Marcello and his partner Joel Elliott, Strand has been in a constant state of expansion since the place was founded back in 2009. They just rolled out bottles this year and are beginning to dabble in Belgian-inspired brews. The short of it: these are some hard working dudes that have been bootstrapping it since day one. Any nanobrewery or potential nano coming down the pipeline should look to these guys as a source of inspiration. They upgraded pretty much every piece of equipment along the way and continue to drive their own volumes and processes to new levels.
Los Angeles, California
I don't say this lightly, but the taproom at Angel City may be the best space I've seen in the country. Located in the thriving Arts District, it is essentially an enormous warehouse, but manages to make you feel comfortable with a small or large group. The main level has places where a group of two can have a private conversation and a group of sixty could come out and have their own space for game night. The place is super genuine and Dieter Foerstner is making some tasty and creative brews like White Nite, a light-bodied golden stout on nitro that gets its roasted malt character from a coffee infusion. This is also the first brewery--we assume there will be many more--to be a part of The Boston Beer Company's Alchemy & Science program. If you aren't familiar with what Jim Koch is up to, you need to read up on it. The new incarnation of Angel City is a place I will visit often when in town.
Special thank you to Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting and Stephen Morrissey/Jay Cunningham as well as everyone at Intelligentsia for their efforts in including us in Uppers & Downers. Looking forward to volume two.
From time to time the people of Solemn Oath Brewery take the time to chronicle their travels and experiences to share here with you. How can we make ourselves better if we never experience anything new?