With only four days and forty-two events left on the calendar, the second annual L.A. Beer Week has been a great success. Thousands of people have already participated in seventy-eight events across L.A. County – enjoying everything from exclusive tappings and beer float competitions, to special beer-tasting brunches and educational seminars – savoring dozens of barrels of the good stuff along the way, and developing a greater appreciation for the elegant interplay of art and science that is craft beer.
On Tuesday night I traveled to an event in Glassell Park, where Tomm Carroll of Celebrator Beer News was hosting a panel in the Eagle Rock Brewery Tasting Room composed of eight professional brewers from six new and forthcoming L.A.-area breweries – all there to discuss their role in the meteoric rise of craft beer in the L.A. area over the last year, and to share their experiences with the capacity crowd.
The panel included Steve and Jeremy Raub – the father and son team behind Eagle Rock Brewery; Joel Elliot of Strand Brewing Company in Torrance; Bernie Bush of Downtown’s forthcoming Ohana Brewery; Cyrena Nouzille of Ladyface Ale Companie in Agoura Hills; Nick Brown and Brian Mercer of Brouwerij West – the contract brewers based out of Palos Verdes; and Brian Lethcoe of Nibble Bit Tabby Brewery in Downtown Los Angeles.
The panelists each took turns discussing their first craft brew experience, the influences that led them into brewing, the events that inspired them to turn professional, and the obstacles they had to overcome before they could translate their dreams into functional realities.
Though the panelists all came from different backgrounds, most of them started out as homebrewers – producing small batches in their spare time for friends and family. Some had science backgrounds, while others had art backgrounds. But when they saw the dearth of quality craft beer producers in and around Los Angeles, they all felt compelled to establish their own craft breweries. And now that they’ve established themselves, the brewers see their breweries as more than just beer production facilities or money-making opportunities; they see them as physical manifestations of their personal passions, and vital additions to the local culture.
But the panelists all agree that starting a craft brewery in Los Angeles isn’t easy. One panelist described it as an “epic roller coaster ride”, while another called it an “unending battle”, leading a third to quip that “beer wouldn’t have been invented if the Health Department had existed first.” Jeremy Raub, whose Eagle Rock Brewery is nearing its first anniversary, said that opening the brewery was the hardest thing he’d ever done, and that the process nearly cost him his home and his marriage. As Ladyface’s Cyrena Nouzille put it, when it comes to owning a craft brewery “brewing is the easy part.” Yet despite the difficulties, the brewers all agree that seeing people enjoy the fruits of their labor “makes it all worth it.”
L.A. Beer Week continues through the weekend, culminating on Sunday with the L.A. Beer Week Beer Festival at Union Station, where over seventy on-tap craft beers will be available for four hours of enjoyment starting at noon. $40 includes the price of admission and unlimited beer tastings, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. Several L.A. food trucks will be on hand to provide sustenance. Tickets are going fast, but you can still buy yours here – securing a chance to taste and enjoy the fruits of your local craft brewers’ labor.