Downtown welcomed the inaugural L.A. Craft Beer Crawl on Saturday, with “Beer Chicks” Christina Perozzi and Hallie Beaune – former Father’s Office coworkers, and authors of The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer – curating the half-day event. Over a thousand people came to sample sixty-three craft beers spread among seven drinking establishments – Casey’s, Seven Grand, Caña Rum Bar, Golden Gopher, Broadway Bar, Las Perlas, and Cole’s – all owned by Cedd Moses.
Together with my compadre, Jimmy Han, I set out on a six-hour beer-fueled adventure through the streets of Downtown Los Angeles, tasting as many craft beers as I could, and sampling some tasty bites, too, from food trucks handpicked by Jonathan Gold.
Of the dozens (yes, dozens!) of beers I sampled that day, I’ve compiled a list of ten must-try brews. Some are available in bottles; some are available on tap; all are delicious. So here they are, in no particular order:
Deschutes Black Butte XXI; Bend, Oregon – Deschutes describes this confounding beer as the “imperial version of Black Butte Porter”. It’s brewed with three types of chocolate malt, three varieties of Cascadian hops, Dominican cocoa nibs from Theo Chocolate, and locally roasted Ethiopian coffee from Bellatazza. It’s then aged in Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey barrels. The chocolate-colored beer has a brown head with a sweet Bourbon-like aroma, complex flavors, a little burn, and a smooth finish. 11% ABV
New Belgium Hoptober; Fort Collins, Colorado – This seasonal golden ale is brewed with five different kinds of hops, four different pale and wheat malts, rye, and oats. It’s not very aromatic in the glass, but one sip unleashes a torrent of effervescent hoppiness right into your nasal passages. The beer has a sharp, highly-carbonated bite and a citrus twang. 6% ABV
Craftsman 1903; Pasadena, California – This pre-prohibition style American lager offers a glimpse of what life tasted like in the United States after the influx of German immigrants in the late 19th century, and prior to the proliferation of Big Beer in the mid 20th century. Crisp, light, and flavorful. 5.6% ABV
Craftsman Fireworks; Pasadena, California – This is a Belgian farmhouse style ale, or Saison. 100% oak fermented and aged, this beer tastes young, fresh, and light, with notes of pickles and rose petals. 7.3% ABV
Allagash Curieux; Portland, Maine – A white ale (Belgian Tripel) aged for eight weeks in Jim Beam barrels. It has soft coconut and vanilla characteristics. Perozzi recommends it with a vanilla gelato. 11% ABV
Craftsman Aurora Borealis; Pasadena, California – This special, one of a kind brew reflects the craft beer emphasis on vintage. Classified as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale, the Aurora Borealis is wildly aromatic, with hints of Chartreuse. This brew demonstrates just how complex beer can be. 11% ABV
Craftsman Oktoberfest; Pasadena, California – A nutty, malty märzen, the Oktoberfest is a sweeter beer, with subdued hops, nuanced flavors, and a smooth, balanced finish. 5.5% ABV
Lost Coast Grand Cru; Eureka, California – The Beer Chicks like to point out that Lost Coast is a female-run operation, and that brewing has historically been women’s work throughout much of the world. This beer is classified as an Imperial While Ale. It’s brewed with ginger, which gives it a spicy kick. 10+% ABV
Green Flash Barleywine Style Ale; Vista, California – This American style barleywine is made with carmel malt and Cascadian hops. It’s a vinous and viscous brew, with a mouthfeel and flavor profile hinting at Ginjinha – the sour cherry liqueur popular in Portugal. Green Flash puts their barleywine through a three hour boil to intensify the flavors, creating a rich, estery brew. 10.9% ABV
Ballast Point Sculpin IPA; San Diego, California – A light, golden hued, hoppy India Pale Ale with notes of apricot and grapefruit. This beer has a tropical nose and a refreshing bite, with just the right amount of bitterness. World Beer Cup 2010 Gold Medal Winner. 7% ABV
After enjoying a round of tastings at Seven Grand, I stopped at The Manila Machine for a bite to eat. Maybe it was the craft beer pumping through my bloodstream, but The Manila Machine’s spam slider with fried egg, banana ketchup, and a Valerio-baked pan de sal roll was one of the most delicious things I tasted all day.
As I continued the crawl, I would occasionally spot Cedd Moses slinking around in a fedora, chatting with crawlers, and looking like the improbable love child of John Lurie and Hunter S. Thompson. The longer the event wore on, the more beers we imbibed, the more the event began to resemble an unholy amalgamation of Fishing with John and The Rum Diary – one part comedy, one part drama, two parts fun.
Eventually I made my way to The Varnish, Cole’s backroom speakeasy, where Jonathan Gold was to host a VIP event that included the unveiling of Evan George and Alex Macy’s less-than-legal homemade beer: Tonka Bean Porter. (Tonka beans are disallowed for human consumption in the United States, we were told, available only to pharmaceutical companies and Wiccans.)
As the night drew to a close, I found myself conversing with the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Belly of Los Angeles” himself – Jonathan Gold. So I asked Mr. Gold the most pressing and relevant question I could think of after six hours of beer tasting and several draughts of George & Macy’s illicit homemade ale.
“What’s your favorite Blaxploitation movie?”
“The Mack,” he said. “See it. You won’t be disappointed.”