CalArts’ Herb Alpert School of Music enticed Alex Macy to Southern California, but it was the weather — and the beer — that enticed him to stay.
“With a career in beer and wine, I could afford music,” Macy told me over a glass of Strand Brewing Company’s 24th Street Pale Ale. “But with a career in music, I couldn’t afford beer and wine.”
Macy has worked as a beer and wine buyer ever since, first at Red Carpet Wine in Glendale, then at BottleRock Downtown, and now at CitySip in Echo Park, where he’s been for the last two-and-a-half years. CitySip sits across the street from the Ramona Theater — the defunct 97-year-old movie house soon to become Mohawk Bend — and next door to the 80-year-old art deco office and retail space now being transformed into the Bob Barker Building, PETA’s new West Coast headquarters.
Though his first love is wine, Macy developed a passion for beer in college, thanks to the influence of a CalArts friend with a penchant for homebrewing. Before long, Macy’s refrigerator and cabinets, once dominated by wine, were stocked with beer.
“Beer became what I drank at home,” Macy told me. “A really good bottle of beer is much more affordable and attainable than a really good bottle of wine.”
Macy was so enamored of beer that he soon began brewing it himself — something he’s become somewhat famous for, especially after his 2010 collaboration with Hot Knives yielded Tonka Bean Porter, the quasi-illicit smash hit of the inaugural L.A. Craft Beer Crawl in September.
But Macy says not all his homebrews have turned out so well, which seems to be part of the fun:
“Some of the best and worst beers I’ve had were homebrews,” he told me. “It’s not difficult to brew beer; it’s difficult to brew good beer. But sometimes the flaws are what makes it interesting.”
When I asked Macy if he’d be interested in opening a commercial brewery of his own someday, he demurred, saying he might work for a professional brewer, but he could never be one. “It’s a different game,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to make the jump.”
So for the foreseeable future, Macy plans to do more of what he’s doing already: coordinate events, like the Harvest Beer Festival he helped organize last fall, and educate the community. (He hosts regular beer tasting and pairing sessions at CitySip, and also teaches a homebrewing class.)
With such a brew-centric lifestyle, I wondered if beer had finally superseded wine in Macy’s mind. He said it hadn’t; he still loves wine and the wine world. Then he got a twinkle in his eye.
“But beer is still more fun than wine,” he said.