Southern California Beer News

‘Brew Dogs’ Unleashed in LA

Aug 26

BREW_DOGS_GOLDEN_ROAD_POSTER 72 dpiViewing Party Wednesday Night at Golden Road

By Tomm Carroll 

Further indication that Los Angeles is quickly ascending to the ranks of the nation’s best beer towns is not only the city’s inclusion in the second season of Brew Dogs — the rollicking reality TV show starring James Watt and Martin Dickie, the two cheeky Scots behind the rebellious BrewDog Brewing — but the scheduling of the LA episode as the season finale, which airs this Wednesday, August 27, on the Esquire Channel.

BrewDog, originally based in Fraserburgh, Scotland, and now located in nearby Aberdeenshire, gave the previously stagnant UK brewing industry a good kick up the arse when it launched seven years ago, arguably jump-starting the craft beer movement that is currently engulfing Britain. Likewise, Watt and Dickie — taking as inspiration the unfortunately short-lived Brew Masters reality series starring Dogfish Head Brewing’s Sam Calagione on the Discovery Channel in 2010 — are shaking up food-and-drink-themed reality TV with a smart, funny and rollicking one-hour show that is both craft-centric and information-accurate. 

As fans of the first season already know, Brew Dogs premiered its second season, which expanded to 10 episodes (up from last year’s six), on June 25. The series follows “beer evangelists” Watt (the bald one) and Dickie (the hairy one) as they travel across the Colonies (the US to us), visiting different American beer towns, celebrating the distinctive craft beers, breweries and beer bars therein, and creating their own unique, local-ingredient-sourced beers, more often than not some sort of gimmicky or stunt brew. 

Other craft beer destinations featured this season included Alaska, Chicago, Colorado, Delaware, Las Vegas, Maui, New Orleans, North Carolina and Northern California. There is no word yet on a possible third season of the show.

While the producers and Esquire folks have remained pretty tight-lipped about where the show visited locally, it is well known that the episode’s finale takes place at the Pub at Golden Road Brewing in North Atwater Village, because local beer press and select members of the craft beer community were invited to be in attendance for the taping back on May 6.

It has recently been leaked that there were also stops (sometimes only to shoot B-roll and promos) to such breweries as Monkish and Smog City in Torrance, Beachwood BBQ and Brewery in Long Beach, Ladyface Ale Companie in Agoura Hills, Eagle Rock Brewery in Glassell Park and San Pedro Brewing, as well as such beer bars/restaurants as Blue Palms Brew House in Hollywood, Daily Pint in Santa Monica, Naja’s Place in Redondo Beach, Surly Goat in West Hollywood and Glendale Tap. 

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Homebrewer Dana Cordes, left, Brew Dogs Martin Dickie and James Watt, and homebrewer Andy Ziskin describe their beers to the judges and the crowd at the taping of the finale of the Los Angeles episode of Brew Dogs, taped at Golden Road brewing in May. Photo by Lloyd Brown / craftbeerguy.com

As is par for the course, each episode concludes with the show-ending tasting of the beer the Scots brewed whilst in town. But in a change-up from the usual conclusion, for the LA episode there was actually a “taste-off” at Golden Road; Watt and Dickie, who normally brew together, separated and each brewed with a local homebrewer to concoct the quintessential LA beer. Their co-brewers were Andy Ziskin and Dana Cordes, respectively — both members of the Woodland Hills-based Maltose Falcons, at 40 the nation’s oldest homebrew club.

“Our goal when we visit a place is to bottle it up in a beer,” Dickie said after the taping. “In LA, where it’s all about sunshine, we wanted to use citrus, avocado and other flavors known to this area.” Explaining that the LA episode is homebrew-oriented, Watt added, “Things have changed here about five years ago, thanks to people making beers at home. We wanted to check out one of the most exciting homebrewing scenes on the planet.”

Dickie and Cordes’ beer was a Double IPA, made with several kinds of citrus and avocado, while Watt and Ziskin opted to brew a Saison, using sage, peppercorns and avocado. Also, in a departure from the assembled crowd tasting the final beers and rendering a verdict of “Drink it!” or “Dump it!” at the end, for this episode a three-judge panel of experts was formed: Meg Gill, president and co-founder of Golden Road; Sang Yoon, executive chef and owner of the two Father’s Office gastropubs, and Sarah Bennett, local beer writer for LA Weekly and Beer Paper LA.

The crowd all received tastes as well, and echoed the panel’s decision. I was sworn to secrecy, and can’t tell you which brew team won, so you’ll have to watch the episode to find out. But I can tell you that it wasn’t even close. Beers, chats and selfies followed, as the Scots mingled with the crowd once production wrapped. Then they were gone, off to Maui to shoot another episode.

According to Cordes, the homebrews tasted at the end of the show are actually the beers that he and Dickie, and Ziskin and Watt, brewed during the filming of the episode. In every other Brew Dogs show, the beers ostensibly stunt-brewed on parade floats, swamp boats, moving trains, etc. — without any concern for sanitation — are not the actual brews quaffed at the conclusions; those are brewed conventionally, using the same ingredients. 

In celebration of the airing of the LA episode, the Pub at Golden Road is hosting a public viewing party this Wednesday evening, beginning at 8:00 p.m. (Brew Dogs airs at 9:00 p.m.) on the side lawn. Homebrewers Cordes and Ziskin will be attendance, as will all three judges, pending availability. And there may even be a surprise or two. Fans of Brew Dogs should expect nothing less.

When he’s not writing about beer, Los Angeles-based Tomm Carroll works in the entertainment industry, so this gig made him feel right at home. Contact him at beerscribe@earthlink.net.

Japan’s COEDO Coming to SoCal

Jul 23

COEDOBeers from popular Japanese brewery COEDO, located to the northwest of Tokyo, will soon start popping up in Southern California — from San Diego to Santa Barbara — via Stone Distributing Co.

Craft Imports, LLC – based in Long Beach — will be in charge of getting the beers here, fully refrigerated.  “We’re going after high-end sushi accounts with bottles, and there will be some draft at craft accounts as well,” said Eli Raffeld, co-founder. “You’ll be able to drink COEDO within 30-45 days of packaging.”

You may recognize the brewery’s name from their collaborations with both Ballast Point and Coronado.

Beginning August 1, three of COEDO’s beers will be available: Shiro (hefeweizen), Ruri (pilsner), and Shikkoku (black lager). A fourth brand, Kyara (India pale lager), will make its way overseas soon thereafter, with events currently being planned for the month of September.

Stay tuned for more info!

‘Tis the Saison

Jul 22

lost_abbey_red_barn copyWhile saison may be the French word for “season,” it also refers to a style of beer that is most likely golden to orange in color with a distinctively fruity yeast profile and a dry finish. It might be funky or sour. It might be on the hoppy side, but not to the extent of an American pale ale of IPA. It might be dark, spiced like crazy, or flavored with any matter of oddball fruits. The main criteria is that it should be refreshing and drinkable – always finishing dry, but full of flavor and most important of all, character.

Saison is a fun beer for brewers, and is often a good window into their personality. You can learn a lot about a beer maker’s influences and indulgences when you experience their take on this style. Saison traces its origins to the farms of Wallonia, the French-speaking southern part of Belgium, where it developed as a refreshing and nourishing low-alcohol drink for those working the fields. Most farms would brew enough beer to ensure a healthy supply for their thirsty farmhands. Brewing was rustic and born of necessity. Brewers typically had to use whatever ingredients were available locally, including various grains and sugars. Fermentation was probably by a mix of cultures including wild yeasts and some lactic acid bacteria. The old saisons have been compared to lambic in their tart, acidic flavor profile.

Modern brewing science has done a lot to change the flavors of beer. Since the invention of single culture fermentation in the 19th century, these flavors have mostly become cleaner and lost the acidity displayed from lactic fermentation and wild yeast strains such as Brettanomyces. Many modern saisons are fermented from pure ale yeast cultures and do not display the sour character of saisons past. Even so, saison yeast is still one of the quirkiest and most flavorful strains (or family of strains) out there, and is most often the main driver of the beer’s character. A wide range of fruity and spicy aromatics is often produced by these yeasts as they undertake fermentation at unusually high temperatures.

Strength (alcohol by volume) has also increased over time. While saisons in the past were typically under 5% ABV, modern commercial examples will start in that range and commonly get up around 6-7%ABV. Some saison producers make specialty ales that hit the 8-9%ABV range, also known as “super saisons” to some enthusiasts and writers. Popular Southern California saisons include Thorn St. Brewery’s Saison Du Parque Sud, The Lost Abbey’s Red Barn as well as Saison Blanc, Eagle Rock Brewery’s Ginger Saison, Ohana’s Saison Noir, and Smog City’s LA Saison.

Wicks & West Coaster Summer Shindig

Jul 21

On Saturday August 2nd from 2-10 pm West Coaster Southern California Magazine and Wicks Brewing Company in Riverside will come together to host a Summer Shindig!  The highlight of the day is a collaboration beer release – with special glassware – plus a solid tap list of great beers from around the region.

At the Summer Shindig we will be releasing the Wicks & West Coaster Wit, brewed with tons of local produce including fresh strawberries and unique lemon strains from the UCR Citrus Varieties Farm. “We’re lucky to have access to some great local citrus, thanks to co-founder Ryan Wick having graduated from UCR,” said head brewer Brian “Herbie Homebrew” Herbertson.

Brian “Herbie Homebrew” Herbertson showing off some fresh lemon zest before adding it to the boil.

Brian “Herbie Homebrew” Herbertson showing off some fresh lemon zest before adding it to the boil.

The Beer:

  • Traditional Wit with a SoCal twist
  • 5.6% ABV
  • 6 lbs of lemon zest of rare Meyer and Feminello Lemons from the UCR Citrus Varieties  Collection Farm
  • Belgium Pils and Acidulated Malts + Saaz and Experimental Citrus Hops
  • 85 lbs of fresh strawberries added  in secondary
  • Light bodied, crisp and refreshing

The Event:

  • Keep the pint with a special WC/Wicks glassware ($10 includes first fill + $5 Refills)
  • Food Specials all day (as well as full Wicks menu)
  • Raffle with lots of cool prizes
  • More to be announced!

Inside IPA: World history behind a predominant local style

Jul 18
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Glass-makers Spiegelau created a special vessel specifically for IPA

If you’ve been paying attention to the local beer scene for some time now, you’ve probably noticed that IPA is, well, kind of a big deal. People know it. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that its apartment smells of rich mahogany, but sometimes the beer itself smells a bit like fresh cut coniferous trees. Maybe you yourself are a fan; maybe you have heard tales but have yet to experience its magnificent flavor; maybe you just don’t get it.

If you are any of these things, you deserve to know more.

The idea of IPA is simple enough. Hops preserve beer through anti-microbial properties. Back in the days before sanitation, the more hops you added, the longer your beer was likely to keep. In the 1700s it was well known that beers exported from England to warm climates needed to be fortified with extra hops to keep them tasting good after the long and harsh sea voyage.

A brewer by the name of George Hodgson at the Bow Brewery in London took over the trade of beer to the colonies in India in the late years of the century. He sent multiple styles of beer, including porter, which was the most popular London beer at the time.

However, it was his bitter pale ale, called “October beer,” which became the most popular in India. It just so happened that this highly-hopped pale ale matured perfectly on the 3-4 month voyage, just as if it had been sitting for over a year in a cool English cellar. The beer was a hit and Hodgson grew wealthy from the Indian trade.

Fast forward to the early 1820s and Hogson’s heirs at the Bow Brewery made a few foolish business decisions that put them at odds with the East India Company, who decided to find other suppliers of pale ale to send to India. They approached Samuel Allsopp of Burton upon Trent, England, who in turn produced an even finer pale ale than Hodgson had. It turned out that the hard water in Burton, especially high in gypsum, was perfect for brewing pale, hoppy beers. The Burton brewers had previously been known for their strong, sweet Burton ales, but the new hoppy pale ales turned out to be an even better fit. Soon other Burton brewers such as Bass got in on the market as well, and Burton pale ales became highly favored in India.

So what was this beer like? Well, a pale, hoppy beer essentially. It was often of moderate strength for the time, which was roughly 6-8% alcohol by volume. Drinkers in India seemed to prefer lower alcohol versions, as I would imagine they would have been more refreshing in the hot climate. There are records of drinkers in India asking for less alcoholic versions, but brewers would not make them any lower than 1.054 original gravity (about 6% ABV) because of a tax break that kicked in for export beers at that strength. The beers were also very dry from a high level of attenuation (a measure of how much sugar in the wort is converted into alcohol) during fermentation. It was believed that this also aided in preserving the beers because there was less residual sugar in the beer for spoilage organisms to consume. The original export beers were usually massively hopped and meant to mellow considerably before being drunk, but once the style became popular at home it was often brewed with about half the hops so that it could be drunk younger and have a similar flavor.

By the middle of the 19th century, IPA was being brewed all over Britain, even by the Scots (who are usually known or their less hoppy scotch ales). Whether most of these beers adhered to the Burton model or were simply the result of brewers slapping the name on one of their pale ales to cash in on the trend, we can’t really be sure. Once WWI hit, the strengths of almost all styles of beer in Britain declined drastically and IPA was no exception. IPA became barely distinguishable from lower-alcohol session beers like ordinary bitter. It’s still common these days to find draught pale ales of lower alcohol that carry the IPA moniker, though there are some British brewers getting back to the older style of hoppy, medium-strength beers.

Cascade hops on the bine

Cascade hops on the bine

When craft brewing got going again in the US in the late 70s-early 80s, American brewers discovered new flavors by liberally adding American hop varieties like Cascade to their pale ales. This set them apart from the typical flavors of English pale ales, and a new style of beer was born. Looking back to the IPAs of the 19th century, American brewers created stronger, hoppier pale ales than what they had previously brewed based on.

The beers that we call IPA these days are basically a tribute to the idea of the originals. Instead of aging them for months, they are meant to be drunk as fresh as possible, which preserves the more delicate hop aromas and flavors that start to fade once the beer is bottled or kegged. Refreshing bitterness is still an important element, but hop aroma and flavor have become just as, if not more important, in modern examples.

Modern, West Coast IPAs also tend to be closer to the originals, coming in on the paler, drier, and hoppier end of the modern style spectrum than IPAs elsewhere.

Betty IPA from Hangar 24 Brewery in Redlands, CA

Betty IPA is a relatively new beer from Hangar 24 Brewery in Redlands, CA

If you have not tried any of these beers, don’t pass up the opportunity to do so soon. The same goes for any local IPA for that matter. What sets many of the best American IPAs apart is the generous use of American hops to create big hoppy aromas and flavors that are reminiscent of tropical fruit, citrus, pine, mint, grapes, and stone fruits. Bitterness is still usually on the high side, but this is often balanced well with just the right amount of malt flavor. Germany company Spiegelau has even collaborated with American breweries Sierra Nevada and Dogfish to create an IPA-specific glass.

One of the beautiful things about IPA is how well it goes with certain foods. The citrus aromas and flavors from American hops complement regional foods like spicy Southeast Asian and Mexican dishes. At the same time, the higher bitterness lets the beer stand up to the heat and not simply turn into a flavorless palate cleanser. Hops are also great at cutting through the acidity in tomato sauces in pasta dishes and pizza, as well as the fat in sharp cheeses like aged cheddar. Whether you are looking for a refreshing and flavorful beer to drink on a hot afternoon, or the perfect pairing to some spicy enchiladas or Thai curry, check out one of the many awesome IPAs local breweries and brewpubs have to offer.