Southern Californian brewers took home 35 medals from the 2013 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, including 14 gold, 7 silver and 14 bronze.
Beachwood then won the mid-size brewpub award, and Firestone Walker again clinched mid-size brewery of the year award.
Category 8 (Coffee Beer)
Bronze: System of a Stout, Beachwood BBQ, Long Beach
Category 9 (Specialty Beer)
Gold: Winter Warmer, Hangar 24, Redlands
Category 12 (Session Beer)
Gold: Beer Hunter, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, San Diego
Bronze: Torque, Kinetic Brewing, Lancaster
Category 19 (American Style Sour ale)
Bronze: Red Poppy, The Lost Abbey, San Marcos
Category 22 (Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer)
Bronze: Barrel-Aged Full Malted Jacket, Beachwood BBQ, Long Beach
Category 26 (Kellerbier or Zwickelbier)
Bronze: Surfliner Lager, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co., Santa Barbara
Category 29 (German-Style Pilsener)
Gold: Pivo Pilsner, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles
Category 31 (Munich-Style Helles)
Bronze: Bohemian Pilsener, TAPS Fish House & Brewery, Brea
Category 32 (Dortmunder or German-Style Oktoberfest)
Silver: Oktoberfest, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co., Santa Barbara
Category 40 (German-Style Schwarzbier)
Bronze: TAPS Schwarzbier, TAPS Fish House & Brewery, Corona
Category 44 (Golden or Blonde Ale)
Gold: Foam Top, Beachwood BBQ, Long Beach
Category 45 (German Style Kolsch)
Bronze: Potential Blonde, Kinetic Brewing Co., Lancaster
Category 48 (English-Style India Pale Ale)
Gold: Taproom IPA, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles
Category 51 (American-Style Strong Pale Ale)
Gold: Bonobos, Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery, San Diego
Bronze: Kung Fu Elvis, Pizza Port Ocean Beach, San Diego
Category 52 (American-Style India Pale Ale)
Silver: Union Jack, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles
Category 55 (Imperial Red Ale)
Silver: Rhino Chaser, Pizza Port OB, San Diego
Category 60 (Irish-Style Red Ale)
Gold: Red Trolley, Karl Strauss Brewing Co., San Diego
Bronze: Ragtop Red, Rock Bottom La Jolla, La Jolla
Category 61 (English-Style Brown Ale)
Bronze: Longboard Brown, Rock Bottom La Jolla, La Jolla
Category 62 (American-Style Black Ale)
Gold: Davey Brown Ale, Figueroa Mountain Brewery, Buellton
Category 63 (American-Style Black Ale)
Gold: Wookey Jack, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles
Silver: Black Sales, Coronado Brewing Co., Coronado
Bronze: Oxymoron, Oceanside Ale Works, Oceanside
Category 70 (French & Belgian-Style Ale
Bronze: California Ale, Telegraph Brewing Co., Santa Barbara
Category 72 (Belgian-Style Abbey Ale)
Silver: Decadence 2012, AleSmith Brewing Co., Miramar
Category 75 (Robust Porter)
Gold: Moonlight Porter, Rock Bottom La Jolla, La Jolla
Category 76 (Foreign-Style Stout)
Silver: Stearns Stout, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co., Santa Barbara
Category 78 (American-Style Stout)
Gold: Kilgore Stout, Beachwood BBQ, Long Beach
Category 79 (Sweet Stout or Cream Stout)
Silver: Udder Love, Beachwood BBQ, Long Beach
Category 80 (Oatmeal Stout)
Gold: Stagecoach Stout, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co., Buellton
Bronze: Oats, Pizza Port Solana Beach, Solana Beach
Category 81 (Scotch Ale)
Gold: Ale Epeteios, Left Coast Brewing Co., San Clemente
Category 84 (Barley Wine-Style Ale)
Gold: Old Numbskull, AleSmith Brewing Co., Miramar
Mid-Size Brewpub and Mid-Size Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, Long Beach
Julian Shrago & Ian McCall
Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles
If I were to place an apple and an orange in front of you and ask, “which is better?” you’d probably say, “that’s a dumb metaphor” and promptly throw them at my head. Deservedly so. Both have varieties that span different visual, aroma and flavor profiles. Scientifically speaking, both pack different acidity, sugar content and nutrition. From a physics standpoint, both would bounce off my face in a similar trajectory when thrown at a high rate of speed.
Now, If I were to put a cluster of cabernet grapes, bag of fresh malted barley and a fistful of fresh whole cone hops in front of you, the question of “which is better” becomes insanely intricate. Forget for one minute that wine and beer have thousands of variables that affect the final flavor. Each of these relies on the perfect setting, the perfect food, the perfect company and the perfect beverage to bring its spirit alive. Having each component at its peak, one can truly judge “which is better.”
So when I saw that the Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach was hosting a beer vs. wine event, I figured the results would be skewed heavily towards wine, especially as it was marketed as a “Stone Brewing vs. Constellation Wine Brands” event. I give Stone all the credit in the world, but their selection of high IBU palate wreckers aren’t necessarily the first thing I would grab to accompany five courses of noted Chef David Fuñe’s fresh and adventurous fare.
On arrival, my preconceived notions of an overall stuffy event were shattered by a two words on a poster at the entrance: Master Pairings. “Is Dr. Bill Sysak here?” I Bieber-shrieked. “Indeed he is; welcome!” On the wine side, certified wine sommelier Scott Young was prepared to do battle with beer in this gorgeous seaside setting.
The Surf & Sand resort is a landmark hotel on the south side of Laguna Beach. Once party to Nixon’s press core when the president relaxed in his San Clemente getaway, reporters like Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather and Diane Sawyer could be seen doing reports from this lush seaside getaway. All the attention from the news at the time was largely responsible for transforming the town from a hippie artist village to a noted tourist destination. Today, its charm remains simple with large cushioned patio areas, a beachside view from every angle and flames blazing away the chilled sea air.
Pairing beverages with chef Fuñe’s cuisine is no easy task. I imagine him laughing maniacally in his kitchen laboratory like a mad genius tinkering with molecular gastronomy. With courses like a salad ‘sopa’ served in a test tube, a ravioli topped with a translucent bacon-rollup and a dessert of red chocolate pavé with cow’s blood pot du crème, I’m sure Dr. Bill and Scott lost sleep over what to pair.
After each course, beer or wine was circled and dropped into a hat. Although I’m heavily biased toward beer, I can honestly say the decisions were harder than expected. With great wines like Robert Mondavi Pino Noir Reserve 2011 battling Lost Abbey’s Lost and Found, for example, the margin for ‘excellent vs world class’ is what we’re being treated to… On the last pairing, beaching a 2008 Stone IRS whale vs. a Saved Red Blend wine is where I knew beer had won.
Overall, we were treated to a gorgeous view with waves crashing nearby, five courses of inventive delicious food, delightful and talented table guests and some of the finest beverages in the world. I’m sure we will all lose sleep thinking about this great experience. Oh, you want the score? Beer won four courses to one.
Wine took course four to my surprise. The thick mouthfeel of the duck leg and egg yolk was a good match for the beer, cleansing the palate. The wine slid over it, creating an even more full mouthfeel. Perhaps people were taken aback by beer in a can, even Scott Young joked that his wine he paired was “aged in cans” to everyone’s laughter.
1) Salad ‘Sopa’ with blood orange, radish, anise and añejo tequila
b) Stone Brewing Co. Cali Belgique IPA
w) Ruffino Prosecco
2) Cold ‘Raviolis’ belgian endive, bacon mousse, apple
b) Liefmans Goudenband
w) Franciscan “Equilibrium” White blend 2012.
3) Scallops – crystallized tomato, parmesan, lemon creme
b) Lost Abbey Lost and Found dubbel
w) Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Reserve 2011
4) Duck Inspired by Dr. Seuss – slow poached egg, leg of Moulard, cilantro, mushrooms
b) Oskar Blues Old Chub Scotch Ale
w) Franciscan Magnificat Meritage 2010
5) Red Chocolate Pavé – pot du crème, blood orange, candied bacon tuille
b) Stone Brewing Imperial Russian Stout 2008
w) Saved Red Blend 2010
City Tavern in Culver City hosted Brewers Unplugged: 22 Breweries 1 Night on Thursday, September 26 offering some of the best beers in the county while uniting the people that produce them. Most corners of the craft beer industry were represented; owners and brewers joined forces with media and sales representatives and of course, the ever-eager consumer. Everyone was locally-based and enthusiastic to sample the wide array of brews. At City Tavern, where small pours are available, there was no excuse for walking away without an opinion on every beer and an introduction to every brewery.
The vast majority of bodies blocking servers and food runners from attending to their tables were those of proprietors and brewers. From brewery owners Cyrena Nouzille (Ladyface) and Meg Gill (Golden Road) to brewmasters Dieter Foerstner (Angel City) and Rob Croxall (El Segundo) you’d be hard-pressed to uncover an L.A. county brewer absent. Those with smaller operations who both own and brew were in attendance, like Henry Nguyen (Monkish) and Andrew Luthi (Ohana), as well as those brewing on others’ systems or still looking for their own brick and mortar to call home: Kip Barnes (L.A. Ale Works), Simon Ford (Phantom Carriage) and Kingsley Toby (Pipe Dream).
On tap were highly-coveted, small-batch sweets like Naughty Sauce (blonde milk stout, Noble Ale Works), Seme della Vita (tripel with vanilla beans, Monkish), and vibrant wildcards like Surf Shack (sour blonde, Ohana) and Karma Kolsch (Thai tea-infused kolsch, L.A. Ale Works). Local favorites maintained their popularity, especially Unity (“red mild” brewed with hibiscus and honey, Eagle Rock) and Bryeian (Cascadian dark rye, The Bruery).
The event wasn’t just about great beer and brewers, it was about uniting the L.A. beer community. However many hours they put into making beer every week, these players don’t often get to commingle or commiserate with so many other operators in one place, at one time. The advantage to being so tightly packed into the space was the opportunity to overhear conversations (without blatantly eavesdropping) on topics both polarizing and inspiring. ABC regulation of breweries endorsing bars was highly debated as were strategies for fundraising and finding investors. Suggestions on how to stand out from hundreds of other breweries at the Great American Beer Festival were offered, and every brewer’s sore-spot — bars that neglect to properly clean their taplines — induced groans. Talk of the financial risk factors and high stakes of barrel-aging — exposing your lineup to unwanted bugs for the possibility of expanding your brand and garnering the respect of peers and consumers — was especially interesting.
Regardless of the micro-politics that play out in the Southland beer industry, Thursday night was an opportunity to put differences aside and put faces to names (or more accurately, brewers to beer labels). We must further explore the multi-faceted identity that makes up the L.A. beer scene: idiosyncrasies that separate the west side from east side or the valley from the south bay; the potential for L.A. beer to be recognizable by its proclivity for experimentation; the consistency with which our beer pairs to food. Precisely how our community distinguishes itself from others may not yet be determined. L.A. beer is still young and only beginning to course through a rebellious adolescence. The only way for our community to mature and present a unified front, is by coming together, in nights like Brewers Unplugged.
Brewers Unplugged Taplist:
The Dudes’ Outsourced IPA
Noble Aleworks Naughty Sauce
Ohana Surf Shack Sour Blonde
El Segundo Casa Azul
Brouwerij West Brilliant but Lazy
LA Aleworks Karma Kolsch
Bootleggers Wildfire Wheat
Strand Atticus on cask
Cismontane Blacks Dawn
Ladyface La Grisette
Eagle Rock Unity
Golden Road Smoking Bush IPA
Phantom Carriage Muis
Pipe Dream Dark Horse
Monkish Seme Della Vita
Congregation Three Cords and the Truth IPA
Angel City Eureka! Wit
Hangar 24 Polycot
Taps Pumpkin Ale
Smog City Groundwork Coffee Porter
The Bruery Bryeian