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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.