Meeting of the Guilds – A California Craft Beer Mash-Up

Staff Writer
Meeting of the Guilds – A California Craft Beer Mash-Up

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The Los Angeles County Brewers Guild Take Home the Golden Keg at the Meeting of the Guilds (Photo Credit: Bernie Wire at www.friendsoflocalbeer.com)

Beer Weeks and Brewers Guilds…more and more these concepts are beginning to become ubiquitous throughout the country in what might be called this resurgence of craft beer.  Sure, maybe the “Lexington Craft Beer Week” does not have the history or the cache of, say for example, Philly Beer Week or Portland (PDX) Beer Week, but the fact that Lexington, Kentucky has an entire week devoted to craft beer says something about the state of beer in the United States.  Often organized and executed by local Brewers Guilds—groups of brewers coming together to promote locally brewed beer—the Beer Week is an easy way to get people interested and involved and active in beer.  Simply put, the Beer Week and Brewers Guild concepts are a good way to facilitate beer.

A mash-up is defined as “something created by combining elements from two or more sources.”  Using this definition and applying it to the concepts of the Beer Week and the Brewers Guild, the Meeting of the Guilds, an event I attended at Mohawk Bend on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, was then a beer mash-up of sorts.  Three sources of incredible beer—the San Francisco Brewers Guild, the Los Angeles County Brewers Guild, and the San Diego Brewers Guild—provided the elements (fifteen beers from fifteen different breweries within each Guild), all combined at a fantastic venue with a great crowd.  The end result was an amazing beer mash-up.  Girl Talk would be proud.  Here are the highlights of what each Brewers Guild brought to the mix…

The San Francisco Brewers Guild – From Anchor Brewing Company to Fort Point Beer Co.

From the brewery that started it all, with Fritz Maytag’s acquisition of Anchor Brewing Company in 1965, to a brewery that just started brewing, the San Francisco Brewers Guild (SFBG) boasts an incredibly diverse range of brewery members.  The spectrum of SFBG breweries were well-represented at the Meeting of the Guilds, with fifteen of the Guild’s nineteen breweries sending beer to LA.  Beer was available from the older, established San Francisco breweries, such as Anchor Brewing Company, 21st Amendment Brewery, and Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, as well as the next generation of newer start-ups like Cellarmaker Brewing Co., Headlands Brewing Company, and Bartlett Hall. So, it was the classic and the contemporary on display from the San Francisco brewers.  One of my all-time favorite beers from the City was on tap, the “Kalifornia Kolsch” from Magnolia Pub & Brewery.  Between the original location in the historic Haight, and owner Dave McLean’s new “Smokestack” project in the Dogpatch neighborhood, this brewpub probably brews more Kolsch than any other beer offering.  It’s a delightful take on the traditional style, and the beer is incredibly drinkable.  If Kalifornia Kolsch is on the menu, order it.

On the other side of the spectrum, Tim Sciascia and Connor Casey at Cellarmaker Brewing Company sent down an animal of a double IPA, their extremely bold and hoppy “Original Dankster.”  Casey says “Original Dankster is full of juicy orange citrus aromas alongside musty tangerine dank, with some grapefruit and stonefruit notes as well.”  This beer from Cellarmaker is downright delicious. Located in the tech-heavy SoMa district, Cellarmaker opened its doors in 2013 and they have seen a meteoric rise in awareness within most craft beer circles.  Perhaps best known for saisons and hoppy ales, Tim (a former brewer across the Bay at Marin Brewing Company) has proven that he can crank out phenomenal beer in a cramped, yet beautiful SF brewery.  This batch of Original Dankster was especially on point, and the thirsty crowd at Mohawk Bend made short work of the keg.  At the Meeting of the Guilds, this beer was voted to a tie for the second place finish in the “Best Beer of the Day” poll.  Look for these guys to start bottling more beer and to continue to make waves in California, including south of San Francisco in both Los Angeles and San Diego.

The Los Angeles County Brewers Guild – Awesome Beer, Lousy Traffic

To those that write off Los Angeles as a craft beer “wasteland,” this is not only clearly now a mistake, but it plainly overlooks some phenomenal beer from some genuinely awesome breweries.  The Los Angeles County Brewers Guild now boasts twenty-four brewery members, including some household names like Beachwood BBQ & Brewing, Eagle Rock Brewery, El Segundo Brewing Co., Ladyface Ale Companie, and Golden Road Brewing.  With the recent increase in awareness for Los Angeles beer, it is fair to say that Guild leadership has had a direct impact on the unprecedented state of beer in LA. Clearly, the Los Angeles breweries brought it strong on their “home court.”

Julian Shrago brought ULTRAHOP 2000, a 7.1% ABV IPA from Beachwood BBQ & Brewing featuring Equinox hops.  This beer was incredible, and there is little doubt that Julian can truly brew beers across any style.  His hoppy beers are just as delicious as the stouts that he features at the brewpub in Long Beach.  Look for him to only continue to build off of the success that he achieved at the Great American Beer Festival last year, winning the Mid-Size Brewpub Brewer of the Year.

In attendance at the event, the breweries from Los Angeles were well represented at Mohawk Bend too.  One of the best parts of the evening was getting the chance to talk to the LA brewers about their beers and about the incredible uptick that Los Angeles has seen when it comes to all-things beer related.  Jeremy Raub of Eagle Rock Brewery, and president of the Los Angeles County Brewers Guild, spoke about what it was like to watch Los Angeles become the beer community that it is today.  Greg Bechtel from El Segundo Brewing Co. joked about naming their double IPA “Wallet Dropper” (another amazing IPA on the taplist).  Jesse Houck, the Brewmaster at Gold Road Brewing, talked to me about the hops that Golden Road is using in their new, IPA-Style Lager “Might as Well IPL.”  The Galaxy and Calypso hops play well together in this hop-forward, delicious lager.  Cyrena Nouzille discussed Ladyface’s GABF plans, including their participation in Crooked Stave Brewery’s What the Funk!? festival of funky beers. At the end of the evening, the Los Angeles County Brewers Guild defended home court, winning the “coveted” golden keg trophy that was awarded to the most popular Guild of the evening.  The event—and the healthy competition between the three predominant California Brewers Guilds—highlighted the role that Guilds play in promoting and organizing breweries from a specific region.  The Los Angeles County Brewers Guild exposed me to a lot of awesome beer and it has got me absolutely eager to search out more.

The San Diego Brewers Guild – Brewing San Diego Style Beers

Gearing up for San Diego Beer Week, November 7 – 16, the San Diego Brewers Guild brewers brought some definitively San Diego style beers to showcase at Mohawk Bend.  The fifteen participating breweries were a great cross section of the state of San Diego Beer (something that I have written about, here).  The old guard (Coronado Brewing Company, Karl Strauss Brewing Company) and the new (Saint Archer Brewery, Culture Brewing Company, Societe Brewing Company), as well as the brewpubs (Pizza Port Brewing Company, Monkey Paw Brewing Company) were all represented.

The list of San Diego beers was absolutely San Diego (read: hops).  Mohawk Bend was pouring a session IPA, “Session Citra IPA” from Culture Brewing Company.  A rye IPA, winner of the gold at the World Beer Cup in the rye beer category, “Habitus” from Mike Hess Brewing.  A fruited IPA, “Grapefruit Sculpin” from Ballast Point Brewing Company (this beer tied for second with Original Dankster in the voting for the Best Beer of the Day).  A double (triple?) IPA, “Green Bullet” from Green Flashing Brewing Company.  A black IPA, “Monkey Paw 15” from Monkey Paw Brewing Company.  Oh, and two IPAs—one from Societe Brewing Company, “The Pupil” (winner of the people’s vote for the “Best Beer of the Day”) and “Triple Crown IPA” from Mother Earth Brewing Co.  There was little doubt that the San Diego brewers wanted to showcase hops, and the different beers from each brewery did just that. The Meeting of the Guilds comes to San Diego next, with Toronado San Diego playing host to the event during San Diego Beer Week (November 7 – November 16).

There is little doubt that the San Diego Brewers Guild will throw out the stops in an attempt to win the “coveted” golden keg trophy in November, but expect that all the participating breweries from each of Guilds will bring their best, freshest, most delicious beers to the share amongst friends and brewing brethren.

A Final Note on LA Beer Week

LA Beer Week, now in its sixth year, is quickly becoming one of the most interesting and innovative Beer Weeks in the country.  Although there might be Beer Weeks that more craft beer fans geek out about, LA Beer Week did not disappoint.  This is a testament to the great breweries (especially the recent additions) in Los Angeles County, the amazing people who brew the beer, the increasingly outgoing and receptive beer consuming community, and the quality and type of beer that is coming out of Los Angeles.  Lookout for bigger and better things in year seven.

In addition to being a contributor to The New School Beer, Mike V. Sardina serves as the Assistant Executive Officer of Societe Brewing Company.  You can find him at @SocieteMike on twitter.

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