The past two weeks of LA Beer Week – filled with beer events – came to an end with a festival in grand style. I should probably say almost grand style. As a former beer festival manager I usually look at a beer festival from an organizational point of view and not only from a beer consumer point of view. First of all, it’s not acceptable to wait in line 45 minutes to get in. At All About Beer Magazine’s World Beer Festival our goal was to get the 6500+ attendees in to the event in 15 minutes. Most of the time we made it sometimes we didn’t. And when we didn’t, man did we hear about it! I mean one line with one ticket scanner at LA Beer Week Festival, come on! I heard of some attendees that came 30 minutes after the gates had opened and still had to wait in line for almost half an hour. It’s like selling a 22-ounce bottle of beer that is only filled ¾ and still charging full price. Is that acceptable? As with many beer festivals (World Beer Festival exempted) LA Beer Week Festival lacked a few small but crucial details.
Rinse water. There need to be water to rinse the glass after each sample. After two or three pours you get a hint of the aroma and flavor from two beers back. I don’t think the Karl Strauss brewer intended his Red Trolley Ale to have a hint of Stone Bastard Ale in the body.
Free or low-priced water. Every event that serves alcohol needs to provide water to avoid over consumption. That is just the basics of hosting a beer festival or any alcoholic beverage event for that matters. You shouldn’t have to stand in a food truck line for 20 minutes just to buy an overpriced bottle of water.
Plenty of toilets. To host a beer festival you basically need two things, beer and toilets. To host a good beer festival you need much more than that. Some 10 years ago I had the pleasure of attending the first Copenhagen beer festival and they missed out on one of these two. I can say that they had plenty of beer. There are few beer festivals I have been at that have enough toilets.
Information and education. Before I go to a festival I like to have a beer list of what beers and breweries are going to attend. I want to make a plan for what to sample, learn about what I’m sampling and try to get the best out of the event and create good sequencing in my drinking. And it’s not only me who want information and education. According to Women Enjoying Beer one key component for women and beer is education. One of the most influential beer persons in Twitter @TheBeerWench writes on her blog Drink With The Wench “The greatest barrier to converting people to craft beer is LACK OF EDUCATION“. I have a hard time understanding how a beer festival organizer can neglect a great opportunity to educate the public about craft beer before, during and after the event.
Now the most important, the beers. The beer selection at the festival was good. My basic plan was local and new and Ohana Brewing Company is probably as new as you can get. It hasn’t even opened yet but so far it looks good. Their sour ale has a really smooth sourness with a fresh body. The finish is slight dry. Another for me new brewery was Ventura’s Surf Brewery. The 6.5% ABV County Line Rye ™ Pale Ale have medium bitter body with a low malt sweetens and some gentle rye character. The finish is dry and with some spiciness. This is a pleasant pale ale that I wouldn’t mind having more of but a it’s a little to strong to be a session beer.
Brown ale seems to become more common (or maybe I haven’t been paying attention). I sampled two good brown ales, one from Black Market Brewery and one from Cosmic Brewery. The Cosmic Hell Hound American Brown Ale has medium caramel and toasty body with light hoppyness. The beer was served a little to cold so the true flavors did not really come out. The Black Market Brown Ale has a medium body with a clear toasty caramel, slightly sweet.
The most interesting brewery at the festival was by far Craftsman Brewing Company.
Their beers are very delicate, complex and balanced and not over the top. They brew the kind of beers that I like and wish many more breweries would brew. The Poppy Field Pale Ale is perfectly balanced pale ale with a moderately hoppy body and supporting malt character. Their Angelino Weiss has a sour body with some wheat maltyness. The beer reminds me about a more sour but still balanced Berliner Weiss. By fare the best beer at the festival was the Craftsman 1903 Lager. It’s a refreshing and clean beer with lightly sweet and a malty aroma, smooth malty body and a hoppy finish to balance the body.
I have to mention something about the festival location, Los Angeles Union Station. This is a great location for a beer festival. The station was built in 1939 as one of the last union stations built in the US. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places list in 1980. It has beautiful beams in the ceiling and decorated floors. The festival was located partly outside between the buildings and partly inside a side building. But I don’t think LA Beer Week Festival can continue to have the festival at the Union Station much longer. The festival has potential to grow both with attendees and breweries. From what I heard the event was sold out way in advance. The selection of local and regional breweries was good but I think there are more domestic and imports that want to expose them self to the emerging Los Angeles beer market. Los Angeles is finally taking off as a good beer town and with the population living in the LA metro area this festival has the potential to have many more breweries. As a beer event I rate this event as follows:
Beer selection: A. Many good beers from local breweries. I like that.
Beer education: F. I didn’t see anything at all from the organizers side.
Anti intoxication efforts: C. Water!!!
Good atmosphere: B. Great location. Plenty of space and not over-crowded.
Over all: B. There are some improvements necessary.