Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Beer #776-815 / Day #136-137: Isn't All Beer Vegan?

Earlier this year, I was included on an email chain with a few friends who were talking about all of us going to the LA Vegan Beer and Food Festival
I wasn’t planning on attending.  I’d never gone in the past.  It seemed kinda pricey.  And it looked crowded, overrun with hipsters, and seemed like an overall pain in the ass to deal with.  But having my friends go, who were not predominantly beer-drinkers, sealed the deal.  So, I bought tickets for The Wife & myself.

A lot of co-workers chuckled when I told them about this event.  “Vegan beer?  Isn’t all beer vegan?” was the usual response.  It’s just water,  hops, malt, and yeast, right?  Actually, no!  A surprising number of beers are processed using animal products such as isinglass, the dried swim bladders of fish which are used to clarify some beers, predominantly stouts, and most notably GuinnessBarnivore is a site that lists beers known to use animal products, and the list is surprisingly long.

Vouchers in hand, a couple months later, I talked to my friends about the upcoming Vegan Beer Fest.  Unlike me, they had NOT bought tickets after all.  And they had no plans on going.  Wait…. What?
Remember that scene in the movie “Old School” where Will Ferrell aka Frank The Tank is running down the middle of the street, drunk, in the middle of the night, yelling “We’re going streaking!”  Then he realizes there is no “We”… he’s alone, naked, and no one is running with him.  That was me with my LA Vegan Beer Fest tickets.  Aw shit....

Last Saturday was the day.  Similar to my Sabroso outing, my pre-gaming consisted of two packets of Active Dry Yeast, mixed with Greek yogurt.  Not the greatest tasting combo, but I hoped it would help keep me sober for the afternoon.  Camille and I trekked from The Valley, over the hill, down side canyons to avoid the terminally backed-up Laurel Canyon, towards the Westside, and into the clusterfuck of westbound Sunset Blvd.  It wasn’t until a few days prior that it registered... this beerfest was in the heart of The Sunset Strip… had I known, that would have been the death knell of this outing and I would have sold my tickets.  But alas, I was a day late, and $90 short.  Traffic inched past legendary monuments to unparalleled douchiness… The Saddle Ranch, The Standard, The Viper Room.  At last, the Vegan Beer Fest was in sight… a fenced-in, gravel parking lot opposite The Roxy, with a line winding around the entire block.  I groaned an audible groan, and hunted for parking.  All street parking has a 2 Hour limit which clearly isn’t long enough.  From the looks of the line, we would easily spend half that time waiting to get in.  The few “reasonably priced” $10 parking lots were all full, and there were practically no other options aside from getting a parking ticket or spending $22-$26 parking in the garages of the nearby office buildings.  I searched in vain for options, but after wasting another 30 minutes fighting traffic and frustration, I realized time was being wasted not using these tickets that were already paid for.  I bit the bullet, pulled into a pricey corporate office parking garage, and we made our way to the back of the Vegan Beer Fest entry line.
One long ass line.
There were easily 200 people in front of us waiting to enter, and we still didn’t technically have our tickets. I had to retrieve them from Will Call.  As I pathetically peered through the iron-barred fence into the festival, kept outside like a disobedient pet, glaring at people who weren’t me... people who were enjoying my unlimited beer without me, I tried not to let my frustration and jealously get the better of me.  I was standing in direct sunlight, with a bladder on the verge of exploding after the long ride, and a belly full of active yeast. 
Then the line moved.  Then it moved again.  What I anticipated as another hour was perhaps only 15 minutes.  We were in the homestretch.  There was hope.  It was like being in line forever at Disneyland, and finally queueing up in a numbered row, next in line to jump in our log for Splash Mountain.

Cranky guy needs a beer.  Or 37.
My mood changed drastically once we were inside.  The spoiled brat finally got what he wanted:  Entry to the playground of bountiful beering.  For a Sold Out event, there was a mercifully ample amount of space to move around.  Lines were not overly long.  And my fears of elbow-wrestling against mustachioed hipsters for access to taps were laid to rest.  It was a ruly crowd of average folks like me who simply dig beer.  I even spotted a few cool underground types.  One of them had a “Soy Not Oi” shirt.  Another was wearing a Capitalist Casualties T.  My people were in attendance.  And so were some of the finest SoCal had to offer. 
Eagle Rock unveiled their biting Ginger Saison.  Golden Road unleashed their anticipated seasonal Almond Milk Stout… wait, is that vegan?  Figueroa Mountain has always been so-so in my book, but their Big Cone black ale won me over.  San Francisco's Speakeasy ventured to South Cali with their mediocre Big Daddy IPA, but then scored with their Betrayal Imperial Red. I braved the long line at the Bravery Brewing tent to try their decent La Fleur Hibiscus Wheat and Old Rat English Brown Ale.  Self-proclaimed Godfathers Of Beer Karl Strauss even stepped up the game a bit with their sessionable Mosaic IPA.  San Diego’s Modern Times brought up a few different canned beers, the Lomalond Saison and Fortunate Islands Wheat, which were both astoundingly better than expected.
Me and Faction guy: Big earlobes and great beers
Many breweries played it safe, and brought out their “usual” to pour, but I’m always appreciative to those who bring out specialty kegs.
The most impressive beers of the day, hands-down, were unleashed by Alameda’s Faction Brewing and Hermosa Beach’s The Brewery At Abigaile.  Faction provided a stripped down, DIY style booth with two of the more impressive offerings of the day.  And Abigaile won me as a loyal fan with all three of their beers, especially the Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Black Mass Porter.

I kept with my standard regimen of small pours throughout the day, and managed to sample my way through 37 new beers, plus a few tasty duplicates for good measure… hell, I can’t say no to the Ballast Point Habanero Scuplin.  Ever.  I kept hydrated when possible, although the organizers of this event would have been wise to make water stations plentiful and free.  Instead, some oddball frou-frou Hawaiian bottled volcanic water was for sale.  Not a big deal since it was only $2, but still….
We sampled a few vegan food offerings, both of which were excellent…. Caribbean quesadillas from Real Food Daily which were only $4 for two, and Frito Pies from Beyond Meat which were not only delicious and the perfect accompaniment for beer but, strangely enough, absolutely free!
The Grilled Cheese Truck?  Um…. Hate to break it to you, but NOT vegan.
Something is slightly nasty about this.

We left the Vegan Beer Fest full-bellied, comfortable, pleased, satisfied.  The mounting frustrations that kicked off the day were quickly forgotten.
Would I come here again?  No.  Well, not unless it was free.  And someone else drove.  And they dropped me off at the VIP entrance. 
It was a great time once we were in, but this is one of the worst parts of town to attend any event.  I avoid The Strip at night, and now I know to avoid it during the day as well.
Did the belly full of yeast help me stay sober, or is it a placebo?  I still wouldn’t bet money on it either way, but it seemed to work.  I didn’t hydrate nearly as much as I would have liked. 
Then again, I didn’t leave the Fest with the urge to go streaking through the quad.

The tally continues....

5/16 – Friday nite at home
776 - MAD RIVER BREWING HUMBOLDT HAZE IMPERIAL WHEAT IPA – Dense and tasty, with a name like Humboldt Haze I was expecting some kind of funky hemp beer.  Huh.  Huh huh.  Duuude.
777 - CALDERA BREWING ASHLAND AMBER ALE – I’m really warming up to more Ambers lately, probably because the bar has been raised.  These Oregonian tree huggers know what’s up.

5/17 – LA Vegan Beer Fest +1
778 - GOLDEN ROAD HEAL THE BAY IPA – Great IPA that tends to mysteriously come & go, so I like to enjoy it while I can.  Some proceeds go to a local organization protecting local watersheds.  I’m definitely wearing Birkenstocks whenever I drink this.
779 - GOLDEN ROAD ALMOND MILK STOUT – A limited, specialty release. Super tasty.  Probably doesn’t have milk in it.  Hope not.  This is a Vegan Beer Fest, ya know!
780 - NOBLE ALE WORKS ALL NIGHT LONG – Some sorta complex black ale.  I’m a huge fan of these fellas, and they never cease to push the boundaries of your average stein.
781 - SIERRA NEVADA BREWING SUMMERFEST PILSNER – Easy to drink, inoffensive, better than the usual Pilsner, but I’d opt for any of their other offerings first.
782 - SMOG CITY BREWING L.A. SAISON – Nice one from this Torrance brewery.  Golden, wheaty, farmy, yeasty.
784 - ABIGAILE BREWERY RYE WHISKEY BARREL AGED BLACK MASS PORTER – Beer Of The Fest! Incredible, deep vanilla, barrel-infused, rich malt tastiness.
785 - ABIGAILE BREWERY OATS OF BIRMINGHAM ENGLISH BROWN ALE – Maybe I’m a heretic, but many “English style” beers are lost on me.  This is an exception, and it’s exceptional.
786 - ABIGAILE BREWERY 002 2ND ANNIVERSARY DOUBLE IPA – Lucky I got to try this one.  Fantastic West Coast IPA.  Not soapy or skunky.  Evenly balanced.  Just right.
787 - EAGLE ROCK BREWERY GINGER SAISON – Really decent ginger bite without being overpowering.  Bet this would be awesome with Thai food.
789 - FACTION BREWING DEFCON I BELGIAN QUAD – Inspired, rich, delicious… one of the few today where I enjoyed the full pour.  Excellent output from this modest SF Bay Area brewery.
790 - FIGUEROA MOUNTAIN BREWING HOPPY POPPY IPA – Had it before.  Thought it was one of their better brews.  But then I tried the Big Cone, which blew it away.
791 - FIGUEROA MOUNTAIN BREWING BIG CONE CASCADIAN DARK ALE – See above.  Fig Mtn finally has a beer I really like.
792 - GOLDEN ROAD BERLINER WEISSE – Tart but surprising how easy-to-drink this is.  Highly recommended for anyone needing a starting point to “try out” a sour.
793 - SPEAKEASY BETRAYAL IMPERIAL RED – Not a huge fan of Speakeasy to date, but I truly enjoyed this double red ale.  I guess I’ll start speaking easier about these guys myself.
794 - OMISSION IPA – Gluten free.  Not that great.  But if I had an allergy, I suppose I’d learn to like it.  The best of the three Omission offerings.
796 - OMISSION LAGER – Bleh.
Gotta keep track of these things
798 - BOOTLEGGER'S BREWERY RUSTIC RYE IPA – Enjoyed it more in the past, but maybe it was too cold.
799 - BOOTLEGGER'S BREWERY PALOMINO PALE ALE – I like Bootlegger’s, but this is my least favorite off their roster.
800 - MODERN TIMES LOMALAND SAISON – Excellent canned creation from SD.  Seriously way more impressive than expected.
801 - HANGAR 24 BETTY IPA – Everybody has an IPA.  Now Hangar 24 does, too.  Inland Empire rejoice!
802 - MODERN TIMES FORTUNATE ISLANDS WHEAT BEER – Very, very freakin’ good.  I started out on the wrong foot with this brewery.  Since my first disappointing try, I’ve truly enjoyed all of their releases since.  I’m a fan.  I’m gettin’ with the Times.
803 - OSKAR BLUES DALE'S PALE ALE – You’ve had it.  So have I.  I was really hoping they’d show up with a specialty keg.  Instead it was the standard cans.  Good, but Deviant Dale’s and Ten Fidy are my favorites.
804 - OSKAR BLUES OLD CHUB – See above.  Not the hugest fan of this Scotch Ale, truth be told.
806 - BRAVERY BREWING LA FLEUR HIBISCUS WHEAT – I’m due to head up to the high desert & check out this place.  This pinkish taster was pretty good, not too complex, but I want to give them a chance.
807 - BRAVERY BREWING OLD RAT ENGLISH BROWN – Decent, solid, better than the wheat beer.
808 - OHANA BREWING PALE ALE – Keg wasn’t ready, but I was pushy & insisted on a sip.  Yeah, total dick move.  But nice, easy drinking beer.  I need to visit their tasting room.
809 - EPIC BREWING GLUTENATOR – Their take on gluten-free brau.  Much better than the Omission samples.
810 - KARL STRAUSS MOSAIC SESSION IPA – The big guys are an easy target.  It’s easy to pooh-pooh their beers as not being fancy or DIY enough.  The self-proclaimed Godfather Of Beer hits the mark with this one.  2014 truly is The Year Of The Session IPA.
811 - DESCHUTES BREWERY MIRROR POND PALE ALE – Not fancy, straight forward, but always good.
812 - NEW BELGIUM WILD DUBBEL – Unlike most of my beer drinking friends, I’m not a fan of this Lips Of Faith series.  They usually sound like a good idea, but rarely deliver the goods.  And I know I’m alone in that generalized assessment.  That makes this brew even more enjoyable…. I like it!  Tasty wild ale with a lot goin’ on.  Rich, malty, mildly spicy bite.  Nice.
813 - WOLF CREEK BREWERY HOWLIN' HEF – Ummm. Here’s the thing…
814 - SMOG CITY BREWING LIL BO PILS – Decent pilsner.  Lite and unobtrusive.  Don’t need it again, but I do support this brewery, smog and all.
815 - ABBAYE DE LEFFE LEFFE BLONDE – Post-Fest Belgian nitecap with some friends up in Santa Clarita at a wine place...  No, not a beer place.  You’ve had it.  You like it.
Nerd alert!

No comments:

Post a Comment