Since Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. opened in Chico, Calif., in 1981, Los Angeles beer lovers have been living in the shadow of their neighbors to the north. But the last few years have seen the rise of L.A. microbrew, pubs and beer culture, with hot spots popping up all over the city. Now, just in time for spring weather, local event company DrinkEatPlay is giving beer lovers a day in the sun with their second annual Los Angeles Beer Festival.
Organizer Dan Silberstein said the idea was pretty low-hanging fruit. "Someone off-the-cuff said, 'The only thing L.A. is missing is a beer festival,' " he says, and he jumped at the suggestion.
It was only a matter of time before L.A. caught up with other cities, like San Francisco and San Diego, where a resident beer has become part of the local image. "L.A. and the OC are really starting to pick up speed," said Aaron Barken- hagen, owner of Bootlegger's Brewery in Fullerton. Barkenhagen expects the number of breweries in Orange County to double in the next two years.
Craft brewing, which the Brewers Assn. defines as "small, independent, and traditional," has been a growth industry in the United States for the last 30 years. The number of craft breweries nationwide grew steadily from only eight in 1980 to 537 in 1994. The next 15 years saw that number almost triple to 1,585, according to the association.
Ladyface brewery in Agoura Hills is one of the most recent additions to the craft brew scene. Brewmaster David Griffiths and general manager Cyrena Nouzille were neighbors making home-brew in their basements before they opened the alehouse five months ago. "There really weren't any breweries in northwest Los Angeles," Nouzille said. "Obviously, it's our passion, and we felt that the demographic was ready for it."
Even last year, when overall beer sales fell 2.2%, the craft brewing industry saw sales increase by 10.3%.
"People like to know where their stuff comes from," Barkenhagen said. "I think it's just a general shift toward artisanal products."
Artisanal also means unique. Bootlegger's will be bringing a few of their more eclectic samplings to the fest, including their Black Phoenix brew, a chipotle-coffee stout, and their seasonal Spring Ale, flavored this year with sage, tarragon, honey and chamomile.
All participating breweries will bring a selection of their products and offer unlimited pours for two sessions of the festival: 1 to 4 p.m., and 5 to 8 p.m. Drink- EatPlay made some adjustments after last year's festival, including making both sessions on the same day ("Sunday just wasn't as popular," Silberstein said.) They also added those L.A. staples: food trucks. Wolfgang Puck Catering will again offer sausages and pulled pork sandwiches, but organizers say the seven or eight additional trucks will help eliminate lines and increase exposure.
Beer and food call for music, and there will be a band playing at each session. Petty Cash, a Tom Petty/Johnny Cash tribute band, will play the first, and 40oz to Freedom, a Sublime cover band, will play the second.
More than 60 local and out-of-town breweries will be on tap -- almost double the number from last year.
"There is a lot more local showing this year," Silberstein said, including the Edison, the Downtown L.A. bar that serves a house brew, Lagunitas, plus Gentleman Scholar, Angel City, Strand Brewing, Ladyface and more.
Festivals like this one offer a rare chance to taste drafts like Ladyface's Picture City Porter. Ladyface, which has a capacity of about 1,000 barrels a year, sells almost all its product on-site.
"Right now, we're just trying to keep up with the thirst of people in the neighborhood," Nouzille said.
Where: Sony Pictures Studios, 10202 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City
When: 1-4 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Sat.
Price: $40, advance reservations only