Hats off to Venerable LA Breweries

by C.C. Hansen

Eagle Rock, Beachwood, and Three Weavers are among eight L.A. County breweries that have stood the test of time

Before there was Instagram, and during the period when I didn’t fully know what to do with Twitter, I was grateful to sign up for “email blasts” from my favorite craft brewers. One of the most consistent Brewer Blasters has been Eagle Rock Brewing. I recently got a blast from them that directed me to a May 11 article by Melissa Mora Hidalgo on the L.A. Taco blog. The article, “Still Got It: These Eight Breweries Have Been Open For More Than a Decade and Helped Put Greater L.A. on the Craft Beer Map,” is essential reading for our So Cal Craft Beer community. Consider this post on the So Cal Craft Beer Blog as mere marginalia to Ms. Hidalgo’s entertaining and highly informative piece.

The L.A. Taco Blog “was founded in late 2006 by its founders’ simple desire to document the things they love about the city. Then, it was mostly tacos, weed, and street art.” Ms. Hidalgo’s column, Dr. Beer Butch, is where “Professor Hidalgo examines L.A.’s craft beer scene using her background in academia, LGBTQ, and [real] L.A. culture.”

Eagle Rock Brewing, Los Angeles

Young paladin Jeremy Raub at the beginning of his zymurgical quest, circa 2010(?)

When I was the Ventura Craft Beer Examiner for the now-defunct Examiner.com, I interviewed craft brewers up and down the state. I’ve reprinted some of those interviews in the “Archive” section of this blog. Jeremy Raub of Eagle Rock Brewery was the very last of the brewers that I interviewed before my frustration with the Examiner platform and business model got the better of me, and I gradually withdrew my contributions. At the time, the Eagle Rock brew pub on Roswell Street had been open for just a few months.

Jeremy started the brewery with his wife, Ting Su, and with help from his dad, Steve. Some early street artist-homebrewers were among those involved in these early stages. I’m talking about Lee Bakofsky and his brother, Andrew. I was introduced to them by my long-time friend and inspiration Eric Junker, who is not only a prodigious muralist and street artist in his own right, but also a fellow USC faculty member (he’s in the Roski School of Art & Design, I’m in the Marshall School’s business communications department).

I remember attending a “Session Beer Festival” at ERB in April 2011 that featured no less than 11 lower alcohol, i.e. “session,” beers — quite bold, I thought, in the days when the level of hop bitterness was reaching the level of ghost pepper discomfort. Lee and Andrew were responsible for several English-style ales, as well as a couple Belgian-style petite saisons. Steve Raub brewed a cream ale and “Winter’s End” mild, while Jeremy offered ERB’s signature “Solidarity” English dark mild, and the entire ERB team brewed a “Tarte Noir” barrel-aged sour. Patrick Morse, who had cut his brewing teeth at Harpoon in Vermont, offered a Noble Kolsch at the session fest.

Among the many incredible innovations that ERB has introduced over the years are a high-end brasserie-style “Public House” on Colorado Blvd. (which closed during the pandemic) and a hugely popular Women’s Beer Forum. For a number of years, I offered extra credit to writing students who attended the forum and wrote a blog post about it. The Forum was curtailed by the pandemic and a lawsuit, but it’s up and running again. Check out ladies.eaglerockbrewery.com if you’re interested.

Beachwood Brewing, Long Beach

Our NorCal friend, Sir Ted of Sonoma, kept bothering us about taking him to Beachwood Brewing in the mid-2010s, but we never managed to visit when Sir Ted was slumming it down in the Southland. Finally, Eleanor and I, with assistance from our trusty wing-woman Isabella, visited their Long Beach establishment on a chilly evening in January 2019. It was “bumpin'” as the kids used to say.

Courtesy Beachwood Facebook page from January 2019

While we waited for a table, Isabella had Beachwood’s classic IPA, “Amalgamator;” Eleanor tried a Belgian-style blonde, “Rubia;” and I went with “Trader Jules,” a nod to Jules Verne, the South Pacific, and piña coladas, — “a tiki-inspired ale,” as the sign put it.

Once seated, and anticipating our decent BBQ repast (not quite rising to the level of JRs Geniune Barbecue in Culver City, where Sir Ted took us when he was looking for galleries to represent his art — yes, he, too, is an amazing visual artist), Isabella sipped “Silver Fern IPA” — all Southern Hemisphere hops (name from a Maori legend), which we liked better than the Amalgamator. Eleanor did their New England (aka hazy) IPA, “Opaque & Bake,” and I had their delightful English ESB-style “Hops of Brixton.”

Check out the plethora of offerings on display that night in the photo on the right.

Three Weavers, Inglewood

The Three Weavers taproom on a beautiful April afternoon in 2017

Right before the hazy beer craze went viral — let’s say early 2017 — I was looking for IPAs that rose to a level above the standard West Coast IPA that all brewers were obliged to offer. The gold standard was (and for many years had been) Russian River Brewing’s “Pliny the Elder.” Technically, it is a double IPA, of course, but it had many of the qualities I sought: a balance of yeasty sweetness with restrained hop bitterness, and a citrusy, floral essence that conjured a walk in nature, along the lines of that song “Guinnevere” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash: “She’d walk down to the garden after it rained/ Peacocks wandered aimlessly underneath an orange tree.”

The first worthy candidate on the scene was Alpine “Duet.” As the SCCBB’s BeachRock Bill described it in his recent post on McIlhenney Brewing, “With just two obscure (at the time) hop varieties, the Simcoe- and Amarillo-hopped Duet was part of a new breed of IPA that showcased hop flavor and aroma over extreme bitterness.” Frankly, I couldn’t get enough of that beer, but I couldn’t always find it.

Next on the list was Three Weavers‘ “Expatriate,” which was distributed widely in the places where I bought beer in bottles and cans, as well as the watering holes where I enjoyed beer on tap.

As Three Weavers describes the beer on their website, “This bright, tropical, fruit-laden West Coast IPA is brewed with two-row barley, English crystal malt, and cutting edge American hops including Simcoe, Mosaic and El Dorado. Notes of mango, pineapple and strawberry culminate in a resinous, dank finish synonymous with the West Coast IPA style. Expatriate tastes like home no matter where you are.”

The last beer on this list comes not only from a brief period when Modern Times beer was dominant and ubiquitous and always delicious but also when the New England/ Hazy style was in the ascendant.

We could always find the latest iteration in Modern Times’ seemingly endless IPA undertakings at Trader Joe’s. And because I’m a wordsmith I always loved the names they came up with: Orderville, Cloudburst, Accumulated Knowledge, and Blazing World, to name just a few.

I received an email from Sir Ted in September 2017 exhorting me to find a pint of Modern Times “Critical Band” immediately. It had apparently been released in July of that year. Beer Advocate rated Critical Band “93 — Outstanding.” The blurb provided by the Modern Times flack pretty much sums up the experience: “This deeply juicy stunner in the mold of City of the Sun and Booming Rollers will be replacing Aurora in the seasonal line-up next year. While our beloved red rye IPA will undoubtedly be missed, we think you’ll agree with our decision once you get a face-full of this outrageously tasty IPA. Brewed with Denali, Ekuanot, Citra, and Centennial hops, Critical Band is a blast wave of pineapple, papaya, and pink grapefruit over a crisp, restrained malt bill, before wrapping up in a soft, round finish that leaves you with warm feelings and an intense desire for another sip.

As Ms. Hidalgo says in her “Still Got It” post, “Currently, California has over 1,100 breweries and, counting, the most in the country. The L.A. County Brewers Guild counts nearly 90 members or about 8% of the state’s breweries. Though smaller and younger than California’s more established craft brewing regions, greater L.A.’s mighty beer presence began with a handful of breweries that held their own with—even won medals alongside—their storied cohorts to the north and south. 

“… [The] first-generation L.A. brewers are still the ones to seek out for their consistently reliable quality beers and signature styles—L.A. originals who opened the doors for the growth of local craft beer we see today.”

Cheers! Until next time,

— Chauncey B, aka, the So Cal Craft Beer Blogger

Instagram: @socalcraftbeer
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/socalcraftbeer
Mastadon: @socalcraftbeer@hostux.social

All photos by C. C. Hansen; featured photo from an avocado citrus orchard in L.A. County

One thought on “Hats off to Venerable LA Breweries

  1. Great read! Three Weavers is among my favorites. I feel I ought to give Beachwood another try. I went there a couple times with my folks, years ago; I can’t recall what I had (most likely the Amalgamator), I only know that my mom had some Meyer Lemon concoction that we all agreed was not palatable…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s