By Margaret Wappler, Los Angeles Times
August 12, 2011
Did you know that in heaven, there is a river of craft beer flowing through the celestial clouds, a coriander-spiced Belgian blond, to be exact? There are also several founts of crisply bitter IPA, positioned at clouds No. 48, 97 and 133, for quenching your thirst after clearing the pearly gates.
OK, so none of us know for certain if any of this is true, but it’s what Greg Koch, chief executive and co-founder of Stone Brewing Co., envisions when he brandishes his megaphone at various beer festivals and sermonizes about the ambrosia known as craft beer.
“I try to channel the crazy street corner preacher,” Koch said over the phone from his office in Escondido. “I don’t proselytize about the caramel undertones or the pine-sap flavor; it’s a broader mission. We are helping to change the world, and specifically change the U.S. from lowly to elevated with respect to beer.”
Brother Koch will be preaching at the L.A. Craft Beer Crawl this Saturday, the perfect group of choir angels for his gospel according to hops. Located in the sometimes-Hades-like district known as downtown Los Angeles, the joint brainchild of night life visionary Cedd Moses and the Beer Chicks (otherwise known as Hallie Beaune and Christina Perozzi), returns after a sold-out debut last year.
With around 1,600 tickets close to selling out, this year’s crawl will (sloppily) tour through seven different popular nightspots, including Caña Rum Bar, Cole’s, Casey’s Irish Pub and Las Perlas, where nearly 100 craft beers from more than 30 breweries will flow for those holding tasting glasses.
Sitting in the Golden Gopher bar, Beaune and Perozzi explain why last year’s crawl was such a success — and why it will likely be repeated. “This is a celebration of the craft beer scene,” Beaune said. “It’s about finding and discovery, and the building of that community.”
Considering that this is Los Angeles, with actors vying every day for the smallest of walk-on parts, the craft beer scene is equally competitive. “The scene has definitely exploded in the last few years,” Perozzi said. “We like the challenge of keeping up with it all.”
Perhaps following suit with L.A.’s fascination with all things red carpet and velvet rope, the biggest change at the second crawl is an improved VIP ticket (already sold out). Scheduled before the official start, from 1-3 p.m. — “We don’t believe you can start drinking too early,” Perozzi said — the suds sommeliers will offer specialty pours and beer cocktails, such as a spicy but refreshing michelada at Las Perlas and a beer float at Caña.
But the VIP upgrade is the crawl’s limited attempt to reach an upper crust. Otherwise the crawl is for the everydrinker, a casual approach that’s reflected in the Beer Chicks’ aesthetic. Meeting as bartenders at the Santa Monica beer haven Father’s Office, the brew sisters made their name with their 2009 book, “The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer.”
Now they’re tinkering with recipes for their next book, “The Naked Brewer.” “It’s a lot less technical,” Beaune said, “and more about feeling it out.”
It’s that kind of laid-back approach that attracted Moses to the Chicks, giving them free reign to redesign the beer options at all of his clubs, and to open within Golden Gopher a to-go bottle store that will make its debut at the crawl. “I really embrace their approach to beer,” Moses said. “It’s not stuffy or pretentious. It’s passionate.”
That passion will be echoed in the offerings curated by the Chicks, including a delicate but spicy Craftsman Fireworks Saison, the citrus-scented Deschutes/Boulevard Conflux White IPA, Stimulus from Eagle Rock Brewery, which is laced with Intelligentsia Coffee, and the Double Dry Hopped Stone Ruination IPA. Food trucks, such as Buttermilk, Flying Pig and LudoBites, all selected by Evan Kleiman of KCRW’s “Good Food” and Angeli Caffe, will also provide tasty sustenance.
But for all the grub and suds, it’s still the neighborhood that steals the show. In addition to showing off his many 213 outposts, Moses originally conceived the crawl as a way to highlight downtown’s overlooked splendors. “It’s one jewel after another, in terms of architecture,” he said. “This is mostly about beer but it’s not about getting wasted — we’re invested in downtown.”
Those many stylish jewels can provide a nice focal point while sobering up on the walk from bar to bar. Look up and have a woozy moment with the Eastern Columbia’s Art Deco clock, close to the one that film star Harold Lloyd dangled from in the ’20s. And, if at any time you must bow out of the evening, there’s always Yellow Cab, one of the event’s sponsors, waiting on hand to whisk you home.