Is there a better place in the whole city to sip on some fine craft beer than the verdant hillsides of Griffith Park? If there is then we haven’t found it! The 2012 Brew at the Los Angeles Zoo was on Friday, and more beer, more animals, more space, and more food added up to lots more fun!
Last year’s Brew at the Zoo event was one of the highlights of our summer, and this year’s production was even better! Many of the minor issues that detracted from the 2011 festival were addressed, and the event organizers went out of their way to ensure that everything was running smoothly and everyone was having a good time.
Twenty one breweries were represented throughout the expanded festival grounds with the majority being Southern California-based operations. Big names like Stone, Firestone Walker, and Widmer Brothers poured beers next to local favorites like Cismontane and El Segundo Brewing, and a mix of local bands, DJ sets, and radio station teams provided the tunes throughout the meandering paths through the zoo.
Last year there were only a handful of animal exhibits open during the festival, and the large crowds struggled in the often cramped areas where the pouring stations were set-up. Three additional areas of the sprawling LA Zoo were added this year, including the newly opened LAIR where the zoo’s collection of reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates are housed, and the restored Carousel Plaza which became danCe-party central with DJ Morningstar spinning and Golden Road, Hangar 24, and Bootleggers pouring some great beers.
While the beers present at each station tended towards the brewer’s flagship styles, we were pleasantly surprised with the number of “E-ticket” beers available. Drake’s Brewing brough their excellent double IPA Denogginizer. Stone had Saison du BUFF flowing when we were at their station, and Hangar 24 was pouring their not-yet-released 2012 Oktoberfeast lager (which was excellent.) Golden Road had their American Strong Ale – Either Side of the Hill – which we hadn’t seen in months. Golden Road’s Skipp told us that they’d found a stash of kegs of it in their warehouse, and we have to say that the beer had mellowed and improved after being forgotten about for a few months.
One of the favorite beers of the evening was El Segundo Brewing Co’s White Dog IPA. They call it a “wheat IPA” and it clearly falls into the fashionable “white IPA” mould, but it is not just a straight-forward Belgian wit beer with some extra hops added. This is a full-blown West Coast IPA packed with pungent hops that drip with tropical fruit flavors and a rich, dank herbaceous aroma. How many times have you doubled-up on a beer at a festival? That’s how good this was! El Segundo is in the planning stages of adding a bottling-line, but until that is operational you will need to find this exceptional LA beer on draught around town or get a growler from their tap room!
Lines were still long at nearly all of the pouring stations for the duration of the event, but they seemed to move quicker this year, and the organizers were clearly more prepared for the large crowd this year. There were less prematurely kicked kegs, lots more food options, and plenty of places to escape the bustle of the crowds and enjoy a beer in relative peace. Brew at the Zoo is one of those festivals were you actually get to say hi to and chat with the people behind the beer, and you can’t help but get excited about craft beer when you see the real pride and passion that they have for the beer.
Our biggest complaint this year was more about what happened post-festival: it was really difficult to get a cab. Griffith Park is fantastically accessible for a swath of wilderness in the middle of urban sprawl, but public transportation options - especially on a Friday evening - are pretty limited and getting a cabbie to show-up wasn’t any easier. The organizers had a large poster urging the drunk patrons pouring out of the festival at 10pm to be safe and call a cab, but that was a little passive-agressive for our taste. The number of very clearly inebriated folks hopping behind the wheel that we saw was frankly horrifying. A taxi-stand outside the event and some communication with local taxi dispatchers would have gone a long way to alleviating the mob of folks trying to call cabs. Even a shuttle-bus that ran from the parking lot to the entrance of the park would have been helpful for those who wanted to take public transportation.
We are unabashed fans of the Los Angeles Zoo, and being able to hang-out with some of our favorite beasties (Double Waddled Cassowary) after-hours is pretty special. Add in some amazing beers from all our favorite local brewers (with the notable exception of Eagle Rock Brewing who were extremely popular at last year’s event but not present for this year) and you have the recipe for a really special and memorable night! Don’t miss next year’s Brew at the Los Angeles Zoo!
What did you think of Brew at the Los Angeles Zoo 2012? What was your favorite beer from this year’s event