It’s halfway through January and it’s past time to take a look back at LA’s 2013 and take a peek into what 2014 might hold. We’ll see how our predictions from last year held up, and make some new ones for the new year. Plus, you can enter our contest to win a Beer of Tomorrow prize-package!
First up, I’d like to extend an apology to all the loyal Beer of Tomorrow readers and fans. I fell far short of my post frequency goals for the site in 2013, and that’s a disservice to all of you who’ve supported me and the site as I got it up and running. Of course, I wasn’t slacking-off or tied down to a desk – I was quite busy with other beer-writing gigs and assignments (which I am tremendously grateful for).
Much of the news stories that would have run here on Beer of Tomorrow were instead covered by me for the Los Angeles Times Daily Dish, and I hope that those of you interested in LA beer news were able to follow my updates over there. Additionally, much of my feature writing was run in Beer Paper LA where I joined the team as an Associate Editor. As always, the best way to keep abreast of what I’m covering is to follow me at Twitter (@Octopushat), follow Beer of Tomorrow on Twitter (@BeerofTomorrow), or like us on Facebook.
I have big plans and ideas for Beer of Tomorrow in 2014, and I hope that you’ll stick around to see where we’re going!
And on that note, I am looking for some contributors and other miscellaneous assistance with the site. If you’re interested in writing for Beer of Tomorrow, drop me a line and we can talk!
Looking Back at 2013
That was a hell of a year for craft beer in Los Angeles!
New breweries opened, new projects got started, Beachwood Brewing took home a set of medals at GABF, and generally the craft fans in LA had lots to celebrate.
At the beginning of 2013 we made some predictions for what the year would bring. Let’s see how on-track those forecasts were.
Prediction #1 – “The number of LA-based breweries will keep growing”
Okay, that was a pretty easy one to call. 2013 saw Smog City move into its own production brewery, Angel City Brewing open their Public House and ramp-up their production volume, LA Ale Works and Phantom Carriage begin distributing their brews, and The Dudes Brewing begin production. There are probably some new operations that I’m missing too.
I also had this to say about breweries opening in 2013:
In addition to these breweries-in-planning, I think that one large midwest or east coast brewery will announce an expansion project in Southern California. Sierra Nevada, Oscar Blues, and New Belgium are all working to increase their national production with new eastern breweries, and it only makes sense that someone will see LA for the (comparatively) wide-open market that it is.
While no non-Californian breweries opened expansions in LA, we did get the very exciting news that popular regional brewery Firestone Walker Brewery will be opening a taproom and restaurant in West LA in 2014! (So I wasn’t too far off.)
Prediction #2 – “Dedicated beer retail spaces will blossom”
This one was another mixed-bag. I said:
With the continued success of great bottle shops like Sunset Beer Co and Buzz Wine Beer Shop other new retail spaces will open. The combination of a great bottle selection, tasting events, and even on-site taps turn a liquor-store into a destination. The Bruery closing their Provisions retail location in Orange caused an uproar in the community, and some entrepreneurs are going to see the space in the marketplace for high-end beer retail.
It turns out that the Provisions market wouldn’t stay closed long. The Haven Group (those behind Orange County and Pasadena’s Haven Gastropub / Brewpub) announced that they would take over the vacated Bruery Provisions space in downtown Orange. Will Dee and company did a fantastic job with the space, and you can bet that I’d be a regular there if I was anywhere near Orange regularly.
I spoke recently with the operators of both Sunset Beer Co and Select Beer Store, and they both expressed awe at just how much the beer retail business is booming. Sunset Beer Manager Jeff Sapsford said the sales volume at Sunset Beer Co is off the charts, while Wes Jacobs of Select Beer has been humbled by the local response to his retail shop and taproom.
Can somebody please open a bottle shop in Hollywood?
Prediction #3 – “There will be more focus on food and beer pairings”
Apart from the focus that I devoted to this subject while preparing for the Certified Cicerone® exam, and an unbelievable beer dinner during LA Beer Week that paired the beers of Craftsman Brewing Co with Andre Guerrero’s intense food at his Maximiliano restaurant, this one didn’t really happen.
There were certainly beer dinners happening around town – even when it wasn’t LA Beer Week, but there just wasn’t the level of attention paid to food and beer by the average craft beer fan that I’d like to see.
One of my goals in 2014 is to help spread the love for a thoughtful match between beer and food for every occasion!
Prediction #4 – “Golden Road Brewing will get more respect from the beer-geek crowd”
As an early, dedicated fan of GRB, I can’t express just how edifying it is to see this one (mostly) come true. Last year I said:
It’s little secret that Golden Road has been struggling with the perceptions of their operation and their beer, especially among the more dedicated craft beer fans.
I believe they are listening to their critics, and they will continue to improve their product. When news broke that Brewmaster Jon Carpenter was leaving it was a surprise, but not much of a shock. Very smart business people are behind that brewery and their number one goal is to make a beer that is beloved by Angelenos.
The product that Golden Road puts out in 2013 will be iteratively better than the beer in 2012, and some new and exciting brews will recapture the beer-geek crowd’s imagination.
As you probably know, Jesse Houck was named Brewmaster around February last year, and the Drakes Brewing alum quickly went to work tweaking (or all-out redesigning) the GRB beers. His first big hit was the reimagined Wolf Among Weeds, and that was followed by the home run of LA beer in 2013 – Heal the Bay IPA (which returns this Summer). Big IPAs and a parade of pub specialties followed, and Houck shows no signs of slowing down.
Looking Forward to 2014
I’m not going to make a bunch of detailed predictions this year – beer in LA is growing too fast, and there are simply too many moving pieces to consider. I will, however, mention a few things that I’m really excited about.
More packaged LA beer!
So many LA breweries began packaging beer in 2013! From reluctant bottlers Beachwood Brewing, to the Dudes pint cans of 10%ABV DIPAs, to El Segundo Brewing Co’s hop-heavy line-up and Monkish’s 750ml Belgian ales, and even Angel City Brewery’s bottled-in-Ohio six-packs there is now more LA Beer on the shelves than ever before! This trend will continue in 2014 with Smog City Brewing planning to begin bottling by Spring, and the persistent rumors that Mark Jilg will actually fire-up the Craftsman bottling line (we’ll believe that when we have a bottle in our hands).
More flavorful session beers.
The LA scene is the perfect environment for flavorful, sessionable brews that keep the ABV below 5%, and some fantastic examples (Solidarity, Little Bo Pils, Moria) are already brewed here. I know that Firestone Walker is planning to release a new session IPA (possibly named “Easy Jack”), and where the Lion & Bear go, more craft breweries will follow. We want to see more brewers take the chance on beers that can be enjoyed by the pitcher, on the patio, while soaking in the LA sun.
More cask beer.
Many of LA’s breweries are suffering growing pains due to the meteoric growth in craft popularity in LA. Brewers are hitting fermentation capacity issues, brewing schedule difficulties, and many have commitments to their distributors that mean focusing on their core brews. They are (relatively) good problems to have, but they do stifle a brewer’s creativity a bit as time, space, and equipment needs to be allocated to tried-and-true brews before experimental ones. So what’s a brewer to do? We’re seeing more and more turn to inventive cask experiments to scratch their creative itch. Eagle Rock Brewery, Angel City Brewing, Smog City, and Noble Ale Works are just some of the breweries who have expanded their cask beer program in 2013, and this trend should continue in 2014 as the craft fans get more comfortable with real ale.
There is even a festival dedicated to cask beer planned for March! Firk Fest will feature 24 breweries creative casks in an Anaheim park.
Win Big with Beer of Tomorrow
I’ve assembled a nice little prize-package that I’ll be giving to one lucky reader. All you need to do to enter is comment on this post with you favorite beer from 2013, your favorite beer event in 2013, or you favorite beer-news story from 2013. I’ll select (at least) one winner at random on February 1st.
Thanks again for all the support over the last year, and stay tuned for our Second Anniversary Party announcement in the next few weeks!