Friday night’s Brew at the LA Zoo was our favorite beer festival of the year. For about a day. Because on Sunday we attended the Blue Palms Brewhouse (Filling Stations link) 4th Anniversary Party where the combination of the Willy Wonka-esque tap list; the crowd of friends new, old, and in-between; and the sense of community and love for craft beer in Los Angeles that permeated the party elevated the afternoon far beyond being just another beer festival.
I’ve lived in Hollywood for nine years, and I’m sorry to say that I had never tried, or even much known-of, Blue Palms Brewhouse before this year’s ownership issues at the Music Box Theater – which houses the pub – and the Occupy Blue Palms movement that followed. But last week marked Blue Palms’ fourth anniversary – which makes it a venerable on the scale of Los Angeles craft beer establishments. The party held on Sunday to celebrate was one of the most fun beer events we’ve ever attended.
Owner Brian Lenzo is the man behind Blue Palms, and you can nearly always find him at the restaurant running between the bar and the kitchen or checking on patrons in the dining room. Sunday was no different as Brian flitted with nervous energy through the sprawling party grounds. His excitement for the day was evident, and he and his staff did an amazing job putting together an unforgettable afternoon.
The bar’s 24 taps were pouring a variety of festival beers, guests could order food from the kitchen, and a small portion of the Music Box theater was opened up for some extra seating and hang-out space. The main plaza for the festival was in outdoor space between the Music Box and the print-shop next-door, and there was a small stage, several tents for shade, a merch booth, and several pouring stations set-up there. The alley behind the theater was dedicated to more pouring stations, Stone’s mobile draft truck, and a grill set-up serving complimentary BBQ tri tip sandwiches. There was plenty of room for guests to spread out, though the heat of the day was pretty inescapable. I felt a little envious of the Blue Palms staffers (including Brian) who took turns manning the dunk-tank to benefit the Hollywood YMCA.
The tap-list was unbelievable. Over 60 beers were being poured at the various stations ranging from local favorites to hard to find specialty brews to intense barrel aged and sour beers from the best breweries in the country. And then there were the special kegs. Single kegs of some extremely rare and sought-after beers were announced through the day, and the party goers could line-up for special pours likes of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA or Alpine Nelson or Firestone Walker Little Opal to name a few. These special kegs were manned by Brain himself with a smile stretched wide around the 4th Anniversary commemorative cigar clenched in his teeth.
My normal strategy of starting with the lighter or more delicate beers and working-up to the intense barrel-aged or imperial beers wasn’t a workable tactic in this case as the big bold brews greatly out numbered the lighter styles. So I dove right in and enjoyed a dozen superlative beers from a sub 4% English Mild from Anchor Brewing’s Zymaster series to a series of puckering sours to the decadent Bourbon Barrel Angel’s Share from Lost Abbey.
A few quick beer highlights from the party:
- Russian River: While I missed the special release of the Supplication I did manage to get the rest of the Russian River beers on offer, including a tart and refreshing glass of Sanctification during the hottest part of the (90°+) day.
- Lenzo’s Lollipop: This was special from Ballast Point for the event: a cask-conditioned version of their Oaked Sculpin IPA. Smooth, creamy, and presenting a warm richness that standard Sculpin lacks, this was a fantastic one-off.
- Parabola: This marked the first time I’ve actually sampled Firestone Walker’s flagship barrel aged imperial stout. With layers of toasted, roasted, fruity, and spicy flavors the well-hyped beer did not disappoint. It was surprisingly drinkable, even in the hot afternoon.
- Founders Brewing Centennial IPA: I’ve had a few beers from the Michigan brewer, and they have all been memorably excellent so I jumped at the change to try another as they are not easy to find in California. Centennial is their year round IPA, and it contrasts with the hop-forward West Coast IPA style by showcasing its big malt body. I would drink a lot of this if we could get it out in LA.
The festival had amazing beers and amazing food and you could buy a cigar to enjoy with your brews, but the real highlight of the party was the people and the sense of community that existed between them. Where Brew at the Zoo was about the environment and its crowd was a huge cross-section of Angelenos, the Blue Palms party was a celebration of craft beer culture and the community that Blue Palms has been so instrumental in building in Los Angeles.
We met all kinds of craft beer lovers. We chatted with casual beer fans that love Blue Palms, with the dedicated servers and bartenders who help make Blue Palms such an enjoyed hangout spot, and with many of the beer bloggers and writers dedicated to growing the LA scene. We talked to some of our favorite brewers, and I even got to meet one of my personal heroes.
Greg Koch from Stone Brewing was in attendance and he was approachable, gracious, and not at all the asshole that he seems to have the reputation of being. We talked about Saison du BUFF and how great an idea the Google+ Hangout was. He even confirmed that they were working on a second Hangout and that they are shooting for around August 25th for it!
The Blue Palms 4th Anniversary Party was more like a private party with a big group of friends and acquaintances than it was any beer festival we’ve been to. If it was any indication of the state of the LA craft beer scene then we are well on our way to building one of the best beer cities in the country. The foundations of the community are strong, the fan base is growing, and the future looks very bright indeed.
Thanks to Brian Lenzo and the whole Blue Palms staff for putting on a mind-blowing beer party!
- All Photos by Julie Verive