Does beer have terroir? Can brewers imbue their beer with a distinctive sense of place? Traditional wisdom says that outside of spontaneous fermentation or barrel-aging, beer is too much of an industrial product to carry any markers from its agricultural roots. Of course, conventional wisdom is often misguided or outright wrong, and a few brewers in LA’s concrete jungle are working hard to give their beers a strong connection to the land. And they are coming up with some really unique (and delicious) beers in the process.
Brewers have searched their surroundings for flavors for as long as there’s been beer to brew. In the modern craft-beer culture, where anything goes and everything old is new again, the trend is on the rise. It’s a trend that Mark Jilg implies is often more about marketing than authenticity. In Los Angeles, where authenticity is often in short supply, brewers forage for inspiration and a bond with the land. They are discovering some unexpected connections—to both the environment and their neighbors.
Finders Keepers is a feature I wrote for the wonderful Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine (it ran in the August-September 2015 issue) that looks at how two local breweries, Highland Park Brewery and Smog City Brewing, find and integrate the natural flavors of their neighborhood into their brewing. From HPB’s Yard Beer – assembled from the bounty of herbs and citrus growing throughout Highland Park – to Smog City’s GABF medal winning Kumquat Saison – a partnership with the local Food Forward nonprofit – to a quirky Belgian expat who searches the foothills of the Angeles Forest for all the ingredients necessary to make fermented beverages, there are some interesting brewing happening where once there was just a beer desert.
On a personal note, I’m really proud of how this piece turned out, especially the beautiful, six page print layout that my editors at CB&B put together. The spread also includes some bonus content (and tons of photos) that didn’t make the web. You can download a PDF of the spread by clicking on the image to the right.
If you’re unfamiliar with Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine, it’s a high quality and slick magazine that covers craft beer culture and home brewing, and it’s usually available for sale at homebrew shops. Some great beer writers contribute to the publication, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it! I also had a Beercation Guide to LA run in the October-November 2015 issue (not sure when that will hit the web), and I have a look at IPA brewing in California coming up in the next issue. Support great beer writing and ask for Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine at your homebrew shop or local newsstand!