Monday is here, and it’s time to start another week. Pick of the Weekend is our weekly post where we recap our favorite brews of the weekend past.
Celebrating a milestone (or at least a divisible-by-five) birthday over a long weekend meant many, many delicious beers at some great spots across Los Angeles. There were plenty of old favorites and a couple of new discoveries – one of which challenged my opinion of LA’s best pilsner.
I had every intention of keeping my Untappd check-ins up-to-date over the 4+ days of relaxing and celebrating, but that of course didn’t last long. My aging memory makes for difficult recollections of the fine pints that were had, but here are a few that stand-out for me:
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale at Yamishiro – While the beer list was nothing to write about at the venerable Hollywood institution, at least there were a couple of craft options on it, and it’s tough to go wrong with the classic SNPA. A long-time favorite beer of mine, the pint was elevated by the incredible atmosphere – and even more incredible views. A glass of my desert island beer, a plate of sushi, the love of my life, and a breathtaking view of my favorite city – that’s a birthday dinner to remember!
- Cantillon Kriek – A notably less horsey bottle than the last bottle I opened in December. The funk was missed, but this beer is still one of my favorite examples of the magic of fermentation. The almond-like bitterness imparted by the cherry stones is so delicious.
- Firestone Walker Parabola – Hands-down my favorite barrel-aged beer (possibly my favorite stout, period) I rarely open a bottle of the inky brew simply because – at 13% ABV – it’s a little big for a two-person split. With company over to celebrate my birthday, a 2013 bottle was popped and the room got quiet in a hurry as the sniffing, swirling, and savoring began.
- Eagle Rock Brewery Sunny D-List – In an appropriate coincidence my birthday fell on IPA Day this year, and we decided to pay our friends at Eagle Rock Brewery a visit. They had some special blends on, including a mix of Populist and their double IPA Imperialist with orange rind and basil added to the keg. It was a fun twist on a classic LA IPA, and I hope to see more imaginative blends from ERB in the future.
The biggest standout of the weekend was, of course, a pilsner. Smog City Brewing’s Little Bo Pils recently made a comeback to the Torrance brewery’s line-up. Originally developed as a sessionable, refreshing “lawn mower beer” by Smog City’s founder Jonathan Porter, Little Bo Pils is packed with the grassy and spicy aroma of Saaz hops. We hear that the recipe was mellowed-out recently when many local bars were asking Smog City for an easy-drinking and approachable style, but the original (read really hoppy) version of the Pils can be found at the Torrance taproom as “Double Dry Hopped Little Bo Pils”, and the huge hit of Saaz hops makes this lager sing.
A growler showed up at a birthday fete, and at 4.4% it didn’t last long. The beer is close to Firestone Walker’s excellent Pivo Pils in body and intensity of hop flavor and aroma, but the traditional Saaz hops provide a deep herbal flavor that is reminiscent of green tea (Porter, if you’re reading, how about a Zwickelbier cask version on green tea leaves?)
One of my very favorite aspects of craft beer is the way that even experienced and jaded drinkers can get stopped-short by an unexpectedly great beer. We all get palate-fatigue, and always trying the newest, hoppiest, more barrel-aged brews often serves to expedite this burn-out, but there is always the chance that the next beer will be the one that slaps you across the face and demands you take notice. You never know when a beer will remind you why craft beer was exciting in the beginning of your journey.
I had maintained that Beachwood’s Loma Prieta was my favorite local pils, but Smog City’s flagship lager just may supplant it, and the only way to decide will be to sample many, many more glasses of Little Bo Pils.