Total Wine & More is a chain that has aggressively expanded across the country, and they operate a handful of Southland stores. While they may not be your locally-owned independent bottle shop, they are plugged in to the local scene and are working to develop relationships with LA brewers and others in the craft beer community.
One exciting way they are connecting customers with the local beer community is through their “local influencers” program, and Beer of Tomorrow was asked to provide some recommendations for our favorite local brews for in-store displays in May!
Total Wine & More
The first Total Wine shop I knew of was the Tustin location, and I had at-first written it off as another BevMo. When I finally stopped in I discovered just how wrong I was. I’m not qualified to make a judgement on their wine selection, but their spirits section is nearly exhaustive.
The craft beer selection is nearly as overwhelming. Hundreds of breweries, from local craft offerings to esoteric imports, are on offer. An impressive wall of coolers (with plans to add more to many area stores) filled with six packs and bombers, and the lauded “build your own six pack” section that is filled with single bottles (and cans) of all-manner of beers. Truly the best single-bottle selection we’ve ever seen.
The vast array of bottles and cans comes at a price though; the most obvious is the difficulty you may have simply deciding what to take home. I usually end failing to narrow down my selections and checking out with at least a mixed case of beer and a very full car.
Thankfully the Total Wine & More staff is looking out for you, and in addition to happily answering beer questions and offering recommendations they’ve set-up the beer department to reduce the decision paralysis as much as possible. Creative displays and endcaps abound, and the “local favorites” section is a highlight to any trip to Total Wine.
As an extension of their focus on stocking locally produced beer, wine, and spirits, Total Wine has started the “Local Influencers” program which spotlights different media and community figures and asks for their recommendations and favorites, and I was delighted to be chosen to participate in May.
I took a trip to the Redondo Beach location where I met with store manager Ed Fabian and tasted a line-up of local brews while learning about Total Wine and their company culture. Ed explained their commitment to education and supporting local producers, and I was impressed with their initiatives to utilize technology to improve the shopping experience.
QR codes get a bad wrap, but the geometric bar-codes seem to be finding a niche in the craft beer industry where they’re popping up on everything from print ads to bottles of beer. The idea is you can scan the code with your smartphone and be instantly connected to a website, a youtube video, or any other manner of rich media content that can inform you about the product.
Total Wine is putting these to good use and providing another level of connection between the drinker and the beers. I always say a beer tastes better when you drink it with the people who made it, and this idea of using technology to give shoppers a connection to the products beyond a label or simple shelf-talker is very exciting.
As craft beer grows it gets more difficult for the brewers to make those direct connections with fans. A few of the biggest craft breweries use videos to help educate fans on their products; check out Dogfish Head’s Quick Sips for a great example. …
The Beer of Tomorrow Picks
The Los Angeles beer scene is growing explosively, and it seems like a new brewery is announcing a release of cans or bottles every month; here are my picks for some local brews that I think you’ll love.
Eagle Rock Brewery Solidarity
This “dark mild” from one of LA’s first craft breweries has been known to shatter people’s preconceived notions of beer. It’s dark and full of roasted coffee and chocolate notes, but it’s extremely light in body and supremely drinkable. And, at under 4% alcohol by volume, you can enjoy a couple pints of Solidarity without fatiguing your palate or getting too sloppy.
My love for this session brew, which I’ve often called my single favorite brewed-in-LA beer, is well-known, and I’d wager that you’ll fall in love with it too. The mild is a classic English style that is just beginning to gain popularity in the American craft beer scene, and there are not many bottled alternatives available.
Eagle Rock Brewery also makes a fantastic and drinkable West Coast IPA called Populist that balances tropical fruit hop aroma with resinous, piney hop bitterness. Both Solidarity and Populist are available in 22oz “bombers” at Total Wine.
Golden Road Brewery’s Wolf Among Weeds
Golden Road has only been making beers for about a year, and this crisp and hoppy double IPA is one of the best brews they’ve released – especially for hop heads. The new Brewmaster at Golden Road tweaked the recipe for this year’s release of Wolf Among Weeds, drying the finish out and really letting the punchy tropical fruit aromas shine.
The Wolf hits that tricky sweet-spot between pungent and drinkable, and the 16-ounce cans are about the perfect serving size for an IPA fan. Golden Road is great about date-stamping their beers, and you can see when exactly the beer was packed on the underside of the can or on the top of the 4-pack box. Be sure to drink it fresh for the best hoppy flavor!
Strand Brewing 24th Street Pale Ale
Veterans of the booming South Bay brewing scene, Strand Brewing turns out some excellent beers ranging from crisp and hoppy IPAs to their tart Beliner Weisse Summer seasonal. They are perhaps most well known for their flagship pale ale, 24th Street Pale Ale, and I think it is simply one of the best pale ales being made in California.
At just over 6%ABV, the beer actually straddles the line between pale ale and IPA. The beer’s balance between the citrus and floral hops and the slightly toasted malt body and its crisp and dry finish make for an extremely quaffable pale ale that goes great with bold grilled foods, tacos, or spicy Asian cuisine.
I’m very excited that Strand Brewing is bottling their beers now, and 24th Street deserves a place next to Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Drakes 1500, and Firestone Walker’s Pale 31 as California’s best pale ales.
There are a handful of Total Wine & More store in the LA/OC area, and if you’re near-by one you should stop in to check out the wonderland of booze. Their dedication to expanding the craft beer selection in their stores, and their support of local producers puts them leaps beyond the other big bottle-shop chains.
I still try to support the local independent craft beer shops like Sunset Beer Co, Buzz Wine and Beer, and Select Beer Store or the home-grown chain shops like Vendome Liquors most often, but I’m happy to give Total Wine my business whenever I’m close-by one.
One caveat for when you’re browsing Total Wine, and this really applies to any beer-store – especially if their inventory is extensive: watch the bottle codes and enjoy-by dates on the beer you’re looking to buy. Watch out for dusty bottles, out-of-code cans, and winter seasonal brews on the shelf in early Summer. The last thing you want to do is get excited about a buying a brew you’ve never tried only to get it home and find out it is way past it’s freshness prime.
That said, check out Total Wine & More, ask them for some recommendations, and get to know the beer-buying staff at your nearby location. I think you’ll like what you find.