At Wally’s we’ve always been fan’s of Craft Beer – the freedom of experimentation and diversity of styles is truly astounding! However, inquiring minds must know, how did this all happen??
The rise of the Craft Beer movement in America has the all-too familiar ring of any anti-establishment movement: operating out of the rules, regulations and constraints of the Status Quo, those seen as outcasts dedicate themselves to experimentation and risk – much like the “Dinosaur” rock n’ roll of the 1970’s, which had seen a multitude of over-produced, homogenous sounding stadium bands, give birth to a devoted legion of zealots who wanted to source out the true inspirations and innovators – and re-build the perfect wheel. Consider the Craft Beer movement a harkening back to the basic traditions – as well as creatively innovating upon them. Think of Craft Beer in the same way you’d think of Mississippi Delta or Chicago Blues, British Isles Folk, East Coast Bop, ‘60’s R&B, or even early punk or heavy metal – that you can drink, of course.
Similar movements have occurred in the world of wine with the rise of the “Super Tuscans” in Tuscany, where vintners decided to break winemaking traditions to create what they believed to be better wines – some of which have been called “the greatest wines made this century” by the world’s leading wine critic, Robert Parker.
Although now you can find these resulting experiments in bottle or can, lining the cold cases of most popular grocery stores and wine and spirit superstores – there was a time not so long ago, that you had to either live by a local brewpub, or otherwise be “in the loop” to taste the varied and flavorful offerings. Numerous large brewers have since acquired craft breweries, assisting with production, marketing and distribution, while wisely keeping the original brewers and company figureheads, and thus, having an “experimental” and home-grown credibility aligned with their major brand. And, on an interesting note – enough of the new innovators of this ongoing movement are right here in California, for our golden state to be considered “ground zero” of the micro brewing scene.
Initially spearheading interest in the history of beers was a book written in 1977 by English beer critic Michael Jackson, “The World Guide to Beer”, in which traditional beers were categorized by style and culture. His widely seen television show, The Beer Hunter, gave his crusade into the traditions of beer an even wider audience – whetting the appetite for the bold traditional Belgian, German and English brews.
One of our favorite forerunners of the domestic craft beer is El Segundo Brewing, created in 2011 and is located on Main Street in El Segundo. Their passion is hop-centric brews, bursting with big aromas and balanced bitterness. Most of the beers are named for local landmarks in the South Bay and can thankfully be found on tap all over town.
Their label icon and mission statement sums up rather succinctly their views on the craft beer industry in general: “The Blue House represents small town America. Main Streets fostering small businesses, and real connections to real people. It represents the true American ideal of being able to support yourself, and forge ahead in to the great unknown. Which to us, is exactly what Craft Beer is. Brash, brazen, bold, and unapologetic for being so.”
Another one of our favorites is Angel City. Angel City first burst onto the LA beer scene back in 1997 before the real “brewery boom” caught on. In 2004 they operated from an 8,000 barrel brewery in Alpine Village, and relocated to the Arts District in Downtown LA in 2010. The Brewery and Public House opened in February 2013 and offers a variety of rotating beers, including brewery exclusive brews. It’s a fun area to park and walk to a number of exciting and moderately priced restaurants, and to of course grab a pint at Angel City! Their parking lot also features food trucks on a nightly basis.
LA Weekly recently voted Angel City LA’s “Best Art Deco Brewery”, and wrote: “ If you crave finely crafted ales and lagers in a setting where you can pleasantly spend a day or bring a visitor, look no farther than Angel City Brewing Co. in downtown Los Angeles.” Strand Brewing Co. is another clear winner. Recently featured in LA Weekly, which wrote about the entire South Bay brewing community: “Torrance easily possesses the largest concentration of beer brands in Greater Los Angeles”.
Other popular beer styles amongst modern craft breweries are: Brown, Blonde, Scotch and Golden Ales, India Pale Ales (aggressively dry, which traditionally used the extra hops to keep the beer fresh when sailed from Britain to India), Belgian Trappist or Abbey Ales such as Dubbel (Brown ale) and Tripel (strong blonde ale), seasonal beers such as Christmas Ales (which can be spiced with cloves, anise and cinnamon) Oktoberfest beers such as Marzen and Hefeweizen (with flavors of bitter orange peel and coriander), Fall beers spiced with pumpkin, maple syrup and nutmeg, Lambics (a sour beer which often has fruit essence added), Stouts and Porters (very dark and rich beers, made from roasted malts, which can have the additions of roasted chocolate, coffee, or oats). And that’s just the start – it wasn’t before too long that many brewers began creating non-traditional original and creative blends, blending hot peppers, honey, cherries, and aged in wine or Bourbon barrels. The future of craft beers will be defined by what the brewers create – and what you want to drink!
Here are some of our favorites, just for starters!