We all know and love BevMo as a fast, fairly low-priced place to find great beer. You can count on finding those famous or completely unknown beers, those small-run special batches from teeny tiny craft breweries, as well as those obscure imported beers you’ve never seen or tasted but are curious about – like Berliner Weisse, Dortmunder, Eisenbock or sour beers. But convenience aside, it’s not exactly a place you’d get excited about going to on a Friday evening. Until you discover their beer tastings.
Every Friday from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm, most BevMo stores offer in-store beer tastings to promote certain brewers or beer styles. It’s literally a 5 minute happy hour. The first time I stumbled upon this most pleasant surprise, they were offering samples of some alternative and experimental beers including several of New Belgium’s exotic Lips of Faith series. New Belgium calls them “smaller batches, more esoteric, more (dare I say…) experimental.”
I’m not much for flavored beers, but their Imperial Chocolate Coffee Stout is a home run. The bold, medium-bodied stout, combines rich coffee and dark chocolate flavors with roasted dark malts, a little sweetness up front, and a nice strong bitterness that lingers with the coffee flavor. It’s brewed with locally roasted coffee from Cafe Richesse and (not local) organic cocoa nibs and weighs in at 9% ABV.
I also tasted the Lips of Faith La Folie Wood-Aged Biere, a sour brown ale. I wouldn’t want to drink this beer often, but it is very unusual and packed with complex, tart, fruity flavors and aromas, backed up by strong dark malt. It’s the kind of beer you’d bring to a dinner party when you want to appear sophisticated and knowledgeable about exotic sophisticated things, impress your friends and show up the wine snobs.
Speaking of wine, I also got to taste Dogfish Head’s Noble Rot, basically a Belgian Blonde brewed with the juice of two different kinds of wine grapes and infected with a benevolent fungus called botrytis. It had a spicy, dry, tartness, and basically tasted exactly as if you poured a dash of Chardonnay into a glass of Witbier.
For a buck, you get four shotglass-sized samples – just enough to get your beer juices running, and, likely as not, convince you to buy a full bottle of one of the samplers. (I took home a 22 oz. bomber of the Lips of Faith Imperial Chocolate Stout. My wife and I brought it to a BBQ the next night, and we were extremely happy to have it to wash down some grilled spicy sausage.)
The next time I dropped in on my local BevMo on a Friday evening, they were offering four of Goose Island’s beers. I sampled their 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Honkers English Bitter Ale, their English India Pale Ale, and their Mathilda Belgian Pale Ale.
Goose Island Mathilda – I will drink Matilda any day of the week, but that’s because I am a sucker for Belgian ales, and this one positively reeks of those spicy yeast aromas, fruity esters and earthy noble hops, with that bready, malty sweetness you crave from Belgians.
I liked the Goose Island Urban Wheat because it was hopped with Cascade, so it did have a bit of a twist from the standard Heffeweizen. But it lacks that creamy, somewhat thick character I like in wheat beers. The Goose Island Honker’s Ale, an English Bitter Ale, has some malty flavors and some fruitiness and earthy hop flavors, and a little caramel with a dry finish. Tasty, but unremarkable. If those flavors were more intense it would be a great beer. The Goose Island English India Pale Ale was also unremarkable considering what is out there in IPAs these days. I also tasted Abita’s Strawberry Lager – which I guess would be very refreshing on a scorching afternoon, but I found the strawberry aromas overpowering. Finally, the Stiegl-Radler Grapefruit, a 50/50 mix of Stiegl-Goldbräu Marzen Oktoberfest beer and soda made with real lemon, grapefruit and orange juice. It was very refreshing, tangy and tasty, but I couldn’t detect any beer flavor at all.
What I appreciated most about this tiny beer moment at BevMo was this: even though I do taste of lot of different kinds of beer, I ended up trying several that I probably would never have bought a bottle of. But it still expanded my beer repertoire and made my Friday after-work errand much more palatable. It is especially beneficial for people who are just starting to peak out of their beer box into the wider, wilder world of beer, since they can just have a little taste without committing to something that they may not like.
Here’s the rundown for rest of these Friday 5 Min. Happy Hours at all the BevMo stores in LA: New Releases April 5. Belgian Style Craft Beers April 12. Spring Seasonal Beers April 19.