Brew at the Zoo, in its third year, is an event that takes place each August at the Los Angeles Zoo. The zoo opens for the night and for the ticket price you can wander around and check out the animals while sampling a variety of locally and nationally available beer. Last year’s event was covered by Mike Morse for Bierkast here. This year’s event featured 20 breweries, 1 wine company, and 1 cider maker. Big breweries like Stone, Lagunitas, Firestone Walker, and Sierra Nevada had a presence, but the event also featured plenty of local favorites from the LA area, including Angel City, Golden Road, as well as Redlands’ Hangar 24, and Beachwood Brewing from Long Beach. I had a blast at the event, and I would say all in all it was actually a good value for anyone that bought a ticket. (Tickets this year were around 50 dollars, and included 14 taster tickets, each good for a 5 oz. sample.)
For the most part, the breweries pouring at the event were offering their flagship beers. This is not an event to seek out rare beers by any means, but there were a few special selections available. It was kind of cool to see breweries like Hangar 24 offer Hullabaloo, a Scottish ale that is their winter seasonal. It was also fun to try one of the reserve beers from Widmer Bros., the Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout. And I was delighted to finally get to sample Pivo Pils by Firestone Walker. As with most Firestone Walker releases, I was not disappointed. Although beer geeks tend to be fairly dismissive of Pilsner as a style overall, I think the craft beer world is beginning to come back around to the style. Lastly, I was happy to see Sierra Nevada pouring Southern Hemisphere Harvest, their fresh hop beer made with all New Zealand hop varieties.
I think the design of the event is actually quite good, with the different breweries spread out throughout the zoo. However if you attend in the future, expect extremely long lines. Word was that the event had about 3,000 people. If you’re looking to minimize your wait time when attending this event, my advice would be arrive early and leave before it ends. As the event went on, the lines got longer and longer, and the wait to get a sample was at least 20-30 minutes. Plenty of breweries ran out of beer, which led to even longer lines. Overall though, it was pretty fun to watch koalas do their thing while waiting in line for a Lagunitas beer, so I didn’t mind the wait times too much. Most beer events tend to focus exclusively on beer, but I think it was quite refreshing to be at a beer event where I was able to enjoy a cold beverage while observing the elephants, walking through the new amphibian and reptile house, and checking out the carousel. I think I prefer the format of this type of event to a straight up “pub crawl”, and I would love to see craft beer put on more partnership type events like this.
Also of note is the fact that all the beer for the event is donated and 100% of the proceeds go to the Zoo Association. It’s always encouraging to see how much beer craft breweries are willing to give away for a good cause. I know there were some gripes about the length of lines, and the fact that breweries ran out of beer, but in the context of all the beer being donated, I think this fact was understandable. All in all, I would definitely love to attend this event again in the future. Brew at the Zoo is a hit in my book. Be on the lookout for it again next year!