The city of Manhattan Beach was treated to an excellent joining of various brewing and culinary delights in the first ever Bite at the Beach Food and Beer Fest last Saturday amid brisk breezes and sunlight in the back lot of Manhattan Beach Studios.
The Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce organized the event in collaboration with Stella Artois, as well as multiple sponsors from area businesses. A full list of the sponsors can be found at the event website; http://www.manhattanbeachchamber.com/bite-at-the-beach
Tickets ranged from $100 dollars for entry and $200 dollars for VIP access. The price, admittedly, was fairly high, but the number of craft beers as well as plentiful amounts of excellent food may justify the cost for some.
After parking and finding my way to the front desk I was greeted by friendly staff that provided my tasting glass and plate for the event. All attendees were given a 4oz Stella Artois ‘chalice’ and plastic plate with a cup holder to carry both their meal and drink in one hand. The grounds for the fest were amid a film set backdrop, called “New York Street” by the film studio. There were standing tables scattered throughout and a seating area facing the stage where guests were treated to three separate talks throughout the event.
VIP tickets gave access to the event an hour ahead of schedule (2:00pm instead of 3:00pm) as well as tastings from Boston Beer Company’s Barrel Aged Collection. They showcased their Belgian Tripel, “New World” as well as their Quad (which I opted for) “Tetravis.”
Pacific Gravity Home Brewers
The day was big in particular for the Pacific Gravity Home Brewers Club of Culver City. The group had an impressive display of NINE different beers, as well as a collection of meads sourced from honey of various bee colonies. Their dispensing system, called “The Wave of Beer,” poured several creations from a recent project conducted with the assistance of Smog City. Taking the wort from a Kolsch that was produced by the Torrance brewery, the club divvied up the batch to several of its members to use as a blank template for experimental batches. I was quite pleased with the resulting products, especially a Light Lager fermented with Brettanomyces, resulting in a slightly sour, slightly funky, but overall easy drinking lager. Their variations of Cider, Saison, and IPA were all well-made and well balanced representations of their respective styles. Therein lies the beauty of the home brew clubs of California; innovative, offbeat and experimental projects that yield fantastic results.
Their collection of meads impressed as well. The group brought out meads from the honey of carrot flowers, buckwheat, avocado, eucalyptus, and various other flavors.
This event marks a first for Home Brewing clubs being able to serve their products at beer fests. Recent legal changes have proven difficult for the California home brewing community, but a silver lining exist for groups who wish to showcase their creations at beer fests who donate to a charitable organization. After speaking with Brian Holter and Ramesh Khalili (the current President and Treasurer respectively), there is a clear excitement expressed at the opportunity for pouring at future fests. Their tent was appropriately well staffed, as they drew throngs of curious drinkers to their tap handles throughout the event.
Those who arrived with VIP tickets were also treated to a lecture on how to brew in the home, held by the Pacific Gravity Fundraiser and SoCal Home Brew Fest Planner Terry Molloy. Using a kettle and mash tun, the attendees were walked through the steps of how to make their own beer. As we were passed samples of pilsner malt and cascade hops, Terry uttered those words that so many home brewers have become familiar with;
“Relax, don’t worry, and have a homebrew.”
Charlie Papazian, I assure you we will.
Food and Beer Pairings
The booths each provided a tasting of small dishes that were purposefully paired with an accompanying beer. Several pairs stood out as superb combinations of flavors. Ladyface Alehouse paired their La Grisette Belgian Farmhouse Wheat alongside a pomegranate cous cous with lavender feta; a creation of the Manhattan Beach Post gastropub. Eagle Rock Brewery combined deep malts with tart by pairing their Solidarity Black Mild with a key lime pie. Ohana Brewing Company paired their Hollenbeck Amber Ale with a sweet treat of Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Sandwiches from Manhattan Beach Creamery.
If one were daring enough, they could forgo the recommended pairings to try their own combinations. For me the top custom combos were The Bruery’s Sans Pagaie Wild Oak Aged Beer with Cherries combined with zinc@shade’s Jamaican Jerked chicken tacos, and Paul Martini’s American Grill braised short ribs (topped with horseradish crème and mashed potatoes) paired with The Dudes’ Juicebox Blood Orange Ale.
The second panel of the event featured a discussion of beer pairing by Eagle Rock’s Ting Su, Ladyface’s Cyrena Nouzille, Tin Roof Bistro’s Anne Connes, and Goose Island’s beer educator Christina Perozzi. The ladies shared stories of pairings gone well and bad, recommendations for possible beer dinner events and jokingly bantered with the Master of Ceremonies, Adam Gertler of the Food Network.
I had the pleasure of speaking with many of the brewery representatives during the fest. Ohana Brewing Company’s Riggs and Chris were as affable and gregarious as ever; they also provided visitors with additional tasting cups with #LABeer written on the side. Several of the Los Angeles based brewers opted to provide their beers in these cups. I also spoke with Christina Perozzi, co-author of The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer. I highly recommended the book for those seeking a well written and extremely informative work of beer education. Available at: http://www.amazon.com/The-Naked-Pint-Unadulterated-Guide/dp/0399161325
As the afternoon closed I spoke with Tomm Carroll; Los Angeles based beer writer and historian for Celebrator and Beer Paper LA. Being new to beer journalism, it was a pleasure and a treat to speak with the veteran writer. Our conversation took us from the fest itself, to beer history, and musings on the triumphs and struggles of the craft beer movement.
Concluding Thoughts and Future Events
My ambivalence for Stella Artois notwithstanding, the fest’s sponsors conducted a very well-run beer and food fest for the attendees. The necessities were all present; free and plentiful water, accessible restrooms, nearby parking, fast gate entry (although I did show up early), and plenty of brewery swag to be collected. I left with a bag full of buttons, bottle openers, stickers and a deck of cards. The restaurants too provided treats in the way of coupons and vouchers for meals at their establishments.
A portion of the proceeds from Bite at the Beach went to the Surfrider Foundation South Bay Chapter. I spoke with Craig Cadwallader from the Foundation. He noted how Manhattan Beach in particular has proven very amicable toward Surfrider’s mission to curtail the use of dangerous plastics in businesses of the city. I also spoke with Nancy Vrankovic, Director of Catering for Simms Restaurants and member of the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce. I was curious if this would become an annual event for Manhattan Beach. Judging by the success of the day, she stated that in all likelihood it will be. More information about Manhattan Beach’s business community and future events can be found at; http://www.manhattanbeachchamber.com
For those interested in homebrewing and live in or around Culver City, information on the Pacific Gravity Home Brewers Club can be found at; http://www.pacificgravity.com
Hats off to the event organizers, participating restaurants, craft brewers, and panelists; and here’s looking forward to next year.