Recently, a friend on facebook reposted the Logan Thompson’s 2014 article “The Top 5 Beers in The World”, which, if you haven’t read it yet, is worth a read prior to reading this. I remember reading his post last year and thinking, wow, Thompson really got it right. In it he talks about “best of” lists and their popularity and subjectivity. In the end, he recreates the list of the top five best beers and distills it down to the following: The beer that’s in your hand, the beer you’re having next, the best beer you can remember, the beer that’s free, and the beer you made. The idea here is that the “best” is a very personal thing and knowing the best, for anyone other than yourself, is next to impossible. For someone to really call out the best beer in the world, they would have to have tried every single one of them, likely multiple times, and be able to accurately recount exact details without any outside influence. On top of that they would have to understand the combined palates of everyone on earth. Because none of us are robots and because we don’t all share the same tastes or life experiences, a definitive list is simply impossible.
Our experiences, wether we like it or not, shape how we perceive the food and drinks we consume. While we can’t accurately talk about “the best” what we can talk about is why we like the beers we like and additionally where and when we liked them.
5 Beers I’m Glad Exist will be my monthly attempt to talk about five beers I’ve had recently, during the month, or just in general that I’m glad are manifest in this world. They may not be the best beers and hopefully they aren’t the worst, but to me they are beers that make a statement, send a message, or have some cultural relevance in world of beer. Keep in mind, in the same vein as Thompson’s piece, these are my own opinions, which are related to my personal tastes and experiences.
Smog City Coffee Porter by Smog City Brewing Co
If you know me, you’ve probably heard me sing praises about this beer. This is the beer that I compare all other coffee beers to. Fresh ground coffee is cold brewed in this porter, which creates its iconic assertiveness. The beer 6% ‘er is deep black, has a slightly tan head, and is full bodied. “Blurring the line between coffee and beer” couldn’t be more accurate so if you aren’t a coffee fan, this probably isn’t the beer for you, but I would recommend that you still try it. Smog City tends to have something really interesting on tap so I always have to fight myself to not just order this favorite of mine. Luckily, it’s readily available in bottles and via growler fills at the brewery and you can find it in local beer shops in the area too. If you are in Torrance, do yourself a favor and stop on by. You may even want to call ahead, bring your thermos, and see if they can top you off in the morning before you head to work for the daily grind.
City of the Dead by Modern Times Beer
King of gimmicks, hype, and a little condescension, Modern Times Beer has created a very unique offering in City of the Dead. If you aren’t familiar with their side coffee business, they roast on site and have also started aging their coffees in spirit & wine barrels. Although they claim to be the first brewery to do this, it’s not a new thing. Hangar 24 did it in 2013, a few breweries in the Seattle area have toiled with it, and I’m guessing, like most ideas, it’s not as original as you think. Roasters like Dark Matter have also been barrel aging coffee beans for a while and it all stems from the archaic shipping method of transporting coffee beans in whatever vessel was available. Still though, the beer is interesting. I would urge you to order the spirt barrel aged coffee beans from Modern Times or someone else (DOMA, Dark Matter, Whiskey Barrel Coffee) prior to having this beer as it does a really good job showcasing this specific ingredient.
The beer itself is a thinner low gravity stout with big boozy whiskey, coffee, vanilla flavors. The notes in the first bottle I had were so up front that it seemed like the balance would benefit from a higher gravity and fuller body, but perhaps it was just so groundbreaking my mind wasn’t able to fully comprehend it. The second bottle I opened, with some beer loving coworkers, seemed to be a bit more cohesive, but still thin, so I’m not sure if it’s a batch consistency issue or maybe where I sourced the bottle from. That being said, City of the Dead is a great first attempt and a unique beer in general. I’m excited to see future iterations as the brewery matures and slows it’s world dominating expansion efforts so it can focus on its most important asset, beer.
Mayberry IPA by El Segundo Brewing Co
Wow! Have you had this beer yet? El Segundo Brewing Co has a real keeper in Mayberry IPA, one of the newest additions to its 2015 year-round line-up. This tropical fruit dominant IPA features the Mosaic hop and is probably one of the best features around. The key to this one is getting it fresh and, luckily, I happen to live about 15 minutes away so that’s not a problem. ESBC used to just be that cool little local brewery next Rock & Brews in El Segundo, but they’ve quickly elevated themselves to a truly exceptional IPA house and you can count on each one of these beer delivering satisfaction. I had Mayberry IPA the first time over lunch at Simmzy’s in Burbank and I was truly not ready for the tropical flavor explosion. Mango and guava erupted out of my glass and detonated on my tastes buds in a way that made me scream out the lord’s name in vain. Please try this beer and then enjoy Citra Pale, which is equally tasty.
Deep Roots ESB by Three Weavers Brewing Co
There are a plethora of IPA’s available today. I would probably be that guy who kills the buzz at a party by saying, “There are way TOO MANY IPAs out there today”. The only thing that pisses me off more than seeing commercial breweries abandon classic styles is going into my local gastropub to see the entire tap list dominated by dank hoppy beers. Variety is the spice of life and also crucial to food pairing enjoyment. The latest local brewery to open in my hood, Inglewood, “wha wha”, is Three Weavers Brewing Co. From the get go the beers have not been great, they have been fantastic. It’s something few breweries are able to pull off on day one. Their current focus seems to be on both classic styles including IPAs (so don’t worry they still have some great ones), but I feel like there is more creativity on the horizon. That being said, one of their most tasty offerings is Deep Roots ESB. If you have no idea what an ESB (Extra Special Bitter) is, this may or may not be the right beer for you to try, but if you are in the mood for a fantastically crispy malt bomb with complex toasty bread notes, this will be your jam. Contrary to the name, the beer isn’t bitter, at least not to today’s standard, and it’s English – we all know how the English hate hops. Deep Roots will make a delicious pairing with many meals and it’s beers like this that I hope come back and dominate when the hop haze has receded. What’s more, this beer is brewed by LA’s only female brewmaster, Alexandra Nowell, an extremely talented and beer forward person who also excels at IPA brewing. Great things will come from this brewery and have started to already. Look for Deep Roots ESB in local bottle shops soon.
Kumquat Lambic – Homebrewed
To coincide with the #5 on Logan Thompson’s list, “The Beer You Made,” I wanted to talk about my latest homebrew. I brewed this beer collectively with three friends from my homebrew club, Pacific Gravity, Brian Holter, Kingsley Toby, and John Rockwell. This is now the third sour beer to come out of our collaborative efforts each one aged for a time in an organic whiskey barrel from Bainbridge Organic Distillers, in Washington (my uncle founded this distillery and it’s fuckin’ amazing). The first two iterations were unblended lambics barrel aged for 12 months and then secondarily aged on tart montmorency cherries for an additional 6 months. We name this rye kriek, Kryeke, see what we did there? For this batch we added fresh beer to the partially filled barrel waiting to remove it from its oaken home after one year. Finally we set it on some local Los Angeles Kumquats for additional 12 month! The beer is currently bottle conditioning, but at bottling the flavor was so wonderfully citrussy acidic, it’s a wonder we didn’t just drink it there. Sour beers are fairly new to my home brewery. Yes, I have 70+ gallons of sours fermenting in my garage, but the time it takes to bring these babies to maturity prevents me from doing too many of them at a time. That’s fine though. The time I’ve spent with friends laboring over them, the excited anticipation I experience waiting for them to mature, the joy I feel when pulling samples from the Vinnie nail, and the satisfaction I get when uncorking a 375ml bottle to share with friends, is something that can’t be understated. This beer represents hard work, friendship, and a little (or more than a little) chance. Homebrews like this, are a testament to what can be created when people work together and care.
I’m glad that these five beers exists because they each have their own unique relevance in today’s craft beer space. If you haven’t tried these yet and you have access to fresh bottles, I would love to hear what you think of them. Cheers.