Daily Dish

The inside scoop on food in Los Angeles

Category: Blake Hennon

Lucky Baldwin's taps into IPA mania

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If you like your beer to be hoppier than a pogo stick competition, here's some hoppy (er, happy) news for you: Lucky Baldwin's is throwing its 11th annual IPA festival June 13-21.

More than 50 of the 62 taps at each of its two locations will be devoted to IPAs, including such cult beers as Dogfish Head's 90 Minute and the rarer 120 Minute IPA, Russian River's Blind Pig and double Pliny the Elder (that scholarly libation was already on tap Thursday but wasn't yet on the menu -- consider it a festival preview) and Victory's Herkules IPA. ("That's a rare keg," Lucky Baldwin's owner David Farnworth says. "I only have one.")

Celebrants get a glass for $8, which includes the first pour. Standard IPAs will be $3, doubles $4 and Belgians $6 (they have to get through customs, y'know).

"The interesting thing is that when we first started the IPA festival, we used to have to drive up to San Francisco to find IPAs," says Farnworth, noting that now Southern California has become renowned for its IPAs. Indeed, the two IPAs usually available at Lucky Baldwin's are from Escondido (Stone) and Pasadena (Craftsman).

Lucky Baldwin's' Pasadena location is at 17 South Raymond Ave. The Sierra Madre pub is at 21 Kersting Court.

-- Blake Hennon

Photo by Blake Hennon / Los Angeles Times

Simmzy's: Savvy suds by the surf

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Mike Simms looks around his compact, 47-seat new Manhattan Beach pub and says, "We had two options -- beer or food. You can see which one kind of won out. We have more beer selection than food selection."

Not that anyone in the packed Simmzy's Saturday lunch crowd was complaining. The limited menu, from Anne Conness (who has had stints at Napa Valley Grille, EM Bistro, Campanile and Saddle Peak Lodge), is varied enough to keep things interesting. Offerings include two gourmet burger styles, a chateau steak, pulled pork panino, market greens and more. The menu expresses a dedication to seasonal, local, responsibly grown ingredients, with one caveat -- "OK, well, the beef is from the Midwest, but let's face it, that's where a lot of cows live." Granted, there are a lot of cows near Coalinga too, but Simmzy's goes with Niman Ranch, which includes Midwest farms. And some of that meat goes into "Simmzy's Awesome Chili," a concoction involving beef and pork, Fritos, cheddar, sour cream and Boont Amber Ale, which brings us back to the beer.

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A craft beer Paul Revere

If you were in a beer bar last week, you may have encountered a fervent revolutionary by the name of Chris Spradley. He was the guy riding in with a 4- by 5-foot poster of the pro-craft-beer Declaration of Beer Independence and asking you (sometimes via megaphone) to sign it.

SPRADLEY Spradley, founder of the Los Angeles Ale Club, was immediately taken with the document when the Brewers Assn. announced it and decided to blow it up and gather signatures. One night at Blue Palms Brewhouse, he asked owner Brian Lenzo if he might bring it by during his signing drive. Lenzo offered to help pay for it. Spradley got a high-resolution copy of the document from the Brewers Assn. and had his mega copy made.

Over the course of American Craft Beer Week (May 11-17), he spent hours at spots around the megalopolis: May 12 at Blue Palms; May 13 at both Lucky Baldwins and the Stuffed Sandwich; May 14 at Red Carpet Wine, Verdugo Bar and Blue Palms; May 15 at the Library Alehouse and the Daily Pint; May 16 at the Bruery's first anniversary party and back at Blue Palms.

Why go to all that trouble? "I believe in what the declaration stands for," Spradley said.

"I wanted to really do it in L.A.," he said. "We have a craft beer scene that goes unnoticed."

He talks of putting Los Angeles on the national map as a craft beer destination. And he's putting time, gas money and horsepower behind making that happen.

The Los Angeles Ale Club, which counts more than 200 members and plans such outings as an upcoming bus tour to and around San Francisco's beer spots (no firm date yet), is on Facebook and Meetup.

-- Blake Hennon

Photo courtesy of Chris Spradley

Ballast Point sails into Verdugo Bar on Thursday

On Thursday night, Verdugo Bar will feature craft brews from the nautically inclined Ballast Point Brewing Co. of San Diego.

Ballast-point-tongue-buckler Mike Mellow, Ballast Point's vice president of sales, will be on hand with the company's mainstays (such as Yellowtail Pale Ale), plus some rarer "awesomely crazy beers," including barrel-aged limited releases not typically available to the general public. As crazy as the design and language on the brewery's Tongue Buckler Imperial Red? Only the taste will tell.

"Ballast Point is one of the most exciting breweries in Southern California, brewing some of the most sought-after special releases in beer today," said Ryan Sweeney, owner of Verdugo.

Prices will be $5 to $7, and all drafts will be $1 off between 6 and 7:30 p.m.

Verdugo Bar is at 3408 Verdugo Road in Los Angeles. (323) 257-3408.

-- Blake Hennon

Image courtesy of BeerNews.org

American Craft Beer Week isn't over at Blue Palms Brewhouse

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One thousand signatures. That was the goal that Blue Palms Brewhouse owner Brian Lenzo set for his oversized copy of the Declaration of Beer Independence when American Craft Beer Week began on May 11. On Sunday night, as the week officially drew to a close, Lenzo (above) estimated that the document, which visited other L.A. area beer-centric bars and the Bruery's first anniversary party during the week, had around 500 John Hancocks. If his copy carries even 500, that's still 444 more signatories than the actual Hancock and Co. on Mr. Jefferson's Declaration of 1776.

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The Bruery: What a difference it's made in a year

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Most 1-year-olds are just starting to walk. But after just one year, the Bruery is running full speed ahead. Tucked inside a nondescript business park just off the 57 Freeway in Placentia, one of the most innovative breweries going today celebrated its first birthday Saturday with about 400 of its closest friends.

Among those friends was Dave Chudnow, president of a group of L.A.-area Belgian-beer fanatics called the Drunk Monks, who made this bold proclamation: “The best beer in the world is made in Belgium – and by him, the brewer here.”

That brewer is Patrick Rue, a 28-year-old law school graduate who chose worts over torts.

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Beer vs. BBQ: A weekend of dueling festivals

Beervsbbq We've written extensively about them, and now we've got the photos!

Sudsy or savory? Booze or barbecue? Drunk and bloated or just plain bloated? It was a weekend of competing food festivals: the Los Angeles Barbeque Festival (held Saturday and Sunday in Santa Monica) and Craft Beer Fest L.A. (held Sunday at the Echoplex).

Click here for beer porn.

Click here for meat porn.

-- Elina Shatkin

Photo credits: Left: Josh Reiss / For The Times. Right: Rob Takata / For The Times.

Los Angeles BBQ Festival: Smoke in your eyes and yummy in your tummy

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After a first year troubled by long lines and vendors running out of food, everything seemed right on Q at the second Los Angeles BBQ Festival on Sunday.

“This year is 10 times better – no lines. It’s like it should be,” said Jason Sinroll of Manhattan Beach, who was bitterly disappointed in last year’s festival.

Organizer Dan Silberstein of DrinkEatPlay saw to it that last year’s problems would not be repeated, increasing the number of food vendors and drink stations and putting in more seating. The food stalls were plenty busy, but what lines there were moved quickly. Finding a seat at a table with an umbrella could be a challenge, but getting a chair somewhere didn't take long.

09bbqfest 045 “How could it be any better?” asked Brian Stein, pit master of Susie Q’s in Santa Maria, as he supervised tri-tip cooking over red oak (at right). “We’re in Santa Monica, the pier’s right there … barbecue and tri-tip in Santa Monica on Mother’s Day.” He was ably assisted by a Le Cordon Bleu student, plus a guy the Susie Q’s crew met in the parking lot and hit it off with. Brian’s wife, Nancy Stein, said that’s part of the Susie Q’s family atmosphere, adding, “It’s really sweet how everyone is all sweet.”

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Craft Beer Fest L.A. was hopping

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Surprise, surprise – L.A. is fashionably late to the party. But the city knows how to make an entrance. Such was the refrain of the drinking song warbled in rounds throughout the Echoplex on Saturday during the first Craft Beer Fest L.A.

Steve Grossman, brewery ambassador for the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., said during a round-table discussion that, compared to Northern California,  Southern California is “lagging behind about 10 years” in beer and wine, but now that it’s arriving, “ it’s fantastic.”

L.A. is “the wicked stepchild of the craft beer world,” said round-table moderator Christina Perozzi, Beer for Chicks blogger and beer sommelier in residence at Rustic Wine Bar and Seasonal Kitchen in Santa Monica.

Birthday boy Josh Weatherman, at the festival celebrating his 29th with his wife, Jennifer Awrey, and friends, said that, coming from the rich craft beer culture of the Pacific Northwest, he had been searching for a similar passion in Los Angeles and was happy to sample the drafts at the festival: “It’s hard to find them anywhere.” Weatherman was thrilled to have found out about the festival just in time: “I was going to stay at the house and drink beer.”

At least one person was not at all surprised by the turnout (859 beer nuts, by the Echoplex’s count).  Larry James, of the Wine Warehouse’s beer department, told the round-table crowd, “I figured when everyone realized they could drink better beer, it would happen fast.”

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When American Craft Beer Week reigns, it pours

Beer If you believe that your inalienable rights include “life, liberty and the pursuit of hops and malts fermented from the finest of U.S. small and independent craft brewers,” then you need not wait until July 4 to celebrate your independence.

American Craft Beer Week, an effort by the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Assn., is set for May 11-17, and there are a number of occasions to raise a glass around the Southland, including Craft Beer Fest L.A., which starts the festivities two days early, on Saturday. New this year to the drive to raise awareness for small breweries is the Declaration of Beer Independence, which in addition to expanding your inalienable rights asks you to sign and declare that “the beer I choose to enjoy is not a commodity” but “an artistic creation of living liquid history,” calls for beer sellers to carry local and regional breweries  and claims that, among other things, beer “teaches us geography.”

If you’ll drink to that, here are some opportunities:

Craft Beer Fest L.A., the master machination of LA CABAL (the Los Angeles Craft and Artisanal Beer Appreciation League), invades the Echoplex on Saturday. There will be 15 California breweries present, each with at least two varieties. The $30 admission comes with 15 drink tickets and a take-home glass. Tastings will be 3 ounces each (“like a triple-espresso-size cup,” says CABAL member Evan George). Additional drink tickets will go for $1 a pop. There will be food to help sop up those suds: Expect beer nuts made to order (hot pepper peanuts, rosemary and olive oil pecans, vanilla honeyed cashews), vegan appetizers from Pure Luck (owned by CABAL member Ben Ling), salad from new Fairfax beer bar Golden State, beer-flavored desserts from Scoops, fresh-delivered pizza bites from the nearby Masa, bean and cheese burritos courtesy of the LA Burrito Project, and chips and salsa from Santa Monica’s Library Alehouse. And if you get beered out, there will be organic coffee from local roaster Cafecita Organica. And it will all be set to old-time music by the likes of Sausage Grinder and Triple Chicken Foot. Brewers will be available to discuss their work, and CABAL members and Hot Knives bloggers Alex Brown and George will give a presentation on the do's and don’ts of beer and cheese pairings. And, if you aren’t actually spent by the festival’s 9 p.m. end, the Echoplex will start selling its usual offerings at that time.

The fest, at 1154 Glendale Blvd., Los Angeles from 2  to 9 p.m., sold out its 500 presale tickets. There will be a couple hundred available at the door -- but expect a line if you don’t have a presale ticket. George says public transportation is encouraged (after all, parking is scarce and those 2 ounce tastings add up – many of the beers will be potent). Metro bus 92 stops nearby on Glendale, and the 2 and 4 buses run above on Sunset. The event benefits 826LA

Around SoCal during the big week:

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Daily Dish is written by Times staff writers.