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Beer festival bonanza

April 2, 2009 | 12:44 pm


Cheers! Prost! Salud! Dude? An ascendant craft-beer culture is brewing in Southern California. If there was any doubt about that after the rise of Father’s Office, Lucky Baldwin’s and their ilk, now the Los Angeles area has two (count 'em, suds sippers, two) beer festivals taking microbrews macro over the next two months.

The first, the L.A. Beer Festival, raises its glass this Saturday and Sunday afternoons at Sony Studios in Culver City. Then, on May 9, the Los Angeles Craft and Artisanal Beer Appreciation League’s (LA CABAL) Craft Beer Fest L.A. pops its tops at the Echoplex.

The two first-time events developed independently of each other. “I had no idea [Craft Beer Fest L.A.] even existed,” said L.A. Beer Festival organizer Dan Silberstein. LA CABAL member Kevin Kansky, of craft-beer boutique distributor Artisan Ales, said his group scheduled its festival before it heard of the other event, but he isn’t worried. “I don’t think there’s going to be beer festival overload,” he said.

This weekend’s L.A. Beer Festival involves more than 50 breweries. Each day’s $40 admission covers unlimited four-ounce tastings and live music (tribute bands rule the weekend: Petty Cash --  that’s right, Tom Petty and Johnny Cash -- plays Saturday, and Hollywood U2 gets epic on Sunday).  Food items --  including wings and other finger foods from Wolfgang Puck Catering, and pulled pork sandwiches, Italian sausages and meatball skewers from Cannoli Kings Catering, plus desserts by 2008 Cupcake Challenge “best original” winner Sugar Jones-- will be in the $5 to $10 range, Silberstein said.

Planning began with a focus on regional beers from San Diego to Santa Barbara but expanded to any brewery that wanted to participate, Silberstein said. That includes familiar names such as Anheuser-Busch, Pabst, Bass and Stella Artois, but the majority of brews are from smaller outfits, many based in Southern California, including Torrance's Angel City, El Monte's Skyscraper, Newport Beach Brewing Co., Fullerton’s Bootlegger’s Brewery, Redlands’ Hangar 24, San Clemente’s Left Coast Brewing Co., Placentia’s Bruery, Lake Elsinore’s Reaper Ale and a slew of San Diego breweries. There are also beers from the East Coast, as well as Europe and Asia.

The site can handle 1,500 attendees a day. The Saturday session is already sold out. There will be free parking at Sony, but Silberstein encourages attendees to take a taxi. The event is a production of DrinkEatPlay, the events company behind last month’s L.A. Cupcake Challenge and next month’s Los Angeles BBQ Festival. A portion of profits will go to Noah’s Bark Pet Rescue.

Beer aficionados will have until May 9 to recover. The not-for-profit LA CABAL, formed by associates from the local craft-beer industry, began thirsting for a festival that would be “intrinsic to the craft-beer movement” about a year ago, Kansky said, and went to work, meeting weekly at places like member Ben Ling’s Pure Luck Restaurant to plan.

The CABAL’s resulting plot: Craft Beer Fest L.A., which will have a dozen California brewers presenting 26 beers (confirmed so far: Craftsman, Telegraph, Bruery, Hangar 24, Blind Lady, Port, Firestone Walker) and will benefit the student writing nonprofit 826LA. For $30, attendees get tastings, free pub grub (including vegan selections) and old-time music from the likes of the beer-friendly named Sausage Grinder. Brewers will discuss their tasty art, and there will also be cheese experts talking about pairing beer with food. Beer-flavored desserts (ale cupcakes! stout ice cream!) will be available from Scoops.

A toast: Dude!

L.A. Beer Festival. Sony Studios, 10202 Washington Blvd., Culver City. Sat.-Sun., 2-5 p.m. $40 (designated drivers $15). www.drinkeatplay.com/labeerfest

Craft Beer Fest L.A. Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., L.A. May 9, 2-9 p.m. $30. www.lacabal.org/beerfest

-- Blake Hennon

Photo credit: Petr David Josek / Associated Press