A Community Brewer

Bob Tower, brewer behind the Echo Park Private Brewery

This month’s Beer Blogging Session is hosted by The Hop Press and they’ve chosen collaboration as a topic.

The most obvious approach is perhaps to discuss micro-brewery collaborations between BrewDog and Mikkeller or other joint ventures that create a buzz in the beer world.

But that would have nothing to do with how I came to beer, which was through a different kind of collaboration.  There is a vibrant arts and d0-it-yourself, indie community of creative people in Los Angeles and one locus of this community was The Echo Park Private Brewery, or Bob and Edie’s home. There was always some new and amazing brew on– from Malt Liquor to Mead and fascinating combinations in between. Bob would  send out humorous and informative emails detailing the style and process.  He has turned hundreds of people on to beer and brewing, and I’m one of them.

Bob sees beer as a collaboration with the drinker, with artists and other brewers.  He has made beer as part of international art installations where participants designed the beer labels— each one different, hand made and sewn. This beer was given away at art openings and community events across Holland.

One of my fondest memories of those nights drinking beer with other artists, writers and community organizers in Bob & Edie’s kitchen was the Chicha night, where we tried to help Bob prepare the maize for the traditional South American fermented beverage.  There were about fifteen of us chewing the maize, rolling it into little balls and flattening it to dry.  (The enzymes in saliva break down the starch into maltose.)  So what if that brew didn’t exactly turn out?  We were all doing it together, part of a big experiment, and it put me in mind of what brewing might have been like when it was a community endeavor marking the seasons.

Sometimes I wonder what the Echo Park Private Brewery could do with a huge influx of capital.  What if Bob Tower’s beer could be available on a larger scale?  His clever vision and mastery of the craft could be shared by many more drinkers.  In the meantime, he has used local resources and creative alliances to continually reinvent what he brews.  Echo Park is indeed lucky to have its own community brewer.

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3 Responses

  1. Collaboration with the drinker sounds like a good, fun approach, as does a real, physical community directly contributing to the creations.

    • Yes– it really made for some unforgettable beers. I think part of what made it possible was a resistance to/subversion of profit and the market. I don’t know anyone else who is doing this on the scale Bob’s undertaken.

  2. […] Impy Malting decided to focus on the Echo Park Private Brewery. I loved the article and wonder if Echo Park and Elizabeth Street would consider a collaborative event in the future. Again, though, there was a reference to products coming from the South American mountains. […]

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