Archive for the ‘Los Angeles’ Category

A Community Brewer
May 7, 2010

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.


Back in the Home Country
January 14, 2009

Lucky Baldwin's in Pasadena, California, by joedecruyenaere on flickr.

Lucky Baldwin's in Pasadena, California, by joedecruyenaere on flickr.

I’m in America for a month, on a bit of a beery safari.  I’m staying with my friend Bob who is an amazing brewer and the person who first turned me on to good beer.   So, when I arrived some fresh, homebrewed Kolsh and a super-grapefruity American Pale Ale welcomed me.

We’d decided that we’d brave the frat-guy atmosphere of the Yard House (a place that serves beer to bone heads in yard-long glasses) because they have an extensive menu of beers on draft.  Our plan was foiled when I got carded!  (To Brits, this means you are asked for ID to prove you are over 21). I was completely out of the habit of carrying ID with me, as I don’t have to do this in London.   All I had with me was my expired California ID which proved I was old enough to be the waitress’ mother, but since it was expired she refused to serve me.  A surreal moment indeed!

So we ended up at Lucky Baldwin’s in Pasadena, an “English” pub which had an array of English beers on draft that would put most pubs in England to shame.  And, unlike most British pubs, we were able to luxuriate outside in the sun in mid January wearing only tee shirts, and as evening came on we ordered another round and the fairy lights came on in the beer garden.

I ended up trying two beers I’ve been curious about, both by the American brewery, Stone.  I started with the Smoked Porter and was impressed with the sneaky smoke note, and the overall drinkabilty.  Next up was the Arrogant Bastard ale, a beer beloved of certain British friends, probably because they like saying the name.  Bob described it as a barley wine.  It did have a malty middle that I associate with a barley wine, but bookended by an oily, resinous hoppiness that coated the mouth completely.  I had a pint of this because they only serve pints here…I had to nurse the damn thing, happy it would be my last beer of the night.  My palate was done for.  It was a reminder that I am now in the US, and things could get mighty hoppy.