Trying to Explain
by Don Erickson
The Celebrator is now 15 years old. I'm happy to have been along for much of the ride. As you can probably tell from the photos and descriptions in this issue, it was fun attending the Celebrator's 15th anniversary party!
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Photographs notwithstanding, I really was at the party. Honest. I just missed all the photo opportunities because I was too busy trying to explain the L.A. beer scene.
She was from one of the Northwest's larger craft breweries, and she was puzzled: "We have four reps down in L.A., but nobody seems to know we're there. Yet we're selling a lot more beer than we expected to." She's not the only one who's confused. Visiting grognards are always befuddled when they discover that the bar on the corner is more likely to headline Pabst Blue Ribbon or Shiner Bock than a local microbrew. From that disappointment, many then jump to the conclusion that L.A.'s beer scene is somehow inferior to the scene in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Denver or wherever the grognard calls home.
The smart-alecky answer would be "Welcome to L.A." But there are better replies. First, understand that L.A. is a very big place. It's such a never-ending sprawl that 60-mile or longer commutes (one way!) are routine. Downtown just doesn't exist in the traditional sense. Instead, the Los Angeles metropolitan area sorts itself into business districts, residential areas and entertainment meccas. The business districts empty out at night, and in the entertainment centers, beer is beside the point. Thus, many of the good beer joints are in the residential areas, usually outside the city of Los Angeles proper and some distance from the business and entertainment places where visitors are apt to be.
To complicate things further, L.A.'s beer scene didn't have much staying power until fairly recently. Worse, some of the early pioneers made mistakes that the rest of us are still paying for. That's one of the reasons L.A. doesn't have a big-time beer festival of its own.
To add insult to injury, public transit in L.A. is more theory than fact. With only a few exceptions, getting anywhere means venturing onto L.A.'s freeways. Despite their fearsome reputation, the local freeways really aren't that bad, aside from rush hour, that is. In fact, I much prefer driving L.A.'s freeways to navigating the streets of San Francisco. (Oddly, the boss has the opposite attitude.)
In L.A., the freeway off-ramps hide beer's rewards. While most of the microbrewing hereabouts occurs at brewpubs (again, that focus on residential areas), the tap houses offer plenty of imports and out-of-town microbrews. Do you like Belgian beers? L.A. is very big on the beers of Belgium. More than one importer has been surprised to discover that L.A.'s sales regularly surpass those of the Bay Area.
In previous articles, particularly "A Tourist's Guide to Beer in L.A." [December 1999/January 2000 Celebrator] and "A Tourist's Guide" [April/May 2002 Celebrator], I revealed where some of L.A.'s best beer spots are hidden. There are others. For example, while buying gas in Lancaster, I discovered an ARCO mini-mart with a wall full of imports and microbrews╩-- at good, reasonable prices, too. There are similar places all over L.A. Go find them!
Don Erickson is an associate editor of the Celebrator Beer News and a longtime "grognard" covering the Southern California beer scene. He lives in Long Beach, Calif.
Copyright 2003, Celebrator No material herein may be reprinted without permission of the Celebrator Distributed On the W3 For personal, non-commercial enjoyment and use only. Cheers!
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