State of LA Beer 2018

Originally published in the June 2018 edition of Beer Paper.

How do you quantify a decade? For some, a decade can be the blink of an eye; the time between jobs, building families, graduating, falling in love, out of love, and figuring it all out. In LA beer years, a decade is the lifespan of our brewing community – a scene that is still ever-growing and changing. LA Beer Week celebrates its 10th anniversary this month and it has come a long way since its early days at the Descanso Gardens and Union Station. Founded in 2009 by a group of dedicated beer connoisseurs including Dennis Hartman, Jay Baum, Brandon Bradford, and Ryan Sweeney, LA Beer Week started off as a small event meant to introduce Los Angeles to world-class beer

Los Angeles had little semblance of a beer landscape in those days; we were miles behind the communities of beer meccas like Portland, San Diego, and Denver. But a community was already developing. In 2014, the founders of beer week gave a brand-new Los Angeles County Brewers Guild the privilege of inheriting LA Beer Week. It aligned perfectly with the Guild’s mission to promote independent beer, and we knew that this was an opportunity to evolve this event to showcase our local brewers.

Our membership numbers were steadily on the rise and we had enough brewery friends from all around the country to put together an exciting list of participants; championing those who were dedicated to quality, locality, and fresh beer. Growing from its humble roots was no easy feat. As a nonprofit organization, our Guild relies on generous supporters who have doubled down on our small, local businesses with sponsorships and events. Our organization and the community we have helped foster in the last five years wouldn’t be possible without that support and we are grateful for it.

But despite the tremendous growth and development of culture in LA, craft beer is still not a household name. Local, independent beer is not ubiquitous in our local venues and it’s not often available on the average restaurant or bar tap list. Our mission is far from over. I’ve mentioned the word “independent” in this column a couple of times now and with good reason. As I have mentioned in the past, Big Beer and its slew of mergers and acquisitions is a direct threat to our craft beer industry and this volatile climate for breweries has not calmed. Not only are we fighting for space on a tap list or store shelf, we’re fighting to uphold fair trade practices and oppose legislation that could kill small businesses and give Big Beer unfair advantages.

Events like LA Beer Week give our breweries and our Guild a chance to really put craft at the forefront, but it is consistent long-term support that will keep us all going. As we raise our glasses to 10 years of LA Beer Week, the Guild is celebrating its five-year milestone of being its caretaker, which is why we urge you not only to support our local brewery tasting rooms, but to also patronize the hundreds of amazing bars, restaurants, venues, and shops who elect to support local beer. Don’t see a local tap handle available? Ask for it. Help us convince businesses that there is demand for local brews. Find yourself somewhere where only “crafty” non-independent beer is available? Help us educate the market and ask businesses to seek out the Brewers Association’s certified independent craft seal or a brewery listed on our website. Our supporters are our strongest allies and our most effective advocates and we would not be a community without them.


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