Monday, May 11, 2009

Foodie Flashback: 1st LA Craft Beer Fest (Echo Park)

What my friend conbon did and didn't like at the Craft Beer Fest.

When I heard about the Craft Beer Fest about a month and a half ago, that was my must-go event of May - with a nice list of artisanal brewers and free grub to go along, it sounded like it was gonna be a happy, hoppy time.

Well . . .

. . . on the plus side, thanks to my previous experience with food events, my friends and I got there early (1:15 p.m.) and I got my tickets presale, so I managed to get in right away (and my friends joined in a 1/2 hour) but I heard there were crazy lines 2+ hours long. Add to that the steamy, not-very-well-ventilated interior of the Echoplex and it's practically a college house party gone out of control where everyone brought +1s... and 2s... and 10s. And unfortunate for the later crowds, the free grub ran out pretty fast - so they either had to buy their food at the taco truck parked outside or *gulp* drink their beers on an empty stomach.

But back to my main point, I got there pretty early so I had a good chance to check out a lot of the different foods served, including the cheeses and freshly-roasted nuts from Nicole's Gourmet Foods, Scoop's gelatos, and small items from the vegan Pure Luck (including vegan hefeweizen cupcakes!) The L.A. Burrito project was there too handing out fairly hardy burritos gratis too (I think they should've cut them up, at least in halves, so more people can have them and so that it's more portable. I felt BAD throwing the last third of mine away 'cause I was so full!)

As for the beers? Even with the mildly disappointing development that the event isn't really all-you-care-to-try (you get 15 tickets, each good for a ~3 oz. pour, with additional tickets available for purchase) it turned out to be more than what we could drink, and between my friends and I getting different beers we definitely checked out the entire menu! Given how hot and crazy crowded the spot was, my faves of the day were definite on the light and refreshing side, including the juicy, citrusy Orange Wheat from Hangar24, the Tradewinds Tripel from Bruery and the Carlsbad Hefeweizen from Pizza Port.

Of the heavier ones (most of which I tasted during the beginning of the event) I enjoyed the assertive, caramel-coffee-ish Arrogant Bastard from Stone and
the Bruery's Cuvee Jeune young lambic ("tart cherry pie w creme fraiche" was my notes) - the latter pairing wonderfully with the intense-yet-still-creamy Beemster XO Aged Gouda.

Overall, we had a fun time at this event (as well as everything else we did after!) -- but definitely hope next year (crossing fingers) they'll hold it in an outdoor venue and have a better system for controlling the crowds and bottlenecks.

P.S. Sorry to all the folks my friends and I cutted in front of... multiple times! Seriously, after one 20-minute wait for 3 ounces of beer, we decided to wise up Echo Park style and just weaved in where we could. Thankfully, folks were to oblivious, shy or drunk to call us out.

Here's what LA Times & EatingLA had to say about the same event.


Aaron said...

Good to finally see a write-up about the event. Based on the twittersphere, it sounded hectic. I think I had my fill of over-crowded events after Gold Standard

Anonymous said...

beer nirvana for sure! even if the wait did suck. I am sure these guys will do a better job for the second annual event.

Dining on Deals said...

Yikes - sounds like a mad house! But at least there was tasty free food. A Vegan Hefeweizen Cupcake?? Only in LA:)

Kirby! said...

I also went and had a really fab time! I've been hearing lots of people online grumbling about the heat and the lines, but I guess I didn't care so much because the Echoplex is always hot and crowded when I've been there. I also got there early enough to sample almost all the food, while others missed out.

And I cut the line like 10 times! To the far side of Bar #1 (where the seating area was), I discovered around 5pm that you could just walk right up to the side and they would serve you, no wait. So I continued to do that for the rest of the evening! Which is why I drank way more than planned! Oh well, I guess I should have expected as much at a beer fest.

H. C. said...

@Aaron, given how events are either trying to turn a profit or raise as much money as possible for a charity, one'd be hard-pressed to find an event that's not sardine-packed. But the Gold Standard definitely was more horrific than most.

@Anon, here's hoping for a more mellow round two

@DoD, the cupcake is indeed very LA and pretty tasty too.

@Kirby, ha, that's the same thing I did (maybe we even bumped into each other!) I drank a good amount, and of course followed that up with wine and cocktails for the remainder of the day!


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