Thursday, December 21, 2006 

Library Bar

Library Bar

After reading about this in the Downtown News, I was intrigued. I stopped in for a lil "afternoon cap" since I work downtown and tis the season.

It's located in this redone building a block away from the LA Public Library, next to a Wolfgang Puck Express. Inside seems a bit, well like a library. Not the kind like up the block, but more of a library room in a like in a mansion: wood floors, dimly lit and quite cozy. It has an old time feel but at the same time is quite modern. The marble bar is a plus.

There was some holiday party going while I was there, so it was pretty full. The rest of the crowd seem to be downtown working types of all ages.

Beer and wine seem to be the focus. There was not an enormous selection but most of it was well thought out. On-tap: Craftsman 1903 and Xmas Ale, Hoegaarden, North Coast Rasputin, Leffe, Stella and one or two more. Bottles included all 3 Chimays, Delirium Tremens, Maredsous 8, Kasteel, a few lambics and some others. Not the beer paradise of the world but definitely the best spot I've come across to have a drink downtown.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006 

Craftsman Brewing Co.

In the Los Angeles area there is very little to call your own in the way fine, locally made beer. San Diego has a ton. The Bay Area has even more. Los Angeles has one: Craftsman - and even that is in Pasadena.

Their woefully outdated and terribly unhip website paints a picture of another era and another place. A brewing company that is about making fine beer for people that appreciate fine beer.

I first came across Craftsman offering at Lucky Baldwins in Pasadena. It seemed for years that this was the only place I could get their fine brews. Over the past couple of years, Craftsman has been popping up all over the place. Restaurants that understand local values such as Lucques and Engine Co. #28, have their beer to pair with fine dining. Newer beer bars like Library Bar and The 3rd Stop understand the helping LA out of the beer desert includes nurturing from within. All of this is painting a better beer 2007 for Los Angeles and Craftsman looks to be a contributing factor.

Craftsman Holiday Ale

81 / 100

This is a fine example of a Winter Warmer transplanted to Los Angeles. Unlike some, Craftsman's version remains somewhat light and subtle on the spicing. In colder climates this might be a bit thin - a thick, hearty Anchor Our Special Ale is what you need. This has the cinnamon and the malts but it also has a slight hoppiness to it. It finishes sweet with a slight brown sugar flavor.

Craftsman IPA

85 / 100

Last time I was at Lucky Baldwins, the IPA was out - thankfully this time, it wasn't. It came in a perfectly poured pint glass - a deep amber hue with a well retained 2 finger head. It's aroma was of glorious hops: mostly floral, but some pine too. Taste is blessed with hops too, with a sweet maltiness hidden inside. Plenty of hoppiness but very well balanced. This is one of those West Coast IPAs you could drink a bunch of.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 

Bonaventure Brewing Company

Even though I work in downtown Los Angeles, it's rare when I visit any of its drinking destinations. The happy hour crowds downtown usually get too yuppie for my likes and to be honest, none of the establishments are good enough for me to weather that. Since I had to drop off a rental car right next door, I decided to stop in to the Bonaventure Brewing Co and see what they had brewing.

First off, this place is EXTREMELY difficult to locate. I remembered that from my previous visit, even still – I had trouble finding it. Getting to the Bonaventure is easy enough, but inside is like a labyrinth and brewery is snuggled amongst it somewhere on the 4th level. The inside was almost empty, a few hotel guests were eating on the outside terrace. I hopped to the bar and took a look at the draft pulls: 5 of their own and 2 guests: Bitburger Pils and Hacker-Pschorr Hefe Weisse. The 5 house beers were Stout, Pale Ale, Blonde, Strawberry Blonde and their Seasonal which was an IPA.

An IPA lover, I quickly order a pint. It comes out looking very light for an IPA, I’d say it visually resembled a definition pilsner. The aroma is pleasant, again on the light end of things, same held truth upon tasting it. It was a below average beer, it really lacked character. But still it was an IPA, so I drank it without complaints. I decided to get the sampler next. The stout was decent, a full flavored offering. The Blonde was a bit bland and I could have easily down without the Strawberry Blonde. The Pale Ale was the clear favorite, it was the only one I tried on my previous visit and likely the one I’ll stick to with subsequent trips.

The staff was very friendly, perhaps not terribly knowledgeable of the beer – but it’s probably rare when they need to be. The food was very good, I just scarfed down some boneless buffalo tenders. They were really good. I’d say it’s worth the visit if you are downtown and need a decent beer, there aren’t a lot of great options and Bonaventure Brewing Co is probably your best bet.

Friday, December 08, 2006 

Brasserie des Rocs Grand Cru Belgian Special Brown Ale

83 / 100

Seconds after opening this bottle, the carbonation went buckwild and went everywhere. I rushed it to the sink where it would cause the least amount of harm. After it settled down, I poured into my chalice. Sadly, 1/3 of it was lost in the foam explosion.

It was a dark, murky, muddy water with an enormous head. Sediment swam around the bottom. It smelled of brown sugar and raisin - sweet but not overwhelming. As was the taste - the spiciness carried well with the dark malts. I paired it with some spicy Thai food and the combination was brilliant.

I'm still a bit saddened to see that the former Abbeye Des Rocs Grand Cru is no longer being made. It was a favorite. I enjoy the Special Brown but it's really not in the same league. But still, it's a fine Belgian brew.

Thursday, December 07, 2006 

Oaked Arrogant Bastard

78 / 100
I procrastinate every year when the 3L bottles of Oaked Arrogant Bastard are released and eventually never get it. Since it was only available in this large bottle (or if very lucky, on-tap) I never got a chance to try it. So this year when I found out it was going to be available in 6 packs, I had no excuses. Maybe one excuse – the 6 packs are generally in the $13 range – kind of a lot to pay for 6 beers. I had to try it so I didn’t think twice about it.

The color is a deep amber with a hearty head lacing all over the glass. The aroma put me off at first. It has an almost helium birthday balloon smell. That mostly dissipates and becomes an oaky, caramel. The taste is the same but a heavy malt presence. Hops break through once in awhile. The texture is thick and chewy.

Admittedly, I’m not the hugest Arrogant Bastard fan in the world. I think it’s a fine beer, but certainly it’s not near the top or my favorites as it seems to be with others. The oak aging improves it, rounding out the flavors. Definitely glad I picked it up.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006 

City Beer Store, San Francisco

City Beer Store
1168 Folsom Street
San Francisco, California 94103

Just a few blocks from the Moscone Convention Center, this made for an easy escape from the drones of the seminar speakers. Craig, the owner / proprietor and as he informed me, “only employee” was stocking the shelves when I walked in. The shop isn’t huge but the space is used well: the front area is kind of a lounge while the back is entirely lined with bottles. There’s a small bar on the opposite side with 4 active drafts and a well-stocked refrigerator just beyond that. The shop is half store / half bar with the benefits of both.

Looking over the taps, I cross one I’ve not had before: Presidio IPA. So I order it. While pouring it the keg kicks, so I move on to my 2nd choice: Deschutes Jubelale. While I sip this, I talk beer with Craig while he cleans the draft line formerly occupied by the Presidio. I wish other places would have this diligence about keeping their draft lines clean. I peruse the bottle shelf and the fridge. There’s a well thought out selection ranging the whole spectrum: tons of great local offerings, the better end of American beers and plenty from the UK and EU (as expected, the majority from the Belgians and Germans). Another great thing: for only $1 corkage fee, you can have at any of the bottles while at the shop.

Craig clearly knows his beers and his love shines throughout the shop. I really wish there was something like this in Los Angeles. The beer lovers down here are starving for something like City Beer Store.