Archives for posts with tag: los angeles

The first in a two-part Summer Vacation series

As of the beginning of this month, I’ve been in California, more specifically Los Angeles, for seven years. For one reason or another, I’ve never got around to exploring the Golden State all that much. So when the question came up of where to go for summer vacation, I brought up not going too far, for a change. It shouldn’t be difficult, it takes 11-12 hours to drive across the state, north to south. Surely, there’s something to see.

Of course there is. We chose Mammoth Lakes in the eastern Sierra Nevadas, home of Mammoth Mountain, a hot spot for skiing in the winter.

As with all summer vacations that I can remember as a kid, we required a road trip; this one, being around five to five to six hours, was easy. We drove north on US-5, connected with CA-14 through a section of the Mojave Desert and cruised up US-395 through Owens Valley. Mammoth Lakes sits on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, which stretches 400 miles north to south. It’s a fact that water is one of California’s environmental issues du jour. Thus, driving past the dried up lakebed of Owens Lake and the shadow-of-its-former-self Crowley Lake (or so it would seem), I found myself wondering how it got that way.

Image from the Owens Lake Master Plan website 

And so, allow me to begin my summer vacation set of posts with a subject that we don’t talk about much in relation to beer and brewing. Still though, it’s completely vital: water.

Water makes up approximately 95% of the ingredients in beer, you need it for sanitation, for the irrigation of grain & hops, and for the malting process. So yes, while beer needs malt, hops and yeast, without water, you literally have nothing.

As a resident of Los Angeles, Owens Valley should pique my interest… Have you ever seen the movie, Chinatown?

Video from youtube.com

Chinatown, inspired by actual events, tells the story of LA oligarchs attempting to gain complete control of the city’s most important municipal resource: water. In reality, their target was the Owens Valley, approximately 200 miles north of the city, which is fed by the runoff of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  The conflicts that arose between the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) and the Owens Valley farmers are collectively known as the “California Water Wars.” These “Wars” are better suited as topics of books, not blog posts. But, I’ll offer a primer, at least.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Los Angeles was a very different place. At a population of a little more than 100,000, the city ranked only the 36th largest in the country (it is now the second). But then-mayor Frederick Eaton and the superintendent of the newly created LADWP, William Mulholland, had a vision of LA as a major player in the United States landscape. They knew, however, a major obstacle to their hopes was access to water. Mulholland famously quipped, “Whoever brings the water brings the people.” With the quantity, quality and proximity of water available in the Owens Valley, it was an ideal candidate for an aqueduct project. The LADWP began what is widely viewed as a series of shady dealings with the local ranchers and farmers. At home, a campaign of speeches, interviews and newspaper articles began to garner the support of Angelenos by implying a city on the brink of a water crisis. The issue eventually made it to President Teddy Roosevelt, who supported the venture saying that shifting the water to LA presented “the greatest good for the greatest number.” In 1913, the Los Angeles Aqueduct was completed and began diverting water from the Owens River. “There it is. Take it.” proclaimed Mulholland as the water started to flow. By 1924, fifty miles of the Owens River were dry as well as Owens Lake, which was at its largest, twelve miles long, eight miles wide and fifty feet deep. As a result of the obvious effects on their land, farmers and ranchers began to rebel by organizing a series of violent actions. By 1927, there had been 10 instances of dynamiting sections of the aqueduct. Resistance was eventually stymied by the closings of the local banks, the owners of which were later tried and convicted of thirty-six counts of embezzlement.

The city of Los Angeles marched on and by the 1930s, owned about 95% of the farm and ranch land in the valley. In an attempt to help the valley farmers and stimulate local employment, the LADWP sponsored various repair and maintenance programs in the area. In 1970, a second aqueduct was completed to meet the ever-growing water needs of the city. The list of litigation between the farmers’ coalitions and Los Angeles is long and complicated (and conflicting depending on your source). LA seems to have not followed through with most of the agreements until slapped on the wrist by the state. In 2006, during one instance of water being returned to the valley, a top LADWP official said, “Our message of friendship and gratitude is ‘there it is, take it back’.” Interesting.

Despite all of this, Owens Valley still provides 50% of LA’s water.

Image from the Owens Lake Master Plan website

It’s worth noting a few extra points:

  1. Now, Owens Lake is the single largest source of dust pollution in the United States.
  2. Last year, Los Angeles celebrated the 100-year anniversary of the Aqueduct. I purposefully used the word, “celebrated.”
  3. The Los Angeles Aqueduct actually didn’t end in Los Angeles proper, but rather in the San Fernando Valley, which wasn’t part of the city at the time. Guess whose friends owned the land that had to be developed in order to make full use of the newly available water? Refer to the classically smarmy line by John Huston in Chinatown, “Either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water.”
  4. The St. Francis Dam, part of the Aqueduct about 40 miles north of LA (in what is now Santa Clarita) collapsed twelve hours after William Mulholland had personally inspected the site. The accident killed almost 600 people, 108 of whom were minors. Mulholland took full responsibility and resigned. His career was (obviously) over, though he went on to consult on the Hoover Dam project before his death.

Water’s importance to the growing community of breweries in Los Angeles is obvious. With almost 60% of California in “Exceptional Drought” (the worst possible rating), including the entire Los Angeles region, you had better believe all these water issues are coming to a head, and the beer industry is hardly immune. Brianna Sacks of the LA Times wrote about it just last week – here is the article.

Summer Vacation Part 2: The Local Brewery in Mammoth Lakes, CA will be posted tomorrow.

– ferretthebeer.com

Further reading:

  1. At first mention, LA residents will most likely immediately get a bad taste in their mouths (no pun intended…maybe) from the LADWP. Hoping not to get too deep into their current reputation, I’ll just add that, in 2011, theAmerican Customer Satisfaction Index rated LADWP the 13th worst company in America.
  2. At the end of July, a water main burst on Sunset Boulevard spilling 20 million gallons of drinkable water over the nearby grounds of UCLA. LADWP and mayor Eric Garcetti blame a “poorly engineered joint” in the piping. Here’s an article from the LA Times the day after the flood.Apparently, LADWP might revive a program to test for overstressed pipe, as a result of this incident. Here’s that article in the LA Times. And, say what you will about Buzzfeed but here’s an article to put the amount of water spilled into better context.
  3. Here’s a link to a great short video from the series, Tom Explores LA, where he goes out to Owens Lake
  4. Water and Power: The Conflict Over Los Angeles Water Supply in the Owens Valley by William Kahrl can be found on Amazon.com
  5. Los Angeles Aqueduct Centennial 2013 official website

Sources:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Water_Wars
  2. http://wsoweb.ladwp.com/Aqueduct/historyoflaa/whoeverbrings.htm
  3. http://www.ovcweb.org/OwensValley/Waterhistory.html
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owens_Valley
  5. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/california-scheming-69592006/?all
  6. http://nevada.sierraclub.org/conservation/easternsierra/OwensRiver.html
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Last weekend was the grand opening for MacLeod Ale Brewing Co. in Van Nuys (San Fernando Valley). I was slacking a bit and didn’t want to carry my Canon around so I grabbed the wide angle adapter for my phone and snapped a few pics here and there.

I don’t think I could have predicted how popular this new brewery seems to be. I’ve been looking forward to it for months but I would have thought I’d be in the minority. Their specialty being British-insprired, cask-conditioned ales better known for their subtlety doesn’t feel compatible with the West Coast IPA’s and BA stouts, etc, that Los Angeles apparently loves. But, I think that’s where the genius of this place lies. Maybe we’re ready for a change. In any case, it was quite the scene. We got there for the 4:00-6:00 block, which was definitely busy but in talking to the food vendors who’d been there all day, it was practically wall to wall for the first 2-3 hours.

I tried The King’s Taxes (Scottish 60/-), The Little Spree (Yorkshire Pale Ale) and Jackie Tar (Brown Stout). My personal favorite was The King’s Taxes but that Jackie Tar (pictured above) certainly had something going for it, as well.

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. This month (hosted by Reuben Gray ofTale of the Ale), we’re looking at Local Brewery History, and not just a brewing company but also the actual facility where brewers made (or continue to make) their historical wares.

Location: 2100 North Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90031. Former home of The Los Angeles Brewing Company (1897-1948) & the Pabst Brewing Company (1948-1979)

Along the 5 Freeway, on the eastern edge of Downtown L.A., there used to be an old, beat-up billboard for the “Los Angeles Brewing Company” on top of a rusted collection of industrial buildings. There is not a brewery here nor is there a brewery by that name in Los Angeles. This patch of earth is now home to a live-work colony for artists, a great, little bar (with a solid selection of local beer) and a new rock climbing gym. Yet, the complex as a whole is referred to as “The Brewery.” So, what’s the story here? What am I missing?

This month’s Session on Local Brewery History seemed like an apt time to get out the Googletron and set the record straight on this local institution.

It’s important to remember that before all these newfangled, hip “craft breweries” swept into town with their fancy IPA’s, Imperial, Barrel-Aged Mega Stouts and whatever else, we did have locally made beer…at one point, anyways. In fact, L.A.’s first beer production company, which opened its doors in 1859, was the ironically named New York Brewery on Third Street in Downtown. There’s hardly any more information available about it other than the three or four references I’ve found that a) it existed and b) I’m assuming they were the New York Brewery that won an award for Best Lager Beer at the 1864 Industrial Exhibition in San Francisco.  Following in NYB’s footsteps, was thealso ironically named Philadelphia Brew House that opened in 1872 near present-day Union Station. Apparently, there was a segment of the Los Angeles population who didn’t realize they lived in Los Angeles. I would think the weather should have been a clue. Maybe they just missed their eastern roots. I can’t read minds.

In 1882, Joseph Maier and George Zobelein, two Bavarian immigrant employees at the New York Brewery formed a partnership and bought the Philadelphia Brew House. Their new venture was creatively re-named, the Maier and Zobelein Brewing Company. Maier would take care of the production side of things and Zobelein would run the books. In 1905, Maier died leaving his half of the company to his two sons, Fred and Edward. Legal squabbles over who had controlling interest in the brewery led Fred and Edward to buy out Zobelein in 1907 for somewhere between $500,000-$800,000 (there were conflicting sources). Zobelein then turned around and used that money to buy out the Los Angeles Brewing Company.

That brings us to our location of interest for today: 2100 North Main Street.

Sometime around the turn of the century, a man by the name of P. Max Kuhnrich purchased the Edison Steam Powered Electric Plant and converted it to the newly-named Los Angeles Brewing Company. I should note: some sources say it was a power plant starting in 1903 and Zobelein bought it out in 1907. However, more than one source (including a 1907 edition of The American Brewers’ Review) states that Kuhnrich had owned the property and operated it as a brewery since 1897; this was what Zobelein purchased with that money burning a hole in his pocket. In short, it’s unclear when the power company was built and when it was converted to a brewing company. Either way, George Zobelein owned the business entity and property known as the Los Angeles Brewing Company beginning in 1907.

Wikipedia lists the architect of the complex as John B. Parkinson. The entry goes onto say that he was the designer of the Paradox Iron Brewery. In the photos, you’re able to see a leftover graphic related to “Paradox Iron: Steel Fabrication and Erection Company, established 1894.” I’d venture a guess that Paradox Iron and The Brewery are being accidentally lumped together, here. Parkinson is notable because, with his son, Donald, he went on to design many landmark buildings in Los Angeles including the Memorial Coliseum, L.A. City Hall (in collaboration with Albert C. Martin and John C. Austin), Los Angeles Union Station, and the Campus Master Plan for the University of Southern California as well as several of its buildings.

LABC went on to become a successful brewer, reportedly the fifth largest in the U.S. at one point. Their best-known brand was Eastside Beer, so named because the brewery was located east of the Los Angeles River. According to TavernTrove.com, they also produced such beers as Eastside Ale, Eastside Bock, Brown Derby Beer, and Angelus Beer among others. Like all U.S. breweries of the time, LABC had to get creative during Prohibition. They managed to stay afloat by producing a near beer (spun off of Eastside Beer), apple cider, pineapple juice, root beer, and denatured alcohol, produced from the fermentation of their near beer and apple cider, for doctors and dentists. The latter was their biggest seller. The transition out of Prohibition was relatively easy for the brewery as they had been producing their main brand all along – they just had to stop removing the alcohol. All the hoopla around the U.S. we read about last month for Little Repeal Day [aka National (Session) Beer Day], when alcoholic beverages up to 4% ABV were once again legalized, also happened at LABC. Trucks were lined up and ready to leave the brewery at exactly 12:01 AM, April 7, 1933. Walter Huston and Jean Harlow, Hollywood stars of the era, were on hand to send them off with the appropriate amount of fanfare.

(source: ebeercans.com)

Side note: There was another brewery in Downtown L.A. to play fifth wheel (really, it was the third wheel but you get my meaning) during the rivalry between Maier and Zobelein. The Acme Brewing Company, a division of the San Francisco-based company then formerly known as the California Brewing Association, operated a production facility from 1935-1954, in association with Bohemian Distributors.

(source: brewerygems.com)

As the post-war nation turned its collective eye to the west, so, too, the Big Boys began planning their cross country expansions. In 1948, Pabst Brewing Company purchased LABC, although it was allowed to continue operating as a separate company. After 5 years, Pabst took over the brewery completely and continued producing the LABC portfolio, albeit in a back seat role. 1954 brought Anheuser-Busch’s new plant to Van Nuys (20-30 minutes northwest). Schlitz followed suit in 1974 (also in Van Nuys, about 10 minutes away from AB). And Miller, not wanting to miss out on the party, came to Irwindale in 1980 (30 minutes east of LABC/Pabst). Eventually, Pabst quit brewing all but Eastside Beer and re-branded it as Eastside Old Tap, a low-price discount beer. Those out there who believe major league baseball to be synonymous with cold beer might be interested to know that when Dodger Stadium opened on April 10, 1962, it was Eastside Old Tap that filled the glasses of the very first fans to sit in those shiny, new bleachers. In the wake of the Anheuser Busch-Miller wars, Pabst’s business started slowing throughout the 1970s. Sadly, they shuttered the North Main Street brewery in 1979 and, along with it, the last traces of the Los Angeles Brewing Company.

In 1980, Carlson Industries, a hotel, restaurant, and travel company purchased the property and began removing the brewing infrastructure with the intention of making it available to other industrial businesses. Eventually, they decided to develop it as a live-work complex for artists and craftspeople, as it still exists today.

Another brewery would not open within the Los Angeles city limits until father/son Steve and Jeremy Raub with Jeremy’s wife, Ting Su, established the Eagle Rock Brewing Company in 2009. From what I hear, L.A.’s bureaucracy continues to be difficult to navigate for the aspiring brewery owner. This is one of the more compelling reasons why the surrounding areas/cities, specifically in the South Bay and San Fernando Valley where we find a growing amount of interest for development, are more attractive. That and cheaper rent. There are now over 40 brewing companies and brew pubs in the greater Los Angeles area.

Pabst Brewing Company relocated their headquarters from Illinois to Los Angeles in 2011. The company, featuring a portfolio of 23 brands (including Schlitz), is now owned by food magnate C. Dean Metropoulos. Their offices can be found on sunny Santa Monica Boulevard.

(source: rustycans.com. In the center is a large neon sign for Eastside Old Tap and on the right, a smaller display for Pabst)

(Comparison of the loading dock area from the opposite side)

(Comparison of the loading dock area from the opposite side)

(Barbara’s at the Brewery. Excellent spot. Check it out if you get the chance. They get Pliny the Elder on tap, if that’s your thing)

 

I did get to walk around inside the buildings but, in general, it was too dark to take any decent photos. There isn’t much left to suggest this place used to be a brewery since almost 35 years of natural evolution have passed since it shut down. Now, it simply looks like a rehabbed industrial building complex. I would be heartless, though, to say that it doesn’t have its own set of charms.

Admittedly, when I first started researching this topic, I didn’t think it would be all that interesting. I was wrong. Los Angeles is a huge city and lots of important and fascinating things have happened here. It stands to reason that historical events related to beer would also have a story worth seeking out.

Finally, If you couldn’t tell, I found there to be some fuzziness in many of the historical details. Often times, accounts conflicted and/or sources didn’t connect all the dots. I only breezed past Maier and Acme and I didn’t even come close to many other aspects that I would have liked to.

It’s clear that this is only the beginning of the story.

Sources:

  1. http://www.kcet.org/updaily/socal_focus/history/la-as-subject/from-eastside-lager-to-maiers-select-malt-tonic-a-short-history-of-la-beer-35419.html
  2. http://www.rustycans.com/COM/month0305.html
  3. http://www.taverntrove.com/brewery.php?BreweryId=873
  4. http://brewerygems.com/acme.htm
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_B._Parkinson
  6. http://articles.latimes.com/1997/sep/07/local/me-29791
  7. http://articles.latimes.com/1985-04-29/local/me-12906_1_beer-plant-brews
  8. http://www.cemeteryguide.com/gotw-maier.html
  9. American Brewers’ Review, Volume 21, 1907 (found on Google Books)
  10. Report on the Fourth Industrial Exhibition of the Mechanics’ Institute of the City of San Francisco, 1864 (found on Google Books)
  11. There were more but since I haven’t had to write school papers for several years, I forgot how to do things like keep track of all of my sources
  12. Unless otherwise stated, all photos were taken by me.

Firk Fest, the lovechild of Greg Nagel (OC Beer Blog) and Brad Kominek (Noble Ale Works) was this past Saturday in Anaheim.

A quick primer for those not in the know: “cask ale” (or “real ale”) is our favorite malted beverage allowed to naturally carbonate in a cask, or firkin. This is opposed to artificially carbonating beer through carbon dioxide injection. A common thing to do when preparing the beer to condition is adding unusual ingredients, though this is not required. The result is a unique-tasting, less carbonated – but not flat – beer that is served at cellar temperature, around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. For more information, I recommend checking out the Campaign for Real Ale’s website. They live for this kind of stuff.

The festival had a lively atmosphere in a great park space perfect for a sunny weekend afternoon. I half-expected to be surrounded by bearded, bespectacled beer geeks, like myself, but was pleasantly surprised to find a wide array of folks (estimated at 500 attendees) excited for cask ales from over 30 SoCal breweries. Predominantly, breweries sent versions of their wares that were dry-hopped differently, with spices, coffee, etc. For better or worse, there were few “traditional” examples of “real ale.” But, knowing craft brewers and their penchant for always trying something new, I was not surprised.

The offerings from Monkish Brewing Co.

Every participant had something worth trying and I know I missed some. However, my stand outs were…

  1. LA Ale Works: “Karma Kølsch with Jasmine Green Tea.” They also brought some samples of their craft soda project – a Thai iced tea soda and another with maté and a handful of spices. Really cool stuff.
  2. Twisted Manzanita Ales: “Oh Nose! Brett IPA”
  3. Saint Archer Brewing Co: “Red Ale with Amarillo”
  4. Monkish Brewing Co: “Shaolin Kick with Sichuan peppercorn, Thai basil, and Sriracha.” I know for a fact I wouldn’t be able to finish a pint but this guy had some serious gumption. Of note, they just celebrated their 2nd anniversary.
  5. Golden Road Brewing Co: “Pale.” Simple and delicious, no frills required

For the first year, I thought it was pretty successful event. It wasn’t without flaws, for instance, the ground plan could have used some work. All the brewery tables were on one side of the park making the main walkway feel congested. I also wondered why pourers were mostly volunteers instead of reps or brewers. I would have appreciated being able to converse more often with somebody about what I was drinking. Did breweries just not want to send people? Was it an insurance or regulatory thing? How do I sign up to volunteer next year?

All things being equal, though, I had a good time, it was beautiful day, and I plan on returning.

Two of the gentlemen behind MacLeod Ale Brewing Co (Van Nuys, CA). On the left is brewmaster, Andy Black. On the right is their salesman, Jesse Cairnie. Really nice guys. I’m very much looking forward to their opening. Their MO: “[t]o replicate and celebrate the traditional brewing methods of the British Isles.” Bravo.

The gentlemen from L.A. Ale Works. Kip (on the right, facing the camera, in the mechanics shirt) just released his addition to the Beer Lovers book series focusing on Southern California.

 

View of the park

Giant Jenga