Beer Fest: Go Weird or Go Home


You know you're at an event with weird beers when one of the beers is actually called Weird Beer. That's Smog City's saison, fresh from Torrance, and it wasn't that strange, really, if you are used to tasting a spicy farmhouse saison style beer (based on a style from the French-speaking part of Belgium, and that's sort of a hint as to flavors, too, if you think cuisines).

Such was the case on August 10 at the Sixth Anniversary Festival & Craft Beer Garden at Blue Palms Brew House in Hollywood. We have gotten to that point in the craft beer revolution that there are numerous sub-revolutions; when you're making beer in small batches, the risk is less great, so the reward for stretching out can be even greater. While craft brewers keep growing, and their market share does too, they still don't make up even 10% of the beer sales in the U.S. That allows for much more diversity, experimentation, flat-out fun. And 90 of those beers were on display at Blue Palms, a fine local champion of such sudsy adventure. (Think of this event as the flipside of the session beer post I wrote a few weeks back.)

While Blue Palms also features out-of-state favorites like Allagash (Maine), Deschutes (Oregon), Dogfish Head (Delaware), and Oskar Blues (Colorado), it mostly let California's fine beers shine. Which, alas, doesn't leave room to discuss oh-so-close Prescott, Arizona's Superstition Meadery and its BDSM, that is, Belgian Dark Strong Mead (get your head out of the gutter), aged in Bulleit bourbon barrels. If you ever wondered what liquored-up cream soda might taste like, this delightfully perversely named drink is for you.

Here are some funky flavor highlights, admitting we couldn't taste everything, and could remember even less, as we got to have 20 three-ounce tastes each. But these beers are friendly, all under 7% alcohol, at least until you drink too much.

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Craftsman Ursa Minor Barrel Aged Sour Red
Pasadena's singular Craftsman has long been a beer fan favorite, and this sour should please many -- it's not too pucker-inducing, but certainly has its toes steeped in the vinegary side of things. When in balance like this, that's mighty refreshing.

Kinetic It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time Porter
Kinetic in Lancaster drops the Family Guy allusion and a surprisingly drinkable beer, as both the peanuts and the jelly (tastes like raspberry?) are background notes to a quite delish to start porter.

Monkey Paw Pineapple X-Press Rum Oaked Pale Ale with Pineapple
Ever wonder what a mai tai crossed with a beer might taste like? Wonder no more. Thanks, San Diego's Monkey Paw. (The answer is good.)

Monkey Paw I-5 with Coconut & Himalayan Pink Salt Black IPA
Beers named after freeways might be a mistake, but given all the fine breweries within a traffic jam of the 5, why not. If you like salty and sweet, and hoppy, and dark, this is the beer for you.

Noble Cinnamon Roast Crunch Stout with Cinnamon
Another taster said, "Christmas!" He has good things to eat/drink on Christmas, and so, one assumes, do the brewers at Anaheim's Noble Ale Works. But yes, spicy as a full rack yet still balanced.

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