This interview was done totally last minute and mainly because I wanted to drink the Manhattans being offered at said event and my editor last-minute came back from vacation and approved the piece. I was on the beach with my cell phone, trying to keep the hair out of my mouth and the wind out of my recorder, neither of which worked and I later spent an hour listening to a nasty feedback trying to transcribe this damn thing. Definitely earned my $50 ticket.

Q & A With Chop Suey’s Adam Acuff: Craft Sake, Collaboration Beers + The Manhattan Project

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naotakem/Flickr
Manhattan cocktail

Little Tokyo’s historic Far East Café has for years been divided up into two establishments. One is L.A Weekly’s most-improved craft beer bar of 2011, Far Bar, and the other is an underutilized restaurant and lounge next door called Chop Suey.

For the last few years, we admit we’ve skipped over even entering Chop Suey — and who could blame us? Far Bar carries an impressive selection of domestic, Japanese and Belgian beers. Plus, we like feeling a little “New York” as we slip down the narrow brick alley adorned in white Christmas lights that leads to this Little Tokyo gem.

But for the last few months, Chop Suey’s been quietly renovating, installing a new 18-seat bar, a cask system for real ales and — thanks to new hire Adam Acuff — a stellar craft cocktail program that will rival other bars like Steingarten L.A. and Seven Grand.

Though a more official grand opening will be planned for the future, the new bar (along with Acuff’s new selection of craft sakes, whiskeys and mescals) will receive a low-key coming-out party tonight with its inaugural spirits-based event that includes a sampling of four different Manhattans dubbed the Manhattan Project, to be held in Chop Suey’s new upstairs “tasting room.”

We sat down with Acuff to talk about the new space, the new liquors and a special collaboration beer in the works with Eagle Rock Brewery. Read our interview after the jump.

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I’ve been wanting to be friends with Kerry Caldwell since she came into my work and silently drank a Firestone Walker Double Jack at the bar alone. Then, she got hired at Belmont Brewing Company, found a fiancé and now is to be up at 4AM to brew kick ass beer unlike anything the restaurant has ever served (no offense, Blackwell). This schedule severely cuts down on girl hangout time, but does not diminish my admiration for her and all her pink booting! You go, girl!

Q & A With Kerry Caldwell, Assistant Brewer at Belmont Brewing Company: Updating Classics, Bragging Rights + How To Be A Lady Brewer

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Sarah Bennett

In the late 1990s, Long Beach’s Belmont Brewing Companywas at the top of its game. With a longtime homebrewer named David Blackwell at the helm, beers from BBC — which is the oldest operating brewpub in Southern California — began picking up awards at local and international contests. Soon, its Strawberry Blonde became one of the first L.A.-area beers to be bottled and sold in stores.

Since then, however, the craft beer world has changed drastically and BBC’s decade-and-a-half-old pale ale, stout, golden ale and amber recipes — once on the forefront of the industry — have been little competition for the aggressive flavors and experimental styles of modern-day brewers.

Kerry Caldwell — Blackwell’s assistant brewer since last summer — is slowly changing all that.

As one of only two female commercial brewers in the greater Los Angeles area (the other, Caldwell’s friend Hayley Shine, is the brewmaster at Rock Bottom Long Beach), the Idaho-via-Placerville transplant has brought about some small but much-needed updates to Belmont Brewing’s beer program, which today also extends to a sister BBC — Bonaventure Brewing Company, inside the Westin Bonaventure Hotel in downtown L.A.

From suggesting different yeast strains for their year-round brews to making new seasonal beers based on her own recipes (think: black IPAs and British-style old ales), Caldwell is coaxing the independently successful BBCs back into craft-beer relevance.

We caught up with Caldwell early one morning as she watched over a boiling kettle of beer (while wearing pink rain boots) and talked about being a new female in the industry, breaking Blackwell out of his shell and why BBC will probably never brew a triple IPA.

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Now that I have actually been to Belgium, I feel confident in this list of top 5 Belgian-brewerd Belgian IPAs, which is one of my favorite styles of beer. It’s sweet, it’s dry and there are centuries of amazing Belgian beer history brewed into every unfiltered, frothy cup. Let’s just say that drinking De Ranke XX Bitter at Moeder Lambic in Brussels was life changing. Yup, I drank the Belgian Kool Aid.

Top 5 Belgian IPAs: More Fun With European Hops

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Flickr/cheeseslave

Sorry England and Germany — if the American craft beer revolution owes its adventurous and hoppy spirit to any country’s brewing tradition, it’s Belgium’s.

While brewers next door in Germany were stuck abiding by a beer purity law, Belgians were free to experiment with yeast, herbaceous plants and the sour flavors from airborne bacteria, resulting in a varied beer repertoire that includes everything from light and sweet Belgian wits to dark and boozy quadruples.

One of our favorite Belgian styles, however, is one that the Belgians didn’t even know they invented: the Belgian IPA.

For nearly a century, Belgian breweries have been combining old-world sweetness with an extra dose of fresh European hops to give certain traditional golden ales a bitter tinge. Only in the wake of the West Coast’s reinvention of gratuitously hop-forward beers, however, has this style been given its own designation.

Light in body, (sometimes) medium in alcohol and heavy on the crisp hoppiness, Belgian IPAs are a perfect summer beer. And while American homages to the style — such as Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch, New Belgium’s Belgo and Stone’s Cali-Belgique — are well-crafted, some of the most interesting brews are still coming out of the country that unknowingly invented it.

The only trouble finding Belgian-brewed IPAs, though, is that Belgian brewers don’t call them that. So to help you out, we’ve checked all the foreign labels with hop drawings on them, drunk through everything with the syllable “hop” in the name and come up with a list of the five best Belgium-brewed Belgian IPAs that you can find in your local bar or bottle shop.

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Congrats to Long Beach’s own Andrew Pedroza and Ellen Warkentine for having their opus LOLPERA (yes, an opera based on the Lolcats internet meme) accepted into both the Hollywood Fringe Festival and the New York International Fringe Festival! I have been following this project since its initial workshop back in 2010 and to see it come this far and on the verge of being shared with the world makes me all kinds of proud mama. Thanks to L.A. Weekly for letting me cover this extraordinary moment in internet-meets-reality meaning-making.

Hollywood Fringe Festival Can Has LOLPERA

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Fresh Frame Foto
LOLPERA co-creator Andrew Pedroza (center) as Dreamer Cat in last fall’s production at the Garage Theatre in Long Beach

It’s a warm Saturday afternoon a month before the start of the Hollywood Fringe Festival and LOLPERAis in its first day of rehearsal. Cast members have just finished a run-through of the work’s dramatic opening number in the living room of Director Angela Lopez’s Long Beach apartment. The word “masterbate,” which was sung loudly and repeatedly as part of the chorus, reverberates off the walls.

“Okay, that was good,” Lopez casually tells the group, many of who were also a part of LOLPERA‘s original run at the 35-seat Garage Theatre last October, when it was L.A. Weekly‘s pick of the week. “Let’s try it one more time — starting from ‘Ceiling Cat rode invisible bike over teh waterz.'”

Yes, those are the stage directions, which in this show can’t help but sound a little silly. As an opera based on the Lolcats internet meme, LOLPERA‘s plot, aria, characters and libretto are culled from the wide range of user-generated images that combine photos of cats with overlying text of their grammatically incorrect and adorably poorly spelled thoughts.

READ THE REST IN THIS WEEK’S ISSUE OF L.A. WEEKLY OR ONLINE AT LAWEEKLY.COM

Though I have been blogging for the L.A. Weekly for a few years now, I was very excited that the 2012 People Issue would mark my first feature story to be put in print. But with my luck, I was in Europe for the entire time it was on stands! Oh well. I am honored that the editors chose one my pitches out of apparently the hundreds of pages of suggestions they received and allowed me to profile Andreas, a Long Beach-via-Vienna visionary I have been intrigued by since I first heard of the Long Beach Opera in 2010.

Andreas Mitisek: Where Opera Dares to Go

AndreasMitisek_9877.jpgAndreas Mitisek is sitting in the Long Beach Opera’s modest church-rental office near the southern terminus of the 710 freeway, days after wrapping the first performances of the current season.

“It all started with the opera in a parking garage,” says Mitisek, the company’s Austrian-born artistic and general director, in his thick, Schwarzenegger-esque accent. That’s when Long Beach’s oldest professional opera company abandoned a traditional performance space for a 2007 production of Grigori Frid’s one-woman opera The Diary of Anne Frank.

The phrase “opera in a parking garage” casually rolls off his tongue, as if it were perfectly natural for the art form to be presented in a ghostly concrete structure meant to store cars.

It’s the same nonchalance with which he says “opera in a pool,” “opera in an abandoned furniture store” and “spaces of unexplored theatricality.” But opera, of course, is not usually performed in these unconventional locales. It has lived for centuries in temples like La Scala and the Met.

READ THE REST ONLINE AT LAWEEKLY.COM

Check out the entire People 2012 issue here.

top 5 mexican beers

May 4, 2012

Trying to write about the difference between all of the shitty light Mexican lagers for a Cinco de Mayo-inspired list (for the L.A. Weekly food blog Squid Ink) was a challenge. I even stopped by Beachwood to ask the bartenders’ opinions on the subject, but alas, they were un-opinionated on such lowbrow beverages. I eventually remembered how good some of the Mexican amber and dark lagers are and the rankings began to take shape. Apparently, this list is pretty spot-on, approved by those in the comment section as well as my geeky beer friends in the Hop Heads, so I’m pretty proud of it. 🙂

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Flickr/kevharb
Drinko de Mayo

Top 5 Mexican Beers: What to Drink Before Tequila

Let’s face it, Mexico isn’t exactly a major player in the current craft beer revolution. But that doesn’t mean that its long tradition of easy-drinking, European-style lagers is something to be overlooked. Sure, the cervezamarket is just as consolidated and macro-dominated as the United States’ was in the 1970s, but even among the brews that make it up here, there are a few that stand out as more deserving than the rest.

So when faced with the Oktoberfest-of-Mexican-beer that is Cinco (or should we say Drinko?) de Mayo, arm yourself with our top 5 beers we think you should get down with before the tequila drops you to the floor. Turn the page.

READ THE LIST AT LAWEEKLY.COM

So all of the papers I’ve been writing about Sublime have for the first time paid off in a published piece for the OC Weekly music blog in which I took a moped tour of all of the Long Beach locations mentioned in the police chatter in the song “April 29, 1992” and wrote a piece about the meaning of it all. I think it turned out really well and it was also probably one of the weirdest ideas I’ve ever had.

A previously unpublished photo of my moped in front of the former site of On’s Junior Market (now A-Cherry liquor) on Anaheim St. in Long Beach.

We Check Up on the Long Beach Addresses in Sublime’s Riot Song “April 29, 1992 (Miami)”

Yesterday marked 20 years since the acquittal of four LAPD officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King incited several days of violence and looting in South Central Los Angeles. But it’s also been 20 years since a similarly motivated uprising erupted in nearby Long Beach, resulting in numerous arrests and causing extensive damage throughout the central and northern parts of town. This rarely gets mentioned in reports of the infamous L.A. Riots.

Chuck D of Public Enemy once famously said that rap music is the black CNN, but in the case of this civil unrest in oft-forgotten Long Beach, it was local ska/punk/reggae/hip-hop/everything band Sublime’s song “April 29, 1992 (Miami)” that became the city’s own news network.

Released on its 1996 multi-platinum self-titled album, the song reports on the burning buildings and felony committers of the band’s hometown in the days following the not-guilty verdict. Using actual Long Beach Police Department radio transmissions and verses that describe personal involvement in the pillaging, it gives a localized account of the Long Beach riots (complete with street addresses of the destruction).

To some, it might seem inflammatory that pseudo-reggae white boys would write a song about participating in racially motivated violence and looting (our friends at the SF Weekly recently wrote that they were “piggybacking on a riot”). But the rioting Sublime writes about is not the iconic Normandie and Florence chaos that continues to define the days following the end of the Rodney King trial. The song is about how the riots affected them and others in Long Beach, a city nearby yet worlds apart from neighboring South Central (and its pent-up racial tension). If you’ve ever been to the mostly working-class port city of nearly 500,000 people — which remains the most statistically diverse city in the country — you know what we mean.

READ THE REST AT OCWEEKLY.COM

beer and booze

April 18, 2012

After doing all the research for my latest Beer Advocate story, I have become really fascinated by not only craft distilleries, but also those who revel in the commonalities between beer and spirits. Decided to do a little write up on the five coolest intersections I have come across in my drinking travels. Wonder if I should start pitching to Imbibe…?

Originally published at LA Weekly’s food blog Squid Ink

Top 5 Spirits for Beer Geeks: Belgian-Style Rum, Hoparitas and Moonshine IPA

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Valery Rizzo of eatingbrooklyn.com
The relationship between beer and spirits is closer than you think — and not just for the growing beer cocktail trend or the “pint and a shot” special at your local dive.

Mainly, the two crafts thrive on the same fermentation science, with spirits beginning life as a fermented-sugar liquid similar to beer before being run through a still, which pumps up the alcohol by volume (ABV). Whiskey is the nearest to beer in this way, since both of their base sugars are barley (as opposed to rum’s molasses and tequila’s agave sugar base). Basically, what gets put into the still to create whiskey is a beer brewed without hops, or what is called a “wash.”

For centuries, the arts of brewing and distilling have remained on separate yet parallel paths, but one look at the American Distilling Institute’s 2012 Artisan Spirits Award winnersand it’s clear that the two industries have begun to find common ground (hopped whiskey, anyone?). In the last few years, American craft distilling has grown in a similar way to craft beer and, with more than 200 small-batch distilleries experimenting with new methods and recipes, the two industries are cross-pollinating more than ever.

So what happens when a well-known craft brewery gives leftover beer to a distillery? Or when a rum is spiced like a beer? Read on for our top 5 spirits that both bartenders and beer geeks can appreciate.

READ MORE AT LAWEEKLY.COM

LA gets a woody

April 9, 2012

Published at LA weekly’s food blog Squid Ink

Deschutes Brewery’s L.A. Base Camp Week: Chainbreaker White IPA, The Abyss + “Beer-lesque”

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productmobiles.blogspot.com

Meet Woody. He’s a giant towable beer barrel-keg that doubles as an operable bar and comes complete with disco ball, sound system and his own Twitter account. Though the party-on-wheels might be a cutesy promo gimmick for Bend, Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery(or the grown-up version of the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile), we’ll cut the Northwest craft-beer stalwarts some slack — the company’s stellar pales, porters and stouts speak for themselves.

Still, for most of the year this mobile marketing tool travels to major cities in the 18 states where Deschutes is distributed, doles out some of the brewery’s best beers and plays centerpiece for week-long calendars of events as part of its “Base Camp” promotional campaign.

Woody landed in town over the weekend (appearing ar the Paramount lot for L.A. Beerfest) in anticipation of Los Angeles’ second-ever Base Camp Week, which officially begins today. This means that through Saturday, April 14, Woody — along with brewer Robin Johnson and other brand ambassadors — will be popping up at various L.A. venues for Deschutes-related events like a beer-and-cheese pairing at A.O.C. and a beer-themed burlesque show at Skinny’s Lounge.

Kegs of of rare Deschutes brews such as Chainbreaker White IPA, 2011’s The Abyss and the never-before-poured-in-L.A. Black Butte XXII are also on hand (as well as homebrew supplies and the requisite branded pint glasses), so check out the many public Base Camp events going on this week and support the latest offerings from one of America’s largest craft breweries.

READ THE REST AT LAWEEKLY.COM

Originally posted online at L.A. Weekly’s food blog Squid Ink. Updated with news that the event was cancelled last minute due to ABC intervention. 😦

[Updated Again] Q & A With Sam of the Los Angeles Beerathon: Manifest Destiny, Avoiding the Frat-Boy Demographic + How Drinking Beer Is Like Climbing a Mountain

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Update: (Friday, 1:51 p.m.) A few hours ago, the CABC released a statement stating that the real reason for the cancellation (which they claim was Beerathon LLC’s decision, not theirs) was that Beerathon does not have a license to sell alcohol. Never mind that all alcohol will be served not by the company but by the venues who have stocked up on beer for the 4,000+ participants who paid for tomorrow’s event.

Alas, all ticket money for the event is currently being refunded and the Los Angeles Beerathon is being rebranded as a quotation-marked “beerathon,” where (according to an email organizers sent to the venues yesterday) “Venues will still be open for business, still will have excellent drink specials, and it still will be an amazingly fun time in downtown Los Angeles.”

So, in the end, L.A. beer lovers will still be able to go on a beer-tinged marathon, albeit without Beerathon LLC’s involvement.

To keep up with all the twists and turns of this tale as it unfolds, check out The Informer’s updated post.

Update w/ editor’s note: (Thursday, 5:16 p.m.) Because of a dispute with the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, the organizers of the first L.A. Beerathon are currently refunding all money to the 4,000 or so participants of Saturday’s event. At issue is the idea that the beer to be consumed in possibly large quantities this weekend was “free.” Thus the event is not being canceled exactly, but rewired so that it is not technically a “Beerathon” but a very fun event with all the beer and food and entertainment that it was going to have in the first place. It will simply not be “free.” Of course, since you all paid $55, it wasn’t exactly free, but that’s the kind of semantics you’ll have to take up with the ABC. The Beerathon’s organizers very much hope that you’ll go anyway, since the venues in question are still there and still have all that beer. You were planning on staying home and drinking by yourself? Please. (The original post, published 11 a.m., is after the jump.)

Yes, this weekend’s inaugural Los Angeles Beerathon will ask participants to drink beer at 26 locations throughout downtown. But please don’t call it a “pub crawl.” Instead, the event’s co-founder Sam (who keeps his public presence on a strictly first-name basis) sees the daylong endurance test as a “tasting tour” — a chance to explore neighborhood bars, meet new friends and drink a lot of beer that isn’t Bud Light.

That’s not to say that fans of mass-produced lager are out of luck. But neither are craft-beer geeks. Similar to New York’s Beerathon, which has been running annually since 2006, L.A.’s — the first city outside of NYC to host — is featuring a variety of brews, some that are supermarket-friendly and others made by small local breweries.

It works like this: There is one participating downtown establishment for every mile in a real marathon, and each will be serving a predetermined beer to entrants. Badges get you a 12-oz. pour from every place on the map (which isn’t released in its entirety until day-of, on March 31), but the route you take and how many of the 26 you actually manage to drink is totally up to you. The event’s planners don’t actually expect anyone to finish all 312 ounces of beer allotted to them (though a guy who is currently bulking up on Pedialyte says he will attempt it), but more than 1,200 people have already signed up to at least make a dent.

We checked in with Beerathon chief Sam earlier this week and talked to him about his first West Coast Beerathon.

Read more at LAWEEKLY.COM