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


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.



Before I went to Europe last month for my post-graduate beercation, I pitched a bunch of zany ideas to a lot of outlets and nothing took. But God bless Gustavo and the OC Weekly for allowing me to use some of my travel photos and personal notes to share at least a little sliver of my discoveries with its readership. And for keeping my Austin Powers reference in the headline. 🙂

The Bruery Goes Global: Bottles Spotted In Netherlands–Ishn’t Dat Vierd?

Sarah Bennett
Beers from Placentia’s Bruery on the shelf at De Bierkoning, a bottleshop in Amsterdam.

We all know the Netherlands is the place in Europe to get great pot and decent-looking legal prostitutes, but bottles from Orange County’s own craft beer creators (and subject of last year’s cover story) The Bruery? Yup.

As this beer geek discovered on a recent vacation to the land of windmills, canals, clogs and the Cannabis Cup, the Dutch love American craft beer. They love Stone Brewing’s bitter, hoppy IPAs; they love rich, chocolate-y stouts from Ohio’s Hoppin’ Frog Brewery and they love aromatic pale ales from Anderson Valley and Port Brewing Companies.


My first big feature for Beer Advocate Magazine is out in April’s issue. I had a lot of fun researching it and am stoked that they gave me the opportunity to do something like this as excuse to get to know more about things I’m actually interested in! Bought a fresh bottle of Anchor’s 18th Century Old Protrero Rye at High Times. Next stop: homemade manhattans.


burgers and beer!

October 19, 2011

Originally published in the Daily Trojan

Los Angeles overflows with delectable specialty taps

This time last year, the Daily Trojan wrote “Craft beer comes to City of Angels,” an article that cited a wave of gastropubs, alehouses, breweries and taverns that had sprouted up around the city.

In the 12 short months since, the number of beer-loving establishments has grown even larger and our former flavorful-brew no man’s land is overflowing with specialty taps. But how does one determine which places are worth the trek when anyone with the right distributor account can get a keg of Stone IPA? One difference lies in the food. And in Los Angeles, it’s all about the burger.

In honor of the third annual L.A. Beer Week, which ends Sunday, here’s a list of establishments that feature both of America’s beloved pastimes — burgers and beer. Some have been on the lips of foodies and beer geeks for a while. Others are farther off the radar. All are worth a try, especially if that Natty Light isn’t cutting it anymore.

Father’s Office
1018 Montana Ave., Santa Monica
3229 Helms Ave., Los Angeles

It’s fair to say Father’s Office invented the art of pairing burgers and beer. In fact, owner and head chef Sang Yoon’s gourmet, un-customizable burger has been credited with igniting a nationwide burger craze.

But these wood-paneled wonderlands are more than just their cooked-rare, dry-aged beef burger. As one of the first bars in Los Angeles to carry craft beer, F.O. more than lives up to its reputation for beer excellence. In addition to 26 taps — the number is doubled at its expanded second location in Culver City — that consistently rotate through rare local, national and international beers, there is an imposing bottle list full of brews, all of which contain as much flavor and craft as the spot’s famous burger.

Blue Palms Brewhouse
6124 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles

The restaurant-and-bar space attached to the Henry Fonda Music Box in Hollywood wasn’t much to speak of until Brian Lenzo turned it into the Blue Palms Brewhouse more than three years ago.

That’s when the owner and craft-beer lover decided to serve his brews like wine by pairing flavors from an upscale pub menu to complement brews flowing from the 24 taps. Local breweries love Lenzo, too, so the draft selection is always top notch (think: Ballast Point’s Habanero Sculipin on cask), and kegs blow daily, so eating the $12 blue cheese and fois gras truffle burger is a new experience every time.

The Golden State
426 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles

Staring across the street at the much-loved Canter’s Deli on Fairfax is The Golden State, a small burger-and-beer joint that represents a new breed of L.A. cafe. In an attempt to showcase the best in California food and drink, this counter-service eatery serves up its mouth-watering, maple-glazed, bacon burger — simply called “The Burger” — alongside a small number of rotating seasonal local beers from breweries such as Craftsman and Firestone.

This isn’t a place to sit for hours and get tipsy with your friends, but it is a great place to have a unique-tasting beer with your gourmet casual grub.

Beachwood BBQ and Brewing
210 E. 3rd St., Long Beach

Easily accessible from campus via the Metro’s Blue Line, Beachwood BBQ and Brewing in Downtown Long Beach is definitely worth the day trip. This expanded version of Seal Beach’s original beer-geek mecca features 24 guest taps of unparalleled exclusivity and an on-site brewery that supplies 12 more handles with solid house beers.

Owner and head chef Gabe Gordon left fine dining to open Beachwood in 2006, and though his restaurant is better known for its barbecue ribs and pulled pork, the half-pound smoked brisket and sirloin burger is a perfect match for any of the restaurant’s diverse draft offerings.

Mohawk Bend
2141 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

Mohawk Bend, in Echo Park, is the latest offshoot of entrepreneur Tony Yanow’s Burbank beer bar Tony’s Darts Away. For a new concept, Yanow converted an abandoned movie theater on Sunset Boulevard into a cavernous craft beer haven with three separate dining areas, two state-of-the art kitchens and 72 taps that exclusively host California beers, and pours cost no more than $6.

Though Mohawk’s seasonal vegan- and veggie-friendly menu has been drawing in the locals, it’s the over-the-top Dork Burger — made of duck, pork and Spanish chorizo — that somehow makes the excessive, home-state, draft love seem less gratuitous.

Congregation Ale House Chapters
201 E. Broadway Ave., Long Beach
619 N. Azusa Ave., Azusa
300 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

In a little more than a year, this Long Beach-based tap house has expanded its reign to include a location in Azusa and one forthcoming this November in Pasadena. But don’t let the monastery theme or the Catholic schoolgirl outfits fool you — this place is serious about its burgers and beer. At only $8, the standard rib-eye and white cheddar burger is the best burger deal around, and the half-domestic, half-international draft philosophy means there is always something interesting to help wash it down.

Catch the place during happy hour, appropriately called “Mass,” and the burger is only $6. And if you’re willing to read through the impressive 150-deep bottle selection, there are more interesting tastes hiding in the house’s fridges.

beer blogging

October 12, 2011

Just in time for L.A. Beer Week, I started writing about beer for L.A. Weekly’s food blog Squid Ink. Finally, I get to do some work while drinking all this beer. Below the first post, originally published online here.

UNTAPPD: New Beer App Makes Drinking (Virtually) Social


A little late for last year’s check-in app rage, but just in time for the third annual LA Beer Weekcomes another new Android and iPhone app for beer geeks and casual macro-enjoyers alike.

UNTAPPD started out last year as a web app that allowed users to share their current beer choices with others in the cloud, but last week the company rolled out their official mobile app (which is free!), making it easier than ever to use beer’s latest social-network on the go.

As FourSquare for beer, the app allows you to “check into” a specific brew you are drinking (which is beautiful imagery for those of us who have ever wanted to literally hang out inside of our favorite liquid). And just like Spotify and GetGlue, it will update your Facebook and Twitter with the news of what is going down at that very moment.

Sounds like a familiar concept to the types who insist on disclosing the innocuous details of their everyday life on Internet (or to beer geeks already involved with location-based beer apps such as Beerby and Taphunter), but UNTAPPD is more than just another instance of Twitter-inspired navel gazing.

Whether you’re slamming Newcastle at Lucky Baldwins or sneaking a Pliny into the movie theater, this app goes beyond mere bragging rights, putting the focus on the nectar of the Gods itself by allowing users to both track their personal drinking history and find out what friends are currently digging into. Discovering new brews is also easy through a virtual pub that aggregates updates from the greater UNTAPPD community and features a panel of trending beers, kindly separated into macro and micro.

The 140-character limit on check-in descriptions makes beer reviews, when given, short and sweet. By eliminating room for the Sommelier-style methods of beer judgment so prevalent on traditional beer-sharing sites such as Beer Advocate, UNTAPPD removes much of the pretention associated with online craft beer sharing and opens up reviews to beer-lovers who don’t care to dig into snobbish lexicon in order to describe an IPA that might as well just be “fucking awesome.”

With descriptions as simple as “Soooo crisp!” and as unrelated as “Go team!” UNTAPPD allows Bud Light and Russian River drinkers to mingle together in an unassuming virtual venue.

Follow the writer on UNTAPPD: thesarahbennett

originally posted here: THANKS DAVE!


The back story: When Sarah Bennett arrived in Long Beach from Los Angeles via Orange County back in—well, see, Sarah’s not sure precisely which year she finally got here, but figures it was four or five of them ago—either 2006 or 2007, she knew she had arrived. Sarah admits that her earliest clues were related to dive bars and $2.50 well drinks; she most-recently admitted it during an August 18 appearance on Greater Long Beach Radio with Dave Wielenga, where she opened for City Council member Gerrie Schipske. But Sarah is quite adamant that the list of things she loves about Long Beach—as well as the things about the city that she hates so much that she’s driven to change, which are really the same things—expanded and diversified rapidly. By now, it includes bikes and coffee houses and ‘zines and alt-publications and her sound map of Pine Avenue and a bunch of new little stores and restaurants and bumming about the demise of Sipology and coming back here after class at USC and music, music, music. “By now,” says Sarah Bennett, “I’m basically from here.”

The question: What was your favorite thing about the just-concluded Summer And Music festival that was downtown’s soundtrack for the past three months.

Sarah Bennett’s answer: I had this moment at the Funk Fest. I was standing in the Beechwood Beer Garden, drinking a Melrose IPA, which is one of their house beers, meaning it is brewed in downtown. So I am drinking one of the first and best beers to be brewed in downtown Long Beach in a long time, and I am standing there watching Fred Wesley and the New JBs—and you know who Fred Wesley is; he’s the guy who was musical director for James Brown, so you can imagine the sound—and I looked around at all the people … all these different people, my friends, the homeless people with their backpacks, some older people and parents with their kids … and I thought, “This is the new downtown Long Beach, and this is where I live.” I couldn’t believe it! I felt so much pride … I don’t know … I just felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t stop smiling. These were my people, my community. It was the first time I really felt that way.


January 13, 2009

In a case that highlights the need for all possible information before writing a news story, I found this brief (thanks Ellen!) about how a man in central California sold his 14 year-old daughter to some guy for 100 cases of beer and several cases of meat. At first read, it’s laughable, disgusting and simultaneously sad. The only reason the authorities found out about the deal was because the other man didn’t provide the beer and the father went to the authorities to get his daughter back. So at first glance, it looks like a pure case of ignorance like that time on Cops when the car gets flagged down by some barefoot crackhead who demands that the officer help get her $20 back from the woman yonder who took her money without giving her drugs (both women were immediately arrested–duh).

But then I searched deeper and found out that CNN actually made some fucking phone calls and the case is much more peculiar than some white trash guy fiending for booze. In fact, it doesn’t seem so bad when you realize that everyone involved in the transaction is from Oaxaca, Mexico where giving your daughter’s hand in marriage is totally worthy of “$16,000, 160 cases of beer, 100 cases of soda, 50 cases of Gatorade, two cases of wine, and six cases of meat.” It’s not an issue of neglect, but of cultural differences brought about by the influx of immigrants to the central part of our state.

Not that I think that our laws should be changed (or not upheld) in the name of cutural freedom, but there is definitely a gross misunderstanding when it comes to the customs and traditions of our neighbors. Where we think that the father in this case is sick or demented, he is just doing what every father from his town does with his uneducated 14 year-old daughter: taking a dowry and getting the fuck rid of her.

We’re probably the sick ones for torturing ourselves with candlelit dinners and text message breakups when we could’ve been halfway through our 25th case of Gatorade by Christmas, you know?

the 401-keg plan

October 14, 2008

If you bought $1000 worth of stock a year ago, you would now have:

$91.28 if you bought Washington Mutual

$37.50 if you bought Neomagic

$21.29 if you bought Freddie Mac

$20.79 if you bought Fannie Mae

But, if you had purchased $1000 worth of beer one year ago, drank all the beer, then turned in the cans for the recycling REFUND…

You would have $214 in cash.

So the best investment advice is to drink heavily and recycle the shit out of the evidence.

*as borrowed from a chain email received late last night.


October 13, 2008

You know how it’s soooooo cool to be a greasy hipster and wear vintage plaid button-ups and a beanie and buy $3 pints of Pabst Blue Ribbon at some dive bar in Echo Park (Little Joy, much?)? And you know how it’s also cool to ride around on the simplest bike form known to man with no brakes and no coasting, just mashing the hell out of the city streets and living the urban velo dream? Well, Traitor Cycles has come up with a way to cross these two cultural cool-factors into one seamless statement for the scruffy fixie kid in all of us: the officially-licensed PBR Ringleader.

Traitor is the only company in the history of the beer to ever be allowed to use the PBR logo and is the only product aside from the company’s own promotional gear to bear it. And they’re only making 75 of them, so even though it’s the alcoholic’s equivalent of putting a ROOR sticker on your truck’s rear window, when the cops see your blinking light swerving down the street, at least you’ll go out in style.