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

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.



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.


field trip!!

February 10, 2012

Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits Field Trip: Expansion Highlights

Originally posted at the L.A. Weekly Blog Squid Ink


Driving down this unsuspecting stretch of Interstate 15 in San Diego County, it’s hard to tell that some of Southern California’s most notable craft breweries are just off the freeway. If coming down the 5 from Los Angeles, take the 78 East in Carlsbad to the 15 South; before Downtown even has a chance to come into view, you’ve already passed Iron Fist, Lost Abbey, Stone, Green Flash, Alesmith and, lastly, Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits.
As one of 18 breweries in the country that also have an on-site distillery, Ballast Point is the only one in Southern California and the closest one to Los Angeles. That means that, in addition to 40-plus beers in constant rotation, Ballast Point makes its own gin, vodka, rum and — as soon as it’s done aging — whiskey. In addition to the daily booze production, Ballast Point is six months into an expansion that will double its annual brewing capacity (to 60,000 barrels) over the next year.

Last week, head brewer and head distiller Yuseff Cherney gave us a tour of his growing — from 11,000 to 20,000 square feet — Scripps Ranch facility and let us in on some of the best add-ons. Turn the page to read Cherney’s own words on the coolest things we saw.



January 20, 2012

Finally had a chance to scan in my first two bylines for Beer Advocate Magazine, which is the monthly publication of beeradvocate.com. Since they don’t put their mag’s stories on the website, I have to scan them in for non-subscribers to read, but if you’d like to subscribe, it’s pretty cheap and each issue contains a wealth of craft beer information including trends, interviews, beer reviews and more!

The January issue features lots of Long Beach love including an interview with Julian Schrago at Beachwood BBQ and BRewing (not done by me) and a roundup of local bars and bottle shops as part of the magazine’s “Destinations” series (done by me). I also wrote a little side bar about creative funding methods for upstart breweries that was used in the main feature story about new breweries that opened in 2011. Next up for me and BA: a feature on the intersection of craft brewing and craft distilling. Keep an eye out for it in the March issue!


First published online at the LA Weekly food blog Squid Ink

4 Double Black IPAs That Debuted in 2011: Or, Crossing Over to the (Very) Dark Side


In the last twelve months, the craft beer world has welcomed new flavors from a slew of emerging styles including the rye saison (Avery’s Eighteen), the wheat IPA (El Segundo Brewing’s Picket Fence) and the seasonal imperial pumpkin ale (Flying Dog’s The Fear). But no new style was more exciting for lovers of intense beers than the delicious marrying of dark malts, floral hops and high alcohol content that is a Double Black IPA.

Also known an Imperial Black IPA, these beers are a boozy extension of last year’s most recognized emerging style — Cascadian Dark Ales, a Pacific Northwest creation that has also been called a Black IPA, India Black Ale or India Dark Ale (the semantic debate raged so hard that when including it as a judged beer style for the first time in 2010, the Great American Beer Festival decided upon “American-Style India Black Ale”).

But if 2010 was the year of the CDA — bringing attention to Oregon breweries such as Deschutes and Rogue — 2011 was the year the style left Cascadia and got even darker and more bitter at the hands of brewers in California and beyond. Turn the page for the top 4 Double Black IPAs that saw their first release in 2011.

Black Market Brewing

4. Black Market Brewing 2nd Anniversary: Anniversary beers are always a good way to gauge the adventurous spirit of a brewery and for newer (and smaller) operations such as Temecula’s Black Market Brewing, it’s the one release of the year where experimentation is welcome if not expected. Released in August, this 2nd Anniversary Double Black IPA was a bold move, then, considering that until now, BMB had yet to release an American-style beer darker than a brown ale. This 9% Double Black IPA makes up for lost time, however, with a dark black color that is overtaken with the citrus and grapefruit flavors of fresh hops. It’s not the most complex or well-balanced example of the style, but it’s a wonderful surprise from BMB.

Nicholas Alfonse

3. Uinta Dubhe: In March, Salt Lake City’s Uinta Brewing released the Dubhe (pronounced DOO-bee), its new year-round Double Black IPA that is available in four-packs at most L.A. area craft beer bottle shops. The beer is supposedly named after the Utah State Centennial Star — Duhbe (pronounced DUH-bee) the brightest star in the Big Dipper — but the pronunciation change and the fact that it is brewed with hemp easily leads to other assumptions. Dubhe’s light body, subdued roastiness and intense hop character makes it as drinkable as a single Black IPA, but because of its 9.2%ABV, it’s best to share the four-pack.

Drakes Brewing Company

2. Drakes Jolly Rodger: For San Leandro’s hop-adoring brewery, the holidays do not bring the requisite slough of overly spiced Christmas beers. Instead, its annual Jolly Rodger Ale has been everything from a Scotch Ale to a dry-hopped Imperial Red with no hint to the season except for the high ABVs. This year, Jolly Rodger was a mostly-hoppy, slightly roasty, rye-infused Imperial Dark IPA — a perfectly balanced take on this emerging style. Though technically a vintage ale, don’t you dare age this beer. Like most of Drake’s other well-crafted brews (see our previous love for Aroma Coma), the fresh hop character of the 2011 Jolly Rodger demands to be tasted fresh.


1. Stone’s 15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black IPA: Although its name nods to the Cascadian Dark Ales that catalyzed the dark and hoppy movement, this Imperial Black IPA is worlds away from the comparatively puny beers born in the Pacific Northwest. Meaty might be a good word to begin to describe Stone’s 15th Anniversary release; aggressive would be another. Clocking in at nearly 11%ABV, this rich, chocolately, earthy, bitter beer is so extreme that it tastes like a crossbreed of two popular Stone year-rounds–Sublimely Self Righteous (a Black IPA that was itself an earlier anniversary beer) and the Russian Imperial Stout. Contrasting flavors such as mocha and grapefruit battle the tongue’s limits in this unrelenting brew, setting the bar for the Double Black IPA style by turning the CDA into a So Cal beer with balls.

far and away

October 20, 2011

Originally published at the L.A. Weekly’s food blog, Squid Ink

Q & A With Far Bar’s Jimmy Smith: Little Tokyo’s Craft Beer Scene, How Beer Brings People Together + Little Tokyo’s Beer Week Coming Out Party

Far Bar
Japanese craft beers available at Little Tokyo’s Far Bar

For decades, Little Tokyo has been a destination for its history, food and art venues alike. But in the last year, Little Tokyo has put itself on the radar for another, more unlikely offering–craft beer. And as the second half of L.A. Beer Weekcloses in, the neighborhood is ready to show off why.

Starting three years ago with the opening of dedicated haunts such as Wurstküche and Far Bar — which has been home to the city’s largest selection of Japanese craft beers since its incognito location opened in the heart of Little Tokyo’s First Street — the area’s taps have been slowly replacing the proverbial fizzy yellow beer with more-flavorful libations.

The incorporation of both domestic and international microbrews, however, has hit new heights since this past May when Jimmy Smith took over Far Bar’s beer program, upgrading the basic-line craft tap list and turning the hidden gem into Little Tokyo’s craft beer epicentre. More local joints followed suit and now at least nine establishments within walking distance of each another have enough beer cred that Smith decided to organize tonight’s Big Crawl in Little Tokyo, the area’s first-ever pub crawl.

Far Bar

Though Little Tokyo’s proximity to Union Station (where L.A. Beer Week’s closing festival is held) brought beer fans to the neighborhood last year, Big Crawl is the first official Beer Week event the community has hosted, making it a stylized coming-out party that will introduce drinkers to one of the highest concentrations of craft-beer serving joints in the city.

One of L.A.’s most notable historic neighborhoods is getting a new life as a craft beer destination and Smith is on the frontlines.

Squid Ink: Has an event of this caliber ever happened in Little Tokyo before?

Jimmy Smith: No, actually [Far Bar co-owner] Don [Tehara] was telling me that this is the first time something like this has gone on where the businesses put it on by themselves. Usually it’s the city or the neighborhood council, so this is big because it’s the first time businesses have put something like this together on their own.

SI: What does that say about the atmosphere between businesses in the neighborhood?

JS: It’s great! What’s so wonderful about Little Tokyo is that it’s a community and there’s no competition. That’s what’s going to make this event so special, too–we’re all working together, all promoting each others’ bars for the event.

SI: Do you think the timing is right or the product is right?

JS: We’ve always been very neighborly and close, but craft beer is really bringing everybody together because all the establishments serve craft beer and want to be more involved with it. They see what we’ve been doing at Far Bar and they’re on board with it. I really do think it’s more the craft beer. I mean, a lot of them carry craft beer and people don’t even know that they do.


SI: What are the beer-drinking crowds like in Little Tokyo?

JS: Little Tokyo has become a very diverse area. It’s not just Japanese and it’s not just hipsters. If you saw a regular crowd at the Far Bar, it’s something from every age and race. That’s what’s so great about beer, you get people from all different demographics enjoying it.

SI: What’s your favorite scene in Big Trouble in Little China?

JS: I haven’t seen it in so long, but Don just reminded me that James Hong–from the movie–is a regular customer here and he’s friends with the co-owner. So any scene with him in it would be my favorite. He actually had an exhibition a few months back in Burbank where he enacted parts from the movie. He plays such a great villain.

Participating locations and featured breweries:

Far Bar–Stone
Escondite–Black Market Brewing
Spice Table–Alesmith
Weiland–Port Brewing
Spitz–Eagle Rock Brewing
Fu-Ga–Great Divide
Xlixe–Mad River Brewing
Senor Fish–Avery Brewing
Wurstkuche–Brasserie D’ Achouffe.

A suggested itinerary as well as a partial tap list is available on the event’s Facebook page.

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.

If cities were alcoholic beverages, Los Angeles would be a mix of vodka and Red Bull — a potent dose of liquor hidden beneath the sugary-sweet sheen of a counterintuitive energy boost.

San Diego, just a few hours south, would be defined by its main boozy creation, one rooted in a working-class ethic that has been around millenniums longer than Red Bull’s wing-giving jolt: hand-crafted beer.

As far back as Ancient Egypt, humans have been fermenting grains to make alcoholic beer-like beverages and yet recipes are still constantly in flux.

After centuries of Belgian and German brewing traditions dominating world consumption, beer-lovers have recently been looking to the United States for guidance on how to push the boundaries of the craft.

This concept might seem weird for anyone who thinks of the ultra-yellow macro brews Budweiser and Miller Light as “traditional” American beers. But those willing to look beyond the 7-Eleven beer cooler will easily find that new availability of ingredients and the exploration of non-traditional brewing methods have made the last few decades some of the most innovative in beer history, with small-batch craft breweries slowly creeping into the mainstream breweries’ market share.

This feat is most surprising in the United States, where Prohibition eliminated our flourishing dark-beer culture and replaced it with watered-down, rice-infused drinks that maximized bootleggers’ profits but ruined our craving for craftsmanship.

…read the rest here