L.A. Beer Week Opening Gala | Re-Cap & Photos
The fifth edition of Los Angeles Beer Week (September 19-29) kicked off this weekend with its first Opening Gala. Organizers of this year’s festival decided to change things up this year from years past with an event marking the beginning of the Beer Week festivities instead of a finale festival (as we’ve reported on here and here). In addition to the change in date, the gala was also moved inside the historic Union Station in downtown Los Angeles from its original home in the station’s courtyard gardens. An increase in admission price ($70 compared to last year’s $50 price tag) and less tickets sold overall (600 this year compared to 1,000 last year) were meant to weed out some of the “rowdy” crowds to create a more intimate tasting experience.
All this change did not come without criticism as complaints from long-time supporters trickled in during the weeks leading up to the event. Did organizers thin out the crowd for the serious craft beer drinkers, or did they alienate some of their core demographic? Needless to say, these types of events are a constant learning experience. Personally, the move inside wasn’t a plus for me. It felt just as warm inside, the only added benefit was being out of the sun. The 50 some-odd breweries in attendance were well-curated and many brought some of their best flagship and highly sought-after brews but the lack of variety in food options (which was not an issue last year) was a definite con. There were comments made about the gala promoting access to light bites, but such was not the case unless you purchased it yourself via the only 2-3 vendors located inside. Vegetarian and vegan offerings were no where in sight, which is why we saw many fest-goers and brewers crossing the street to Olvera Street for a post-fest meal. Many noted the downgrade from glass tasting glasses to plastic, but perhaps this had something to do with being inside the station? These were just a few of the negative comments we’ve picked up through the pipeline.
Overall however, the vibes throughout the day were positive. It was a pleasure seeing many L.A. craft beer fans come out in full force; tasting their way through what our growing beer culture has to offer. Key players in California beer from far and wide from David Walker to Greg Koch were all in attendance; mingling through the masses and fighting the good fight. There were no long lines, it was fairly easier to get inside this time around, and the space was indeed quite beautiful. Could this festival have gone a little better? Absolutely. Did we feel this was a more intimate experience worth the higher price tag? Not quite. Did we have a great time anyway? Sure. Community goes a long way.
Check out some of our photos below: