Ease into the end of summer with these SoCal-style brews
By Anthony Torrise
With the arrival of Labor Day weekend, summertime is unfortunately winding down. While we have a few weeks left of heat, breweries around West LA are brewing creations made especially for the summer sun. Firestone Walker’s Propagator in Venice is celebrating its fourth year with a fruity and well-balanced double IPA. Santa Monica Brew Works brought back a West Coast-style IPA by popular demand and created a lemony shandy. And Playa Provisions chef Brooke Williamson collaborated with Orange County’s The Bruery to create three beers that are perfect for any kind of food pairing.
A worldwide initiative titled “Black Is Beautiful” is also taking the beer community by storm. Taking part are Firestone and SMBW, who are each brewing the recipe for this stout with their own twists.
So “hop” on down to your local brewery for an ale, an IPA, a stout or any of these different brews that are sure to make the end of summer easier.
Firestone Walker’s Gen-4 IPA & Black is Beautiful Imperial Stout
Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s Propagator taproom in Venice (3205 Washington Blvd.) has been home to all of their experimental recipes over the last four years. Each year since its opening, Propagator has celebrated with a variation of the Gen-1 IPA, the first beer ever brewed there. This year called for a double IPA with citrusy notes perfect for summer weather dubbed the Gen-4 IPA.
The India Pale Ale (or IPA as we know it) has been around since at least the 19th Century, when long voyages from England would often cause the average ale to spoil. By adding more hops to the process, brewers made a beer that could last the full voyage. Centuries later, brewers around the world have been using the IPA to experiment with all kinds of flavors.
Firestone Walker was already well established in the world of IPAs even before they opened The Propagator in Venice. The clear and bitter West Coast-style “Union Jack IPA” has been a fan favorite since it was first brewed in 2006. Opposite that is the hazy and fruity Northeast-style “Mind Haze IPA,” another popular selection after its release in 2017.
“Gen-4 is kind of like mixing the two,” says brew manager Sam Tierney, “so if you were to take Union Jack and Mind Haze and blend the character of the two and make it into a double IPA, the alcohol [content] is a little higher.”
Unlike its three predecessors Gen-4 distinguishes itself with notes of peach and pineapple, and because of its alcohol content of 8.3% it packs quite a punch. The release of this double IPA is limited, but the next batch will be available in September. The Propagator is selling Gen-4 in canned 16-ounce four-packs for $19.99.
Another limited release is the Black Is Beautiful Imperial Stout, a complex blend of rich flavors. In a world-wide effort to support racial equality, more than 1,000 breweries from 20 countries, including Firestone Walker, have joined together to produce this imperial stout. It was originally created by Weathered Souls Brewing Company in San Antonio, Texas but participating breweries have been producing it with their own special twists. For Firestone Walker, that twist is using their signature yeast and partially aging the beer in bourbon barrels.
Like the IPA, the stout emphasizes a special ingredient but it’s not hops. Malt is what gives this beer the rich flavor it’s known for. This particular stout has an alcohol content of 10%, so it’s not to be taken lightly. It’s best to drink it slowly so that the complex flavors can be admired to their fullest. The most notable notes are chocolate, espresso and vanilla, but Tierney personally compares it to a s’more.
“You get some of that graham cracker, some of the chocolate, and then you get that burnt sugar flavor… that you get from just barely torching a marshmallow, and it all comes together. It’s really complex,” he says.
Black Is Beautiful is offered in canned 16-ounce four-packs for $19.99 while supplies last. Firestone Walker will be donating 100% of the proceeds to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
Both the Gen-4 and Black is Beautiful are in limited quantity, but those lucky enough to grab a pack or two will come to admire the art on the cans just as much as the flavors inside. The Propagator’s kitchen also boasts a large, mouth-watering menu with an assortment of sweet and salty eats that are perfect for pairing with these brews, whether it’s a pretzel, buffalo wings or fish tacos. Visit firestonebeer.com.
Santa Monica Brew Works’s Rip City Skates IPA, Black Is Beautiful & 310 Stomped Shandy
As the first and only independent brewery in Santa Monica, SMBW has kept its beach-brewed philosophy flowing through its brews since 2014. Their creations often highlight aspects that make the Westside so special. With this in mind, it only makes sense for the city’s first brewery to celebrate its last real and longest operating skate shop — Rip City Skates with an IPA named after the beloved store.
The West Coast-style IPA is hop-forward with a citrus kick of fruity and tropical notes. Thanks to Idaho 7 hops, it brings fruity flavors such as apricot, orange, red grapefruit and papaya to the forefront.
“Rip City Skates IPA was an instant sensation when we debuted it earlier this year, selling out in less than a month,” says Johnny Wardell, Marketing Director for SMBW. “The skate shop has been the hub of the Santa Monica skateboard scene for more than 40 years — it’s an icon not only in LA but worldwide… Hardly a day went by when we weren’t asked about when [the beer] was coming back.”
The IPA is available in four-pack,16-ounce cans for $24 and is available for pickup from SMBW’s tasting room (1920 Colorado Ave., Suite C, Santa Monica).
Also joining SMBW’s brew lineup and a worldwide brewing initiative is their take on the Black Is Beautiful Imperial Stout to be released on Sept. 16. The folks at SMBW know that anyone who gets this stout will want to go back for more. With this in mind, SMBW’s twist on the recipe takes the average stout alcohol content from 10% to 7.5%, allowing for a smooth and flavorful brew that can be enjoyed more than once. Expect a roasted character with notes of chocolate and coffee.
And what’s better than the sweetness of an ice cold lemonade with a savory hot dog on a summer’s day? The two go hand in hand, unless that lemonade is swapped out for a beer that’s just as sweet and refreshing. Santa Monica’s own Hot Dog On a Stick and SMBW have teamed up to bring you just that.
The 310 Stomped Shandy is a crisp mix of HDOaS’s classic and refreshing lemonade with SMBW’s 310 Blonde Ale. This “hand stomped” hard lemonade comes in at 4% ABV, so be careful to not go through it all in one sitting. If you’re looking for a thirst quencher then you’ve found your drink.
You won’t have to wait for long since it will be released this Saturday (Sept. 5). The price is TBD, but you can pick up a four-pack of 16-ounce cans and grab an original hot dog on a stick from the food truck in SMBW’s tasting room parking lot. The truck will be there on Sept. 5, 11, 12 and 13, so stop by for a food pairing like no other. Visit santamonicabrewworks.com.
Playa Provisions x The Bruery
In a special collaboration with Orange County’s The Bruery, Playa Provisions’s chef Brooke Williamson helped create three special brews — The Spice, The Vine and The Berry.
This is the second collaboration between Williamson and The Bruery since 2018. This time around, Williamson aimed to make each beer stand out from the others and pairable with practically any food. It took about seven months for these beers to fully age, but they are now ready to create the perfect pairings.
“The flexibility that beer has, especially beer that’s so original and esoteric as these three beers are, can be used in so many different ways when pairing with food,” says Williamson. “And what I find interesting and exciting is when people use styles of beers like these and sort of surprise themselves or other people with how they can be paired in so many different facets.”
The flavor of The Spice is rich from cacao nibs, mildly sweet from vanilla beans and lightly sharp from Williamson’s own garden-grown thyme. The last touch comes from aging the beer in bourbon barrels, which gives a little more richness to the end product.
Beer and wine are not often pictured together in the same glass, but that is exactly the taste you get with The Vine, an oak barrel-aged ale. Ganache blanc and viognier grapes from Andrew Murray Vineyards create a beer/wine hybrid, leading to a crisp, tart and refreshing beer. Thanks to Williamson’s extensive history with wine, this sour ale brings together two different flavors to create something that’s deliciously unusual.
Williamson says her favorite beer is the Belgian tripel ale and that her favorite berry is the huckleberry. By taking these two flavor profiles, The Berry was created. Unlike the other two beers in this collaboration, the berry is full of sweet, red fruit flavors that aren’t too overpowering and leave a delightful huckleberry aftertaste with little tartness or bitterness.
All three of these beers are available at Playa Provisions and sold online through The Bruery’s website. Visit thebruery.com.