One of L.A.'s first craft brews is going away, and you can blame the obsession with hops

The award-winning Solidarity, Eagle Rock Brewery's first craft beer, is about to be relegated to a special seasonal release. 

The brewery was the first craft brewery to open in Los Angeles when it started making beer in 2009. And the first beer brewed was Solidarity. Known as the "black mild," the beer is as unique now as it was back in the dark ages of L.A.’s beer scene. But after more than six years of continuously brewing Solidarity, slow sales have prompted the brewery to limit its production. 

Solidarity, based on the traditional English mild style, is a sub-4% alcohol ale filled with complex malt flavors, toasty bitterness and a touch of smoke. But it never caught on with the crowds of drinkers discovering craft beer in L.A., where an obsession with hop-driven brews and ever-increasing alcohol content is the norm. The low-alcohol and malt-forward brew seemed to get lost in the shuffle of rotating IPA handles and all the excitement over the next new brew.

“Sadly, there’s just not a huge demand for it,” said Eagle Rock Brewery founder Jeremy Raub.

>>Your Los Angeles craft beer guide

The beer earned a reputation for being a “brewer’s beer” — a pint that beer industry workers loved for its unique character and “sessionability” (meaning you can sit down and enjoy two or three pints without getting bored or overly sauced).

In the brewery’s early days, Solidarity was a wedge that won Eagle Rock coveted tap space at local bars (often replacing ubiquitous Guinness taps). Now it is the brewery’s slowest selling beer. The slow sales began to impact the small brewery’s ability to make the beer that was in demand. 

“For brewers, homebrewers, beer judges, restaurant people, industry people, [Solidarity] is their go-to, but unfortunately it doesn’t pay the bills like it once did," Raub said. “Solidarity was taking up [fermentation] tank space and kegs — the resources that some of the other beers that are selling could take up.”

And it’s the hop-driven beers that are selling. Populist, the brewery’s hoppy IPA, now accounts for nearly 50% of the total production for Eagle Rock Brewery.

“Solidarity is just not a very sexy beer,” Raub said. “From the very beginning I thought we’d just brew the beers that we like to drink. Now there’s all these other breweries and these other options. We could keep brewing Solidarity, and people love that beer, but it’s not enough.”

Replacing Solidarity in the production schedule is the new year-round release of the brewery’s hopped-up kolsch-style ale, Ümlaüt, and the spooky seasonal schwarzbier Döömläüt. The latter brew is inspired by Germany’s black lagers, and it’s actually very similar in flavor to Solidarity (with just a bit more hop flavor and bitterness).

On Nov. 14 (the sixth anniversary of the beer’s first commercial brew day), the brewery is throwing a “semi-retirement” party for Solidarity, featuring a tap list filled with all the variations that have been developed over the years. From the standard and creamy nitrogenated versions to Vanilla Solidarity, Solidarity aged in bourbon barrels and even the return of ERB’s second anniversary beer: an imperial version of Solidarity called Deuce.

Raub isn’t sure when Solidarity will make its return after this last batch is sold. “Maybe it will be spring, maybe summer, but it’s coming back."

3056 Roswell St., Los Angeles, www.eaglerockbrewery.com/main.

ALSO: 

In defense of pumpkin beer

How to pair craft beer with all that avocado toast

Get everything you need for Oktoberfest at the Alpine Village Market

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
59°