Fireworks, apple pie, backyard grilling sessions and beer. It just wouldn't be Independence Day without at least a couple of those things, and there's never been a better time to celebrate the Fourth in Los Angeles with locally brewed beer. But with so many brews to choose from, what should you pour at this weekend's celebration?
Pilsners, IPAs and pale ales are fitting choices since you want something refreshing to take the edge off the July heat and something that stands up to the snacks. But what about trying something a little off the beaten path this year?
One characteristic to look for in a celebratory brew is that elusive "sessionability" — the balance of being drinkable enough to not wear out your palate, yet flavorful enough to keep your interest for a few glasses.
Here are four local tap-only suggestions that are approachable for the uninitiated, session-friendly, and versatile enough to fill your growlers for Independence Day.
Three Weaver's Brewery — Seafarer Kolsch
Kolsch is a delicate style that belongs to Cologne, Germany, but is borrowed by many American craft breweries. The pale beer is top-fermented with ale yeast, but at cooler temperatures, which results in a subtlety in the defining ale character of fruit aromas. Dry and lightly hopped, Kolsch is often positioned as a transitional style for drinkers just developing their palate. However, American examples too often lack the quiet balance and lean-and-clean palate of their forebears. Seafarer from Inglewood's rising-star brewery nails the difficult-to-perfect Kolsch essence. It's a beer that will sway those uncertain about craft while giving beer geeks a new perspective on a typically overlooked style.
The Three Weavers taproom is open 4-10 p.m. Thursday and has special holiday hours on Friday (noon-midnight) and Saturday (10 a.m.-4 p.m. for growler fills only).
Eagle Rock Brewery — Cold Shillin' Scotch Ale
Brewed for Eagle Rock Brewery's annual Session Fest, this low-alcohol ale showcases malt flavors. Traditionally, Scotch ales were named for their cost per barrel in shillings (one-twentieth of an English pound) and ranged from 60-shilling (often written 60/-) up to the thick and potent 120-shilling versions (also often called Wee Heavy). The stronger the brew, the more fermentable malts went into them and the higher the price. Eagle Rock's 40-shilling ale hits just 3.2% alcohol with very little hop flavor, though the finish is relatively dry with enough hop bitterness to balance everything out. It's effortlessly drinkable and a fine match for burgers and hotdogs off the grill, and even plays nice with smoky barbecued meats.
Eagle Rock Brewery charges $17 to fill a 2-liter growler, and the taproom is open 4-10 p.m. Thursday and Friday and noon-10 p.m. Saturday.
Highland Park Brewery — Refresh
Somehow, the brewers at Highland Park Brewery manage to do everything well. From mixed-fermentation sour beers that use bacteria-harboring oak barrels; to gently sour farmhouse styles; to hop-bomb IPAs that tickle beer geek palates; to quaffable, simple brews that are made for drinking with friends, Northeast L.A.'s darling brewery has had an impressive first year. One particularly impressive feat that is easy to miss are the subtle tweaks and adjustments that have been made to the core brews, and Refresh — the house beer at the Hermosillo — is better than ever. The light-bodied and spritzy ale has always showcased that single zing of European hops, but the most recent batch features a touch of popular modern German hop Hallertau Blanc. The subtle lemongrass and white grape character of that hop varietal make Refresh even more, well, refreshing. Try a glass alongside an order of The Hermosillo's avocado toast for a delightful match, then grab a growler to go.
Growler fills are available at The Hermosillo bar from 5 to 2 a.m. Thursday and noon until two for the rest of the weekend.
Phantom Carriage — Muis
The South Bay's exciting beer-cafe and barrel-aging project has begun to fill growlers with their flagship Muis. The beer is a Belgian blonde ale fermented not with brewer's yeast but with the wild yeast brettanomyces. It's light and bright, with an explosion of citrus and tropical fruit flavors provided by the wild yeast layered on top of a delicate malt flavor and brisk finish. If there's going to be a cheese platter at your Fourth of July barbecue, you're going to want a tulip of Muis to go alongside it. It's also well-suited to pair with salads and even ceviche.