Last night was the first annual Brew at the Zoo held at the Los Angeles Zoo. If I had to sum up the event in one sentence it would be: Great concept, but requires less people or more beer to be a great event. Pairing craft beers with a zoo going experience is really fun, but with only 20 breweries in attendance (and each only bringing a limited amount of beer since it was a charity event) and 3000 or so people trying to drink that beer, they have some things to learn from this inaugural event.
I showed up a little after 6 pm and there was a line to get in. The line moved pretty quickly and I was greeted by these adorable seals upon entrance, so I got pretty excited for a great night ahead.
The 20 brewery tables were separated into 4 themed areas that were spread throughout the zoo:
- Stone Brewing
- El Segundo Brewing
- Inland Empire Brewing
- Firestone Walker Brewing
Meerkarts & Microbrews
- Eagle Rock Brewery
- Strand Brewing
- Brouwerij west
- So Cal Beer Company
- Skyscraper Brewing
Carousel & crafts
- Hanger 24 Craft Brewery
- Belmont Brewing
- Karl Strauss Brewing
- Crispin Cider Company & Fox Barrel Cider
Elephants and Ales
- Bayhawk Ales
- Bootlegger’s Brewery
- The Bruery
- Cismontane Brewing
- Left Coast Brewing
- Noble Ale Works
I arrived at the first beer stop, Reggie’s Picks, and quickly decided to keep moving. I was turned off my by the long lines for beers and pretty terrible steel drum band. I was hoping that since it was still early in the night the further back I got the smaller the line would be. I got to the next beer stop, Meekrats & Micro-Brews, and settled into the line for Brouwerij West. This beer stop was in a really small area and the lines were all jumbled together, but they were a bit shorter than the first stop and the band was actually pretty good. I had a tripel in hand in less than 6 minutes and stopped to enjoy the musical styling of The Fling before moving on.
With a beer in tow it was now time to check out some animals! I was in the Australia zone, so I got to hang with some kangaroos, koalas, and a lot of wallabies. I had no idea there were so many different types of wallabies. They must have had at least 4 different kinds at the zoo. The areas of the zoo without beer and with animals were pretty empty. It was a great opportunity to check out the animals with hardly anyone around. That was probably the best part of the event.
Once I felt satisfied with my Australia animal quality time and my glass became empty, I moseyed on over to the Elephants and Ales stop. This was the most crowed of the 4 beer areas and the lines were intense. They were super long and it was almost impossible to tell what you were waiting in line for. There were a few breweries off in the corner of the area that had slightly shorter lines, so I choose one and stuck it out. I decided to try Noble Ale Works red ale. All of the beers I saw being served at Brew at the Zoo were pretty straight forward: pale ales, blondes, stouts, red ales, etc. This was not an event for someone seeking out rare and unique beers. But, it did feature a lot of small, lesser known California breweries, so it was fun to check them out. I enjoyed the red ale in the company of some lovey giraffes (which matched the beer quite nicely). This was one of my favorite moments of the night.
While the Elephants and Ales area was packed, it also had good music courtesy of Steel Wheels, and elephants and chimps to keep me company.
After checking out some more animals and another empty glass, it was time to pick a line and wait. This time I went with The Bruery. Despite having what I think was the longest line of the event, I really enjoy their beers and the music was good, so I hung in there. Once I got to the front of the line I got served a saison rue, which was my favorite beer of the night. It looked like they had 2 beers to choose from at one point, but must have run out of the other. This seemed to be a pretty common theme. By 8:30 pm it appeared that a lot breweries were running out of beer.
As I mentioned earlier, all of the proceeds of the event were to benefit the Greater Los Angeles Zoo Association, so all the beer was donated. With only 20 breweries in attendance, their simply wasn’t enough beer, or time to serve it, for all the people in attendance. Each person was given 12 tasting tickets, but with the long lines, there was no way you could use even half of them if you also wanted to enjoy the animals at the zoo. If you got a beer and immediately went into another line to wait, it was probably possible to use all your tickets in 3 hours (which I am sure a decent amount of people did), but that seems to defeat the purpose. At that point, I’d rather just go to bar and pay $7 for a pint.
I walked over to the Carousel & Craft area briefly, but it was absolutely packed, so I didn’t even attempt to get another beer. With the event ending in about 30 minutes, I figured it was a good time to make my way back towards the entrance. I was hoping the lines had died down in the front beer stops to I could get one more taster in before leaving, but that was not the case. Once the steel drum band starting playing a cover of the Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling”, I knew it was time to leave. As I exited the zoo, I noticed a sign littered with unused beer tickets at the bottom.
All in all, I had a good time and it was excellent knowing that all the proceeds went to a good cause. However, I do not think the event was worth the $40 price tag given the lines. If I was able to get even 6 of my beers while still having time to check of the rest of the zoo, it would have been great, but sadly this was not the case.
Since it was a Friday night and I had only managed to drink about 1 beer in total during event, I was thankful that the zoo is only about 5 miles away from Eagle Rock Brewery. I headed over there for a full pint that I got in less than 1 minute and some food truck grub. As I enjoyed my glass of the pilot batch Belgian Enkel (a Belgium single) beer, a few zoo goers came in and all seemed to echo my thoughts. Cool idea, but lines were just too long. Next year if they can get more breweries to participate and spread out the beer tables a bit, it will be a great event. Pairing craft beer with super cool animals and good bands is a great idea.