Battle of the (Brewery) Bands

Drink Features
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The marathon of tap-takeovers, beer dinners, festivals, and symposiums held during L.A. Beer Week has come to a close. The string of events is a lot of fun, and it’s a great way to get people excited about craft beer in the city, but it’s downright exhausting — especially for the beer-industry insiders putting everything together (not to mention the writers and journalists covering it all). This was L.A.’s seventh Beer Week, and it’s been amazing to watch the industry grow and the thirsty beer lovers get more excited about craft brewing each year. And this was the second year that local craft brewing trailblazers Eagle Rock Brewery organized a Battle of the Bands event featuring over a dozen bands assembled from the employees of local breweries and bars. It was, for the second year running, the most creative and enjoyable event of beer week, and this year was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at a beer event.

Beachwood Brewing’s Julian Shrago opened the night with a solo acoustic set of ‘80s rock ballads (pictured above), and he was followed by acts from The Bruery, El Segundo Brewing Co. and a dozen other bands that took the stage of the Echoplex for 10-minute sets covering everything from thrash metal tunes (Pizza Port) to a medley of classic rock standards (Figueroa Mountain’s impossibly tight five-piece). Three Weavers Brewing Co. had superhero costumes and a set of Bowie tunes (including a rapped verse of Vanilla Ice lyrics during Under Pressure); Stone’s Brewmaster Mitch Steele played guitar in two bands; and local bar/bottle shop Sunset Beer Co. blazed through songs from the Footloose soundtrack. Another particular stand-out of the evening was when Noble Ale Works thundered through a live hip hop set of ‘90s gangsta rap with punchy renditions of “Ain’t Nuthin But a G Thang,” “Gin and Juice,” and “California Love” all while decked out in the requisite baggy flannels, Dickies, and ball caps.

Evan Price of Noble Ale Works.jpg
Evan Price of Noble Ale Works

You might think that the bands would be sloppy and the beer-fueled performances delivered with a wink, but these bands, without exception, were full of talent and dedicated to rocking the assembled crowd of beer lovers. Everyone on stage looked to be having more fun than the folks dancing (and occasionally moshing) in crowd. Though, it certainly didn’t hurt that both of the venue’s bars were stocked with fresh kegs of killer craft beer brought in by the bands.

The craft beer industry puts a lot of importance on community, and the Battle of the Bands was a raucous exhibition of L.A.’s tightly-knit beer community. As someone who spends a lot of time at breweries and beer events and around beer professionals, it was striking to see another side of these professionals. The crowd of a few hundred was full of friends, colleagues and acquaintances, but even the people I spoke to who were “outsiders” to the industry said that they not only had an incredibly fun time, they also felt included as a part of the scene in a way that surprised them.

A common statement you hear when hanging around beer professionals is, “beer brings people together”, and music does too. Put craft beer and homespun rock bands together and the effect is compounded. It took five hours for all 15 bands to get through their sets, but the evening whipped by in double time. At the end of the night, Eagle Rock Brewery’s band was crowned victorious after Steve Raub — the literal founding father of the brewery and renowned for his karaoke prowess — surprised the audience by taking the stage beside his son (ERB’s founder and brewmaster Jeremy Raub) to belt-out The Who’s “The Seeker” and AC/DC’s “Have a Drink on Me.” The crowd was all smiles and fist-pumps, and we all were reminded of that sense of camaraderie that attracted us to the beer industry in the first place.

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Lee Bakofsky and Jeremy Ruab of ERB