BeerCation 2020, a solo trip to Los Angeles arrived, squished within a window, wedged tightly between monuments. My trip in early February existed directly after a dry-January, and right before classes at Northwestern began for education on birthing twins. This was of course directly on the heels of a painful rib injury rendering me immobile, yet before the Coronavirus outbreak. BeerCation 2020 was planned before, yet came to fruition after my wedding, but before my 40th birthday – yet after beginning a brand new job (which felt awkward), and finally, right before buying a new house and moving to a new neighborhood.
There were a lot of things going on here, but I’m here to tell you – the balancing act of the timing was on an accidental Michael Scott level of pristine, and there is nothing better to offset such an itemized list of major life changes than beer, O.G. crew members, luxury tobacco, locally roasted coffee, books, and warm weather. Well, warmer weather than what we have in a typical Chicago February, anyway.
My flight out of O’Hare was delayed for one hour, then two hours, then three hours. My goal of landing at LAX with enough time to get my rental car and make it to the Modern Times Dankness Dojo before they closed at 1 AM slowly began to alter. As I sat at the airport bar with my $14 Goose IPA in one of those glasses that chain restaurants use to pour Blue Moon in, I recalibrated, for sadly my beer math was showing there would be no Dankness Dojo that night.
My hotel was a twenty-minute walk to downtown. Anything directly west of the 110 in that area is a little rugged some may say – but for a stay at price points under $100 per night, it’s well worth it to merely have to walk by bridge abutments laced with makeshift tents. Just a hop, jump over a guy named Skip and a some discarded syringes lets you know that anyone stating that the area west of the 110 is rough has never had to sleep beneath the 110.
Modern Times didn’t open until 11 AM so I got coffee from a place called Nimbus, and went directly to my favorite used bookstore, a wonderland near the Toy District called The Last Bookstore. Mostly I go there to drop out and gaze, nose pressed to the glass cases, at first edition JD Salinger and Beat stuff, usually priced at $700 to $900 each. I also enjoy getting lost in the upstairs labyrinth. They have an art gallery and a horror book vault that I enjoy perusing, yet I fear being locked inside of.
I slid in to Modern Times as the locks un-clicked, waiving my hand to summon an impromptu chorizo burrito, a mug of black coffee in the ’84 Padres-brown mug, and a 4oz pour of a dopplebock brewed at the facility.
The LA location is damn impressive. Instead of the mosaic of 3.5” floppy discs they have at The Belmont Fermatorium in Portland, they have a mosaic of original Betamax tape labels. Among other fascinating nostalgia, the walls are adorned with a giant woven tapestry tribute to NES Duck Hunt, pink neon paying homage to Bill & Ted’s Wyld Stallyns, and a Noah’s Ark explosion of piñata animals, all shapes and sizes, clustered to exposed brick.
MOCA – Museum of Contemporary Art
Getting to belly up at Mikkeller Bar DTLA felt like a warm rush of home. Not that anything like it exists at home, but for one, it was just good being back to the LA location. My time in Copenhagen in attempt to visit every Mikkeller bar was game-changing for a fella like me. I hold these places to a certain level of reverence and I was excited to be submerged again, in the familiar Keith Shore décor and to be ensconced in the beer styles Mikkeller has to offer. I went alone that night and simply planned to stay there until I closed it down.
Which I did.
I ordered the Moroccan lamb burger, took one bite, squirted juice all over my Mikkeller passport, and made friends with the guy sitting next to me named Andrew. After a few hours I sprung for a 750 ml bottle of Kati. Kati is/was a Chardonnay barrel fermented wild ale from Mikkeller Baghaven Refshalevej and I drank that with my new pal Andrew. The people tending bar that night had knowledge that was approaching nothing about Baghaven. I want to be honest; that broke my heart.
But not as much as this:
My initial time visiting Mikkeller DTLA, exactly three years prior was the very night it opened it’s doors. As soon as I got back to Chicago after BeerCation 2020, I learned that Mikkeller DTLA mysteriously closed for business. I then knew the beer gods had awaited my return that mystical night. They strongarmed the drawbridge, holding it aloft and bracing it open for a final celebration in the all-knowing understanding that this may be the last beercation I take for a long…long time.
I woke up and drove downtown for coffee at Verve, before heading south to meet my friends at Long Beach Beer Lab for lunch.
Wild LBC microflora starter harvested directly from Snoop Dogg’s French braids, along with sourdough fermentation make for quite a romantic relationship between øl and brod.
With a much-needed cure for dry-hop fatigue, I appreciated a mixed handle list of wild ales blended with wise tales and in-house milled grain bills on traditional lager Pils and hushed discussion, freestyle over milk crates filled with beat breaks of records past.
We Ubered to Bottle Logic in order to double fist watermelon Berlinerweiss and some heavenly concoction in a glass that resembled a Snickers bar dipped in bourbon. I got to talk to one of my Chicago friends there who is also having a kid around the same time that I am, mere months from the trip. Granted he’s not having two at the same time, but at least one at the same time. Look I can only ask for so much from these people. I took on some comfort from that conversation and as I drank some mindbending barrel aged stout, I watched the Anaheim sun set in the coolness of that SoCal evening on the Bottle Logic patio, with another man who also would not be going on solo beer trips for a long…long time.
We got dinner that night at The Ordinarie in Long Beach. I ordered lobster pot pie and I am here to tell you, gentle reader – I never looked back. With an ode to deliciousness in my soul and a vision entrenched in glory, I’ll carry on, though muddled until the next time I get to eat that lobster pot pie. For those chefs at that establishment are the music makers. They are the dreamers of dreams.
We ended the night en masse at The Bamboo Club for my friend’s-friend’s dj set and some perfectly fashioned tiki drinks festooned with leaves and flowers. Punch formulas, rum and West Indies staples that would surely make Don the Beachcomber blush. Lime, grapefruit, and pineapple. One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak. I did not know how I got to my hotel that night. I didn’t have a car with me and I didn’t have any discernible Uber receipt. I simply woke up in my bed at the Golden Sails, shirt neatly hung in the closet, phone plugged in, and pocket change stacked orderly on the nightstand.
So the next morning I hooks a left on two-one and Lewis, some brothers shooting dice, so I said, “let’s do this.” Spent some time on Retro Row and made my way to my friends’ place before hitting Seabirds Kitchen for coffee and purple taquitos. It was hazy with a chill and raining a bit so outdoor activity was limited. Visiting the Latin American Art Museum was a perfect choice and a big highlight for me.
I had a blast, but teetering on the brink of 40, my hangovers now affect my entire body in ways that have never been witnessed. I had a flight departing at 7am and my entire being felt like I had an anvil dropped on it like a Road Runner cartoon. My body was begging me to just go lie down in my hotel and sleep forever. I had to call it.
Weary with toil I haste me to my bed
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired
I made an 11th hour decision to stop at Monkish Brewing for a single pour of some delicious haze bombed citrus liquid in a chalice of glory. I stood over a barrel and sipped while inhaling the taco truck tortillas being toasted under melted cheese.
I then made a 12th hour decision to stop at a cigar lounge in Torrance. I felt the stimulus of nicotine would help nudge my energy levels closer to the peak of the bell curve, a plane where most normal people reside without any increase. It’s the same reason I can drink coffee before bed. My levels are naturally so mellow that any stimulant just helps my heart rate reach normalcy. People who don’t believe that there are individuals like me who use uppers to help them sleep might not have paid attention in statistics class.
The lounge was a pretty typical with it’s baggy leather chairs that remind me of The Notorious BIG’s pants, ultra-cliché posters of Pacino as Scarface, some kitschy and unfortunate misogynistic plaques, and giant TVs. Black guys who can lounge twice as hard as I can, and seem to always think Boys II Men’s rendition of Yesterday was better than Paul McCartney’s. White guys who are dumb as shit about basically everything, have the most ignorant opinions ever, and who constantly attempt to out-machismo one another. One-hundred percent of the men I’ve chatted with in cigar lounges over the years, I’d never want to hang out with anywhere in real life. I’ve found I’m a total outsider to the hobby, but that’s fine. That merely speaks to how good, good cigars are.
The Oscars were on television and unsurprisingly, nobody else in the room had heard of or seen any of the nominated films. One guy who may or may not have written a speech for trump exclaimed, “Parasite is subtitled?! I’m not watching a movie that I have to read!” With full futility I attempted to tell them it is a great film. I was happy Joaquin Phoenix won his best actor award for Joker. He deserved it. His speech was great, and I kind of found it hard to register that he was just down the street giving it at that moment.
I just sat back in my mid-90s puffy leather puffseat puffing my Alec Bradley Prensado, reaching a chocolatey heavenscape with endorphins and dolphins and porpoises in my veins. The enticing smoke opened a swirling portal of esoteric cosmology where my wife and I were at Half Acre and seated at the same community table as a couple with six-week old identical twin girls. They told us everything was great. Everything would be fine. The six-week old twin babies had been to Half Acre two times already, and that is more times than some of my friends have even been there.
I knew my solo adventures would be put on hold for a long…long time. But my new epoch on the horizon has me keyed-up and looking forward.
“Cigars, of course, are made of trail mix, of crushed cashews and granola and raisins, soaked in maple syrup and dried in the sun. Why not eat one tonight at bedtime?”
6am LAX airport breakfast beer, 2/10/20. (I’m not suggesting this sort of thing is normal).