Sensory overload in Los Angeles County and Orange County in February of 2017. This essay, newly polished, was pulled from grandma’s attic and refurbished in July 2021.
The venue for Mortified was Wanderlust – a place typically used as a yoga studio, a few blocks off of Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood. A far as what went on that night it could be construed along the lines of yoga in terms of meditative principals and a cleansing of sorts.
But Mortified is a live storytelling – a show and tell of people’s most humbling, most awkward and most intimate yet humiliating life moments from eras bygone.
In it’s essence, Mortified is people getting on stage and reading their diary entries from when they were pre-teens and teenagers. Embarrassing and endearing things they wrote as children such as love letters, song lyrics, and poetry. Chapterbooks of teen angst and artifacts from basically anyone who chooses to “share the shame” in an act of either straight up comedy…or therapeutic expression pure and true.
Being February and the weekend before Valentines Day, all the material was romance-themed. Buried in the transcripts of peoples’ lives I got to witness anecdotes from strangers’ first kisses, worst prom nights, and an utterly appalling first blowjob at Bible camp. Nothing was off the table here as everyone in the room, in true fashion of a support group, became very familiar, very quickly. We encompassed sincere identification with the mortified as we all sat in encouragement rounding out every vignette, some with teary eyes, all with applause and all with ovation.
Every entry read reminded me of something I had written from anywhere as long ago as 8th grade. Some things I’ve hidden away, locked until after I die and my kids wrangle the boxes from the basement, and other things I’ve straight up burned in a metal barrel. Either way, I’d never read those on stage without some serious time to process beforehand and a few glasses of scotch.
Exiting Wanderlust in to the Los Angeles breeze, after an event like that, the charm of the evening needed a perfect cap. Some sort of puzzle piece designed to click.
With a crew like mine, and the spirit we put forth in intentionality, the beer gods know. They shine down bubbly cherubim and rays of hope. We gather them as candy apples in an orchard of praise.
And so…in true beeracle fashion, it came to pass.
Per complete random epiphany we discovered Mikkeller DTLA was holding it’s grand opening at its new South Park locale that very night – February 10th, 2017.
Ordering an Uber and holstering my phone in my pocket, I brazenly stood, hands on hips beneath the iconic Hollywood sign on Mount Lee hovering as an illuminated halo above my head. I scoffed at the idea of any force physical or otherwise, even pretending to attempt to keep me away from that event that night at that taproom. The City of Angels smiled upon me that blessed date. I became the chosen golden boy.
As we descended upon the Mikkeller DTLA hard open, in a vacated discount tire shop on Olympic Boulevard, the scent of smoked meats from distant calling Warpigs wafted around us as though we were pork in a cozy blanket. Inside the elongated building there showed a reveal of twisty funhouse mirrors, and a Lego wall where you could feel free to create your own constructions. They had the blueprints and planning documents for the actual venue, plastered about the restroom walls as wallpaper.
Coffee and beer takeaway in an attached room called Kaffebaren called my name.
The night of the opening, the fifty beer tap list for this extravaganza flung me about the room as I had trouble staying tethered to reality. It was standing room only but we were planted there in brilliance, clinking a cheers of piney San Diego West Coast IPAs beneath Keith Shore paintings, under high ceilings of red oak beams.
Sipping Mikkeller Rauch Geek Breakfast, a smoked oatmeal coffee stout brewed for the occasion, I awoke from smoldering campfire dreams, a cognoscenti lying half dazed, sleeping bag unfurled, with my cup o’ joe and my bowl of oatmeal.
The element of smoked malt played a supporting role, coaxing forth pulled pork melodrama and soft cheese funk. This union is rare but when two notes enhance each other as opposed to just trading war stories, the dialogue becomes a graceful square dance of a blissful yokel spinning his partner.
Twirling outward, toward the smoggy night sky and the Los Angeles streets, I had long since lost count of how many beers had gone down. The truth is my accountability ratio was at an all time low so it corrected any type of questionable responsibility factor at the time. I enjoyed the spirals and friendly cabby conversation on the thoroughfare to my hotel in Echo Park. I remained stoic, young ones, as should you. For the next time I would visit Mikkeller DTLA, exactly three years later, it would unknowingly be the last.
You never truly know when it will be.
Dan scooped me up from a morning alleyway stairwell where I had been sitting and smoking a cigar and reading Franny and Zooey. If you don’t do beercations, you should at least know that Salinger is a great pal to have around on one. He doesn’t intrude or crowd your space. His styling pairs extremely well with luxury tobacco, neon pink California sunrises, and red birds chirping over there, near the foliage. Mass paperbacks fit so well in your adventure pocket.
Crusading toward Highway 5 via rental car, which seemed to always tug to the right a tad, we made our way out to the County of Orange. Placentia to be exact.
The Bruery, we soon discovered, was located in The Promised Land’s version of a strip mall. Instead of Radio Shack and Cash 4 Gold as tenants, this particular strip mall contained The Bruery tasting room with every square foot devoted to its office space and operation. One hundred large-format bottles were showcased along the walls in a shrine to rival granddad’s church league bowling trophies.
To me there are very few instances greater than walking in to a taproom thirty seconds after they unlock the door for the day. There’s nothing like being the first patron at an empty brewhouse bar at 11 AM, getting the aroma of the previous evening’s Maris Otter mash-in and Golden Promise hop additions, with bright daylight rays blaring through the windows. I enjoy never knowing full where the day will land me.
Dan and I went to work sipping on glamorous grain-based grandeur, gesticulating the gems of foremost importance.
After chatting with the lad tending bar there, and extending pleasantries and cultured badinage along with other remarks of inconsequence, our Chicago locale came up and inevitably (as it should) ended on a discussion of 18th Street Brewing. Upon my mere mention of the name Joey Potts, the label artist for 18th Street at that time, the bartender perked up with an idea that came to fruition moments later.
Vanishing in to a forbidden closet of mystery, he re-emerged with a flight panel full of beers bespoken as Preservation, Reserve and Hoarders Society exclusives – all as a gift.
Another cheat code had been unlocked after the Joey Potts name-drop. In bliss mode we knew we were on a rare Tanooki Bear status in Mario 3, able to turn in to statues and avoid anyone in order to defeat the enemy.
PB & Thursday, Black Tuesday blended with raspberries, Terreux Hoarders Cuvee – an oak aged sour blonde with honey, mixed in to bourbon barrel-aged wheat wine with coconut, rose hips, hibiscus and white pepper… all derived from Patrick Rue’s painter’s palette. Colors arranged and blended to display a gargantuan, kaleidoscopic flavor wheel on a canvas rendered tertiary, pastel, neon, warm and cool.
With hearts ablaze we sauntered out of The Bruery. We had done our damage, checked off the boxes and purchased the tee shirt. The west coast was ours to concur that day.
Post hoc, based on nothing at the time but my 2017 Instagram feed of mystical lore from another dimension, we ended up at Monkish Brewing Company in Torrance.
As we approached, we noticed (at least what appeared to be) a bottle release line tucked away in the side alley. Having no idea what the line was for, but grasping the age-old beer geek adage, “if there’s a line; you stand in it”, we stood in it. While waiting for whatever carnival ride we were in store for, we struck up conversation with a guy who was wearing a Side Project shirt. His name? Well, his name was Julius.
We discovered the line for starters was just to get in to the taproom, but it was also for a second batch release of a saison called Más Juteux.
Juteux is a mixed-fermentation saison aged in French oak barrels, on apricots with Monkish’s in-house mixed culture of wild yeast and bacteria. Más Juteux was basically an imperial version of that. It had 50% more apricots and there were only 350 champagne style bottles produced. Caged, corked, and ready to god damn go.
Interestingly, the owner of Monkish, who has equipped the dazzling tasting room with an old, rustic church pew and a wooden prayer altar as décor, has a PhD in New Testament Theology. He started out being dead-set against brewing IPA. Though, after hearing the prayers for hops, he ended up coming around to the idea based on a sales perspective, and subsequently conquered the entire market on haze, collecting tithes and offerings on New England IPA.
His special release cans sell out within minutes. He had to remove a sign from the taproom that read, “No MSG. No IPA”, but I saw a coffee mug behind the bar with that slogan on it. I believe at heart he’ll always be most passionate about Belgian styling but I’m not certain Saint Peter at the Golden Gate will take the betrayal very well.
Dan and I faced the contradiction of the idea of grabbing bottles in contrast to the idea of not grabbing bottles. We really had no desire to lug them around town, keep them properly stored, and then fly them or ship them back home. But how could we not try this beer?
For it was not on tap that day.
In the midst of this dilemma of sorts, Julius, in an act of selfless heroism, stepped forth, interjected and offered to pop his bottle right then and there with us. Oddly the idea of us just buying a bottle to open there never crossed our minds. Look, we had been drinking since morning.
At an available oak barrel table top, that uncorked and cage-free vessel flowed with effervescent nectar in to our tulip glasses. It sent our faces into an apricot-forward, sour, earthy, oaky, farmhouse experience of which young men might see visions and old men might dream dreams.
It’s been a while now but I still hold that beer on a top ten list of…something.
Julius recommended a place nearby called Smog City Brewing, literally right up the street, so Dan and I worked our way through the striking Monkish taplist, we got some tacos from the food truck, bid Julius adieu, and stumbled along the Californian industrial corridor over to Smog City.
Some time later my friends and I would in fact be banned and blacklisted from Smog City Brewing, but I’m not here to tell that tale. At least not today.
The following day I hit Verve Coffee, stopped at The Last Bookstore, and grabbed shrimp tempura rolls and a Japanese Whisky Old Fashion in Little Tokyo with a friend. I spent some time at my usual haunt, 2nd Street Cigar Lounge.
After about the third occurrence of my visiting Angel City Brewing, I finally Googled the reason they have a too heavily-pitched, nonfunctioning, rusty curly slide coming down from the second floor. The reason, though it might not be as mindbowing as you think it should be, is still pretty interesting.
I took a rental car and I listened to The Midnight as I drove back to Hollywood. I got dinner at the bar at The Rainbow on Sunset Boulevard right next to The Roxy. Having absolutely zero idea what The Rainbow was, or exactly how much history was built in to that place, I cluelessly chomped away on a burger like a mindless squirrel with a blank stare, nibbling a walnut in a random park.
The Monkees and The Beatles and Led Zeppelin hung out at The Rainbow in the 1960s and 1970s. Originally the venue was owned by Vincente Minnelli, the guy who was married to Judy Garland, and fittingly, there is an upstairs club called Over the Rainbow.
Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio met Marilyn Monroe there on a blind date. I didn’t know any of this until well after I had closed out my tab.
I swung by Amoeba Music, and I walked around a bit in the bright rays of California sunkissed walkways, so thankful to be away from whatever snow flurry, twenty-degree nonsense bullshit was going on back home.
Bypassing the Walk of Fame, I got in my borrowed SUV and I opted to spark up an Alec Bradley Prensado. I shifted in to drive, and I hit the 405 south. A visit to my true Graceland was in the works.
I rolled down Crenshaw. I passed the Slauson Swap Meet and motherfuckers best knew not to stop me.
I cruised through Inglewood. When I saw Mack 10 I started tossing up the W, being like “ink in ma flesh, west side tatted on ma chest!”.
Mack 10 was like, “crossin’ off bustaz n snitches!”
As I blared “West Up!” by Westside Connection still puffing my Maduro, I headed east on Rosecrans, Straight inta Compton, hoping to pull up next to MC Eiht or DJ Quik with an aim at helping them squash their beef.
A few blocks south, tryna outrun the ghetto bird, I saw Greenleaf Drive where Dr. Dre used to leave bodies with their fuckin’ heads cut off, because, motherfucker, he’s Dre.
I met my cru at Beachwood BBQ & Brewing out in Long Beach, but not before I zipped over to V.I.P. Records to get a quick shot of where Snoop Doggy Dogg, Warren G, and Nate Dogg got their start in the 213.
At Beachwood, a well-documented outfit of righteous crusading for beer independence, we settled in for some slow-smoked, dry-rubbed, southern style barbeque.
Smoked chicken and fried green tomatoes along with an LBC IPA? Smoke n’ dank n’ C-hops for days. It was enough to make me start Cripwalkin’ and begin beefin’ with Pirus myself.
I made it over to Bottle Logic Brewing in Anaheim before dusk. Once again on a solo front, I managed to wrangle a barstool. In the pristine parlor of vacuum tubes, burners held condensers at arm’s length through the gleaming of twinkling Edison bulbs (which should have been named Tesla bulbs).
Beneath the list of beers on the wall, a syllabus for my session, I spied glassware of Pyrex beaker flask, a wall of circuitry, and flawless stainless steel – a workshop beneath the watchful stare of Nikola Tesla.
That fateful night, the Croatian inventor oversaw the bottle release of Byzantine Vision; a bourbon barrel aged Baltic porter with wild honey. “Brewed as a liquid expression of baklava”, they crushed hundreds of pounds of pistachios, walnuts, and hazelnuts, filtering the porter through this blend in a hopback, and flushing steam through in order to sanitize the nuts and remove Brettanomyces or any other wild yeast.
Stepping out front to the purple sunset off of the patio I gathered my pesto Parmesan fries and my bratwurst dog from a food truck called Salt N Pepper, and sat for the next few hours with a man I had just met, known only as Beerface McGilicutty. We drank delightful formulas from the Stasis Project and iterations of other concoctions such as Ber-linear Equation with Blueberries, a neon-lavender Spiegelau full of liquid Sour Patch Kids. Tart and mischievous on the onset but sweet on the inside after all.
Discussing all things Midwest and West Coast and anything in between, we garnered a friendship to stand the test of time. Though I was far from home, I felt a warmth in that laboratory.
Under Tesla’s knowing gaze I paid for the final round for my new pal and I, as we raised a solemn toast to the naysayers and the swindlers, the coddlers and dreamers:
Helicopters against the moonlight
Our holy mother of the midnight
And if we live forever –
let us live forever tonight