Before I began my craft beer career, the word “Unity” conjured up flashbacks of a popular old comedy sketch. But after a few years working in the beer industry in LA, it has taken on an entirely different meaning. Every year, brewers from across the industry in Los Angeles County converge upon a brewery where together, we make a beer that reflects our love for the City of Angels, and we call it: Unity.
The event is perhaps the biggest meeting of the LA County Brewers Guild, which is a collective of 95 breweries spread across LA, stretching from as far north as Lancaster, west to Agoura Hills, east to Claremont, south to San Pedro, and really, everywhere in between.
When we all gathered at our host Highland Park Brewery’s Chinatown brewing facility and taproom on Thursday, May 26, we were greeted by HPB’s jolly owner and brewer Bob Kunz. The taproom was packed with thirsty and excited brewers, talking shop and chewing the fat as the unmistakable aroma of fresh mash filled the taproom. Bob was pouring Timbo Pils, Highland Park’s West Coast-style pils – a defining beer of Los Angeles and distinctly appropriate for this gathering of LA brewers. It was also, in a way, foreshadowing this year’s iteration of Unity, a clean, and most of all, clear, West Coast IPA brewed with Citra, Idaho 7, and Strata hops.
At the center of all this chaos was our ringleader, Executive Director of the LA County Brewers Guild, Franny Fullpint. Franny came from the world of indie music, which, in a way, plays a huge role in the LA beer manifesto. As a member of the guild, we are unapologetically independent and brash in our approach to challenge the status quo of what beer is and could be. Through opportunities like Unity, we get to show all this in the form of 16 oz cans and kegs sent throughout SoCal.
The host brewery is chosen in advance by the Guild, and once the battleground is chosen, a style and recipe is agreed upon and the date for the brew is set, with enough time for the beer to ferment and be released in time for LA Beer Week, which takes place this year from June 18th through June 26th. In recent years, the styles have stayed relatively steady, often reflecting the thirst for clean and tasty hoppy beers. Last year’s Unity brew – the first since the COVID-19 pandemic – was released in October, and was a delicious hoppy Pilsner made by Common Space Brewing in Hawthorne.
As the brewers started to pack up and head to their respective breweries to get back to work, I sat there waiting for my Uber, reflecting on the day’s events: reconnecting with old friends, meeting new ones, trying new beers, and booing a semi-truck emblazoned with some corporate brewery’s logos for blocking our group photo. Memories like these, and countless other moments made throughout the years, continue to make the Unity brew such a special way to kick off the LA Beer Week season.
Look out for Unity IPA in cans and on draft starting Friday, June 17th at Highland Park Brewery and local retailers soon after. For more information on Unity and LA Beer Week 2022, follow @labrewers and @hoppedla on Instagram and stay tuned to our newsletter.
Javi Gonzalez is a brewer at Pacific Plate Brewing, and a Hopped contributor. His Instagram is @javibrews.