The biggest buzz in Los Angeles craft beer and all the LA breweries is the Monkish can releases. But, what exactly is a "can release" and why should I care?
If you don't pride yourself on the latest, up to date beer news, or you don't follow #craftbeer on Instagram, or you don't know what a Northeastern-style IPA is, or you are thinking about attending a can release and just want to know more about how the whole process works, then this post is for you.
If you take our tours, you'll know that cans are a great vessel for beer: light-weight, air and light-proof, and recyclable. It's been the coolest way for breweries to sell beer for a while. So why do people care when breweries "release them?"
It can be boiled down to a few points:
Cans are a novelty (until recently most breweries only bottled)
The beer is fresh, new, and exciting (hazy IPAs - what's that?)
It's exclusive (i.e. wait in line and brag to your friends on your can score!)
***Update 9/30*** Shortly after publishing this piece, Monkish made a big announcement - their own canning line! Great news for them! But, unfortunately, it seems like their release schedule and details are changing from what we've written below. We'll know more in the next couple days and then update you on everything.
1) WHY DOESN'T EVERYONE CAN?
A canning line is an expensive piece of equipment for a small brewery to invest in, so most choose the less capital-intensive bottling lines. This is why we haven't seen a lot of cans come out of LA, with a relatively recent explosion of breweries.. Until recently,The Dudes Brewing has been the only brewery producing large amounts of cans.
CANS FOR ALL!
The advent of mobile canning lines means a brewery can now rent a canning line for the day and produce limited batches of cans for their beer, without the upfront cost or need for space to purchase a full canning line.
2) WHAT'S SPECIAL ABOUT THE MONKISH CAN RELEASES?
They are combining their can releases with a total change to their beer style. For a long time, Monkish had a "no IPA" sign (since taken down) because they focused almost exclusively on Belgian-style beers, which are notably more malt-forward and less aggressively hopped than the beers found on the West Coast of the United States. These special can releases have introduced a style of beer that, to my knowledge, you couldn't find brewed in LA - Northeastern IPAs.
But, you ask, doesn't every other brewery in Los Angeles already make an IPA? Yes. Yes, they do. But they don't make this subset of IPA - the Northeastern IPA, brewed primarily in (you guessed it), the Northeastern US.
WHAT MAKES A "NORTHEAST" IPA DIFFERENT THAN THE IPAS I'VE TASTED BEFORE?
In a word - Juice.
These beers are best described as juicy. Substitute the malty and front-end hoppiness you're used to in an IPA with pineapple, guava, stonefruit, or other tropical fruity notes (and no, they aren't adding any actual juice to give the beer this characteristic). These hazy, cloudy IPAs get those tropical flavors from the hops themselves. And, it's not some drastically different kind of hops either. It's the way in which the hops are utilized that creates these flavors.
Hops are traditionally added when the wort (unfermented sugary "pre-beer") is boiled (for about 60 minutes). Depending on when you add the hops, you accent their bitterness, flavor, or aroma in a beer. Hops added early on in the boil are used for bittering. Towards the middle/end to create the flavor of hops and at the very end to create aroma in the beer. A West Coast IPA will add much of the hops at the beginning of the boil to get that sharp characteristic bitterness in the IPAs you are used to.
Northeast IPAs skip that early hop addition and instead focus on adding hops right near the end of the boil. The result? A beer Then they have an additional hopping stage in fermentation, called dry hopping. The end result? That juicy, danky, sticky, sweet-juicy beer that's all the rage these days.
3) HOW DO I GET SOME OF THIS MONKISH JUICE AND WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT?
Monkish has been releasing new cans on Saturdays since their first release on 4/3/16 - a collaboration with Other Half Brewing, titled aptly, First Things First. They release these cans at 10:00 AM roughly every other Saturday. The best place for info is the Monkish Instagram page where they'll send out details on their upcoming releases during the week.
Usually (but not always) 2 different beers are released at a time for $16 - $18 for a four pack of 16oz cans. Your full "allotment" is generally four-4 packs of 1 style and two-4 packs of the other style. This lets Monkish keep one style for some of the latecomers.
But, to get your hands on these bad boys, don't expect to waltz in at 10:00 AM and get your full allotment. People will start, no joke, lining up at 5:00 AM with chairs, coolers, music, and make it a whole event.
A word of caution - there is generally a decent amount of drinking in line and while Monkish makes it clear that is not cool, it still happens. In my opinion, it's only a matter of time before someone gets busted for drinking in line the morning of a can release - you've been warned!
HOW DO I MAKE SURE TO GET MY FULL ALLOTMENT?
While I haven't been to every release - or Hell, even most of them - it seems like if you show up by about 8:00 AM, you have a good shot of getting all the beer you're allowed to take.
4) IS THERE ANYWHERE ELSE I CAN GET THESE AWESOME JUICE BOMBS?
Yes. Yes there is. Mumford Brewing, located Downtown, makes an incredible northeast IPA called Unpresidential. Bonus Tip: largely under the radar, Mumford just did their first ever can release last month of Unpresidential and it's a great way to get some of this great beer to go without all the lines at Monkish.
In the South Bay, King Harbor Brewing makes a similar IPA they are calling a tropical IPA and Phantom Carriage brought some talent from the East Coast to brew a hazy IPA - yet to be released.
The great news is that all three of these breweries are on our public tour stops, Mumford is the first stop on our Downtown/Eastside and King Harbor and Phantom Carriage are on our South Bay Tour. Check out our schedule for more information.
Want to have a taste of Monkish on our tours? Gather some friends, rent the whole bus, and we'll customize a schedule for you on a private tour. Simpy fill out our contact form or shoot us an e-mail for more information.