Every August for the last 9 years, the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens hosts a unique beer festival. For those of you who may not be familiar, it is called Brew at the L.A. Zoo.
This year, breweries, cideries, and a winery set up shop for the evening and poured tastes during the festival. In addition to all of the tastings, there was live music, pop-up zoo talks, food trucks, and animal discovery stations.
You are greeted at the entrance where they check IDs, scan tickets, and hand out the cups. You then begin your tasting journey by ascending the steps to the first tasting area. This year it was Firestone Walker Brewing Company and The Dude’s Brewing Company. Firestone had our favorite beer of the night called ZinSkin (ABV: 8.3%). According to Firestone’s website, ZinSkin was made from zinfandel grape skins that were fermented with one of their wild beers in 100% American oak barrels for 10-16 months.
From there you pass through the gift shop area and begin to see all of the animal discovery stations. These animal discovery stations are run by zoo staff and showcase some of the smaller animals that call the zoo home. Some of the animals, such as the snakes, you were able to touch if you were gentle. From there the zoo became your oyster. There were tasting and live music locations set up around the zoo, but some areas of the zoo are closed during the event.
However, as with any tasting event, there is a balancing act that must be done to maximize your personal experience. You must prioritize the different activities available. You have to decide when and if you want to see the animals, listen to the live music, or try the tastings.
We stress prioritization at these events for multiple reasons. First, you want to make sure you can see everything you want, but more importantly you want to be able to taste everything that interests you. At these events, some of the tasting booths may run out of product. This year at least 9 breweries were tapped out before 9:00 pm when the event went to 11 pm. To us this either means the breweries are very small and don’t have a lot of product, intentionally chose not to bring enough product, or were just not prepared for the event. We are personally hoping its the former of those two options, but it is important to note that there may be other reasons why the breweries did not come with enough product for the entire night. Whatever the reason, when multiple breweries run out of product the lines get increasingly long and you lose a lot of time waiting for a single tasting. However, it is important to note that location also factors in to whether a tasting booth runs out of product because people tend to go to the first booths that they see. We see this phenomenon all of the time with how people form lines at grocery stores.
One of the breweries that stood out to us was Braveheart Brewing. Braveheart Brewing is a veteran owned and operated from Oregon that donates money from every sale to support the POW-MIA Families, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, SEAL Family Foundation, and 03XX Foundation. We tasted the Frogman Imperial Red Ale (ABV: 7.5% | IBU: 49) at the event. This beer was made to honor the SEAL Family Foundation. By purchasing beer from Braveheart Brewing you can help provide support for the men and women who have risked so much in service of this country.
The following tasting stations were open to all festival attendees.
- 101 Cider House
- Anna’s Cider
- Babe Wine
- Belching Beaver Brewery
- Bluebird Brassiere
- Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer
- Braveheart Brewing
- Brewyard Beer Co.
- Calidad Beer
- Common Cider
- Elysian Brewing
- Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
- Four Sons Brewing
- Frogtown Brewery
- Golden Road Brewing
- Hard Frescos
- Lagunitas Brewing Co.
- MacLeod Ale Brewing Co.
- Mt. Lowe Brewing Co.
- Pizza Port Brewing Company
- Reel Brew, LLC
- Santa Monica Brew Works
- Simmzy’s Burbank
- The Dude’s Brewing Company
- Tortugo Brewing
- Transplants Brewing Company
These zoo experiences were open to everyone that attended the festival.
- Birds of Prey Animal Walkabout
- Giant River Otter Pop Up Talk
- Jaguar Special Feeding
- Harbor Seal Pop Up Talk
- Kangaroo Special Feeding
- Komodo Dragon Special Feeding
- Orangutan Special Feeding
- Sugar Glider Animal Walkabout
- Orangutan Special Feeding
- Jaguar Special Feeding
The VIP Experience
There is an option to purchase a VIP ticket for the festival. Here are the perks of the VIP ticket:
- Early Access – Enter at 6 instead of 7
- 2 VIP lounges with food, extra beer, and specialty cocktails
- 2 extra animal experiences
We opted to purchase the VIP ticket mostly for the access to the VIP lounges. However, due to work constraints we were not able to arrive at the zoo until 6:50 pm so we essentially missed the extra hour that is included with the VIP ticket. That being said, even though we missed the extra hour we felt that we made the right decision because we were able to bypass the general admission line.
There were two VIP lounges included for the VIP ticket holders. When you arrived at each lounge you received your free Brew at the L.A. Zoo swag. This year VIP ticket holders received a koozie and a lunch bag. In addition to the swag, VIP lounges included exclusive food and beverages. The food ranged from finger food (e.g., wings) to a full meal (e.g. burgers, bratwursts, mac and cheese, coleslaw. etc.). The VIP exclusive beverages included:
- Ironfist Brewing Company
- Smirnoff Seltzer
- Snow Leopard Vodka
Neither of us are the biggest vodka fans, but this vodka is definitely one of the better vodkas we have tasted. The best part though is when you purchase Snow Leopard Vodka you put your thirst for vodka towards a great cause. 15% of profits given to the Snow Leopard Trust which works to save the future of the snow leopard.
- Stella Artois
- WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye Whiskey
VIP Zoo Experiences
These experiences were only open to VIP ticket holders. The alligator feeding took place during the early admittance hour and the Asian elephant talk was only accessible through a VIP lounge next to the enclosure.
- Asian Elephant Pop Up Talk
- Alligator Special Feeding
Overall, we would rate this event a A- only because we purchased the VIP ticket and the VIP lounges make up for a lot of issues such as lines for food and the exclusive access to certain beverages compared to the general admission. If we only purchased the general admission ticket we would rate this event a B. The number of breweries that ran out of product with an hour and a half left in the event just left a poor taste in our mouth. But overall it is a fun night to explore the zoo while tasting some beer and hearing some good music.
Save the Date
If you missed the event year and are interested in checking it out next year and coming to your own conclusion, the event will be held on Friday August 7, 2020.