It all started five years ago, at a bar of course. Three friends who happened to share a passion for beer and are committed vegans were into a couple of drinks when an idea emerged. Why not launch a vegan beer festival?
In Los Angeles, where the caps start popping off cold bottles at a multitude of beer festivals as summer approaches, the vegan twist was a sure way to make this one stand out. And it helped that the three friends behind it were Nic Adler of the Roxy, Tony Yanow of Tony’s Darts Away and Quarry Girl, the anonymous (except to Nic and Tony and friends), whose eponymous blog is one of Southern California’s most famous sources of information on vegan food.
The first LA Vegan Beer and Food Festival was staged behind the Roxy on Sunset Boulevard. The trio attracted three craft breweries, two food trucks, ten other vendors and 350 guests. After two more years at the Roxy, the festival had outgrown that location. This year it will be held at 8950 Sunset Blvd. between Hilldale and Hammon (the site of the old James Hotel), where it can accommodate the 3,000 people who already have purchased tickets (it is sold out). This year 42 craft breweries have signed on along with 31 food vendors, including the well-reviewed Gracias Madre and Crossroads restaurants.
“It’s become known as a great beer festival,” Adler said. “The non-vegans have completely accepted it. It’s one of the most popular beer festivals in LA.”
But it’s not just about beer. Last year a third of the ticket buyers weren’t beer drinkers — evidence that it attracts a substantial vegan crowd. That pleases Adler, who also curates the food for the annual Coachella festival.
Adler became a vegan 18 years ago. Initially it wasn’t about taking a stand against cruelty to animals. “A friend of mine was sick and a doctor suggested he go on a vegan diet,” Adler recalled. Adler tried it. “It felt great. ”
Being a vegan means Adler has to know what he’s eating, a growing issue in a society where the use of antibiotics and other chemicals in animals raised for meat has raised concerns among scientists and health advocates.
“I know way more about my food than I did eating the standard American diet,” Adler said.
Adler noted that being a vegan no longer requires making a sacrifice, at least in Southern California. “There’s even vegan fast food,” he noted.
The festival offers more than food and beer. The music includes bands like “He’s My Brother, She’s My Sister,” “Heaps n’ Heaps,” “Fathers & Suns,” and “The Battlefield” and Megan Jacobs. Then there’s the “Chalk Walk,” a way to bend over and express yourself in public.
The festival is an obvious success at a time when questions have been raised about other events such as the Sunset Strip Music Festival and the Sunset Strip Farmer’s Market. The former has seen its costs grow, resulting in losses for the Sunset Strip Business Association. The Farmer’s Market has seen attendance fall. The SSBA has hired an event producer to recast it. When it resumes its summer and fall season a week from Thursday it will be renamed the “Sunset Strip Craft Beer Market.”
The event begins at noon for VIP ticket holders and at 1 p.m. for everyone else. But if this is the first you’re hearing about it, the bad news is that it’s already sold out.