Lancaster’s Great American Beer Festival Medal Winner
By Hudson Lindenberger
For our fifth installment of our tour of California’s multiple medal winners from last year’s Great American Beer Festival we head east into the Antelope Valley. Lancaster is our goal, home of Kinetic Brewing Company.
When Kinetic Brewing Company opened its doors in December 2011 the parched residents of Lancaster finally had their own brewery. It seems ridiculous a city perched on the edge of the Mojave Desert had to wait so long for a brewer to hang his shingle. Luckily local boy Steve Kinsey had been experimenting in homebrewing for years and decided the time was ripe to open a brewery/restaurant on Lancaster Boulevard. Golden goodness has been shining on the community ever since.
Housed in a building that looks like it was transported from an old east coast neighborhood, Kinetic seems like a transplant from a different time. With exposed brick, ample windows, large projection television and a massive row of gleaming tap handles, you feel like you have stumbled through a wormhole – are you really in downtown Lancaster? According to Steve Kinsey the vibe they were shooting for was, “An old public place you can go and gather to get together with your friends.”
Left of the bar, large glass windows etched with their logo create a nearly imperceptible barrier between you and their daily brewing operations. You instantly feel comfortable sliding up to a table, and quaffing a couple cold ones seems natural – job well done.
The menu is comprised of fairly straightforward pub fare executed on a high level. A nice selection of appetizers, salads and sandwiches populate their menu. The ingredients are fresh and everything is made in house. The fresh Bavarian pretzel with a side of beer cheese sauce alone makes the drive from LA worthwhile. It is hard to find decent Poutine the further you drift south, but Kinetic transports you to the frozen north with their version – fresh gravy and locally sourced cheese curds smother homemade fries, delicious. The restaurant has earned a rating of four stars on yelp and it seems well earned.
With more than 25 tap lines, Kinetic has room to play, experiment and go crazy with their beer lineup. For the first year they shared tap space with various Southern California breweries in an effort to showcase the finest lineup possible. After conducting a semiformal poll a year ago they decided to showcase the best beers they could get their hands on from across the country. On any given visit you might find 50 percent of their taps given over to guest taps, usually following a loose theme – big Barleywines, IPA week, fruit beers or just a random mix. The atmosphere in the pub is as whimsical as their lineups with Monday night game nights, Firkin Fridays, bring your own vinyl dance nights and live music.
Their two bronze medal-winning beers from the Great American Beer Festival are usually on tap and are highly recommended. Torque won in the Session Beer category, this is a newer category that has developed to fill the publics thirst for flavorful beers that are not high alcohol. The LA Times describe them as, “‘Session IPAs’ – a relatively new hybrid style that brings the hop aroma and flavor of an IPA to a beer under five percent ABV – have been gaining popularity with brewers and beer drinkers.” Their version pours with a light golden color, a creamy two-finger head and a pleasant piney nose with a hint of grapefruit to it, not overpowering at all. It has an initial hit of bitterness that mellows quickly as it slides down your throat, and the excellent mouth feel for a Session beer leaves you wanting more.
Their other medal winner, Potential Blonde, won in the German Style Kolsch category. The style was born in the Cologne region of Germany at the beginning of the 1900s to combat the spread of Czech Pilsner’s that were rapidly eclipsing German styles. The beer is an outlier – it is created like an ale with top fermenting yeasts but stored cold like a lager. The result is a crisp refreshing beer perfect for long summer days, or a brewery on the edge of the Mojave Desert. Potential Blonde pours vibrant yellow with a sunny head; the aroma is light hops with a hint of malt. There is a hint of fruit, light strawberries and biscuits as you sip a beer definitely made for a hot day. It goes down light bodied with little to no aftertaste.
If looking for bigger bolder beers, grab their Afterburner Double IPA, a hoppy beast that demands attention. To succeed in the modern craft beer world you must deliver on IPA’s, and Kinetic does a decent job with this behemoth. It weighs in at 10.20 percent alcohol so be prepared – this beer is not for the faint of heart. It pours hazy yellow orange like the color of sunset over the desert with a decent thick creamy head. The aroma is not the piney blast one would expect from a Double IPA but more subtle. Hints of fruit, orange, tangerine and lime mix pleasantly with the underlying grapefruit backbone provided by the heavy dose of hops. The bitterness hits you right off the bat, strong but not overpowering, as the initial hit fades into the background you are left with a lingering resiny hop taste. It is a full-bodied brew that has minimal carbonation while maintaining a nice balance that leaves you wanting more.
Overall their catalogue of more than 25 recipes and generous allowance of guest taps ensures you won’t be lacking for options after you trip to Kinetic. They are currently adding more brewing equipment to keep up with their community’s demand for fresh local beer. Plans are to begin packaging their offerings within the next two years so for now look for one of their beers on tap at your favorite watering hole or head east of LA to Lancaster.