Catching Bugs for Beer and Science

Making beer is hard work. But it would be impossible without the diligent support of the organisms that keep our brewery going. From the yeast that ferment our grains into alcohol, to the bacteria that make our Funky Wit so funky, to the bugs that pollinate our ingredients and keep our ecosystem strong.

Because we know keeping the environment strong keeps our beer tasting great, we’ve partnered with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County on their research initiative BioSCAN (Biodiversity Science: City & Nature). This first-of-its-kind scientific investigation is discovering and exploring biodiversity in and around one of the world’s largest cities: Los Angeles. As part of their project, they are installing insect traps all around LA – from backyards across Los Angeles, to City Hall, to the top of the US Bank building, to our very own roof.


But these traps are not your average roach motel. These tent-like traps are passive, and utilize an insect’s psychology to trap and preserve them in ethanol. When the bug smacks into the vertical wall, its instinct is to fly upward, which leads them right into our bottle of 95% alcohol. The BioSCAN team will collect these insects, and later this month, will explain their findings right here at the brewery, complete with a photo gallery of insects and a special beer made just for the night.


Lisa Gonzalez, an Assistant Collections Manager in the Entomology section at the NHM, came to our roof to construct the trap on a warm day in early March. The roof provides an ideal place to capture flying insects, because our hop garden and vegetable patch is the perfect lure for pollinators looking for something sweet.


Pollinators like bees (and also flies, butterflies, and some beetles!) are an essential part of any thriving ecosystem. Without them buzzing in between all of our plants and passing the pollen back and forth between the males and females of the species, plants like this pomegranate tree would never bear fruit.


Luckily, while Lisa was building the trap, Ray Narkevicious (above left), our rooftop farmer, stopped by to water the plants. His unique organic farm features soil made from the spent grains from our brewing process, and a recirculating water system that keeps our water waste low. Ever resourceful, Ray took the opportunity to ask Lisa how to keep pests out of his garden (without harming the environment along the way).


Rays hops are just starting to peek out of the soil now, but this one is already over a foot tall. The hop bines grow symbiotically with other plants like lettuce, tomatoes, aloe vera, and dragonfruit, to keep the soil rich and the hops growing strong. By the end of the summer, the hops will grow to about 18 feet tall, and we will pick off the fragrant buds to put in our beer.


Because no one has ever really studied urban areas like Los Angeles for their biodiversity in this way, the BioSCAN project has already seen a huge amount of success. 30 new species have already been discovered, and the team fully expects to find more.


This photograph by Kelsey Vo Bailey illustrates one of the beautiful creatures we have lurking all around us. With the Bioscan project, we will finally know more about them. This insect, known as Strepsiptera, or the Twisted-wing parasite, parasitizes other insects. When insects parasitize pests to humans and agriculture, they can be utilized as a way of keeping crops healthy in a sustainable way. Kelsey’s beautiful photography will be on display in our gallery space in the weeks leading up to the event.


Of course, no Angel City event would be complete without beer, so we teamed up with the NHM to design a recipe befitting such a night. Together, we came up with Bug Juice – a strawberry wheatwine served on cask for one night only. Don’t worry, no insects were harmed in the making of this beer, but it does include strawberries sourced from our weekly farmer’s market, five different sources of local honey (wildflower, orange blossom, avocado, buckwheat, and eucalyptus) and of course, hops from our very own rooftop. It’s guaranteed to leave you buzzing.

If you want to taste this beer, see some gorgeous microscopic photography, and learn more about the fascinating life of LA County bugs, make sure to head to Angel City on April 21 for Bugs ‘n’ Brews!