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A stout taste of Armenia

Beer brewed with Armenian coffee will be featured at Dionicess X and sold at Tony's Darts Away in Burbank.

May 26, 2012|By Krista Simmons
  • Gevork Kazanchyan is spearheading a collaborative Armenian coffee beer called System of a Stout.
Gevork Kazanchyan is spearheading a collaborative Armenian… (Krista Simmons )

Within moments of stepping into Gevork Kazanchyan's Eagle Rock home, his mother Mary has placed a copper-colored jazzve of Armenian coffee on the stove. “How sweet would you like it?” she asks with a smile. A demitasse of the ultra-potent brew later, the conversation shifts to Armenian spirits. Bottles of Ijevan mulberry brandy are brought out. It's time for a tour of Gevork's pride and joy: the beer cellar.

Though Kazanchyan works in risk management by day, he is 100% beer geek by night, as evidenced by his fully stocked, custom-climatized fridge packed to the gills with global craft brews.

Thankfully that passion isn't lost on the populace: Since 2008, he has engineered a series of events titled Dionicess, which unites craft brewers, celebrated chefs and artisanal purveyors for an evening of gustatory delight. The series is toasting its 10th installation in June, and in honor of the occasion, Kazanchyan has tapped some of his brewing buddies to collaborate on a very personal project — a commemorative beer called System of a Stout.


The name is a play on the L.A.-based Armenian rock group System of a Down. The beer will include several quintessentially Armenian ingredients, including cardamom, Armenian cognac and, of course, coffee.

The idea for this regionally inspired beer was hatched at one of Kazanchyan's “inventory reduction parties,” where he and Portola Coffee Lab owner Jeff Duggan chatted over cellared beers about how they might collaborate. Duggan's coffee cred paired with his background in chemistry made him the perfect fit for a roaster. Then came the tough bit: finding a brewer. On a long shot, Kazanchyan rang up Julian Shrago, of the award-winning Beachwood BBQ & Brewing. Shrago agreed, and the rest is history in the making.

Dionicess has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 2008, where when Kazanchyan paired Glendale's Mignon chocolates with boutique wines for the inaugural event. His gatherings have since evolved to focus on matching craft beer with food in a unique, unexpected way.

“I look back at the time that I used to sit and taste everything with one other guy, and now I've got an Iron Chef winner [chef Eric Greenspan, Dionicess VII], an amazing world-class mixologist [Matthew Biancaniello, Dionicess IX], and a top brewer [Shrago] who want to collaborate,” says Kazanchyan, who grew up on the fringes of Thai Town and Little Armenia. “It's pretty amazing.”

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