LA Beer Week – The Emerging Craft Beer Scene
Los Angeles, as you know, is bigger than some US States. 5 years ago or more, the craft beer scene was vastly different than it is now. I am proud to hang my hat at many new establishments in LA County. There are still some I haven’t gotten to. It’s not that I’m snubbing them, its that I have a house full of amazing craft beer, and an hour drive is a long haul to get my craft beer drink on, just to turn around and go home.
When I first moved out here, there was only Naja’s, The Fathers Office, The Stuffed Sandwich, Lucky Baldwins, and the deceased Crown City Brewing in Pasadena. The places mentioned are part of what I call the old guard. They were here first, and they were here before craft beer was even a term. There are elements of each place mentioned that are desirable, and there are things about some of the places mentioned that turned me off to being a regular at these places. In the case of a killer place like Naja’s, it’s just too far. Whenever I make a compelling argument as to why I don’t like these places enough to frequent, I’m only met with “They were the first, gotta give them that.” Lame, yes.
Fast forward to 2010, and we now have a good handful of craft beer bars that can hold a candle to the hottest craft beer bars in the nation. Before I run down a list of amazing craft beer bars in Los Angeles, I want to tell you my criteria for a great one. It must have fresh, local beer on tap. They must have an actual tap list, so that in the event the wait staff isn’t informed, I can be. The beer lines must be clean, so that the beer tastes as the brewer intended it to, and either the proprietors have to pretend to care you are there OR the prices must be good. I call that one my Toronado SF rule.
Blue Palms Brewhouse – Hollywood, CA
Opened up a little over two years ago, Brian Lenzo opened up a craft beer bar next to the Music Box on Hollywood Blvd. After sitting down for the first time and looking over his well thought out tap list, I knew this guy “got it”. The atmosphere is chill, not real loud for the most part, chilled out patrons, and above average food. From a beer perspective, Blue Palms showcases the freshest local beers, and at very reasonable prices, especially for Hollywood. Brian has pretty deep knowledge of the craft beer industry, as well as his bartender Chris Quiroga, so in addition to fresh local beer, you shouldn’t be surprised to find some rare beer geeky treats on tap or in bottle. Blue Palms is very accessible by public transportation, so look out for some special events, and plan it out so you can have fun and be safe.
38 Degrees Alehouse and Grill – Alhambra, CA
Opened up a little over a year ago, in an emerging hot spot for night life, 38 Degrees Alehouse and Grill left the gate with force. With 38 taps to choose from, you can pick from a mix of fresh locals, as well as popular national craft beers and European favorites. Their line system is pretty amazing, they have a very short line going from their cold box to their tap, if you have a chance to take a peek, you will see there aren’t coils upon coils of beer lines leading up to their taps. When a keg happens to blow at 38 degrees, they are back up in running in minutes without having to watch them pour a pitcher of foam. The food is excellent, and is one of the details owners Clay, Brian, Chick and Mike pay attention to. Speaking of that crew, they are all very approachable, and have it in your interest to convert you to craft beer if you aren’t already.
Verdugo Bar Los Angeles ,CA
While I’m not positive on the exact opening date of the Verdugo Bar, I know it’s been open for a few years now. The place is dimly lit, a little on the gritty side. Think of a dive bar with an amazing tap list and no cigarette smoke. I like it a lot because it feels like “your local watering hole.” They don’t serve food here, but they do have gourmet food trucks roll up there all the time. The prices are good, and the owners are cool as well. If you have a chance, you need to stop in, grab a fresh local beer. They have a big presence on twitter and facebook, so you can find out when they will be having special brewery nights, and what food trucks are rolling up. They are also owners of the very new Surly Goat in West Hollywood. I am ashamed that I haven’t been there yet.
Eagle Rock Brewery Tap Room – Los Angeles, CA
Not even opened for a whole year now, GABF Gold Medalists Eagle Rock Brewery have made a cool, chill destination to grab a pint or two. Steve, Jeremy and Ting make you feel very welcome, as they pour glasses of their relatively small batches of craft beer. It’s a great stop on your way to Oinkster for some food. They do growler fills, so after you find out which one of their beers is your favorite, you can take some to go.
Tony’s Darts Away – Burbank, CA
Tony’s was a bar owned by a guy named Tony that was sold to a guy named Tony, or at least that’s the story I’m going with. Another beer bar that will knock your socks off, Tony’s has a gritty dive bar look to it, but there is nothing dive about the place. Ran by the lovely Paige Riley and her supporting staff, Tony’s goes by a few rules, which others would do well by as well. Their beer must be all craft, all draft and all California. They have their beer list split into two categories: IPA and Non-IPA, and needless to say, it’s all fresh. Their bartending staff is real nice, and I can tell you Dave Watrous is one of the coolest guys you’d ever want to have a beer with. Oh yeah, they have food too. They cater to vegans, but they also rock it hard with their sausage sandwiches. The beer and food is very reasonably priced. You feel at home when you are at Tony’s.
The Oinkster – Eagle Rock, CA
You might have seen Guy Fieri stuff his face with their famous pastrami and pulled pork, The Oinkster is a really cool spot in Eagle Rock, that feels like a throw back to simpler times. Why I like this place, more than their food, is that they are serving strictly craft beer on tap and in bottle. You can find a nice lineup of Stone, Eagle Rock, Craftsman as well as Lagunitas, Bootleggers and The Bruery. Come for the food, stay for the beer.
Places I still need to visit: The Fathers Office 2.0, Library Alehouse and The Surly Goat. If you can’t tell by reading this, it is exciting times for craft beer fans in Los Angeles. I hope to circle back next year and have more stellar beer bars to report about.