We’re heading to Los Angeles to throw Juicy Brews Beach Party at Brouwerij West on January 25th. Get your tickets here.
Los Angeles is huge — like, really huge. The city itself extends as far north as the Angeles National Forest, west to the Pacific Ocean, south to Long Beach and east — well, actually it doesn’t go that far east. The county does go quite far inland, however, comprising over 4,7000 square miles of Southern California. That is a lot of space for a brewery to set up shop in, and yet, for years, L.A. was considered a second rate beer option to San Diego’s overwhelming number of breweries.
That’s far from the case now. According to the Los Angeles Brewers Guild, there are 93 breweries and 101 designated destinations producing more than 5,000 unique beers, six of which just took home medals at GABF. While that’s still not as many as San Diego, it is plenty to choose from, leaving craft beer drinkers here with one less thing to defend (don’t get us started on the whole comparing L.A. to New York City thing).
First and foremost, know you’re going to need a car, and with that vehicle a very nice designated driver whom you can hand a kombucha to keep them satisfied, because we didn’t limit ourselves to Los Angeles city proper with this list. These are the five best breweries in the L.A. region, so buckle up, and pack enough layers to get you from the beach through those California cool nights — you’ve got some drinking and exploring to do.
Highland Park Brewery
1220 North Spring Street, Los Angeles | (213) 878-9017
When you really want to drink to the Dodgers but don’t want to spend $18 on a subpar stadium beer, this Chinatown taproom is where you go. The brewery is within walking distance of Dodger Stadium (though honestly, you’ll want to ride a bike or rideshare — we’ve got hills in this city!), making it a popular pre-game spot before ball games, but its spacious, friendly atmosphere and elevated small bar menu make it welcoming year-round. Though they’re best known for their dedication to IPAs — they execute both West Coast and hazy styles very well — don’t sleep on their funky, experimental saisons and farmhouse ales. The can and coaster art is also killer, with lots of love given to their now-ubiquitous cartoon cat.
(If you’re feeling extra ambitious, head over to the Highland Park neighborhood that the brewery is named after and pop into the Hermosillo, where HP originally opened up shop in a minuscule space in the back of the popular bar. The tap list features some of the brewery’s most popular, year-round beers, some newly released brews, and a healthy number of mostly local guest breweries, as well as wine options. Unlike the massive production space, this is a dimly lit bar, complete with ring toss and shuffleboard if you and your friends are feeling competitive or leather booths to tuck into during date night.)
Monkish Brewing Co.
20311 South Western Avenue, Torrance | (310) 295-2157
Monkish has reached cult status for a reason. Their releases are so popular that new cans are only announced on social media a couple of hours before the drop, which has only upped the hype and virtually assures absurdly long lines for these hard-to-get four-packs. Luckily, the bartenders are also highly knowledgeable about Monkish’s many bottle, can, and tap offerings and, frankly, the brewery is killing it on social media. Though they have a strong stout game, you’re going here for Monkish’s IPAs and pale ales, which frequently push one hop variety until they move on to their next favorite, which results in many thanks to the beer gods. There’s a limited amount of seating in the backroom and virtually none in the main pour room, but there’s a sweet monk mural to snap a photo with, a handful of wood barrels as tables, and very frequently a food truck outside.
Bonus brewery note: Parking is a little iffy here, but if you’ve managed to secure a safe spot, you might want to stay there all day; you’ll also be in walking distance of Smog City, Cosmic, and the Dudes, and if you’re really ambitious and need to get your steps in, Strand and Yorkshire Square aren’t much further.
16745 Schoenborn Street, North Hills
No one will make you pucker up quite like Cellador, which has the best sour game in town. Their carrot beer, The Carrot King, has become a thing of legend, but they’re regularly producing some of the finest and most unique saisons, farmhouse ales, and sours in the region, if not the state. They can also boast to being one of the only 100 percent oak barrel-fermented craft breweries in the entire country. Though Cellador is tucked away on an industrial block in a part of the San Fernando Valley not exactly known for beer, and its hours limit you to imbibing in-person only Friday through Sunday, the elegant space is perfect for getting some reading done if you need some alone time but even better for a little bit of learning, as Cellador is happy to school you on sours if you’re down for the lesson. You can even fill your backpack full of homework (i.e. the excellent bottle selection by the register).
110 East 22nd Street, San Pedro | (310) 833-9330
When a brewery’s most recognizable imagery is a black-and-white galaxy shaped like a Keith Haring figure (Popfuji, who has finally been immortalized in mural-form at the brewery), you know you’re in for an out-of-this-world experience. Tucked into the Port of Los Angeles, the brewhouse is a former U.S. navy warehouse built during World War II, and the space is simultaneously cavernous and stunning. You’ll feel like saying cheers to your 300 new friends scattered amongst the long tables set under string lights, and there is enough seating both indoors and out for the entire port. While it’s one of the most family-friendly breweries in the area, if you need some purely adult fare, Brouwerij West is also a live music venue that frequently caters to local artists and the 21+ only crowd. You’ll be glad former gypsy brewer Brian Mercer and his partners found this space in 2016, because it’s one of the most unique locations that any L.A. brewery has to offer. The complex but highly drinkable takes on Belgian-style beers and pilsners only help sweeten the deal.
Editor’s Note: Hop Culture is throwing a beer festival at Brouwerij West on January 25th.
281 South Thomas Street, #101, Pomona | (909) 461-6962
Pomona is about as far east as you can drive and still be in Los Angeles County, and many city dwellers will scoff at you for trying (this may be because they think the town is in Riverside County — it is not, but this has been said to this writer many times when she utters the word “Pomona”). Don’t listen to them — Homage is worth the drive, creating some of the most inventive brews in the region in the heart of the Pomona’s quaint downtown. The nano-brewery started as a Kickstarter baby but has grown into a formidable member of the L.A. beer scene with its unique blends and DIY ethos that fully fit the music-and-fashion roots of its owners, Matthew and Lauren Garcia. Their focus is experimental, blended takes on barrel-aged varieties, saisons, and lagers, as well as a deep love for dank hops, but do finish your trip to the gorgeous taproom with an adjunct-laced stout — they are basically dessert.
Honorable mentions: Smog City (Torrance), Modern Times (the Dojo Dankness lounge in downtown L.A.), Eagle Rock (Glassell Park for the production facility, Eagle Rock for the upscale brewpub), Mumford (downtown L.A.), and Beachwood (Long Beach and Seal Beach).
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