Take a moment people. We are in the golden age of the American craft beer movement and there’s no sign of stopping. Think about this: In 1982 there were 50 total breweries in the United States and in 2016, we’re hovering close to 3,000. That’s a beautiful thing. Let the big beer distributors whine all they want, this is about much more than just delicious beer. It’s about bringing pride back to the local level and Southern California has certainly gotten in on the fun.
From craft breweries with dedicated tap rooms to regular local bars simply upping their beer stock game, there’s never been a better time to drink beer in LA. With the help of resident SoCal craft beer guru, Sean Gentry, we break down which brewery tap rooms and stand-alone bars are pumping out the best brews in the city right now. Here is our UPDATED guide on where to make it all happen.
The post grad Fireball consumption zone that is Main Street also happens to be home to one of the best craft beer bars on the Westside. A solid restaurant in its own right (get that bison burger), Library Ale House has roughly 25 taps at any given time and hosts extremely popular tap takeover nights from the likes of Modern Times, Monkish, and other local breweries.
Santa Monica has never been known to endorse authenticity but search hard enough and classics do remain. Case in point: The Daily Pint. Open for over 25 years, this divey British pub has claimed ownership to a world-class beer list in an unrivaled atmosphere. Dimly lit, with pool tables scattered about, this is the kind of place 50 year old ex-pirates go to get their Stone limited releases and reminiscence about friendship.
For as exciting as this massive new Firestone Walker complex in Venice is, we get the sense the best is still yet to come. Because though it's already the best spot in the hood to grab a beer, some above average bar food, and catch a game, Firestone will soon start brewing out of this location too. The lean will be towards rustic, unfiltered ales you won't be able to find anywhere else. Consider us on board.
From the team that brought us Surly Goat comes this nautical-themed Irish bar that overnight became the go-to drinking hole for west Valley denizens. Encino and buzzy have never been directly associated with one another, but with a cool space and solid pub food to soak it all up with, Sweeney’s is on the fast-track to changing all that.
Hold up. There’s a craft brewery in Van Nuys? And it’s amazing? Yes and yes. Though still fairly new, this English-style brewery is already making major waves amongst beer drinkers. What’s an English-style brewery, you ask? Beers are brewed in cask, meaning right from the barrel with little to no carbonation. Curious yet? Go try it yourself in MacLeod’s awesome, industrial-style tap room.
Blue Palms Brewhouse is the best beer bar you probably don’t know about and the ideal place to grab a pint (or three) before seeing a show at the adjoining Fonda Theater. Keep an eye-out for their anniversary party too. This ticketed event showcases some of the rarest beer in the country with unlimited pours. Godspeed beer children.
Oh, The Goat. One of those places that everybody seems to have a story from, Surly Goat is an LA icon and one of the best bars to drink great beer and get f*cking rowdy. Seriously, the beer here is amazing. On any given night, Pliny The Elder can be found on tap and if that means nothing to you, get on your sh-t. It’s only one of the most sought-after IPAs in the entire world. Sip on that.
DTLA / The Eastside
Greetings from DTLA's best new brewery. Open less than a year, Mumford has been cranking out a solid lineup pretty much from day one. Their IPAs are all great and you're going to want to get heavily involved with the Black Coffee Mamba (made with Stumpton Coffee). The casual, open space has a great location right on the border of Little Tokyo and the AD, and you're even allowed to bring in your own food.
Arts District Brewing is the newest spot on our list, but make no mistake, it's a blockbuster. Located smack in the heart of the AD, the massive space has skeeball, ping pong, darts, corn hole, and a giant wrap around bar ideal for rolling in with any sized group. The beer list is good and accessible, and if you get hungry, there's a special window where you can pick up all the hotdogs and burgers you want from Fritzi next door. Saturday just got a lot more interesting.
There's no stopping the Arts District craft beer train as Iron Triangle has now thrown it's hat into the drinking ring as well. Though they are still very much in the early stages of building out their full beer lineup, both their dark ale and IPA are excellent and a good sign of things to come. Oh, and they might just have the coolest drinking space in the neighborhood.
Angel City has been brewing craft beer for close to two decades but it wasn’t until they opened their now iconic warehouse tap room in the Arts District that they really made their presence known. Sticking mostly to flagship beers (hefe, IPAs, etc.), Angel City offers an accessible beer list to its thirsty fans in the coolest confines in town. Just get down there early. Despite Angel City’s size, that weekend line gets nasty.
Sticking to the Arts District, Little Bear is yet another fantastic entry from the Surly Goat family bloodline. And step aside Meghan Trainor, because at Little Bear it’s all about that Belgian. Meaning we’ve found our official bar for Saisons, Lambics, Sours and traditional Belgian pub fare with a very nontraditional slant.
Located in an old Vaudevillian theater, this Eastside staple is one of the best beer bars in the city, no questions asked. With over 72 taps only serving California beer, it’s hard not to feel the local pride either. Along with new Stone and Ballast Point releases, Mohawk Bend is your best shot in town at landing a pint of a mythical Russian River beer as well. Oh and did we mention everything’s under $6.75?
Sunset Beer Co. is not only a great place to drink a beer, it’s also a great place to buy and take some home for later. Their to-go selection is downright impressive, but the rotating taps behind the tiny bar will keep you drinking there for awhile. With plenty of board games to go around and outside food encouraged, this glorified beer store is an ideal big group hangout spot. See ya Saturday.
Being the newest spot on the list, Highland Park Brewery is a fairly unknown commodity outside of the beer snob in-crowds but we suspect that will soon be changing. Sticking mostly to IPAs and sours, HPB has earned itself a reputation for brewing some seriously bold beer and not caring if you like it or not. We approve. They aren’t distributing yet so head over to Hermosillo Bar directly next door to get a sip of the most exciting new beer in town.
The SOuth Bay
Hold the phone. So the all-Belgian brewery that used to have a sign reading "IPA's" with an X through it is now brewing the best IPAs in all of LA? Believe it. They're now partnering with Brooklyn cult favorite Other Half Brewing and are cranking out IPAs that people are no waiting two hours in line for. They still have their 9.4% ABV Feminist Belgium-style tripel of course, but Monkish seems to have punched their ticket on the IPA glory train. Hop aboard.
BBQ and craft beer? Yes please. The brewery itself is most well-known for its stouts and IPAs (and a lot of them) but with great food and an even better downtown Long Beach location, it’s fair to say this brewery/restaurant is hitting on all cylinders. They've opened their sours-only "Blendery" across the street and oh, just took home the Best Large Brewpub in the world honors at the World Beer Cup. No big deal.
Fast fact: The industrial South Bay is considered the Holy Land of LA’s rising craft beer scene and you definitely didn’t know that this morning. And atop that impressive heap of craft breweries sits Smog City. Continually cranking out beer that has the snobs fawning, Smog City’s bare minimum tap room is a must-visit on anyone’s LA craft beer tour.
The South Bay’s newest brewery is also its most-talked about. Why? First, Phantom Carriage only produces sours, making it the only the brewery in LA with that distinction. Second, its tap room atmosphere is unparalleled. The whole setup is that out of a horror film and they even boast a small movie theater showing slasher films every night of the week. They don’t bottle so your only move here is to go straight to that tap room.
The Dudes’ bring to the craft beer scene a solid stock of flagship offerings (that Double Trunk DIPA of theirs is special) and one of the better tap rooms in the South Bay. With giant community tables ideal for you and your beer crawl, minutes turn into hours at The Dudes’ and nobody’s concerned about it.
Sporting a shiny, new tap room in El Segundo’s perpetually overlooked downtown, El Segundo Brewing has made its name by producing some of the hoppiest beer in all of SoCal. Frankly put, there isn’t anyone right now brewing better IPA’s than El Segundo Brewing. Their Hammerland IPA recently took home the Bistro Double IPA Award for Best in California, so your drive down this weekend is all but set.
If you prefer saying “WHAT THE F*CK?!” after sipping your beer, then this your holy grail. The Bruery has a well-earned reputation of being the most daring brewery in all of SoCal (if not the West Coast) and they have the beer to prove it. Wrap your mind around their Black Tuesday: a caramel, toasted malt, and anise infused Imperial stout checking in at a super casual 19.9% ABV. With an impressive (and always packed) tap room and an even better membership program, The Bruery has positioned itself as a true leader in the SoCal craft beer scene.
About a 5 minute drive from The Bruery and walking distance to Angels Stadium (read: trouble), Noble Ale Works is a new star in the national craft beer scene, having just taken home the Best Small Brewpub in the world award at the World Beer Cup. They're brewing up some fantastic IPA’s and a milk stout that will make you sob. So whether you’re getting your buzz on before the game or just enjoying your day in their tap room, Noble is an absolute must-stop.
The newcomer to the OC scene, Bottle Logic has always produced a solid lineup of flagship beer but caught fire this year with the release of their Fundamental Observation, a vanilla Imperial Stout not suited for beginners. Their tap room isn’t the largest one of this list, but we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t among the best. Get there now.
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