So it’s almost 2017 and I’ve come to a sad realization as the year draws to a close. Although I’m a Los Angeles transplant and have lived here for about three or four years off and on, I haven’t really been to that many of the city’s breweries. Perhaps it’s a bit of my born in the Pacific Northwest beer snobbery (I’d like to think for a good reason), but I really hadn’t experienced what the City of Angels had to offer for craft brews. If you don’t live in LA you probably have missed it — the craft brew scene here has exploded over the last five years. Most of these breweries take their influence from the micro-brews of their neighbors up north, and sometimes south a.k.a. San Diego, but what I had yet to see in LA was a craft brewery that truly represented the city. I’m pleased to report that today, there are many!
Here are a few breweries that I checked out over the last weekend and why I think you should come visit as well. Surely, if you’re in town for a few days the craft brew scene in Los Angele should no longer be overlooked.
#1 EAGLE ROCK BREWERY
Of the three that I checked out, Eagle Rock is by far the smallest and most humble. With that said, it also has a close knit intimate vibe and you can tell that the people there are probably from that specific neighborhood in LA. And that neighborhood is a bit odd. Like many of Los Angeles’ breweries, Eagle Rock Brewery is located in an industrial park, however unlike the rest, this specific tap room and brewing facility is in a small cast-away zone between Eagle Rock and Atwater Village. The street you park on outside seems a bit sketchy, especially at night, but I assure you that you’re in the right place. Once you open the door you’ll know that you definitely are.
My only previous experience with Eagle Rock Brewery was having their Populist IPA in bottle. I thought it was a good brew at the time, but not quite standout as far as Los Angeles IPA’s are concerned. However, because it’s their flagship and I wanted to have something to compare between all three breweries, I chose to give it another go on draft. I am so glad that I did! Populist IPA is actually my new favorite standard IPA in Los Angeles and with friendly and attentive staff, I will definitely be returning to this taproom. For those of you who prefer a darker brew like my friend Patrick (who came along), I suggest the Stimulus. It’s not as dark as most stout/porter drinkers prefer but the coffee notes were very tasty and the beer took us a bit by surprise. In addition, believe Manifesto is probably their most accessible of brews and I’ve heard is also a standout among California witbiers. It’s definitely what I’m trying next time. It should be noted that Eagle Rock Brewing does not have any food to order, nor alcoholic drinks for those with a different palate (non-beer drinkers).
#2 ANGEL CITY BREWING
The next day my girlfriend, Patrick and I all returned to the LA brew scene by means of two downtown / arts district brewing facilities. The first that we tasted was one of the local favorites, Angel City Brewing. For the first time in Los Angeles I entered a brewery that is something that has a vibe unique to Los Angeles. While many others strive to mimic the brew-houses/brewpubs from the Pacific North West and San Diego, Angel City’s was exactly what I was looking for on this weekend of exploring. When you arrive you enter into lot where a couple of food trucks have taken up residence. Very LA. The brewery itself does not sell food so this is what you’ve got if you’re hungry. When you enter into the actual brew house itself, the place feels like a LA take on a beer hall. Angel City as taken over an old factory that used to make cabling for bridges and with a double floor factory hall it is a great drinking playground. There were even a couple local artists inside that had set up shop selling everything from fashion accessories to paintings and pottery.
As for the bar itself, Angel City offers a wide variety of brews, but of those which I tried I decided to go with their standard, “Angel City IPA” for the comparison opportunity. The bar staff at Angel City was also very helpful and friendly. They offered samples of a few other beers in excess to the pint I ordered which was quite a treat. I sampled the “Zero Flocs Given IPA”, an unfiltered IPA as well as the “White Nite”. White Nite was recommended by Patrick and with him you know that the taster is going to be a real treat. White Nite is one of the most unique beers I’ve tasted. The look of the beer is similar to a pilsner, however the taste is like stout! The defining rich taste of coffee and chocolate shines though and it’s very good. As for Zero Flocs Given, I was a little underwhelmed, but that’s okay. It was still refreshing and a definite lighter choice for those looking for that. Patrick ordered the “Imperial Chai Stout” and it was delicious! So you might be wondering now, “What about the flagship?”. I’d previously only had Angel City’s IPA in bottle and it had been one of my favorite LA beers, however having it on draft left me wanting more. There wasn’t too much difference in taste between the bottle form and that on draft which as a distributor is certainly something to be aspired for, however as pretty much any beer drinker will agree, draft beer is where it’s at. Therefore, if the draft version of a beer is that similar to bottle, it leaves the drinker feeling a little empty handed. Overall, Angel City continues to be one of my favorite Los Angeles Breweries, and the vibe of their brewery is something that can’t be missed. I would still say to the Los Angeles visitor that if they were only to visit one area brewery, this one would be the one to see. Next time I come back, I’ll be looking for a little more on the hoppy side of their selection.
If you’re going to Angel City Brewing you might as well stop by the Arts District Brewing Company brewery… I mean it’s right next door. But Arts District Brews are worth your attention for more than just the sake of convenience. The beer is fantastic. When you step inside the brewery, you’ll notice one thing that the two others lack: Food. They also had a selection of games, from board games like checkers to arcade style games like ski-ball. One one on the end was broken so free plays for everyone! The inside is also something closer to what you’d expect in a large bar. A circular table similar to what most Yard House Brew House center around, the Arts District Brewing bar offers a selection of cocktails in addition to many of the craft brews. Don’t get worried. I’m going to focus on the beer, but this is a great place for (again) those of us accompanied by friends with a different palate craving something other than beer. We ordered wings, tots, and a chicken sandwich which we all decent enough, but not on par with the pub food you could get at other LA Brewpubs like Golden Road. However the beer here really stood out.
I sampled the “Scotch Scotch Scotch” and Cowboy Curtis but of course went with their Signature IPA “Traction”, again for the sake of comparison. Scotch Scotch Scotch is of course a scotch ale and it was very underwhelming with too many flavors that couldn’t get themselves figured out. However, the Cowboy Curtis was superb. As a smoked beer outside of Bamberg, Germany I really wasn’t expecting much, especially after trying their scotch ale but I’m pleased to say that it was excellent! Perfect on the amount of smokey flavor. Although not for everyone, this is definitely a fine beer and a well done tribute that any brewery should be proud of. For their IPA, Traction was very good. It had a great bite and was fairly smooth going down. No bad aftertaste and definitely left me wanting more… But this was a Sunday night and I had a busy day of travel in the day coming.
ONE, TWO, OR THREE
Of the three I’d say that Angel City had my favorite vibe, but Eagle Rock’s IPA – Populist was the best of the three. Art’s district still had something going for it as it seemed to be exactly what it was going to for, a local’s hang out. I’d definitely go back to all three, but I definitely plan on going back to Eagle Rock Brewery first. For me, it’s all about the beer. Let me know what you think in the comments! Where is the next Los Angeles Brewery that I should check out?