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Maybe it’s not LA’s fault that the outside world knows it not as a destination for world-class beer, but as a magnet for smog, excess, fame seekers and individuals who entertain themselves by getting photographed in various stages of undress. On the other hand, maybe it is. But that’s beside the point. Because the point is this: Los Angeles is an absolutely massive place, teeming with a multitude of people. If only a tiny percentage drank good beer, that would still be a staggering number of craft drinkers sprawled out between the mountains and the ocean.
And the percentage is far from tiny. Los Angeles is enjoying a craft beer explosion. It’s drawing in kegs from the greats in San Diego and northern California, mixing them in with a growing number of homegrown startups and spreading the gospel from Hollywood to the beaches and the far-flung valleys. These are the best places to grab a pint in Los Angeles, as selected by the BeerFly users on BeerAdvocate.com.
We’ll start in Hollywood, since it presents the greatest contrast between what LA is known for and what you’ll find. Once a haven for all sorts of misery and vice, the neighborhood has recently evolved into a holding pen for the newly rich, replete with shiny condos and sleek cocktail spots. And sitting in the middle of it all is the Blue Palms Brewhouse, an oasis of good taste in a neighborhood of floral-colored martinis; a spot of good company in a sea of tourists clutching star maps. While in the neighborhood, make the trek down the road to the Surly Goat, a new spot that marries ever-rotating taps with an ambitious cellaring program.
You need a car to get around this town. That’s a given. Doubly so for visitors hoping to visit LA’s top suds producers. Eagle Rock is on the edge of Glendale, and it’s the close one; Craftsman’s up in Pasadena, Ladyface is way out in Agoura Hills, and Wolf Creek is stuck in the sticks of Santa Clarita. Ladyface is particularly worth seeking out for its unusual Belgian- and French-inspired ales. And clearly, no visit out West is complete without a trip to the beach. Santa Monica’s famed 100-year-old pier matches the ocean with its natural pairs—a carousel and roller coaster. The city is also home to a bevy of fine beer bars, the Daily Pint, Library Alehouse and Father’s Office foremost among them.
Lucky Baldwins Delirium Pub
Lucky Baldwins, an English-leaning pub in Pasadena, boasts 62 taps, many of them rarities, and not a single one of them dumbed down. Likewise, their Belgian-inspired Sierra Madre spinoff refuses to disappoint. You won’t find a finer pair of pubs in the LA basin.
Craftsman Brewing Company
Craftsman scores high marks from BAs for their Smoked Black Lager, Russian Imperial Stout IPA, as well as their herbal wheat beer brewed with sage.
Wolf Creek Brewing Company
It’s a hike out to Santa Clarita, but Wolf Creek’s beers provide more than adequate compensation for time lost in traffic. Bar food is terrific, and the five rotating house taps are out of sight. Keep an eye out for their killer Red, aged in bourbon barrels.
Ladyface Alehouse & Brasserie
A new brewpub specializing in Belgian, French and aggressive American styles. Five taps plus a cask plus an insane guest tap lineup. One BeerFly user implores, “You need to go check this place out. Now.”
Strand Brewing Co.
Here’s another newbie we’re excited to see more from. Strand’s flagship, 24th Street Pale, is balanced and insanely tasty. We’re eagerly awaiting the follow-up.
Naja’s boasts a beer list that’s impressive in any town, and it’s downright massive in LA: More than 80 taps, and a bottle list that rolls 200 deep, at least—and right on the beach.
The Daily Pint
Here’s what passes for a dive in Santa Monica—a worn-in, well-loved pub with pool tables, a jukebox and a whole mess of California crafts on tap.
Lively atmosphere, good food, 19 taps and Rochefort 10 in the bottle. There is absolutely nothing to object to here.
An LA drinking institution, albeit an off-kilter one, for more than 30 years. Stuffed Sandwich has its quirks—occasionally gruff service, BYO glassware and mandatory sandwich purchases among them. They also have a beer list that runs 700 bottles deep. Advantage, beer list.
Here’s a divisive pick: Father’s Office packs 72 top-notch taps (look for multiples of Russian River, Bear Republic and Stone), but alienates some egalitarian drinkers with mobs of customers looking to be seen. The bottom line, as one BeerFly user puts it: “If it wasn’t good, there wouldn’t be a crowd.”
Eagle Rock Brewery
This new father-son brewery, sitting on the edge of Glendale, launched with three beers that show much promise: a Black Mild, a floral XPA and a lightly spiced Wit.
Blue Palms Brewhouse
Two dozen top-flight taps. Absolutely no filler to be found. Bartenders who know and love what they’re serving. All in the middle of Hollywood. Who would’ve thought?
The Surly Goat
This West Hollywood newcomer pours from 27 rotating all-star craft taps, adds in a healthy selection of bottles, and tops that off with a growing book of rare and cellared brews. A true beer geek magnet in the making.
A recent BeerFly review calls the Boneyard “a BBQ lover’s delight and a beer lover’s paradise.” Tough to argue with 150 different bottles to wash those ribs down with.
38 Degrees Ale House & Grill
Thirty-eight taps, several dozen more in the bottle and some tasty burgers make a welcome addition to a neighborhood not usually known as a beer hotspot. Until now.
Verdugo promises beers, booze and beats. We enjoy all three. Therefore, we are totally down with this place. A craft selection some hundred strong does the trick quite nicely. ■