It may be a little tricky finding this place at first. Nestled deep in a quiet strip mall a few blocks down from the Wiltern, Southland Beer isn't the first place that comes to mind for Koreatown imbibing. Inside, a craft beer haven dreamt up by two librarians—Tim Sturn and his wife, Orchid Mazurkiewicz—awaits. Nineteen ales from relatively nearby breweries like Smog City, Monkish, Barley Forge and El Segundo flow from the tap, some on nitro. There’s even a draft line reserved for cask-conditioned beer—more recently, MacLeod Ale’s Yankee Mick. But that’s not what sets it apart from Beer Belly up the street. Southland is the area’s first tasting room and bottle shop rolled into one. Tucked off to the side through an archway aptly labeled “BEER” in marquee lights is every brew hound’s dream: refrigerators and shelves chock-full of carefully selected bottles priced to-go. For an extra $2, imbibers can sample the suds on-site. Close quarters, communal seating, games and some interesting food pairings (aged Gouda and a double cream stout, for example) make this dressed-up hole-in-the-wall a solid neighborhood spot.
Good for: Post-work and pre-show drinks, though to be clear it’s beer (and only beer) you’ll be drinking. But don’t worry, there are brews for all palates, like mild ambers to funky sours. Share tasting notes in between rounds of Jenga, and order a few snacks—popcorn, hickory-smoked pistachios, or perhaps a slice of pecan pie—to hold you over until dinner. Southland is ideal for locals tired of the usual crowds, but an agreeable halfway point for friends coming from the east and west as well. The Wilshire/Western purple line station is within walking distance, but parking isn’t too bad either—the adjacent lot is free.
The scene: There always seems to be a spare stool along the 20-seater table. The ambience is no-frills, with music kept low and not a television in sight. It’s too well-lit to be a dive, but casual enough to feel like a second home.
Drink this: It’s always a good idea to order whatever is on cask. On our visit, it was the Yankee Mick’s—a smoky, velvety American Brown Ale hailing from MacLeod Ale Brewing Co. based in Van Nuys. Those with a sweet tooth can sip on the decadent Bittersweet Imperial Coffee Stout from Colorado’s Left Hand Brewing. At 8.9 percent, a 10-ounce pour should give you a nice second wind. And for something completely different, give Almanac’s Wakatu Sour a try. Dry hopped and aged in wine barrels, this American Wild Ale has a refreshing, lip-smacking tartness that will wake you right up (in case that coffee stout didn’t).
Our tip: If you like your bars nice and empty, you won’t have to worry about the place filling up until at least 9pm. We already mentioned the free parking in the mini-mall’s shared lot, but there’s also unlimited street parking on 9th street just west of Western.