This nautical pub festooned with fishing gear and portraits of old Irish men is a rare beacon of craft beer tucked along Starbucks-strewn Ventura Boulevard—an even rarer find in the suds-barren neighborhood of Encino. It also happens to be the first time LA beer pioneer Ryan Sweeney (The Surly Goat, The Blind Donkey, The Woodman down the road) has put his name on a bar. Here, you can expect one of the most impressive tap lists west of Sherman Oaks: a rotating roster of 28 drafts, featuring everything from Eagle Rock Jubilee to Dogfish Head’s 120 Minute IPA, plus an unparalleled selection of bottles that will burn a hole through your wallet faster than you can say Firestone Walker Vertical Barrel-Aged Anniversary Ale Tasting (around $50 for 1-ounce pours of rare vintages from the previous four years). A well-informed staff mans the 20-yard stick, and will gleefully walk newbies through the expansive menu. But Sweeney’s isn’t just for a proper beer education. A pair of shuffleboard tables, plenty of lounge seating and an airy patio sprinkled with flatscreen TVs make for an all-around good time.
Good for: Rallying friends and making the trek to the deep Valley for rare suds, comfort food (street corn croquettes are an absolute must, as is the prosciutto mac and cheese), endless rounds of shuffleboard, and a few craft beer lessons along the way. Service is swift and friendly, and the ambience is no-frills—perfect for testing the hoppy and sour craft waters. Did we mention there’s free parking behind the bar? Oh, the joys of suburbia.
The scene: Like moths to a flame, craft fanatics are drawn to Sweeney’s stellar selection. You’ll find those folks clinging to the bar. The space itself—nearly 5,000 square feet—offers plenty of seating inside and out. Even on the busiest of nights, there’s room to stretch out and knock back a few pints. Call dibs on the shuffleboard before the locals take over—it can get rowdy. And whatever you do, don’t dress up. It's not that kind of place.
The playlist: Sometimes, amidst the overwhelming clamor of conversation, you can faintly hear the dialogue from ‘80s movies like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Risky Business playing in the background. On game days, live football dominates the sound system. Music isn’t really important here. It’s all about the convivial chit-chat.
The bartender says: Get in on the happy hour: $4 wine, well cocktails and select craft beer seven days a week, 5-8pm. There’s a sharp cut-off, so don’t come late. The bartenders are the most down-to-earth experts you’ll ever meet at a bar, and there's no judgment if you order a sour and are completely disgusted.
Drink this: On our visit, the 28-strong keg list had some heavy hitters: Eagle Rock Brewery’s 7 percent Belgian Amber, Stimulus ($6), will make a coffee fan out of the most passionate of tea drinkers. I know this, because my date—someone who detests coffee, couldn’t stop drinking it. Made with Intelligentsia coffee, Stimulus is creamy and full-bodied without hitting you over the head with that roasty flavor. For something heavier, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co’s Narwhal Imperial Stout ($7) is a must. Thick like molasses, this bold, chocolaty and oaky (thanks to being aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels) stout will rock your craft beer world—and at 12.9 percent, leave you a little dizzy. For those with a less complex palate, or if all you’re looking for is a nice American Pale Ale, opt for Societe’s The Publican ($7). Smooth, citrus, and light on the hoppy finish, this brew is great for quaffing come spring. For the non-beer drinkers (though we’re not sure why you’d still come here), there are also 30 Irish whiskeys, including 21-year Redbreast for $39; 19 American whiskeys and 15 types of Scotch; plus seven whiskey- and rye-forward cocktails—all priced at $11, except for one: Dublin Donkey ($9), made with Tullamore DEW Irish whiskey, King’s Ginger liqueur, lime juice and ginger beer. It’s a nice refresher following a few hefty ales.
|Venue name:||Surly Goat Encino||Contact:|
17337 Ventura Blvd
|Opening hours:||Daily 6pm-2am|
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Average User Rating
4 / 5
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Sweeney's is a blast. Every time I've come here, the bartenders have been super helpful in figuring out what kind of beer mood I'm in. It's got a laid back vibe that really gels with the neighborhood, but you can come here on a first date too (until they start playing 90s R&B, and it gets really loud, and things get weird). Also, they have a shuffleboard, which is always key in my book.