L.A.’s best breweries
From a tiny outpost in the Hermosillo bar to a massive buildout in a Chinatown warehouse, Highland Park Brewery’s grown from an L.A. underdog to one of the city’s most adventurous, innovative and collaborative breweries. While you can still pull up a seat in the Hermosillo for a handful of HLP Brewery beers, the kid- and dog-friendly Chinatown location is a stunner, and it’s where nearly all of the releases, parties and events take place. (Note: It gets crowded, especially on release days.) The newer, larger digs provide a full kitchen for some of the best drinking snacks in town, plus double the tanks, allowing the team to crank out more experimental, funky and collaborative new beers. The menu board swaps out brews frequently but we’re partial to their barrel-aged sour ale, and the rotation of hazy IPAs often packing the brightening punch of pineapple, citrus or mango.
The juggernaut of the Southland beer scene, Golden Road is L.A.’s largest brewery. Some of that is due to the company’s much-maligned 2015 acquisition by Anheuser-Busch, but it hasn’t degraded GRB’s hop-forward beer selection—or its Atwater Village location’s bustling beer-garden atmosphere. GRB’s original space features a bright-and-airy interiors and a shaded outdoor area, which both buzz with 30-somethings, happy toddlers, cornhole and live music. Golden Road is heavy on IPAs, but also serves wine, gluten-free cider and—perhaps most uniquely of all—a range of vegan food. If you’re not near Atwater, you’re still in luck: There’s an outpost in Downtown’s Grand Central Market, plus a location in Anaheim with a killer patio. There’s even a Golden Road in Sacramento and, of course, you can find the beers sold in bars and bottle shops across L.A. It wouldn’t be an L.A. summer without a can of Mango Cart wheat ale. Good thing they’re everywhere.
After closing up its Alpine Village storefront in 2010, Angel City Brewery rooted itself in an expansive, century-old John A. Roebling building in the Arts District, the former production site for suspension cables that made their way to the likes of the Brooklyn and Golden Gate bridges. The warehouse space keeps that industrial feel with a bare-bones vibe and plenty of room to spread out among picnic tables while you sip on IPAs, pilsners, lagers and limited releases. Tacos & Trivia Tuesdays bring beer nerds together each week, while karaoke, art shows, yoga, food pop-ups and one-off events make this communal gathering space a place for more than just beer. If you’re a first-timer, the the classic Angeleno IPA is a solid choice with a bold, grapefruit-infused flavor. For those in search of something more unique, the annual kolsh-style avocado ale should do the trick.
Operating as the more experimental hub for the San Diego beer company—which also happens to be California’s first employee-owned brewery—Modern Times’s DTLA research-and-development facility churns out some of the brand’s most funky and eccentric brews, such as the tart, grapefruit-packed Fortunate Islands IPA, or their barleywine. It also serves as a coffee shop (selling cold-brew flights and bourbon-barrel-aged beans), not to mention an all-vegan gastropub. Decorated with vintage Beta-tape cases, comic strips and colorful piñatas, the Dankness Dojo sets the mood for fun—which is perfect because that’s exactly what the beers they brew are. Keep your eyes out for special releases such as the brewed-in-DTLA imperial dessert stout Shadow Temple, made with coconut and almond. In addition to cans and crowlers to take home, you’ll probably walk out with some merch, too—after all, these guys have some of the best shirts, enamel pins, hats, glasses and posters in the beer game.
Craving some serious eats with your beers tonight? Long Beach gem Beachwood Brewing and BBQ stocks 22 rotating taps of craft brews, many of them made onsite—and for those that aren’t, you can trust Beachwood’s recommendations on the rare and specialty beers that they source from around the world. Favored by brewers and serious beer drinkers across L.A. and beyond, Beachwood’s known for its limited releases and experimentation. In fact, they’re so into experimentation that they launched the Blendery just a block away, where they play with a variety of Belgian-style sours and imbue them with everything from umeboshi to sea salt. But people come to Beachwood for the food, too: Their menu boasts ribs, pulled pork and brisket, all dry-rubbed and slow-smoked and served with the sauce on the side. Name a more iconic duo than BBQ and beer, we’ll wait.
Though the taproom at Eagle Rock Brewery might be small—with a few tables and chairs where visitors can take advantage of the board games on hand—this microbrewery’s beers pack big flavor. A handful of brews are offered year-round, along with a selection of seasonal beers that we wish would stick around longer. This team doesn’t focus on one or two particular styles, veering instead toward balance across the board (we highly recommend the Populist, a West Coast IPA and a great summer beer—good thing it almost always feels like summer in L.A.). If you’re just getting into craft beer, Eagle Rock Brewery is a perfect place to start: The tours are highly informative, and regular events include the Women’s Beer Forum, where ladies who drink can sample and discuss a flight of four beers on the each month.
San Diego's Border X Brewing finally made its way to L.A., bringing horchata golden stouts and hibiscus-infused saisons to a spacious taproom and microbrewery outpost in Bell. The Latin-owned and -inspired company weaves Mexican flavor and pride into its craft beers, resulting in unique but familiar concoctions in the glasses, plus culture all around the space. As you sip pepino (cucumber) sours, coriander-scented goses, and chocolate stouts rich with the taste of Abuelita's, take a look around to catch paintings and photos from local artists, and keep your eyes peeled for occasional live performances and lotería.
You might pass right by the Smog City taproom if you don’t pay attention. From the outside, the humble brewery looks just like all the other warehouses on Del Amo Boulevard: white, boxy, industrial. Pull into their parking lot, though, and you’ll immediately spot beer-wielding Torrance folk spilling out of the door. The family-run brewery started making beer in 2011, and built up enough of a presence to open their own brewery in 2013, and now, an outpost in Long Beach’s SteelCraft food court. Locals can pick up growlers of Smog City staples (the coffee porter and the West Coast IPA are serious crowd-pleasers) or put their stamp of approval on variations by the glass. After scanning the blackboard for what’s on tap, order a couple tastes or a pint, grab a bite from a nearby food vendor or truck, then find a spot at one of the handful of tables and get ready to shoot the shit with complete strangers.
Skee-ball, darts, ping pong, great bar food—Arts District Brewing is more than just a brewery, it’s a bona fide party spot. Its 15-barrel system pumps out some stellar varieties here, including the flagship Traction, an IPA infused with papaya and mango, and the Mateo, an easy golden ale that can effortlessly pair with some of the pub-style comfort food that gets passed from the food-service window and into the taproom. Prime-rib Sloppy Joes, mango habanero wings, chorizo burgers, salads and nachos are all on offer and, let’s be real, pair with just about everything. There’s a full cocktail bar if you want to amp things up a bit, but first-timers should opt for a beer flight to sample what Arts District Brewing does best.
You've probably heard of "slow food"—letting meat, seafood and produce naturally grow and mature—but what about "slow beer"? This small, community-minded Pico Gardens outfit gives their brews time to breathe (sometimes for three years), and some natural oomph to knock 'em out of the park: experimental botanicals, wild yeasts and local ingredients make their way into barrel-aged sours and ales, including pineapple, fuyu persimmon, tamarind, and black tea. It's also one of L.A.'s most environmentally friendly breweries—but if you're not stopping by the industrial-chic taproom for Dry River's ethics, you're definitely doing it for the beers: some of the most intriguing small-batch brews in town.
Ohana Brewing Co.’s actual brewery may be located in a Downtown warehouse, but its tasting room is far from industrial—and far from the actual brewery. Instead, head to Alhambra, where a quaint storefront window reads “Ohana Brewing Co.” in Hawaiian-inspired script. The family-run operation started in a garage but now slings incredible beers at its storefront, all worth sampling (though tastings are limited to four per customer). The 10-or-so list of beers ranges from the Tiki on the Beach, a fruity, tropical blonde ale, to the Special Tap, which is a rotating selection that Ohana uses to play around with ingredients like cucumber, coffee, matcha and kumquat.
Leave it to 213 Hospitality to reimagine one of L.A.’s historic spaces, and leave it to Pizza Port vet Devon Randall to brew some serious spins on the classics. Imperial Western Beer Co. is a humming 18-barrel brewery and beer bar housed in a show-stopping wing of Union Station. There are more than 20 beers on tap, some for as little as $5, with a focus on sours, IPAs and lagers—with a few stouts thrown in, for good measure, and they’re unique; “Belgian-esque” goses might get a pinch of coriander, while the fruited sour’s entirely inspired by tiki. There are game tables galore to keep you entertained, not to mention bar bites such as fish tacos, grilled oysters, burgers and fried mushrooms. Its sibling cocktail bar, the Streamliner, slings efficiency-oriented classic cocktails in a moody adjacent space—but come on, you’re here for the beer, aren’t you?
MacLeod Ale owners Alastair and Jennifer Boase know a thing or two about “real” ale. The small-batch beers at this Van Nuys brewery are made with imported English grains, naturally carbonated, cask conditioned and served at cellar temperature straight from the casks they were fermented in. In addition to serving some of the best cask beers in L.A., the brewery also offers a vast selection of draft and nitro beers. For local beer drinkers, MacLeod provides a taste of something different in a laid-back, friendly atmosphere. For British expats, it’s one of the only spots in town to get a proper pint. All of the pints are priced at a reasonable $8 or under, with beer flights available for those who fancy a bit of everything. Little Spree, a Yorkshire-style pale ale, is a good place to start your re-education.
The only place to buy Monkish is from the taproom, so to Torrance you shall go. You’ll find the brewery just around the corner from Smog City, in fact, and when you get to the family-operated brewery that specializes in Belgian beers, you’ll be greeted by free pretzels. (Not a bad way to begin.) While the Belgians are fantastic (especially the tripel with hibiscus), you should also opt for one of the IPAs or a sampler of four beers. Need to nosh on something other than pretzels? Food trucks make regular appearances and you can find the schedule right over here.
At its alehouses in Pasadena, Long Beach and Santa Ana and the brewpub in Azusa, Congregation’s Trappist monastery theme (stained glass, wrought iron chandeliers and Old English script) provokes actual complaints of blasphemy. Undeterred, this seasoned brewery has perfected an eclectic list of appropriately named beers: Passion of the Kolsch, Praise On! Saison, and the popular “Forbidden Fruit” Blackberry Tart Belgian witbier. The OG Pasadena location’s 20-somethings crowd loves the outdoor seating, the sizable tap system with local guest beers and premium imports, its full food menu (order the house-made pretzel) and the explosive trivia nights.