When people think of West Coast beer destinations, Portland, Oregon and San Diego immediately spring to mind.
“Los Angeles started as a beer bar town,” says Paige Reilly, director of operations for New Original Breweries, a quartet of breweries leading the L.A. scene. “Beer evangelists would flock to beer-focused pubs to taste the latest and greatest from breweries like Firestone Walker, Allagash and Sierra Nevada, or even further afield from Belgian and German breweries abroad.”
That’s changed during the last decade. Breweries have popped up across town, from the pioneering Eagle Rock Brewery to Chinatown hits like Highland Park Brewing to travel-worthy spots in Torrance like Monkish and Smog City. L.A. may have caught on a little late, but drinkers in the city have leapt face first into craft beer culture. “I think one of the reasons the L.A. brewery scene has grown as quickly and successfully as it has is because there was such a demand from day one,” Reilly says. She now counts 80 breweries and brewpubs among her peers. “It’s an incredible feeling to see those same beer bars filled with the same evangelists, but now they’re drinking almost exclusively L.A.-brewed beer,” she says.
Whether you’re an Angeleno looking to explore your local breweries or a visitor to the City of Angels, here are the seven breweries you need to visit.
Eagle Rock was the first brewery in 60 years to establish itself in L.A., and it kicked off the city’s modern craft brewery craze back in 2009. The brewery initially gained popularity for its Solidarity bottling (since discontinued) that proved Angelenos could brew compelling but fun beers, and the brewery’s innovation hasn’t slowed. These days, Eagle Rock turns out award-winning brews in a range of styles. Make a pilgrimage to this groundbreaking venue, and check out their sours and Day Trip series while you’re at it.
Opened in 2012, this Belgian-style brewery in Torrance is somewhat of a contradiction. At its core, Monkish is devoted to yeasty Belgian beers, aged meticulously by brewmaster Henry Nguyen. But in 2016, the brewery blew up when it introduced West Coasters to hazy, unfiltered IPAs, despite a sign that hung in the taproom for years that read “No MSG. No IPA.” The lines for weekly can releases haven’t ceased since, but we’d advise popping by anytime for one of Nguyen’s fruity saisons.
Since selling off Golden Road Brewing to AB InBev in 2015 and launching Artisanal Brewers Collective, Tony Yanow’s dream team has consistently opened some of the best beer spots in town year after year—including four breweries grouped under the title New Original Breweries. The Stalking Horse Brewery & Freehouse, 6th & La Brea, Bluebird Brasserie and Broxton are all fantastic, and we would be remiss to pick just one from the killer quartet. Simply direct your gullet to the nearest option, and settle in for a good time.
213 Hospitality is responsible for many of the best cocktail bars around L.A. like Seven Grand and The Varnish, but their brewery (in partnership with Brian Lenzo of the Blue Palms Brewhouse craft beer bar) shows the team can do anything beneath the nightlife umbrella. Arts District Brewing is really the ultimate daytime hang and boasts games like skeeball, corn hole and darts. Bring a crew, and direct any beer-averse friends to the full liquor bar for quality cocktails.
You’ll be able to spot Angel City’s bold neon signage from a few blocks away. Originally established in 1997, the brewery moved into its current Arts District home in 2013 after it was acquired by Boston Beer Co. by way of Alchemy & Science. The brewery’s historic digs, decorated with street art from Shepard Fairey among others, is worth a visit alone. You’ll also find the brand’s core range on tap along with a few exclusives, in one of the best places to drink in downtown L.A. Try the IPAs or one of the limited releases, which in the past have included an Avocado Ale and Speculoos Spiced Ale.
Smog City has been gathering accolades since it was a small contract brewing operation out of Tustin Brewing Co. But the fully fledged taproom in Torrance (just a hop, skip and a jump from Monkish) offers the brewery’s constantly expanding range. Start with their core beers, especially the unbridled Coffee Porter, before exploring their seasonal releases and solid sours program.
While the original production facility is located in Highland Park, the brewery you can actually visit is in Chinatown, where a relaxed, welcoming warehouse space provides the perfect backdrop for Highland Park’s fun, inventive brews. The brewery churns out a wide array of styles, but no matter what you choose, expect equal parts complexity and easy drinking. Highland Park also sports a kitchen, making it a full-service, all-day hang.