Essential LA County Breweries You Need to Try
In the last decade, the number of breweries in LA County has gone from zero to 100 -- to be more accurate, it’s gone from one production brewery and a handful of brewpubs to 90-something beer-makers, but who’s counting? The important thing is, there’s lots of new beer to drink and (in typical LA fashion) experimentation; even the traditional is non-traditional here. Not sure where to begin? From oak-aged sour beers next to a music venue in Pomona to the fresh-obsessed hop-fathers of the South Bay, these are, in no particular order, the best and most essential breweries in the LA area right now.
Mark Jilg is the OG of LA beer. A perpetual tinkerer, Jilg quit his job at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and started producing beer out of a Pasadena industrial park in 1995, setting the stage for other local homebrewers to eventually enter the market. His British ales, German lagers, and occasional barrel-aged sours are bastions of Old World tradition, made in limited quantities and distributed only to trusted accounts.
Must-try beers: Poppyfields, 1903 Lager, Triple White Sage
If there’s one brewery that’s cultivated LA’s love for bitter, hoppy beers, it’s El Segundo. Bottles of their uber-fresh house Citra pale ale, West Coast IPA, and more can be found as far away as Oregon, but head to the the taproom near LAX for the real fun: juicy IPAs, dry-hopped wheat ales, and award-winning Mexican-inspired lagers fresh from the taps.
Must-try beers: Mayberry IPA, Hammerland DIPA (any IPA, really), Casa Azul Mexican Lager
After being named the Best Brewpub in the Country (and then the world) for brewer Julian Shrago’s perfect stouts and IPAs, the award-winning Beachwood Brewing expanded its downtown Long Beach footprint in 2015 with a barrel room and sour beer lab, where, through a rigid scientific process, brewer Ryan Fields tries to recreate the precise aromas and flavors of testy Belgian lambics. A gold medal at the 2018 GABF proved the concept.
Must-try beers: LBC IPA (Beachwood), Hoppa Emeritus (Beachwood), Pablo Escobeer (Beachwood), Chaos is a Friend of Mine (Blendery), Funk Yeah (Blendery)
Andy Black is obsessed with traditional British “real ales,” so much that at every job he’s had, he’s exclusively brewed naturally carbonated, celler-temperature Scottish and British-style beers that get pulled direct draw from a cask via hand pump. Low in alcohol and loaded with complex malt bills, the experience of drinking a perfect cask pour at Yorkshire is a must for any beer fan.
Must-try beers: Early Doors English Bitter, The Tenant Pale Ale
As one of LA’s few all oak-aged breweries, Cellador’s brewery is actually just a room filled with barrels in the shadow of the Budweiser plant in the San Fernando Valley. From this room, though, comes a variety of coveted cork-and-cage bottles, each filled with a finely selected blend of mix-fermentation sour beer so funky and nuanced that it just might be worth all the hustle to find.
Must-try beers: ++Good, Firegold Blend, RƏstik Blend
There aren’t many brewpubs that cook French onion soup every day, brew obscure grisette ales, and serve meals that come with unfettered views of rustic hillscapes -- but then again there aren’t many brewpubs like Ladyface Ale Companie. This place is what happens when a chef and brewer work together to transport you to the south of France, without ever leaving an Agoura Hills shopping center.
Must-try beers: La Grisette, Dérailleur, anything barrel-aged or from the “Archival” series
The team at Dry River Brewing likes to call its creations “slow beer” -- alcoholic beverages that can’t be rushed, and instead take untold time to mature in used oak barrels. The resulting wild ales are decidedly experimental, sometimes tasting as tart as acid rain or as oaked as fine wine, perfect for sipping slow in their hand-made Boyle Heights tasting room.
Must-try beers: Lady Roja, Para Sol, Sequioa
Highland Park, Chinatown
Originating with a brewing system tucked into the back of a neighborhood bar in Highland Park, HP Brewery’s expanded with a new brewpub that just took over a spacious repurposed warehouse on the outskirts of Chinatown. Combined with a constant slate of sessionable lagers and hoppy beers that are more complex than meets the eye, Highland Park Brewing is decidedly one of LA’s top flagship brands.
Must-try beers: All IPAs, Refresh Lager, Lazy Susan
From the first beer it released -- Solidarity, a black mild, 3.8% ABV -- Eagle Rock Brewery has charted its own path. As one of the first few breweries to open in this current wave of LA craft beer, it set the tone for the city’s scene with a cozy neighborhood taproom and a lineup of both dependable and experimental locally inspired brews.
Must-try beers: Solidarity, Stimulus, the entire Day Trip series
Inglewood’s only brewery hasn’t stopped growing since it opened four years ago, and its precision-execution, year-round beers can now be found on shelves across the region. Though the company sold a major stake to the venture capital-backed CANarchy collective a few months ago, not much will be changing in the brewhouse -- except, um, more beer.
Must-try beers: Deep Roots ESB, Seafarer Kolsch, Return of Sassy IPA
When you’re touring the world in a hardcore band, it’s hard to keep up with your homebrew -- which is why tthe brewer behind Homage dropped his career as a member of Horse the Band and teamed up with another fellow musician to instead pay “homage” (get it?) to their favorite creatives by making complex saisons, hazy IPAs, sour ales, and more. Rock on!
Must-try beers: We’ve Been Had, Reckoner, always try the latest sour release
Levi Fried and Harmony Sage are an LA beer power couple. Together the husband-and-wife team turned their mutual obsession with yeast and fermentation (his experience is in the biomedical field, hers as a globe-trotting pastry chef) into a fully collaborative brewery and bakery. The kitchen churns out kosher meals and fresh challah bread, and the beers use grain and yeast from the baking side to make everything from funky rustic ales to cannabis-terpene-infused lagers.
Must-try beers: Milk the Moustache, Pass the Kvassia, anything labeled “dry-terped”
Everyone outside of LA knows Monkish as the local originator of the haze craze, releasing coveted New England-style IPAs in packs of tall cans nearly weekly. However, real fans know that owner and brewmaster Henry Nguyen is actually just a yeast fan, and his playful takes on traditional Belgian styles -- meticulously aged for months in oak barrels -- are worth skipping the can line to drink instead.
Must-try beers: Feminist, Interstellar Hitchhiker, every single hazy IPA
South El Monte
It’s hard being the only brewery serving the predominantly Latino communities east of downtown LA, but Progress takes this responsibility seriously. With no less than 20 beers on tap at any given time -- from light Belgian-style beers to malty triple IPAs and barrel-aged stouts -- Progress’ South El Monte taproom has become a meeting ground for novices and beer geeks alike.
Must-try beers: Bronco, Cavalry, Tepache
When it first opened, MacLeod was LA’s first all-cask brewery, dedicated solely to Scottish and British “real ales” before it started incorporating carbonated taps and more American styles. Today, its taproom serves everything from Brut IPAs to 90 shilling Scotch ales -- a glorious mix of cross-pond influence and West Coast beer love (bagpipes optional).
Must-try beers: The King’s Shilling, MacLeod’s March West IPA
What happens when a downtown cocktail bar mogul and an LA craft beer pioneer decide to build a brewery (with a competition-grade Skee-Ball setup) in downtown LA, and hire one of the best brewers from the legendary Pizza Port chain to use the split-level brewhouse as her creative canvas? Arts District Brewing, that’s what. The 15-barrel brewhouse produces more than 30 different original beers, and you can also grab food from a take-out window that’s attached to Fritzi Coop next door.
Must-try beers: Traction IPA, Hello Darkness My Old Friend, McCasey
Husband-and-wife team Jonathan and Laurie Porter went from contract brewing in Tustin to their own location in Torrance five years ago, and haven’t looked back since. A satellite tasting room at SteelCraft in Long Beach means you can drink their expert hoppy ales, rich stouts, and the popular kumquat saison (made with kumquats from the Porters’ own backyard) even if you can’t make it out to the main taproom in Torrance. You’ll be missing out on the brewery tours, sure, but… the beer’s the important thing here.
Must-try beers: Kumquat Saison, Amarilla Gorilla, Little Bo Pils
Built into a decommissioned all-wooden-beams warehouse in the Port of LA, Brouwerij West makes good use of its massive space by brewing mixed fermentation beers, hazy IPAs, and an unfiltered lager called Popfuji, which comes with its own punk concert series, held every summer in the 10,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden.
Must-try beers: Popfuji, Brilliant But Lazy, Starfish IPA
Kip Barnes started contract-brewing beers under the name LA Ale Works years before he finally got the chance to open his Hawthorne brewery and taproom in 2017. Favorites from those early days (Thai tea kolsh, anyone?) now anchor a core lineup that also includes a Vienna lager, a Berliner weisse, and an XPA named after the brewery’s famous neighbors, SpaceX.
Must-try beers: Karma Kolsch, Space XPA, Blüme
After Golden Road Brewing was acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2015, co-owner Tony Yanow took his earnings from the sale and reinvested it back into LA beer, hiring a Pizza Port alum (and lots of pre-sale Golden Road folk) to help him build a series of neighborhood brewpubs, each with their own menu and vibe. Since last fall, ABC’s opened Bluebird Brasserie, Stalking Horse, Broxton Brewpub, and 6th & La Brea, each with beers brewed by a Pizza Port alum -- and each are worth a separate visit to try 'em all.
Must-try beers: Guarnere (Bluebird), Shark Sandwich (Stalking Horse), SKAG (6th & La Brea)