2016 has made it official: Los Angeles' beer scene is the best kind of runaway train, and it shows no signs slowing down. Now home to more than 50 breweries, the one-time craft beer desert of LA is teeming with some of the best breweries in the country, if not the world (see: World Beer Cup Awards 2012-2016). If you’re having trouble keeping up, here are the best new ones that opened doors this year (and a few that opened in the final weeks of December 2015, that got lost in the holiday shuffle).
Arts District Brewing is the new triple threat in #LAbeer. They not only have a long list of expertly made brews (including some killer hop-bombs like Traction IPA thanks to former Pizza Port Solana Beach brewmaster Devon Randall), they also have an on-site restaurant that’s destination-worthy in its own right (Fritzi, run by Chef Neal Fraser) and a massive multi-level tasting room with a full spread of vintage Skee-Ball machines, heavy duty dart boards, and enough cornhole games to fill it up even on weeknights.
Technically Brouwerij West was one of LA’s earliest craft beer brands, which only this year got a permanent home. Brian Mercer started gypsy brewing his Belgian-style blonde, tripel and quadruple in 2010. Now with a 70-year-old decommissioned Port of LA warehouse to call his own -- complete with a huge outdoor area and tasting room -- the San Pedro native is experimenting way beyond the beer basics. His custom brewing rig allows him to use oddball grains from small, family-owned farms, and his large, open-air brewhouse lets him make everything from bitter table beers to funky sours to fruited saisons in a way no LA brewer has before.
The husband and wife team of Matt and Sarah Luker started turning their culinary creativity into “unrooted” homebrews a few years ago and never looked back. After winning awards for both their straightforward IPAs and adjunct-infused masterpieces (think: coffee chicory stout), they teamed up with brewer Brian Youngblood and opened Transplants in Palmdale in January. In their first year, they’ve already released dozens of experiments that make surprisingly drinkable beers out of uncommon beer ingredients. Ever had a beet saison, a cucumber wheat, or a chocolate stout infused with marshmallow Peeps? You have if you’ve been to Transplants.
Originally launched with the idea of being LA’s session beer experts (aka beers that are under 5% ABV), Indie Brewing has expanded its reach to become so much more. As one of two new breweries who make their beer in an odd plot of warehouses between Downtown LA and Boyle Heights (Dry River Brewing is the other, but they don’t have a tasting room yet), they are now distributing cans of the 6.5% ABV Del Rey IPA and the light and dry 7th Street Saison. They’re also now pouring other creations -- like a 7% ABV peppercorn-and-kefir-lime-leaf rye saison called Cache is King and the sessionable porter and XPA -- from their pop-up tasting room most Fridays. They hope to open a full-time tasting room in the coming months.
Music and beer are obvious friends, but Homage makes the connection personal. In addition to having its nanobrewery (read: really tiny) and tasting room situated between the Fox Theater and The Glasshouse in the heart of Downtown Pomona, owner, brewmaster, and the person most likely pouring your beer, Matt Garcia, is a former touring musician with mad love for punk, hardcore, and everything in between (thus, “Homage”). The beers oscillate between stellar IPAs and tart, stinky-cheese saisons made with a nicely aged Cantillon-ish strain. And like you would with your favorite band, you can show your support by buying merch, which includes enamel pins and riffs on classic band tees that say the brewery’s name instead.
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Located in LA’s historic Arts District, this brewery hosts a 15-barrel layout that’s capable of producing 3300 barrels each year. Its sprawling main room and outdoor patio are great for large events, and an entertainment area comes equipped with bar games, ping-pong, darts, and more. It's a brewery, it's an arcade -- it's a brewcade.
You can enjoy some of LA's finest craft beer at this Belgian-inspired brewery that's housed in a 72-year-old wooden warehouse. Their 17,000-square-foot courtyard has picnic tables for you to post up with one of their top-notch brews like the Dog Ate My Homework blackberry saison or Popfuji pilsner. Once outside, you'll even find a food truck or two to sate your appetite. Multiple trucks pull up during Brouwerij's don't-miss monthly summer blowout featuring local bands.
Alongside standard beers: IPAs, seasonal brews, etc., Transplants Brewing Company also offers a number of flagship, off-style experimental beers, like the Palmdale Poppies (focuses on poppy leaves instead of hops), Cucumber Some (brewed with cucumbers), and the Cream Cycle (a pale ale made with orange zest and vanilla).
Four friends left careers in geology, law and advertising to do the right thing: open a brewery and taproom. They place an emphasis on easy-drinking, low-alcohol session beers, including a chocolate and toffee-tinged porter and a grapefruit and pine-touched XPA. You can stop by on weekends and occasional special events for a pint at long bench tables in a space more geared towards brewing than it is hosting.
Homage Brewing’s Downtown Pomona taproom reads more like a hip, minimalist Scandinavian cafe than a brewery’s beer den, with it’s crisp white walls, light woods, potted cacti and Eames chairs. The brewery’s stouts and IPAs, as well as smaller barrels of sours and wild ales, are on offer, in addition to morning-time cold brew. Hearty American fare from the Rookery Alehouse nearby can be ordered right into the space.