Ahh, Long Beach: where Orange County comes to slum it and Angelenos never come at all, 'cause they think it’s too far. In actuality, this city by the sea of a half-million working class freaks is only a quick drive South from anywhere in LA, and its bars are infinitely cheaper, perpetually darker, and forever full of more character than a Bukowski book (though some of his favorites didn’t make the cut). But which are the best in town? Well...
Only in Long Beach would Southern California’s oldest operating brewpub also be the city’s best oceanfront bar. Mononymous Brewmaster Blackwell has been cranking out stellar craft beers since the mid-’90s and regulars always come in droves for BBC’s happy hour, where cheap pitchers and pizzas accompany sunset views.
Yes, the bars name is short for “moustache”, but you won’t find any pretentious hipsters at this 4th St dive. Even though they have more high-end bottles of small-batch spirits (think: Rogue’s Spruce Gin and Hudson’s Manhattan Rye Whiskey) than anywhere else in the city, this is still a hidden gem where prices are low enough to make more Northernly Angelenos be all, "Man, those are low prices".
If you’re into the 2nd St scene (i.e. you don’t mind a proliferation of local bros and college kids), Shannon’s -- or "the Bayshore” (as some older locals refer to it) -- is an old-school Long Beach classic. The house drink, called “Shoot the Root”, includes a shot of Root Beer Schnapps dropped into a tumbler of Coors Light.
Located on the 3rd St end of the Promenade in Downtown, Beachwood is not really a bar in the truest sense, but it is one of the best craft breweries in the country and features a guest tap list that brings other Los Angeles craft beer bars to their craft beer-knees. Oh, and the food ain’t too bad, either -- tater tot poutine, anyone?
Situated right in between the 4th St dive bars and Retro Row shopping district, The Pike -- owned by Chris Reece of Social Distortion fame -- is one of LB’s most versatile bars. The schizophrenic decor of retro punk, nautical, and grand-prix themes perfectly matches the diverse crowd of locals who frequent the place. A family-friendly restaurant during the day, The Pike turns into one of LB’s most crowded drinking spots on weekend nights.
Just three doors down from Beachwood, the original monastic-themed Congregation Ale House solidifies the Downtown Promenade’s nickname of “Barley Block”. In addition to a diverse tap list, Congregation also has a full bar and food menu perfect for late-night hangs or Catholic school girl ogling.
As the saying goes, “Crow’s doesn’t get good until an hour after you get there”. And don’t try showing up an hour later, because that’s just not how this place works. Hidden among fancy restaurants and Bay-front homes on Naples Island, Crow’s is an upscale Long Beach dive where the seasoned bartenders don vests for their night of pouring, and the cheap well drinks flow like... uh... glasses of cheap well drinks!
4th St dive bar crawl
For six glorious blocks between Alamitos and Cherry Avenues, this normal-enough drag teams with a high concentration of actually great, dirty punk-rock dives. Start at V Room on the western end and crawl your way east through Red Room, Fern’s, and Ashley’s, stopping only to 1) pump quarters into the epicly curated jukeboxes, and 2) down $3 well drinks.
With frosty mugs and macro beer stored at sub-freezing temperatures, Thirsty Isle prides itself on having the coldest beers in town. They also have some of the biggest: your icy, golden brew comes in a 34oz Gibraltar mug.
Long Beach’s Federal Bar beats out its North Hollywood big brother with one simple word: speakeasy. 30ft beneath the Federal’s main floor lies The Parlour Lounge, a red-boothed, 75-seat drinkery that was built into an old bank vault and serves up classic cocktails by the glassful. It’s only accessible through a secret door in the back by the bathrooms -- that is, if you have the secret password...
JJ’s has been serving up libations to Long Beachers since it began life as a speakeasy in 1924. Today, it’s a hardcore locals-only spot with time-capsule decor and a pool room unchanged since Prohibition was repealed. Ice-cold beer is still served dirt-cheap in giant, frozen Schooner glasses, and food stays old-school with snacks like “The Special” sandwich, house-made pickled eggs, and peanuts from a 100-plus-year-old roaster that lives in the back room.
By day, Prospector is a windowless steakhouse with creepy exterior paintings of miners and their wenches. By night, though, the kitchen closes down and it’s a windowless steakhouse with creepy exterior paintings of miners and their wenches AND a closed kitchen that specializes in two things: cheap drinks and local shows.
It may not be as famous as Belmont Shore’s Legends, but Gallagher’s is still one of the best sports bars in town. From all the local teams to MMA and World Cup matches, this Irish-themed pub is perfect for watching fat Alex Rodriguez not play baseball in a relaxed, neighborhood atmosphere. Bottomless mimosas and double Bloody Mary’s make Sundays at Gallagher's the place to be during football season, but expect to see a lot of red and gold as this is the Long Beach home of the Niners empire.
A recent move to Pine Ave Downtown hasn’t changed the popularity of Long Beach’s largest gay bar -- but if you're straight, don't let that designation scare you away: people of all sexual preferences get a kick out of Mary’s famous drag shows, karaoke nights, and epic Sunday brunches.
In the quaint North Long Beach neighborhood of California Heights lies a house of craft unlike any other in town. Latin-inspired food meets pre-Prohibition cocktails, in this classy/casual lounge that has a secret extra bar in the back (just knock on the telephone booth door).
If raucous and packed punk-rock shows aren’t your thing, fret not, because Long Beach’s most noteworthy music venue is also worth drinking at on non-show nights. A winning combo of quality tunes, quality craft beer, and a quality cocktail program, Alex’s is one big, open room that somehow manages to stay charmingly intimate.
Though there’s now a location in the impressive new terminal at the Long Beach Airport, the original 4th Street Vine is exactly the kind of wine bar you’d expect from LBC. Found in the heart of Retro Row, this small and unpretentious adult-grape juice pusher has a carefully curated selection of wine and craft beer, and is a big supporter of the local music scene.
Sarah Bennett and Aaron Carroll are the Editors of Beer Paper LA; hit 'em up on Twitter at @beerpaperla.
1. Belmont Brewing Company25 39th Pl, Long Beach
2. Stache Bar941 E 4th St, Long Beach
3. Shannon's Bayshore5335 E 2nd St, Long Beach
4. Beachwood BBQ & Brewing210 E 3rd St, Long Beach
5. Congregation Ale House201 E Broadway, Long Beach
6. Crow's Cocktail5728 E 2nd St, Los Angeles
7. V Room918 E 4th St, Long Beach
8. The Red Room1227 E 4th St, Long Beach
9. Ashley's Bar & Grill1731 E 4th St, Long Beach
10. Fern's1253 E 4th St, Long Beach
11. Pike Bar & Fish Grill1836 E 4th St, Long Beach
12. Roxanne's1115 E Wardlow Rd, Long Beach
13. 4th Street Vine2142 E 4th St, Long Beach
14. Alex's Bar2913 E Anaheim St, Long Beach
15. The Prospector2400 E 7th St, Long Beach
16. Gallagher's Pub & Grill2751 E Broadway, Long Beach
17. Hamburger Mary's Bar & Grille330 Pine Ave, Long Beach
18. Thirsty Isle4313 E Carson St, Long Beach
19. The Parlour Lounge102 Pine Ave, Long Beach
20. Joe Jost's2803 E Anaheim St, Long Beach
The oldest brewpub the LA area has been serving quality food and drinks for more than 25 years (you better have gotten them something something silver for their anniversary, or did you forget about it?). Menu items include seafood, salads, poultry, and breakfast meals. Stop in for happy hour from 3-6pm Monday-Friday for 40% off appetizers. Plus, it’s hard to beat the oceanfront location.
Celebrating mustaches like no other, this hidden gem serves high-end bottles of small-batch spirits (as well as the usual suspects) at a surprisingly low price. Shoot pool with the hipsters and go HAM on beer and shot specials. If cocktails are more your thing, The Stache has a nicely curated menu of organic handicrafted spirits and libations.
This classic Long Beach haunt is a top notch spot to grab a drink and hangout. Locals love this dependable, dive-like spot, where you can counter cold beers and quality conversation 365 days, 7 days a week. Depending out how you want your night to pan out (wild or tame), we recommend Shannon's house special: a drink called “Shoot the Root”, which includes a shot of root beer schnapps dropped into a tumbler of Coors Light.
Beachwood's Long Beach location is perfect for relaxing after catching some surf -- get a few brews, an indulgent entree (mac and cheese, without a doubt), and kick back. Beachwood specializes in BBQ fare in a laid back, diner-style setting. Quaint midcentury modern touches take the decor one step farther and go perfectly with the "so good it must be homemade" plates.
The Congregational Ale House is a monastic-themed bars turned brewery with outposts in Long Beach, Azusa and Pasadena. CAH sought to bring a community and the spirit of Old World beers to LA. The chapters serve weekly drink and meal specials, including Serves food and weekly specials, including a la carte and combo options. With a diverse tap list, Congregation’s pourin’ for the masses.
Hidden among fancy restaurants and bay-front homes on Naples Island, Crow’s is an upscale Long Beach dive serving cheap drinks.
With super-cheap drinks and quality talent on the juke box, this dive is a must for anyone looking for a low-priced good time.
With great drink specials every day of the week, this Long Beach watering hole is a classic neighborhood dive bar.
Established in 1938, Ashley's is a primo spot whether you want to chow down on tasty pub grub or sample a few of their of their 31 different brews.
With one of the best jukeboxes and awesome drink specials every day of the week, Fern is a great bet if you're looking to tie one on and hear some sweet tunes.
Owned by Chris Reece of Social Distortion, Pike Bar sports an interior decorated with retro punk, nautical, and grand prix themes and if a tasty family resto during the day and a popular drink spot at night. Chow down on fresh seafood, pasta and sandwiches for dinner and stay late for DJ sets and dance parties.
This bar/resto serves Latin-inspired food and pre-prohibition cocktails in a classy atmosphere. It also has a secret extra bar in the back (just knock on the telephone booth door to get in).
Located in the heart of Retro Row, this small and unpretentious vino joint offers a vast selection of wine and craft beer and is a big supporter of the local music scene.
Opened in 2000, this Long Beach drinkery is a perfect divey spot to drop by for a game of pool, some quality tunes, and cheap drinks.
This bar/resto/nightclub is a quality spot for cheap drinks, tasty eats, and great music.
This Irish pub and grill is a perfect spot to watch a game, order up a cheap drink, and listen to talented local musicians.
Come for the tasty food and cheap drinks and stay for the amazing Shows and super-fun dance floor.
Thirsty Isle is a great little dive in the heart of LBC -- head here for some cheap brews, great grub, and a rowdy local atmosphere.
This secret speakeasy within The Federal is just the tip of the iceberg in coolness (see what we did there?). Set inside an old bank vault, cozy up on one of their couches and get a zesty 'tail.