The emergence of breweries in LA gives rise to a craft beer scene fit for a connoisseur.
It used to be that if you were a beer person, you walked into your local watering hole, you barked “Bud” or “Miller” or another familiar brand, the bartender would pour you a cold glass, and you would knock down a few while inhaling a plate of potato skins.
It’s a little different today. Beers are not just beers. They’re ales, lagers, stouts, porters. They have names like “Eric’s Darkness” and “Bitch Blonde” and “Get Up Offa That Brown.”
They’re created by a brewmaster who is as finicky and creative about his craft as a French chef. And they’re often imbibed by aficionados in simple rooms with few distractions—the way art lovers gather at museums.
There are scores of places where you can still enjoy an old-school glass of Coors or Heineken. But there is an ever-growing population of craft breweries emerging not only across Southern California but in particular around the Valley. Names like Golden Road, MacLeod Ale, the San Fernando Brewing Company, Ladyface Ale Companie, Eagle Rock Brewery, Highland Park Brewery, Pac City Brewery and Sundowner Brewery are helping the quaffing public raise their game—and their expectations.
“I think the craft beer scene has finally come to Los Angeles,” notes Vic Chouchanian, who runs San Fernando Brewing Company with his brother Joe at a small but friendly spot inside an industrial park. “It’s huge everywhere else in the country. But there’s also a general shift with people from quantity to quality. Even McDonald’s is hurting lately. That culture has finally hit beer.”
Alastair Boase is a native of Scotland and former landscape contractor who runs the MacLeod Ale with his wife, Jennifer, in a quaint, Scottish-themed oasis along a Van Nuys street filled mostly with auto repair and body shops. MacLeod produces British-style beer, served straight from the cask. Alastair believes the proliferation of craft breweries is a backlash to the powerful presence of large corporations in the food and drink business.
“A regular person is going to feel they’re doing something on an intimate level by consuming a product made from love and healthful ingredients,” he says, “while not hurting the environment in the process.”
The brewery, which opened in June, recently did a fundraising campaign through a crowdfunding site to raise more than forty thousand dollars for expansion.
People who donated at the one thousand dollar level received free beer in the taproom for life.
To Alastair, it all boils down to accessibility. “Breweries are popping up everywhere. For people who love beer, it’s like, ‘Why not?’”
A few taproom suggestions for a local hops trot
At MacLeod Ale Brewing Co., where they offer four year-round beers and a rotation of seven seasonals, the most popular choice is The Little Spree, a yummy Yorkshire Pale Ale. It’s wonderful. But make sure to seize your share of The King’s Taxes, a flavorful Scottish ale with minimal hops that’ll rock you down to your plaid socks.
14741 Calvert Street, Van Nuys
At Golden Road Brewing (the largest craft brewer in LA County and big brother to Burbank’s Tony’s Darts Away), try Wolf Among the Weeds, a unique and robust IPA, as well as The Works IPA, a custom seasonal selection featuring six different hops.
5410 West San Fernando Road, Atwater Village
At San Fernando Brewing Company, where all the beer names have local significance, the Sonora Wheat is top-notch. But the O’Melveny Red is aflame with mouthwatering satisfaction.
425 Park Ave, San Fernando
Swanky supper club, anyone?