Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where to Drink in LA - Part 4, The Valley

This is the final week of my four part series, "Where to Drink Craft Beer on Tap in LA."  This week we finish the series with a region that can only be summed up by two words...

The Valley

This is Ryan Sweeney's original LA bar, and while it's tucked away on a dark street in Glassell Park, it still serves the Craft selection that made it a success.  With their 22 taps of diverse selections, it's dark, moody, and there's some sort of beer for everyone.  There's no food, but there's usually a truck, and they have a big outdoor patio for you to enjoy it on.  I especially like all the different room choices you have to enjoy a beer in, gives you some options to stay out of the crowd or be in the thick of it.  More spacious than some of the crowded Hollywood and Westside spots.

Sorry guys, I still think this is the worst bar name ever, maybe the nickname "Tony's," can catch on somehow.  To be fair, the name is inspired from the original name of the bar, Tony's, which they took over last year.  Apparently, the old Tony's was a bit of a landmark, however, wasn't kept up well at all; the new Tony came in and changed all that.  They make up for any confusing names with GREAT beer selection and awesome events every night of the week.  These guys do an awesome job of loading all their 36 taps with only California beers as they are dedicated to fostering the local economy.  I personally enjoy the entire page dedicated to IPAs.  Enjoy a fine meat or vegan sausage with your beer and check out their website for events that they have, pretty much every night.  Tony is working on a new restaurant/gastropub in Echo Park that sounds like it's going to be amazing.  I wish this place was closer, I would go there every night.

This place recently rennovated and I was lucky enough to have time to swing by last week.  The idea is a lot like Beechwood, except a whole lot closer: BBQ and beer.  With 42 beers on tap, an extensive bottle list, and tons of BBQ, what's not to love here?  It's an interesting selection of classics like Avery, Russian River, and The Bruery, mixed with smaller local breweries like Coronado, Ladyface, and Hangar 24.  Their menu has a laundry list of different meats, including a few combo plates meant for 8 to 12.  A must try is their appetizer, Kobe Beef Chili Filled Donuts.  They're pretty tasty and have a real SoCal signature to them.  I loved the Fried Mac and Cheese and the pulled pork was good, but the real highlight of the evening was their burgers; they list 6 in all, each with their own style and set of toppings.  I tried The OMG, which, true to it's name was definitely worth mentioning.  Perfectly cooked, great meat, unique toppings which showed both quality and character, this was an unbelievable burger.  But probably my favorite part of this place is all the space you get.  So many beer bars around town feel really packed in, but this place is spacious and you can relax comfortably.
While it is slightly outside of the referenced area, Eagle Rock to be exact, it is certainly worth mentioning on this list for being the closest Craft Brewer around (no one better write back asking about Angel City Brewing).  They have a tap room that is open Friday, Saturday, and Sundays, serving their 5 different beers, and yes, you can fill your growler here!  There's no food, but you can bring your own or visit a nearby food truck, and they give tours of their brewery on Sundays.  Rumor has it they're working on a soon to be debuted IPA.

Also not technically in this area, but close enough to be considered, The York on York, or just, "The York," offers up 13 taps of carefully selected Craft Brew from 3pm to 2am every day.  In addition to a tasty menu of food items, they have a fine selection of bottles for you to choose from.  This can sometimes become an Occidental Student hangout, but like Boneyard, they feature my favorite gastropub interior of brick walls and chalkboard menus.  They also have a jukebox.

8 1/2 Tavern
This place was just recently brought to my attention, so I haven't had a chance to check it out yet.  Located in Studio City, this place makes for a great beer stop after your studio pitch.  From what I can tell it seems to be a fusion of relaxed slightly upscale dining and gastropub.  The menu skews Italian, with a fair amount of pizzas to choose from.  The beer list features 12 taps with names like Allagash, Ballast Point, Alesmith, and Stone, they also have a small, but excellent bottle menu.

With 16 beers on tap and plenty of burgers and good food to be had, Laurel Tavern seems to be a hot spot among the Valley locals.  It can be hard to grab a seat here on the weekend, but the wood interior bar makes for a nice venue if you can find a seat.  My favorite thing about this place is their $5 and $6 beer menu, a nice change of cost for Craft Brews.  Taps include labels like Lost Coast, North Coast, Rogue, Coronado, and Craftsman.  While I haven't eaten here, I did take a look at the menu which features simple items with no need for description.

And that's my list!  My apologies to South Bay and Inland for leaving some places out that fall in the "father east or south than I'd like to drive," category, most notably: Beachwood38 DegreesLucky BaldwinsStuffed SandwichLadyface Alehouse, and Naja's Place.  But for the most part these are some of the best places in and around town to hang your hat and have a cold one.  If you'd like to stay on top of what's on tap at some of these places, make sure you're subscribed to the weekly Beer Blast, an email that updates you to tap changes around town.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Where to Drink in LA - Part 3, Silverlake/Echo Park/Downtown

It's week #3 of Where to Drink Craft Beer on Tap in LA.  This week you'll notice I'm clumping together a few neighborhoods and including a few places which are really wine bars because of the sparse amount of places.

Silverlake/Echo Park/Downtown

This place is certainly no Shortstop, and you won't find $2 PBR's at gametime.  El Prado has around 7 or 8 taps they use to rotate an excellent selection of domestic and foreign Crafts.  It's a tiny little place in the up and coming neighborhood of Echo Park, but certainly worth a stop if you're passing by and feel like you need some refreshments.  They have some small bites like walnuts for you to munch on if you need something more than just a drink.

City Sip is certainly more of a Wine establishment, but they do pay attention to the Craft Beer drinkers.  In fact, they're hosted a home brew class a few weeks ago.  They have 6 rotating taps with names like Victory, Allagash, Port, and Eagle Rock.  They also carry a few Belgian bottles, including my favorite sour, Duchesse de Bourgogne.  The vibe here is about helping your to learn about beer and wine as you drink it and in that vein, they have large selection of rotating cheeses they like to pair with their beers.

Bar Covell is an interesting mix of vintage class and antique funk in Los Feliz across from the Umami Burger.  While their primary feature is the 20 rotating wine options,  they've taken to serving some very fine brews.  8 rotating taps serving names like Flying Dog, Jolly Pumpkin, St. Bernardu, and Eagle Rock Brewery, just to name a few.  At $7 -8 per glass it's on the pricier side, but this is nothing new to all you beer lovers out there.  No food here, but they do small cheese plates and chacuterie.

Recently, I've been hearing a lot about this new bar, nestled in the Historic Filipino section of Echo Park and recently opened in March.  I actually used to live around the corner from where it's located on Temple, so I'm bummed they weren't open when I was there.  Apparently, it's a pretty low profile place, not much of a sign, and its metal screen door suggests more of an appliance store than a bar.  But along with its "dive-y" atmosphere, you'll find reasonable beer prices, and a decent selection from 4 taps.

Villains Tavern
It's hard to keep up with all the new places Downtown, seems like a new one is opening up every week. Villains is an interesting addition to the Downtown landscape.  Open now for only a few weeks, the gothic styled venue, located under the shadows of the 4th and 6th street bridges in the arts district, specializes in mixology, however, does sport 28 taps.  They serve their beers in chilled jars, which is an interesting touch, but tells me they probably won't be bringing in the rarest of the rare.  Along that note, while they have some better selections than most, e.g. Racer 5, Deschutes, Chimay, Anchor, Lost Coast, they also have some pretty disgraceful taps like Bud Light, Miller Lite (never understood why it's 'ite') and Tecate.  For $8 they give you a beer and shot of your choice, which is a lovely combo, however, I've heard complaints that the size is a little small on these.  Another problem is there's no happy hour, which may disappoint the thriftier of us.  But for the hungry, there is food.

This is a tough one for me.  I'm not sure Good really fits the profile of some of these other places, but I thought, since I'm compiling a list of where you can drink Craft Brews, this is in fact a place where you can get it  on tap.  While Good doesn't really rotate their taps much, you may find yourself ordering off their surprisingly large menu of bottle selections. There is plenty of space inside and out to enjoy your beer in.  They also have their own namesake beer, brewed by Firestone.

Spring St.
Downtown residents have a lot to be happy about now that they have Spring St, their only true Downtown Craft Beer joint.  Having looked over the menu, I'm not blown away by their tap choices, but they certainly have some classics like Brother Thelonious, Arrogant, 90 minute, Pranqster, Telegraph White, and Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout.  Throw in an outdoor patio, reasonable prices, and a smoked salmon sandwich, which seems to be all the rage, and you've got yourself a gastropub of note.

In case you have a friend that doesn't like beer, bring them to this place; they can drink wine, you can drink beer.  With 12 taps, a beer float, and plenty of wines to choose from, Bottle Rock is a great place for a few small plates or a full meal.  They also have a Culver City location.

Once again, another Wine Bar coming around and serving great beer as well.  While you have to dig through an extensive list of wines to find them, they do feature 6 well selected taps and 6 more expensive but eclectic bottles.

Just last week I heard about this new place that opened in Koreatown a few months ago, although I as of yet I haven't been and don't know too much about them.  Since they don't have a website, I looked them up on Yelp and they get excellent marks.  From what I can tell, the place is in the style of a traditional Bavarian Beer Garden, however, with the food being a combination of German, Mexican, and Korean Bbq.  They have 25 beers on tap and sport labels like Alesmith, Golden Carolous, and Delerium, but I imagine some interesting German beers as well.  To top it off, they have beer floats, making them the 3rd place in LA to delve into this burgeoning trend.  Unfortunately, they're only using Thifty ice cream, not Scoops, but I realize that may be a selling point for some.

Ok, this isn't really a Craft Beer bar, but who can argue with a great German Beer selection and killer sausages!  I don't know if the place really qualifies, but it's just fun to go here.

That's all, next week... The Valley.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where to Drink in LA - Part 2 Hollywood

This week, I'm continuing my 4 week long series on Where to Drink Craft Beer on Tap in LA.  A couple of corrections from last week's post about the Westside: 5th Amendment has in fact changed its name to Broadway Alehouse, please make a note of it.  I also probably should have included the Venice Whole Foods, since their bar does in fact have 4 taps that they change roughly every week.  This week, we go to...


For those that still haven't figured out that Ryan Sweeney opened a beer bar in West Hollywood, you've all officially been told to go. 27 taps and 1 cask, they have killer selection and a great variety to choose from.  The Goat was recently selected by LA magazine as the number one beer bar in the city and it's hard to disagree.  I don't think I've seen as diverse a selection of Craft Beers labels and styles anywhere in LA.  Get in now before this place goes all Hollywood...

Owner Brian Lenzo has done a very nice job of creating a great Craft Beer bar, right on the edge of Hollywood.  The sign and window for this place is pretty small, you'll almost drive right past it, but there's plenty of space and big beers inside.  They have a giant projected screen that tells you what beers are on their 24 taps and 1 cask, but if you still can't decide on something they have a very eclectic bottle list and offer flights of beer.  Every week this place seems to have a new event going on and they do a great job of fostering the beer community; I just spent all day Saturday trying some of the incredible selections they brought in for 2nd Anniversary party.  The selection and rotation here is really excellent, and while I can't speak for all the food, the bartender talked me into getting an unlisted item, The Truffle Burger, which was unbelievably good.

Don't let the size of this place fool you.  While there's only a small list of beers on tap and 6 or so more in bottles, co-owner Jason Bernstein only serves you the best stuff.  Their beer selection is hard to argue with and their burger can give Father's Office a run for their money.  This offers a much brighter alternative to dark wooded interiors like the Goat and FO.  Be sure to try their sweet potato fries and a beer float.

The Village Idiot offers up good food with a fine assortment of beverages and was surprisingly a fixture before all of LA got into a Craft Craze.  It looks a bit more like a New York Gastropub, but its location on Melrose is unmistakably LA.  They have 7 resident taps, as well as one rotating tap.  I would love if they started rotating more, but until then, they serve up some good food including a few throwbacks you won't find at other places, like meat pies... yum? 

The owners of Lucky Devils seem to be big fans of Imports, however, they do make room on their 14 taps for 5 or 6 Crafts.  Once again, they don't rotate much, but perhaps I'm asking too much?  They also have a long bottle list.  While I've never eaten here, the food looks pretty good.  They use local and organic ingredients and have a number of pizzas and burgers for you to pair your beer with.  I don't know why, but those two food dishes are still my favorite things to have with a beer; maybe I'm just old school.  Swing in here for their $10 lunch special.

Nothing like a burger bar that says LA, and nothing better than a burger to go with your beer.  Compliment one of their 6 taps with any of their signature burgers or customize your own.  They also have a nice bottle selection including Ommegang, Russian River, Lost Abbey, and Allash.  Or you can order PBR in the can.

What? It's ANOTHER burger and beer bar?? Yes, deal with it!  Personally I love burgers and beer, so you won't find any complaints from me.  This one boasts 30 taps featuring names like Allagash, Port, Anderson Valley, North Coast, Deschutes, Lagunitas, Victory, and quite a few others.  They distinguish themselves by focusing on how to pair your burger and beer, which is probably something I'm fairly ignorant of on most occasions.  Haven't tried the burger yet so I can't give you my assessment, however, having looked over the menu it looks like they have 9 different styles to choose from.

You're probably thinking, "Morels?! That tourist trap in The Grove?" Yes.  While I can't recommend the atmosphere for everyone, they have 12 surprisingly well chosen California and other domestic Crafts on tap.  If you want to have a craft on tap, but you're not into bars, this might be a good place to go.  Or maybe just have a beer next time you're going to a movie.

This gastropub nestled at the edges of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, might be one of the few sports bars that can serve you good beer and fancy food.  While their 34 taps feature some run of the mill, disappointing names like, Miller Lite, they also have slightly more interesting selections like Stone, Flying Dog, Bear Republic, and BrewDog.  I don't know if they have any team or city affiliation – maybe someone can get back to me on that – but they do say to come in for Dodgers' games on their website... maybe next season.

Alright, that's my Hollywood list.  Be sure to comment if I forgot any.  Next week, Silverlake/Echo Park/Downtown...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Where to Drink in LA - Part 1, Westside

This month I thought I'd put together a little list of where to go in Los Angeles to find good Craft Beer on tap.  Now for some of you, this information may be pretty mundane, in fact you may not learn anything new at all.  However, there's a whole new generation of people just discovering Craft Beer and have no idea that there are great bars just down the street or around the corner from them.  Los Angeles has had a surge of beer bars in the past year and hopefully this post will help you to discover some new places.  In addition to some proper "beer bars," I've included some places you might not think of.  So, coming to you in four parts over four weeks, I've organized the best places by neighborhoods, starting with my own:

Santa Monica/Venice

Probably my favorite Westside beer bar.  Not only do they rotate their taps often, they bring in great selections, host events for charity, and put together interesting beer pairing dinners.  To top that off they have a great dining room with very excellent food.  They have 29 taps and a long menu of great options.

FO with their 36 taps, is probably the first place people think of when they think of Craft beer.  Even with two locations (one in Culver City) it can still be a bit hard to find seating at this jam packed gastropub.  The beers rotate seasonally, although they usually keep some select names year round.  Personally, I'd like to see them rotate a little more often, but their selection is always sublime.  When it comes to getting a burger and beer, there may not be a better place than this.

This is a quirky little hole in the wall bar just off the Promenade in Santa Monica.  While I've never tried the food here, they have 20 taps, which they rotate often, and you won't have to fight for a seat like some of the other places.  It's a much quieter venue to grab a beer with a few friends.  Since their music is often run off a laptop, sometimes you can talk the bartender into letting you DJ.

An Irish Pub with darts, shuffle board, pool, karaoke, foosball, and TVs for big games, this bar is guaranteed to have something for everyone.  What's more, they have a really great selection of craft beers, including 2 cask ales every day of the week.  In case you're not feeling like beer, they have an amazing selection of reasonably priced Single Malt Scotches to choose from.

Now a Venice mainstay, this place can get pretty crowded on weekends and extremely loud.  While they're not known for rotating their taps much, or well... at all really, they do have some good standard Crafts on tap and in the bottle.  It's dark, hip, and very much a scene, but I appreciate that they still bring some beers to the party.

This place is literally brand new, and when I say literally, I mean last week.  When I visited, it seemed like they're going through all the opening week jitters, getting all their ducks in order.  And despite the fact that they had kicked about 6 taps when I was there, they do seem to have a number of decent drafts from California as well as some oldies but goodies from Oregon, Alaska, and Colorado.  The selection wasn't too mind boggling, but I certainly found a few beers I liked and they seem committed to bringing in better beer.  We'll see what happens with this place, but for now I'll get behind them since they're serving organic food and have the balls to open up this kind of establishment on the boardwalk.

Next Week: Hollywood!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws

Somehow this winter seasonal slipped into the back of my tasting queue and I find myself only now drinking it… in June, although undoubtedly this is being read in July. Oh well, when I drank this, it wasn't all that warm that day, so maybe a barleywine isn't the most horrible thing to put on the menu.

When I opened this bottle I did a double take when I didn't hear the normal hiss of carbonation and eyed it cautiously when I saw almost no bubbles in my glass.  This beer is certainly lacking in carbonation, glad to see that these kinds of mistakes can happen to the experts too!  Well it certainly puts a damper on my review to go on too much about the taste without the appropriate carbonation, but I'll give you an idea of the taste.  It's a very sweet beer, as barleywines tend to be, the richness of the caramel reminds me of the old stock's syrupy body.  The taste does bend round into an earthy, slightly isyprobyl alcohol, and bitter flavor, much the way you might do if you were trying to mentally steer your desparately hit golf ball back on course.  The 11% alcohol tastes very hot, especially on your throat, although I've come to somewhat expect this from higher gravity beers such as this.

Overall, really not something I'm enjoying, but the whole experience amounts to a foot faul given the lack of carbonation.  The beer is meant to be aged, but I'm glad I didn't; if I had opened this to zero carbonation in a matter of years rather than months I would have been pretty upset.  I give it one and a half stars for now, with the footnote that I had a bad bottle.  I certainly owe Hair of the Dog a second chance on this one.

Doggie Claws: *1/2