You won't go thirsty in Los Angeles, where the craft beer scene steals the show.
LA breweries used to be considered "up-and-coming" by the beer cognoscenti. In the last five years, the craft beer scene has changed dramatically, and Los Angeles is now a giant.
Today, the best breweries in Los Angeles, Orange County, West Bay and Long Beach are making beer using wild ferments or by aging it in wine barrels and using herbs like sage. If you're starting a cruises from Los Angeles. or taking a cruise from the City of Angels, here are 10 must-quaff breweries with taprooms where you can sip and savor to your heart's content.
This kid- and dog-friendly brewery has become a heavy hitter with hopheads in the LA area. Their original digs in Hermosillo is still serving the crisp lagers and bold stouts they're known for. But it's their newer, larger, industrial-style digs in LA's Chinatown, complete with picnic-style seating and a snack menu with food that perfectly complements their hoppy beers, that keeps them coming back for more. The Chinatown space has double the tank room, too, so expect Highland Park Brewery's trademark "adventurous mixed culture fermentation" and what the team calls "wacky microbes and local ingredients" to be in your pint glass every time.
Hot Tip: Die-hard craft beer lovers often check the brewery's "Current Releases" page and hit the Chinatown location when a new creation is unveiled. The place gets packed, but with a brew and a signature Filet Uh Fish Sando on a soft potato bun in hand, all is right with the world. Be forewarned: Limited edition cans of beer and funky merch fly off the shelves, so come prepared if you're after a souvenir.
Drive out to Long Beach or Huntington Beach (in Orange County) and park it at Beachwood Brewing and BBQ to try some of their 22 rotating taps of craft brews. Brewmaster and co-owner Julian Shrago and his team produce award-winning beers, winning at the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Festival. Rest assured that the folks behind these beers are quality-obsessed.
What could be better with your pint of Resinator, a West Coast-style India Pale Ale, than the brewery's dry-rubbed, low-and-slow BBQ? There's pulled pork, pulled jackfruit, brisket and burgers to get you started. If another location is better for you, there's another one in Garden Grove.
Hot Tip: Check out the brewery's Events Page to see daily theme nights, specials and, of course, new releases.
If you're into the slow food movement, you'll be happy to know that Dry River Brewing, located near downtown LA, specializes in slow beer. Their brewery is family-owned, artisanal, independent, local, sustainable and community-based, and their No. 1 differentiator in the craft brewery scene, according to the site, is their "dedication to fermentation in Oak barrels and Foeders. ... This long process produces dry, tart, mature beers, which are later blended to produce our final products."
Slow beer is, according to Dry River, "the application of patient stewardship to crafty truly inspiring beers," made, in this case, with a variety of non-traditional ingredients like fuyu persimmon, pineapple and tamarind, botanicals, wild yeasts and hops. All these ingredients are fermented in the aforementioned oak barrels. Look for small-batch barrel-aged sours and ales. Heads up: Their taproom is open only four days a week, so check ahead to avoid disappointment.
Hot Tip: Hopheads can become Slow Beer Society Members, who receive three bottles per new release, a curated flight of DRB beers for you and a friend and special event invites, among other perks.
This is one taproom that's difficult to find, but it's worth it. Hidden among nondescript warehouses in South Bay, the first sign you'll likely get that you're on the right track will be beer fans happily lugging growlers from this family-run brewery. Smog City favorites include the coffee-forward porter, which is aged on freshly-roasted, freshly-ground, organic Groundwork® coffee, as well as the citrus-y, flavor-forward West Coast IPA. There isn't a restaurant on site, but there are usually a variety of food trucks around, which makes the brewery a perfect for a sunny California afternoon.
Hot Tip: Visit the website for an ongoing list of interesting events, including regular trivia nights. Past events have also included oyster shucking and a ukulele-led sing-along session!
Started by a San Diego transplant who couldn't find the SoCal-style IPAs he wanted, El Segundo Brewing Company is hop central. They craft beers using a variety of hops to express the uniqueness of each flower, floral, fruity, citrus or otherwise. They're also obsessed with fresh beer, and even though their brews are available across California, any beer approaching the 90-day mark is pulled off the shelf. The taproom includes the Mayberry Grill, which features a small menu of burgers and tacos from Thursday to Sunday. In addition, they welcome patrons bringing their own food to the taproom if they'd prefer. You can always pop around the corner to The Slice and Pint and grab some delicious pizza to pair with El Segundo beers back at the taproom or at the pizzeria.
Hot Tip: Keep an eye out for the Broken Skull IPA, designed by WWE superstar Steve Austin in conjunction with El Segundo. Blending a variety of hops (Citra, Cascade, and Chinook), this big-flavored IPA is becoming such a fan favorite that it's being shipped to an increasing number of states coast-to-coast.
Golden Road Brewing in the O.C. draws its inspiration from all things California, and now with five locations on its growing list, it seems that Californians are returning the love. The Anaheim location, found conveniently across from Angel Stadium, is especially popular on game days. Featuring a full-service restaurant and beer garden with 20 taps (and more to come) along with an upcoming kids' zone and dog-friendly space, it caters to beer lovers, baseball fans and multi-generational families alike. Brewmaster Victor Novak loves the energy of this location, finding inspiration for his own boutique offerings here, including a barrel-aged beauty.
Hot Tip: These pubs offer a strong sense of community and California pride, with various local initiatives running throughout the year. One of the more interesting ongoing projects is the Heal the Bay IPA, a citrus-y, beach-friendly brew that delivers a portion of sales proceeds to a local organization that protects local beaches and watersheds. You can also drop by for Brewsday Tuesday, a monthly event at which a brewery employee brews a new beer.
The brainchild of England-raised Jennifer and her West Highlands Scots husband, Alastair, MacLeod Brewing unsurprisingly specializes in traditional British brews. With James Beard Award-winning Brewmaster Garrett Oliver at the helm, the team at MacLeod's prides itself on upholding the tenets of the "Campaign for Real Ale," a British society that promotes the virtues of community, social interaction and, of course, real ale. MacLeod has a pizzeria as well as multiple board games, and it's a family- and dog-friendly environment.
Hot Tip: If you're not feeling up to a heavier ale or stout, then MacLeod's Van Ice (a play on the brewery's Van Nuys location), a classic light American lager, is perfect for you. It's quickly garnering multiple awards and accolades.
If you're looking for a funky craft beer bar, look no further than Bottlecraft. With 30 craft beers on draft (their own as well as those of local and regional breweries), a varied bottle list, wine, kombucha and cider by the glass, there are plenty of options at what Hopped LA calls "one of LA's top 10 craft beer spots." Originally from San Diego, Bottlecraft has locations all over the LA area, including Solana Beach and North Park. Their Long Beach location is located in the "Hangar" food hall at The Long Beach Exchange, a 17,000-square-foot building that looks like an old McDonnell Douglas/Boeing aviation hangar.
Hot Tip: Grab a pint and a hand-crafted bite to eat at one of 14 artisanal food vendors and retailers. Anyone for some Nashville hot chicken (offering five levels of heat!) to go with that beer?
If you think LA is all glam and no substance, the folks behind Angel City Brewery would like you to reconsider. As their website states, "Angel City Brewery is proud to rough things up a bit and work beneath the shiny surface." Located in the city's Arts District, the space is, according to the founders, both a brewery and a canvas, or "a revival for the city's artists, musicians, hustlers, and craftspeople. It's an LA that's as ambitious as it is diverse — and our beer is no exception." Their home is in a century-old John A. Roebling building, a large industrial space best known for producing the suspension cables that hold up the Golden Gate Bridge. The bar has an Art Deco backdrop and its 12 stools sit in front of shiny copper taps, while the rest of the space has picnic tables. You can sip on their city's classic Angeleno IPA, which has a bold, grapefruit-infused note, or try a flight of craft beers and order a taco or two to accompany your cerveza.
Hot Tip: Check out the Ronald Reagan portrait by Shepard Fairey above the entrance when you walk in, and if you have the time, book a tour of the brewery beforehand to get a glimpse behind the scenes.
Smack dab in the heart of Westwood Village lies the Broxton Brewery & Public House. You should seek it out both for the beer (of course) and the building this community brewery is housed in, the historic and architecturally beautiful Janss Dome Building. This neighborhood favorite offers award-winning, handcrafted beers made by the on-site brew masters, West Coast-style comfort food (smash burger or mac 'n' cheese skillet, anyone?), draft-based cocktails and a pup-friendly patio. Core beers include the Banana in the Tailpipe (a banana-nuanced, clove-y, Bavarian-style Hefeweizen) and Fergus, a chocolaty, roasted, dry Irish stout "served on nitro for that silky smooth goodness you're looking for," according to the brewers.
Hot Tip: The Broxton runs a food happy hour Monday to Friday from 3-6 p.m., when most apps are half off and, if you ask nicely, you'll get a "secret menu card," which gives you the chance to get $5 wines and $8 select cocktails any time you stop by.
Whether you're starting your cruise in LA or docking there after a Mexico cruise, there are craft beers of every style in the area. Sit back on one of their patios and try some of the world's best brews. Cheers!