It’s Thursday, and I’m already on a hastily put together overnight trip to Beacon. It’s dark, the road is narrow and winding, and we are trying to make up some of the time lost in traffic. In a moment of silence, I happen to glance at my Instagram feed and I’m reminded that Casa Agria Specialty Ales in California is releasing Guayaba de Oro bottles on Saturday. “Would you like to go to California tomorrow?”
NOTE: This is not necessarily a guide of what to do in Los Angeles, just what I happen to have done in the roughly 36 hours I was there.
El Albajeño – 4513 Inglewood BLVD , Culver City CA 90230
We arrived Saturday morning with no plans; just with the goal of making it to Oxnard, California. But first, we had to find food… We searched for best tacos and El Albajeño popped up. The place was relatively busy, with lots of locals. The menu was chock-full of Mexican dishes, but very few tacos. Once i got my food, I was immediately envious of the Menudo and the other soupy stews I saw at every-other table. I would come back to El Albajeño… just not for the tacos.
Casa Agria Specialty Ales – 701 N Del Norte Blvd #310, Oxnard, CA 93030 | https://casaagria.com
It’s my first time in LA, so we drive through Santa Monica and Malibu up the Pacific Coast Highway. The sun is shining and I’m overdressed. The scenery is beautiful yet oddly familiar; I have seen it plenty of times in movies and video games. I want to stop several times at the beaches and canyons, but there’s a schedule to keep.
Casa Agria is a “boutique Ventura County based brewery, focusing on mixed fermentation farmhouse style ales and barrel aged wild ales.” I first had their stuff at Hunahpu Day 2016 in Tampa, Florida, and Guayaba de Oro was one of the top beers I had that day, and a definite crowd pleaser. Based on that experience, I promised myself that if it was ever to be released I would make my way to California to get it.
When we arrived to the Casa Agria address just 15 minutes shy of the release time, we almost drove past it. Casa Agria is nestled in a nondescript industrial park; the bold gorgeous logo affixed to the front window of the suite, is the only visible cue that a brewery lives there. Waiting for the doors to open, I was somewhat surprised about the relatively small number of people that were in a loosely formed line. It is a small brewery, and it is Oxnard, but this stuff is good.
The line moves quickly, I get my bottles, and I remark that I came from NY to get these. That gets the attention of some of the staff including Ryan (one of the owners) that asks if I was the one that said that on social media. We chat for a second and he admits that he had thought to himself “Yeah Right” and yet there I was.
I’m determined to make my way through the entire tap list, starting with Guayaba de Oro itself. It’s more sour and a bit more unbalanced that I remember but no less great. Grisita and Eclipse Solaire impressed, but I was blown away by Western Glow, an IPA dry hopped with Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe, and Columbus, that comes in at an ABV of 7.5%. It’s juicy, it’s tropical, resinous yet soft. I regret not bringing my growler, and now I have other reasons to come back besides the sours. If you’re in California, Casa Agria is worth traveling for!
The LINE Hotel – 3515 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010 | http://www.thelinehotel.com
We didn’t have sleeping accommodations, heck, we had booked the rental car while cruising at 39,000 feet. We had tried to book an AirBnB but, as expected, that didn’t work so well on last minute notice. The whole trip had been on a whim, so we ended up at the Line Hotel, in Koreatown/Downtown. The Line Hotel sits at the top of Travel + Leisure’s 13 sexiest hotel rooms in the world, and with good reason. It boasts poured concrete walls, floor to ceiling windows, and every room is artistically appointed. Opting in for the Hollywood Hills view may further cut into your beer budget (we did), but hey it’s LA.
As dusk settled, I finally gave in to jet-lag, and I went to sleep far too early for a person who is in LA for the first time, but I’m sure the clubs and bars did just fine without me.
El Huarachito – 3010 ½ N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA
Well rested but hungry, I suggested we have chilaquiles for breakfast, so off we went to northeast LA, to El Huarachito, another mom and pop operation. The chillaquiles were good, but the Huevos Divorciados blew me away. I had never heard of the dish, but now I’m and instant fan. The meal checks all the boxes; you get two eggs over easy, topped with chilaquiles one with salsa verde and one with salsa roja, and separated by refried beans, and bacon (upon seeing it you may even say, ah, I get name now!). When in LA go there, do it! And don’t forget to bring cash along with your appetite.
Monkish – 20311 S Western Ave, Torrance, CA 90501| www.monkishbrewing.com
The next stop was Monkish, and as luck would have it there was a can release on that day. I was really excited and couldn’t believe my timing; however, we got there only to find out it was sold out. There was no room for lament though. I did not go to LA to sit and wait in a line, so I did the next best thing and ordered one glass of each as they had them on tap. They both were slightly disappointing, only because they tasted a little green, and frankly because my comparisons are the superb JFK 2 LAX (collaboration with Other Half) and stuff like Dreaming of the Usual, and Swap Meets.
The brewery was crowded, and I was surprised at its relatively small size. The brewery is tucked in an industrial park and a small sign over the door displays the name and logo. The taproom itself was cozy with a high exposed ceiling. There isn’t much space in the taproom, but the brewery floor sports a much bigger seating area.
Steeping out of the taproom and onto the brewery, I see a guy babysitting his haul as he chats with a group of friends. He says hi, and comments that he remembers me from the prior day at Casa Agria. We chat for a bit and I tell him I’m from NY and I’m visiting. He then goes ahead and pulls down on a can of Foggier Window and hands it to me. I feel my jaw drop and my eyes widen (this is why I love beer people). I offer him my eternal appreciation, and I offer to buy him a beer. He declines the latter and I promise to ship him something from NY. (Note to self: I have to do that)
I’m surprised to find out that Monkish started as a brewery focused on Belgian styles, and that they had even (infamously) displayed a sign in the brewery that read NO IPA NO MSG until early this year, since I’ve only known them for their sought-after IPA can releases. It’s crazy to fathom how much of a following and success they have enjoyed for the short amount of time they have been brewing IPAs. To honor that tradition (and really because I didn’t want to walk away with just the one can) I bought a bottle of Knowledge and Peace, a rice saison i cant wait to try.
Smog City – 1901 Del Amo Blvd B, Torrance, CA 90501 | www.smogcitybrewing.com
There are a few more breweries a stone’s throw away from Monkish, but the one I was most interested in visiting was Smog City. Typical for the area, it’s another brewery that calls an industrial park home. Access to the brewery and taproom is through a huge roll-up door. The space start relatively narrow but opens up to a sizable seating area stacked with barrels.
I try to sample as wide a range as possible, and I end up with very varying styles. Unbeknownst to me, Smog City is well known for its use of coffee and its Coffee Porter is a great example of that. I highly recommend it if you like a hint of beer in your coffee. Bottom line, there’s tons to love here. Bourbon O.E. was great if a bit sweet and boozy; Cuddlebug took me by surprise, perfect prickly carbonation, tart/sour juicy berries, and easy drinking.
They have bottles to go, which I considered, but my next stop was The Bruery, and I had only 1 suitcase to contend with.
The Bruery –717 Dunn Way, Placentia, CA 92870| https://www.thebruery.com/
Before I knew anything about any west coast breweries, there was a name that always came up in conversation and online; The Bruery.
With their big bottle format, they have, in my mind, cemented an image of quality and class. With beers like So Happens its Tuesday and Reuze (just how do you pronounce this?) becoming more easy to find in NYC, this image is well supported. So needless to say, I was excited to finally visit them.
Located further out east in Placentia, CA, the ride provided some time in between breweries. This is a big brewery producing a huge amount of beer. The size and scope becomes evident as you enter the parking lot; all but one of the suites in the industrial park is taken up by The Bruery. Interestingly enough, they have recently split the operation into two; creating The Terraux brand in order to focus it on the production of sours.
The taproom is spacious and the tap list challengingly huge. As I strategize how to tackle it, there’s an announcement made that tours would start soon… and that beer, may or may not be served on this tour, so we decided to jump on it. The tour was led by Josh who was as funny as he was informative. There were only four of us total, so the tour beer stops meant we got large pours. I learned, I laughed and when I came out I needed to hydrate and reconsider the idea of hitting the tap-list.
If you’re in the area, The Bruery is not to to be missed. However, do come early, do the tour, and stay a while. There’s a huge tap list that’s sure to please.
El Farolito – 201 S Bradford Ave, Placentia, CA 92870| http://www.elfarolitomex.com/
After the tour we also found ourselves hungry. We had long decided we would only eat Mexican food on this trip, and the online search led us to El Farolito. This highly ranked restaurant boasts a great menu and a good family vibe. It’s definitely popular, and on peak times expect to wait in line. We had a flight to catch that night and so we took the food to go. We ended up with a Carnitas platter that we lovingly devoured back at The Bruery since we needed a place to sit, and we had to make sure we took some of those bottles home with us.
In California or the West Coast as a whole, San Diego gets a lot of love for their beer scene, and rightly so, some of those San Diego breweries have been pioneers in the craft beer movement, and the community is big and vibrant. However, LA is putting out really great stuff, and making a name of its own. My first time in LA was amazing, given the time spent there I did most of the things I wanted to do. I do wish I had visited Bottle Logic, and had a chance at the Monkish cans, as well as visiting/discovering some breweries and beer spots I hadn’t heard of, but there will definitely be a next time!