Bored with hanging out at your local craft beer bar? Of course you aren't. These parlors of liquid pleasure are like being at a chill party at your best friend's living room. What could be more fun than that? Two words: road trip.
Most of the regional breweries supplying the small batch craft beer to your favorite beer bar have tasting rooms. So we highly recommend short and not-so-short field trips; think of them as research, to get your craft brews from the source. First stop: Hangar 24 Brewery in Redlands.
From downtown L.A., Redlands is 67 miles east on the 210 freeway. It's a day trip (designated driver recommended for the return trip). You can be lining up at the cool counter at the Hangar 24 tasting room in less than an hour and a half - less with no traffic, more with, ugh, traffic. H24, the brainchild of owner/brewer Ben Cook is situated across the street from the tiny Redlands airport so you can enjoy your beers on their outdoor patio while watching the small planes take off and land against the panoramic backdrop of the San Bernardino mountains.
The H24 name comes from the days when Cook would share his home brews with fellow pilots and friends in Hangar 24. Turns out Cook's homebrews were so damn good that three years after launching H24, he has over 60 employees and will brew 17,000 barrels in 2011 with plans to double that in the near future. They are the 15th largest microbrewery in the U.S. after a mere three years in business and, with the rapid expansion, Cook now has added an award-winning head brewer, Kevin Wright. Cook and Wright met at and graduated from from the vaunted U.C. Davis Master Brewer program.
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What beers can you expect to try on your field trip? H24's standard seven are Orange Wheat, Pale Ale, Alt-Bier, Helles Lager, Columbus IPA, Chocolate Porter, and Double IPA. Golden Road Brewing co-owner Meg Gill calls the Orange Wheat her second favorite beer by an L.A.-area brewer. In addition they release "seasonals" and a "Barrel Roll Series."
If you're inspired for a road trip sooner rather than later, this Saturday, December 10 at 11 a.m., the tasting room will unveil Pugachev's Cobra, a Russian Imperial Stout that has been aged in freshly-emptied bourbon barrels for eight months. And in case you didn't take our designated driver recommendation seriously, Pugachev's Cobra comes in at 16.5% abv, meaning it will light you up like a Christmas tree. Our own Elina Shatkin calls the H24 growler the "prettiest growler in town" so take some H24 home for the holidays.