Build a place where you want to hang out and fill it with beer you want to drink — even if that place is dark and creepy and the beer is laced with bacteria. That's Phantom Carriage Brewery co-founder Martin Svab's inspiration for a new sour-beer tasting room. The taproom and cafe has been serving since the end of 2014 but will host a grand opening this Saturday.
Phantom Carriage's Carson digs have skylights that let in some natural light, but looming stacks of barrels and flickering candles set an ambience that's more "Transylvanian cellar" than "industrial warehouse." A skeleton greets you at the bar and an on-site movie theater projects horror and science fiction films onto a 130-inch screen. (Phantom Carriage gets its name from a Swedish silent horror film.)
Coming from a career in the film industry, Svab got involved in the L.A. beer scene in 2006 when Stone Brewing Co. hired him to help develop the L.A. market. He worked with Father’s Office and eventually Naja’s Place, where he spent almost four years managing their beer program. In 2013, Svab dedicated himself full time to getting Phantom Carriage off the ground, along with the help of co-founder Jackson Wignot and head of barrel operations Simon Ford.
The first beer Phantom Carriage produced (in collaboration with Monkish Brewing Company) was a Belgian-style wild blonde ale called Muis, in 2013. Some of the beers that have been available at the tasting room since the soft opening include Lugosi (12.8% ABV), a strong dark ale aged in Syrah barrels, and Bergman (8.4% ABV), a wild blonde ale aged in oak barrels.
Both of these contain brettanomyces, lactobacillus and pediococcus — strains of wild yeast and bacteria that make sour beer taste, well, sour. House beers are served in distinctive, long-stem tulip glasses perfect for the terrifying clutch of Nosferatu’s Count Orlok. Or, you know, for sipping.
The on-site kitchen offers a casual, seasonal menu inspired by European dishes. Smoked-meat sandwiches and charcuterie steady drinkers and complement the acidic, complex beer. Phantom Carriage also offers 100-plus guest bottles, wine and select cocktails.
Saturday’s grand opening will feature 10 Phantom Carriage beers on tap, including a new barrel-aged wild beer. Guest beer will include Smog City’s The Nothing, Artifex’s Rye-Diculous, Almanac’s Valley of the Heart’s Delight and Ballast Point’s Commodore Stout.
More sour programs have surfaced at existing L.A. breweries, including Craftsman, Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, Monkish and Smog City.
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“It's great to see [other breweries] raising the bar on sours and make some amazing stuff," says Svab. "We haven't even hit our stride yet. I'm pretty convinced there are some amazing years ahead in the L.A. beer scene.”
Phantom Carriage Grand Opening Party, Saturday, March 7, 12-11 p.m.; 18525 S. Main St., Carson; (310) 538-5834