It’s been a whirlwind year for L.A. craft beer. In the half-a-decade growth spurt that hit the local brewery scene, homebrewers have gone pro, IPAs found their way onto taplists citywide, and neighborhoods no one thought of as destinations of any sort (Torrance?) all of a sudden became crucial craft-beer hubs.
2015 brought even more developments. Though the Anheuser-Busch buyout of the city’s largest brewery, 4-year-old Golden Road, dominated national news about the L.A. scene, no less than 13 new microbreweries opened in L.A. County this year, from the beer deserts of the San Fernando and Antelope valleys to the craft-beer mecca of the Arts District.
The Los Angeles Brewers Guild now claims more than 30 members (seven of them materializing in the last month alone). Together they produce more than 44,000 barrels of beer a year — that’s 88,000 kegs — everything from IPAs to sours to Belgian-style, barrel-aged weirdness.
Here are our favorite five breweries that opened in 2015:
So what if Phantom Carriage’s South Bay tasting room technically opened right before Christmas last year? It wasn’t until 2015 that we were able to witness the full vision of its Carson digs. Inspired by eerie silent foreign films (like the one the brewery is named after), co-founders Martin Svab, Jackson Wignot and head of barrel operations Simon Ford have built a dark, brooding barrel room into a skylit warehouse. The space comes complete with an on-site movie theater (where horror and science fiction films are projected onto a 130-inch screen), a European pub-style menu of sandwiches and meat plates, and 100 bottles of guest beers that you can drink during the all-day hours (rare for a tasting room), and — of course — some of the best sour beers around. 18525 S. Main St., Carson; (310) 538-5834, phantomcarriage.com.
Mumford Brewing Co.
No relation to the insufferable British banjo-folk band, Mumford Brewing, which opened during L.A. Beer Week as the first of the new wave of Arts District breweries, is named after its owners, brothers Todd and Peter Mumford. Their brightly lit tasting room next to the Escondite on Boyd Street is on a block that’s debatably Little Tokyo and almost straight-up Skid Row. Inside, you’ll find the requisite taproom board games, a lineup of small-batch hoppy beers and a coveted crowler machine, which lets you fill up and seal 32-ounce cans on the spot. We’re pretty obsessed with Black Mamba, Mumford's black IPA, which is one of the few examples of the style currently being made in L.A. Try the version with Stumptown coffee, available on frothy nitro. 416 Boyd St., Arts District; (213) 346-9970, mumfordbrewing.com.
Inside a 100-year-old building in downtown Long Beach, one of the best brewpubs in the country built a dreamy barrel room in true Belgian style. The environment is a geeky beer experiment, continuously tinkering with all sorts of bacteria and wild yeast, and its temperature and humidity are regulated to match precisely what’s going on in the facility of sour-beer greats Cantillon in Brussels. Beachwood BBQ and Brewing’s barrel project, the Blendery, isn’t technically open in the sense that you can walk in and try some of the one-off beers anytime. Instead, you have to wait until the beer decides it's ready to be drunk, at which time the tiny tasting room is opened for a day of bottle sales. After more than a year of letting beers hang out in barrels, the Blendery finally saw its first two releases over Halloween, and four more this past weekend. 247 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach; beachwoodbbq.com/blendery.
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Arts District Brewing Company
There are so many big names involved in Arts District Brewing, it was hard not to be excited about its opening, which was just a few weeks ago. Owned by 213 Hospitality’s Cedd Moses and the Spirited Group’s Eric Needleman, the brewery was created with the guidance of Brian Lenzo of Blue Palms Brewhouse and is being helmed by head brewer Devon Randall, who was formerly churning out some of San Diego’s best beers at Pizza Port in Solana Beach. Randall’s first batches of beers, including Traction IPA, Porter Rico imperial porter and Spirited saison, are beyond impressive — and it doesn’t hurt that they’re all being served in a gorgeous, 17,000-square-foot space with skeeball, ping pong, darts and its very own offshoot of Neal Fraser’s Original Farmers Market Stall Fritzi Dog. 828 Traction Ave., Arts District; facebook.com/artsdistrictbrewing.
If you’re looking for crisp, hoppy IPAs or Belgian-style beers brewed exactly as the monks do them in Europe, look elsewhere. Dry River Brewing’s beers don’t fit the mold and don’t want to. Head brewer Naga Reshi has made a career out of creating cutting-edge brews in far-out places, including in a Brazilian beach town where he fabricated his own brewhouse and buried cachaca barrels filled with jungle fruit–fermented ales in the sand. At his minuscule Boyle Heights brewery (seriously, the system is a glorified home-brew setup), yeasts from Reshi’s travels mix with local ingredients like jamaica and tamarind in Hungarian wine barrels procured by co-founder Vanda Cicervoya. Her husband, co-founder Dave Hodgins, is a sustainability consultant, giving the brewery a greener perspective. There’s no tasting room, so you’ll have to join the Collectors Club to receive quarterly shipments of specialty bottles or find Dry River at places like Sunset Beer, Far Bar, the Mar Vista Farmers Market and Miss Su’s Bodega in Boyle Heights. dryriverbrewing.com