Craft beer in L.A. can no longer be accused of being a trend – it's here, it's messing with our preference for liquor and it's about time everyone just got used to it. The number of breweries, brewpubs, craft beer bars and distributors willing to help push the boundaries of what we know as beer continues to grow and 2014 looks to be yet another year for L.A. to solidify its place in this culture's expanding history.
With established breweries growing their vision and more than a dozen new production breweries in planning across the county, the next 12 months are going to be a whirlwind of local beer.
We sifted through the rumors and realities and found the following five breweries that are guaranteed to bring even more honor to the future of L.A. beer.
5. Ohana Brewing
Okay, so Ohana also made this list last year, but 2013 brought so many changes to the young brewery that we just couldn't help ourselves again. In addition to hiring a new three-person brew team and starting a small bottling operation, owner Andrew Luthi announced late last year that they had signed a lease for an off-site tasting room in Alhambra, the first of its kind for an L.A. brewery. With experienced homebrewers Robert Sanchez, Erick “Riggs” Villar, and Eric McLaughlin already dialing in new signature pale ales and IPAs for the brand, we're excited to witness the next year of Ohana's experimentation and growth. Approval for the brewery's tasting room – where growlers can be filled and swag purchased – came from the Alhambra City Council this week and doors should be open by March. Ohana Tasting Room, 7 South First St., Alhambra, ohanabrew.com.
4. Absolution Brewing Company
When it comes to craft beer, San Diegans won't touch “trend-geared” L.A. with a 100-mile-long pole, so imagine our surprise when it was discovered that some fearless brewers from Beer City, USA, had signed a lease in Beer City, L.A. – Torrance. Slated for a Spring 2014 opening, Absolution Brewing Company (or ABC for short) is three friends – Wes McCann, Steve Farguson and Nigel Heath – whose histories with legendary SD homebrew club QUAFF is fueling massive excitement for their English-influenced West Coast beers. While construction continues on the brewery and taproom, early adopters can sign up for the ABC Mug Club, which for $125 gives you exclusive gear, invitations to events, rights to all new beers and discounts for life on pours and growler fills. Absolution Brewing Company, 2878 Columbia St., Torrance, absolutionbrewingcompany.com.
3. MacLeod Ale Brewing
After spending what seemed like an eternity as the forgotten stepchild of L.A. beer, San Fernando Valley comes into its own in 2014. Though there are four breweries expected to start pouring across the flat expanse in the next 12 months, we're most excited for MacLeod, a Van Nuys production brewery and tasting room that will exclusively make historic British-style beers. Owners Alastair and Jennifer Boase have roots in Scotland and England, respectively, and brewer Andy Black is a beer history fanatic, making MacLeod (pronounced “mac-cloud”) a triple threat of real ale for the L.A. beer scene. After two years of planning and some setbacks during the permitting process (don't worry, City of Los Angeles, the parking will be adequate), construction is finally underway. Expect beers to start flowing by April. MacLeod Ale Brewing, 14741 Calvert Street, Van Nuys, macleodale.com.
2. Sundowner Brewery
When two top employees at Westlake Village's Wade's Wines dragged a 20-gallon brewing set-up into the back of its attached Malibu Sundowner Tasting Room in mid-2012, they not only turned the booze store into Los Angeles County's most far-flung brewery (sorry, Ladyface!), but also its smallest. With wine sommelier Alyssa Schlosser and Thousand Oaked homebrew club president Todd Slater in charge, Sundowner Brewery has quietly been taking full advantage of their nanobrewery status by brewing tiny (read: one keg only) batches of increasingly experimental beers. Last year, Sundowner took home a gold and a silver medal at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition for its Black Soul Stout and Big Wheat strong ale, but we suggest a trip to the tasting room – the only place where Sundowner is served – for pints and growlers of tasty fresh-hopped creations like the Windfall India Wheat Ale, Burst hoppy Belgian and Brutus, a meaty 9.2%ABV double IPA. Sundowner Brewery, 30961 Agoura Rd. #321, Westlake Village, (818) 597-9463, malibusundowner.com.
1. Phantom Carriage
Phantom Carriage may have only officially released one beer so far, but it's what we know Martin Svab and Simon Ford are hiding in their cellar that makes us most excited for 2014. Longtime homebrewers with a penchant for Belgian-style ales and meticulously crafted sours, Svab and Ford have been laying low since letting loose Muis, a wild blonde ale brewed in collaboration with Monkish that teased L.A. taste buds last summer. Thankfully, the duo's silence ended with good news – Phantom Carriage found a location in Carson and will soon have its own industrial unit at which to brew, blend and concoct what is sure to be L.A.'s most steady supply of sours yet. After years of home brewing, gypsy brewing and then contract brewing, Phantom Carriage will finally be realizing their all-along vision and turning the so-called “small batch beer endeavor” into a nanobrewery and café that brings the best of Belgium to greater L.A. Phantom Carriage, 18525 S. Main St., Carson, phantomcarriage.com.