Sherman Oaks might still lack a brewery of its own (you'll have to go to Van Nuys for that), but it's managed to become one of L.A.'s most worthwhile craft beer destinations, with a tight collection of craft-beer-loving establishments situated within stumbling distance section on or near Ventura Boulevard.
Along the two-and-a-half-mile stretch between Sepulveda Boulevard and Coldwater Canyon, there are over a dozen spots with above-average craft beer options. Some of them have better food, some paid more for interior design and, for some reason, many of them have names that evoke a working-class mindset.
Starting at the western end of Sherman Oaks and heading east, here are our favorites:
Public School 818
The San Fernando Valley outpost of the Public School gastropub chain is on the bottom floor of an office building, which isn't exactly the most bustling spot for a nighttime drink. But during the day and into their food-only happy hour (called “recess”), the bar and patio are packed with revelers eating bacon cheddar tots and drinking through the bar's 24 taps of craft beer — including local favorites like the Kolsch from Lancaster's Bravery Brewing and Amarilla Gorilla from Smog City. This location continues Public School's educational theme with composition notebooks, letterman jackets, and charts and graphs as part of the decor — plus a roving beer expert who will gladly explain to you the rare kegs and seasonal local releases that dot the beer menu. 15300 Ventura Blvd. #102G, Sherman Oaks. (818) 728-9818; psontap.com/locations/ps818.
Blue Dog Tavern
Blue Dog Tavern is the original Sherman Oaks beer bar. Hiding on a side street nearly in a residential neighborhood, it opened in 2009 with exposed wood everywhere, eye-roll-worthy canine-themed decor and a bar-service patio that makes it ideal for bringing the whole posse. It's pretty standard fried bar food here, but the beer list is long enough to be parsed out by style and, between the eight taps and 100-plus bottle selections, encompasses quite a swath of territory: from Scrimshaw Pilsner to Harviestoun Old Engine Oil. Country flags next to each beer let you know whether it's American, German, British, Belgian or Canadian, and old tap handles screwed into the rafters let you remember fondly the beers gone by. Just a heads up that it gets a little college-night here, even with the foothill-dwelling clientele. 4524 Saugus Ave., Sherman Oaks. (818) 990-2583; bluedogbeertavern.com.
The Tipsy Cow
For something a little more low-key, The Tipsy Cow is one of the newest additions to the Sherman Oaks strip. An intimate neighborhood burger-centric spot that quietly opened last summer in a space formerly occupied by an old-school Italian restaurant, it's been a hideout for locals who want to eat and have a beer without yelling over everyone else. The 32 draft beers are organized by simple categories — easy, dark, hoppy, wheat, Belgian and special — and include common finds like Duvel and Stella alongside more rare offerings, like Firestone Walker's Velvet Mocha Merlin and the sour red ale Cuvee de Jacobin Rouge. 15005 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 986-8472; tipsycowla.com.
Tipple & Brine
Tipple & Brine is a restaurant and bar with daily oysters and hamachi deals and was the first of the craft beer-serving places to open on this retail stretch near the intersection of Van Nuys Boulevard. Now, there are practically enough restaurants to designate the block “downtown Sherman Oaks.” When we reviewed Tipple & Brine last year, we said it was the trendiest restaurant opening in the SFV's recent history, and that coolness extends to its craft beer list as well. There are only 12 taps, but they include local favorites like Craftsman 1903, Ballast Point Sculpin and more. 14633 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 528-2580; tippleandbrine.com.
The Local Peasant
In the no-mans land between downtown Sherman Oaks and its “Restaurant Row” there is The Local Peasant, a hidden gastropub near the corner of Hazeltine and Ventura that we named the Best Bar in the Valley last year. The four-year-old spot (with a newer outpost in Woodland Hills) might be more known for its food than its craft beer selection, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for uninspired brews while noshing on bacon-truffle macaroni and cheese. Local and seasonal beers like Noble Aleworks Man’s Milk and Telegraph Wit are on draft, and bottles like Racer 15 and Bruery Oude Tart make The Local Peasant worth the trek. A see-through cold-storage vault filled with kegs lets you observe all the action. 14058 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 501-0234; thelocalpeasants.com.
Pitchforks on the walls and an all-out barn aesthetic sets The Woodman apart from the other Goat Group bars. But it still has the heavy craft beer emphasis that we've come to expect from the group, which has brought L.A. such beery wonderlands as Verdugo Bar, Surly Goat and Little Bear (another project, Sweeney’s Ale House, is now open just down the way in Encino). Known for creating bars that fit the needs of their neighborhoods, Goat Group has positioned The Woodman as a good place to watch the game while sipping on crazy craft beer from the taplist’s rotation of new local releases, which, thanks to co-owner Ryan Sweeney, always includes exclusive kegs that you can't find anywhere else: a special collaboration with Monkish called Zesty Panda, for example. 13615 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. (818) 386-9401; thewoodmanla.com.
If Blue Dog was the first place to sell craft beer in Sherman Oaks, Boneyard Bistro may be the Valley gastropub that sent it down a more righteous path. Boneyard’s happy hour can’t be beat, and we once named it the best place for craft beer and barbecue in the Valley. But even when all 40 of the draft selections aren't 25 percent off, it's worth paying full price for the local, regional and international beers on Boneyard's endlessly rotating list, which has included Alesmith Speedway Stout, Eagle Rock's Manifesto Wit and St. Bernardus Abt. 12. Where else can you eat spare ribs cooked by a chef who trained with the inimitable Charlie Trotter in Chicago and sip a beer brewed down the street? 13539 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 818-906-7427; boneyardbistro.com.