It takes a lot of guts to brew exclusively Belgian-style beers in IPA-driven Southern California, but Henry Nguyen doesn't care. Since opening his small brewery in Torrance last spring, the theology professor–turned-brewmaster has stood by his decision to focus on the notoriously sweet brewing tradition and is using the niche to push the boundaries of what Belgian-style beer can taste like. You won't find some of the more common styles like Belgian wits or quadrupels here. Instead, the lineup at Monkish Brewing eschews expectations in lieu of peppercorn-spiced red table beers and experimental prickly pear–infused “Belgian-style it-is-what-it-is” ales, which all use a similar strain of Belgian yeast to give that distinctive European sweetness. Even though he will, once in a while, make a dry-hopped, Belgian-style beer (try the Por Toi or Lumen), most of Nguyen's creations find their balance with off-kilter ingredients such as chamomile, elderflowers, rose hips and thyme — turning garden fodder into beer adjuncts in ways that no other L.A. brewer dares. 20311 S. Western Ave., Torrance. (310) 295-2157, monkishbrewing.com. —Sarah Bennett
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