Apparently the economic downturn has not hindered craft beer drinkers. They say, even in a recession, folks will still seek an escape from tough times at the movies. The same can now be said of beer bars. Despite dozens of housing projects downtown getting cancelled due to the financial malaise, beer bars are popping up at an exponential rate. Twenty-four taps here. Thirty-six taps there.
Only a handful of these beer bars, tap houses and ale houses are good enough to lay claim to the title, Best Beer Bar in All of Greater Los Angeles. That is rarified air and means you can compete with Hamilton's Tavern in San Diego or Monk's Kettle in San Francisco and that your beer selection is among the best in the world.
Surprisingly, one such establishment, 38 Degrees Ale House & Grill, can be found in scenic (not really) downtown Alhambra. This good-as-it-gets ale house offers 38 taps of elite craft beer such as Ballast Point Sculpin and Russian River's Pliny the Elder. 38 will be celebrating their 2nd Anniversary on Tuesday, June 28 beginning at 4 p.m., by pouring an exceptional selection of beers aged in wood barrels.
The rare, barrel-aged gems will be available in 5-ounce pours, full pours, or beer flights so you can try them all. If you haven't tried barrel-aged beers, they are "big beers," with tons of flavor and aged in red wine, white wine, brandy or even bourbon barrels. Some can be heavy, and most will be high alcohol by volume (abv). These beers are to be sipped and savored. You may also want to book a hotel nearby.
The Bruery's brilliant Maron Acidifie collaboration with Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, Florida, along with their 14.5% Cuir, will be among the featured brews. Other hard to get on draft offerings will include Lost Abbey's Framboise De Amorosa, Red Poppy, and Brandy Angel's Share, North Coast Old Rasputin XII, Eagle Rock Yearling, Moylans Old Blarney aged in port barrels with dates, Great Divide's Chocolate Oak Aged Yeti, Firestone's Abacus and Parabola, Flying Dog's Barrel Aged Gonzo, Stone Punishment, Allagash Confluence, Ballast Point Bourbon Barrel Aged Piper Down and Black Marlin, and Port's Older Viscosity 2010.
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Clay Harding owns 38 Degrees along with partners Brian Sugita, Charles Fata and Mike Fata. Harding is also a quarter of the ColLAboration foursome (partners Brian Lenzo, Ryan Sweeney and Tony Yanow) that has been bringing hugely successful pop-up beer gardens to L.A. He says their philosophy at 38 Degrees is simple, "We aim to please every single guest that walks though the door. And I promise you I can find a craft beer for everyone, no matter what their taste in beer, or even if they think they don't like beer. That's something you can't do for people who don't like wine."
Michael Cimarusti, chef-owner of Providence, is a 38 regular. "38 has something for everybody, including my wife and kids," says Cimarusti. "They are one of the only bars in L.A. that has my favorite, Pliny the Elder, on tap everyday."
Alhambra is a trek and, to be honest, the second best thing there is that the 76 station on Atlantic Boulevard is charging eight cents less per gallon than the Mobil across the street. But if you want to experience one of the five best beer bars in a 500-square mile city with hundreds of beer bars, it's a trek worth making.