For many bars, happy hour means rock-bottom prices for stiff well drinks that could peel paint off the walls. But plastic-bottle vodka isn't for everyone. Besides, any two-for-one deal on Kentucky Gentleman is likely to leave you stuck calling a cab. Instead, take advantage of beer-focused happy hours, where you can maintain your legal driving limit while still having a few. And don't settle for the fizzy yellow stuff. If you're going to drink discounted beer with discounted food, it might as well be quality discounted beer, right? Right.
We scoured this burgeoning craft beer city for the best places to visit during those magical early-evening hours. Behold, our five favorite spots where tasty microbrews are poured at PBR prices.
Say what you will about the corporate vibe and pomegranate martini-sipping clientele at Yardhouse, a chain with locations in Pasadena, Northridge, Long Beach and downtown at L.A. Live. When it comes to craft beer happy hours, it still makes the cut. Most of the taps are selections of common brews like Moose Drool or Green Flash IPA, but each location has nearly 100 of them on draft. Better yet, during happy hour, every single one is discounted, meaning craft and import pints are no more than $5.75, and short pours are only a few bucks. Plus there's an extensive happy hour menu of pizzas and appetizers priced at a fraction of their regular cost. With locations on the waterfront in Long Beach and in the heart of other nightlife destinations from downtown L.A. to Pasadena, Yardhouse is an easy place to load up before heading to the next spot. Now if only they'd fix the too-loud "classic rock" soundtrack and get rid of the Cheesecake Factory feel, we might actually stick around for dinner. Happy hour Mon.-Fri., 3-6 p.m.; Sun.-Wed., 10 p.m. to mid. 800 W. Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles; 213-745-9273.
4. City Tavern:
City Tavern emerged a few years ago in the middle of bustling downtown Culver City, a town that's slowly becoming the Westside's missing-link beer destination. With a rotating list that always features the latest from L.A.'s young breweries and tableside pour-your-own tap systems, this neopastoral watering hole attracts newbies, geeks and Sony Studios employees alike. Even if its normally high prices ($9 for a pint of local beer?!) are a turnoff for some, City Tavern's happy hour special -- $10 for a 32-ounce milk jug "share pour" of most of its 22 drafts -- provides a perfect opportunity to dive into the restaurant's impressive tap list. Other than eschewing the "share" suggestion and just drinking the entire two-pint portion yourself, happy hour here leaves few options for solo drinkers. But with the deal running through the weekend and a second location being planned for downtown L.A. this fall, we'll file this one under "make sure to bring a friend." Happy hour daily, 3-6 p.m. 9739 Culver Blvd., Culver City; 310-838-9739.
3. Naja's Place:
If the pungent smell of fish and salt water doesn't send you driving back up to Manhattan Beach, you'll probably enjoy happy hour at Naja's Place, a gritty dive bar on Redondo's working-class boardwalk, which just happens to carry one of the biggest and oldest selections of craft beer in all of Los Angeles. More than 70 taps wrap around Naja's bar, and aside from two lines devoted to Bud and Coors Light, everything is a rare, seasonal or solid year-round craft beer. That staggering list of options is made only slightly less intimidating between 5 and 7 p.m., when about 40 of the beers are on discount. On a giant dry-erase board above the ordering counter, all the current offerings are color-coded by price. During happy hour, the cheapest categories (black and blue) are given either a $1, $2 or $3 discount on pints, "large" pints and pitchers -- making Naja's the only place in town to get a pitcher of everything from Mammoth Brewing's Nut Brown ale to El Segundo's Blue House IPA for $15. Happy hour Mon.-Fri., 5-7 p.m. 154 International Boardwalk, Redondo Beach; 310-376-9951.
No, it's not anything like Tilted Kilt, and yes, Congregation Ale House has a kitschy religious theme. But don't let the Catholic schoolgirl outfits and church puns fool you. This local chain, with "chapters" in Long Beach, Pasadena and Azusa, offers serious beer spots with seriously generous happy hours, appropriately called "mass" here. During the holiest of times -- which run all day Monday and during the week from 3 to 7 p.m., with a late-night "midnight mass" happy hour starting at 12 a.m. -- all drafts are $1 off, and a special "chosen one" pint is only $3. Food is heavily discounted as well, meaning that a burger, fries and a beer can run you as little as a Hamilton. Stop by on Sundays, when traditional 12-ounce pours of Palm, a Belgian amber ale, are only $4. It might not be part of Congregation's "mass" happy hour, but it does have the restaurant chain's best pun yet -- "Palm Sundays." Happy hour all day Monday; Tues.-Fri., 3-7 p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., mid.-close. 300 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; 626-403-2337.
1. Boneyard Bistro:
Despite hosting one of the shortest happy hours on this list, Boneyard Bistro is the one most perfectly situated at the crucial intersection of "interesting tap list" and "steep savings." For two hours each weekday, all 40 of the draft beers on tap at this Valley gastropub are 25 percent off. That may sound like a percentage built to lure you to a mall sale, but with beers normally running $5 to $10, it actually amounts to multiple dollars off on pours from the local, regional and international breweries on Boneyard's endlessly rotating draft list. Unfortunately, the happy hour food menu is basically still regular (expensive) prices, and the place tends to fill up with families and wannabe actresses pretty quickly after happy hour ends (it's still the Valley, after all). But for a few glorious hours each weekday, pours of beers such as Ohana Brewing's Big Walowski and Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen are cheaper than anywhere else in L.A. Happy hour Mon.-Fri., 4:30-6:30 p.m. 13539 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; 818-906-7427.
Be sure to pick up our new Happy Hour guide, which hits the streets April 18.
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