L.A. County breweries are opening up at a quick pace these days. But just because a brewhouse has been fired up doesn’t mean you can automatically walk in and taste what’s coming out of it.
Some breweries start making beer for distribution first, then build out a tasting room as a secondary pursuit. Others open big with a well-curated taproom space all at once. Either way, taprooms are a gift to the public, offering a community gathering space that lets you grab a few pints (or growlers or bottles!), and see where the suds are made. And if you're lucky, you can interact with the makers of the beer themselves.
Here are five new L.A. brewery tasting rooms that have opened this year.
Verdugo West Brewing
You might recognize the name of Verdugo West’s brewmaster, Chris Walowski, as one of the few guys who knew his way around both clean and sour beers back in the early days of L.A.’s then-nascent brewing scene. He cut his teeth first at Ohana Brewing and then was head brewer at Torrance’s Smog City before leaving the industry altogether for a biotech job. Now, Walowski returns with Verdugo West, Burbank’s first brewery tasting room and a place to find both a killer blonde lager and a barrel-aged sour. Because Verdugo West is owned by the same hospitality group that runs Market City Caffe nearby, you can get burritos delivered right to your barstool.
156 W. Verdugo Ave., Burbank; (818) 841-5040, verdugowestbrewing.com.
As part of the Arts District’s brewery surge, Boomtown debuted two years ago with a few distribution-only beers made in their Little Tokyo–adjacent warehouse. They opened occasionally in a well-designed makeshift taproom (read: jockey boxes and no bar) while they awaited buildout of the real deal next door. Last weekend, the ambitious, expansive tasting room officially opened to the public. A cavernous, wood-covered space to meet up with large groups of friends like Arts District Brewing, it has pool tables, dart boards, a DJ booth, lots of communal tables and, of course, beer (in this case British-leaning ales with a West Coast bent). Try the Mic Czech pilsner and Kilwinning, a Scottish country ale. And get used to more experiments as brewmaster and partner Samuel “Chewy” Chawinga makes the most of his tasting room’s full 20 taps.
700 Jackson St., Arts District; boomtownbrew.com.
L.A. Ale Works
Few brewery openings in L.A. have been longer anticipated than Los Angeles Ale Works, which has been pouring at its Hawthorne tasting room for the last few weeks. Brewmaster and managing partner Kip Barnes is already an L.A. beer legend, known for not only his award-winning homebrews but his blog, Bierkast, which has been offering massive support of local brewers since the early days. In 2013, Barnes and a friend launched a successful Kickstarter to help fund production and distribution of L.A. Ale Works’ off-kilter German beers, but it would take another three years for those beers to find a permanent home. As Hawthorne’s first brewery, Barnes now makes everything from a California common to a rye roggenbier to a hoppy beer series made in honor of the Space X compound just a few blocks away.
12918 Cerise Ave., Hawthorne; laaleworks.com.
One of the best things to come out of the San Fernando Valley in a long time, Cellador Ales is less a brewery than a fermentorium, where every drop of wild beer gets aged exclusively in oak barrels, which are stacked high in the small North Hills warehouse. Husband-and-wife team of Kevin and Sara Osborne tend to the barrels as if they were their children, brewing fascinating Belgian-style beers elsewhere before pitching homegrown yeasts, adding fruits and experimentally blending the final products as a winemaker would. The results are sour, funky, sometimes hoppy, but always achingly complex beers available in cork-and-cage bottles (for maximum nuance) or, as of a month ago, on draft at their twice-a-month pop-up tasting room. No two releases are exactly the same, so enjoy this season's bounty, including experimental saison blends, dry-hopped table beers and the latest bottle, Confuzzled, a blended sour aged and fermented with pineapple, mango and guava.
16745 Schoenborn St., North Hills; celladorales.com.
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Smog City @ SteelCraft
OK, so the actual Smog City Brewery is in Torrance, a few miles up the road, but for those coming from the south, there’s a new way to drink favorites like Little Bo Pils, Hoptonic IPA and Kumquat Saison. Welcome to the brewery’s first off-site tasting room. That this tasting room is inside a conceptual outdoor modern food court built into shipping containers is merely a bonus. Smog City is one of eight vendors at Long Beach’s SteelCraft, which celebrated its grand opening last weekend as the first-of-its-kind development in L.A. County. This means that instead of waiting around for a food truck to arrive, as you do at most breweries, you can meander across the Astroturf and get a base layer of anything from pizza (Delano’s) and burgers (Pig Pen Delicacy) to waffles (Waffle Love) and ramen (Tajima). The taproom also sells bottles of specialty releases, merch, growlers and more.
3768 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach; smogcitybrewing.com.