Los Angeles might have one of the younger beer communities on the West Coast, but it is certainly making up for lost time. The city that once lived in the shadow of beer powerhouses like San Diego and Portland is finally starting to come into its own with new breweries beginning to ship suds and many more planned.
While 2012 was the first full year for major area names such as Golden Road and Beachwood (can you believe it's only been a year?!), the success of stalwart breweries like Craftsman and Eagle Rock both locally and afar has motivated others to bring their beer to this growing market. A new generation of brewpubs are sprouting out of popular beer bars (Haven and Congregation, for two) and many members of L.A.'s rich homebrewing communities are purchasing larger systems and applying for permits in the hopes of turning a hobby into a profession.
2013 will only bring more bricks to lie on top of the beer community's cornerstones. At least a half-dozen brewing operations are hoping to start pouring this year and many more already established ones will be either expanding or hitting their stride. We took a look at all that is and will be in this growing beer destination of a city and hand-picked a few names to keep an eye on this year.
Whether old or new or not yet past the financing stage, the following six breweries could possibly hold major roles in the future of L.A. beer — so you should probably start drinking them now.
If the crew behind L.A. River Brewing Company can raise just over $50,000 in the next month, they will become not only the first brewery in L.A. to be funded by Kickstarter, but also the first production brewery to lay roots in Culver City — a neighborhood teeming with beer potential. Head brewers Ryan Traux (who currently manages Father's Office) and Constance Marshall (who is a tenured member of the L.A. Derby Dolls) have been winning homebrew awards for two years. And 2013 looks like it might be the year Los Angeles starts getting tastes from their solid lineup of punny LARBC beers like the Silverlake Hopster IPA and Pacific Pale-isades.
5. L.A. Aleworks:
They have the license, the distribution and the kegs. All Kip Barnes and John Rockwell need to start releasing L.A. Aleworks' European-style beers, craft soda and sake is a brewery (yes, sake is technically a beer). Their plans to contract brew were quashed last September when the friends were forced to dump 500 gallons of soured roggenbier down the drain. Barnes (who founded Bierkast.com and also runs a networking group for L.A. beer bloggers) tells the Weekly that they have reverted back to homebrewing all their batches until they can launch a Kickstarter and private investment campaign to fund their own production facility. He says they are hoping to collaborate with a downtown L.A. brewery so that they can have something released in February or March to coincide with the campaign.
For residents of Downtown L.A. who dread the drive to Golden Road, the opening of Angel City Brewing's taproom can't come soon enough. The 15 year-old brewery moved from Alpine Village in Torrance to its historic Arts District location in 2010, but sold soon before re-opening to Alchemy and Science — a start-up craft beer collaboration that found funding as a subsidiary of the Boston Beer Co. Under this new ownership (Alchemy and Science is Alan Newman and Stacey Steinmetz both formerly of Magic Hat Brewing in Vermont), Angel City began releasing its IPA and witbier to local bars in 2012 and will be officially opening its art deco-inspired tasting room any day now. Though the next year of rebirth probably won't bring Angel City's most experimental phase (“This is a business and not a hobby,” one of the new owners told the L.A. Times), its first two year-round beers — the Angeleno IPA and Eureka! Wit — are a tasty start to this downtown-brewed renaissance.
2013 won't be the year that San Pedro Brewing Company's beers become worth drinking; it will hopefully be the year everyone realizes that the 13 year-old brewpub's beers have worth drinking all along. Since brewer Jason Welke came onboard in 2006, the Pedro Pilsner, Harbor Hefeweizen and Point Fermin Pale have continually pulled in awards from the L.A and San Diego county fairs, commercial beer competitions and international beer festivals — 43 medals in all. The bar screams “locals only” with football fans sitting wide-eyed at large screens and hometown bands taking to the stage on weekend nights, but cheap pitchers and quality lagers unlike any in L.A. (try the SoCal Tattoo Black Lager) makes SPBC worth the drive to this oft-forgotten 'hood.
We were already excited to see what 2013 will bring for Ohana Brewing Company when we profiled them back in October, but after recently checking in with Head Brewer Chris Walowski and hearing what L.A.'s newest brewery has planned for the next year, well, we're just plain giddy. Still on a mission to make every batch a different beer, Walowski (at 25, the youngest head brewer in the region) has released six beers in just three months and has an amber and Black IPA slated to go out to the brewery's 30-plus accounts the next week. Ever ambitious, Ohana will also be brewing two sour beers by the end of the month and an imperial stout that will be going into bourbon barrels for a hopeful summer release. Great beers coupled with a planned Alhambra retail location is sure to make 2013 the year of Ohana.
Smog City Brewing Company started over a year ago, making its XPA and L.A. Saison out of Tustin Brewing Company — the Orange County brewpub where Smog City's head brewer Jonathan Porter is also head brewer — and building an underground following in the City of Angels, its future home. Late last year, Jonathan and his wife Laurie purchased a spot in Torrance and spent the holidays building out the brewhouse, which will soon become an integral part of the small-but-strong community of formidable South Bay breweries (Monkish and Strand, anyone?). In the meantime, Smog City's Groundwork Coffee Porter (which won gold at the 2012 Great American Beer Festival), Hoptonic IPA and others (try the winter seasonal appropriately called “Weird Beer”) are flowing from taps at beer bars citywide as L.A. brew fans await the official arrival of what could very well be L.A.'s new signature brewery.
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