My name is Greg Zeschuk and I'd like to welcome you to the first annual Beer Drinker's Guide to E3. I hope you find its contents enlightening, and delicious. Some of you perhaps may remember me from my past life as one of the founders of BioWare, but I now ply my trade as the Chief Beer Enthusiast for The Beer Diaries, and I believe it is my duty to help all the thirsty travelers at E3 locate great local beer.
For those of you that attended some of the early E3 events back in the mid 1990's in L.A., you likely recall that the area around the convention center was a veritable wasteland, and most conference attendees would escape downtown L.A. as soon as the show was done each day. Thankfully this is no longer the case, and there are plenty of worthy destinations nearby that offer delicious local craft beer.
In this guide we showcase beer destinations that are within walking distance of the convention center, locations easily reached by train, and some absolute gems that are reachable by car. In addition, in the last few years the local craft beer scene in LA has finally woken from a deep slumber and we showcase no less than seven (7!!) local breweries that you will want to explore.
As always, please drink responsibly, and try some great local craft beer!
1050 S. Flower St., No. 167. L.A., CA 90015. (213) 747-1100.
A wine bar — and store — that treats its beer with reverence. BottleRock is the restaurant and bar as the ultimate compromise, boasting a seafood-heavy menu of sharable options and classic charcuterie selections. Indeed, the bright, modernist BottleRock can dress up or down as needed, although one can't do wrong with a seat at the mosaic glass bar made from recycled wine and beer bottles. Its dozen taps are heavily curated, rotated often and split the difference between locals and Belgium's. Added bonus: your wine-obsessed friends will have about 800 different options.
403 W. 12th St., L.A., CA 90015. (213) 746-0050.
Like BottleRock, the emphasis here is on wine, and while the beer selection is small, it reflects the mood at this contemporary upscale spot. In a word: refined. Be on the lookout for choice San Diego options such as the AleSmith IPA and the latest from Stone Brewing, and locally, Corkbar has been known to carry such offerings as the Strand Brewing Co.'s heavily hopped and malty Beach House. The menu is full of small-to-medium bites, from oysters to a braised short rib, and with plenty of outdoor seating it's one of the better expense-account options within steps of Staples Center.
Public School 612
612 S. Flower St. L.A., CA 90017. (213) 623-1172.
It is possible for a trip to the bar to have some educational benefits, and gastropub Public School 612 puts the emphasis on drinking and learning. Actually, that's exaggerating things a bit, but the menu and walls are at least outfitted with beer terms and definitions to ensure that one's drinking choices are somewhat informed. The California-focused taps are known to showcase the works of El Segundo Brewery, Angel City Brewery and Pasadena's tiny, tap-room-less Craftsman Brewing Co. Come for happy hour (recess) from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for $2 tacos.
Blue Palms Brewhouse
6124 Hollywood Blvd., L.A., CA 90028. (323) 467-2337.
Even amid the L.A. craft beer renaissance, it's still possible, albeit less so, to step into one of the many tourist-friendly places in Hollywood and find a generic tap list. So play it safe and visit Blue Palms, just a short walk from the Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street stop of the Red Line. The 25 taps here are rotated often and specialize in hard-to-find selections. Just days prior to E3, the Blue Palms list represented a who's who of West Coast breweries, with the likes Russian River, AleSmith, Ladyface, Golden Road, Eagle Rock and Beachwood all represented. It's also not uncommon to find one of the award-winning brews from Orange Country brewpub Taps Fish House on the list.
347 E. 1st St. L.A., CA 90012. (213) 617-9990.
Far Bar, near the Little Tokyo stop of the Gold Line, is two bars in one. One is entered via an alley, and one is a housed within a standard-issue floor-to-ceiling glass storefront. Since patrons and tabs can freely go between them, all this really means is that there are more drafts to spread around. But if the night is right, take advantage of the seating in the alley, which is adorned with Christmas lights, and pick from a draft menu that almost always features a few hard-to-find brews. Tiny up-and-coming local breweries such as Ohana can be discovered here, as can Cali breweries that rarely make it to L.A. such as Kern River. The menu features Asian twists on American bar food and make sure to walk between the two bars at least once. Then look down. There's a crypt.
3229 Helms Ave., L.A., CA. 90034. (310) 736-2224.
Long before L.A. had a burgeoning craft beer scene, the region still had one of the country's better-known craft beer bars in the Father's Office. Once a closet-sized Santa Monica dive, restaurateur Sang Yoon turned the Father's Office into a foodie destination in 2000 when he created a world-renowned burger topped with such ingredients as gruyère and maytag cheeses and applewood-smoked bacon compote (no substitutions ). But the burger was the star, at least until this larger Culver City outpost opened in 2008 to more than double the capacity. Near the Culver City stop of the Expo Line, three-dozen of the city's cleanest, most respectable tap lines await. And the burger is still great.
532 S. Western Ave., L.A., CA. (213) 387-2337.
When this Koreatown pub turned two this May, it received a beer lover's dream for a birthday gift. Orange County's the Bruery, which specializes in odd ingredients for its Belgium-inspired beers, crafted an one-of-a-kind beer that celebrated the neighborhood in which the Beer Belly resides, utilizing black sesame seeds, jujubes and azuki red beans for a sour, fruity beer. Consider it a sign that the Beer Belly, also accessible from the Western stop of the Purple Line, has the respect of the craft beer community. Many of the 12 or so taps here are filled with hyper-local options. There's a lengthy bottle list, a graffiti-cool patio and hard-to-resist grub such as duck fat fries and deep fried Oreos.
4227 San Fernando Road, Glendale. (818) 241-4227.
Glendale Tap is the kind of neighborhood bar every beer fan deserves but too few get to experience. There are peanut shells on the floor, 52 taps and no other option available for drinkers. Glendale Tap's license allows it to sell only beer, and nearly every line is from a L.A. or Orange Country brewery. The place also has a colorful history, and may or may not have been a brothel at one point. Enjoy a seat at a the bar, which was once a bowling lane at Chicago's Marzano's Miami Bowl, and ask the servers to explain the place's myths. Of note: The Glendale Tap is conveniently nestled between Golden Road and Eagle Rock breweries.
2141 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A., CA 90026. 213) 483-2337.
Housed in a converted movie theater, the long and narrow Mohawk Bend has plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, with communal tables at the bar and a high-ceilinged atrium for a dining room (the latter has a fireplace to add a sense of coziness). The look is urban loft chic, complete with exposed bricks and diner-inspired barstools, and the menu is local and vegan-friendly. Its 72 taps are nearly all dedicated to California craft, with only one out-of-state brewery highlighted per month. Style wise, this is one of the robust options around town, as recent menus have included an arsenal of Double IPAs lighter Saisons from the likes of Ladyface and Taps, as well as the ultra-light Alpha Session Ale from San Francisco's Drakes.
Angel City Brewery
216 S. Alameda St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. (213) 622-1261.
The Angel City brand has been hanging around the L.A. area for about 15 years. But things got serious last year when Angel City was acquired by Alchemy & Science, whose parent company Boston Beer Co. has one of the industry's household names in Sam Adams. Now operating out of a three-story art deco antique in the Little Tokyo-adjacent Arts District, a 1931 building that once belonged to Brooklyn Bridge-designer John A. Roebling, Angel City can be regularly spotted around downtown. Outside the tap room, look for its Eureka! Wit, a brisk wheat with subtle spicing, as well as the Angel City Pilsner. The latter is one of the few pilsners from a craft beer maker in L.A., and it carries a medium body to better hold the West Coast hop weight.
210 E 3rd St., Long Beach, CA 90802. (562) 436-4020.
When Gabriel Gordon opened a barbecue restaurant in Seal Beach in 2007, he kept his taps rotating by buying just a couple of kegs of each beer. Voyeuristic beer drinkers were pleased, as a live Web cam showed what was on tap. In late 2011 he got more ambitious, opening a restaurant and brewery in downtown Long Beach. Brewmaster Julian Shrago, an engineer by trade, was given a dozen of Beachwood's 30-plus taps to do with what he pleased and beers with lighthearted names such as Hoppa Smurf, Hop Vader and System of a Stout were reflective of the whimsy in which Shrago approached tradition. Less common beer spices such as cardamom showed up (System of a Stout) and Beachwood fears no style (see the creamy sweet milk stout Udder Love). Just note that Beachwood's batches are small, and selection changes frequently.
Eagle Rock Brewery
3056 Roswell St., Los Angeles, CA 90065. (323) 257-7866.
"Beer for the people" is the brewery's slogan, and the theme of revolution carries over into most of Eagle Rock's offerings. Among the brewery's concoctions are beers that go by names such as Populist, Manifesto and Revolution. Don't be fooled, as Eagle Rock specializes in approachability, as these are beers that hover in the mid-range of the ABV spectrum. Yet when the father-son brewery opened in 2009, its arrival in L.A. was downright radical, as it was at the time the only brewery in L.A. proper. The rose petal-infused Manifesto, a lightly-spiced Belgian-inspired white ale, nicely reflects SoCal's sun and heat, and Revolution is a pale ale that indulges in weapons-grade hops but not the high alcohol content. This is a car city, after all.
El Segundo Brewing
140 Main St., El Segundo, CA 90245. (310) 529-3882.
On the beach-area beer scene since about 2011, El Segundo Brewing is led by former aerospace industry executive-turned-homebrew Rob Croxall and his mission is simple: to create the most aggressively hopped beers in Los Angeles. The West Coast is known, of course, for its excessively bitter IPAs, and El Segundo has been tinkering with the style in its relatively short lifespan. To wit, the brewery's White Dog IPA uses half wheat instead of the typical barley. What that means is the mouthful is airy and the less weighty body brings the tropical fruit flavors to the fore. More regularly spotted around town is the brewery's Citra Pale Ale, which pushes to the max the amount of piney flavors that a beer with an easy drinking ABV of 5.5% can handle.
Golden Road Brewing
5410 W San Fernando Road, Los Angeles, CA 90039. (213) 373-4677.
Golden Road arrived in L.A. with grand ambitions in late 2011, opening a campus that spanned three mini-warehouse hangars and a canning line. In less than a year, Golden Road had its beer in supermarkets and more than 400 draft accounts throughout the L.A. area. The focus early was on two beers, its namesake Hefeweizen and its Point the Way IPA. The former adheres closely to the Bavarian style, with an emphasis on California citrus notes, while the latter has been tweaked until it arrived in its current form as a crisp, dry and sharp IPA. But the draw is the brewpub, complete with outdoor pub games imported from England and a robust tap list that represents the brewery's more experimental side, such as the tequila barrel aged El Hefe Anajo (if you're lucky).
Ladyface Ale Companie
29281 Agoura Road, Agoura Hills, CA 91301. (818) 477-4566.
Step into Ladyface's Agoura Hills brewpub and it's possible that the first thing you see will not be beer but beer-related crafts courtesy of owner Cyrena Nouzille. Any brewery can pour a pint, but how many can sell you a necklace out of rare Belgium beer scraps? Of course, there's a slight chance you may never even step inside, as the mountain view from the patio is postcard worthy. When it comes to beer, Ladyface's ales are also of the one-of-kind hand-crafted, variety. The brewery's La Grisette is a tangy wheat ale, the seven-hop blend of Palo Comado attempts to give complex fruit flavoring to a pale ale, La Blonde is a low-ABV offering where the emphasison malt sweetness and Blind Ambition is a Belgium-styled amber ale laced with caramel malts.
Strand Brewing Co.
23520 Telo Ave., Torrance, CA 90505. (310) 517-0900.
This tiny West Side brewery spent its first two years barely scarping by, with co-owners hand-delivering beer in an old van. For Strand, 2013 has been a year of steady expansion, as a recently launched bottling line has Strand regularly popping up outside of its industrial park Torrance tasting room. Strand is another West Coast outfit bit by the hop-bug and its popular 24th Street Pale Ale is not for those who shirk at grapefruit acidity in their beers. Strand's IPA-inspired offerings are generally thick, more amber in tone and with a greater malt emphasis than most West Coast offerings. Still, the Beach House splits the difference between a red ale and an IPA and the Black IPA does bitterness roasted.
The Beer Diaries is hosted by Dr. Greg Zeschuk, a former medical doctor turned video game developer turned chief beer enthusiast. Video game enthusiasts will recognize Zeschuk from the company he co-founded, BioWare, who are the creators of games like Baldur's Gate, Mass Effect, Dragon Age and Star Wars: The Old Republic among others. Since leaving BioWare in late 2012, Greg has been focusing his creative passion in an entirely new direction and new topic: craft beer.