Even in a down economy craft beer finds new and ever trending audiences across the land as sales steadily rise for independent brewers and gastropubs alike, while new palettes embrace the diversity of an ancient elixir known formerly as beer. The South Bay has a plethora of watering holes that cater to thirsty patrons from all walks of life but in the last couple years there has been a steady uptick in craft beer consumption.
A burgeoning craft beer movement is sweeping through the South Bay of Los Angeles and no longer can Northern California and San Diego hold geographical supremacy over brewery locations. Since the advent of one of the Southlands craftiest breweries, The Bruery, small, unaffiliated non-corporate beer makers have risen for business throughout parts of Orange & LA County. Equally respondent though, and crucial to this rising trend, is the consumer, who’s cheerfully tilted their elbows in united approval.
S.B. Suds will gladly follow this fascinating craft beer renaissance in the Beach Cities and beyond, through its trends and seasons, and keep the South Bay in tune with local beer festival and tastes, as we’ve done in the past. To christen the launch of our first web page dedicated to craft beer, we’ve compiled a list (in no particular order) of some of our favorite California craft breweries and their products.
S.B. SUDS: Favorite California Craft Breweries
- North Coast Brewing Co. Arguably the bellwether of Northern California’s craft beer industry, stationed in Fort Bragg, this brewery is internationally known with distribution channels to Europe and Asia. There’s no matching the balance of a Pilsner brew and for day-long drinking under the South Bay sun, go with North Coast’s Scrimshaw Pilsner (4.4 % ABV). It has a crisp, lemon-lime finish with a subtle hoppiness that comes together for a pleasurable summer standard. The Scrimshaw Pilsner is readily available in most drinking establishments and can regularly be found at Trader Joes. If you’re in the mood for a Belgian brew, test your merit with a sip of North Coast’s Pranqster, a Belgian style golden ale with a comfortable 7.6% ABV.
- Port Brewing Co. Pizza and craft beer made for a belly-bloating experience and were probably a little premature in the early 1990s, but Pizza Port gained a well deserved reputation for pouring hoppy beers throughout the 90s and into the 21st century. Today Port Brewing is a product of Northern San Diego County’s diverse brewing landscape and will likely become more recognizable to South Bay folk and beyond. Their signature black lager beer is called Midnight Expressions (5.5% ABV), it’s a dark beer with a deceivingly smooth, roasted finish. No intense dark beer flavors here like chocolate or coffee, thus making for one of the most drinkable Stout or Porter like beers this side of the Mississippi. This is a hard beer to find but check the ever flowing 88 taps at Naja’s Place on the King Harbor side of the Redondo Beach Pier or just mosey into BevMo.
- Bear Republic Brewing Co. Simply one of the best brand names of any craft beer label, Bear Republic combines an independent spirit with high quality craft beer. They harbor one of the world’s most satisfying India Pale Ales (IPA) ever made; it’s called Racer 5 IPA (7.0% ABV). Although the market for APAs & IPAs can seem a bit crowded, just be sure to remember the words “Racer 5.” It doesn’t overpower you with hops and comes complete with some caramel notes. The finish is dry and citrusy, in the end you feel genuinely satisfied. Racer 5 can be found at Naja’s Place in Redondo Beach and Café Boogaloo in Hermosa Beach. Look for it and other Bear Republic beers at Cost Plus World Markets too.
- Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Now a major player in the California craft beer scene because of their award-winning brew and fancy last name. Located in what is considered wine country, Paso Robles, Firestone brews a short but popular list of beers. Their Double Barrel Ale (5.0% ABV) is an English style Pale Ale that can be found everywhere, even at Costco. The DBA has an amber-brown hue and toasty-malted smell with hints of sweetness (apple/cherry). The finish is clean and dry making the DBA very sessionable.
- The Strand Brewing Co. One of the South Bay’s first craft brewers ever to set-up shop in Torrance, we first sampled their 24th Street Pale Ale (6.1% ABV) at last summer’s Socal Suds Beer Festival. It was love at first sip, even if the market is way over-saturated with everything Pale Ale. It’s a well balanced American Pale Ale with a hoppy nose that’s easy to drink and a finish that is touch citrus sweet. You can find this tasty APA all over the South Bay as the owner, Rick Marcello, has done due diligence in distributing his passion to a solid majority of South Bay bars. Look out for The Strand’s Beach House Amber too, it’s worth a hoist.