Firestone Walker’s foray into the Southland has been a long time coming. The move by the Paso Robles beer giant into two adjacent Venice properties was first brought to light back in 2013, and since then it seems like slow going for the brewhouse/taproom/restaurant space. Mostly because there’s a lot of work to be done.
“Arrowhead’s got the water … Big Bear’s got the beer!” That’s the sentiment behind Big Bear Mountain Brewery, the small yellow house just off Big Bear Boulevard that’s home to the mountain’s only commercial brewing operation. Sure, pulling into the parking lot might make you think you’re stopping over at someone’s private residence for a beer. And sure, you’re just as likely to find yourself sitting inside on a floral love seat as you are a barstool, but that’s just the way Big Bear Mountain Brewery is. Cozy, quiet, unassuming; their beer is much the same.
Still, it’s a fun atmosphere at Big Bear Mountain Brewery, with plenty of beer signs, old glass bottles and signed dollar bills tacked up to the wood paneling. There’s a small piano in one corner, lots of old black and white photographs, and enough Americana to make you red white and blue in the face. In other words, it’s classic Big Bear: woodsy and historical, with a fun sense of exactly its place in the universe. And with a chatty staff that will happily let you nose around all the kitsch, it’s not a bad place to spend a Saturday afternoon, after a few hours in the snow or lakeside summer sun.
It doesn’t take a scientist to tell you why ice cream and fizzy sodas work well together. The slowly melting ice cream becomes laced with thousands of little trapped soda bubbles that each impart a bit of their flavor onto the ice cream before you take a bite. As you continue on, the thicker, richer soda begins to mix completely with the warming ice cream to create a new, third taste: it’s not quite ice cream or soda, it’s a hybrid mix of the best from each. Creamy and bubbly and fully infused with all of the flavors from whatever beverage began in your glass, these thick sips and spoonfuls are what takes the idea of floating ice cream in soda to a whole other level. As a summertime specialty, it’s a near-perfect cooling device that’s much more than a collection of two simple ingredients.
So what happens when you take out the soda, and put in beer? Both beverages can offer bold, rich flavors in a tightly carbonated package. And both mix well with the simple creaminess of a scoop of ice cream, but soda falls short when it comes to the satisfying twang of alcohol fermentation. There’s an underlying bite to beer floats, a snappiness that cuts through all of that sweet indulgence to create a summertime ice cream drink that can actually be surprisingly refreshing.
German Kölsch beers may not be very common in America, but they represent a pinnacle of summer drinking refreshment. While true versions are brewed exclusively in the Rhineland city of Cologne, Kölsch (and American-brewed “Kölsch-style”) beers pour a light golden color and offer unfussy taste with plenty of crisp, dry balance to help cool down overheated drinkers. During brewing, the beer is fermented at lower temperatures than other, heavier ales, resulting in a cleaner overall taste that works perfectly when served cold. Sound like the perfect summer sipping? You can go to just about any worthwhile beer store in Los Angeles and pick some up right now, thanks to Golden Road Brewing.
Do you hear that low rumble? That’s the sound of the South Bay, exploding with unbelievable craft beer breweries. It started slow at first, with a few noticeable blips on the Los Angeles beer radar, and has steadily jostled its way into the spotlight. With half a dozen breweries, some just emerging now, centered primarily around Torrance, there’s no denying it anymore: sand, sun, surf and suds go together really, really well.
Despite the growing accessibility of great craft beers in Southern California and beyond, beer culture can be quite intimidating for the uninitiated. It’s certainly not intentional; many of the best brewers working today are fun, approachable and seriously intelligent folks who just love to talk about their craft. But, because of the constant expansion and overwhelming array of choices often found in these dimly lit beer bars, where the staff takes their pours very seriously, it can be a difficult transition for non-beer lovers to ease into the craft beer world.
So where is a newbie to drink the best in local, regional and international craft brews, if not at one of these high falutin’ establishments? The answer, apparently, is Downey. That’s where you’ll find Uncle Henry’s Deli, a strip mall sandwich spot with well over fifty different taps full of great craft beer.
You don’t have to be Cedd Moses to know that drinking in downtown is all the way back. While places like the now-revamped King Eddy’s Saloon have been pouring pints for generations, newer operations like the up and running Angel City Brewery have helped to revitalize a downtown that was once nearly devoid of quality booze. We as a city have several places to thank for the slow transformation that has made downtown a drinker’s paradise, not least of which is BUZZ Wine Beer Shop.
The Spring Street marketplace is owned and operated by Scott Kamalski and David Bakhshi, two friends with prior restaurant experience who found great bottles of beer and wine to be in short supply downtown, even after revitalization had begun to take hold. So in June of 2011 the two men opened the doors to their glass-lined corner market, complete with taps and tables in the back for occasional tasting nights. The idea was simple: bring quality, under-served drinks to a downtown that was bursting with new apartment dwellers looking to stock their fridges and maybe step out for a drink or two when they felt like it.
It makes perfect sense, in a way, that the ballooning craft beer scene in Los Angeles would eventually get its own paper. Through that “everything old is new” looking glass, why wouldn’t the resurgence of hand-crafted ales and lagers in this aged city help bring about the small growth of a traditionally withering information medium? And so Beer Paper L.A. is born.