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.
Perhaps the most recognizable name in the South Bay craft beer scene is Strand Brewing, having opened way, way back in 2010 by friends Joel Elliott and Rich Marcello. The pair were among the first serious brewers (forgetting, of course, that they had little idea of what they were getting themselves into at the time) to set up shop in the South Bay, operating out of an industrial park in Torrance. It took a couple of years, but now Elliott and Marcello are brewing in the back of that same Torrance industrial space, slinging from the taps in the front from Thursday to Sunday and beginning a bottling operation on the side. Soon, you’ll be able to find Strand’s Beach House Amber and Atticus IPA on beer store shelves all over Los Angeles.
El Segundo Brewing, another South Bay craft beer staple, underwent a similar journey. Owner Rob Croxall left an aerospace career to try his tongue at brewing pale ales and IPAs. Alongside certified beer expert Tom Kelley, Croxall managed to pull together the funding for a space just south of LAX, and together the team has quickly been expanding across the Southland. Most of their beers are hoppy and dry, with a solid bit of bitterness that shows off their stronger alcohol percentages. You can now find El Segundo brews in bottle form as well, especially their slightly beguiling White Dog IPA. Brewed with a 50% wheat mix, the beer still feels light and hoppy, with lots of citrus playing around on your tongue.
Of course, no South Bay beer discussion would be complete without Henry Nguyen, the theologically-minded brewer behind Monkish Brewing. Their taproom hidden inside a Torrance business park (sound familiar?) has been open for just over a year, serving elevated Belgian-inspired ales. Nguyen is a quiet guy, preferring to leave the strong sales pitches behind and opt for word of mouth instead. Things have paid off, as evidenced by the hundred-plus accounts they service, from Lancaster to Corona Del Mar. You’ll find beers brewed with rosehips at their weekend tasting room, alongside traditional Belgian tripels and red ales.
The most anticipated South Bay arrival has undoubtedly been Smog City Brewing, whose taproom opening last weekend was packed to the rafters with beer bloggers, other brewers, and curious drinkers who have been following the label from account to account around Los Angeles. Originally brewed on the sneak, using extra space found on the Tustin Brewing system, Jonathan Porter (then the head brewer at Tustin) began crafting the legacy of Smog City a few years ago. Their Groundwork Coffee Porter won gold at the 2012 Great American Beer Fest, and every beer bar worth a damn in L.A. has long been after their exceptional XPA. Their now-open taproom can be found (hint, hint) inside an industrial park in Torrance, running twenty taps at a time of their more commercially available beers, as well as some one-off tasters that are still being tinkered with.
The next great brewery that’s taken over a Torrance industrial space is The Dudes’ Brewing. Under the guidance of Jeff Parker, Strand’s first brewer, Dudes’ Brewing is looking to go big — and fast. You’ll already find their popular double IPA at beer events all around Los Angeles, but with their 30 barrel brewing system (that’s 1.5 million gallons of beer) The Dudes’ is set to become one of the region’s biggest breweries once they reach capacity. There’s also talk of a barrel-aging program and an early canning line, so that the rest of the land can come face to face with The Dudes and their laid-back beers.
Not to be forgotten is Brouwerij West, which brews and bottles out of Palos Verdes. While there’s no taproom as of yet, owner Brian Mercer has gained a loyal following for his subtle blonds and saisons, plus the seriously fruity Dog Ate My Homework, which verges on blackberry overload. You’ll easily be able to spot one of Brouwerij West’s 500ml bottles on the store shelves because of their inventive and artistic labeling. If you want to stand out in the crowded South Bay field of breweries, that’s certainly one way to do it.
There are lots of great ways to stay up to date on the craft beer offerings that are emerging from the South Bay. You can check them out at a local craft beer destination (one that also serves fantastic sandwiches, perhaps), pick up a bottle from your local bottle shop, read about them in the newest beer-themed paper, or — better still — head down to their taprooms, sample some brews and bring home a growler for later. You might even be able to take a bus there, if you ask nicely.