Drinks

Taps to the Stars

A brewery scene is blossoming in L.A.’s downtown Arts District
Photo: Peter Stanislaus

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In 2010, L.A. was home to only three craft breweries. At the time, San Diego, just a few hours’ drive south, owned the SoCal beer scene. And in some ways, that still holds. But in the past six and a half years, a whopping 45 more breweries have opened in L.A., Frances Lopez, the head of the L.A. Brewers Guild, explains.

Several of those have taken up residence in Downtown’s Arts District, transforming old warehouses into breweries and taprooms that serve everything from approachable ales like the ones on tap at Iron Triangle to an adventurous botanical-infused Mateo at Arts District Brewing Co. to a sour that shares a similar profile with natural wine at Dry River Brewing. “We’re still kind of finding our identity. We’re seeing a lot of diversity in what we’re making,” Lopez says.

The city’s zoning is partially responsible for this hoppy hub. “The city of L.A. proper has taken a very long time to get with the program in terms of being a brewery-friendly environment,” Lopez adds. While it’s still a challenge to open a brewery in the area, Angel City, which opened in the neighborhood in 2010, helped pave a path for those that have opened recently and several others that are eyeing the area for future projects.

The result has been a boon for beer fans. The breweries in the area are close enough to visit in an afternoon (with the help of Uber). A few, including Boomtown Brewery, Indie Brewing and Dry River, are still building taprooms, but the rest are open to the public to go, sip, chat beer and often grab a meal.

Here’s where to sip away.

For adventurous sippers: Arts District Brewing

Award-winning brewer Devon Randall shook things up in the beer world when she left San Diego for L.A., but the decision seems to have paid off. Randall is in charge of one of the neighborhood’s largest and most ambitious breweries, which doubles as a beer hall, complete with vintage Skee-Ball and cornhole.

Randall says she likes to brew a mix of classic and “wild and out there things,” which means a Meyer lemon honey golden ale, a Redbird rye IPA and, lately, a Mateo made with leftover botanicals from a gin producer nearby that lends a juniper note to the beer. The 32 taps are stocked mostly with beers brewed in-house with a handful from others she admires mixed in.

ADBC is also one of the few breweries in the neighborhood to have food in-house. Fritzi (of Fritzi Dog fame) shares the space, fueling the drinking with potato waffles, four-alarm Fritzi dogs loaded up with jalapeño, and a chicken confit sandwich with Muenster cheese and black garlic aioli.

For game fans: Iron Triangle

Photo: Courtesy of Iron Triangle

Iron Triangle’s massive turn-of-the-century-era warehouse space doubles as a brewery and tasting room, which is open in the evenings, serving the team’s signature, approachable brews. They include a dark ale with chocolate and coffee notes and a dark color that manages to be light enough to drink even during peak summer heat, as well as an IPA that’s still hoppy but a touch more tame than the typical West Coast IPA. There are also a couple of beers that push one’s palate like Jawbone, an imperial black IPA, and a beer called Socially Awkward, which can get a few drops of a raspberry or woodruff syrup mixed in.

Food from neighboring restaurants can be ordered in, or you can pack a picnic and set up at one of the large tables. And on Saturdays, food trucks park outside. The team’s also big into themed evenings, hosting a vinyl night, live piano music, trivia and board game events.

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For afternoon drinkers: Mumford

Photo: Jason Flynn

Co-owner Peter Mumford was a yeast researcher for the wine industry who enjoyed homebrewing. That passion birthed this one-year-old taproom and brewery that has a mix of approachable and slightly out-there beers like the signature Black Coffee Mamba with Stumptown and a classic West Coast IPA called Make Hops Great Again that’s fruity to start and bitter to finish. The selection is typically around a dozen brews, but be warned: The more popular picks can run out.

A bonus? The space is bright and sunny during the day with more than ample seating room for a whole group of friends. Food can be ordered or carried in, and there are freshly baked Röckenwagner pretzels for snacking.

For hungry revelers: Angel City

Photo: Courtesy of Angel City

Angel City is the OG of the group, having moved to the neighborhood six years ago and opening their taproom a year later. While many of the company’s brews are available around town, there are special varieties that are made only here. The most refreshing for summer? That would be the Strawberry Gose, a low-alcohol German style that’s just a touch salty and a bit like a shandy.

The space is the largest of any of the breweries in the area, so it’s a good place for a party, and in contrast to the relatively quiet vibe at Mumford and Iron Triangle, the music’s pumping. For sustenance to fuel the drinking, the team invites food trucks and stalls, from Taqueria El Severo to Tomski Sausage to Romeo’s Pizza, to set up in the parking lot.

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