This post originally appeared in The Bold Italic on 01/23/14.
GO ON THIS SOUTH BAY BEER CRAWL NOW
Who knew that Torrance would become such a beer mecca? Tap rooms in office parks? Somehow, it totally works and there are four up-and-coming breweries in close enough proximity to each other that you can forge a lovely little South Bay beer crawl on a Saturday, Sunday or gasp… a weekday?! So designate your drivers and here’s how it’s done (keep in mind that this jaunt is reversible.)
18525 South Main St. (Carson)
Ok, so Phantom Carriage is technically in Carson, but it’s just across the 405. All technicalities aside, the good peeps at the classic-horror-film-themed Phantom Carriage specialize in sour and barrel-aged ales with names like Lugosi, (A 12.8% sour barrel-aged Quad named after original Dracula actor, Bela Lugosi) and Bergman (an 8.4% barrel-aged wild sour blonde named after Swedish director Ingmar Bergman). Brewer Simon Ford brews with new yeast strains to bring out flavors of pie cherry in their porter sour and mango, papaya, and guava in others. They’ll soon be brewing AND blending even more aged sours.
They opened in late December of last year and are managed by GM Martin Svab, who’s a veteran of both Stone Brewing and craft-beer-haven Naja’s Place on the Redondo Beach Pier. Along with their house sours, there’s a slew of guest taps from breweries like Allagash, Stone, and cold brew coffee on draft from Three 25. The kitchen is run by ex-Pinky’s BBQ grill-master Steve Francis and features items like a delectable brisket sandwich, a killer pulled pork grilled cheese (this might or might not be a secret item, you’re welcome) and charcuterie in Svab’s native Czech style. You can even pull up a seat in the “theater” and watch a classic horror film while you eat and drink (beer, dinner, & a movie pairings coming soon!)
So you’ve had a couple bold sours, your belly is full and it’s time to motor on to the next stop….
Smog City Brewing Company
1901 Del Amo Blvd. #B (Torrance)
This is where the concept of taprooms in commercial office parks gets interesting. Walk through the roll-up door at Smog City and you’re greeted by dozens of taps of fresh brews and ample seating as you walk-in further. Run by husband and wife duo Jonathan and Laurie Porter, Smog City has been gaining steam for their Hoptonic IPA and head brewer Jonathan and the Smog City team even took home a 2012 Great American Beer Fest Gold Medal for their Groundworks Coffee Porter (as in that Groundworks coffee, of Venice fame.)
Besides the Hoptonic and Groundworks, they boast 3 additional “Year Round Beers” in the Little Bo Pils, L.A. Saison, and Sabre-Toothed Squirrel Amber. But the fun in stopping in at Smog City is their rotating seasonal and special release taps, like the Apple Pie Chip Shot Porter, or the Something From Nothing, which is one of the finest milk stouts I’ve had in recent memory.
Ok… 2 breweries down, how about a 5 minute walk?
Monkish Brewing Company
20311 S. Western Ave. (Torrance)
A full-blown Belgian style beer operation right here in the South Bay? Yes please. Head brewer Henry Nguyen has been running the show at Monkish since 2012 and the tap room is in (you guessed it) an office-park warehouse. It’s nonetheless a welcoming place as you walk through the first room with the beer taps, into the larger parlor, you’re greeted by three beer tanks, bearing the words “BEER,” “HOPE,” and “LOVE.”
Monkish sports a slew of different Belgian beers, but the Crux was the apple of my eye… errr… palette. It’s a beautifully crafted Belgian single ale brewed with elderflower. Other notables include the Rosa’s Hips, a Belgian dubbel brewed with rose hips, the Shaolin Fist, a unique dubbel brewed with peppercorns and Selah, a farmhouse saison brewed with brett yeast, that’s starting to collect awards. The taps are constantly rotating, but at any time, you’ll find a combination of this unreal selection. Snacks are available in the tasting room, but if you’re lucky,Vella Pizza’s wood-fire mobile oven will be parked outside.
Ok, last stop….
Strand Brewing Company
23520 Telo Ave. (Torrance)
Go a little farther out towards the shore and you’ll arrive at Strand Brewing Co, where since 2009, they’ve been bringing a laid back surfer vibe to Torrance. The tap room is warm and inviting from the moment you arrive and their beers even have beach/surf themes. The Black Sand and White Sand IPA’s are wonderful foils of each other, the former uses dark malts to complement the complex hops, whereas the White Sand uses lighter malts to create a refreshing and floral hop character.
The big winner for me was the effortlessly balanced 24th Street Pale Ale, named after Santa Monica’s 24th Street surf spot. Strand is a mellow place to end your South Bay beer crawl with friends. Keep an eye out for tap room manager’s Jonas Neubauer’s World Tetris Championship trophy on display above the bar, cause fun comes in many forms at Strand.
Photos via Phantom Carriage’s Facebook page