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A Beginner’s Guide to Los Angeles Craft Beers

brouwerij west's dog at my homework

This is a guest post by Gabe Callahan. Gabe is a native Californian who has been in the craft beer industry since 2014. He’s a beer judge, trivia master, and lager lover. Follow him on IG at @gabecal.


When the Southland craft beer scene started booming in 2013, I left my home of Los Angeles for Northern California. Since then, I’ve worked for a couple of breweries, been a beer judge, and moved back home to the best city in the world. I was gone for far too long, so I wanted to get re-educated on the local breweries that I had been missing out on.

In the seven years since I last lived here full-time, a lot of new breweries opened, and, to be honest, it was a little overwhelming to learn all of the new ones at first! So, I started at the beginning, making my way through some of the flagship and staple beers that local beer geeks know and love.

If you’re new in town or just need to get reacquainted with beers that many Angelenos now take for granted, here are the five to check out and why I started my L.A. beer odyssey with them.

beachwood beers
Gabe Callahan

Beachwood Brewing’s Amalgamator and Citraholic

Beachwood makes quality beers that have won medals at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup, and they’ve made a name for themselves with their superb IPAs, which is why I chose both Amalgamator and Citraholic for my Beachwood tasting.

I’m glad that I did! The Amalgamator was a delicious beer to start with. A light-bodied West Coast IPA that is light on the malts and has no detectable sweetness, which would be found in a more traditional IPA, it’s an easy-drinking, 7.1% ABV beer with light fruit notes that come out on the nose. I’m a sucker for Mosaic hops, and this beer hits a sweet spot for me with its considerable fruity, hop-forward flavor. I love Amarillo hops as well, as I feel they add a solid, citrus backbone to any IPA, and the subtle orange aroma especially comes through in lighter IPAs like the Amalgamator.

As for Citraholic, this beer blew me away. I believe that good beer comes from consistency. It’s a small thing, but it is so lovely to read a description of the beer on the side of the can and then have that be what you experience when you drink it, and Citraholic is what it says it is: a West Coast-style IPA with tropical character. It’s hoppy yet has a delicate balance of citrus and melon flavors that I could drink for days, like a flavorful hazy without the haze. It also strikes me as an excellent beer to introduce to your friends that aren’t big IPA fans, because its balanced fruity-yet-bitter hop profile and refreshing crispness is a good way to ease non-hop heads into the world of IPAs.


mayberry from esbc
El Segundo Brewing/Instagram

El Segundo Brewing Co.’s Mayberry IPA

ESBC has been making their Mayberry IPA since 2013, and I felt like a fool for having never tried it before. The Mayberry is the epitome of a West Coast-style IPA, but made with 100% Mosaic hops. You will find the textbook West Coast bitterness and slight sweetness present in this beer, but Mosaic rounds the bite out with tropical aromas and flavors. The upfront fruitiness of these hops never tips the balance entirely away from a familiar IPA palate, so the Mayberry still retains a delicate malt flavor and sweetness that are quintessential to the style. 

claremont jacaranda
Claremont Craft Ales/Instagram

Claremont Craft Ales’s Jacaranda

Not only can Rye IPAs be tricky, there also isn’t a big demand for the style. On top of that, I have found that most Rye IPAs rarely have much of a rye flavor, which is a bummer to someone like me who really digs the taste. I believe a rye malt can complement an IPA very well, and that’s just what this GABF award-winning brew does. It has a tremendous peppery, rye malt flavor that mixes well with its floral hops, and it still manages to not punch you in the teeth with bitterness or spiciness.


brouwerij west's dog ate my homework
Brouwerij West/Instagram

Brouwerij West’s dog ate my homework

When I cracked open a can of this blackberry ale, I knew immediately that they weren’t kidding about the blackberries. The first thing you see in the glass is an opaque, dark purple hue — and it’s gorgeous! Don’t let the darkness of the color fool you, though. Despite packing in a lot of berry flavor, the body is still light and effervescent. This is a fruit-forward beer for those who think they don’t like fruity suds. (Plus, I’m a sucker for a cool label, and, like most Brouwerij West beers, this one is very cool.)


smog city coffee porter
Smog City Brewing/Instagram

Smog City Brewing Co.’s Coffee Porter

Balance is also one of those things that one searches for in a beer yet can often be hard to find. After all, a balanced beer is not easy to make. Ever drink a stout that had too much coconut in it or a coffee-flavored beer that tasted like pure grounds? Of course you have! That’s why it’s nice to find a good porter, and it’s especially lovely to see a balanced coffee porter. Smog City’s Coffee Porter has the right amount of bitterness from the coffee without overpowering the maltiness of a robust porter. 

These are definitely the beers I would recommend to anyone else who wants to get back to the basics of the L.A. beer scene or is just testing out its waters.

As for me, this is just the start of reintroducing myself to all the different breweries and delicious beers our region has to offer. Next on my docket are beers from Monkish Brewing, Strand Brewing, and The Dudes’ Brewing. I am also open to any and all suggestions, so let me know what you think I should drink next in the comments!



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