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The Hopped 25: Southern California’s 25 Best Breweries and Beer Bars

The Best Places To Drink Craft Beer in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange Counties

It’s your first time visiting Southern California. Or, maybe it’s your first time drinking beer in Southern California. Or maybe you’ve been drinking beer in Southern California since before anyone had ever said the words “hazy IPA” or “pastry stout” – that doesn’t mean you don’t still have some things you can learn.

Although Southern California’s craft beer culture really got off the ground in the 2010s – a decade or so later than other beer hubs in the U.S. – the scene has exploded since then. Once everyone got past the jokes about gluten, the world discovered LA and the surrounding counties have some pretty damn good beer. Which is all to say – narrowing this list down wasn’t easy. There are way, way more spots worth your time than just these 25. But when we’re talking about the best, we have to make some tough decisions.

So without further ado, it’s time to begin your Southern California craft beer journey. These are the 25 best places to drink beer in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange County.

Highland Park Brewery

1220 N Spring St | Downtown LA

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There isn’t a style that Highland Park Brewery doesn’t knock out of the park – which is appropriate, considering this Chinatown brewery is a short (and downhill!) walk from Dodger Stadium. HPB is perhaps most famous for Timbo Pils, a mind-blowing hoppy lager, but their flagship West Coast IPA Hello, LA deserves just as much recognition for its beautiful aromas and restrained, dank, bitterness. Their efforts in New England IPAs, American lagers, spontaneous ferment sours, and barrel-aged heavy hitters are just as impressive.

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Monkish Brewing Co

20311 S Western Ave | Torrance

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Chances are, if you’ve heard of one brewery in Southern California, it’s Monkish. The Torrance brewery opened up back in 2012, specializing in Belgian ales like tripels and dubbels, with founder and brewer Henry Nguyen swearing he’d never brew an IPA. A few years later, he walked back that promise, and it’s a good thing he did. Monkish became one of the first adopters in California of the New England style hazy IPA. Now, those are their most sought-after beers, especially for beer traders across the country – which resulted in hours-long lines on release days. But lines have mitigated somewhat, especially after the opening of a second location in Anaheim – which happens to be steps away from Modern Times, further down on this list. Their hazy IPAs are hop-forward and juicy as hell, with well-balanced aromas and flavors ranging from tropical, to dank, to floral.

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Casa Agria Specialty Ales

701 N Del Norte Blvd # 360 | Oxnard

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Casa Agria – Spanish for “sour house” – opened up as a membership-only barrel-aged wild ale project operated out of a small warehouse in Oxnard back in 2015. Fast forward seven years, and they’ve not only expanded their sour program and membership club, but they’ve added a wide variety of clean beers, a bustling taproom, and a steady lineup of can releases. While their legacy might be sours, they’re now known more for the hoppy beers on rotation in their taproom. Helmed by a steady stream of New England and some West Coast IPAs, they’ve recently gone headfirst into the burgeoning hybrid hazy West Coast IPA style, and are continuing to make their unique mark on the Ventura County beer scene and beyond.

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Green Cheek Beer

2957 Randolph Av unit B | Costa Mesa

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If you’re a fan of New England style IPAs, there might be no better place in Southern California for you than Green Cheek Beer Co. They consistently have somewhere around five different NEIPAs on draft. Green Cheek’s hazies stand out because they’ve mastered the balancing act of bright juiciness with layered depth and complexity. They bring a similar balance to all of their beers, and are increasingly branching out with other new techniques, including foeder-aging and mixed-drink style beers – like, for example, a 12% ABV gin and tonic style seltzer. They’ve got a small taproom in Orange, and their Costa Mesa location also has a fantastic astroturfed patio, and a burger menu to soak up all that beer. They also recently opened up a new location in the Sunset Beach neighborhood of Huntington beach complete with rooftop deck ocean views, a drive-thru beer pickup station, and all the awesome Green Cheek beer that we know and love.

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Beachwood BBQ & Brewing

210 E 3rd St | Long Beach

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Beachwood is a full-scale BBQ joint right along the promenade in downtown Long Beach – it also happens to be one of LA’s first craft breweries to make a national impact. After opening in 2010, co-owner/brewmaster Julian Shrago quickly gained recognition for his excellent West Coast style IPAs. Shrago is still at the helm, and Beachwood has remained at the forefront of LA breweries, embracing an old school beer list heavy on the WC IPAs, while also opening a sibling brewery – Beachwood Blendery – that focuses on barrel-aged sours. They’ve expanded to add locations in Orange County’s Huntington Beach and Garden Grove, as well, with more coming online this year.

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Enegren Brewing

444 Zachary St #120 | Moorpark

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Most beer drinkers that discover Enegren Brewing today don’t realize they’ve been holed up in Moorpark, brewing up classic German lagers since way back in 2011. Nowadays, they’re operating out of a much larger facility down the street, serving up beers in their brewery hall and Biergarten alongside neighboring food, wine, coffee, and shopping retailers. Lagers are finally a style that is seeing some love, and as a result, Enegren is making its way to beer bars and bottle shops all around California. Enegren embraces tradition, but they have a good time doing it, eschewing all the old-school pretentious vibes for a beer experience you won’t find anywhere else. Trust us, we’ve looked.

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Homage Brewing

281 S Thomas St #101 | Pomona

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Homage Brewing, located in downtown Pomona (about 30 miles due east of Downtown LA), rocketed to fame on the backs of their excellent sours and saisons. And as they were starting to open their location in Los Angeles proper – a block down from Highland Park Brewery – they started developing a reputation for their excellent, complex hazy IPAs, which quickly joined the ranks of the best in the city. Both are world-class, and whichever location you’re closer to will leave you happy. Both locations frequently have DJs who spin very chill lo-fi records.

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Firestone Walker The Propagator

3205 Washington Blvd | Venice

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Firestone Walker is among the world’s best-known craft breweries, but they’ve been very intentional about opening up new locations. In fact, The Propagator – their Venice brewpub – is one of only two locations outside of their Central California mothership, and the only one in SoCal. They consider their Venice location to be an experimental brewhouse, meaning that in addition to their flagships – like Mind Haze and Union Jack – you can find a bunch of developmental brews you won’t find anywhere else. Plus, they always have a great selection of beers from Barrelworks, their barrel-aged sour facility. The tap room serves a bunch of excellent pub food, and both their indoor and outdoor dining rooms have plenty of space.

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Topa Topa Brewing Co

4880 Colt St, Ventura, CA 93003 | Ventura

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Topa Topa Brewing started in a tiny space on Thompson Blvd in 2015, and has grown into a beer and hospitality powerhouse, opening up three additional taprooms in Santa Barbara, Ojai, and Camarillo. They’ve also brought online a massive production headquarters on Colt Street in Ventura with an expansive outdoor space. Their beer program is straightforward and approachable, leaning towards modern, drinkable takes on fairly traditional styles, served up in warm and welcoming environments that anyone could enjoy. Looking for that 15% ABV German Chocolate Cake pastry stout, or raspberry marshmallow Twinkie smoothie sour? You won’t find them here, but you will find a strong lineup of delicious, well-made brews, that will turn into a staple of your beer fridge.

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Bottle Logic Brewing

1072 N Armando St | Anaheim

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Founded in 2015, Bottle Logic is one of the more polarizing breweries in the area. They’re best-known for their heavily-adjuncted pastry stouts, laden with ingredients that read like a dessert menu; molasses, peanut butter, cacao nibs, coconut, coffee, vanilla, and cinnamon are all commonly used. Weekly sales of the brews – which take place via Eventbrite – frequently sell out within minutes. Despite the commotion around the beer, the tasting room is a relatively low-key spot, and an extremely pleasant place to drink your way through some of their fantastic collection, which does, in fact, include some pretty tasty lighter stuff.

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Cellador Ales

16745 Schoenborn St | North Hills

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As far as gimmicks go, Cellador has a pretty good one: they’re one of only a small handful of breweries in the United States that oak-barrel ferments every single one of their beers (except for a remarkably good pils). But this place is more than just a gimmick. Their commitment to barrel aging results in some remarkable beers, which are tremendously well-balanced and genuinely unique; they rarely make the same beer twice. Many of them, like Vine of the Dead, a wild ale aged on cabernet and charbano skins, drink awfully close to the line between beer and wine. Cellador’s is a brand of innovation that’s absolutely welcome in an often trend-following beer world.

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El Segundo Brewing Co.

140 Main St | El Segundo

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El Segundo Brewing Company opened its doors in 2011, one of the first breweries in the South Bay, an area now flooded with high-quality places to drink beer. And while new places have opened, closed, and reopened, ESBC’s consistency has cemented their legendary status amongst LA drinkers. Known best for dank, resiny, and highly aromatic West Coast style IPAs, their flagships Mayberry and Broken Skull – a collab with pro wrestler (and ESBC megafan) Stone Cold Steve Austin – are both excellent representations of the style. Their Main St. tasting room has a cult following of friendly locals, and their patio frequently has live music. If you’re in the mood for food, they also run The Slice & Pint, a pizza spot right around the corner, which has a robust tap list in its own right.

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Father's Office

1018 Montana Ave | Santa Monica

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That place without ketchup? Really? Though most famous for having one of the best beef burgers in town – served on a sub roll with caramelized onions, bleu cheese, and arugula, and absolutely no ketchup – Father’s Office’s beer list is just as good as its burger. With frequent appearances from local favorites like El Segundo Brewing Co, Crowns and Hops, Kern River Brewing, and many more, this is not a place you want to miss on any LA beer tour. The Santa Monica original is an absolute institution, on Montana Ave. since 1953, and is the best of the three locations, but the newer (and bigger) versions in Culver City and the Arts District are worthy alternatives.

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The Bruery

717 Dunn Way | Placentia

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Placentia’s The Bruery opened in 2008, making them something like OGs in the SoCal beer scene. Specializing in barrel-aged and experimental brews, you can find options here that read like a Michelin-starred chef’s fever dream – some of the most popular beers here are Autumn Maple, a yam beer with pumpkin pie spices, vanilla, molasses, and maple syrup, Or Xata, a blonde ale with horchata style seasonings, and Black Tuesday, a bourbon barrel-aged stout clocking in at almost 19% ABV. They also operate Bruery Terreaux, a sibling brewery in Anaheim that exclusively makes farmhouse-style wilds and sours. Both taprooms also feature beers from their Offshoot label, where they specialize in more mainstream hoppy beers.

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Radiant Beer Co.

1566 W Lincoln Ave | Anaheim

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Radiant Beer Co. is as close to a wunderkind as you’ll get in the beer industry. After debuting at an impossibly difficult time – January 2021 – this brewery absolutely blew away expectations, earning local acclaim before winning Great American Beer Festival’s Small Brewery of the Year award. Started by three former employees of The Bruery – also on this list – few breweries have consistently produced this high-quality beer so soon after opening as Radiant. They excel across styles, from the toastiest dunkel to the richest pastry stout, and their pale ales really stand out in a saturated market. Try any (and all) that are on tap.

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Madewest Brewing Co.

1744 Donlon St | Ventura

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Madewest Brewing Co. may have started out of their Donlon Street location, but it’s their satellite taproom on the top floor of the Ventura Pier that makes this list. Known regionally for the clean design and simple naming of their core beers (Standard, Light, etc), Madewest has continued to impress with their limited release West Coast IPAs, hazy beers, and lagers. Of note is their rotating collaboration series “Short Lived” which has seen them team up with brewers like Beachwood, Humble Sea, Highland Park, Fall, Faction, Mumford, There Does Not Exist, and more. Once you order, head out to the deck to enjoy the sunset ocean view you can get on the West Coast.

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Spoke Nights @ Spoke Bicycle Cafe

3050 N Coolidge Ave | Frogtown

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Located on a giant patio off the LA River Bike Path in Frogtown, Spoke is a great cafe in the daytime. But their smash-hit new project called Spoke Nights is a beer experience for a new generation. Beer buyer Jimmy Smith custom-curates an ever-changing list of ten or so epic, hard-to-find beers from breweries near and far. In addition to local stars like Bottle Logic, Homage Brewing, and Highland Park Brewery, you can find other California Hall of Famers like Moksa Brewing, Alvarado Street Brewing, and Sante Adairius Rustic Ales. Spoke also hosts some of LA’s best – and most elusive – food pop-ups.

 

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Fluid State

692 E Main St | Ventura

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Few things go together as well as beer and pizza, and Fluid State takes that pairing to a whole new level. Situated in a historic building on Main Street in downtown Ventura, Fluid State has made a name for itself with legendary sourdough crust pizzas and elevated bar food. But the beer program is just as strong here. 24 rotating taps are expertly curated by owners Aaron Duncan and Jen Schwertman, who use the relationships they built from years working in the beer industry to highlight amazing, hard-to-procure beers from the best breweries up and down the West Coast. Wine and cocktails round out the menu with plenty of sun-filled patio seating and a dedicated parking lot that set them apart from others Downtown.

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Modern Times Beer

549 S Anaheim Blvd | Anaheim

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Modern Times has somewhat of a Southern California empire, with three San Diego County locations, and this excellent OC one. This is a full-sized beer complex, with a brewery, pool, two levels of patios, and a bungalow turned into a coffee house on site. Though they stay current on trends – their hazies, pastry stouts, and smoothie beers all knock it out of the park – they’ve recently developed one of the strongest lager games around, including Abaddon, their stunningly simple and near-perfect Helles style lager.

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House of Billiards

14662 Ventura Blvd | Sherman Oaks

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Off to the side of a dimly lit pool hall along Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks is one of the best-kept beer secrets in LA. House of Billiards might be known for its pool tables – some of the best in the area – but it’s the 19 taps of rotating craft beer that do the real talking. Expect local favorites like Highland Park Brewery, Beachwood Brewing, Green Cheek Beer, Riip Beer Co., and HopSaint Brewing, in addition to a handful of rare and hard to find beers from around the country. With plenty of space and enough TVs to catch whatever game you’re looking for, House of Billiards is the definition of hidden gem.

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Bottle & Pint

1714 Newbury Rd | Newbury Park

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Bottle & Pint took the bottle shop and taproom concept to Ventura County and never looked back. Newbury Park is the original location, set up in a pretty standard retail shopping center. But it’s the beer list that really stands out, from the 12 rotating taps of tough-to-find beers, to the walk-in beer cooler where you can choose from dozens of beers to drink on-site or buy to-go. Their Oxnard location opened up a few years later, inside The Annex food hall at The Collection mall, and offers up more of the same elevated beer selection but with more seating and a handful of great local food options available to pair with your beers.

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Windsor Homebrew Supply Co.

1045 N Armando St Suite E | Anaheim

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Windsor is a singular experience, as far as craft beer shops in California go. They’re the ultimate multihyphenate in their field, as a bottle shop/tasting room/brewing supply shop/host of home brewing classes and salon style discussions. The bottle shop has a host of excellent, limited distribution beers from far-off places like 3 Fonteinen, Anchorage, Jester King, and Alvarado Street. Their hyper-knowledgeable staff can help you out whether you’re looking to try some fun new beers, getting into homebrewing, or are an experienced brewer looking to take your equipment to the next level.

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Transmission Brewing Co.

1098 E Front St | Ventura

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When news broke in 2018 that the Jonker family – behind local favorite pizza chain Toppers Pizza – was opening a brewery in a former auto shop, it was anyone’s guess how it would turn out. Well, Transmission Brewing opened in January 2020 with a shiny new 30-barrel automated brewhouse capable of scaling to production levels that smaller breweries only dream of, a somewhat green brewer in Carey Jonker leading his first commercial project, and, most importantly, a lineup of really solid beers out of the gate. Since opening, Transmission has weathered the COVID storm and continued to put out a really strong lineup of beers in a gorgeous space – connected to a Toppers – with indoor seating alongside the brewery and outdoor patio seating where you can catch a whiff of sea air. Their lager program is where the beers really stand out; Clutch, their German style Helles, and Upshift, their hoppy Pilsner are both standouts and go great with a Toppers slice.

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Hi-Lo Liquor Market

8582 Washington Blvd | Culver City

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It’s a bold claim to say a liquor store is one the best places to drink craft beer, but Hi-Lo isn’t just any package store. With locations in Culver City and Long Beach – and a soon-to-open one in Costa Mesa – no one in LA or Orange County is ever too far from one of these shops. Each store carries a giant list of fresh cans and bottles from across the country, which you can bring home or drink on-site. The Long Beach location features eight taps – six in Culver City – with excellent breweries both local (Radiant Brewing, MadeWest Brewery), and far-off (Fremont Brewing, Great Notion Brewing).

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The American Dream

21058 CA-1 #130 | Huntington Beach

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There aren’t many old school tap houses left anymore – the kind popularized in the early ‘00s, with countless beers on tap and a sh*tload of burgers. Well, if you’re feeling that void, American Dream will absolutely fill it. They’ve got a rotating tap list of 60 beers that includes some of the hardest-to-find beer in the state, including limited release beers from many places on this list – The Bruery, Modern Times Beer, and Beachwood Brewing, among them. They’re right on PCH in Huntington Beach, an area that is truly unique for any visitor to Southern California.

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Responses

9 thoughts on “The Hopped 25: Southern California’s 25 Best Breweries and Beer Bars”

  1. You are missing so many in Northern LA County shows you haven’t been here! C’mon, Telco Brewery, Draconum Brewery, Pocock Brewery and Lucky Luke’s are producing a wide range of terrific beers! PLEASE, put SCV on the map. We deserve it!!!

  2. Robert Trowbridge

    British Style Cask beer @ MacLeod Ale Brewery in Van Nuys for incredible Cask beer.
    I never get a hangover from the Kings Taxes.

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