Friday, March 1, 2013

Winter 2013 -- West Coast -- Los Angeles / 冬2013 - 西海岸 - ロサンゼルス

I spent about a week in Los Angeles last month. My primary purpose was not really beer hunting, but rather visiting movie-releated sites and catching up with an old friend. We managed to see the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, explore a wonderful Stanley Kubrick exhibition at LACMA, walk around Griffith Park, stroll among the shops on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, and see some treasures (e.g., Ellesmere Chaucer) at the Huntington Library and Gardens.

That said, beer is never too far from my mind, and I did manage to get to a few stores and one brewery. Los Angeles seems to be regarded as a craft beer wasteland (with a few exceptions, such as Craftsman and The Bruery), expecially when compared to all the brewing activity just south, in San Diego. But here are some places that were definitely worth a look:

We stayed near LAX and went to the nearest Whole Foods Market on a few occasions

Whole Foods Market - Plaza El Segundo
This store has a good selection for a supermarket in Los Angeles, especially for micros and even not-so-micro craft beers. A small shelf of European (Brit/Ger/Belg) beers. It also features the biggest selection of Japanese craft brews I've seen anywhere in the US.

Hitachino Nest, Ise Kadoya, and more

There are two main sections for beer: both are near the back of the store, one on the right side and one on the left. Six-packs of recent releases are stacked here and there. One shelf with a limited number of singles. Prices are medium to somewhat high (My son tells me that he and his friends call Whole Foods, "Whole Paycheck."). This one does not have as good a beer selection as Bay Area or Portland Whole Foods stores, but it is quite good for LA.

Lone Hill Liquors
This is a medium-sized store in a small shopping center, and it is way out of town, in the suburb of Glendora Quite a drive to get there. And, to be honest, I was a bit disappointed.... but just a bit.

The store has long rows of coolers filled with a decent and balanced selection of world beers, with an emphasis on West Coast brews. Good selection of glassware, too. Very friendly and knowledgeable staff (not sure if it was Stan, the owner, or not). A very good place for the area, but maybe not really up to the level of its current RateBeer "World Class" rating. I think that perhaps locals and/or regular customers may get special orders and other rare things that are not out on view for the walk-in customer.

Ladyface Ale Companie Alehouse & Brasserie
Before leaving Japan, I checked around and found a "Best of LA" feature on the LA Weekly website, whch listed Ladyface Ale Companie as the "Best Brewery" for 2012.

It's not actually in LA but rather in Agoura Hills, out in the San Fernando Valley. So we stopped in on our way north on Highway 101. This was on Superbowl Sunday at around noon, and there were only three other people in the place. In fact, the bartender said that they would be closing at 3pm, since business had been so poor on the Superbowl days in each of the previous two years.

Ladyface has been open only three years (as of January 20). The decor is a mix of SW country-western/industrial. Large panel illustrations of their Art Nouveau-inspired beer labels are prominent on the walls. It has seating for maybe 180 people, 12 at the bar, as well as tables outside. Big fermenting tanks dominate the space along one wall.

There were 15 taps, with some guest selections. They have growler sales (I bought a growler of the excellent Chesbro IPA to take to friends up north) and also guest bottle sales -- but no Ladyface bottle sales. I had samplers of three brews, two of which were great and one which wasn’t. If I lived anywhere nearby, I’d probably be a regular, since there doesn’t seem to be much else for craft beer in the SanFernando Valley. I wish I'd had more time to explore more of their beers. Next time.

Note: Here is a link to a lengthy interview, in Japanese, with Ladyface founder, Cyrena Nouzille, on the Beer Study Group website: Ladyface Ale Companie CyrenaNouzilleさん インタビューその①

And here is another link to an article on the L.A. Weekly Blogs site: LadyfaceAle Companie Celebrates 3 Years as a Top L.A. Brewery