Craftsman Brewing Co has been making craft beer in Los Angeles for longer than just about anyone, and the Craftsman team is known for their creativity and attention to detail. But they also operate largely behind closed doors; the Pasadena brewery is not open to the public, and there is no tasting room where fans can sample Craftsman's brews.
Thankfully, the notoriously fastidious founder of Craftsman Brewing Co, Mark Jilg, has developed a partnership with Los Angeles chef and restaurateur Andre Guerrero, and Jilg's beers are spotlighted at Guerrero's restaurant in Highland Park. Maximiliano is known as the "unofficial Craftsman Brewery tasting room", and it's the best place to try Craftsman's year-round and experimental brews.
You can read our full review of the Highland Park pizza-and-Italian comfort food eatery here, but suffice to say that Guerrero has built an open, comfortable space that serve simple takes on classic American-Italian dishes and some excellent pizza. Guerrero says that he wanted to "take something simple and elevate it" and open a place that served the foods that he wanted to eat.
In addition to supplying Maximiliano with a steady supply of their year-round and specialty releases, Craftsman Brewing produces an exclusive beer for the restaurant. Designed to be sessionable and complementary to the many Italian-inspired dishes on the menu, the House Beer is based on Craftsman's flagship 1903 Lager and features an addition of dried Italian herbs. The brew is light and refreshing with big herbal flavors of oregano and thyme, and it pairs perfectly with the pies that crisp up in Maximillano's red-tiled Marsal pizza oven.
You will usually find the House Beer, 1903 Lager, and other Craftsman stalwarts such as West Coast Wit and Heavenly Hefe (one of L.A.'s best representations of a traditional Bavarian hefeweizen) on tap at Maximiliano alongside Craftsman's more "complicated beers" such as the gently tart Curiosity saison and the wine/beer hybrid Cabernale. Jilg says that "beer is a vehicle of expression" for him, and Craftsman's wood-aged, sour, and one-off brews demonstrate the brewers' craftsmanship.
Craftsman has long stayed under the radar, but the palates of beer-drinkers in L.A. are developing, and Craftsman's beer is gaining a following thirsty for more.