Part brewery, part cafe — and part haunted cellar — Phantom Carriage is now open in Carson. And like so many other craft brewery tasting rooms, Phantom Carriage occupies a commercial/industrial building, this one among the confluence of the 405, 110 and 91 freeways, just a few blocks from the home of the Goodyear blimp.
But unlike other brewery tasting rooms with sparse decor and little style, Phantom Carriage drips with atmosphere.
Conceived by beer industry veteran (and self-proclaimed beer geek) Martin Svab as a Belgian beer cafe, the project grew when Simon Ford — a skilled and decorated homebrewer known on the Los Angeles scene for his downright fantastic sour beers — signed on. The “small-batch beer endeavor” launched, relying on other local breweries (chiefly Monkish Brewing in Torrance) for production capacity and storage space.
After a favorable reception for the first beer -- a wild Belgian ale that found the sweet spot between tart, dry and funky -- the partners redoubled their efforts to find a local space to house the brewery. Carson welcomed the team with open arms, and a comparatively streamlined bureaucracy.
The 7,000-square-foot location now houses a tasting room, a small pilot-batch brewhouse, a screening room where Svab hopes to both show his beloved classic horror films and conduct beer education classes, a kitchen focused on sandwiches and small plates.
Also, and most importantly, on premises: over 500 oak barrels previously used by wine and spirit producers. It’s the barrels that set Phantom Carriage apart, as the brewery will focus on wild, wood-aged, and sour beers.
The brewery took its name from a 1921 Swedish horror film, and the house beers are often named after the luminaries of that age of cinema.
On a recent visit during the soft opening, the tasting rooms was comfortably full and three house beers were available (alongside a well-curated guest tap list and a drool-worthy bottle list).
Oude Muis is an aged version of the primogenitor brew, Cushing a potent golden sour ale that balanced a bracing tartness with a twang of funk, and Rathbone is a dark sour ale that added some fruitiness and a pleasant burnt-sugar sweetness. The latter was a particularly fitting match to the deeply hickory smoked brisket served simply on a baguette with au jus. Cold-brewed coffee is available on tap alongside the dozen beer taps, and there’s a small selection of wine and cocktails (Spanish-style charcuterie will also soon join the menu items).
The ambitious project is already exciting beer fans, and many locals in Carson, and the attention to detail paid to everything from the floors and decor to the beer list and brewhouse set the stage for Phantom Carriage to become one of the most exciting new L.A. craft breweries in 2015.