Craft breweries in Los Angeles had a banner year in 2015, with scads of newcomers offering exciting brews alongside favorite brands from veteran breweries. It was difficult to keep track of all the new breweries opening around town, let alone stay on top of all the new beer releases. But the following are a handful of flavorful craft beers that stand out in our minds from the past year.
Highland Park Brewery - Raised Eyebrows
If there was ever an L.A.-area brewery that’s “on trend” for the craft beer world, it’s the diminutive brewery in the backroom of The Hermosillo bar in Highland Park. One trend that Highland Park Brewery embraced in 2015 was the marriage of tart wild ales and tropical hop flavors. While dry-hopping sour beer is gaining popularity as a way to add a hint of tropical fruit to the wild ales that don’t usually feature much hop character, HPB took another route for their Raised Eyebrows. They went right to the fruity source for the tropical flavors. Guava and passion fruit (including purees and some fruit from trees behind the bar and in neighbors' yards) were added to a light and funky beer and conditioned in used wine barrels. The result was a highlight of LA Beer Week 2015 with bright acidity and a complex earthy fruit character. Bottles of Raised Eyebrows sold out quickly and became a hit at the Hermosillo, as the brewery tried to keep up with demand. 5127 York Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 739-6459, www.hpb.la.
Smog City Brewing - Kumquat Saison
Another beer that featured backyard fruit was this effervescent farmhouse ale from Smog City Brewing. Created in partnership with L.A. nonprofit Food Forward, Kumquat Saison used hundreds of pounds of the sweet-tart citrus to add a juicy and pithy impression to a base beer that’s dry and piquant with spice flavors. The brewery released two batches of the saison in 2015, and they hope to continue making the ale in 2016, even though it’s tremendously labor intensive to create. 1901 Del Amo Blvd. #B, Torrance, (310) 320-7664, www.smogcitybrewing.com.
Mumford Brewing - Black Mamba (with coffee)
New brewers on the block Mumford Brewing in Downtown L.A. opened quietly in June, 2015 with a lineup of beers that didn't blow us away, at first. A few months of brewing, recipe tweaking, and fine tuning processes has paid dividends in the beers' quality and character. Brews such as the double IPA Looters and the light and refreshing LA Crema are hits, but it’s the “American black ale” hybrid they call Black Mamba that’s the biggest stand out. And with a fairly hefty alcohol content of more than 8%, there is plenty of room for lots of malt flavor and hop aroma in the ale. Black Mamba is a good beer on its own, but toss coffee into the mix and you’ve got the makings of a signature L.A. brew. 416 Boyd St., Los Angeles, (213) 346-9970, www.mumfordbrewing.com.
El Segundo Brewing Co. - Broken Skull IPA
2015 was a year of expansion for El Segundo Brewing Co., and the celebrated hop heads behind Mayberry IPA, Hop Tanker, and Powerplant added more production capacity, opened a much larger tasting room, and developed their “Day One” events where fresh hoppy beers are bottled and delivered to bars and shops across county on the same day, allowing beer lovers as fresh a beer as possible. ESBC made a whole new group of fans when they partnered with legendary professional wrestling star “Stone Cold” Steve Austin to brew a special IPA to his exact specifications. Broken Skull IPA finds a balance between the very dry, aroma-forward West Coast IPA style and the more rounded and flavor-driven IPAs popular a decade ago. It’s an IPA designed to be approachable, drinkable, and still very flavorful, and it hits the mark. 140 Main St., El Segundo, (310) 529-3882, www.elsegundobrewing.com.
Phantom Carriage - (Strawberry) Broadacres
The year-old brewery and blendery in Carson has kept up an impressive pace of new beer releases, and they’ve just released their first bottled offering. The tasting room's lively crowd is drawn to Phantom Carriage’s complex, wild ales. The flagship Muis is an underrated treat that displays the tropical flavors of brettanomyces yeast, and the Broadacres, a lactobacillus-fermented beer, is frighteningly delicious. Light in body with a spritzy lemon character, the Broadacres, Phantom Carriage’s take on the traditional German Berliner Weisse style, brings just the right amount of funk to balance the bright acidity. Broadacres is also a ready vehicle for additional fruit flavors, and the sanguine Strawberry Broadacres special release displayed a particularly impressive berry flavor. 18525 S. Main St., Carson, (310) 538-5834, www.phantomcarriage.com.
Claremont Craft Ales - Jacaranda IPA
Opened back in 2012 in the Pomona Valley, Claremont Craft Ales is one of the hidden brewery gems in Los Angeles. Brewmaster and owner Simon Brown has a way with hops, and while his flagship Jacaranda Rye IPA isn’t a new beer for 2015, the brewery expanded their distribution footprint in 2015, making it a little easier for Angelenos to try their brews. Brown performs a delicate balancing act with Jacaranda IPA, using rye grains to add texture and character to the IPA, that complement the brew’s big hop punch. Jacaranda IPA is available in pint cans, and the fruity, peppery ale is worth seeking out. 1420 N. Claremont Blvd. #204c, Claremont, (909) 625-5350, www.claremontcraftales.com.