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L.A. Drives: On a beer run with ‘Community’ man Joel McHale

Joel McHale, left, gets bottles of Pliny the Elder handed to him from Jeremy Fraye, the general manager at The Oaks Gourmet Market. McHale, a beer fan, enjoys the hoppy flavor of Pliny and will search the city for it.
Joel McHale, left, gets bottles of Pliny the Elder handed to him from Jeremy Fraye, the general manager at The Oaks Gourmet Market. McHale, a beer fan, enjoys the hoppy flavor of Pliny and will search the city for it.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Former “Community” and “The Soup” star Joel McHale likes his brew -- but not just any brew will do. It has to be Pliny the Elder.

On a recent weekday morning we joined the actor for a beer run, covering half the city in search of the elusive Pliny, a brand of Russian River suds that is only sold in select dispensaries and only on an as-available basis.

We made the journey in an ICON FJ-43, a custom-crafted version of the classic 1970 Toyota Land Cruiser, built in Chatsworth. The rare, burly beauties retail from $127,000 and are a wild way to get around town.

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Actor and comedian Joel McHale likes his Pliny the Elder beer, and he’ll search the city in his ICON FJ Land Cruiser to find it.

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The cheerful, smart-alecky McHale admits that he’s no car guy. (Don’t ask him about his ICON’s horsepower or torque. He doesn’t know. For the record, his vehicle makes 450 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque.) But he’s a very good car consumer. In his garage are a Porsche Turbo S and a Tesla Model X, falcon-wing doors and all.

That’s a lot of auto, and a long way from the elderly Toyota and Volvo that he and his wife drove when they moved from Seattle to L.A. in 1990.

He loves his ICON, but he really loves his Tesla. “This is the future,” he says. And what about the specifications on the Porsche?

“I have no idea,” McHale said. “I just told them, ‘I want the one that’s easiest to drive and goes the fastest.’”

Driving at sensible speeds, we set out from McHale’s Hollywood home and headed into Griffith Park. Following a route similar to one where McHale and his wife jog, we drove up Western Canyon Road, around the back side of the Griffith Observatory, past the Greek Theatre and down Vermont Canyon to Los Feliz.

In search of Pliny, we hit a liquor store in Atwater, a beer bar in Burbank and a Whole Foods in Glendale before finally scoring a four-pack of the precious brew at McHale’s favorite local spot -- the Oaks Gourmet Market on North Bronson Avenue.

The ICON is a brawny brute, a spare, stripped-down beast that rides high on big tires and is capable of climbing almost any off-road wall. McHale said he had never taken his into the dirt – because that would mean getting it dirty – but he certainly knows how to make it go. At one point in the drive, McHale demonstrated the ICON’s ability to accelerate to freeway speed, using all that torque and horsepower to good effect.

With “The Soup” and his stand-up work, McHale has made a career of poking fun at celebrities. On the drive, he poked a little fun at himself. Taking a call from one of his agents, he learned that the band Imagine Dragons had just sent him an early copy of its new record.

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“It pays to know people!” he said. “It’s great to be a celebrity!”

The actor said he’d be expanding on that theme in a new book. Titled “Thanks for the Money,” he said, it would feature chapters on “how to capitalize on being famous and how to get free stuff.”

A few seasons after “Community” was canceled by NBC, and then reappeared and disappeared again from Yahoo, McHale will shortly be back in prime time. His CBS comedy “The Great Indoors” debuts this fall.

But don’t look for McHale to be driving or jogging around Griffith Park. He and his wife and two children have recently swapped the Hollywood Hills home for a big San Fernando Valley spread.

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Where we went: Los Feliz to Atwater to Glendale to Burbank to Hollywood

What we drove: ICON FJ-43

What to see: Griffith Park, Griffith Observatory, Hyperion Bridge

Where to shop: The Oaks Gourmet Market, 1915 N. Bronson Ave., Los Angeles; Bill’s Liquor Store, 3150 Glendale Blvd., Atwater; Tony’s Darts Away, 1710 W. Magnolia Blvd, Burbank; Whole Foods, 331 N. Glendale Ave, Glendale.

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Total drive distance: About 30 miles

Total driving and shopping time: Two hours

charles.fleming@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter @misterfleming

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