The San Fernando Valley is finally getting a craft brewery of its own, and it’s an operation that will offer something unique among Los Angeles breweries: “real ale” in the British tradition.
MacLeod Ale Brewing Company is dedicated to brewing classic British styles — think low-alcohol pale ales, malty Scotch ales, and English-style bitters — and to serving the brews direct from the casks where they are naturally carbonated.
“Real ale” is a term that refers to the practice of beer being naturally carbonated and then dispensed via gravity or a hand-pump without the added “push” of CO2 that standard draft systems use.
It means the real ale is softer and less carbonated, with a distinct mouth-feel, and it is served at “cellar temperature” (between 50 and 57 degrees, compared with the 38 degrees at which standard draft beer is served).
It’s a technique that has found some popularity in the American craft-beer scene, but the craft examples of cask beer usually trend toward the experimental side with extra hops, fruit, or just about anything else added to the casks to infuse the base brew. MacLeod will take a more traditional approach to showcase the delicate balance of their brews without additional adulterants.
At a preview event at the brewery’s Van Nuys tasting room I was able to sample the first brew — a Yorkshire pale ale called the Little Spree. The straw-yellow brew was well balanced between bready English malt and woody English hops, and the low-alcohol ale was bright and very quaffable. English ales are known as some of the best “session beers” around — brews that are well suited to long afternoons at the pub — and Little Spree was a beer I could spend some quality time with.
The tasting room is spacious and will surely be welcomed by the beer lovers in the Valley who’ve been growing thirsty while craft breweries sprouted from downtown to the South Bay.
While selling the concept of traditional British ales served in the traditional British ways could be a challenge for the new brewery, the actual British styles that MacLeod Ale has on its docket are all approachable and should prove popular with craft-lovers and beer newcomers alike.
I’m particularly interested to try their upcoming Old Toasty (a dark mild), the Session Gap (an ordinary bitter) and the King’s Taxes (a 60-shilling Scotch ale — a style that few craft breweries are attempting).
The grand-opening party is Sunday, and the brewer is offering tickets to four tasting sessions throughout the day to mitigate crowds. The $15 admission gets you into the tasting room for two hours with five drink tickets that can be redeemed for pints (real-deal 20-ounce Imperial pints no less) and half-pints. There will be four of the core brews on offer, as well as the customary fleet of food trucks on site.
MacLeod Ale Brewing Co., 14741 Calvert St., Van Nuys, (818) 631-1963.