Remember when beer runs just involved a ten and a fiver and a sober driver? Just run in, grab a case of what was on sale, and it was back to the cookout. Now there are so many intriguing craft options that you can stand -- paralyzed by the choices -- in front of dozens of craft brews you've never even heard of.
This is especially true if you're looking for beer from local breweries. Just two years ago there were hardly any local craft brews being packaged and sold at retail, now everyone from Golden Road Brewing to Beachwood is bottling (or canning) their brews.
Don't head out on your beer run blind, here are some suggestions of recent releases that are fresh, mostly local, and all worth a try.
Firestone Walker Parabola: The flagship bourbon barrel-aged imperial stout from the Paso Robles brewery was released this month, and it's a particularly good "vintage." Don't let the price (about $17) scare you away on this one; it's one of the best.
Monkish Matrimonium: An imperial stout brewed a little closer to home, Matrimonium was made to commemorate the nuptials of friends of the Torrance brewery. The 11% alcohol stout is the first Monkish brew to feature coffee (a custom roast from Portola Coffee Labs), but in typical Monkish style the coffee is subtle and understated. The brew also gets a dose of lavender flowers for more complexity.
Noble Ale Works Simcoe Showers: Looking for something hoppy? Grab the newest entry into Noble's single-hop double IPA series featuring the earthy, tropical Simcoe hop, if you can find a bottle. Brewmaster Evan Price has been whipping local hop heads into a fervor with the Showers series, and this might be the best one yet.
Beachwood Thrillseeker IPA: Another first-class hoppy brew that might be a little tough to find, Thrillseeker layers pine, citrus, and tropical fruit aromas over a light malt body with a dry finish. Snag your bottle limit if you see this one on the shelf.
Eagle Rock Brewery Unionist: We told you about the Eagle Rock Brewery/AleSmith collaboration milk stout, but if you're looking for something lighter, give the brewery's Unionist Belgian Pale ale a try. A balance of earthy hops, biscuity malt and a peppery Belgian yeast, Unionist is surprisingly refreshing, and perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.