With so many tasting rooms and breweries to visit in the Southland, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and just stick to your favorites. But you may be missing out on some of the area’s hidden gems and up-and-coming destinations. Los Angeles County is on pace to pass 100 breweries in 2018, and the tide shows no sign of receding.
Here are two breweries on the east end of the county worth a visit:
Arrow Lodge Brewing
Just around the corner from veteran operation Alosta Brewing, Arrow Lodge Brewing bucks the trend of austere brewery tasting rooms in drab industrial parks. An offshoot of the Bread and Barley restaurant group, the brewery may sit in a drab industrial park off Arrow Highway in Covina, but the tasting room is warm, welcoming and well appointed.
The decor is frontier-chic with rough-hewn woods, an eye-catching chandelier made from antlers and even a trophy buck mounted above the pinball machines (more local breweries need these!). There are also a few televisions (showing Dodgers games) and a library of board games. There’s a narrow patio out front, but the beer is the best reason to visit.
Head brewer Amy Heller made wine in Napa before returning to her native Southern California, where she began brewing at the Congregation Ale House brewpub in Azusa. She helped design and build the brewery at Arrow Lodge, and now she’s making a varied slate of brews, including trendy IPAs, a coffee-infused kolsch and a bold stout flavored with cacao nibs. A small-batch brewing setup (viewable from the tasting room) facilitates experimentation and recipe development, and Arrow Lodge has begun canning some brews made on the production system.
Recently the Clayton Kerhop IPA — made to mark the beginning of the Dodgers season — is a standout take on the modern IPA that blends the fruit aromas and drinkability of those ultra-trendy “hazy IPAs” with the classic bitterness of a West Coast-style IPA. Heller also has a way with fruit — her guava Berliner weisse from earlier this year showcased tropical funk in a bright and refreshing package, and the recent addition to the series of fruited sour wheat beers, the berry-fueled All Blue Chucks, layers pie-filling flavors over a tart base.
If Covina sounds like it’s too far to travel for just a brewery tasting room, why not pair a trip to Arrow Lodge with a stop at the Donut Man just three miles away. The iconic strawberry donuts are now in season and a great excuse to order a flight of beers and experiment with your doughnut-and-beer pairings. 720 E. Arrow Hwy, Unit C, Covina, (626) 498-0557, www.arrowlodgebrew.com.
In downtown Pomona, about 10 miles southeast of Arrow Lodge, 2-year-old Homage Brewing is punching above its class with hype-worth hoppy beers alongside complex wood-aged fixed fermentation ales that often feature fruit additions. Co-founder and brewer Matthew Garcia got his beer industry start at the Yard House before moving over to manage the Congregation Ale House in Pasadena, and his brewery is a family affair. His wife, Lauren, handles the marketing and the tasting room.
Maybe the most Instagram-friendly tasting room in L.A., the space is bright and open and feels more like a third-wave coffeehouse than an upstart craft brewery (white walls, potted plants, minimalist design touches). There’s a small brewhouse and some stainless steel fermenters in the back of the room, but the real magic happens at the off-site barrel room where Garcia coaxes flavors from wood, microbes and fruit. The results are rustic and complex, and bottles sell quickly. Be sure to check the fridge opposite the bar for bottles that are available to go or for drinking on site.
Alongside the American styles (hoppy brews and IPA variations) are Belgian-influenced brews that pull from Trappist-inspired (a malty dubbel, a dry and spicy golden ale) to the more rustic (saisons and wild ales). The on-trend hazy IPAs have the “juicy” qualities — a soft mouthfeel and intense aromatics with less bitterness than traditional IPAs — that are the style’s hallmarks, and fans line up when Homage releases cans of the hoppy beers. There is also homemade cold brew coffee available, making the tasting room the perfect spot to fuel up before a show at downtown Pomona’s Fox Theater or the Glasshouse.
Homage is quickly outgrowing its small downtown storefront. Garcia is working on an expansion location and hopes to open a production brewery and tasting room in Chinatown in 2019. 281 S. Thomas St. #101, Pomona, (909) 461-6962, www.homagebrewing.com.