The craft beer boom continues to reverberate throughout Los Angeles — and beyond. L.A. County is now home to more than 100 breweries, but across Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino and Kern counties you’ll find nearly 80 more, including several road-trip-worthy destinations producing world-class suds. So skip that wine-tasting excursion to Santa Ynez and set your GPS instead to these brew temples.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a brewery that takes as many risks as the Bruery, which helped put the Orange County craft scene on the map. Tour the facilities before confronting the tap list, which can run 50 selections deep. Most of the menu is dedicated to beers brewed in-house; several reflect a culinary bent, taking inspiration, for example, from sangria, horchata and orange creamsicles. Try something from the Bruery’s sour-focused Terreux operation, based a few miles east in Anaheim, as well as a limited-edition beer from its hop-centric Offshoot line.
717 Dunn Way, Placentia, (714) 729-2300, thebruery.com
Bottle Logic Brewing
Visiting this science-themed brewery is like crashing a Caltech frat party where the beer is served in beaker-like pint glasses. Skip the forgettable core lineup and devote your attention to anything that falls under the Stasis Project banner. A couple of these barrel-aged dark wonders are usually available on tap, but they’re out in full force during March’s Week of Logic anniversary celebration, which draws thousands of revelers each year. Crowds are plentiful on just about any day; if you plan to drink more than one round, try to snag a seat at the bar, which essentially grants you a fast pass for subsequent orders. Hungry? A rotation of food trucks parks in front of the taproom, including Bottle Logic’s own recently launched mobile kitchen, Epicurean 1.
1072 N. Armando St., Anaheim, (714) 660-2537, bottlelogic.com
Green Cheek Beer Company
Green Cheek, so named for the wild parrots that have taken up residence in Orange County, is basically the Tim Salmon of breweries: It produces plenty of hits, is universally adored and is named after an animal. Co-owner and head brewer Evan Price made his mark at nearby Noble (a pregame destination for Angels and Ducks outings) and continues to flex his mastery of hops here — the New England hazies are great, the West Coast IPAs even better. Stouts are also top-notch and fans line up early to procure limited-release bottles such as Immaculate Confection, an indulgent, full-bodied sipper loaded with hazelnuts and real-deal vanilla. On your first visit, go the sampler route to discover which beers speak to you.
2294 N. Batavia St., Unit C, Orange, (714) 998-8172, greencheekbeer.com
Casa Agria Specialty Ales
This blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gem offers a sudsy reflection of its surroundings — not the drab industrial park it’s shoehorned into but rather the verdant Oxnard Plain that surrounds it. The brewery specializes in barrel-aged wild ales and farmhouse saisons, the best of which are enhanced with fresh berries and stone fruit sourced from the Golden State. If sours aren’t your thing, monitor Casa Agria’s Instagram feed to keep tabs on sporadic IPA can releases. Though they tend to sell out fast, especially those of the hazy variety, there are always a few taps dedicated to the hoppy stuff, plus drinking them in-house offers the added benefit of getting nostalgic with the taproom’s vintage arcade games.
701 N. Del Norte Blvd., #310, Oxnard, (805) 485-1454, casaagria.com
Institution Ale Company
Though it can become a madhouse during peak hours, the family-friendly taproom at Institution is the quintessential neighborhood joint with friendly service, wall-to-wall TV screens (yes, it has NFL Sunday Ticket) and pizza. But the main draw is the tap list, populated by clever spins on the familiar, such as Restraint, the brewery’s subtly sweet maple-kissed brown ale. Institution’s name is an homage to the defunct Camarillo State Mental Hospital, as are its beer names: White Walls IPA, Ratched porter and the clean, hoppy Rx Pils.
3841 Mission Oaks Blvd., Camarillo, (805) 482-3777, institutionales.com
Enegren Brewing Company
Some of the greatest lagers in the country are brewed in a desolate stretch of Moorpark across the street from a dirt bike repair shop. While too many breweries are busy chasing trends, Enegren focuses on tried-and-true German styles that range from Schoner Tag, an easy-drinking traditional hefe, to an intensely smoky rauchbier called the Big Meat. But it’s the impressive selection of unadulterated, faithfully produced lagers — black, dunkel, helles and beyond — that are the must-orders. No surprise, the surroundings are straight out of Bavaria (steins and picnic tables abound); it’s the type of place where it feels like Oktoberfest every month. Still, the weekend yoga sessions serve as a reminder that you haven’t left California.
444 Zachary St., #120, Moorpark, (805) 552-0602, enegrenbrewing.com
Kern River Brewing Company
It’s well worth the trek to Kernville to discover the wonders of nature and sip on some award-winning brews. Kern River has become a towering presence in the craft beer world since Citra, a remarkably floral, tropical hop bomb of a double IPA, earned gold at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival. The brewery earned an additional four medals at this year’s event for its Nénette blonde, Gravity Check session IPA, Brown Claw porter and Side Hike red ale. The food is satisfying, stick-to-your-ribs fare prepared at the charmingly rustic Original Pub as well as the newer Backyard Restaurant, which offers gorgeous mountain views and a more expansive menu in case you need three kinds of mac and cheese to choose from (go with the chili version). Bottles and cans are available to-go for your outdoor adventures among the nearby Sequoias.
13415 Sierra Way, Kernville, (760) 376-2337, kernriverbrewing.com
Dionysus Brewing Company
Although you won’t find any wine at this Bakersfield favorite, the eclectic selection of beers on offer approaches Olympian heights. There’s something for everyone on the ever-changing tap list: Play it safe with the no-frills Insert Area Code Here blonde; delve into hoppier waters (the lactose-spiked milkshake IPAs are among the best in the West); or go the sour route — that’s where the brewery truly shines, especially with the intensely fruited Berlinersfield series. Dionysus also operates its own coffee-roasting program, so you can grab a cold brew or, better yet, a java-infused stout like Morning Moka or the lighter-hued Golden Illusion, which benefits from a bittersweet chocolate touch.
6201 Schirra Court, #13, Bakersfield, (661) 833-6000, dionysusbrewing.com
San Bernardino County
Asking for a hazy IPA or pastry stout at Sour Cellars is akin to trying to order a California roll at one of those no-nonsense omakase sushi dens. As its name suggests, mouth-puckering cask-aged ales are the exclusive focus at this acclaimed mom-and-pop operation. The cozy Victorian-themed taproom is as funky as the beers, which include a number of wildly complex offerings that took years to develop. Order a flight to experience the full sour spectrum including golden and dark-based ales, wine- and bourbon-barrel aging, plenty of fruiting and even open-air spontaneous fermentation.
9495 E. 9th St., Ste. B, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 294-5183, sourcellars.com
Ritual Brewing Co.
Ritual’s spacious setup — so big it could double as an airline hangar — offers some quirky touches, such as tables crafted from reclaimed wood from a vintage bowling alley. But the vibe is unpretentious, more Stagecoach than Coachella. As far as the beer, the two dozen taps cover a full range of familiar styles, but the general rule of thumb is the heavier, the better. Both Big Hog, a boozy barleywine with a hop kick, and the roasty Big Deluxe imperial oat stout earned Great American Beer Festival gold; should barrel-aged variants of either happen to be available, make those a priority. If you prefer something more warm-weather-appropriate, lighter options can be hit or miss but the rotating Single Rye IPA series rarely disappoints.
1315 Research Drive, Redlands, (909) 478-7800, ritualbrewing.com