If you’re at all interested in drinking good beer in L.A., sooner or later you’ll find yourself in one of the city’s British or Irish pubs.
No other category of bar, lounge, restaurant or cafe takes beer as seriously. Even the most modest pubs have a dark-medium-light trio of stellar imports on tap, often Guinness, Bass and Harp. Many have a hard cider plus a couple of well-respected English ales such as Boddingtons, Fuller’s and Newcastle. A few pubs have dozens of draft lagers, ales and stouts with the occasional West Coast microbrew thrown in -- plus a generous selection of bottled beers.
The two Lucky Baldwins pubs (in Pasadena and Sierra Madre) serve scores of Belgian beers on tap. And spirits connoisseurs can often find a good selection of Irish whiskies -- not only Bushmills, Jameson, but also Powers, Midleton Very Rare and Tullamore Dew.
Some places may seem more Irish because they have the Setanta Sports channel (which carries Gaelic sports such as hurling and Irish football) and serve Smithwick’s, an Irish ale, on tap, as well as Magners hard cider, also Irish, as opposed to Strongbow or Blackthorn, both English ciders.
But Sonny McLean’s in Santa Monica adds a twist -- it has a Boston Irish bent, with lobster rolls on the menu and Boston sports team fans as regulars.
And although a British expat may drink in an Irish pub, and an Irishman may patronize (or even own, as in the case of Ye Olde King’s Head in Santa Monica) a British pub, only British pubs offer you the option of mushy peas.
But some have food that’s pretty good.
During the last three months, I’ve visited more than 35 pubs in L.A. County, dropping in on weekends with my husband, meeting girlfriends after work, prevailing upon Guinness-loving colleagues to steer me to their haunts, drawing up lists and setting out with itineraries that included between-meal hikes (this was not a weight-loss research experience).
We sampled stouts, ales, lagers, ciders and specialty pub drinks including Snakebites, Black and Tans and Shandies. We ordered fish and chips, chicken curry, Cornish pasties, Scotch eggs and “Irish nachos.” We watched American football, English soccer, Irish football, rugby, golf and a Dodgers game.