Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis where regions that seem almost far-flung all boast their own unique flavor of SoCal culture.
Angelinos know this, but most people who visit L.A. see the city as just Hollywood.
Almost everything on their Los Angeles bucket list; from hiking to the Hollywood Sign or visiting Universal Studios somehow revolves around the film industry.
Angel City Brewing, a craft beer company in the downtown Art District recognizes that fascination with glamour. They call their hometown “a City known more for its glitz than its grit” and create beer that’s inspired by both.
Established in 1997, Angel City helped pioneer the Los Angeles Craft Beer scene, a movement now largely centered in the downtown Arts District where their brewery is located just a short walk away from others like Mumford Brewing and Boomtown Brewery.
Just over one hundred years ago, the building was the West Coast office and warehouse of the company responsible for manufacturing the cables used in many notable American bridges like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco as well as the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.
Among the many historical fittings that exist in this building, two stand out because the span the floor to the ceiling; A spiral staircase that uses a thick cable as the hand railing, and a century old slide once used to transport cables that has now become the focal point of the social hall and beer tap area.
Their rotating tap is a tribute to some of the neighborhoods that surround the Art District.
Rice in the mash-bill of an Ale that uses koji fermentation is a tribute to nearby Little Tokyo, while a series of Saisons brewed with Oolong tea and jasmine blossoms expertly channels Chinatown.
The taproom is also where they showcase some of their more interesting seasonal brews like a Kolsch that gets a creamy finish from California avocados, and Angel City Lager that’s brewed with grapefruits and honey and even a beer inspired by a Christmas cookie.
Outside of the taproom, their Year Round beer choices are available in any season almost everywhere across the City. These are just as interesting and even a bit more approachable.
Angel City Pilsner is their most easy-going beer. Typical of the style, it’s light and dry with a crisp finish courtesy a blend of Czech and German hops.
Angel City IPA is hop forward like many other India Pale Ales brewed in the West Coast tradition but thankfully, not hop dominated and the bitterness forms more of a backbone of a well-rounded beer.
SaazBerry Ale is also remarkably well-balanced; a tart raspberry aroma, followed by a fragrant sweetness from elderberries and blueberries, and finally a sharp finish thanks to the Saaz hops.
Berry notes are much more dominant in the seasonally released Strawberry Gose, a sour beer that includes fresh Ventura County fruit and a small dose of salt. Energetically crisp with some naturally occurring electrolytes makes this beer ideal refreshment after hiking through the Temescal Canyon Trail or the Santa Monica Mountains.
The saltiness is taken up a notch in Srirachelada, a spin on a “Cerveza coctel traditionale” where tomato juice, sriracha, lime juice, and pickled peppers come together in a beer made to be served on ice in a salt rimmed glass.
Three words; “California, Culture, Craft” is emblazoned on every bottle of Angel City beer. The culture comes through in the nods to local tradition, the craft is seen in their use of diverse local ingredients. The essence of California is possibly best represented in their barrel-aged, limited batch expressions that come in wax sealed brown bottles.
“The Judgement of Paris” wine competition changed the way that the world looked at wine when California proved themselves to be just as esteemed a wine region as France, and certified California Chardonnay as a sought after style of white wine.
Mattole River is a Belgian Tripel that’s infused with the must of hand-picked California grapes then allowed to mature for six months in ex-Chardonnay casks. The oaking doesn’t dominate the flavor profile but instead mellows all of the notes into a crescendo of caramelized tropical fruit.
Dark Rye Lager is also barrel aged, but this time in former brandy barrels. It has been released as an annual limited vintage for over five years, and both connoisseurs and collectors consider it an investment worth holding on to and cellaring. Each vintage is different, but they all come across more as a Prosecco with dark nuances than a beer.
Sampling different annual editions of a beer like this often reveals how time spent in the barrel can lead to subtle changes in different vintages.
Against a mellow background of brandy, the oak sometimes comes across as smooth and smokey, or as barely burnt butterscotch.
Subtle yet noticeable changes across vintages almost reflects Los Angeles; From Inglewood to Hollywood there’s a different flavor but it’s still SoCal.
Complementary Beer for this article was sponsored by Angel City Brewery a craft beer company that creates a wide range of beer that’s as diverse as the people and places of Los Angeles.