AUG/SEP 2005 | REGIONAL | WEST
L.A. Update : On The Road Here And There
By Don Erickson
Black Sheep Bar
1117 Chorro St.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Dale Bros. Brewery
1495 W. Ninth St.
Upland, CA 91786
271 N. Second Ave.
Upland, CA 91786
11520 Fourth St.
Rancho Cucamonga, CA
The theme of this issue is Beer and Travel. Naturally, when
the Boss sent out his reminder, I was back East somewhere.
More about that later. First, the local news: Up north, SLO
Brewing in San Luis Obispo was bought by an Australian
firm. The deal closes at the end of August, and no one seems
to know what will happen thereafter. Given that the building
is unreinforced masonry, be assured that there will be significant
changes of one sort or another. But hopefully it will remain
Elsewhere in town, the successful resurrection of the legendary
Spike’s has prompted other similar establishments to
open. The newest is a place called the Black Sheep Bar &
Grill. Located two blocks from SLO’s mission, Black
Sheep could be called a California-style Irish pub. The fittings,
especially the bar itself, are all heavy, dark wood, but the
ambiance is bright and airy, thanks to plentiful skylights.
The Guinness tastes right nice, but consider the house pale
ale, brewed by local microbrewer Firestone Walker.
Down the 101 freeway in Ventura, Anacapa Brewing’s
original brewer now toils for Rock Bottom in Arizona. His
replacement seems to be stepping up to the challenge quite
nicely. There’s a new menu to check out, too.
In nearby Oxnard, the bottling line at BJ’s has been
“beaten into a state of cooperation” by the brew
crew there. Bottling days aren’t as entertaining —
or vocal — as they used to be. But, if you’re
lucky, the lead brewer, a veteran of what was formerly Butterfield
Brewing in Fresno, will be present. Or look for Michael Ferguson,
formerly of Barley’s in Las Vegas. He’ll be the
real big guy in the brewhouse.
Closer to L.A., Pasadena Brewing Company
is no more. Now called the Union Cattle Company, the place
was bought by the same people who took over the defunct Ein
Stein’s brewpub in Hermosa Beach. As with that location,
PBC’s brew vessels are still in place — with a
newly installed mechanical bull nearby.
Down the street, Lucky Baldwin’s, arguably L.A.’s
best alehouse, just finished its annual IPA Festival. As with
the aftermath of Lucky Baldwin’s Belgian beer fests,
expect random “leftover” kegs of IPA to be “discovered”
for the next few months.
Otherwise, why not reacquaint yourself with the beers of
Craftsman Brewing? Word is that Craftsman’s
beer will soon make its long-anticipated bottled debut. It’s
a safe bet that Lucky Baldwin’s will be one of the first
to have them.
Oh, and Lucky Baldwin’s spin-off in Sierra Madre will
open this summer … whenever the permits allow it, of
While in Pasadena (remembering this issue’s theme),
be sure to stop and pay homage at Crown City. The new brewery
is still “almost ready,” but all of the guest
beers make for a fun-filled playground nonetheless. And the
bartenders know their stuff. (Crown City’s spin-off
in Arcadia, Matt Denny’s, ain’t too bad in that
Out east on the 10 freeway in Upland, I finally tracked down
the owner/operator of Dale Bros. Brewery.
Curtis Dale is a homebrewer gone pro who’s been quietly
brewing small (4-barrel) batches of beer, primarily for the
Claremont Colleges area. He makes lagers, the San Francisco
style first made famous by the great Santa Cruz Brewing way
back in “the earlies.” His mainstays are Pomona
Queen, an amber, and California Dark, a dark lager. He also
makes a summer beer, Pacific Daylight, and a winter specialty,
Dale Bros. is a small production brewery tucked in the back
of an industrial park. Instead of visiting the brewery, go
to some of the local establishments that serve its brews:
Pizza & Such in Claremont, Mount Baldy Lodge in Mount
Baldy Village or The Press Restaurant in Claremont. Of course,
if you want to order a keg or two, Curtis Dale will be happy
Elsewhere in Upland, Old Baldy’s new
brewery is finally up and running. By the time you read this,
all of Old Baldy’s beers will be back to being made
on-site. As you might imagine, the folks at Old Baldy are
quite happy nowadays.
Compared to Montreal and
D.C., you’d expect Indianapolis’s beer scene
to be rather mundane. It isn’t.
Farther east, Rancho Cucamonga gained its own BJ’s
restaurant. It’s in a new building across from Ontario
Mills and past Costco on Fourth Street, just west of the 15
freeway. For those race fans out there, note that this BJ’s
is the closest good beer joint to the California Speedway.
In Southern California, it goes without saying that travel
and beer go together. However, for those of you venturing
While the Boss was reminding his staff to write about Beer
and Travel, I was in Washington, D.C., discovering a really
good beer nexus just up 7th Street from the Smithsonian museums
and the National Art Gallery. Near the Gallery Place metro
stop, you’ll find the District Chop House, part of the
Rock Bottom chain.
Just up the street is DA’s RFD, a spin-off of the Brickskeller,
D.C.’s great beer landmark. Unlike the Brickskeller,
DA’s offers several draught beers as well as a full
menu. Not surprisingly, the new place already rivals its parent
as D.C.’s premier beer destination.
If that weren’t enough, just on the other side of the
National Portrait Gallery museum are two more brewpubs, Gordon
Biersch and Capital City. The latter is a local brewpub chain.
This particular location was the very first Cap City brewpub.
It no longer features a brewery, but its oval bar is still
a great site for people watching.
One more D.C. note: When making the obligatory visit to the
Brickskeller, consider dropping by the nearby Big Hunt. This
bar seems to be forever remaking itself — I’m
never quite sure what to expect when I venture inside. However,
the beer offerings are always first-rate. That’s why
I keep coming back.
Elsewhere in this issue, someone is no doubt describing Montreal’s
big beer festival, the Mondial de la Bière. I reached
Montreal just after all the festival-goers had left. Amazingly,
there was still some beer left in town, although the Unibroue
stocks were noticeably low.
Nevertheless, dinner at Fourquet Fourchette, Unibroue’s
theme restaurant south of the Saint Lawrence River in Chambly,
was still a highlight of my visit. Sitting on the patio, overlooking
a lake and the nearby historic fort, made a great meal all
Within Montreal itself, there are eight brewpubs. Most are
near or on “the Main,” Rue St. Laurent, Montreal’s
main street. Dieu du Ciel!, the northernmost brewpub, is probably
the most American. Sergent Recruteur, just
around the corner, is possibly the best hangout.
I found the newest brewpub, Reservoir, had improved greatly
since my last visit a year ago. Meanwhile, Cheval
Blanc can still be rightfully regarded as one of
the best brewpubs in all of Canada.
L’Amère à Boire is Montreal’s
most underrated brewpub. Unlike all the others, L’Amère
brews lagers. Its pilsner, Cerna Hora, is simply outstanding.
L’Amère also brews two different Baltic porters,
Kozak and Odenese, which are each worth a visit themselves.
The Brutopia brewpub is across town in the
heart of English-speaking Montreal. The place is comfortably
British in theme. Hurley’s, the restaurant downstairs,
is just as comfortably Irish. Just don’t order the nachos!
Compared to Montreal and Washington, D.C., you’d expect
Indianapolis’s beer scene to be rather mundane. It isn’t.
The best brewpub in town, Broad Ripple,
would be a prize just about anywhere. Set inside what was
once a house in an older neighborhood on Indy’s north
side, the place is worth searching for. The beers have a distinct
British influence, while the tiny bar is big in its welcome.
South of Indy, Oaken Barrel is also worth
a visit. It’s hard to miss; one wall of its complex
has an airplane sticking out of it! Inside the brewpub, you’ll
find a wide array of beers that can be very interesting, plus
a very good menu.
Downtown, the chains rule. Hard Times Cafe pairs good beers
with its chili, while Buffalo Wild Wings offers lots of draught
beers with a particular emphasis on the locally made stuff.
And at good prices too, especially in the afternoons!
However, Rock Bottom is the place to be.
Offering free pool until 5:00 p.m., this is the place to go
while waiting until it’s time to fly home. Just don’t
forget to bring your Mug Club card.
One last note: Devotees and veterans of Spike’s, the
venerable beer bar in San Luis Obispo, are already planning
its 25th anniversary celebration next year. Spike’s
alumni who want to be “found” should log on to
Don Erickson is an associate editor of the
Celebrator Beer News and a longtime “grognard”
covering the Southern California beer scene. He lives in Long