As you walk into the new Arts District Brewing on hip Traction Avenue, below, to your right, you can see some of the brewing equipment. Up ahead the rectangular bar cocoons gleaming silver serving tanks. Outside Jenga blocks clatter with a loud barrage onto concrete. There is the glowing neon sign in one corner lighting you towards where to order food and skee-ball lanes next to it.
This is a promising and large space and the outdoor patio will be well used (especially when the fully stocked outdoor bar is running). All this taproom needs is to get a little more homey and lived in which is what I think the beers need to do as well.
The hoppy beers on the list were very good, which was to be expected from brewmaster Devon Randall who came to Los Angeles from the famed Pizza Port group. Traction IPA had a bright orange juicy taste. Kablamo Rye IPA burst with spice and vied for my top spot. Unfortunately, the supporting cast of beers did not impress much. The Whammy Wheat hit the wheat note solidly but was too light and a bit spritzy to me. The Mateo Golden Ale was a little potpourri and soapy. Lastly, I tried the Spirited Saison which, in a blind taste test, I would have pegged as a Hefeweizen and not a Belgian style.
This is common in first visits to fresh out of the gate breweries. Some beers will work, some won’t and with someone as experienced as Randall at the helm, I know that the beers will only improve. I will be back to try her darker beers like her Oatmeal Stout and the Porter Rico. Also, knowing Brian Lenzo, Arts District will become as comfortable as Blue Palms.
The Beer of the Week comes from Highland Park Brewery. Bonkers IPA is a fresh blast of hoppiness. Granted the glass that I had was literally only two days old but it was so bright and piney that I could imagine it having that fresh taste for days. Bob Kunz has been doing some wonderful barrel-aged and fruit beers, but his IPAs are the best on the Eastside.
Your Homework is to drive further to the east, to the bucolic suburb of Monrovia. 38 Degrees has opened up their second location there to tempt you with food and their always vast tap list. When friends and family arrive from out of town to avoid foul weather at home, this would be the perfect spot for a holiday dinner.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.