In Your Neighborhood: Galco’s

Bottle Shop Los Angeles

John Nese curates a beer, wine and soda roster that measures hundreds of bottles deep.

If you have lived in Los Angeles for a while, you start to know the local institutions. The best mom-and-pop establishments. The stores, shops and restaurants that are not in the travel guides. Galco’s in Highland Park is one of those places.

The minute you utter the name Galco’s, you think of little seen and high quality craft sodas. It is easy to get lost in the root beer section alone (I am rather fond of the mint julep soda myself) but dive further into the store and you run across two aisles of great beer.

On one side you have the domestic choices and the other holds most of the foreign selection. (The Belgian beer has it’s own shelf space to the side; don’t miss it) Browsing through you will see Glissade from Sierra Nevada and Allagash Victoria. On the flip side you run into Hue Vietnamese lager and Samuel Smith Strawberry beer.

I had the opportunity to speak with Galco’s owner John Nese about the beer he stocks and the changes in the beer culture over the last few years.

When he made the momentous decision to focus on the soda niche, he also had another this-road-or-that-road decision to make. Stock wine or beer? He chose to “dip his toe” into beer and has not looked back.

At first he did not know how far beer consumers would go. He waited for seven years before adding the aged Ola Dubh from Harveistoun. And once he did, it started selling. I asked him if he has seen a shift in beer knowledge amongst his customers and he said yes, that more people “know” what they want now. They have had it at nearby El Arco Iris (Cucapa) or at the York (Firestone-Walker) and now they want it when they are at home.

There are two features of Galco’s that keep me coming back. (Not counting the selection, which is my main criteria for return visits). One, you can buy one of any bottle they have in the store. It is perfect for the budget conscious beer buyer who wants to experiment but can’t splurge on multiple six-packs. You can make your own personal mix. It is perfect for the iTunes generation.

Second is the service. Everyone I have talked to at Galco’s is upbeat and helpful. I believe it radiates out from Mr. Nese. While I was talking with him another customer asked him a question and right away he went into helpful mode. He took the person to the section she needed, then suggested other beers and ciders that would also be good and did it all with a smile. Then came back to me and finished the story he was telling me.

I always come back to the selection though. Mr. Nese told me about the time a visitor from Belgium was marveling at the Belgian beers he stocked. Marveling because he didn’t see this wide array of Belgian beer in Belgium.

The beer this week is from my home state of Oregon. The Abyss from Deschutes Brewery in Bend is part of their reserve series. I have a bottle of the 2009 vintage, which is the 4th version of this big Imperial porter aging in my beer cellar (AKA the closet). At 11% ABV this is a slow sipper for a cold night. This would be best at the end of dinner in my opinion in the place of brandy.

Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.


Sean Inman

Find more of Sean Inman's writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.

Blog Comments

nice piece. I remember looking at the extensive beer selection at Galco’s, though at the time my sweet tooth got the better of me. I love their sodas and candy selection, but I will have to go back and pick up some beers.

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