As the brewery count rises in L.A. County, it is easy to cocoon yourself into your local haunts and hyper local beer. That is not a bad thing, but it does need to be mixed with a healthy dose of beer travel and luckily for us in Los Angeles, you don’t even need to travel very far.
To the north is the blossoming beer county of Ventura. It doesn’t take much, just pick an exit off the 101 freeway and you can find breweries to visit. Let’s work our way north with a beer sampler.
The Institution Ales facility in Camarillo is broken up into four sections. There is a game room bar closest to the street, then a big packaging and brewing chunk, then a taproom and restaurant section, and finally a small outdoor patio. On the Sunday that I visited all but the can line was hopping with people enjoying the long list of beers. I sampled their Spring Seasonal IPA that had a focus on the Mosaic hop as well as their Batch 400 Pale Ale. Both beers paired well with the March Madness games on the TVs above the bar.
Casa Agria is Just a notch up the road past strawberry fields. Nestled into a spot in an industrial park this sour focused brewery had been on my bucket list for a long while. The taproom and taplist is split in two. There is a wide variety of sours and saisons (many to go bottles too) and then there are a few IPA’s as well. There is seating in their barrel room but also video games. I don’t normally sip sours and play vintage NBA video games but maybe because I didn’t know they went together. Tres Casas a honey-centric Sour was the standout. The honey was silky on the palate and proved a great counterpoint to the sour.
Ventura’s south edge houses MadeWest Brewing. Cans of their beers have made it south to Los Angeles, but visiting the brewery taproom is a great experience. The space is gleaming white with large murals on the walls and a tight beer list with a wide variety. Spoiler: one of them is my Non IPA Beer of the Week. I really enjoyed their Brut IPA, Effervescent, and their hazy collaboration with Fieldwork, Short Lived, was on point for the style. They even have a dedicated spot for food trucks that is easily accessible from the large patio.
Finally, Ventura Coast Brewing Company is located in downtown Ventura. As with MadeWest, VCBC has a bright white space with artwork (and in this case, greenery) on the walls. A big outdoor space and a nice amount of bar seating. The beer menu above the bar was great. Not only color-coded, but it had all the info you needed to make a proper choice. You could go based on descriptive adjectives or on hops or IBUs. Their Cinco de Quatro amber was my favorite. Nice and crisp and properly malty.
There are so many other breweries left out of this mini-itinerary. So mix and match with the Ventura breweries on your “to-do” list.
My Non IPA Beer of the Week comes from MadeWest. Ventura Light barely tips the ABV scales at 4.2%. The brewery describes the beer as “a golden, full-flavored light lager.” I found the beer to be as advertised. Sunshine yellow. Light, but not watery with even a little tiny hop kick to it and blessedly not overly sweet.
Back to Los Angeles and Torrance specifically. Add April 20 to your Calendar. Smog City Brewing will be celebrating their 2019 anniversary and there will be 25 beers on tap including limited releases such as Saison Juice a farmhouse ale brewed with Riesling juice and 4.20 Juice Juice, described as “sticky and dank.” There will be cocktails, game play, brewery tours and more.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.