By Bobby Bush
Well this four day swing South from Los Angeles to San Diego and back again, charting a
total of 18 brewpubs and one microbrewery, was just about at an end. Departing the one
year old Gordon Biersch in Laguna Hills, I paused for dinner in Irvine at Lamp Post
Pizza. It was not coincidence that this Lamp Post, open since December 1998 next to
Ralph’s supermarket, is also known as Back Street Brewery. The dining area was
packed so I sallied up to the bar and squeezed in between a bunch of hungry locals.
Realizing quickly that I was not one of her regular patrons, the overworked
bartendress did her best to accommodate my needs, eventually placing a revolving lazy
susan sampler holder within my reach and taking my pizza order. Observing the high tech
brewery, complete with color monitor screen, behind the bar, I began the tasting ritual.
All the beers were too cold and served in cold glasses. Warming in my hot paw, Pilsner
was crisp and clean with that expected hop bite ending. Chava Lager proved to be a little
heavier in mouthfeel and was very fruit for a lager. A good session drink, Rita Red Ale
had a nice malt bill yet was not too sweet. Flat but otherwise delightful, Oktoberfest
possessed pleasing malty profile, while the IPA was spicy from high hopping with a bright,
sprite of a closure. Pacific Pale Ale and Back Street Blonde were not available for tasting.
A pint of IPA accompanied my delicious, meaty pizza. As I pulled a second slice
to my deprived lips, I noticed the harried bartender fussing with a foaming, spewing tap
handle. Running dry, Coors Light was all sputtering foam. Helpful lad that I am, I offered
assistance in the form of advice: “Just give ‘em water, they won’t know the difference.”
She pointedly responded, “They will after a pitcher or two.” With that comic exchange, I
paid my fare and wandered out into the night with one more stop planned.
Way up in Hermosa Beach, a few miles south of LAX, I searched for at least 15
minutes for a parking place and finally found one in a multi-story garage just half block
from Ein Stein’s, one of Greater Los Angeles’ newest brewpubs. Founded in May 1999
not but a few blocks from Brewski’s brewpub and America’s first brew-on-premises,
Hamilton Gregg BrewWorks, Ein Stein’s is an extremely friendly place. I looked a bit
frazzled from the long beery day, but the bartender jumped right on my request for the
ubiquitous taster tray. And the luckless couple sitting next to me at the elongated bar had
the nerve to ask what I was up to. Six beers and at long story even longer tale and I was
still going strong. Brewer Kevin Day’s mostly UK-style beers were welcoming, tasteful.
A light, pils-like ale, Cerveza Hermosa was crisp with a dry finish, antithetical to the
sweet, malty Albert’s Amber. Red and thin, Baptist Brown left with a sour twang, while
Hawkin’s Hefe, usually served with a lemon (though the bartender did point out that with
such a small glass the citrus effect is overwhelming), was cloudy gold with a slight ester
taste. Doppler’s Dunkel, an ale rather than a stylistically correct lager, was malty and too
fruity for style. And E=IPA worked from an extremely bitter middle to a long hoppy
fixation at curtain call. Black Hole Stout would be brewer Day’s next beer on tap.
An unfettered brewery behind the bar, bottled choices of Mort Subite Peach
Lambic, Ayinger Maibock, Fullers 1845 and Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale and a huge
caricature of Albert Einstein on the opposite wall, it finally dawned on my somewhat worn
and stupored mind to inquire as to the original of the brewpub’s name. The owner, as I
was advised by the cheerful bartender, looks exactly like the Nobel prize winning scholar.
That was good enough for me.
Off to find a hotel, only to be awaken and shaken out of bed. Just goes with the
territory. Beer and loafing in southern California- from San Diego to Los Angeles -is very
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush