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Dutch's Brewhouse, 4244 Atlantic Avenue, Bixby Knolls, Long Beach, California

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Johnny's New York Pizzeria, 5757 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California

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Louisiana Charlie's, 429 Shoreline Village Drive, Long Beach, California

I have to admit it seems almost pointless to write a review of brewpubs and bars when we are all dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Most businesses, including all pubs and bars, are currently closed in the UK and most of the US and have been for several weeks, and we still don’t know how much longer they will have to remain closed. Some of these businesses will survive to open again “on the other side”, especially the ones who are doing deliveries or, in the case of some American states, offering curbside takeaway service. But it breaks my heart to think of how many pubs and breweries simply won’t make it.

With that said, I can only hope that the remaining pub reviews I still have to write, left over from before the lockdown, will involve places that people will be able to visit in the future.

So on that note, let’s once again set the Wayback Machine to last September, when I visited my mother in Long Beach, California.

On one of the last days before my flight back home I finally had a free day to visit a Long Beach brewpub. Quite a few new ones had sprung up in the city since I’d been here a year earlier, so I was really looking forward to checking one or two out. Having first made sure that everything was being taken care of at my mom’s house, Kim and I set off on a short afternoon exploration.

After discovering three of the places I had researched had either closed down altogether or weren’t open because I had misread their opening hours, we found ourselves parking on Atlantic Avenue in Bixby Knolls with the hopes of checking out the last one I had on my list. But Ambitious Ales turned out to be closed as well. I felt like such an idiot. Had I really been stupid enough to not check to make sure all of these places were open on this Tuesday afternoon? We were both feeling quite frustrated, not to mention very thirsty.

And then something wonderful happened: as we trudged back to the car I spotted a slim storefront called Dutch's Brewhouse. As we glanced through the front door, Kim saw the clientele sitting at the bar and became reluctant to enter, assuming it was a biker bar of some sort. But I pointed out the two small brewing tanks in the front window and told Kim I thought differently. While he waited outside on the pavement I took a step inside and instantly spotted the list of craft beers on the wall behind the bar. "It's definitely not a biker bar," I assured Kim. "Come on in!"

Inside we found a long skinny room, with tables along the right side and the bar along the left. The biker image that Kim had picked up on was obviously inspired by the general dress style of the locals, which I’ve come to learn is a common look for the newer generation of SoCal’s brewers. And one of them, who was behind the bar, turned out to be Dutch himself.

After we stood at the bar and studied the digital beer menu, I ordered a pint of Tea & Peel American IPA (6.8% ABV, a collaboration between Dutch’s Brewhouse and Ballast Point Brewery), and Kim went for a pint of another American IPA, Sac Fly-PA (6.5% ABV, Knee Deep Brewery, Auburn, California). My Tea and Peel was brewed with Amarillo and Centennial hops as well as Jasmine tea and orange peel. It tasted like a wild night in Chinatown. Kim’s pint tasted a little more close to home, but it also suggested some amazing hops.

We seated ourselves at the bar on the only two unoccupied stools. When the late afternoon sun started to chainsaw its way through the glass door and pierce painfully into our eyes, we decided to abandon the sunny bar and sit at a table on the shady side. As the place is very small, we were still close enough to the bar to easily chat with Dutch and the others. We could also clearly peruse the law enforcement badges, paper currency, and other such curiosities that were posted on the back wall. By this time Kim was really liking the place. “It’s not so much a brewery,” he commented to me, “as a buddy who has a still in his garage.” Yeah, I suppose it does have that kind of homey atmosphere.

As we had no other breweries on my list to check out we decided to have a second round. This time we both went for The Jetty IPA (7.2% ABV, Pizza Port, San Marcos, California), a very drinkable IPA which brought one word to mind: sparky!

At some point, after Kim mentioned that I was from Long Beach but live in England and wrote about beer, Dutch introduced us to Adam, in Dutch’s words “a star of a brewer with great creative ideas”. Almost immediately Adam brought us a couple of tasters of current creations in development. The first one was very unusual, brewed with Japanese sticky rice and sesame paste from Japan. He called this beer Not A Saki and was thinking of finalising the name to Nagasaki. The other taster was a Hibiscus beer, brewed with hibiscus leaves, which was cloudy, fairly sour, and very headily intoxicating in character. Adam explained that his inspiration was the Mexican drink called Maica -- presumably short for agua de jamaica, an iced tea made with hibiscus flowers. He was thinking of naming this beer Get Laid, which seemed like a very appropriate name.

At this point we were getting a bit hungry. Dutch’s specialises in pizza, but as it happened to be Taco Tuesday we decided to share a three-taco plate consisting of two shrimp tacos and a vegan mushroom taco, and they were very good and did the job intended. We were having so much fun that we ended up going for a third round. I had another pint of Jetty and Kim had a pint of Pablo Special Pale Ale (5.5% ABV, M. Special, Goleta, California). The Pablo was an easy drinking pint, which was great for Kim. There was a really nice hops character in this lovely beer, a bit like a mellow cat rubbing against the palate and purring gently. (Kim, who lives with seven cats, would appreciate this description.)

The guy-brewing-in-his-garage image that Kim had formed is not so far from the truth. Apparently the idea for the place started when Dutch used to entertain his friends and neighbours at his backyard tiki bar. Soon Dutch’s Tiki Bar became so popular with his friends that he decided to open a brewpub that he could run in the manner of his backyard bar, but that was open to the public. Thus was born Dutch’s BrewHouse.

On a future visit to Long Beach I’d like to stop back into Dutch’s. Fortunately, during the Covid-19 crisis, they are actively selling their beers and food for take-away only, so that’s a great sign that they’ll survive through this period. Hopefully many more fine pubs are doing the same.

While I was in Southern California I had a couple other craft beers worth tasting, so I’ll briefly mention them.

When I met my friend Kimmer at Union Station one day, we had a bit of a surreal drive across town to visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, specifically a couple of installations by the late Chris Burden. By the time we managed to work our way through a labyrinth of a logic puzzle which allowed us to park the car in a compound for which Kimmer had a parking pass, it was mid-afternoon and we were quite hungry for a quick lunch. So the first option we came to was Johnny’s New York Pizzeria, located near the Screen Actors Guild and within view of the museum. We shared a Veggie Delight pizza which was really good and zingy, especially with all the crushed red peppers I sprinkled on my slices. I also had a pint of Santa Monica IPA (5.4% ABV, Santa Monica Brew Works, Santa Monica, California), which turned out to be really good and satisfying, with a perfect bitter hoppiness and a character I couldn't quite lay my finger (or tongue) on. Was it some sort of wood? Or vegetable? I guess I’ll never know.

On another day, as I was walking around Long Beach’s Shoreline Village with my friend Mary and Toep, we popped into Louisiana Charlie’s for a super-quick bite. We sat at a table on the front waterside deck where Toep and I split a very nice catfish po’boy sandwich served with Cajun fries. Toep had a coffee while I had a half pint of West Coast IPA (7.3% ABV, Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego, California) which was served in a glass jar. It was hoppy but a bit strange, perhaps because of the jar. I do prefer my beers served in proper pint glasses. But it was nice to be down by the ocean in the open air, so I really couldn’t complain.

While we’re all staying at home I still have a few pub reviews left to write, covering places I visited back in the historic age before the Covid-19 Lockdown. But obviously my usual Pub Updates section will be temporarily limited to bottles and cans consumed at home.

BOTTLED/CANNED BEER UPDATE:

  • Heart & Soul Session IPA (4.4% ABV, Vocation Brewery, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire): This little wonder comes in a little 330ml can which is packed full of West Coast hops. The reward is that this is really good, with that Pacific Coast OOMPH!. I really should have bought more than one can of this.
  • Hang Loose Epic West Coast IPA (7.7% ABV, Vocation Brewery, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, in collaboration with Magic Rock Brewing Company, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire): Brewed with Cara and Extra Pale malts and Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and Citra hops, this comes in a tie-dye can with a surfer theme. Consumed during the first week of the Lockdown, this brew offers good waxin’-the-board zingy hops which brightened up the suddenly cold, dark and hail-speckled day. Dewwwwd!
  • Peak IPA (6.0% ABV, Peak Ales, The Barn Brewery, Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire): On Day 7 of the Covid-19 Lockdown, I decided to try this bottle which was described as “a bold, hoppy IPA with a modern citrus twist”. I needed a pint’s worth of something strong this evening, after an exhausting day spent walking three miles with two risky stops, one for a couple of beers and one to pick up a prescription. The visit to the chemist ended up taking forty minutes from queueing outside to procuring the correct prescription inside (which is always a challenge), which I had dropped in over a week earlier. Such is Life in the Covid-19 Era. I didn’t get anything else done today, specifically of the creative or enjoyable nature, so I really wanted this beer. There is nothing unique about it, but it’s a good traditional hoppy gold ale.
  • Inferno Blonde Ale (4.4% ABV, Oakham Ales, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire): This was my Beer of Day 8 of the Lockdown. Brewed with Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, and Chinook hops grown in the Yakima Valley. I haven’t had an Oakham beer for years. It’s clean and sparky and quite pleasant, a nice reward for walking all over trying to get my once-daily exercise plus shopping. As I got a late start this afternoon, I did pass the occasional friend, one out walking, one running his two little dogs, and a legendary sax-playing friend I’d never seen walking in his stocking cap just like everybody else. I threw a quick long-distance chat to the dog walker, but we didn’t dawdle at all, just in case the Exercise Police are monitoring this. Yep, this beer is definitely Sparky, like a friendly animated electrical spark. I won’t pass it by if I see it again on the shelf.
  • Gamma Ray American Pale Ale (5.4% ABV, Beavertown Brewery, London, England): I found this as a 4-pack of 330m cans, about the only microbrew left on the shelf at Sainsburys. The little cans have a very atomic colour scheme: orange, blue, and yellow. Super-hopped with Columbus, Bravo Mosaic, Amarillo, Citra, and Calypso, this beer is finally dry hopped as well. Yow! The aroma hit my nose before I had the chance to react. “Tropical mango and passion-fruit”, the can describes. The malts used are are extra pale, English premium, camaralt, and caragold. Andrew had one of these as well, and now we want more beer! The washing machine has died in the second week of the Covid-19 lockdown. We can’t wash our clothes, so we need something! (Yes, I know, I’m I APOLOGISE!!
  • Mash Out Pale Ale (4.5% ABV, Robinsons Brewing Company, Stockport, Cheshire): Described as “light gold, crisp, lush fruity hops character, packed with flavour,” this beer seems a bit traditional in taste. But for a traditional British beer it’s got a nice hoppy zip. This was a cap to the first warm and sunny day we’ve had in this surreal Covid-19-lockdown spring. As I walked down the hill to a supermarket I passed a performer set up with PA and amp on her back deck, playing guitar and singing, with her next-door neighbour (safely two metres away) singing backup. What a great idea! From the supermarket I walked back through Bole Hill, exploring a new path I hadn’t noticed before. I’m sorry, it was there, no one else was around, and it only took me an extra ten minutes, and I was walking at full speed the entire way. One has to keep their health and sanity during this crisis.
  • Reverie (4.2% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire): Finally the Abbeydale delivery of cans arrived at my local off-license, so this was one of my purchases. Brewed with Citra and Cascade and then dry-hopped, it's very cloudy but a lovely, hoppy comfort on Day 14 of the lockdown in these discomforting times. It cleaned and disinfected my soul after a rather scary excursion to the local shop.
  • Lorita (4.7% ABV, Amundsen Brewery, Oslo, Norway): As it’s been two weeks since we’ve had an actual pint of beer, we were delighted to hear that the Fulwood Ale Club, a very new micropub and bottle shop in Sheffield, is offering pickup and delivery of nine-gallon boxed bags of their beers. When I emailed the other day, the one cask offering wasn’t to our taste, so I went for this keg craft. Brewed with Citra, Mosaic, Amarillo, and Enigma hops with Pilsner malt, this passionfruit pale ale is quite drinkable, very hazy and moderately hoppy. It’s not something I would choose to have more than one pint of in a pub, but we were both quite pleased with it, especially as it’s Norwegian and not British or American. The brewery isn’t very old, and they apparently like to experiment with interesting flavours. So thank you, Ale Club and Norway, for bringing this joy into our home. It’s quite strange to have a bag of beer sitting on your kitchen counter, as the flimsy cardboard box was pretty much destroyed by the time we poured our first pint. So there it is: a big bloblike bag full of pale beer. It just helps add to the surreality of life at the moment.
  • O-G Hazy New England IPA (7.2% ABV, Brewdog, Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland): Oddly the 440ml can says nothing about what this beer is like. It did have a nice smell, though. But once I started to drink it I found it quite hoppy but with not that much to write about. Descriptions online have described it as tropical fruit with a heavy dose of lime, which is probably the most accurate. I did find out it’s brewed with oats and wheat, bringing it a distinctly Scottish character. It’s a it too Scottish for my taste. But as I poured the last bit, it still had a very nice aroma emanating from it.
  • Fine Line (4.0% ABV, Jennings Brewery, Cockermouth, Cumbria): This beer was name for the invention of the pencil in Cumbria, where graphite was discovered back in the 1500s. This is a hoppy beer, or HB, brewed with New World and Antipodean hops. It's pleasant and easy-drinking. I didn't try sketching a cartoon with the can, though.
  • Pride & Joy (5.3% ABV, Vocation Brewing, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire): This beer is nice and bright and hoppy, good for a video call from a friend followed immediately by a video call from my California mom’s house. Vocation definitely make nice, satisfying little cans of beer.
  • Hop Cult Armageddon (6.66% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire): What a day, nearly a month into Lockdown. I’m struggling with writing a currently irrelevant appraisal when I get a phone call from California that my elderly mom has fallen and broken her hip. And in this Covid-19 world, my brother and sister and unofficial brother can’t go visit her in the hospital, and I can’t fly over there. Talk about emotion...so I log off computers, take the necessary shopping walk, and settle down with my grief-stricken emotions and a can of this beer. Why not? It’s a really great strong hops-powerful brew. As everything seems like different forms of Armagedden today, it’s also very appropriate. Oats, wheat, Amarillo, El Dorado, and Ekuanot hops. Hops are fermented with an Ebbegarden strain of Kveik yeast.
  • Half Dome Hazy IPA (5.2% ABV, Track Brewing Company, Manchester): This beer is brewed with a mixture of Galaxy, Citra, and Simcoe hops, with Super Pale, Wheat Oat, and Vienna malts. As I sat down to drink my can I was waiting for an important call on my mobile from my sister-in-law while being interrupted by a call on the landline from my uncle, while replying in a WhatsApp text to a good friend, while being stressed out about my mother’s condition after having broken her hip in California. And the beer? Oh yes, it was good, once I paid attention. I love Galaxy hops, anyway. I suppose I’m just an astronaut at heart.
  • New World IPA (6.2% ABV, Northern Monk Brewery, Holbeck, West Yorkshire): On the evening of my mom’s hip replacement surgery, postponed from the day before, I calmed myself with this brew. It’s in a pleasantly greeeeeeeen 330ml can, evoking images of green grass, green pines, green mountains, a green logo, green letters, greenly calming caresses. “Hoppy, Tropical, Zesty”, it says on the can. “Welcome to where the journey began, now let our journey begin. Canned in the North with Kelly Hall. My fears are outer space and lava.” “Brethren #008" is also printed on the can, along with a friendly and northern “Ey up!” So enough about the can which could take slow readers a long time to get through. Just drink the beer, becauses it's good. In fact, drinking it is like walking through the pines, through the pines, where the sun never shines...along with a zing of something tropical. Definitely worthwhile. Save the can for later, if you want.
  • Fuzzy Recall (6.3% ABV, London Beer Factory, Greater London -- collaboration with Gamma Brewing, Copenhagen, Denmark): This has got to be the most surreal opening of a beer can I have ever experienced, on this most surreal of days in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown, with my mother losing her mind on the other side of the world, and everything changing so much. I popped open the poptop to find the entire top of the can came off, just like a tin of baked beans. I took a photo and posted it to friends who all found it spookily eerie. But the beer is great, hoppily satisfying, with Cashmere, Ekuanot, Idaho 7, and Azacca hops. It’s very hazy, as a surreal and fuzzy beer should be. I’m not sure if I’m actually drinking it, or if it actually exists.
  • Wanderer Citra & Cascade NEIPA (6.8% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Co, Sheffield, South Yorkshire): Part of their Wanderer series of beer styles from around the world, this is quite a refreshing beer, as one would expect with Citra and Cascade.
  • Funk Dungeon Heavy Nettle Saison (6.66% ABV, Abbeydale Brewing Company, Sheffield, South Yorkshire). This is a good strong nettled sour for a dark day in Lockdown April, after a long spell of sunshine. It's brewed with locally foraged nettles and then aged six months in American oak barrels, with a secondary fermentation of a Brett blend. A collaborative effort with Sheffield’s own Temple of Fun, this brew is good for cutting through the darkness. It’s very sour with lots of wow taste. No wonder I like it. I wish I could WhatsApp a can to my friend Mistah Rick, because I know he'd like it, too.
  • Lupuloid IPA (6.7% ABV, Beavertown Brewery, Tottenham Hale, Greater London): Brewed with Columbus CO2 Extract, Citra, Mosaic, and Equanot hops as well as Extra Pale, Wheat, Flaked Oats, Acidulated Malt, Golden Naked Oats, and Torrefied Oats, this beer is one of a series of 10 Lupuloid brews from Beavertown. The flavour suggests a tropical coolness, like a surprising breeze through a rainforest, and the nice refreshing aspects of a hop-filled brew. And it’s strong enough to make one loopy if one drinks too many cans.
  • Stone IPA (6.9% ABV, Stone Brewery Company, Berlin, Escondido, California - brewed at Stone’s Berlin, Germany brewery). The can announces that this is the IPA “that launched generations of hop fanatics.” I can’t really dispute that, at least on the Pacific Coast of America. I have to admit that in the 21st century I have bought many sixpacks of Stone IPA from the Trader Joe’s in Long Beach whenever I’ve been visiting my mother. Brewed with Magnum, Centennial, and Mosaic hops, this features a good mix of citrus and pine flavours. As I sipped this satisfying brew I found myself pining (sorry) away for one of the many beer gardens in Stoneyland, my nickname for the massive Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, California. When I examined the can further, though, I discovered that this particular batch was brewed in Berlin. What a surprise, and yet another good reason to visit Berlin whenever we can all do such things like travelling beyond our neighbourhoods again. According to Stone’s website, Stone IPA is supposed to go well with stuffed poblanos, a Caesar salad, spicy Thai salmon, Pecorino cheese as an after, and a Macanudo cigar. Okay, I’d better get on it and place my order now. And while we wait for our excellent meal, served al fresco, we can enjoy this great classic of a hoppy IPA. Hey, we can dream, can’t we? At least the beer is real...