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Dutch's Brewhouse, 4244 Atlantic Avenue, Bixby Knolls, Long Beach, California
Johnny's New York Pizzeria, 5757 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California
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: