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Previous Pint Pleasures - July 1, 2012

guinness eileen

The Golden Road Brewpub, 5430 West San Fernando Road, Los Angeles, California

guinness eileen

The Surly Goat, 7929 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood, California

During my recent visit to Southern California, my Bay Area friend Mistah Rick and I spent 2 days exploring some of Los Angeles's brewpubs and cemeteries -- sort of an RIP-IPA tour. On Day 2, after wandering through the massive Forest Lawn Glendale where we paid our respects to the likes of L Frank Baum and WC Fields, we drove to the border of Glendale and Los Angeles where we found the Golden Road. The brewery and offices are situated in 2 brightly coloured warehouses, red and blue respectively, with a third yellow warehouse housing the pub. All three buildings are directly adjacent to train tracks which accentuate the out-of-town industrial feel of the setting.

Inside the pub we found lots of tables with a long bar at the far end. The friendly barman, who was from Oregon, was impressed when I told him that England, specifically the North of England, is currently exploding with pale IPA microbrews. As we chatted with him about local brews we sampled a couple of the IPAs on tap. The Avery IPA (6.5% ABV, Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, Colorado) was pleasant and amberlike, but I went enthusiastically for Point The Way IPA (5.2% ABV, Golden Road). YOWZZA! This is my kind of brew! Shame it isn't cask conditioned, but if it was I'd have floated away on a cloud of heavenly bliss, leaving Rick earthbound by himself. It tasted like something from Thornbridge, whose upper management I don't care for at all, but whose beers are gorgeous. My god, the Golden Road brewers make damn fine beers in that red barn just behind. I felt like a hophead version of Special Agent Dale Cooper.

For lunch Rick and I split a Kinda Like A Waldorf Salad and a Banh Mi Sandwich. The salad was really good with goat cheese, dried cranberries, candied walnuts, grapes, celery, lettuce, and Balsamic vinegar. The sandwich, made with tofu, was a tiny bit disappointing because they used soft tofu instead of firm, but in places the bites were very nice when the jalapeño came through. As we dined we admired the classic and modern beer signs displayed on the walls, especially the nostalgic Hamms sign, our reverie interrupted sporadically by the building-shaking passing of Metroliner and Surfliner trains.

Golden Road was opened just last year by Tony Yanow, who owns Tony's Darts Away in Burbank, and Meg Gill, formerly of Oskar Blues Brewery and Speakeasy Ales and Lagers. The very brew I was enjoying, Point the Way IPA, was apparently one of the reasons the brewery opened. Brewmaster Jon Carpenter wanted to create a "low alcohol" IPA (well, this is California and not the UK) that didn't compromise on its bold hop profile. I'd say Jon has done a superb job.

Later that day -- after stopping at Hollywood Forever and visiting Jayne Mansfield and Don Adams among other interees, not to mention memorials to Johnny Ramone and Toto -- we headed down Santa Monica Boulevard in search of the Surly Goat. This place is a bit tricky to find, as there is no sign or indication of a pub other than a picture of a goat's head above the very plain closed door. With the hope that this goat head led to the Surly Goat we courageously opened the door and found ourselves in a very dark entryway lit only by candles on tables. The bar was along the front of the room, and as we accustomed ourselves to the low lights we spotted the goat motif all around.

We sat at the bar and studied the long list of brews on 27 taps, with a selection on a handpump "coming soon". We first had a taste of the acronymically intriguing UDBA (5.0% ABV, Firestone Walker Brewing, Paso Robles, California). We decided to share pints of Monkey See Monkey Do (8.0% ABV, Craftsman Brewing, Pasadena, California), which had a dry fruitiness with a pruning-the-garden aftertaste, and one of Pliny the Elder (8.0% ABV, Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, California). Once again, this is My Kind of IPA, in My Kind Of Town -- oops, sorry, I forgot I was in Hollywood, not Chicago. Ah well, perhaps I should write a new version of the song.

As we sipped our pints we chatted with a young hatted regular to our right who was full of ideas for our next Los Angeles-area brewpub tour. On our left was a steady stream of Europeans ordering pints of everything from stout to Belgian lager. Perhaps the Surly Goat is a West Hollywood haven for international visitors and transplants. Or perhaps it was merely coincidence. But I couldn't help thinking it wasn't coincidence -- after all I was an international visitor as well.

According to their website the Surly Goat hosts DJ nights, comedy nights, Karaoke nights, and brewers' nights. I can't help wondering what they're like. I imagine a string of discourteous DJs, short-tempered stand-ups, caprine crooners, and beastly brewers. But most of all I wonder what surly goat inspired this excellent pub, and how it ended up in the heart of Hollywood.