CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Four Pubs in Torrance

Previous Pint Pleasures - October 16, 2016

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Hop Saint Brewing Company, 5160 West 190th Street, Torrance, California

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Absolution Brewing Company, 2878 Columbia Street, Torrance, California

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Smog City Brewing Company, 1901 Del Amo Boulevard Suite B, Torrance, California

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Monkish Brewing Company, 20311 S. Western Avenue, Torrance, California

Last month I visited my mother in Southern California for three weeks. During my stay my friend Mistah Rick drove down from Oakland so that we could spend a couple of days on one of our customary brewery explorations. Thanks to a recommendation by a barman in a Long Beach pub, and also thanks to Rick's own preliminary research, we spent the first day exploring some of the breweries of the city of Torrance.

When we lived and worked together in SoCal, Rick lived in Glendale and Santa Monica and I lived in Long Beach, so neither of us really had any association with Torrance, except for the fact that it's not far from Hawthorne where we worked. My impression was of a vast network of residential streets lined with late 20th century single-family dwellings with numerically large addresses (like 15238 and 25678, rather than the more manageable three-or-four-digit addresses I grew up with). And, to be honest, this is pretty much what Torrance looks like.

Incorporated in 1921, Torrance -- which appropriately was named after a real estate developer -- was created on what was originally part of the homeland for the native Tongva people. In the early 1900s architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr designed the planned community that is now known as Torrance's Old Town. In the 1950s and 1960s development in Torrance expanded, with large housing tracts being constructed to accommodate those working in the postwar aerospace and technological industries.

With this history in mind, it was a surprise to both Rick and me that Torrance has turned into such a hotbed of microbreweries.

Our first stop for the day was, oddly enough, in a strip mall. Set off laterally from the main strip in a building that looks as if it had a previous life as a drive-through restaurant, Hop Saint opened last year in what in fact used to be Billy's Deli and Cafe. The sparsely sleek and modern interior features a large bar and long communal tables with stools.

We sat at one of the long tables near the front, underneath the watchful eye of an angel on the wall above us. Could this be a blessing for a fruitful day of craft beer tasting? As is our habit we shared two different pints. The first one was Pure Intention (5.7% ABV), a dry hopped American pale ale brewed with Mosaic and El Dorado hops. This is a nice, pale brew with zingy hops. The other pint was Next Level IPA (7.2% ABV). Described as a West Coast IPA, this is brewed with Simcoe, Amarillo, and Kohato hops with a touch of British crystal malt. It has a tiny bit of oomph, but Rick remarked that it doesn't have that Simcoe cat-pee character, so it's probably a bit more like a rabbit than a cat. Both pints were very drinkable, though. We have to say they were served ultra cold, perhaps a bit too cold for such intricate flavourings. As it was lunchtime we shared a wood-fired Wild Mushroom Flatbread with Taleggio cheese which made a yummy light lunch. And then, with more blessings from the angel on the wall, we were off on our mission to find the next brewery.

With a definite religious theme to our Torrance tour, our next stop was the Absolution Brewing Company. Buried in the back of a business park, the pub was a bit of a challenge to find. We weren’t sure if there was a tasting room at all, but some workers directed us around to a side door.

As we entered we found ourselves in a large brewery with lots of brewing vats in the back and along the side. We took a seat at the bar which was made of old keg slats and perused the beer menu. Absolution brews what they describe as "farm to glass" artisan beers and ales, using Old World styles with New World ingredients. Funny, I didn't notice any farms around the area, but perhaps I wasn't looking.

We decided to share a Tasting Flight, which consists of four 4-ounce tasters. Of the four beers we chose the first was Grateful Red (11.3% ABV), an Imperial Red Ale brewed with German Melanoidin Malt. This is a zooty beer – I can picture it dressed in pinstripes -- and very bitter with 89 IBUs. But it’s also very malty – in fact almost treacly. So, hmm… Our next selection was American Revolution Bourbon Barrel Aged RyPA (7.6%), with 80 IBUs of bitterness. As I lifted the little glass toward my mouth I was hit with a powerful superbourbon nose, which was very exciting. The beer itself was a bit pale to really work with such a bourbon kick. Our third taster was Darkened Angel Black IPA (7.2%). This was a Gold Medal winner at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition this year. Served on nitro and with a dry molasses flavour, this is more like a great rich porter than an IPA. Our final choice was Angel’s Demise English IPA (7.2% ABV). Hoppy and full bodied, with 75 IBU, this was the best of the quartet.

Along with all the regular taps, and there are a lot, are two cask ales per week, and also Absolution's own brewed root beer and cream soda. Growlers and crowlers are also available to take away. (Obviously growlers are bottles, but the term "crowler" was new to me. Apparently it's a can of beer which can be canned in the brewery on request. This seems to be a growing trend among California microbreweries.

While sitting at the bar the barman pointed out CEO Nigel Heath, a British particle physicist, sitting across the room. That led us to imagine new brews being created by smashing Brett particles with hops particles in Torrance’s own LHC (Large Hops Collider). If they do brew something like that, I’ll have to fire up my molecule transporter device and pop over for a quick pint.

As a momentary break from religion our next stop was Smog City. Although the brewery started brewing beer in 2011 at the Tustin Brewing Company in Orange County, the taproom in Torrance didn’t open till 2013. As we entered yet another industrial-looking warehouse of a building hidden away in yet another industrial park, with no sign indicating anything about Smog City, we found a tasting room alive with people who all seemed content and happy and like they were having a good time. The tables are surrounded by lots of brewing vats, and there is not only a neon SMOG CITY sign hanging on the wall but a squirrel in a bottle on a shelf, for what that’s worth. As I took a self-referential photo of Rick photographing a photographer who was photographing a photographer who was photographing a pint of beer, I felt like we were definitely having fun. And our two pints, Hoptonic IPA (7.3% ABV) and a pint of Steamfunk (6.8% ABV), a 100% Brett beer, were basically a very compatible combination of a hopmonster and a brettmonster which we found completely satisfying.

We were told by the barman that our last brewery of the day, Monkish, was only a six-minute walk down the road. So we left the car parked and headed down the street. Again this pub was full of craft beer fans. We sat at the bar and ordered two pints. Feeding the Fanatics IPA (7.1%) was oh-my-god-hop-heaven! Oom-oom-oom-oom!. And the Knowledge & Peace (5.3% ABV), a rice Saisson aged in oak, is a gorgeous gently sour beer. Both of these pints were excellent and definitely the best pints of the afternoon, which was saying a lot. We were impressed by how amazing they were. We were sharing the love equally. And the two beers were surprisingly compatible, so one could have a sip of one, swoon, and then have a sip of the other and swoon. Rest, breathe, then do it again. The IPA was strangely cloudy, reminiscent of orange juice, but nobody seemed bothered about it and it tasted perfect. It might be a cloudy brew, as you sometimes have in America, or it could be down to being served too cold.

In the dark recesses of the tasting room there are game machines and a shuffleboard table, and of course a photo booth. Apparently both kids and dogs are allowed into the tasting room if they’re well-behaved, and there’s a brewery cat in residence, although we didn’t meet it. On weekends they have a variety of food trucks outside for snacks, and they also do in-house canning of their beers.

As we walked back to the car down the wide suburban boulevard, I was amazed by the fact that in such a typically SoCal-style suburban residential city as Torrance there were so many microbrews to discover if you just search a little for them. We only made a dent in what’s available, so perhaps there will be a future brewery tour of this surprisingly hoppy city.

Just one question lingers in my mind: why all the religion?