Union Station: Traxx Bar
Tucked away in an alcove on the right side of Union Station’s west entryway, Traxx Bar (not to be confused with the restaurant across the hallway) offers a respite from the station’s constant ebb-and-flow of travelers. You can sit back on one of the barstools or plush chairs around the tables and take in the background jazz music. Sip on a glass of Modern Times Black House Oatmeal Stout or Coronado Orange Avenue Wit, all while contemplating the journey ahead.
Chinatown: Melody Lounge
Graced by the spartan phrase “Beer Food Entertainment”, Melody Lounge’s drab exterior hints at a washed-up dive bar serving bud and shot combos. Step through the velvet curtains however and you’ll be dazzled by the sleek wood and marble wall paneling and the seductive dim red lighting (emanating from traditional Chinese light fixtures). Also impressive is a rotating tap list featuring more than 20 difficult-to-find craft beers. Many more are available by the bottle. You can’t order Budweiser cans or shots beer to chug, as the bar only serves beer. However, you can savor a pint of Speakeasy Brewing’s limited release Black Hand Chocolate Milk Stout in which the addition of cacao nibs and milk sugar lends the flavor of a favored childhood drink. Or, try Alpine’s fragrantly hoppy Nelson IPA. Don’t despair if you love quirky dive bars though: DJs spin 80s tunes nightly on vinyl records. The lounge also hosts the occasional drunk karaoke night as well.
Melody Lounge, 939 N Hill St, Los Angeles, CA 90012, USA, +1 213 825 2823
Lincoln Park/Cypress: Footsies
Situated on a sleepy stretch of Figueroa Avenue, Footsies is a bar where everything seems a little off. You enter through swinging doors reminiscent of a saloon. However, the post-impressionist nudes and engravings that adorn the dimly lit interior, and the French chanson music playing in the background, convey the allure of a turn-of-the-century Parisian cabaret. The oddly shaped light fixtures and colored windows inject yet another dose of whack. Not surprisingly, many of the patrons don sweater vests, plaid shirts and/or beards, and they drink from a small but well-curated rotating tap list. Options include Inglewood-based Three Weavers’ toasty midnight flight Imperial Stout and the famed (Kansas City-based) Boulevard Brewing’s refreshing Ginger Lemon Radler.
Footsies, 2640 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90065, USA,+1 323 221 6900
Highland Park: The Greyhound Bar and Grill
Situated on the Figueroa Street commercial corridor, just two blocks behind the Gold Line station, the Greyhound Bar and Grill’s comprehensive beer selection is best enjoyed in the late afternoon. From 4 pm to 7 pm every day of the week, all beers on draft are $4.50. This includes not only craft beer staples like Avery White Rascal and Saint Archer IPA (both of which can be purchased at the local Trader Joe’s) but Ommegang’s decadently sweet-and-spicy Abbey Ale. It also includes the famous Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, sinfully delicious and once impossible to find in LA. In addition, to the happy hour list, the Greyhound sells bottles that include two of Belgium’s Trappist ales (Rochefort and Orval). There are also more eclectic domestics such as the Sonoran White Chocolate Wheat ale (which smells and tastes like white chocolate). Best of all, Greyhound arranges its list by beer taste e.g. “Bitter” for hoppy IPAs or “Dark Fruit and Spice” for Belgian Strong Ales and Dubbels. This is instead of arranging by brand or style name. This allows non-beer geeks to easily locate a beer to their fancy.
South Pasadena: Griffins of Kinsale
As you step into Griffins of Kinsale, a musty, smoky aroma, bearing overtones of steamed cabbage and burning peat, screams of Ireland. Once seated, the wood-paneled roofing adds to the old-world charm. Meawhile dim lighting and a piano by the fireplace create an intimate and homely feel – becoming for Downtown South Pasadena’s small-town ambience. Though by no means a craft beer destination, Griffins is the perfect place to enjoy a cold pint – or 10-ounce half-pint – of Guinness or Smithwicks while chatting with friendly regulars.
Griffins of Kinsale, 1007 Mission St, South Pasadena, CA 91030, USA, +1 626 799 0926
Fillmore Station: Pitfire Artisan Pizza
At some point in your journey, you will start to get incredibly hungry. Maybe you will want another beer as well, to wash your food down. In either case, assuming you are close by, you should get off at Fillmore Station for a pit stop at Pitfire Artisan Pizza. It is located just across Arroyo Parkway from the station. This branch of a SoCal chain serves made-to-order wood-fired pizzas – the pesto chicken is a favorite. It also offers up pastas, sandwiches and roast vegetable entrees. Additionally, there is a heady list of Southern California craft beers, including Eagle Rock Brewery’s Populist IPA and Wolf Creek Brewery’s Howlin Hefeweizen.
Pitfire Artisan Pizza, 730 S Arroyo Pkwy, Pasadena, CA 91106, USA, +1 626 376 9005
Del Mar Station: Stone Company Store
Tucked directly inside the Del Mar Gold Line Station, the Stone Company Store is in many ways nothing more than a merchandise outlet for one of California’s best-known breweries. You can buy bottles to take home, as well as branded shirts, hats and even dog biscuits. However, you can also order pints and four-ounce taster sizes to drink directly on site, from the variety of Stone beers available on tap. Enjoy company classics like the Stone IPA and Stone Smoked Porter or limited-time Pilot releases like the chocolate-tinged, crisp and slightly bitter Mocha IPA.
Stone Company Store, 220 S Raymond Ave #103, Pasadena, CA 91105, USA, +1 626 440 7243
Memorial Park: Slater’s 50/50 Pasadena
Located just a couple blocks north of the heart of “Old Pasadena”, Memorial Park station has myriad establishments serving craft beer within walking distance. Slater’s 50/50 stands out both for being exceptionally close to the station (just over 480 feet, to be precise) and for having more than 101 taps. Thisis more than any bar or restaurant in Pasadena. You can try the latest sensations by up-and-coming LA brewers such as Mumford Brewing’s Black Mamba or the Three Weavers Nitro if You’re Nasty. The latter offers a nice balance of hops and maltiness. Alternatively, explore the best-kept secrets by big-name national companies. One of these is New Belgium’s Lips of Faith Transatlantique Kriek which contains a refreshingly tart, and slightly sweet, cherry flavor. Best of all, you can pair your beer with one of Slater’s original “50/50” burgers, consisting of a patty made from ground beef and bacon topped with an over-easy egg and avocado and sandwiched between two brioche buns . Remarkably, for a place with a beer list of such impressive breadth, Slater’s rotates its selection frequently. It has gone through 1,000 beers in past years. Follow house “beermonger” Mark Schaltz on Twitter to stay in the loop on what’s being tapped.
Slater’s 50/501, 6N Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103, USA, +1 626 765 9700
Lake Station: T. Boyle’s Tavern
Screening everything from the NCAA basketball playoffs to the Santa Anita horse races on at least one of its 13 television screens, T. Boyle’s Tavern is the place to enjoy your beer while cheering on your favored team. The bartenders serve many of the big-name Californian and national microbrewers. Sierra Nevada’s recently released Tropical IPA, an exceptionally balanced Tangerine Pale Ale is a must. Also offered up are foreign and domestic corporate brands like Budweiser and Heineken. So, every Dodger’s or King’s fan can have something to drink. The motley assortment of sports posters and photos placed along the back bar and the brick-and-mortar interior facade – testifying to the edifice’s 110-year history – lend the bar a relaxed and divey charm.
Boyle’s Tavern, 37 N Catalina Ave, Pasadena, CA 91106, USA, +1 626 578 0957
Allen Station: Lucky Baldwin’s Trappiste Pub
Getting to this European-style brasserie from the Allen Gold Line station requires a bit of a walk. It involves going under a freeway overpass and past an unsightly bus yard and strip mall. Those who make it are rewarded with a Belgian-heavy rotating tap list, hence the term “Trappiste”. This place features more than 50 beers, including the De Proef/Left Hand Wekken Sour – a surprisingly balanced combination of a citrusy, sour Flemish Red Ale and a bready Imperial Stout. It also serves Chimay Grand Reserve, along with more than 100 bottled offerings. Cafe-style seating (with wooden) and colorful British and German beer advertisements add a dose of old-world authenticity. You can enjoy your suds with an assortment of British pub fare, including fish and chips, and bangers and mash.
Arcadia Station: Matt Denny’s Ale House
A huge banner advertising Matt Denny’s Ale House can be seen from the Gold Line train, though only once you have passed the nearest station if you are heading east from Downtown. If you miss going here, that would be a shame, because Matt Denny’s serves some of the latest Los Angeles-area microbrews in a relaxed, old-time setting. Sit behind the wood-paneled bar counter which dates from the 1890s. Then, let the bartenders assist you in exploring the offerings. These include Carson-based Phantom Carriage Brewery’s briny Broadacres Berliner Weisse whose flavor is derived from the same Lactobacteria fermentation responsible for the tartness of yogurt. There’s also Arts District-based Boomtown Brewing’s crisp Saison. The friendly regulars, inclined to chat with you at whim, make this an even more amazing place to drink.
Matt Denny’s Ale House, 145 Huntington Dr, Arcadia, CA 91006, USA, +1 626 462 0250
Monrovia Station: Pacific Plate Brewing
Southern California’s smallest craft brewery, Pacific Plate Brewing’s tap room and brewing machinery nestle together in a storeroom-sized suite of a boxy suburban office park. The premises are not fancy (resembling a warehouse interior) but cozy. The beers—which incorporate Latin American ingredients into traditional European styles—are a step above the ordinary. Start off with a Horchata stout, in which the sweet cinnamon flavor of Nicaraguan horchata complements the earthy bitterness of roasted malt. Then move on to the Cardamom Ginger Saison, in which a dose of ginger and Guatemalan-sourced Cardamom offer a sharp and spicy kick to a smooth Belgian farmhouse ale.
Irwindale Station: Miller Lite
On the westbound approach to (or eastbound ascent from) Irwindale station, giant Miller Lite cans will appear on the right side of track beside you. This isn’t, as you might think, a drink-induced hallucination but Miller-Coors’ West Coast production factory. It is more than one million square feet in size and contains the largest solar panel installation of any brewery in the nation. Tours of the giant complex are offered every now and then, with a chance to sample the signature pale lagers.
Azusa Station: Congregation Ale House
Bearing a subtle church theme – note the stain-glass window engraved with a “C”, behind the bar, Congregation Ale House Azusa doubles (triples, really) as a brewery, taproom and a bar. A gigantic mashing machine and kettle by the front entrance attest to the fact that Congregation brews and serves its own line of beers on site. Try the Winter Saison, if in season. It smells of orange spice and has hints of gingerbread and citrus. In addition to their own beers, the Ale House has 16 outside craft brews on tap. There is also more than three pages worth of bottled beers from around the world; from Japan’s Hitachino White Ale, to Quebec’s Unibroue Fin de Monde. Come during “mass” (ahem, happy hour), and get $1 off all beers.
Congregation Ale House, 619 N Azusa Ave, Azusa, CA 91702, USA, +1 626 334 2337