Raising My Glass High, at Mt. Lowe

The mountains were beautiful to look at, on the way to Mt. Lowe Brewing. …Or were the mountains looking at me?

It is on my bucket list to visit all the breweries accessible from the Gold Line extension out to Azusa. I’ve already covered one of my favorites off of the Gold Line, Pacific Plate Brewing. The other day, I chipped away at that list, with my inaugural trip to Mt. Lowe Brewing Co., in Arcadia. Mt. Lowe Brewing opened in 2015, and is billed on its website as “Arcadia’s first Microbrewery.” More from the website, on the brewery’s beginnings:

“Our brewery was founded with blood, sweat, and beers. We started out as beer fans brewing at home in 2010, just trying to find the perfect science of making beers that tasted unique and were brewed with precision. As our home brewery earned more and more loving fans, we kept hearing that we should open up our own brewery. It was a cool thought, but we were brewing on the side and running successful businesses full time.

The suggestion grew on us over time. We loved brewing, loved serving people awesome beer, and loved being crazy meticulous about our quality. In November of 2014 we decided it was time to follow our dreams and open up a warm, inviting brewery for everyone to enjoy. One year later, after literally building our brewery up with our own hands, we opened the doors to Mt. Lowe Brewery.”

Image of the Mt. Lowe Incline, 1908, postcard by M. Rieder Publishing.

Mt. Lowe’s team has earned another loving fan, in me. It is just a short walk from the Gold Line station to the brewery, with a beautiful view of the San Gabriel Mountains to gaze at, as you make your way there. This view is especially helpful for a directionally-challenged individual like me, who as a native of the San Gabriel Valley, has always depended on the mountains to know which way is north. (Despite having the San Gabriels in my sight, I may or may not have gotten lost, while going from the train station to the brewery. …Okay, yeah – I totally got lost.) The mountains are a big part of Mt. Lowe Brewery’s identity, having been named after the Mt. Lowe Railway. From the Wikipedia page about the Railway:

“The railway, originally incorporated by Professor Thaddeus S. C. Lowe as the Pasadena & Mt. Wilson Railroad Co., existed from 1893 until its official abandonment in 1938, and had the distinction of being the only scenic mountain, electric traction (overhead electric trolley) railroad ever built in the United States.”

Pun-Based Beer Names

Wes Craven’s 1977 cult classic was filmed in the Mojave Desert–on the other side of the San Gabriels

But enough with the history lesson, and on to the beer! I was at Mt. Lowe on a lovely, sunny day, so I took advantage of their beer garden. First on tap for me was The Hills Have IPA. It was a delicious beer, which I sipped while chuckling to myself about the name of the beer, coupled with the fact that I was drinking it under the watchful shadow of the San Gabriels.

Speaking of my poor sense of direction: Ordering beers solely based on their pun-based names has occasionally steered me wrong, at various times in the past. Thankfully, this was definitely not one of those times.

I came to the brewery on my own, but seeing my fellow beer aficionados around me that day, I decided that I needed to come back with some friends and family. There were plenty of tables outside, with umbrellas and tented areas for shade. Several folks had their dogs with them, and there were a couple parties who had brought along their little ones.

When I can get my family to visit Mt. Lowe Brewing with me, it’s game on with my nephew! For a brief history of Connect 4, gamesver.com is your source. Captain Cook’s obsession with the game led his associates to call it “The Captain’s Mistress.”

Humans can imbibe while their kids run around in a space that is ample enough to include sunbathing pets. And hey, who doesn’t love belly rubs from random folks going in and out of the taproom? I know I do. Another feature that might be a draw to visitors young and less young alike is the games that the brewery staff have set up in the beer garden. Although I abstained (from playing games) during my visit, I was particularly drawn to a mega-sized Connect Four game.

Skull & Crossbones

For my next pint, I opted for Hearsay Red Ale. It’s a style of beer that I’ve started enjoying more and more, and hey, they had drawn an image of a skull and crossbones next to the beer’s name, on the menu. Arrr! – I was sold. Delicious malt flavor, and it inspired me to take to a life of piracy on the high seas. Win-win, me hearties.

I’m intrigued by the other beers they had on tap, the day of my visit – particularly Tears of 1,000 Apricots, a fruited gose, and then there was Weisse So Serious?. I mean, I’ve told you how I am with puns. C’mon. How can I resist that one? Hopefully drinking it won’t turn me into the Clown Prince of Crime.

I can’t wait to come back to Mt. Lowe to sample these beers and more, and I can’t wait to share this new find with loved ones. Fingers are crossed that I can come away with some neat swag, next time. They were, unfortunately, out of my size in tee shirts. On this first, very enjoyable outing to Mt. Lowe Brewing, that was my sole disappointment.

So many delicious beers on the menu. But given my fondness for both hops and puns, perhaps it was a foregone conclusion that I’d go for The Hills Have IPA.

The Hills Have IPA

If you haven’t been already, do yourself a favor and run, don’t walk (or you could drive, ride the train, or take a trolley) to Mt. Lowe Brewing!

Until next time, cheers!

-BrewHead Ted

Disclaimer (added July 18, 2022):

Thanks to reader Brett for pointing out that Mt. Lowe Brewing uses materials from the Mt. Lowe Preservation Society without giving proper credit. To find out more about the Society’s work, go to mountlowe.org.

4 thoughts on “Raising My Glass High, at Mt. Lowe

  1. I’m not sure if your article appeared on my Google feed because I like craft beer, or because Thaddeus Lowe was my great-great-great-grandfather, but in any case, it’s good to know that something cool is happening on Mt. Lowe. My understanding is that the endeavor bankrupted him in the end. At some point I hope to get to the West Coast and drink to his memory and his wild schemes. He was a larger-than-life kind of person, if you look into him. He’s even thought by some to be the inspiration for the character of the Wizard of Oz, being primarily known as a ballooning pioneer. Thanks again, cheers.


    1. Eric, glad you ran across our article. What are your top three craft beers at the moment? If you want, you can email me directly. I’m Clark Hansen, the SCCBB founder, and site administrator at socalcraftbeer@gmail.com

      As a longtime Altadena, CA resident, I’ve been a fan of your great-great-great-grandfather for years. I’ve even hiked up to the remains of both the Echo Mountain House and Alpine Tavern at the terminus of the defunct Mount Lowe Railway. I’ve also met some Thaddeus Lowe heirs from another branch — Sobieski — living in Pasadena, CA.

      To be clear, Mt. Lowe Brewing is in Arcadia (elevation 400 ft.) not on Mt. Lowe (elevation 5,600). Arcadia WAS home to the U.S. Army’s Ross Field Balloon School, at the present-day Santa Anita Park site, where Army observers were trained in techniques to observe enemy activity from hot air balloons. As I’m sure you know, the Union Army Balloon Corps was established by … you guessed it, Presidential appointee Thaddeus S. C. Lowe.

      I once worked with a guy in New York who was in the U.S. Navy’s Blimp Squadron operating out of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in WWII. They started out doing German submarine reconnaissance. But toward the end of the war, the U.S. started sending large squadrons of planes to Brazil, then across to North Africa, and on to Europe. They always lost a few planes over the Amazon, don’t know why. My friend’s blimp squadron rescued the downed pilots. He told me that he enjoyed rafting and camping up the Orinoco River to the Caribbean, where he and the pilot were eventually picked up.

      Bottom Line, your G3 grandfather was a legitimate blimp pioneer.


    1. Brett, thank you for your comment. I was wondering about that! We will include a disclaimer with the post. I hiked up to Mt. Lowe once, years ago. Did not know there was a preservation society dedicated to preserving the site’s history and artifacts. I DO own a copy of Golden West Books’ MOUNT LOWE: Railway to the Clouds, so I’m glad to see the Preservation Society is affiliated with Golden West…


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