Trek to Monkish and Smog City

Of Beds, Beers, and Traffic

Art on the wall at Monkish. “Serenity now!”

By BeachRock Bill with some help from C.C. Hansen

Wife Helen and I need a new bed. Frankly, our current one is a lumpy disaster. After much procrastination from both of us, Helen finally got motivated and researched our options- “If you are willing to drive up to L.A.,” she said, “we can lie on the Saatva. They have a showroom on Melrose.”

I have nothing against my hometown, where tons of my friends and family still live. No, it’s the legendary traffic that deadens my spirit and darkens my soul. I avoid it like the plague.

“Beachy, if we leave on a Saturday morning and stay late, we might avoid the worst of the traffic,” Helen persisted, throwing down her pet name for me when she really wants something.

Actually, it wasn’t a bad idea, and I knew just the place we could visit that would elevate the trip into “traffic-worthy” status–Monkish Brewing Co. in Torrance. “Honey, I think driving to L.A. is a  GREAT idea!” 

The Plan

Part of my plan hinged on having L.A.-based SCCBB editors Chauncey and Eleanor join us at Monkish. I immediately texted to see if they were interested.

“Sounds like a plan. Excited!” was the response.

I was fired up for the rare opportunity to not only visit a highly-regarded brewery for the first time but also hang with our oldest and dearest friends.

Locations and characters in place, it was simply a matter of working out the timing, with leeway for any likely traffic along the way:

  • 11:00am- Helen and BRB hit the road.
  • 2:00pm- West Hollywood area at TBD lunch spot.
  • 2:45pm- lounge on beds on Melrose.
  • 4:00pm- meet up at Monkish for hugs, laughs, and beer! 
“The smoked chicken shawarma and smoked cauliflower were some of the best things I’ve eaten.”

Mizlala on West Adams

Our first scheduled stop would be lunch. We wanted somewhere close to the bed store, and our friends Josh and Morgana (previously mentioned in my June 2022 SCCBB post, Go To IPAs) recommended a great little Middle Eastern spot near where they used to live. I had my navigator–aka NAG-ivator–Helen program in directions to Mizlala on our map. 

An inner voice (sounding a lot like Mabel the Dog Walker) is telling me that this is a beer blog and not a travelogue so in a quick nutshell–lunch was incredible–the smoked chicken shawarma and smoked cauliflower were some of the best things I’ve ever eaten. The bed store was a success, and the drive to Torrance, while longer than planned, got us to Monkish just as Eleanor and Chauncey were ordering their first round.


Founded in 2012 by homebrewer turned business owner Henry Nguyen, Monkish Brewing Company quickly achieved a name for itself with Craft Beer disciples. Initially, Henry and his co-owner wife Adriana had a vision to produce wild fermented Belgian Sours, which inspired the name Monkish. In the beginning, the equipment was bare bones, Henry did everything himself, and production was small. With nothing else like it in the area, Monkish’s long lines during new beer releases became legend.

Early Monkish tap list. Courtesy Good Beer Hunting.

Business was good initially, so good that Henry was able to buy more equipment, ramp up production, and add an Assistant Brewer (Jennifer Treu) to help out on the brewing deck. The brewery continued to grow–in sales and legend. When they made the decision to pivot much of the production from Belgian styles towards IPAs, the legend of Monkish being Master of The Craft was born.

I had never been motivated enough to venture to Torrance to worship. Tonight that would change, and I would finally get to experience the legend first hand. I was psyched.

Pulling into the Monkish parking lot and seeing the legend for the first time, it’s easy to be a tad (putting it mildly) underwhelmed.

Located in a nondescript industrial space directly across from a huge oil refinery, the entrance to Monkish Torrance is definitely nothing to look at. In fact, it might be one of the dullest brewery entrances I’ve ever experienced. Yep, when you walk into Monkish, you are here for one thing–the beer.

Welcome to Monkish

When visiting a brewery for the first time, I typically order an assortment of different styles. Monkish doesn’t do taster-size flights, but eyeing Chauncey’s half-pours of the more esoteric stuff on the menu, I decided to focus on what Helen and I liked most–Hazy IPAs.

Unfortunately, I saw no Hazy’s listed anywhere on the board. “WTF,” I lamented under my breath. My disappointment obvious, our helpful server realized I was a Monkish virgin and explained that all things saying India Pale Ale on the board were actually Hazys. That’s weird, I thought… But, that’s GREAT! I looked at the board in a new light and came up with a flight that complemented Chauncey’s perfectly. Grabbing a table inside, we sat down to enjoy our first round of samples–a Belgian Blond, a West Coast Lager, a barrel-aged fruited Wild Ale, a German-style dark lager, and 4 various Hazys. Filled with glasses, our little shiny table looked amazing.

Our shiny table reflecting our beautiful pours

Chauncey’s two cents

The stand-outs for me were “Entangled Years,” a 6.0% mixed fermentation (aka “mxfx”) wild ale barrel-aged with “spent pluots and apricots,” and the 10% ABV “JFK2LAX: SFO Layover,” one of two triple IPAs that Helen ordered, ’cause that’s how she rolls. 

Chauncey trying to look “Monkish”

I have no idea what “spent pluots” might be, and I’ve NEVER been able to tell the difference between a regular plum and a plum-apricot hybrid. I sure as hell can’t tell the difference between a pluot–spent or not–and an apricot, but I loved the apricotti essence behind this well-manicured wild ale, which presumably got its name from different brews in different years using variations on a Prunus armenaica theme.

The JFK etc. Layover was a collaboration with Other Half Brewing, founded in Brooklyn. Other Half has spread up and down the Eastern Seaboard, even up to Bloomfield, NY in the Finger Lakes region. It looks like the Fingerlakes location doubles as a Farmhouse Brewery, where the wild yeast spontaneous and mixed fermentation happens. Damn, we live in a beautiful world! 

I don’t know where the SFO Layover part of this beer’s title comes from, but I don’t need to know. I kept saying I tasted a kind of a banana ester in the beer, but everyone else was so busy sharing and catching up that the comment went unheeded. I even reminded BeachRock Bill about our high school chemistry class with Mr. Tracy, where we had a unit specifically devoted to making esters. I believe this was also the unit where BRB sabotaged other people’s experiments, causing their test tubes to explode in the middle of a lecture….

Yes, BRB understood the nature of chemicals, which was good preparation for homebrewing. I could memorize the formulas for the final exam, which helped us pass the class. Good team. Good times.

Back to BRB

Thanks, Chauncey for chiming in. I don’t recall cheating in Chemistry class, but it sounds like something I would do. I DO recall almost blowing up the classroom. It sure brought Mr. Tracy out of his drunken stupor. OK, on to the beer.

I agree that the “Entangled Years” wild ale, with its nice balance between tart and fruit, was a standout. As for the “JFK2LAX: SFO Layover”, Wife Helen. who actually took some notes God bless her, found it “juicy with a hint of sweetness on the finish”. Like you, she also noticed a “slight banana presence” (intended or not), but found it complemented the other “tropical notes- maybe mango?” Surprisingly I liked the JFK too. I usually find Helen’s favorite style of high-alcohol Hazys to be too sweet. In JFK’s case, however, the sweetness was more subtle and came paired with just the right amount of bitter. It was a deceptively easy-drinking beer. Eleanor and I both enjoyed the “Domino Effect” Hazy IPA. While I wouldn’t exactly call it crave-able, it did have a lovely opacity and a big aroma. Finally, I was most impressed with the “Like a Fool” West Coast Lager. I think this style is what most other breweries are calling Cold IPA, and if so I like Monkish’s term way better. It’s a hard style to get right, and Monkish nailed it.

Our samples quickly disappeared, and we were ready for another round, but we were also hungry and hot dogs from the Venezuelan food truck out front didn’t sound appealing. Eleanor had done a little homework and suggested we head to Smog City Brewing, a mere 3 blocks away, where a highly rated food truck would be serving pizza and salads. Pizza? Two breweries in one night? Farewell Monkish. Hello Smog City!

Smog City Brewing Co.

Opening 3 years after Monkish in a space just around the corner, the less hyped, but also husband and wife-owned Smog City has slowly grown through word of mouth and expanding distribution. I had enjoyed some cans of Smog City beer recently, but other than that had zero expectations. I was excited to check them out.

We drove down the street and around the corner and parked (yes, nobody walks in L.A.) A spacious well-lit outdoor seating area does a wonderful job of inviting guests into the tap room.

While the ladies looked for seats outside, Chauncey and I went inside in search of a menu.

Come on in and have a beer!

At the far corner of the bar, we found a large display screen showing the entire tap list. We decided on two flights that would give us a good first-timer’s taste of the place. Attempting to order, we were directed back to the front entrance. This wouldn’t have been a problem, but there were no menu boards anywhere in sight here, only QR codes. With our lack of short-term memory, Chauncy and I had to backtrack through the disjointed Untapped app and make our selections all over again.

Don’t forget to scan the QR code on your way in.

Stop whining and drink

Ordering hassles aside, it’s all about the beer, and after all that we were thirsty. We ended up with a veritable grab bag of styles: a Belgian Wit, a couple West Coast IPAs, a few Hazys, a BBA Imperial Honey Stout, and a BBA Belgian Dubbel w/Cherries. True to form, our table was crowded, and we were wondering where to put the pizzas when they arrived.

The Standouts

Overall, the Smog City beer was extremely solid. All the hazys were nicely aromatic, flavorful, and juicy–with the consensus favorite being the Citra, Simcoe & Sabro hopped “Forgotten Forest”. Chauncey favored the Wit, finding it pleasantly spiced. I was really hoping the Old Fashioned-inspired fruited Dubbel would appeal to my cocktail loving wife, but she wrinkled her nose after one sip and instead went for the 12,9% Barrel Aged Imperial Honey Stout aptly dubbed “Buzzworthy”. After allowing us a few tiny sips, we all could see why Helen loved it. A real standout.

Scratching the surface of Smog City’s extensive tap list

The pizza came and went over sips of beer, lively conversation, and fond reminiscing. On my way back from the restroom I noticed a fruited kettle sour on the big menu board in back. Saying the name over and over to myself so I wouldn’t forget- Snugglebug, Snugglebug, Snugglebug, I walked over to the register and placed my order “half pour of Snugglebug please”. It was a goofy name, but it ended up being delicious and the perfect way to finish off the evening. 

Formless Reflections

Visiting the two breweries back-to-back the way we did, it’s hard not to see the similarities. Both husband and wife owned, both growing organically through word of mouth, and both with their individual strengths. We found the two breweries to be pretty similar, which says a lot for Smog City given all Monkish’s accolades and hype over the years.

As for the differences, since tap lists change (as do live bands), it might be more constructive to refrain from forming any lasting impressions. Instead, inspired by one of my go-to Pure Project Hazys, I will list some “Formless Reflections from our group about our evening.

First Wife Helen. To absolutely no one’s surprise she “loved the fact Monkish’s had 3 Triple Hazys, and also loved Smog’s fun outdoor space and BBA Honey Stout.”

Next Eleanor, who felt, “The bearded cover band provided a lively background vibe to the already boisterous crowd at Smog City, making the scene feel like a real party!”

Over to Chauncey (keep it short!!!) “A second trip to Monkish deepened my puzzlement about this brewery’s cult status–if you’re called “Monkish,” where are your Belgian, Trappist takes? I was grateful to learn about the collaboration with Other Half, as the Eastern seaboard brewery seems to be appearing on more and more radars here in the West– they’ve also done collaborations with Firestone Walker and Highland Park Brewing, and the other day, Bottle Logic of Anaheim did a Tap Takeover in Other Half’s 195 Centre St. Brooklyn, NY taproom…

“On the other hand, my first visit to a Smog City tap room confirmed that, much as I dislike the epithet “smog city” for the town I love, these people have upped their game and started producing some drinkable, repeatable, quality brews that I can recommend to the craft-curious and–more importantly–that they can find fairly easily. As a bonus, I learned that they are part of 1% for the Planet.


Smog City cans many styles for wide distribution around L.A. Here are some labels

And finally, my reflections. Monkish’s toughest competition is its own lofty reputation. I sampled some pretty tasty things there but would love to come back and give them another chance to really blow me away. In Smog’s case, I’d happily return to just hang out on the patio and enjoy some good beer with dear friends. But before I do, please remind me to scan the QR code first.

Chauncey and Eleanor, it was such a treat for both Wife Helen and I to spend time together with you. Thank you!

Until next time, Cheers!

P.S. Oh, and we ordered the Saatva.

— BeachRock Bill (98)

Instagram: @beachrockbill

— Chauncey B, aka, the So Cal Craft Beer Blogger (2)

Instagram: @socalcraftbeer


One thought on “Trek to Monkish and Smog City

  1. Beachrock Bill, with a bit of help from Chauncey, you did a standout job of describing both Monkish and Smog City’s offerings–two great places to hang out, sample beer, and relish being in the company of friends.

    Liked by 1 person

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