Toast NYE With Beer Instead of Champagne

(Photo Courtesy of Yard House)
(Photo Courtesy of Yard House)

The countdown to the New Year is on! For those who prefer to celebrate casually with a Beer Toast at the start of 2016, here are 10 places to get a great craft beer as the final beverage in 2015. Or the first libation in 2016…

1.Yard House – Enjoy a grilled burgers, gourmet salads, street tacos, prime steaks and seafood as your last meal in 2015. Yard House is also offering a special holiday menu and seasonal cocktails as well as its Anniversary Rogue Spruce Tip IPA, which is available through January or while supplies last. Each guest 21 and older can participate in the midnight beer toast to celebrate the arrival of 2016. For more information, visit or follow on Facebook at or on Twitter @yardhouse.

(Brewmaster Brian Brewer - photo courtesy of Abigaile's)
(Brewmaster Brian Brewer – photo courtesy of Abigaile’s)

2. Abigaile’s makes house-brewed craft beers and serves them on tap. Sit in the large bar among brite beer tanks for a 2015 beer tasting. Here are 5 to taste –

-Try their Illuminati Pils – ABV: 4.8% IBU: 38. Inspired by traditional Czech and Bohemian pilsners, this hoppy lager has hints of grass, biscuity maltiness and spicy floral hops.

-The Vienna Lager-Batch #1 – ABV: 5.7% IBU: 23. Toasted Buckwheat spices this Amber Lager. Nice malt aromas and clean caramel flavors meld.

-The Singularity – ABV: 7.5% IBU: 27  is an Imperial smoked Brown Porter made with German beechwood and oak-smoked malts.  Interesting layers of malt, caramel, and smoke swirl.

-Drop it like it’s Hops IPA – ABV: 6.3% IBU: 65 featuring new-world hops Equinox and Mosaic, along with familiar favorites Citra, Columbus, and Amarillo. Piney, resinous, and tropical.

-Equinox Fresh Hop Pale Ale – ABV: 5.9% IBU: 28 Brewed as a classic Pacific Northwest Pale Ale using freshly-harvested still-wet Equinox hops shipped overnight from the farmer just hours after harvest. Balanced and slightly malty with a dry finish of lemon-lime and tropical fruit from the hops. 1301 Manhattan Ave., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254 (310) 798-8227

(Photo by Jill Weinlein)
(Photo by Jill Weinlein)

3. Día de Campo in Hermosa Beach offers great craft beers. Drink one with their four course NYE dinner. The special menu is $55 per person. It includes Grilled Romaine with avocado, Cotija, olives, corn salsa, egg, harissa buttermilk creme; Chocolate Duck Quesadillas with Oaxacan cheese, salsa negra, tamarind; Plancha Pork Belly with smoked yogurt, roasted beets, nopal, crispy okra, chicharrón and Churros with raspberries, lime sugar, spiced chocolate sauce. Guests have the option to add a supplemental seafood platter for $15 per person. 1238 Hermosa Ave., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254 (310) 379-1829

(Photo Courtesy of Rock & Brews)
(Photo Courtesy of Rock & Brews)

4. Rock & Brews offers an extensive rotating tap list featuring the “latest and greatest” in craft brews. There are malty & dark, Hoppy, Wheat & Belgian, Lagers & Pale Ale’s. On New Year’s Day celebrate 2016 with Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Gene Simmons, KISS front man and co-founding partner of Rock & Brews restaurants. Simmons is hosting a New Year’s Day celebration party on January 1 from 7 to 9 p.m. Select a winning “naughty and nice” resolutions for prizes, and take photos with Simmons. The winner of the most rockin’ resolution will receive a $100 gift card, and three runners-up will receive Rock & Brews t-shirts. 143 Main Street, El Segundo, CA 90245 -(310) 615-9890

(Photo courtesy of HACHE LA)
(Photo courtesy of HACHE LA)

5. HACHÉ LA is counting down 2015 with a Spiced Chocolate Chip ‘N’ Fig Bear Republic Stout Float created by mixologist Michael “Mick” Schepers. This boozy milkshake is an indulgence of velvety Bear Republic Black Stout poured over creamy spiced chocolate chip and fig frozen custard! Make this your last sweet treat for 2015. HACHÉ LA will be open on New Year’s Eve, from 11:30 am to 10:00 pm and New Year’s Day, Friday, January 1st from 11:30 am to 12:00 Midnight; 3319 West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026; 323.928.2963;

(Photo Courtesy of Spare Tire)
(Photo Courtesy of Spare Tire)

6. SPARE TIRE KITCHEN & TAVERN is serving a Kickass-Sassafras created by Executive Chef Isaias Peña. It’s a decadent version of a root beer float. This spiked classic is mixed up with homemade vanilla ice cream and a bottle of Not Your Father’s Root Beer Ale Brewed with spices, with the option of adding an extra shot of Uncle Bob’s Root Beer Whiskey for just $5.00 more, to kick-start your New Year’s Eve celebration.

On New Years Day enjoy Peña’s Bloody Mary Snacks with a signature house Bloody Mary shaken up with fresh, homemade Bloody Mary mix and a garnish of an entire meal. He is preparing a signature house Bloody Mary garnished with a beef mini-cheeseburger topped with onion rings and pickles; a signature house Bloody Mary garnished with two mini waffles and fried chicken;  two shrimp and a grilled hanger steak and a bacon-and-smoked cheddar sourdough sandwich cut into four pieces.

Spare Tire Kitchen & Tavern will be open on New Year’s Eve, Thursday December 31st from 11:30 am to 2:00 am and for New Year’s Day, Friday, January 1st for Brunch from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm and for Dinner from 4:00 pm to 2:00 am; 5370 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90036; 323.525.2618;

Mexican flavors with modernist techniques – Dia de Campo

Dia-de-campo-tacos-224x300Sitting in a spacious wooden booth next to a window at Día de Campo, we watched two middle-aged surfers walk back to their car after a day at the beach. After putting their boards on car racks, they changed into dry clothes, flipped their hair a few times and walked inside Día de Campo for cerveza, tequila and oysters. We, however, were there for the tacos.

These aren’t your average tacos. Upgrade them to “machismo” style with double corn and flour tortillas (one of each), stuffed with additional cheese, and topped with a creamy avocado and zesty lime crema sauce.

My husband and I ordered a carnitas taco with a spirited tomatillo avocado sauce and a grilled fish taco with a pico de gallo sauce. One of the friendly servers, Fabian, brought a bottle of housemade habanero sauce to the table. He told us that it has no preservatives, so we should put the cap on after pouring some onto our plate. It was hot and spicy, but not unpleasantly fiery.

With a degree in Economics from UCLA, Dia de Campo executive chef Tin Vuong worked in the corporate world for a while and then enrolled in the California Academy of Culinary Arts. He was the executive sous chef at the acclaimed St. Regis Hotel and Resort in Monarch Beach for over five years.

In 2012, he was lured to Abigaile’s Brewery in Hermosa Beach by the Los Angeles-based Blackhouse Hospitality Group. Vuong created an exciting gastropub menu that reflected the unique history and re-design of the restaurant, that once was the rehearsal space for the most influential punk/hardcore bands in music history.

He expanded his restaurant empire with Little Sister in Manhattan Beach where he created a mostly Vietnamese menu. At the newer Steak & Whiskey steakhouse in Hermosa Beach, his upscale and elegant menu has received rave reviews, as has his elevated Mexican cuisine at Día de Campo with partner/restaurateur Jed Sanford. Since Vuong is very busy with all of these restaurants, his buddy Ken Johnson, from his St. Regis Monarch Beach days, now helms the kitchen at Día de Campo where he combines Mexican flavors with modernist techniques.

Gorgeous, hand-painted Mexican tiles accent the maple wood bar. A row of Mexican cervezas and local craft beers on draft line the back of the bar. Some interesting bottled beers are also offered.

For those looking for a unique cocktail, the tia sangria is made with white wine, brandy, passion fruit, peach and citrus fruit and comes in a pitcher or bowl. The Yucatan bowl combines tequila blanco, fresh pineapple, lime and mandarin oranges.

The bar has an extensive tequila collection with almost 30 blancos, at least 20 different reposados, almost 20 anejos, plus plenty of mezcals. We ordered a simple “skinny” margarita made with Azunia blanco tequila, Cointreau and lime, and The Sophia made with tequila blanco, Agua de Santa and Patrón Citrónge. Other cocktails have names like Passion over Function, Dirty Water and The Mule.

Ashleigh Moller, who has been here since the day it opened, manages this South Bay haunt.

At the oyster counter near the bar, diners can watch chefs shucking Kusshi and Fanny Bay oysters from British Columbia, and Kumiai from the Pacific.

Known for their excellent ceviche-esque, aptly named because it is beyond normal ceviche – raw fish cured in lemon or lime juice is spiced with ají or chili peppers. The yellowfin tuna is served in a clay bowl on a layer of guacamole. The lightly marinated fish is jazzed up with a habanero aioli and crispy kale leaves creating a zesty Mexican essence. Fried plantain chops are ideal for scooping the ceviche and guacamole and providing a crunch.

Dia-de-Campo.corn_-224x300We ordered the vegetarian caramelized cauliflower with onions, egg and cotija cheese and the Mexican street corn pops. Chili mayo is spread on the cobbettes on a stick, then dusted with Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lime. Both dishes were good, though I preferred the fantastic corn pops.
Many of the dishes are a balance of textures, like the wood grilled hanger steak fajitas served on a platter with house grilled onions, shishito peppers and cotija cheese accompanied with warm housemade tortillas.

Short rib empanadas, tostadas with fried avocado and pickled vegetables, plancha pork belly with chipotle mole, avocado, pico, and an egg are interesting items. Try the shrimp and chorizo enchiladas or live it up with a 10 oz. wood grilled ribeye with hearts of palm salad and shishito peppers.

Desserts include a tres leches with hazelnuts and a sprinkling of sea salt-chili, and three snowball coconut cakes filled with spiced guava jam and covered in toasted coconut.

After dinner we took a stroll to the end of the Hermosa Beach Pier and remarked that our evening was a mini vacation from the faster pace of Los Angeles, one that we would like to repeat again.

Dia de Campo offers a Bandito Power Hour from 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 3 to 7 p.m. on Fridays with three oysters for $5. On Tuesdays, the chef choice oysters are $1.$$ 1238 Hermosa Ave. Hermosa Beach, (310)379-1829.

Published in the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea Newspapers on November 11, 2015.

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