Just as we thought we were out of the heat, it sucks us back in again. We should have seen it coming. September gets hot and we can’t avoid it unless we get outta town. For that, we recommend a day trip to Ventura, CA to sip on some of the fine craft at Topa Topa Brewing Company.
Located just 60 miles North of Los Angeles, you can drive there in about an hour, but why rush. You’re going to enjoy taking the coastal route. It’s prettier than the 101, there’s less traffic and you can make a pit stop at Neptune’s Net for an early lunch of clam chowder and oysters. Their seaside seafood shack open daily 10:30am to around 8:00pm.
Alternatively, you could take Amtrak directly up to Ventura. The Pacific Surfliner departs from Union Station and takes a little less than 2 hours. Trains depart daily at 7:50am, 9:20am and 12:30pm. Tickets are $24 each way, which is way cheaper than an Uber, and the train drops you off at the Ventura Station (VEC) a mere 1,000 feet from the brewery (that’s .2 miles). Just make sure you catch the last train back to LA at 7:37pm otherwise you’ll be trapped in Ventura drinking beer all night.
One of the most shocking things about Topa Topa is that the brewhouse and taproom isn’t tucked away into the back of an industrial park like most Southern California breweries. It’s actually located in a part of town suited for eating and drinking. You know, like a normal business. You’ll find the location right off of the 101 just as soon as the freeway hits the beach.
As soon as you hit the parking lot and see the “Park Here for Beer” printed on the concrete, you get the first sign that that this team knows what they’re doing and you’ll be in good hands.
The taproom is humble in size with a small interior space and a wraparound exterior space, which is where you’ll want to sit to waft the sea air intermittently between your sniffs of their various IPAs. At the time I visited, they had 11 beers on tap: a Pilsner, Belgian Strong Pale, Saison, Cali Common, Pale Ale, Session IPA, West Coast IPA, Nelson IPA, Double IPA, Coffee IPA (I got a growler), and a Nitro Milk Stout with Vanilla Bean.
The beers are top notch and poured with the utmost care. I got my first flight (Nelson IPA, Cali Common, Coffee IPA and Saison) and I remarked to the bartenders that I had never seen four flight glasses in a row that had such consistent head and carbonation. The bartenders replied that they had just taken a class from one of the owners about the importance of beer head, glass cleanliness and maintaining carbonation which is the kind of dedication that elevates breweries to a higher status.
For my second flight I ordered the Milk Stout, Pilsner, Belgian Strong Pale and Double IPA. They were all stellar, but from the day the Milk Stout stood out for it’s elegance, the Pilsner stood out for it’s clarity and clean profile, and the Coffee IPA stood out because it’s a Coffee IPA and it was more balanced than it should be.
You’re likely to run into one of the owners, as I did, or a local business taking the day off early, as I also did. The brewery has only been open since early 2015 and while there are other breweries in the area such as Anacapa, Madewest, Poseidon and Surf, the idea of a local taproom is still somewhat of a new one to Ventura.
If you get hungry, order pizza from next door Tony’s Pizzaria to be delivered right to your picnic table. Or if you were regretting not stopping at Neptune’s Net earlier, you can opt to head over to Spencer Makenzie’s Fish Tacos, a Ventura staple, for world famous fish tacos and more beer (they have Topa Topa’s Chief IPA on tap).
You’re full, you’re happy, you’re buzzed and you’re not quite ready to leave, so after your stay at the Topa Topa taproom, you will probably be inclined to visit the beachside Surfer’s Point Park to take in the sunset. Grab a bottle of water and make the eight minute walk to the beach to soak in the last of the day’s rays and call this tiny trip a success.
104 E Thompson Blvd.
Ventura, CA 93001