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Father's Office SignIn the LA scene of clubs and cocktails, Father’s Office in Santa Monica is a welcome oasis for excellent beers and one great burger. Hiding behind a 1950’s facade of an “old man” bar, a bright modern interior of blonde wood is lined with gleaming silver taps from some of the finest craft breweries in the West: AleSmith, Anderson, Lagunitas, Rogue, Russian River and Stone are among the standouts collected here. For a visitor from the East Coast, this was a “pint of gold” at the west end of the rainbow.

We ordered a couple of burgers from the bar, along with an order of sweet potato fries. The fries arrive first in a miniture metal shopping cart just as we snag a coveted table. A slightly crisp exterior with just enough salt gives way to an almost custard-like middle of sweet potato goodness. Hands down, these are the most perfectly prepared fries of any kind I have ever found in a bar.

The burgers arrive shortly after. While the fries are marvels of simplicity, the burgers have layers of complexity one does not expect from “pub grub”. Topped with tiny tender fresh spinach leaves, carmelized onions, and crumbled blue cheese, the smokey bacon-infused patty of medium rare beef acheives both meldings and contrasts of flavor that make you taste something new in every bite. We swear there is something fruity in there (fig jam?) by the time we are halfway through. Whatever all the individual ingredients actually are, this is a burger to be savored.

Craftsman LogoAnd while the food may be reason enough to drop in, the beer is why you should plan to stay awhile. I enjoyed two incredible beers from the Pasadena-based Craftsman Brewing Company that evening at Father’s Office. My first was their Smoked Black Lager. I see this as the perfect alternative to a potentially heavy smoked porter (one of my absolutely favorite styles) for a backyard summer barbeque. While many beers that are black in color have charred or burnt flavors, and many smoked beers have the potential to be a bit harsh on the palate, there are no such distractions here. Rich roasted flavors with just the right touch of woody smokiness permeated what is actually a relatively light in body and easy to drink brew. Plus, this beer goes just perfect with the bacon and blue cheese of the burger.

My second beer from Craftsman was their totally original Triple White Sage. Think champagne meets Thanksgiving, but in the most delicious way. Yes, you can smell and taste the sage in this beer, but for as strange as it sounds, it matches perfectly with the both sweet and dry qualities of this Belgian-inspired ale. Without the sage, this brew reminds me of some of the best beers I’ve had the pleasure to taste… Tripel Karmilett, Saint Sylvester Trois Monts, and Brooklyn Local 1. But with the sage, it transforms an already potentially incredible beer into something completely unique and amazing.


It’s a chilly winter day here in the Northeast… freezing, in fact, quite literally at 32-degrees.  Not exactly a good day for a backyard barbeque.

Ah, but wouldn’t those tangy, smoky flavors warm your insides on such a cold and dreary day?  How about a beer that can capture that in a bottle?  Stone Smoked Porter does just that.  It pours a dark rich opaque chocolate brown, and the roasted, smoky aroma gives a hint of the delicious taste to come.  The flavor is initially sweet and chocolatey followed by a flavorful but not too potent smokiness that reminds me of a cozy fireplace or campfire, and slight hints of alcohol warm the insides.  Some earthy notes of birch and sarsaparilla come through, while the finish is slightly charred, which perfectly complements and completes the smoked flavor.

For a simple meal, I paired this with some barbequed pulled pork from my local Whole Foods Market.  Pretty good in a pinch, though some real ribs or brisket from the smoker would be even better.  I also think this would be an excellent match for a char-grilled steak.

While readers in Tennessee, North Carolina and all across the South have plenty of great barbeque joints to choose from, those like me in Northern New Jersey have a harder time. Luckily, Front Street Smokehouse on the industrial Elizabeth waterfront serves up some excellent authentic Memphis-style barbeque.  We even had the chance to see the smoker in action.  While it’s initially heated with gas, a combination of charcoal and hardwood are used to smoke the ribs, pork and chicken slowly in the rotisserie.  The pulled pork is tender and moist, and the smoked chicken glazed with raspberry jalapeno sauce is probably the best chicken I’ve ever had in a BBQ joint.  Unfortunately, no smoked porter to be found here, and not many craft beers at the bar, but there’s excellent birch beer on tap, and the mouthwatering smoked meat and delicious sides (tasty collards, homemade stuffing and cornbread) are well worth the trip off the beaten path.

Definition: Smoked Porter

This unique hybrid style of beer was invented in 1988 by Alaskan Brewing Company when they approached a local producer of smoked salmon about smoking some malt over alder wood in their smokehouse. While the traditional smoked rauchbier has been brewed for centuries, it was an obscure and little-known style outside its native Germany. Today, thanks to Alaskan Brewing’s experiment, dozens of microbreweries around the U.S. have rediscovered the delicious unique flavor of smoked beers, producing their own renditions of smoked porter and other smoked ales and lagers.