Growing up in New York, St. Patrick’s Day was always celebrated as a true holiday. Just like Thanksgiving or even Christmas, Paddy’s Day included everything from parades, get togethers with family, hell… even the schools would call a “faculty meeting” and give us the day off because they knew all we were going to do was go out and drink. Unfortunately, LA doesn’t have the same reverence for such a storied day of tradition and utter jubilee. Therefore, I took it upon myself to bring the Irish cheer out West.
So this past Saturday, I figured what better way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, then with a pub crawl. But not just any old pub crawl. I made it a mission to invoke the true spirit of St. Patrick’s Day by gathering together some great friends and drinking a Guinness in every traditional Irish pub on the West Side of LA. No gimmicky green beer, here.
As a self-proclaimed Guinness lover, I personally went all out and tasted every Guinness on the West Side to come up with the a definitive ranking of the the black stuff that even the Guinness Guru himself would be proud of. Keep in mind, there’s no Guinness like the ones you can actually get in Dublin. So while these scores may seem a little on the low side, it’s all in context when comparing Left Coast Guinness to the pints on the Emerald Isle. So, without further ado, here’s the definitive guide to good Guinness on the West Side of LA.
Auld Fella – Culver City
To kick things off, we started with a pint of the good stuff at The Auld Fella in Culver City. Upon being served, it was like the heavens had opened and the angels harmonized “ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!” all together. I mean just look at that thick, creamy head. Just unreal domage. Served in a unique, California branded, harp style Guinness glass, the pint went down fairly smooth and although I would’ve preferred a little whiter head, the Guinness itself was slightly above average and gets a solid 7.4 / 10 from me.
And after an Irish Coffee or two, we were off to our second pub.
Irish Times – Motor Ave. Los Angeles, CA
The next stop was Irish Times on Motor Ave. This traditional, quaint Irish pub has everything you’d want in an Irish watering hole, including tight leather booths, Seven Nations Rugby on the TV and brogues on both sides of the bar. As for the Guinness, while the head was a little on the thin side, the Guinness itself was beyond superb. The glass was just right, the drink was perfect temperature and the drink was a real balanced, enjoyable delight. 7.1 / 10 for me.
Side review- to eat, we got a Shepherd’s Pie, and although I wish the mashed potatoes had a bit more char to them, the meat, peas and carrots inside were fantastic and the cast iron entree served as the perfect dish to sop up some booze 2/5ths through this crawl. Highly recommend.
Sonny MacLean’s– Santa Monica
Our third stop was Sonny MacLean’s in Santa Monica. This self proclaimed Boston bar, serves its Guinness in small 16oz as well as Traditional 20oz pint glasses (a mistake we made by first unknowingly ordering a 16, and then rectifying it by subsequently ordering and drinking a 20). Although the ambiance of Sonny’s gave off more of a rowdy “Boston sports bar” vibe rather than one of a “traditional” Irish pub, this was definitely a top Guinness on the crawl. As soon as the bartender held the taps for the two-part pour, we could tell we were in good hands. From the creamy, white head to the deliciously thick stout, Sonny’s ranks high in my book.
I mean just look at the shtick!! (side note: “shtick” – noun – The creamy foam that clings to the side of the glass as the level of a pint of Guinness Stout goes down. Irish.) It’s unbelievable. Very solid 7.6 / 10
O’Brien’s – Santa Monica
Our next stop on the crawl took us down the block to O’Briens. Unfortunately, the lack of a thick, creamy head, coupled with a watery complexion made for one of the more disappointing Guinness’s on the crawl. However, my biggest gripe with O’Brien’s wasn’t so much the lack of a head, but rather the fact that it was served in a standard, boring pint glass. Seriously, this beer would’ve been 1,000,000x better if it were served in an actual, Guinness glass. Unfortunately, due to it’s watery taste and lack of a proper glass… I’m going to have give O’Brien’s a 6.7 / 10.
However, the craic was by far the best at O’Brien’s. The bartender personally came over, talked to us for a while about the intricacies of Guinness and may or may not have helped us imbibe further than we had initially planned on. 10/10 for warm, Irish hospitality, and an amazing time. We’ll certainly be returning for a proper sesh.
Jameson’s – Santa Monica
Ahh the final stage of the Crawl, brought us to popular party bar Jameson’s, the home of peanut butter shots, excessively loud music and crying sorority girls. As it is technically an “Irish” pub and in the middle of Santa Monica… we decided it would be the perfect end to our little Paddy’s Day endeavor.
Unfortunately, in between strobe lights flashing and 2011 Rihanna blasting, I found myself face to face with the worst abomination of the evening…
We were served our Guinness in a plastic cup, which, if you didn’t know, is essentially a mortal sin. Although to be fair, while everyone knows you don’t come to Jameson’s in Santa Monica looking for good Guinness, it’s really a shame that a place can call itself an “Irish Pub” and get away with serving the black stuff in anything other than a pint glass.
As you can probably tell by the thin, brown head and frosty plastic cup, the Guinness wasn’t that great. But, at this stage of the crawl, any beer tasted like a good beer. So while I can’t accurately rate it, I can confidently say I was disappointed with the lack of care and concern placed into pouring the Perfect Pint. Jameson’s in Santa Monica gets a 3.1/10 from me.
Overall, while there’s no such thing like a Dublin Guinness, you can certainly find a decent pint of the black stuff on this side of the country if you look hard enough. Sonny’s gets my vote for the stout, and O’Brien’s for the craic. Cruise Irish Times for a proper sesh and can’t forget Auld Fella for a well-rounded Irish meal. In a day-long quest for the best Guinness, the true meaning of St. Patrick’s Day was uncovered- wholesome time spent doing what you love, with the people you love.