Phantom Carriage Brewery: A Spooky Addition to the Los Angeles Micro-Brewery Scene

phantom carriage brewery

One of the Los Angeles area’s newest micro breweries is Phantom Carriage in Carson, named after a Swedish horror film from 1921. Close to major LA freeways but located in a somewhat out-of-the-way an industrial zone, there’s nothing horrifying about this brewery, which offers complex, wood-aged, sour ales named for renowned horror performers past.

Unlike many of the brew pubs in the area who rely on food trucks and customer picnics, Phantom Carriage hosts a café as well as a tasting room. The concept is inspired, making Phantom Carriage into a real evening destination. The kitchen features small plate, fresh, farm-to-table gastro-pub type fare such as a three-cheese grilled cheese sandwich, a baked Bavarian pretzel, smoked turkey, and s’mores. The tasting room and café are open starting at lunch time, six days a week.

Something else a little different at this brewery is an on-site screening room, which shows, naturally enough, old horror films. The viewing is often supplemented by L.A. Galaxy soccer games – after all, the team headquarters is Carson.

The brewery has other twists up its spooky sleeve as well. Along with house-made micro-brews, there’s a guest brewery tap list, and a fridge holding bottles of craft classics and foreign beers.

While many breweries are spare on the decor end of things, Phantom Carriage has a clever ambiance that includes a faux skeleton in a director’s chair, hundreds of oak barrels, and moody orange and gold lighting. It’s large, dark, and comfortable, its ceiling dotted with Edison light bulbs.

The brain child – or beer child – behind Phantom Carriage is skilled homebrewer Martin Svab. An emigrant from the Czech Republic where his family owned an historic tavern, here in California Svab moved from the film industry to the brewing industry. Working with partners Jackson Wignot and Simon Ford, together they run a 7000-square-foot-plus brewery including the tasting room. Svab’s film background serves him in good stead. The benignly haunted atmosphere at Phantom Carriage is compelling enough to encourage a long visit, and having the fresh food onsite likewise adds to a lingering stay.

Now for the main attraction, what’s on tap? Popular offerings include the tart, golden, sour Cushing ale; the Rathbone which is dark, fruity, aged in oak, and richly sour; and the yeasty Lugosi, boasting a potent 12.8 ABV. The Oude Muis – pronounced Mouse – is a Belgian blonde beer with a crisp edge. Leapwood is a refreshing saison. And then there’s the Lambic, a reddish-hued sour brew with a hint of kumquats. Tasting flights are a great introduction to the brews on tap and are served in small, stemmed glasses. There’s also cold brewed coffee for those after a non-alcoholic brew.

A note on the sours: sour beers are a bit like black olives – they’re an acquired taste. Based on yeast rather than hops for flavor, these beers are varied and rich, refreshing but bold tasting, with a strong aroma. They pair beautifully with the food offerings. The well-curated guest taps offer more traditional IPAs.

So what’s the verdict on a spot helmed by a former film exec reportedly born on Halloween? Phantom Carriage offers killer ambiance, tasty eats, and beers that are conversation starters. In a single word: spook-tacular.

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