On March 7th, LA’s first all wild brewery opened its doors, Phantom Carriage. Angelenos are notoriously late to everything, unless it comes to beer. Even arriving early 11:45 wasn’t enough to beat the line that had formed in the hot, hot sun outside of the brewery.
Orchestrated by founder / general manager Martin Svab, brewery operations manager Simon Ford, and assistant brewer Brendan Lake, the team has launched a complete line-up of wild and sour beers in their Carson-based cafe brewpub. Beers range from puckering to funky, and food offerings are diverse enough to accommodate a wide variety of pairing options.
Phantom Carriage draws upon the classic horror genre for inspirations so you’ll find beer names like Cushing (Peter Cushing) and Rathbone (Basil Rathbone) in addition to a retro theater in the back playing classic monster movies. Dim lighting, dark wood, and barrels is pretty much all you need to know, and if you’re a fan of the macabre you’ll feel right at home.
Horrifically Awesome Sours
If you’re headed to Carson, California to get your sours on, rest assured, you’ll have plenty of options when you arrive. The grand opening event had 14 options available ranging from the iconic flagship Muis, a 100% brett wild Belgian blonde, to the more aggressive sours like Lugosi, a strong dark sour aged in oak with a brett/lacto/pedio blend. Each offering was wonderful in its own way and very unique. For me, the Pleasance, a Lambic-Inspired Wild Ale, stole the show. Pleasance balances a wonderful woody earthiness with an assertive citric acidity. It pours a deep Incan gold and shines with brilliant clarity. If you’re a fan of deeply complex lambics, this should probably be your first stop.
- Lugosi – Strong Dark Sour
- Cushing – Strong Blonde Sour
- Bergman – Blonde Sour
- Rathbone – Dark Sour
- Pleasance – Lambic-Inspired Wild Ale
- Muis – 100% Brett Wild Belgian Blonde
- Broadacres – Wild Berliner
- Leapwood – French Session Saison
- Ambler – Carson Country Farmhouse Ale
- Dolores – Dark Farmhouse Ale
- Houten Muis – Sauv Blanc Barrel Aged Muis
- Citra Muis – Muis Dry Hopped with Citra
- Raspberry Broadacres
- Opener Blend – 75% Bergman 25% Muis
Phantom Carriage says no to food trucks! Well, they didn’t actually literally say no to them, but they don’t really need them because they have a kitchen of their own. There’s a good chance that the menu will change or at least vary from what was available during the grand opening, but expect various meats smoked on site, sausages, sliders, and pickled vegetables. For those that appreciate charcuterie style food pairing, The Plowman’s Lunch is a must order. Ordering a flight of sours coupled with this decadent selection of meats, pickles, cheeses, and breads is perfect for sharing or as the main course.
I’ve known both Svab and Ford for a few years, and it has been exciting watching them take their operation from brewing out of a San Pedro home blendary to launching their Muis endeavor at Monkish. Svab is an industry vet. He’s been at this for a very long time and has definitely paid his dues working at Stone and Najas as well as on Gentleman Scholar. For an aspiring brewer like myself, it’s a real treat to see someone so devoted succeed. And what a success this is. Phantom Carriage is an incredible achievement – there is nowhere to go but up.
I bumped into Ford at a Pacific Gravity Club meeting and later travelled to San Pedro to write about his home brewing operation. I wasn’t prepared to experience the level of beer coming out of Simon’s brewhouse. From lambics to saisons to ciders, Simon had it all going and each and every bottle he cracked open was phenomenal – easily stacking up against the best of the best commercial beers. When Simon paired up with Martin, it was a match made in heaven. Only good things could come from this relationship, and so Phantom Carriage was born. I asked Simon about his transition from home brewing to commercial and he had this to say.
“The transition was a little intimidating at first, but as with homebrewing it all came down to gaining a thorough knowledge of equipment. Once I wrapped my head around our system and ran some numbers, stepping up homebrew/prototype recipes wasn’t too hectic. It helps that our house system isn’t really that big (a 3BBL system we push to 6+BBLs). It also really helped that we had some great brewers (Brian Brewer in particular) come by to help lay out the finer points of working on a larger scale. I have notes from talking with Brian that I reference every brew day. Also, we brought on Brendan Lake (formerly of the Dudes’ and Stone) to brew with us – he has a lot of experience brewing at a commercial scale and is a huge asset for us; we really sync up on brew days. All that help made the transition go smoothly.
Working at a commercial scale does have many advantages. For one, dealing with higher volumes definitely works to our advantage. We can blend individual barrels, each with their own subtle nuances, to create a more complex end product. Since we have more product in general, we can experiment with different product variations to see what works best. We also have access to volumes of fruit and oak that aren’t feasible to source from a homebrew level. It’s a lot of fun.”
18525 S Main St, Carson, CA 90248