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Santa Monica's Daily Pint Intoxicates Local and National Magazines' "Best of" Lists  

By Michael Aushenker
Special to The Lookout

August 16, 2011 – It was business as usual last Thursday night at the Daily Pint, which recently made Los Angeles Magazine's 100 best list and Beer Enthusiasts Draft Magazine’s best 100 beer bars in the nation.

For 25 years this local, no-nonsense pub, sandwiched on a nondescript block on the south side of Pico Boulevard, has served a diverse, eclectic cross-section of post-college 20-somethings, Hollywood and tech industry professionals, and middle-aged Westsiders – primarily beer and scotch enthusiasts with a knowledge and a thirst for quality spirits.

Philip McGovern, owner and bartender of the Daily Pint, was flattered by all the fuss, if unemotional about it.

“There’s always a chance [we’ll be honored],” McGovern said in his British accent. “We always carry top quality product. But it’s always a surprise.”

Last Thursday night was special because every six weeks, whisky (the correct Scotch spelling) school, led by Bowmore Islay Single Malt representative Johnny Mundell, goes down at the Daily Pint, and it goes down easy.

“This place is exceptional,” Mundell shouted in a raspy voice above the lively din of about 70 people last Thursday night. “This is an opportunity to talk to a lot of people up close.”

At a round table near the bar’s entrance, Mundell, a tall, gregarious young Scotsman in a green knit shirt, held court like some kind of Magic Castle mage.

Johnny Mundell of Bowmore initiates fans
into the mysteries of fine Scottish whisky
.

Three bottles of Bowmore stood between him and a small circle of six, casually dressed young adults. Mundell, the son of a sheep farmer hailing from Tarbert, Scotland, urged his small audience to lean in closer to the table, where his assistant Nadia, an attractive petite blonde, had set up rows of shot glasses.

“I feel like I’m setting up all the lonely people in L.A.,” Mundell said with a wink.

Each glass contained a different selection of Bowmore. Nadia said that on nights such as these, Mundell will educate about 85 to 100 people on the finer points of Bowmore scotch.

Mundell walked everyone through the process of how Bowmore distillery makes its high-end product. He held up a piece of peat. In a few evolutions, this turf would turn into coal, maybe diamonds.

Mundel pointed out the nuances of his product: the smoky taste of the 12-year variety, the caramel flavor of the 15 year. He insisted that his group inhale the aroma with open mouths before sipping a taste.

Meanwhile, with flat screens surrounding the counter and a giant screen dominating the back of an adjacent pool room, football games played serenely as the wall of sound created by people socializing reduced these screens into squirming wallpaper. No one was really there to watch the games, it seemed.

McGovern, a constant blur behind the bar tending to his customers, understands that many of the people who come to the Daily Pint are serious beer and scotch connoisseurs looking for some escape.

“We’re a no-frills place,” McGovern said. “You don’t have to dress up. We seem to fly under the radar of the local beer snob and mostly appeal to people who are connoisseurs.”

Decades ago, the former hair stylist used to frequent the building’s prior incarnation, the Orbit Lounge biker bar. While enjoying his “daily pint” one day, McGovern was approached by Orbit’s owner, who asked him if he wanted to buy his business. In 1987, the Daily Pint was born.

“I grew up around pubs,” said the London native, who does not refer to his establishment as a British pub (despite the penchant for these around Santa Monica).

“When I moved to the United States, we served Heineken, Corona, Guinness. Then in the last 10 or 15 years, American craft brew became a big trend. Not microbreweries, craft beer,” such as forerunners Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada. “We get hard to find beers from all over the United States,” he said.

Multiply that times a hundred regarding single malt scotch, which the Daily Pint prides itself on excelling in this genre of libations. Alongside your Stella Artois, you’ll find Glenrothes, Glenlivet, and, of course, Bowmore.

“It’s the biggest seller of scotch in the city,” said a representative of Southern Wine & Spirits the day before as he delivered a shipment to McGovern.

Marshall Naiman, who heads the L.A. Scotch Club, added that it’s also the best…not just in L.A. but in the state. Naiman said he’s thoroughly checked out the single malt scenes in San Francisco and San Diego and “the Daily Pint has the most eclectic scotch selection in L.A., possibly in California. You won’t find any bigger menu.”

McGovern listed a few brands of rare and hard to find single malt whisky – Port Ellen, Malt Loch––“These are all distilleries that are now closed,” he said.

“To buy stuff that is in short supply, if you’re not on the list, it’s hard to get on the list. That’s what makes [the Pint] unique.”

McGovern says his establishment, where his college-age daughter Kathleen also tends bar, is a neighborhood fixture.

Indeed, the Daily Pint is no dive bar. The place is clean and spritely, not dingy or seedy.

Thursday many of the Pint’s regulars were on tap, such as co-workers Brie Boss, P.B. Bessenbacher, and Brad Hamilton of Santa Monica-based Emoto Music.

“You see a lot of regulars here,” Bessenbacher said. “It’s neighborhood-y.”

“I rode my bike here,” Hamilton added with a laid-back smile.

In a cap and plaid shirt, Bessenbacher explained that, depending on the time of day, the Pint takes on a different vibe: skewing older and quieter during the day, younger and energetic at night.

Boss, a Venice resident, said she’s been coming to the Pint for at least four years, ever since her colleagues introduced her to it. She enthusiastically sings the praises of McGovern and the pub.

“It brings in the best people,” she said.

People, ultimately, is what it’s all about, and Boss has collected her share of memories.

Such as the time she walked in and, to her amazement, she found her brother, a Yahoo Fantasy Sports employee, shooting pool with actor Jason Patric.

“This place has seen a lot of occasions,” Hamilton interjected.

“One of the first times I came here,” Bessenbacher recalled, “I asked Phil, ‘What would you recommend?’ And he paired a scotch with beer. How great is that?”

Since discovering the Pint, he returns quite often.

“You can come here every day and not get the same drink twice,” Bessenbacher said.

Miraculously, it would seem, Geoff Mark, one of the founding members of the L.A. Scotch Club, was visiting the Daily Pint for the first time.

When asked if there was a comparable site for scotch on the Valley side where he lives, Mark answered that there was indeed a solid pub he’s been going to for the past two years or so it’s been open. “The food is top notch,” he said of the bangers and mash, shepherd’s pie, and other U.K. specialties there.

“It’s called McG’s!” he said, unaware that the very man who owned that Chatsworth bar, as well as The Daily Pint, was currently serving customers right behind him.

The Daily Pint, located at 2310 Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica, is open daily until 2 a.m. For more information, visit www.thedailypint.net

 


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