The actual brewing space for Bob Kunz at Highland Park Brewery was not, how would one politely put it, expansive. You could not swing a mash paddle without hitting something or someone. Now, with their new Chinatown location, there is more room to bend the elbow and taste either their wild ales or IPAs (West or East styles).
The new location is on Spring Street near the new Historic State Park’s southern tip, an area that will probably be soon as hip as their York Boulevard location is now. (More on that later). You enter through a patio area that features frequent appearances from the Gold Line train coming to and fro in the distance. Inside the L-shaped main room, you find high ceilings and a light, sloping wooden bar.You can sit at the bar in front of the menu board or find a seat near one of the fermenters in the back brewing area. There is also a cooler with HPB cans where you can always order a crowler/growler of available beer.
No matter where you lay your glass down on a coaster, you will be suffused with light. All the better to Instagram pics from your house beer choices and guest taps. (If Priem beer is pouring, I strongly suggest you get it!) Summer will most likely pull downtowners away from the condos and new construction to a neighborhood that I had never visited before, which even includes a beautiful new walking park.
Which leads to an interesting social experiment to watch. Brewery taprooms are known to be in out of the way (read:cheap) locations. Places that Waze and Google maps really have to look for and yet as you can see in the Arts District and in Highland Park, once a brewery opens (or more in the case of DTLA), new business follows those craft beer drinking fans.
With HPB, The Hermosillo in Highland Park opened and started drawing adventurous beer drinkers. Then, the brewery came and soon the street was populated with a pizza parlor, ice cream shop, and donuts. Of course, the neighborhood was dramatically shifting not just due to one little brewery, but that little brewery was bringing in people from all over L.A. Soon you see both the positive and negative effects of new business in areas of Los Angeles that were previously under the radar. This can lead to community backlash as has been seen most aggressively in Boyle Heights.
Which way will this section of Chinatown go? Now with a fancy restaurant and fancy gym already in place and a wine company moving in, will condos and restaurants and people join them? How will the neighborhood react? The Los Angeles Historic Park was once slated to be commercial property, but activists were able to instead bring more open public space to the city. Will gentrification be seen as a positive force? Lastly, will these discussions take place over a pint at HPB? I think that would go a long way to finding a better path forward.
We move South from Highland Park to Iron Triangle Brewing who have recently released a variety 4-pack of 16-ounce cans. There is the requisite IPA and Lager, but I want to Compare & Contrast the other two beers because of the vagueness of the names. Dark Lager (look for the word Dark on the can) is sub-titled as a Pre-Prohibition Porter. I generally view dark lager and porter as separate, but this beer makes the effort to straddle the style line. The Dark Lager is roasty, but not overly so, and doesn’t have the heft of Guinness, but does look like it. This beer is really easy to drink.
The second beer is called BPA. A Bavarian Pale Ale. Instead of being part of the hazy craze, this is more old-school hazy as it merges hefeweizen with the hoppiness of a pale ale. BPA certainly does look the part of a hefe. The can touts melon papaya and banana. I get the last of that hefe triangle along with clove spice. The hops are quite muted here, more underlying. A sidekick almost. If you go in looking for a spin on a hefe, you will be fine. If you are looking for a pale ale, you might be disappointed.
It is worth noting that styles, per se, are relatively new inventions. So not hewing to the letter of each style is not a cardinal sin. The names on these two beers from Iron Triangle, however, will send you scurrying to the guidelines to make a judgement.
Put April 8 on your beer calendar. That is the inaugural run of the Valley loop for LA Beer Hop. Burbank and Glendale now warrant a full on four- to five-hour tour. Every other Sunday, starting at 1 p.m., the blue beer bus will pick up people who have reserved one of 15 allotted seats from the Burbank Metrolink stop and will cover the following breweries: San Fernando Brewing to the north, Lincoln Beer and Henson Brewing near the Empire Center, Verdugo West and The Brewery at Simmzy’s in the Media District, and Brewyard Beer Co. in Glendale for their take on hybrid lager ales. (There is also a stop at the Budweiser owned Golden Road as well, but you can make that your water and rest stop.)
These tours are a great way to visit those breweries that you still have on your to-do list and avoid having to drive on I-5.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.