Longtime homebrewer and Northwest native Bob Kunz worked as a manager for Father’s Office before partnering with Ross Stephenson, Michael Blackman and Dustin Lancaster on Highland Park Brewery, which is located in back of The Hermosillo in, you guessed it, the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Kunz, who is Highland Park’s brewmaster, recently shared insights into his background and approach.
Was it a given that you would work with beer for a living, or did you consider other careers?
On a balancing scale of brewing beer or teaching high school English, beer won. The intent was to teach English after I got my creative writing degree from Western Washington University. Then I became of legal drinking age and BOOM! I love craft beer. I’m a very tactile person, so the only logical next step was to try and make my own beer. From that point on I’ve never stopped making beer!
How did working at Father’s Office help prepare you for Highland Park Brewery?
Man, my time at Father’s Office was such a rich experience. Sang Yoon really has the singular pursuit of excellence. With a spatula and ladle Sang drove home the need for efficiency and repeatability, two incredibly translatable skills in a brewery setting.
What are some of your most satisfying moments of working with craft beer so far?
Actually, I think it’s happening right now… the moment I made my first batch of beer almost 13 years ago sparked something in my brain that said, “That’s what I’m doing in life…I’m opening a brewery.” I’ve carried that dream with me ever since and it’s being realized right now in this freaking moment!
How did Highland Park Brewery come about, and how do your partners complement your vision?
My wife Tiffany and I moved to Highland Park a little over 3 years ago and we love it here. It’s always been my dream to open a brewery in the neighborhood that I live. Who knew that bellying up to my favorite bar (The Hermosillo) would lead to a friendship with Ross (one of the owners), and now, a brewery… but it did.
It’s pretty awesome to have partners that have strengths that you don’t. Ross Stephenson is navigating all the super fun permitting hurdles and Michael Blackman and Dustin Lancaster bring a wealth of business start-up know how to help me karate chop through all the joyous parts of owning a business.
What does a beer have to be for you to brew it at Highland Park Brewery?
Beer for me is such a world of discovery and adventure, my brain goes especially bonkers for sour and brett beers. Whether it be drinking or making beer I think it needs to spark that sense of wonder, for HPB I think that will mean discovering new ways to make every batch of beer better or venturing into completely new beers we’ve never brewed before.
How do you go about naming your beers?
Sheesh, naming beers is tough. Really no rhyme or reason yet. Usually pretty random or something that strikes me as funny. I don’t try and get too serious.
Where do you see the Los Angeles beer scene in five years, and how does Highland Park Brewery fit into that vision?