Jul 22, 2018

Downtown Los Angeles

June, 1999

By Bobby Bush

Downtown Los Angeles, a compact urban cityscape of earthquake-proofed buildings, has been practically a ghost town for brewpubs. Gorky’s, with its Russian theme cafeteria, didn’t last long. Eureka, despite Wolfgang Puck’s exquisite menu, never recovered from the ‘94 earthquake shutdown aftermath. Westwood Brewing, just a few years old, is still brewing on Glendon Avenue.

The City of Angels’ second brewpub exists in a very unlikely place. Fourth floor, overlooking a multi-story atrium in the swanky Bonaventure Hotel on Figuero, is the site of Bonaventure Brewing Company. This classy brewpub, appointed with leather chairs and a library-like setting, opened in December 1997. Owners David Hansen, David Lott and Loren Zimmerman, once brewers at Belmont Brewing in Long Beach, hired Kevin Day as Bonaventure’s head brewer.

In fact, some continuing affiliation with Belmont was obvious as Belmont Brewing Co. Strawberry Blonde, champagne-like and sweet, and the rounded Top Sail Pale Ale were both credited as Belmont creations, though brewed by Day at Bonaventure. A light bodied Blond, cloudy gold Pale Ale and thin roasty black Stout were also available, as was a lengthy wine list. While enjoying our beers, among the rich and famous, we dined on expensive entrees of fish, poultry and beef. Smoking, in accordance with California’s indoor air quality ordinance, was restricted to the small balcony in back.

Bonaventure Brewing started a Jazz at the Bonaventure series last year and also features evenings of blues, R&B and rock. Their beer is well suited for all the above.

On another L.A. trip, I stopped in for lunch at Geezers Restaurant in Santa Fe Springs. This eating establishment, open for six years under at least one other name, added Santa Fe Hops Brewhouse in August 1998. The Brewhouse, no kin to either Hops chain, serves two purposes. Its primary function is to supply beer, from its three barrel system, to the airy restaurant and cramped bar located on the other side of the glass wall. The other is as a brew-on-premises. Five 10 gallon brew kettles- shiny, copper and impressive -entice wanna-be homebrewers to give brewing a try.

The Italian/Southwestern cuisine restaurant was bristling with a business lunch crowd as I sashayed up to the small island bar. Though there was a decent selection of bottled West Coast micros, it was the house brewed beer I was after. Only two were available, though a WinterFest was fermenting and would be ready in days. Ranger Light Ale made an honest attempt at budmillercoors, but why try? Geezer Pale Ale proved cold and thin, closing with a yeasty, somewhat hoppy aftertaste. Lucky’s Root Beer, also a Brewhouse creation, did brisk business.

Amidst the hurried wait staff, tamale bar, and fern-laden patio, beer was definitely an after-thought. The restaurant, BOP, brewery concept may be one too many activities for Santa Fe Hops Brewhouse.

There’s one more installment. Follow along at Northward from L.A..

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush


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