Downtown Los Angeles
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