Wednesday, 11 May 2011 10:47

Arts & Crafts in the City of Angels

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“She had to leave Los Angeles...” As I pulled back the maroon drapes to a tiny bar that we passed nearly three times, these were the words being sung.

Back in 2009, we entered the dusky, hipster, Brooklyn-ish type, unassuming bar on Sunset Blvd in Echo Park, after arriving too late to a beer festival. The majority of the folks there seemed just …cool.  The ‘I’m not trying’ kind of cool.  You know, Vincent Galo cool.

Spinning a sweet collection of vinyl, we walked into side A of Los Angeles by X.  Oh, how apropos.

The ambiance was dark, moody and candlelit, at 4pm. We had to adjust our eyes from the afternoon sun, when we bellied up to the El Prado bar. It truly passed the Erin vampire test of low lighting.  Squinting to see what beers and wines were written on the back mirrors, I noticed one I had never heard of, Angel City Charlie Parker Pale Ale. Like the bar, the name just oozed “cool”.  If it’s named after the “Bird”, it’s gotta’ be good.  

One beer turned into several. One X song turned into both sides of the album and the song came on again. None of us seemed to mind.  

“She had to leave Los Angeles...”  Apparently, *she* never tried Angel City beer.

Fast forward a couple months, I decided to attend a small, also unassuming, beer and food pairing at Cabo Taco Baja Grill in La Mirada.  Yes, that’s right, La Mirada.  I had never gotten off the freeway in La Mirada – not that there’s anything wrong with it – I just never had a reason to. Home to the strip mall restaurant/bar, the forward thinking manager had prepared the beer pairing with the Los Angeles brewery, Angel City.  This was why I was attending. This was the first time I met Angel City’s Brewmaster and owner, Michael Bowe.

Bowe launched Angel City Brewing on St. Patrick’s Day in 1997 in Culver City.

Since moving out the Torrance brewery, due to a dispute with Alpine Village’s new owner, Bowe is now in a much…much better place.  

Bowe and his 27,000 square foot brewery located in the heart of the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles couldn’t be a better answer to what he had envisioned all along.  His logo of the tall, cosmopolis structure has been around since its inception, well before he moved to the downtown digs in March of this year. He felt it was a sign….a really big sign.

Set within the historic John A Roebling Building, he’s serving his award winning beers like his Che Pale Lager (named after the revolutionary), Angel City Ale and Lester Young Pork Pie Hat Dark Lager. Bowe has chosen a truly striking atmosphere to house his art and craft beers. I wonder if the German born engineer famous for his wire suspension bridges and designing the Brooklyn Bridge would have known that an American would be making craft beer within a state of the art German brewery design, in a building he constructed.  Bowe has always been a fan of German brewing. So, this just seemed like home. 

With the capacity to produce more than 15,000 barrels a year, his brewery is already well received by the community, Bowe said with a grin.  As I walked in with my elementary school teacher and club promoter friends, we let out a collective “Wow.”

In addition to the sheer expansive open spaces and massive stainless steel barrels in perfect view, Bowe has already formed partnerships and friendships with budding and already established L.A. street artists. Original street art was everywhere, on 10x12, wooden planks against the walls. Embracing it with passion and zeal, Bowe wasted no time in opening a new street art exhibition at the brewery in late April.  New York-based Ron English created X-Ray Guernica and Shepard Fairey installed a mural on the building from his current series depicting sly visual commentary on the apotheosis of Ronald Reagan in American political mythmaking.  Running until July 10th on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, you can view Los Angeles art , and drink freshly brewed beer right from the tanks in the heart of the gritty and budding arts district downtown. Does it get any cooler?

Well, it will.  Having played saxophone and released his own jazz album in 2004, "Cole Porter De- Constructed," he is no stranger in the music world, either. Give any musician a large, empty space, he’s going to think ‘live music’.  And so it will be.

But what is his vision?  In ten years, Bowe wants to produce 100,000 barrels and be something like the “Anchor Steam of San Francisco.”  The craft brewery, of the arts and crafts in the city, will be urban, vertical in nature and will have a tasting room.  

As Bowe sipped on his Angel City Porkpie Hat Dark Lager, he beamed, “I have a big vision. L.A. deserves to have a great brewery!”

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