Sometime last year, a good looking lady moved in a few doors down. While making coffee in the morning, I’d spy her stylish Bettie Page bangs, matching fluffy white robe and slippers yelling at her dog to “go potty! Go potty dammit!” I’d think to myself, ‘What a spicy, spicy woman.’ Driving down the street, I’d do that nonchalant steering-wheel wave at her out watering plants. To this day, she always makes a point to wave back, batting lashes, probably thinking nothing of the married neighbor from a few doors down. As it should be.
Around the same time my dashing neighbor moved in, a new tavern opened in downtown Fullerton. “Hopscotch” was the name, implying that an adult playground lies inside the historic Mission-style building. With promises of various hoppy-scotchy delights, I’m sure all the local breweries licked their chops at the prospect of a craft-only beer and whiskey bar in the neighborhood. Turns out, the boy next door was the first to strike. Bootlegger’s Brewery, located just a couple lights down Fullerton’s tree-lined streets, recently got invited over for supper; beer pairing dinner style.
As the summer sunset sizzles west towards the ocean, cocktails and cigars light up Hopscotch’s glowing back patio. This pre-game crowd is a testament to what kind of folks are interested in this sort of situation. Six courses of chef-prepared macho grub paired with five beers and five beer cocktails prove no match for these seasoned professionals. Should I be scared? Can I hang? The mere thought of this epic neighborly beer/food dating game makes me nervously knock back my pre-dinner beer a wee bit swiftly. Even the green table candles dance drunkenly to the music drowning under the hungry dining room’s roar.
With the ding of a glass ringing like a boxing bell, Hopscotch Executive Chef Cody Storts hops into the ring and welcomes us. Cocking his neck left and right, he sets the tone for the evening: “If you’ve ever done a fancy six course, wine-swirling dinner… I’m the complete opposite. Fullerton has been long overdue for a no-fluff studly dinner. It’s the way I want it and we hope it’s the way you want it.” We applaud and get ready to rumble. Round one…DING!
The first beer to hit our table is Bootlegger’s Brewery Belgian IPA. The Brewmaster/Owner of Bootlegger’s Brewery, Aaron Barkenhagen, speaks to it with a little history. “I started the brewery five years ago after home brewing in my garage for ten years. The beer is basically our Rustic Rye IPA with Belgian yeast.” Personally, Rustic Rye is one of the first beers I enjoyed from Bootlegger’s years ago and it stuck with me. The Belgian yeast version hits the nose with a juicy fruit and grassy note, finishing with a white peppery spice. “We currently brew 7,000 barrels of beer a year, half of which is poured right here in Orange County… We like to take care of the people in our own backyard,” says Aaron, with his slicked-back hair and a confident grin.
It didn’t hit me until course three what Chef Cody Storts true intentions were. First I was forking the soft pink circular wagyu tartare topped with wiry red chili threads, then I’d gently opened the gorgeously green-lipped flaps of fresh New Zealand mussels, before eagerly crunching into some flip-flop sized grilled Texas-style bread. The third course, a hand-length tiger shrimp resting on a soft white bed of salty grits is what clued me in. ‘Is chef trying to seduce us?’ I slid down my seat watching Bootlegger’s petite and beautiful Patricia Barkenhagen place the tip of the prawn in her mouth and slowly bite down. Breaking out in a sweat, I clear my throat and sip “Lairds Foley,” a cocktail mixed with Bootleggers Lemongrass Wit and Laird’s Applejack Whiskey among other house-made ingredients. With my beer long-gone, this beer cocktail thing saves me with a refreshing sweet kick that extends the sweetness of the shrimp. It’s gastro foreplay, really.
At this point, several sipped-on beer cocktails hang around my plate like a third wheel. Thus far I’ve sampled each dish with a swig of beer and a sip of cocktail, letting my subconscious guide my devilish ways. Each course is served with a Bootlegger’s tasting room exclusive beer and a cocktail created by Hopscotch Mixologist James Wood with the same beer. It’s nice to sample both to see which is worth of tomorrow’s hangover. Beer seems to be winning though, and I’m not sure if it’s a “comfort zone” thing.
Around course four my suspicions of chef were yet again confirmed. Pickled pork belly snow-capped with a load of creamy white goat yogurt is literally food porn in its purest form. Still not convinced of this obvious gastro seduction? Pork, seared in duck fat (the birds) surrounded by lemongrass coulis and honeycomb (the bees) is a nice touch. This gorgeous plate is a feast for the eyes and might be my favorite dish of the night… and year, for that matter. The crispy edge of the pork is like the best jerky you’ve ever had and the middle of the morsel is filled with mouth-exploding juicy pork love. Even the beer pairing of Wildfire Wheat really brings out some exceptional toasty notes from the rauch malt and crispy meat.
The final two courses hit our table crawling. We’re gutted and buzzed with a slight case of the meat-sweats. For the sake of this review, I get up and stretch to make room for a traditional cassoulet and one of the most inventive cocktails I’ve ever tasted. A “Hopsidaisy,” which is basically a Columbus-hopped gin drink containing grapefruit, lemon, house-made thyme syrup on top of Bootlegger’s Tropical Thunder Pale Ale, then garnished with whole cone hops. A one-hundred IBU cocktail is something I would have never expected at a beer dinner, but Hopscotch’s James Wood doesn’t quit. On the beer side, Bootlegger’s Tropical Thunder has a unique story stemming from an “oopsy-daisy” moment at the brewhouse. Originally a Golden Chaos Belgian Golden brewday, the brewers pitched the wrong hops and went with it. To further this “frankenbrew,” they used traditional German hefeweizen yeast and dry hopped it. The end result is an intensely tropical beer with huge banana, mango and pineapple notes stemming from the hops and yeast. It’s truly a unique and refreshing take on a standard hoppy pale ale.
As the evening winds down, dessert of chocolate goat milk cheesecake goes down like a funky flan. The last beer and cocktail pairings are sipped, leftovers are boxed, and a cab is called. I can guarantee some crazy sex dreams will fill my night.
For a first date, I’d say that the two got along beautifully. As with any pairing dinner, I always look for a heightened experience. With each dish, beer and cocktail, excellence was achieved. Some of the pairings brought out nuances of the courses that weren’t there before. Plus, the time, planning, and overall romantic overtones were not lost! I can’t wait to see what Chef Cody Storts and Mixologist James Wood come up with next. This meal is one for the books; the kind you find under a mattress.
View more photos on our Facebook page…
The Hermosillo long stood as a seedy dive bar along York Blvd., but after about 35 years, a shift in ownership brought about some much needed changes. In May of 2012, it was transformed into a quaint craft beer bar with 12 rotating taps, and now—nearly a year and a half later—there’s even more exciting news: they’ve repurposed part of the space to become Highland Park Brewery.
At the brewing helm is 33-year-old Bob Kunz, a passionate craft beer drinker originally from the Pacific Northwest, but you just might recognize from his six-year tenure at Father’s Office. But even before his time at Father’s Office—where he’d moved up the ranks to become general manager of both the Santa Monica and Culver City locations—Kunz got his start in the LA beer scene when he moved down from Utah to take a brewing job at Pasadena’s celebrated Craftsman Brewing Company in 2006.
Stepping into The Hermosillo, I’m greeted by a comfortably open layout with a large bar equipped with an old school overhead projector announcing what beers are on tap, far better than the old pre-algebra equations I’d formerly seen on such contraptions. And after plunking down a glass of Naughty Sauce, I got to try one of Kunz’s wonderful homebrews, a delightful peach sour that instantly got me even more excited about the prospect of having another local brewery here in LA. In between sips, I learned more about his plans and what the future holds for Highland Park Brewery.
A seven-barrel brewhouse was put in place just days before my visit, along with several 15-barrel fermenters, and Kunz is hopeful that beer will be bubbling away as soon as next month. He offers a few ideas for beers that are in his head—a tart Berliner Weisse brewed with Masumoto peaches and nectarines, a sessionable coffee beer, and his “Bob Logger Ale”, a pilsner brewed with ale yeast—but cautions that he doesn’t expect any of his recipes to be available year-round. “For me, craft beer has been all about adventure and discovery,” Kunz waxes. “I’m sure certain beers will gain traction and I’ll make some of them more than once, but brewing the same four beers all the time would bum me out.”
Looking around as we talked, my excitement for the future became mixed with curiosity about the past, since the building quite visibly has some history behind it. Turns out it was constructed in 1929 and has served as a bar since the 1960s. Formerly known as The Hi-Hat before becoming The Hermosillo Club in 1977, it changed hands last year and was completely revamped by co-owners Ross Stephenson, Michael Blackman, and Dustin Lancaster (Bar Covell, L&E Oyster Bar). In addition to dropping “Club” from the name, the new owners gave the Latin-themed décor a much-needed facelift, while still keeping a neighborhood bar feel. The wine list was built to showcase the best grape juice from Mexico and South America, the small-but-mighty craft beer program was put together, and once they reopened, Kunz found himself to be one of their more frequent customers.
“I started bringing in some homebrews to share with the bartenders and the owners,” Kunz recounts. “Sometime around December of last year, one of them asked me if I’d be interested in opening a little microbrewery. That’s when we started talking.”
Kunz is quick to note that he’s had a lot of help along the way, not just from the Hermosillo owners, but also Craftsman’s Mark Jilg (“a huge mentor to me”), Noble Ale Works’ Evan Price, San Diego beer phenom Lee Chase, and the folks at Eagle Rock Brewery, whom he calls “pillars of the community… the most open, helpful, and gracious diplomats for LA beer.”
The Hermosillo will host at least four Highland Park Brewery beers at any given time, and plans to expand their existing 12-tap setup so that it will accommodate 18 once Kunz’s creations come online. In addition to being available for on-site consumption, his beers will be available for growler fills, and kegs will be distributed to some local beer bars.
“It’s great to actually be building a community and having a hand in shaping beer culture… especially here!” says Kunz. “There’s without a doubt an unparalleled excitement about craft beer in LA, and it’s amazing to have a small part in it.” How small remains to be seen. “We’re going to run out of room here pretty quickly,” he confesses while surveying his 400 sq. ft. space. “I don’t know what that means or what it will lead to, but I’m excited to find out!”
Benefiting the Downtown Anaheim Association and the Anaheim Fall Festival Foundation’s Halloween Parade, this Saturday’s Beer Run/Beer Festival, aka the second annual OC Fest of Ales, features 35 local craft breweries from Orange County, Inland Empire and San Diego.
Tickets for just the 5K are $45, with registration ending tonight at midnight.
Beer fest tickets are $50 through tonight (or $25 by going through this link), or $65 for VIP. The VIP is unique in that it has an actual separate area with a dozen local restaurants pairing appetizers with beer. Highlights include The Crow Bar & Kitchen, The Side Door, Hopscotch, Slaters 50/50 and others. The VIP area will have special beers like Bootleggers Knuckle Sandwich, The Bruery’s White Chocolate, Hangar 24’s pro-am winner BOSS and others. Get $10 off a VIP ticket by using the code GONZO.
A homebrew competition will also be judged, with the winner getting to brew their beer at Noble Ale Works.
One week from today The Bruery in Placentia, CA will host a brewery safety essentials class from 8:30 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. The class is being put on by Dan Drown, owner at Drown Consulting, LLC (disclosure: a West Coaster advertiser) and is geared toward craft brewery owners, operations managers, head brewers and brewery employees. Course content is based on Cal OSHA regulations.
Topics to be covered include injury/illness prevention programs, lockout tag out (energy isolation), confined space entry, personal protective equipment, emergency action plans, chemical safety, accident investigation, equipment safety, work comp issues, property protection, Cal OSHA record keeping and more.
Instructors include Dan Drown of Drown Consulting, LLC; Sean Nitzen, AMR, Brewery Insurance Program; and John Hoefer, Brewery Insurance Program. This class was also presented at White Labs this past June, and all three instructors have spoken at past Craft Brewers Conferences.
The cost is $195 per person; view more information at this link.
It’s been said that the craft beer industry is 99% asshole free, a sentiment I’m inclined to agree with. But even after meeting fiercely passionate brewers, bartenders, and the like, someone like Bernie Wire comes along whose kindness and generosity almost defy reason. And even if you don’t know him by name, you’ve likely seen him around at many of the local beer events, snapping pictures and chronicling the rise of LA’s burgeoning craft beer scene.
Since 2011, he’s photographed over 250 shindigs, collecting thousands upon thousands of images featuring everyday people enjoying each other’s company over drinks. And now, he’s selected some of his favorites for an exhibit called “I Shoot Beer People” that’s going up at Mohawk Bend in Echo Park starting on September 17, running through LA Beer Week, and continuing on until October 31.
Bernie has become a mainstay, his happy face capturing other happy faces and uploading the resulting snapshots to his Friends of Local Beer Facebook page at no charge. “I’ve always liked taking pictures,” explains Bernie. “And when you go to these beer events, it’s amazing what you find. You come across folks who truly celebrate craft beer… and they love the people who brew it, sell it, serve it, write about it, or just simply enjoy drinking it. It’s a community unlike any other I’ve ever experienced.”
The 56-year-old Oklahoma native’s photo fascination began when he was a child: “I took pictures of a rock climbing trip I took during summer break one year, and I loved the fact that when I got home, I’d be able to get that memory… that stimulus… all over again through pictures.” Sharing these memories with others further fueled his excitement, even early on. “I turned my pictures into a slide show and played it at show and tell when I got back to school, and the class was really into it,” he recounts.
A single photography class in high school was the only formal study he ever gave the subject, though even when he attended the University of Oklahoma to study microbiology and chemical engineering, he felt most passionate when he nurtured his creative side in art classes, and he ultimately pursued his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with a focus on metalsmithing. “I played with ceramics, but found early on that I really enjoyed the immediacy of metals. While clay had to go off to a kiln to cure and dry, I could weld metals into sculptures and they never had to leave my hands.” It was then that one of his professors, Lane Coulter, asked if Bernie knew anything about titanium. “He told me it could be colored, and this little light went on in my head… I had to see this. I had to do this.”
Titanium was a little hard to come by—Bernie needed to sift through aerospace scrap yards to find what he needed—and not much literature existed at the time that explained how it could be colored, but he persisted and tracked down a paper that gave him the basics. “There are no actual pigments on the metal,” he explains. “You create color through oxidation.” Bernie dips the titanium—a whiter shade of silver in its untreated form—into an electrified chemical bath that creates a layer of titanium dioxide, the thickness of which can be altered by the amount of voltage pumped through the anodizing liquid. It’s the thickness of the oxide film that determines the colors, but Bernie is quick to explain, it’s no pigment. “Think of it like a soap bubble; those colors you see are a result of light waves interacting and interfering with one another as they travel through the film and reflect off the surface.”
He soon discovered a rarely used micro spot-welding machine at the university, and found that it was perfect for joining titanium pieces. He began creating jewelry and working on larger sculptures that would eventually earn him an award at the 1987 International Platinum Design Competition in Tokyo. The photography became even more important through all of this as Bernie would always want to take pictures of his stunning work.
But as many artists will attest, it’s tough to make a living through art. And though Bernie continued creating (and shooting) his pieces, the same microwelding equipment he used for his artwork would lead him to his “real” work that paid the bills. He’d moved to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree at Arizona State University, but bowed out after just one semester. “Three weeks into a two-month research position I proposed on titanium welding, I was doing stuff they said wasn’t possible,” he says proudly. He ended up staying on with the company for five years before moving to Monrovia in 1983 and starting his own consulting business.
By day, he developed processes for welding components—some thinner than a human hair—under a microscope, improving design and functionality for many items such as pacemakers, airbag initiators, ultrasound transducers, microcoaxial cable, and stadium lights. But by night, he continued with his art. “I had no social network at all,” Bernie admits. “It was just work, work, work. But I made discoveries in art that became solutions for productions and vice versa.”
His interest in beer came a little later, with his first visit to the late Greg Noonan’s famed Vermont Pub & Brewery in 1989. “The beer laws in Oklahoma were archaic and there wasn’t a lot of good beer there,” Bernie laments. “Thankfully, that’s changed some since then, but porters and IPAs weren’t even on my radar until heading up to that brewpub in Burlington.”
Bernie loved to take trips with childhood friends whenever possible, and he always brought his trusty camera along with him. After their epiphany in Vermont, many more beer outings were planned, including one to the Great American Beer Festival, which really opened his eyes to the wide world of craft beer. As technology advanced, he created a private website where he could share pictures of his travel, an early precursor to what he does now with pictures of the SoCal craft beer community on Facebook.
As much as he loves taking pictures at these events, he admits he doesn’t know if he can carry on like he has been. “I can’t afford to do it full-time, since I’m usually not getting paid,” he chuckles. He is quick to thank those who have offered to pay him for his photos—places like El Segundo Brewing Co., Monkish Brewing Co., 38 Degrees Alehouse & Grill, Tin Roof Bistro, and Phantom Carriage—but has no plans to stop with his consulting. “Whether I’m welding or making art or taking pictures, I’m just glad I’ve been able to earn my living while having fun,” he beams.
Bernie lives near Culver City with his wife, Anne Marie Gillen, who, in addition to being a most delightful person, does some notable work herself. She’s a consultant, a published author, and served as the executive producer of Fried Green Tomatoes. To see more of Bernie’s photos, head to his “Friends of Local Beer” Facebook page, and to see more of his metal artwork, check out TitaniumArt.com.
“I Shoot Beer People” | a craft beer photo exhibit at Mohawk Bend
Sponsored by West Coaster SoCal
Runs from September 17 through October 31st
Mohawk Bend, 2141 W Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
Opening Reception with photographer Bernie Wire
Tuesday, September 17, 5:30pm-7:30pm