Amidst the busy streets of LA’s Koreatown, somewhere amongst the countless fine Soju bars, nightclubs, karaoke joints, eateries, and high-end clothing stores, you’ll find an emerging craft beer scene. Enter Beer Belly – the second high-end beer bar to open in the area after Biergarten. Where Biergaten focuses on the traditional Belgian & German imports, Beer Belly focuses on the local flavors. Eagle Rock Brewery, Cismontane, Taps, Bootlegger’s, Bruery, Black Market, and many other LA area craft breweries are finding their way to Beer Belly’s taps. You’ll even find microbrewed sodas and rootbeer tasting flights for the non-drinker or designated driver. To accompany the Locapour beer selection, Jimmy, the owner, with the help of his wife and head chef, have prepared an awesome beer pairing menu. Here are a few of the things we tried.
Duck Fat Fries
Quad Deck Grilled Cheese with Gruyere, Goat Cheese, Bacon, and Maple
Fried Catfish N’ Chips w/ Kimchee Tartar Sauce Artichoke Chips
Salami & Cheese Plates
Fried Twinkies & Waffle Battered Oreos.
John and I have been following @hopheadjim (Jimmy Han) and @BeerBelly_LA for a little while now, and we were excited to get a tweet inviting us to come and share our newest creation “Forbidden Pils.” We set out for Beer Belly with growlers in hand…er…mini ice chest….mini heavy ice chest.
The outside of the building is adorned with a large Beer Belly sign and also huge “Drink” & “Park” words & arrows that make figuring out how to get into the bar and how to get back to the parking lot a snap (not a given on busy crowded LA streets). We walked in and were immediately impressed by the checkered wood panelling on the walls, beer tasting books, intimate bar and seating area, and of course lots of taps. We saw Jimmy right away, with a smile and a wave he ushered us into the back seating area and we started talking shop. Jimmy told us about Beer Belly and how it got started. You’d never realize it now but it was a former tire shop. His goal was to create a small, family-operated place that he could be proud of — somewhere he could teach people about everything craft beer and expose people to LA’s burgeoning beer scene. Beer Belly isn’t huge inside, but that’s the way Jimmy wants to keep it. He wants it to be a more intimate forum for beer geeks new and old alike.
After talking for a bit and sampling some of that incredible food and beer, we broke into tasting our Wedding Saison & Forbidden Pils. We wanted to get the most accurate and honest feedback possible from everyone that tried it, and that’s just what happened. Forbidden Pils has been an instant hit ever since its debut. It’s a very sessionable beer, but at the same time it’s one that can easily be slowly enjoyed. The saison was also very popular; Jimmy really liked this one. When more people joined us for the tasting later in the night we got some mixed reactions, but it was all good. Beer people, especially ones you don’t know, love to talk about beer, and they love to tell you the truth. We talked to James, owner of Golden State Cafe (www.thegoldenstatecafe.com), who referred to our Saison as a “60’s recording of Frank Sinatra.” He talked about how layered and complex it was, but ultimately it wasn’t his favorite – he definitely liked the pils. We met Ric Syberg who, while usually manning the beer bar, was cooking in the kitchen when we got there, but he joined us for the tasting too. We are looking forward to doing a collaboration with Bierkast sometime in the future.
John had the pleasure of meeting Steven Armstrong, fellow beer connoisseur and active columnist known as @gourmandeeze in the twitter-verse. Chris Day, a mixologist from the restaurant SOTO, was also a fan of the saison. Paul, @ahoypaulchoi, the marketing director for Beer Belly, joined in the fun and sampled our brews. All in all it was an amazing evening and solid win for Bierkast and Los Angeles Ale Works.
In short, Beer Belly is a great beer bar with tasty & hip fusion gastropub food that will not disappoint. Jimmy met and exceeded his goal of creating a welcoming, intimate environment for anyone would appreciates good food and drink.
We will definitely be coming back soon with friends to help support what Jimmy is doing in Koreatown. If you are interested in going to Beer Belly, go check it out. It’s near the intersection of Western and 5th, near the Korean bank. And guess what–there’s a ton of parking!
532 S. Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90020
P.S. They also have a small but mighty craft beer bottle selection!
– Kip B.
Los Angeles Ale Works™