Not just another new brewery -- Highland Park is knocking it out

New breweries are opening almost every day, but there's nothing typical about the Highland Park Brewery

Another week, another new brewery opening in Los Angeles. It’s getting tough to keep up with all the new beer flowing around town, and it’s a great problem for L.A.’s craft beer fans to have. This week’s opening is the long anticipated Highland Park Brewery -- a small operation run out of the Hermosillo bar on York Boulevard.

I recently paid Highland Park Brewery a preview visit on a day that founder/brewer Bob Kunz (a longtime fixture of the Los Angeles craft beer community after years of managing the beer programs at both Father’s Office restaurants and experience as a brewer at Pasadena’s Craftsman Brewery) was prepping fruit to add to a fermenting brew. Kunz and his partners were working their way through some 300 pounds of Masumoto Family Farm peaches and nectarines, and the sticky stone fruit smell filled the 500-square-foot brewery that’s shoehorned into the Hermosillo's back room. 

I sampled four Highland Park brews on my visit: Hello LA, a punchy and fragrant India Pale Ale; Vacation, a low-alcohol Belgian-style beer with big flavor; Wake Up, a smooth and rich coffee beer made with Trystero Coffee; and Refresh, the “house beer” and flagship for the brewery that will be focusing more on experimentation than standard brews.

It’s incredibly difficult to make great beer out of the starting gate, and I’m used to trying beer from new breweries and hedging my expectations and reactions. I try to look at the big picture when trying brand new brews and not get caught up on any minor flaws. I’m not used to being dumbstruck by quality across the lineup of a new brewery.

But here I was so taken by the brews that I called a colleague who’d also just sampled the beers to reality-check my palate. She concurred that Highland Park was already brewing up superlative beers, and we shared a moment marveling over just how impressive that was.

The brewery houses a seven-barrel brewhouse capable of making just over 200 gallons of wort at a time, a pair of 500-gallon fermenters and a tank for conditioning the finished beer before it’s kegged. There is also a brace of plastic “Totes” common in winemaking that Kunz will use for sour beer production. One Tote -- filled with inoculated Berliner Weisse -- would be the destination for all those peaches and nectarines, and the resulting fruited wheat beer should be a refreshing tonic for the long summer days ahead (it might even make a surprise appearance at the brewery’s grand opening party).

Highland Park Brewery beers have been quietly pouring in the Hermosillo bar for a couple of weeks, but the official launch of the operation will be the grand opening party on Saturday. At least eight brews from the brewery will be served from noon until 2 a.m., and they are offering a special $20 package that includes four (five-ounce) tastes of beers, a cheese pairing, a pork belly slider and a commemorative HPB glass.

Highland Park Brewery at the Hermosillo, 5125 York Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 739-6559.

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