At the Cannibal — the meat-centered New York import anchoring Culver City's Platform retail and restaurant development — beer is given as much consideration as the sustainably farmed and heritage meats on the menu.
There's meat everywhere you look. On the butcher's shop side, coils of sausage and piles of country ham fill the cases while limbs and heads hang in the aging room. Moving from the shop to the dining room requires the careful navigation of a narrow-by-design passage between the patio and the windowed cooler that houses the Cannibal's impressive collection of beer. This is where bottles from Belgium and Germany are displayed beside craft-brewed offerings from local breweries. Behind the bar there's a copper-clad column that spouts a short row of beer taps and a panel covered in an array of dials, hoses and knobs that control the flow rate and carbonation levels of the attached beer kegs. This is where you can often find the restaurant's beer director, Julian Kurland.
A Certified Cicerone — the beer industry's answer to the sommelier — Kurland doesn't just love beer, he knows it, and he's put together a beer program at the Cannibal that spans nine pages and covers just about all the stylistic (and geographic) ground that the beer world has to offer. The list includes dozens of on-draft beers — the 10 taps rotate through styles and is generally split between SoCal favorites (Modern Times, El Segundo Brewing Co.) and Belgian staples (the perennially underrated Bavik pilsner and sour ales from Petrus). The bulk of the offerings are bottled (or, increasingly, canned). This focus on bottled brews is a nod to New York beer culture, and an important part of the Cannibal's mission to normalize beer at the dining table.
"Bottles are a perfect representation of the brewer's intention," says Christian Pappanicholas, who owns the Cannibal. "Plus they're beautiful. You get to see the label and I love that connection."
The draft offerings are also a useful tool to help guide drinkers into the more esoteric regions of the beer list. Kurland says bringing some samples of draft beers to a table is the best way to start a conversation about a diner's beer preferences. "Even if they don't like the beer, it's a great sounding board for directing people into the bottles," he says. "I want to get bottles out there onto tables."
Beer's place at the dinner table has long lagged behind wine's. While every wine lover knows that red wine goes with red meat, there's much less common knowledge when it comes to beer pairings. The Cannibal's extensive beer list gives Kurland and the staff the ability to help diners find the perfect matches for the restaurant's General Tso's pig head or beef bulgogi sausage.
The restaurant is also doubling down on beer education with a series of weekly beer classes and plans for beer dinners and educational seminars this year. The $25 classes are held on Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. and cover topics from the basics of tasting beer, to the brewing process, to deeper dives into individual styles. Formal beer education opportunities are rare in Los Angeles, and Kurland — who's also pursuing a level three Cicerone certification — hopes the Cannibal classes will help raise the beer IQ of L.A.'s diners and indirectly lead to more adventurous offerings on his list.
"We're not pigeonholing ourselves as a beer geek destination," Kurland says. "We've got the esoteric stuff, but we have lots of approachable bottles too. We want to guide people who are maybe new to the world of beer from what they're comfortable with to those esoteric bottles."
8850 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 838-2783, thecanniballa.com.