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Highland Park Brewery expands into a new spacious home in Chinatown

Bartender Nick Rupnarain pours a beer at the new Highland Park Brewery brewpub in Chinatown.
(John Verive)

Bob Kunz, co-founder of Highland Park Brewery, put the “micro” in microbrewery when he turned a tiny space in the back of the Hermosillo, a popular York Boulevard bar, into one of L.A.’s premier craft beer operations. Now, Kunz and his partners get to stretch their legs with the opening of a second, much larger Highland Park Brewery, located across from Los Angeles State Historic Park in Chinatown. Just a half mile southwest of David Chang’s restaurant Majordomo on Spring Street, and opposite the venerable Nick’s Cafe on Elmyra Street, the Highland Park Brewery expansion offers a deep list of the brewery’s wide range of styles, from the usual suspects to the wildly experimental.

There are, of course, the hop-centered IPAs — both classical West Coast style (dry and bitter) and trendy New England-style versions (soft and fruity) are available. The hoppy beer at Highland Park Brewery may get all the glory, but Kunz is excited to have more space in the new site to house an expanded barrel program for the fermentation and conditioning of the rustic ales that interest him. Beer such as the funky On Leaves (a farmhouse ale fermented in oak barrels and flavored with locally foraged “forest leaves,” including lemon balm, mugwort and eucalyptus) and Twiced Pinot (a tart saison tinged purple with Pinot Noir pomace) show off another side of the brewery. The added flexibility of the second brewhouse also means more experimentation with lagers, and the pungent and tropical 90 Hour Days is the newest entry in the brewery’s popular line of hopped-up lagers inspired by German Pilseners.

The taproom at the new Highland Park Brewery in Chinatown.
(John Verive )

The beer is the most important aspect of Highland Park Brewery’s identity, but there’s no denying that the partnership with the Hermosillo bar was also a significant part of its success. When the brewery opened in 2014, it transformed the hip neighborhood beer and wine bar into a top-tier destination for L.A. beer. The Chinatown brewpub is imminently Instagrammable, with a flood of light from the casement windows along the eastern wall and a mix of industrial textures and more refined finishes. A banquette runs along two sides of the tap room, more tables are scattered into a few distinct “zones,” and the focal point of the room is the long bar that wraps around a prow-shaped protrusion that houses the taps and beer list.

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The brewpub will also serve guest beer from other breweries and wine. And the full kitchen offers bar-friendly snacks such as Tex-Mex queso and chips, beer-battered fried cheese curds and more substantial plates including chicken tinga tacos and a sausage plate. Apart from more space and more beer, there’s another exciting aspect to the brewpub: a patio. Running along the front of the building, the patio looks across Spring Street to the Chinatown Metro station with views of the skyline to the west.

The brewery in the back of the Hermosillo will keep making beers, but the new facility houses a brewhouse twice the size of the original compact system, more tanks for fermenting beer, and lots of room to grow. Expect more barrel-aged brews, more experimentation with lager styles and more packaged product as Highland Park Brewery moves into its next chapter in Chinatown.

1220 N. Spring St., Los Angeles, (323) 739-6459, www.hpb.la.

food@latimes.com

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