Highland Park Brewery Grows from Pet Project to One of LA's Best Breweries

By Justin Dolezal, Foodable Contributor

Let's say you want to start a craft brewery. Maybe you're passionate about craft beer, and have been inspired by the rise of craft beer culture in this country. You've brewed at home, honed your skills, and believe that you can create a product that people will want to drink. The current consumer climate is certainly appealing as well: small, independent breweries are currently opening at an unprecedented rate, with scores of drinkers happy to support and indulge in thoughtfully-made beers that emphasize a local identity.

There are logistical challenges to deal with, of course. You're going to need a space, and space costs money. You'll need to figure out how to get your beer to people, which means investing in bottling, canning, or kegging equipment, as well as forging relationships with local beer bars, bottle shops, and event organizers. That's a lot of money you'll need to pony up, so you'll need to be OK dealing with investors. Or, you could just bring your home brews to your local craft beer bar, impress the proprietors with your beer geek knowledge and brewing acumen, and convince them to let you start brewing and serving inside their establishment.

Such was the case with Bob Kunz, who had cut his teeth as the beer manager of Father's Office and as an assistant brewer at Craftsman Brewery before he started bringing his home brews to suddenly-hip Highland Park's The Hermosillo, an old pool hall that was recently converted into a casual neighborhood beer bar. The team at The Hermosillo enjoyed Kunz's beers immensely, and eventually they began discussing the possibility of producing his beers and serving them at the Hermosillo. Thus, Highland Park Brewery was born. Kunz brews out of a seven barrel facility located in the back of the Hermosillo, producing some of LA's best beers in a space only slightly larger than your average studio apartment.

Clearly, Highland Park Brewery began their operation as small as you can get, and it's typical that breweries in their infancy experience some growing pains, as recipes are tweaked and the ins and outs of new equipment are sorted out. That's what made Highland Park Brewery's first year so compelling: the brewery's beers have shown a level of quality and sophistication that is unusual for such a young operation.

Highland Park Brewery  | Yelp, Joe H.

Highland Park Brewery | Yelp, Joe H.

Kunz's experience brewing under Craftsman's Mark Jilg is certainly plays a part, as does Highland Park Brewery's focus on exploring a range of eclectic, yeast-fueled beer styles. In addition to a list of flavorful IPAs and burly stouts, the brewery has made its name by producing several fantastic saison-style ales. Highland Park's saisons generally tone down the spicy, phenolic flavors associated with most Belgian-inspired farmhouse ales, instead focusing on barrel-aged beers that tend to be bright and refreshingly tart.

Highland Park Brewery's lineup is generally fantastic, with quality brews available in most style categories. Here are five standouts that show off the brewery's eclectic, playful side, and would make a worthy addition to any beverage program featuring local, craft brews. 

Sun Soaked Berliner Weisse

The Berliner Weisse, a tart, refreshing German wheat ale, is a style that's often overlooked, as consumers often seek out beers with more robust flavor profiles (the style's general low alcohol content, often hovering around 3.5%, doesn't help either). It's a shame, as a good Berliner Weisse on a hot day can be a sublime experience. Highland Park's Sun Soaked is one of the better examples of the style out there, a light, brightly-acidic beer with a touch of oak. 

All the Yeast

As previously stated, Highland Park Brewery seems to have mastered the art of dry, tart saisons that are wonderfully easy to drink, while retaining a bit of earthen complexity. All the Yeast exemplifies this as well as any of their beers. Its flavor profile is predictably yeast-forward, with white pepper, citrus zest, and subtle funk, with pleasant grain and oak notes. The finish is smooth and dry, making All the Yeast an absolute pleasure to drink.

Wake Up

A collaboration endeavor brewed with local Trystero Coffee, Wake Up achieves a flavor profile that all coffee beers should aspire to. The dark chocolate and roast malt flavors typical of the style are certainly present, but with a low level of bitterness that allows the nuanced, fruity coffee bean aromas to shine though. The body is thick and rich, while still clocking in at a relatively demur 5.3%.

1UP West Coast Super IPA

Since Highland Park Brewery is in Southern California, they could have their business license revoked if they didn't brew up several citrus-drenched IPAs. Luckily, they produce several capable of keeping the hop patrol satisfied. Hello LA and Beer Spaceship are both high-quality options, but my pick is 1UP, a fruity, sticky hop bomb that retains HPB's signature easy drinkability. The beer hovers around 8%, but never feels taxing or heavy.

Is there anything this brewery can't do? No, probably not.