The Surly Goat in West Hollywood

This new watering hole specializes in beer.

March 12, 2010|By Margaret Wappler

L.A. night life impresario Adolfo Suaya might be the Paul Krugman of the rapidly downsizing Los Angeles bar scene. "This recession," he said from vacation in Patagonia, "isn't going anywhere. People have no money right now, and beer is cheaper than a Jack and Coke."

As a result, Suaya decided to abandon his usual formula for luxe drinking and dining establishments, which he applied to some acclaim when launching nightclub Goa, Dolce (which famously boasted Ashton Kutcher as an investor) and the Lodge, a ski-lodge-themed steakhouse in Beverly Hills -- now all closed. "I've done many trendy places in my life, and I didn't want to do them anymore," he said.

Hence the Surly Goat, a new watering hole specializing in beer that he opened with partner Ryan Sweeney as well as Brandon Bradford and Alen Aivazian in the old V.I.P. area of the closed 24K Lounge. Instead of velvet ropes, there's a stuffed white goat's head silently judging the patrons from its perch above the bar. The West Hollywood establishment with tufted banquettes and mellow lighting takes its cues from Verdugo Bar, Bradford and Sweeney's laid-back fixture of the Glassell Park neighborhood.

"We wanted to open a place that would last a long time," Suaya said. "We want it to be like an Irish pub with lots of stuff up on the walls and a feel like it's been there forever."

They already have a head start on getting the dark gray and red walls crowded with the kind of ephemera drinkers can cloudily gaze into, wondering where it all came from. Sweeney, a self-professed "beer geek" who's made pilgrimages to Belgium, Germany and other places of sudsy yore, found many vintage beer posters from Germany and the U.S. celebrating bock beer, a seasonal brew that also inspired the bar's name.

In German, bock means both "strong lager" and "billy goat." There are many tales concerning how the beer came to be named after the stubborn beast, but the bottom line is that the strong lager was known for knocking you off your barrel, much like a blow from a billy goat. In celebration of their opening last month, Eagle Rock Brewery made a bock beer for the Surly Goat that's already run dry.

With 27 beers on draft, changed according to season and trends and featuring alcohol contents ranging from 4% to more than 12%, there is ample opportunity for any patron to get in touch with the spirit of the Surly Goat.

But the bar also affords more unusual experiences. During opening week, they served Pliny the Younger, a triple IPA with a fanatical following -- "it's like 'Star Wars' for beer geeks," Sweeney said -- and in the future they will offer hand-pumped cask beer with only all-natural carbonation, kept at 50 degrees in low humidity.

For now, there isn't any dining service and there are no concrete plans to offer food, but Sweeney is in discussions with neighborhood restaurants, lest any hungry drinkers get too surly. "The bar is still a work in progress," he said. "We're still watching and learning what it needs to be."

And though the Surly Goat may lure in beer aficionados with its Pliny supplies and other catch-it-while-it-lasts brews, it will always eschew becoming a scene. It's there to offer a respite to West Hollywood denizens tired of getting on heels or some Prada button-down whenever they want to have a drink.

"We have a dance license," Sweeney said. "But I'm choosing for it to be something else. You can wear your pajamas, I don't care."

margaret.wappler@latimes .com

The Surly Goat

Where: 7929 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood

When: 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily

Price: No cover; most draft beers between $5 and $9

Contact: (323) 650-4628;

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