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Angel City lands downtown

The craft brewery's owner, Michael Bowe, has plenty of plans for the enormous space at his new spot, starting with his grand opening this weekend.

March 18, 2011|By Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times
  • Michael Bowe, owner of Angel City Brewing, holds four of his craft beers, Angel City Brewing Vitzen, Lester Young Porkpie Hat, Belgian Night Train and Rahsaan Roland Kirk Stritch Stout, inside the new Angel City Brewing space in downtown Los Angeles.
Michael Bowe, owner of Angel City Brewing, holds four of his craft beers,… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)

When Michael Bowe opens the front door of Angel City Brewing in downtown Los Angeles, he points to the logo on his black polo shirt.

"See this?" he says excitedly. The design is a simulacrum of the distinctive pointed top of L.A. City Hall. The real thing looms on the horizon just northwest of Angel City's brick entryway.

"I started in Culver City 14 years ago, then bought the brewery in Torrance, but I always knew I'd move to downtown L.A.," he says of the now-omniscient logo, which he created back when Angel City was just a little upstart craft brewery that could.

Now it is poised to open in its new location on Friday as a massive 27,000-square-foot project in the works, with the capacity to brew 1,500 barrels a year. Plans include a full-service restaurant, a VIP lounge with pool tables, a special-event room, two stages for live music, a tasting bar, a beer garden and a gift shop.

If Bowe — who began home brewing in the mid-1990s, winning the award for California home brewer of the year twice in a row — follows through with his game plan, L.A. will have a worthy new tourist destination. And one that locals can't help but embrace.

Bowe's timing could not be more perfect. Craft beer is a hot libation in L.A. these days, with a host of new bars and restaurants, including the soon-to-open Mohawk Bend in Echo Park, the Federal Bar in North Hollywood and Public School 612 in downtown L.A., specializing in small-batch varieties.

Adding to the excitement is the slew of craft beer crawls and festivals that have cropped up in the last two years.

"Like the logo, it was meant to be," says Bowe, whose strong jaw and lean physique make him look like he just stepped out of the pages of an L.L. Bean catalog. "I'm in the right brewery, in the right place, at the right time."

Then there's the beer itself. Strong, rich, nuanced and flavorful, it comes in thick brown bottles with clever labels often devoted to Bowe's jazz heroes (he is a jazz saxophonist and released an album of Cole Porter favorites seven years ago). Rahsaan Roland Kirk Stritch Stout and Lester Young Porkpie Hat dark lager round out a varied line that also includes Angel City Vitzen (hefeweizen) and Belgian Night Train.

In the last two years, Angel City has taken home seven gold medals and two silver at the L.A. international beer competition at the L.A. County Fair.

The German-built brewing system, including a brew house, fermenters and bright tanks, was transferred to the three-story 1913 John A. Roeblings building from their former home in the Bavarian fantasyland that is Alpine Village in Torrance. The facility, with its original tile work, molding and exposed brick, should be fully operational in a month, with the restaurant coming within the year. But for now, Bowe is just excited to welcome his neighbors to Friday's celebrations and Saturday's grand opening.

Lots of beer, live music, local art and food trucks will be on offer. And on Saturday, Bowe's brother Matthew will cook tri-tip and sausage for the crowd.

"L.A. may not have a pro football team," says Bowe. "But at least now we'll have a great microbrewery."

jessica.gelt@latimes.com

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