Have you driven down Alameda lately, as it skirts Little Tokyo and dips into Arts District territory? Then surely you must have noticed the hulking brick building at the corner of Alameda and Traction, a mere stone's throw from Wurstküche and Far Bar, two well-respected craft beer locations in their own right. Or, perhaps you once tasted the malted hops yourself at this corner lot, early last year or sometime in 2011, when the loading dock doors were open, walls were stacked high with street art and the taps flowed freely with Angel City beer. If so, you're probably thinking to yourself about now: What the hell happened to Angel City Brewery?
In short: a lot. Back in 2010, Angel City owner Michael Bowe purchased the Roebling Building on Alameda with an eye towards expanding his craft brewing empire. Previously, Bowe had been brewing in Torrance, but amongst rumors of a soured business deal at his former location and a desire to grow his business, Bowe moved his operation to the heart of the City of Angels. Within weeks, tanks and taps were installed, and Angel City Brewery was open for business -- sort of. There wasn't exactly a ton of oversight to the space, and more than one reveler managed to take the former warehouse's gigantic metal slide for a ride straight to the hospital. But summer nights on the patio or touring the dusty warehouse corners, craft beer in hand, certainly felt special. Finally, Los Angeles was getting its own brewery, right downtown, with plenty of room to expand and grow into the sort of thing that San Diego or San Francisco has had for years. Then... nothing.
The doors rolled down, the gate clicked shut, and before anyone knew what was happening, Angel City was out of Bowe's hands. Sold, read the skimpy press release, to a couple of out-of-towners from the Eastern seaboard with ties to craft brew megamonster Boston Beer. What's worse, the company in charge was called Alchemy & Science -- doesn't that just sound like a nefarious front for some reclusive super villain?
Well, for a super villain, it turns out Alan Newman is a pretty likable guy. The canary-yellow spectacled Newman makes up one half of the Alchemy & Science team, alongside Stacey Steinmetz, who herself doesn't sound like much of a rapscallion. And what are these not-so-evil-doers up to now that they've taken over Angel City Brewery? "Increase craft beer market share, and do it in North America. Those are my only two criteria," says Newman during a recent visit to the downtown Art Deco brewery. "We have 16 million people in a 45-minute radius. The goal here is to become a strong local brewery, doing our best to educate people on great beer and becoming part of the local community. It's that simple."
Since taking over for Bowe little more than a year ago, Newman and Steinmetz have set about revamping the Roebling Building to suit their brewing needs, and revitalizing the Angel City name by producing approachable, high quality craft beers. And that takes time. "Right now, we've just been trying to dial in our two beers that are out in the world. I didn't want to distract us with anything else," Newman reiterates, as we pass through the much-improved warehouse space. Those beers -- Angeleno IPA and Eureka! Witbier -- have been popping up with increasing frequency at beer bars throughout Los Angeles. But that's just the beginning.
Back at the lair, Newman and his Angel City team have been hard at work shaping the massive space. The building itself, built in 1913, came with built-in Art Deco touches in the lobby and a few gems leftover from the original days, like that big metal slide. It's roped off now, and all the art is gone. Instead, the room is a series of columns and open spaces, waiting patiently for chairs and tables to fill in the gaps. Towards the southern end, there's a curvy wooden bar with Deco accents in front of a single row of silver taps awaiting the next pint glass. When that will be is still anyone's guess, although Newman knows they're close. "I would have bet a lot of money that we'd be open now, and I'd have been wrong."
There are glimmers of hope. Just last Friday, Angel City Brewery used a one-day permit to pull up the loading dock doors again and invite the neighborhood inside. Social media followers and neighborhood peekers got an early look at what will soon become Angel City Brewery for real. There still wasn't much seating and the corners might have suffered from a touch of dust, but it was Alchemy & Science's first true sign that they've successfully revived the monster they inherited. It's alive, as they say.
So what happens next? Angel City plans to open for business by early spring, and will slowly expand their hours and tap availability from there. Until then, you can head to any number of well-curated drink spots to taste a bit of Angel City, fresh from the keg. Meanwhile, Alan Newman will still be lurking in the shadows somewhere, spookily trying to win over craft beer drinkers, one pint at a time. "We need to turn on the people who drink beer in Silver Lake, in Echo Park, in West Hollywood," presses Newman. "It's not my goal to come in and steal market share from any of the breweries who are already here -- there's just not enough share there. My goal is to grow the total market." That doesn't sound like such an evil plan after all.
Angel City Brewery
216 S. Alameda St.
Los Angeles, CA 90012