LA’s Belgian-inspired gastropub
The Allagash saison ale pairs well with the chocolate and cheese board at Little Bear. (Caroline Pardilla)
For beer neophytes, perusing the carefully curated brew list at Little Bear, a new Belgian-inspired gastropub in Los Angeles’s Arts District, could be a humbling experience.
There are no macro lagers, like Bud Light or Stella, that mainstream drinkers are familiar with, nor any helpful flavour descriptions. But co-owner Ryan Sweeney said the uninitiated should not be afraid to ask for guidance, as his well-trained staff are always eager to educate customers and offer suggestions.
This is not surprising, since Sweeney -- the city’s first cicerone (certified beer sommelier) – has always been on a mission to develop craft beer culture, starting with the opening of beer bar Verdugo in 2007, in the neighbourhood of Glassel Park.
“[A cicerone’s] job is to educate people and explain what beer is, beer history, kind of open the door and show them it’s not just macro lagers and Super Bowl Sunday,” Sweeney said.
At Little Bear, Sweeney handpicked the Belgian-specific beer list, and like his wine counterparts, he can offer pairing suggestions to go with chef Andre Guerrero’s (The Oinkster, Maximiliano) dishes.
Try the popular moules frites with Allagash White, a witbier (white beer). “Witbiers are soft and work with mussels, they aren’t overwhelming,” Sweeney said. For the chocolate and cheese plate, order a saison (farmhouse ale). And when in doubt, Sweeney said to get a dubbel (a strong brown ale), which goes with everything.
Little Bear is low-key enough for locals to stop in for a meal or a few Chimays. But the old European decor, with its high ceilings, gold-leaf lettering along the counter’s edges and antique maps on the walls, is impressive enough for a birthday celebration or a date.
Currently the menu is Belgian-focused, but Sweeney and Guerrero plan to include beer and food from other countries like Spain and Italy soon.