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.
Pardilla is the Los Angeles Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes Carolineoncrack.com.