By Aaron Ramson
I spent close to seven years as a first responder before switching careers and walking into Babe’s Brewhouse to beg for a job. The restaurant and brewery’s operations manager, Art Vasquez, hired me on to scrub trenches and wash kegs, but soon enough I was being taught the basics of production brewing in Babe’s 10 bbl brewery. By the next year’s Coachellafest concert, I was being introduced to Art’s colleague and acquaintance, Jimmy Han. Jimmy was the curator of Chella’s beer barn, putting together the craft beer menu for the culturally diverse patrons of the event. Jimmy also owns a couple of gastropubs around Los Angeles that have become craft havens for hipsters, scenesters and beer-elitists.
The pubs are called Beer Belly, and Korea town will unfortunately be losing its location this Sunday.
News has spread of Jimmy closing the K-Town beer belly location, with July 28th being the day it opens its doors for the last time. I joined Art as well as Total Wine manager, Raul Medina, and beer blogger Adam Landres for a field trip to visit Jimmy Han at his Korea Town Beer Belly for the last time. Renowned for an eclectic menu featuring everything from grilled broccoli to deep fried pop tarts, the two pub treats that I return to over and over are their famous duck fat fries, and the equally decadent deep-fried pork belly chips. While we had every intention of ordering from Beer Belly’s food menu, that didn’t keep us from making a pit stop at another LA based hotspot, Tommy’s Burgers. There is something about the chili from Tommy’s that is unmistakable, and almost impossible to duplicate anywhere else. I ordered the double cheeseburger and a tray of chili cheese fries knowing damn well it wasn’t going to stop me from eating again once we got to Korea Town. We finished our first meal of the day and continued on our trek to Beer Belly.
We managed to miss the traffic and congestion that defines driving in the city, and arrived at Beer Belly a full hour before it opened. We found the Brightside of this situation by getting cozy in a local taproom. Southland beer is a little beer bar as known for their handmade empanadas as they are their selection of local craft brews. After getting acquainted with some of LA’s most recommended beers on tap, we walked the few blocks back to Beer Belly, and emotionally steeled ourselves against all of the carbs that were soon to head our way.
There were four barrel-aged stouts on tap, a variety of wild ales and sour saisons, the requisite IPAs and DIPAs, and we meant to try all of them. Jidori chicken wings were ordered, duck fat fries, pork belly chips, Sriracha beast burgers. Jimmy Han came over to sit and chat with Art, and he was as humble and unassuming as I remembered him to be. Jimmy was somewhat cryptic as to why he was choosing to close his Korea Town Beer Belly, but a focus on growing his Long Beach location seemed to be part of several factors that led his choice. This was only my fourth time going to Beer Belly but if I were a local, this place would have been my hot spot. Not a single AB InBev or MillerCoors beer on tap, with food fresh cooked to order, and the vibe of a place filled with people who appreciate craftsmanship. After a few hours of occupying tablespace, it was time to pay our bill and leave.
As full as we were, that didn’t deter us from stopping at King Taco on the way home for our 3rd mean in 6 hours.
As this article goes to press, there are only four more days till Korea Town Beer Belly closes its doors and says goodbye. If you haven’t been at all or in a while, I strongly recommend a trip to Jimmy Han’s location to enjoy it while we still can. Located at 532 Western Ave. Los Angeles, CA, this weekend is your last chance to eat and drink at one of the purest craft pubs in our neighboring city of Los Angeles. If you do decide to stop in to pay your respects, please pick me up an XL tee-shirt. I’ll pay you back.