Unlike most young newlyweds who jump on the baby track once they get married, Jimmy and Yume Han decided to open a business instead. "We knew we wanted to go into business together, but we didn't know what," Yume said. "But Jimmy basically started falling in love, all of a sudden, about three years ago, with craft beer." So he gave up his job in real estate and she gave up hers in fashion and they pooled their life savings.
The result is Beer Belly, a craft beer bar opening up this Friday, May 20, in Koreatown, in a 1,500-square-foot space formerly occupied by a Chinese restaurant not far from the Wiltern.
There will be 12 rotating beers on tap (at a "recession-friendly" $10 and under) as well as a variety of bottled beer which include rarities from Han's private cellar, like The Bruery's Mischief Gone Wild and Lost Abbey Red Poppy. He has been collecting beer for several years now and only has one or two bottles of everything. Needless to say there are some bottles that Han's keeping for himself, like The Bruery's Chocolate Rain, which goes for about $450 on eBay.
For the opening, the beers on tap are from local breweries like Eagle Rock Brewery and The Bruery. Although the bar owner would like to focus on Southern California breweries, he said eventually he'd like to expand the menu to include imports as well.
To drive home the point that their establishment is all about educating the masses about craft beer, especially in Koreatown where Hite is the beer of choice, the Hans hired beertenders who already possessed a background in the beer world, coming from beer-serious places like Wurstkuche and Golden State. The staff also had to undergo training by Christina Perozzi (co-author of The Naked Pint and former beer sommelier of Father's Office Santa Monica). Perozzi also advised the Hans on the tap list for the bar. "I helped them, but they have a pretty good handle on what they wanted!" said Perozzi, who also said she's "on call" should they need advice.
The modern space, designed by MAKE Architecture (which also designed Bodega Wine Bar), features a play on different textures: mahogany wood on the walls, recycled Coke bottle chairs, steel tables and polished concrete floors. And although license restrictions don't allow for bar stools at the bar, about 35 drinkers can sit comfortably on bench seating along the wall as well as a couple of six tops near the window; maximum occupancy is 60.
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Beer Belly is tucked in the parking lot off Western Avenue, but you won't be able to miss it thanks to its eye-catching exterior covered in street art designed by Han's friend, Yoshihiro Takahashi (aka MR44).
For those who like to snack while they drink, the 500-square-foot kitchen will turn out a simple and easily executable menu of five shareable dishes. Think asparagus, beet and tofu salad and Grindhaus boar sausage. What? No burgers? "I thought about doing a burger but then I just had these nightmares, 'Oh my god, he's copying Father's Office, oh my god, he's copying In-N-Out,'" Jimmy Han said.
Here's the tap list for opening night: Black Market Hef; Black Market Brown Ale; The Bruery Rugbrod; The Bruery Orchard White; Craftsman Cabernale; Eagle Rock Populist IPA; and Taps Vienna Country Lager. Jimmy Han said it may change, as he's been drinking while setting up the bar.
For any non-beer drinkers who stumble into the bar, there will also be a couple of wines available, as well as a selection of gourmet sodas.