Bob Kunz Discusses His Highland Park Brewery

highland park brewery
highland park brewery

Bob Kunz, the brewmaster for Highland Park Brewery in Los Angeles.

Highland Park Brewery brings craft beer to Los Angeles and we were told its brewmaster Bob Kunz had some unique ideas. We figured we’d touch base and see how his operation is going.

BM: Where did you get the inspiration to open Highland Park Brewery?

BK: The idea of opening a brewery smack dab in the middle of a neighborhood or community definitely came from living in the northwest — I’m from the Seattle area. Everywhere you turn there you find a brewery. I live in Highland Park — a neighborhood in Los Angeles — now and it’s kinda unreal that I can walk or bike to work or that most of the people that get to experience our beer are usually our friends or neighbors.

BM: How is Highland Park different from other breweries in your region?

BK: It’s kind of bonkers, but we are the only brewery in the city of Los Angeles that is a brewpub and located within a walkable neighborhood. That alone is awesome. The fact that we are pretty small is pretty rad too because it means we are nimble and can take more risks and really go on an adventure with the beers we make. I love experimenting with non-traditional fermentation, unique sour beer techniques, and of course getting to use all the wonderfully aromatic hops we have access to these days.

BM: What were some of your early struggles, and how have you over come those?

BK: Man, there are so many facets to opening a brewery. We had a pretty small budget, which meant we had to do most of the work ourselves. It is pretty much a daily routine of learning a new skill or trade. I’ve found myself doing plumbing, electrical, engineering, HVAC, permitting, you name it, and pretty much all of these things I have no prior experience doing. The biggest thing that I’ve found is that with determination, and Google, you can usually figure out how to do anything. You just can’t be afraid of failing or let failing hold you back. Almost everything we’ve done in the brewery we’ve already redone two or three times and each time the work, engineering or design gets a little bit better.

BM: With the current water issues in Southern California, what made you open your brewery in East LA?

BK: Back to the first two questions, the overwhelming thought that guided my location choice was that it was in the community I live. I’m fairly curtain that if we didn’t exist in Highland Park that people would still be drinking beer here, which means that someone would still be using water to make the beer, it would just have to travel from a greater distance. Making local beer just makes sense to me because 1) it makes for fresher beer 2) it has less travel and storage impact on the environment, and 3) it creates jobs for our local economy.

BM: What has been the reception from patrons?

BK: Wow! It’s truly been unreal how well we’ve been received. We didn’t generate a whole lot of fanfare prior to opening and then, Bam! As soon as we started making beer things just took off. We got some killer reviews in the LA Times, LAWeekly, and LA Magazine and that has really propelled enthusiasm for our beer and an ever increasing crowd of people seeking out Highland Park Brewery. I feel incredibly fortunate to be where I am now.

BM: Where would you like to see Highland Park in the next five years?

BK: We will definitely grow, but probably not in a very traditional way. Instead of growing into a giant production facility, we will probably do a few modest sized retail locations that connect directly with their surrounding community. We will keep distribution local with the majority of our beer being sold at our brewery or tasting room. I definitely see a fair amount of our growth and energy being dedicated to farmhouse, wild and sour beers too, which is probably the thing I’m most excited about!

 

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