Photos by Asia Morris.
Five years ago Jimmy Han had considered opening up a wine or champagne bar in Koreatown. But once he realized his craft beer passion, those two ideas were tossed aside to make way for “a little hole-in-the-wall craft beer bar in the back of a parking lot,” “a small little place where people could find some rare beers,” he said. The original Beer Belly was born.
“[...]As I got into craft beer and started going to breweries and meeting the people, it was just a no-brainer that I felt the most comfortable and at home with the beer community,” Han told the Post.
One of the main reasons Han wanted to open the second location in Long Beach is because of the growing, tight-knit beer-loving community already here, but, for him, it’s not just about fitting in. Han plans to contribute to that growth, adding a welcome dimension to 3rd Street and Long Beach Boulevard, home to the 2016 Best Large Brewpub in the World located right around the corner, Beachwood BBQ and Brewing, and its sours side project, The Blendery.
“For Beer Belly, it’s all about the creativity, whether it’s the creativity behind the architecture and design, or the creativity behind the beer or the food that [Chef Wes is] making or even now the cocktails that our bar director comes up with[...],” said Han. “Also with that, it’s all about the discovery experience. [...] where [...] you’re making up your mind for yourself and you are hopefully able to find something that you never knew you liked, whether it’s Duck Fat Fries or a sour beer or a Manhattan.”
A couple days after Beer Belly’s grand opening, the Post stopped by for dinner and drinks. We tried the Acorn Saison and Heavenly Hef from Pasadena-based Craftsman Brewing Company, as well as the Citra Showers from Anaheim-based Noble Ale Works, which occupy three of the 20-plus taps featured as the current selection from local brewers. We also sipped Bar Director Karen Grill’s inventive cocktail, Little Cloud, containing Old Forester bourbon, Pamplemousse rose, Lillet Blanc, lemon and ginger, accessorized with a sliver of grapefruit.
Four of us shared the Bacon Fat Fries, tossed in bacon fat, chile morita, bacon bits, arugula and maple vinegar, the to-die-for House Mac & Cheese, Brussels Sprouts with pancetta, gala apples and onions, Buttermilk Fried Chicken and the beautifully plated Al Pastor Enchilada Meatballs made of ground pork and topped with onion, pineapple, guajillo, achiote, cheddar, pickled jalapeno, Nutella mole and sour cream.
The menu is Long Beach-specific—aside from fan favorite staples, like the Duck Fat Fries, the Beer Belly Grilled Cheese and Beer Belly Wings—with items like the LBC Farmers Market Salad, a weekly rotating salad made of vegetables locally sourced from the variety of Farmers Markets that take place throughout the city. Other uniquely Long Beach selections include the LBC Crab Corn, made of corn off the cob and jumbo lump crab. The menu was created by Chef Wes Lieberher, who has been with Beer Belly since its humble beginnings, when he left his former Hollywood-based gourmet sausage shop Grindhaus.
“The Fried Chicken Cuban is my favorite and that is a Long Beach exclusive menu item,” said Han. “[...]I would pair that with a nice, hoppy IPA from El Segundo.”
Expect to let your most gluttonous self out of its cage for the fair food. Saving room for dessert wasn’t easy, but well worth biting into the crunchy, deep fried layers of oreo and brown cinnamon pop tart, separate menu items that were both paired with a scoop of ice cream. The Deep Fried Oreos also have drizzled stripes of melted Nutella over the top, certainly not the worst, last taste to linger on your palate at the end of a meal.
“Long Beach just felt right in my gut,” said Han. “It’s a great beer community, it’s a great drinking community, it’s a great city, the people are amazing. [...]I just had to follow my gut and say Long Beach is where I want to be, and where I’m willing to take that chance and where I’m willing to grow our community, which is the Beer Belly community, here.”
Beer Belly is located at 255 Long Beach Boulevard.