It’s a rare day when I find myself up in LA. When friend and food writer Richard Manning simply stated, “you’re going, that’s final”, I knew I had no choice but to hit Haven Gastropub‘s new northern spawn. I got my haircut. I manscaped. I washed my car. I even cooked pizza for the babysitter. My wife dolled herself with a mini skirt, thigh high boots and a black cardigan. Rich and wife Heather arrive at our house, punctual as ever, looking fresh-faced and ready to party. Magic is happening tonight, folks!
As we arrive, winter’s last gust blows us into Haven’s foyer and a nearby open table sweeps us off our feet. The electronic tap list of forty beers seduces me into a lengthy starting contest. “Can I get you started with a beer or wine” says our waiter, an older gentleman looking like a mix of Harvey Keitel and Wolf Blitzer, but with a German accent. A mild version of stage fright overcomes me. “I’d like a flight” I say like a kid at 31 Flavors. “Hello World, Victory At Sea, TAPS Irish Red and Humulus Lager sound good.” I scan the differences between Haven in Orange and Pasadena; most notably the “addition” of the +Brewery screams for my attention off to the side of the main dining area.
Haven’s stainless steel brewery sits behind sheets of glass; steam bellowing over the top into the pub. There are few aromas in life that can tap directly into my soul: freshly made tortillas, lighter fluid on a charcoal barbecue, or the smell outside after a fresh rain. To a brewer, the smell of freshly mashed grain, boiling wort, and hop additions tack on to that list. Haven’s aura is all that. I found myself inhaling deeply through my nose as if a beautiful stranger passed close by. I moan the word “GRAINS” like a creepy vegan zombie as my wife predictably rolls her eyes.
As my flight is delivered, I immediately suck down ‘Hello World’. Dubbed as an American Pale Ale, this beer quickly grabs my attention with a full body and pleasant, yet “not-quite-IPA” hop character. It’s damn close to an IPA. Hell, if this beer and an IPA walked into a bar, the barkeep would promptly ask, “Is this some kind of joke?”. Indeed. Be careful, as ‘Hello World” is also right on the cusp of IPA-land at 7%. Note that Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, arguable one of the finest IPA’s available anywhere, is also 7% ABV. $5 for a pint of Haven’s first beer makes this an easy choice.
The stars must have aligned perfectly as Wil Dee, Haven’s beverage manager, hand-delivers a flight of their second beer, ‘Sosigenes’ Double IPA (8.7%). “You’re the first customers to taste this, cheers!” Historically, Sosigenes (pronounced soh-SIJ-uh-knees) was an astronomer noted for creating the Julian calendar that incorporates a leap day. Brewed on leap year day and the fact Pliny the Elder (not the Russian River beer) actually named Sosigenes, makes this a perfect name! The beer is bright golden in color with a lively yet creamy carbonation. Boasting many of the big ‘C’ hops along with Warrior and Glacier give it a notable but pleasant earthy aroma. The maltyness is there as well, similar to Avery Majaraja; although it was tough to nail down with a 4oz taster. I grabbed my wife’s to be sure (she drove).
Head brewer Dave Larsen stopped by table-side in a Cismontane shirt and a tell-tale brewers beard. “I was a home brewer and sous chef at Haven in Orange. They decided to promote within.” David’s new office is an ample 15bbl brew system that is sufficient for keeping up with Haven’s needs. During my tour, Dave is cleaning up after a Breakfast Stout brewday. Grains strung about with random buckets full of sanitizer. “I brewed with Evan at Cismontane, Victor Novak at TAPS, and Tyler at the Bruery to learn the ropes of a big system” says Dave. I’m curious if having Chef Greg Daniels in the kitchen is going to drive some crazy and inventive beer recipes. “We shall see, however Greg gives me full creative license”.
Furthering our tour into the depths of the kitchen and dual cold storage rooms, Wil Dee shows off one of the most revolutionary beer delivery draft systems I’ve ever seen. One keg can be delivered to multiple taps. When a keg is dusted, it flushes on the fly. Quick disconnects allow kegs to be changed in four seconds flat. Cellared beer, cask and draft wines are delivered at a different temp than the regular cold storage. Bottle list? Very similar to Haven Gastropub in Orange, which is amazing. One of the most impressive things to me is the well balanced and thought out tap list. Not too much style overlap with sufficient seasonals and a good representation of local breweries. This Wil guy…he’s a keeper!
It might be a while until Haven beers make their way into Orange County. Haven has to get a special license to have their beer distributed and do growler fills. With our three tier system (brewer > distributor > consumer); brewpubs cannot simply throw a keg in a van and put it on tap wherever they want even if you own each location. I’m sure this is a priority for Wil and gang and we will start to see their beer in OC soon.
I highly recommend the drive up either way. Parking was a snap with a garage across the street. Like the Orange location, Haven Gastropub +Brewery in Pasadena has plenty of shopping and people watching in the local area. I’m jealous Pasadena has a better Haven! At least we have a Taco Asylum. Hah, LA!
If you must know, I ate a lamb burger, brussels sprouts, house olives and nibbled on a charcuterie plate. They were all great. This isn’t a food blog, ya’ know.