The pandemic has been difficult on everyone, and part of the reason the LA Beer Cats cover breweries is not just because we love beer – but we love supporting local craft beer. Doing these posts not only allows us to spotlight some truly special places but also helps us promote the large community of amazing independent craft breweries we have here in Los Angeles. Today’s feature continues the trend with one of our favorite new spots of the last year: HiDef Brewing in DTLA.
HiDef Brewing, like many breweries, bars, and taprooms that opened during the pandemic, has had a less than conventional first year. However, once you step into the neon-art-soaked space, take your first sip of their Lit IPA (our favorite), and gaze upon the trippy signature 3D mural while talking beer with their head brewer Lars — you might be none the wiser. Despite its young age, it’s the type of place that had a vision from its inception. And though that vision may have changed as they settled into their DTLA space, it’s a clear one.
It’s probably easier to start with the pre-HiDef vision though, which began with an unofficial hophead blind date at Glendale Tap with Trevor Ward, (Co-Founder with his wife Cristina), and Larry “Lars” Lesterud (Head Brewer). After a few Craigslist-style missed connections, a bartender put it upon herself to pair together the brewmaster and the guy that wanted to start a brewery. Thus, the match made in Glendale began, as Trevor and Lars took the first steps toward their vision.
Trevor started as a producer and audio engineer in Oakland in the 90s, working with some of the Bay Area’s hip-hop stars (yes, of course, that means E-40). Suddenly though, opportunities started popping up in Los Angeles, and fast forward some years and Trevor became a storied audio engineer in the film industry. After flirting with homebrewing for about a decade though, Trevor realized his real passion was to open a brewery. Don’t worry though, the love for audio is still there (hence the name HiDef — and the hop-headphone-inspired logo).
Lars, on the other hand, must bleed hops, because his brewing history is extensive. He has worked for a myriad of breweries from NorCal to SoCal, beginning in the early 90s at Lost Coast Brewery. Then, juggling a masters program, he stayed in NorCal for a long spell, working for 4 more breweries before going into coffee production at Peet’s Coffee. The beer always beckons though, as Lars returned to LA for a brewery job and once again picked up experience working at Angel City and El Segundo. After 25 years of managing at big breweries though, the bite to work at a smaller brewery and have ownership was too good to resist. The opportunity to experiment with beer once again came calling.
Like all great breweries, HiDef is emblematic of its surroundings, and being in the diverse microcosm of LA that is Downtown Los Angeles, their beer menu brings the same variety. We tried literally everything on the menu — (seriously, look at #labeercat Simcoe, he had to take a “paws” from drinking!)
But the menu just proves the versatility Lars and Trevor are striving for – from a deep love of the classic Pale Ale (no 9-hopped behemoths here), to some fruity sours, to an absolutely bizarre and brilliant natural take on a michelada that’s fermented with oysters (seriously, this Ostralada is crazy and worth making the trip alone). We also appreciated that their first beer which was meant to be tossed — The Audition — has become a fan favorite that hasn’t been able to leave the taps since. As Lars said, “it’s the most diverse customer palette I’ve ever had”, and the tap list abides, as Trevor added that they have a responsibility to make sure everyone has something they’ll enjoy. But don’t worry, they’ll both be able to continue tapping their favorite – the Headspace Pale Ale – as long as they have a say about it.
Future plans include drink-n-draw classes, resident artists to watch while imbibing, backgammon tournaments, and hopefully sooner rather than later, a real, actual, bonafide Grand Opening, something they’ve been robbed of since the “opening” last October. Our fingers are crossed, because Larry, Trevor, and Cristina are serving up some of the best brews this side of the 10.
And if you’re not as DTLA adjacent, or just want a different place to grab HiDef’s beers, we’re happy to mention Bandit Brews in Melrose has plentiful fresh kegs of HiDef’s selections on draft too! They hope to continue expanding to different places on draft, but if you can, check out this new DTLA gem.