Imperial Western Beer Company: A Pint of the Past
Let’s take a trip back in time, shall we? It’s 1939 and the sound of a train whistling in the distance is drowned out by the scratchy sounds of a record playing “Beer Barrel Polka,” by the popular Andrew Sisters. Soldiers dressed in perfectly pressed uniforms and lively crowds shuffle their way through Union Station, the shiny and new architectural jewel of Los Angeles. But before people board their train, they have the chance to do something we take for granted today, they’re able to grab a bite to eat at the Harvey House restaurant, tasting the world-class hospitality standard set by Mr. Fred Harvey, an English businessman that revolutionized the railway experience from the Midwest to California.
“Traveling by train (back then) you had no guarantee of food. There was no such thing as buying food on the train. You would get 30 minutes at each train depot in some very desolate places like Winslow, Arizona or places that weren’t really populated yet. So what Fred Harvey did was partner up with the railroads and in particular the Topeka and the Santa Fe. He set up these diners and restaurants at these depots and provided reliable food and hospitality,” says Imperial Western’s head brewer Devon Randall.
Devon tells us how Union Station’s Harvey House prided itself on its service, impeccably delivered by the Harvey Girls, an all-woman workforce that lived and worked onsite. This was the travel of the future. “This was one of the last Fred Harvey Houses to open and one of the grandest,” says Devon.
But here we are 50 years after Harvey House closed its doors to the public in 1967 and its rebirth is just as grand. It’s now called Imperial Western Beer Company and under the extremely successful 213 Hospitality group it is offering up the same standard of service with a top-notch staff, balanced beers and a great bite to eat with Hungry Cat’s Chef David Lentz at the helm, all while sitting in a flawlessly preserved piece of the past.
Imperial Western crafts its beers onsite with a brewery system in the back and Devon is confident in what Imperial Western can offer up beer lovers because she’s been working up to this opportunity. She started the popularly packed Arts District Brewing Company in 2015 where she crafted crazy and diverse beers. Now she gets to offer beer drinkers a more grown-up version of beers built on her knowledge.
Devon says your best bet to ease into the beer selection at Imperial Western is to start off with the Fred Harvey Hefeweisen or the Union Station Pale Lager then work your way up to their hazy IPA, Calliope, with notes of coconut crème and honeydew. And trust us there’s no better partner to these beers than the chipotle fried chicken sandwich! And because Devon and Imperial Western’s bar manager Bryan Garcia care about your post-holiday budget, they welcome you to come in and take full advantage of their $1 oyster happy hour, Monday- Friday, 4-7pm. Also as of January 1st, you’ll be able to take Imperial Western crowlers home with you.
Oh and don’t forget to check out the extra slice of a cocktail bar tucked inside Imperial Western. It’s called The Streamliner and it’s slick and dark and simply serves up a different vibe. Your pick! It opens at 4:47 pm, a throwback to the Streamliner’s old train schedule.
There’s no doubt Imperial Western’s got that “Wow!” factor that’ll have you sighing and staring as soon as you walk in. It still boasts much of its original features with high ceilings, beautifully large chandeliers and deco details. Devon’s eyes repeatedly light up when she thinks of the history beating in these walls, an inherited responsibility her team is proud to carry. If you care to learn more about the history of the Fred Harvey Company, Devon recommends reading “Appetite for America,” by Stephen Fried or just stream the Judy Garland movie “The Harvey Girls” to get a feel for what once was. It’s a nice way to fully appreciate the history this space houses!
Written by Linda Hosmer (@blockanimal) | Photography by Robiee Ziegler