Boomtown Brewery lives in a nondescript warehouse on the inconspicuous Vignes Street. So unassuming upon first glance that you might think it’s anything but booming. Yet as you get closer, the brewery proves appearances can be deceiving, as food trucks border the perimeter and string lights lead you to a tasting room abuzz with people and aglow with the backdrop of a movie screening, both synchronized with the accompanying thump of a DJ. It’s just another weekend night at Boomtown Brewery and by closing time, it will have served up to 500 patrons, according to general manager Michael Schwarber. The brewery’s success has been a long time coming. It first began selling its beers to distributors over two years ago but faced challenges in securing a location, says head brewer and partner Samuel “Chewy” Chawinga. Since settling into its current space however, it has become apparent that Boomtown Brewery could not be more aptly named. “When you think of the word ‘boomtown,’ it means any place where an industry pops up quickly and we saw that happening with the beer boom and the downtown boom in Los Angeles,” Chawinga explains. And even though the brewery sits a little ways away from the busier chunks of the Arts District, it’s still going strong. “We’re more of a destination brewery than other [breweries] that are easy to walk to, but we find that to be a plus because that means the people who come are here because they want to be,” Schwarber says.
Not to mention, this destination is rich in history. Jean-Louis Vignes, California’s first winemaker and the street’s namesake, once owned Boomtown’s property and grew citrus orchards at the top of the building, according to Chawinga. As a tribute, Boomtown created the Jean-Louis, a seasonal citrus brew on a rotating menu of 16 beers.
As the head brewer, Chawinga strives to produce unfiltered, non-pasteurized beer that has a progression of flavors, a classic balance, and most importantly, the best quality. “I’m a champion of beer. Beer is an accessible libation and I want to make sure we have a wide range of beers for everyone who comes here, even for those who normally don’t like it,” Chawinga says. In offering such brews, Boomtown’s ultimate goal is to create “a beverage that complements, rather than overpowers,” Schwarber adds.
Aside from honoring the history behind the space, Boomtown Brewery owners also made sure to bring in LA artists to paint the walls as well as build its tables and wall paneling using the original wood from the building’s offices dating back to the 1920s. Boomtown also participates in the Los Angeles community at large, partnering up with nonprofit organizations like the Skid Row Housing Trust. “Los Angeles is a proud city that makes great things,” Chawinga says. “It needs its own beer to claim and we’re all about bringing people to experience the energy of this city.”
Written by Phoebe Yu
Photographed by Jack Strutz