Shown, courtesy the archived menu collection of the Los Angeles Public Library, is the beer list of the legendary Barney’s Beanery in Hollywood, CA. The time period is c. 1980. We first visited L.A. about this time, and the beer list is exactly as I recall it.
Barney’s was founded in 1920 and continues at the original location in the same, low-slung wood frame building. New ownership in this millennium has expanded the brand to other locations, all to the good provided they keep the original. The image of the original location is from the restaurant’s website. The exterior is virtually unchanged for generations and the interior, judging by images I’ve viewed, looks pretty much the same too.
Barney’s was known in the old days as Beer-central. That was before Pizza Port, Stone Brewing, and all the rest of the craft beer royalty. But places like Barney’s paved the way – remember that.
As you see, there were only a few drafts available: Miller (High Life), Miller Lite, and Lowenbrau. Lowenbrau was brewed in America by then. The availability of Miller in both light and dark reflects an earlier time, when “dark beer”, an American interpretation of the original Munich (Dunkel) lager, had a niche market. To beer fans then, it was an alternative to the mass-market norm.*
The bottled list is where the action was, and this too reflects an older time, when bottled, pasteurized beer was often the main form of beer available especially in the far-flung west coast.
The selection is a study in 1970s beery predilections. From Canada, they had “Molson’s”, which type not specified, but this is L.A. man, all rules are suspended, go with it. (It was probably Molson Golden Ale).
England – not U.K., England, as many Americans still call the union – supplied Bass and Whitbread, pretty solid. Scotland, separately treated nonetheless, gave us McEwan’s, reintroduced some years ago by Wells of Bedford and available currently in Ontario. The brand with others has been sold to Marston, but I hope it’s still made as the beer is quite good and a taste of post-WW II malty history.
Nearby Mexico offered the usual suspects including Corona, so you see the bridgehead of its current dominance: places like Barney’s made it happen. Beer authority Michael Jackson described Corona as an early, unlikely “sub-yuppie” favourite in California. That success later went national, and beyond.
Was the Beanery a yuppie hangout then? Maybe, I went there after all.
Noche Buena was available too, which Jackson always liked, I think it’s still made, a nice caramel/amber evocation of the old Vienna style, from the time Mexico was in the Austrian Empire’s orbit.
That mainland Chinese beer is a bit of a surprise, as Barney’s was always staunchly American but Richard Nixon had opened up China trade, that probably explains it.
There are no craft beers, even though Anchor Brewing’s beers were available from San Francisco in the 1970s. If the menu is actually post-1977, theoretically beer from New Albion Brewing in Sonoma, the first truly modern craft brewery, could have been offered. But this was much too soon for craft beer to appear, the first glimmerings were on almost no one’s radar when this menu appeared.
You could do a Barney’s-style brunch today with one of its avocado omelettes, say, some sourdough (the Bay Area is close enough), a Cobb salad, Crenshaw melon or similar, and some of these beers. Let’s do it.
Obs. That someone at Barney’s cared about good beer is obvious not just from the dozen German beers on the list, but from the Czech Pilsner Urquell, and also San Miguel Dark. Carlsberg Dark too, which may well have been a stout. (Ed Wray, if you’re reading?).
San Miguel Dark is a rich delicious beer almost never seen in North America, from Philippines. Hark LCBO.
N.B. Thanks to Tim Holt, editor of the journal Brewery History who indirectly suggested to me the topic of this post, two hours ago in fact.
Note re images: the images above were obtained from the sources identified and linked in the text. All intellectual property therein belongs solely to the lawful owner, as applicable. Images used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.
*Two forms of bottled Lowenbrau are classified as German, but either this was a, um, printing hangover from earlier days when it was German-brewed, or, perhaps the bar offered German Lowenbrau in bottles and American-brewed Lowenbrau for the draft.