- Images of the Week
April 27th, 2011 by Terry Miller
Lucky Baldwin Trappiste Pub and Cafe
Grand Opening of East Pasadena Pub Slated for May 6 – 7
“He was a wise man who invented beer”- Plato
Under the ownership of British subjects David Farnworth and Peggy Simonian, Lucky Baldwin’s in old Pasadena poured their very first pint July 1, 1996. It wasn’t long before word got around that there was a good “English Pub” in Pasadena complete with character and a feel of the UK. Lucky Baldwin’s, complete with the delirious dry wit of an Englishman born in Carlisle. Carlisle is known as the last town in England before Scotland, and sometimes the last town in Scotland before England, depending on with whom you’re sharing a pint of the amber nectar.
Farnworth tells me, logically enough, that he lived in Farnworth which is located within the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton in Greater Manchester which might account for his thick accent, and Northern wit and repartee. I’m not sure if he was pulling my leg – sometimes you never know with us Brits…we love to “take the mickey”. Oh well, it makes for a good story!
Business partners Farnworth and Simonian, who met while working for the British Tourist Authority in Los Angeles, knew they were on to something and something big with Lucky Baldwins. The place kept growing and accordingly they offered more and more selection and a menu of British pub food that many would argue was better than back home.
They are also known for the great English breakfasts they serve up daily from 8 a.m. If you’ve not experienced a true British breakfast, you’re in for a treat! You can have tea with your breakfast or the very good and popular Peets Coffee which they proudly serve. And since the place is family friendly, and there is also a kids’ menu.
What sets Lucky Balwin’s apart from the madding crowd of bars, sports bars and gastropubs in the Los Angeles area is simply the selection of great beers, particularly Belgian beers, and the corresponding beer festivals that have become so popular throughout the years at Luck Baldwins locations. It is thanks to Farnwoth that such ales are even available here in California. A determined beer aficionado, Farnworth literally travelled the world to find what he thinks are the best of the very best beers.
Yes, the place attracts expats but mostly Anglophiles and those who really enjoy good ales and beers as well as pub food and company. Pasadena has its share of Brits but Santa Monica is still the number one destination for Brits moving to the States it seems.
However, as one regular British customer at Lucky Baldwins quipped “We’re slowing regaining the colonies…” referring to the number of British subjects living and working in California.
In 2005, Farnworth and Simonian jumped at an opportunity to open a Sierra Madre Lucky Baldwin’s that formerly housed the Sierra Madre Brewing Company 2. That location has developed a very loyal following and is known as Lucky Baldwins Delirium.
The latest in their series of pubs opened in East Pasadena on Super Bowl Sunday and has been attracting a loyal following ever since.
Lucky Baldwin’s third incarnation was formerly home the popular and cozy Brits Fish and Chips which was owned and operated by another dry witted Englishman and his wife. T he recession hit the small operation hard as it did with many other restaurants last summer and unfortunately Brits was forced to close its doors. Many a loyal Brits patron pops in to Lucky Baldins Trappiste, however, to see the transformation, which is significant.
Aside from essentially remodeling the building, Farnworth said he was delighted with how the contractor transformed the location. Brick walls and dark woods along with mirrors above the taps of tempting brews from Europe at the bar entice customers to sample some of the beers such as Avec les Bons Voeux (9.5% alcohol content) served in a lovely goblet. Some of these beers are not your average hops and barley. In fact, many should be sipped and savored much like the wine connoisseur might enjoy a Chateauneuf du Pape.
Belgium, which is really not wine country due to colder climate, is slightly larger than one of the smallest states in the US but has over 150 breweries making crafting about 300 plus varieties of the elixir.
While planning for the American market the Belgians put their little grey cells to work and decided to introduce unique styles that may appeal to the wine connoisseur and other fussy gourmands rather than challenge “popular” American lagers. Emphasizing quality and style was also important considering that most of the beers sell for considerably more that the price of a Bud lite. I can almost see Hercule Poirot sampling a Sason Dupont after he has enjoyed a Cuvee des Trolls after he has solved yet another dastardly crime.
With over 500 beers native to Belgium alone, Belgium beers offer such a varied palate of colours, aromas, and flavours which rival major beer producer in the world. Many are more complex than the French grape of Bordeaux, and are more like wine then some wines (like Rodenbach Grad Cru with “it’s cherry sourness, oak notes and delicate balance” according to one critic.
Belgian beers are typically top-fermenting ales that are bottle conditioned, and contain yeast sediment (desired and undesired, regulated by careful pouring). Some have blends of many types of yeast, or even blends of young and old ale. And some are created using spontaneous, natural fermentation. The uniqueness of this diverse regional yeast is what imparts much of the Belgian flavour and aromas. They are unlike any other in the world. One normally doesn’t think of beer as having a long-life like wines. In fact Farnworth says that he has had some seriously aged beers (some as long as 10 years in the keg) which were absolutely terrific. The man knows his beers!
Belgium continues to make hundreds of distinctive local beers, including traditional brews flavored with fruits. There is also another favorite beer of Farnworth: Scotch de Silly is a Scottish-style ale brewed in a town named Silly – I kid you not.
When you first look at the beer menu at Lucky Baldwins Trappiste, you might be a little overwhelmed with not only the choices but the names. It is actually good reading and quite funny…How about Lagunitas the Hairy Eyeball or Hair of the Dog Fred. For a change of pace try Alesmith Horny Devil…at 11% alcohol, this beer could well be served at the Playboy Mansion. How about a beer called Kwak? Of course the more conventional sellers like Guinness, Boddingtons and Stella are always on tap but surely one must try something called Stone Sublimely Self Rightous if it’s on the menu..
Boasting 65 beers on tap and countless others in the bottle, Farnworth says he got hooked on Belgian beers in England, and he’s been encouraging the Belgian beer faction in Pasadena since taking over his Old Town pub in 1996.
It is easy to see why Lucky Baldwins customers get into Belgian beer. “The flavors are so different,” Farnworth said. “They’re fascinating. And a lot of them are high in alcohol. “In fact this week, the High Alcohol Beer Festival (which ends on Sunday) boasts some beers at 11%. When you consider the average beer is 5% or less, that is one bold “Alesmith old Knumbskull”: that’s actuall the name of one of Farnworth’s selections.
Monastery brewhouses, from different religious orders, existed all over Europe, since the Middle Ages. Today, seven trappist breweries remain active, 6 in Belgium and 1 just over the Belgian border, in the Netherlands.
In the twentieth century, the growing popularity of Trappist beers led some brewers with no connection to the order to label their beers “Trappist”. After unsuccessful trials, monks finally sued one such brewer in 1962 in Ghent, Belgium.
Lucky Baldwins is celebrating its Trilogy with the grand opening Saturday and Sunday May 6 &7 with $3 on selected pints; a special menu feauring British favorites for only $7 ( fish and chips, Bangers and Mash, Cottage Pie as well as traditional meat pies. They will also be featuring 15 beers by Sierra Nevada of which many are usually only available at the Sierra Nevada Brewery.
British native, Neale Aslett of Chichester in West Sussex, manages the new location with his own unique flair for the understatement. He and his staff of able bodied young men and women manage to keep the customers happy with not only fast and friendly service but the occasional quip that’ll make you realize why it’s fun to go out for a pint at a unique pub like Lucky Baldwins. “It’s not a bar, its an adventure!” said local resident Dave Peterson who was one of many who helped convince the Pasadena to extend the opening hours of the new Lucky Baldwins. Peterson and a dedicated group of people in the East Pasadena have been attempting to build up the businesses east of PCC and felt Pasadena had no right to inflict a curfew on residents who’d like to walk to restaurants in the growing district “ not everyone wants to go to old town for a meal “ Peterson said. Up until last week, the pub had to close at 10p.m. To the delight of their customers and relief of the owners, Lucky Baldwins has a little more time to entice residents of the area.
Today, seven Trappist breweries remain active, 6 in Belgium and one in the Netherlands.
Lucky Baldwins Trappiste is located at 1770 E Colorado Blvd in Pasadena. Lucky Baldwins Deliriums located at 21 Kersting Court, Sierra Madre and the original at 17 S. Raymond in Pasadena. For more details visit their website: www.luckybaldwins.com
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