Something Brewing

Evan Jurgensen, senior vice president of Lee & Associates in Downtown Los Angeles, at his office in the Fermentation District. (Chris Mortenson/Staff)

No one knows exactly what to call the small strip of land between Chinatown and Lincoln Heights, running along the LA River. Some call it Mission Junction — others, more aptly, the Fermentation District.

In the last half-decade, a smattering of breweries and wineries have popped up in the area, ushered in by the recent renovation of the Los Angeles State Historic Park, favorable zoning laws for breweries, affordable rent and half-forgotten history. Businesses like Homage Brewing, Highland Park Brewery, 101 Cider House, Angeleno Wine Co. and Benny Boy Brewing have all had a hand in the neighborhood’s brewing renaissance.

Moreover, behind the scenes, Evan Jurgensen, senior vice president of Lee & Associates in Downtown Los Angeles, has also shaped the neighborhood into the emerging Fermentation District, leasing and selling many of the newest properties in the area.

Driving home from work six years ago, Jurgensen, who specializes in selling and leasing commercial properties, knew the neighborhood had the potential to be big and quickly began working in the area. The large industrial-looking buildings decorating the community looked sparse, but inside, they were a veritable hub of creativity with art studios and other creative ventures. “I think once more people figure out this area exists, they’ll love it … This feels like the next Arts District, and nobody knows it yet,” he said.

Jurgensen’s gamble paid off. In addition to the numerous craft alcohol producers, there has been an influx of residential housing and creative office spaces, with young professionals migrating from the increasingly expensive Westside.

Highland Park Brewing was the first mover in the neighborhood in 2018, closely followed by Angeleno Wine Co. Then came 101 Cider House in 2019, followed by Homage Brewing and Benny Boy Brewing in the post-pandemic years. Jurgensen, whose office is a block from Highland Park Brewing, is well known in the community and facilitated real estate development for 101 Cider House and Benny Boy Brewing.

While this is a recent revival, the area has a storied history surrounding early alcohol production in California. Long before the rolling hillside vineyards of Napa Valley, LA was the locus of wine production in California, the remnants, which can be seen on the neighborhood’s street signs — Naud Street, Mesnager Street and Wilhardt Street — all named after winemakers.

Previously, alcohol producers in LA were only allowed to operate in the highest level of industrial zoning. But in 2013, the city adopted the Cornfield Arroyo Seco Specific Plan, which allowed zoning for fermentation operations to incentivize residential and business growth in the area.

“We’ve just built a little bit of a community here of alcohol producers. … It’s really fun to have a community of drinkers and drink makers here,” said Amy Luftig Viste, co-owner of Angeleno Wine Co.

The neighborhood continues to grow with several apartment buildings in the works, spurred on by the development of the area and the revitalization of the Los Angeles State Historic Park, the largest open space in Downtown.

In the future, Jurgensen sees the area as a bustling neighborhood, blending residential life and breweries — a perfect blend of work and play. 

“This is going to be a destination where people just want to hang out at the park for the afternoon and grab a drink,” Jurgensen relayed.

Homage Brewing

1219 N. Main Street, Los Angeles

909-461-6962, homagebrewing.com

 

Highland Park Brewery

220 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles

213-878-9017, hpb.la

 

101 Cider House

119 Wilhardt Street, Los Angeles

323-352-3987, 101cider.com

 

Angeleno Wine Co.

1646 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles

213-399-8864, angelenowine.com

 

Benny Boy Brewing

1821 Daly Street, Los Angeles

bennyboybrewing.com