BEER BROS: A Bouzy devotion, The South Bay’s original gastropub celebrates local craft beer with a series of BBQs
by Ed Solt
Eight years ago, Chez Melange founder Michael Franks moved his restaurant to a new spot down the street in the Riviera Village on the corner of Avenue I and Catalina Avenue. A bit bigger than his previous location of 27 years, at the Palos Verdes Inn, Franks had the opportunity to open a second concept within his new spot. Being a Brit, he was familiar with the UK gastropub phenomenon that started in 1991 with The Eagle in London. The concept was simple — serve high-quality beer with high-quality food. With local craft beer breweries, namely Strand Brewing Company in Torrance, gaining momentum, he felt it would be a natural fit. At the same time, the South Bay’s saturation of discounted macro lights and greasy fare raised doubtful questions.
“When we first thought of opening the first gastropub in the area, we were afraid of a negative reaction to the ‘gastro’ connotation. It was quite funny,” Franks said. “Very few people knew what an IPA was when we first opened. Now, it is the beer of choice — completely flooring me.”
Bouzy Gastropub isn’t Franks’ first foray into craft beer. Chez Melange kept Anchor Steam, considered America’s first and oldest craft beer, on draft since 1982. In 2000, Chez Melange took the big plunge by only serving craft beer — more commonly referred to as “microbrew” back then. As a purveyor of fine food, the beer selection needed to match the same standard.
“My son, the manager at the time — he’s now a manager at the Wine Warehouse — has always been passionate about beer. He realized the potential and had a vision,” Franks said. “People thought we were crazy for being located in a hotel and not serving anything familiar. It was a challenge, but we wanted to stay true to Chez Melange’s ideals. We also wanted to show people there are more than macrobeers out there.”
By the time Franks opened Bouzy Gastropub inside Chez Melange, he was already “100 percent committed.” His timing was spot on.
“In the beginning, we had such a great beer market of young and excited brewers and breweries,” he said. “Now, South Bay is a craft beer mecca with the most breweries per capita behind San Diego. Since we’ve opened, just down the street in the Riviera Village there are at least four or five places for craft beer.”
The evolution of the South Bay’s beer palate toward craft has brought in a new set of patrons.
“Before, beer was reserved as the sports driven, boys-night-out choice of beverage,” he said. “It’s now an interesting dynamic with more young people and women. People are coming in strictly for the beer; they’re interested in the craft, the detail, sharing tasters saying ‘Try this’ and ‘Try that.’”
As the gastropub wave continues to wreak delicious havoc, revolutionizing the South Bay’s culinary landscape, Franks feels it’s moving hand-in-hand with local craft beer culture.
“Everything is more upscale and sophisticated,” he said. “It’s not just American/British connotations — people want more. The gastropub is now world cuisine. You now have Thai, Chinese, Italian — if you have a vision, make your gastropub.”
While local craft breweries keep producing amazing beers, Franks feels there still isn’t a set game plan.
“It’s very interesting to see where the future goes,” he said. “Should a brewery produce 20 beers or focus on a few individual beers? We’ll see how it all comes out of the wash.”
On Saturday, April 15, Bouzy is partnering with Strand Brewing Company, one of the breweries whose success paralleled Bouzy’s, for a delicious day of barbecue — chicken, ribs, smoked pulled pork shoulder, Santa Maria tri-tip and all the fixings on the outdoor patio. Strand will be pouring its South Bay iconic flagship beer, 24th St. Pale Ale, as well as White Sand IPA and much more.
“Without Strand coming out and paving the way, the beer scene wouldn’t be as ‘Rich’ as it is,” Franks said. “Rich Marcello [Strand co-founder] will be in attendance–it will be a very personal event.”
Besides the grub and brew, the Mark Fitchett Blues Band will be bringing in the tunes.
“This is the first of many BBQs,” Franks said. “We will be partnering with our local breweries. What more can you want on a Saturday afternoon?”
Beer, BBQ, & Blues at Bouzy Gastropub takes place April 15 from noon to 3 p.m. For more information, go to chezmelange.com/eat/bouzy. Bouzy Gastropub is located at 1611 S Catalina Ave, Redondo Beach. ER