By Richard Foss (RichardFoss.com)
During dinner yesterday, an African king went by my table. He wasn’t alone, of course — he was accompanied by a large ceremonial procession in flowing robes and several drummers. I wasn’t entirely surprised, since something like that seems to happen whenever I dine here.
This wasn’t in an African restaurant, but a lounge hidden in the middle of an airport hotel. T.H. Brewster’s is a rare gem, a place of character in more ways than one.
Start with the fact that this hotel has a relationship with the African community in Los Angeles, so it’s not entirely unusual for community events mundane or exotic to occur. That isn’t the reason I go there, though it has often meant that gorgeously dressed people did interesting things while I watched.
Brewster’s has a loyal following because somebody with passion came up with the theme of the place and then made sure that it was executed well. His name wasn’t Brewster, but it gives a big hint to what that passion was, since the name comes from the Middle English word for brewer. The restaurant offers well over 100 different craft beers, many of them gloriously arcane — if you swoon over the idea of a Norwegian farmhouse ale, Austrian doppelbock or Danish lambic, you’ll be right at home here. Belgian ales, tripels and sours? Choose from more than 20. Barley wines, Russian Imperial stouts, some wines and Scotches for variety? Yep. They even have Budweiser, but don’t have much call for it. T.H. Brewster’s hosts beer tastings and competitions and has won national respect and several awards for their dedication to the craft.
So far, so good for a drinking establishment. The great news is that while not as wide ranging, the food has generally been far above average for the area. A recent change in management had led to a simplification of the menu, and so on this visit we were concerned about whether standards were slipping. We hesitated over the idea of investigating the “jet fuel hot wings challenge” but decided that whatever the game was we didn’t want to play, and considered other starters or a salad before deciding that we would skip to main courses.
I selected what was described as a braised pork hash, while my companions had a pulled pork sandwich, hanger steak with onions, and a burger with bacon and smoked cheddar. The hash was misnamed but delicious — it was a stew of fingerling potatoes, mushrooms and pork in a fragrant herbed broth, topped with a fried egg. I had expected a griddled hash and was momentarily disappointed, but came to enjoy this dish on its own merits. It paired well with a Duchesse de Bourgogne Belgian sour ale, one of the great beers of the world, and I was delighted.
The pulled pork sandwich was slightly unconventional but very good, with tender meat in a sweet and spicy ginger sauce topped by a slice of pineapple, and it went well with a Los Alamos Malbec (we had a wine drinker at our table of beer snobs). The salad that came with the sandwich was large and nicely varied, with cherry tomatoes and shaved onion over mixed greens. The steak was even better, tender and served with an excellent demi-glace and sautéed kale. The surprise was the burger, which was world class — a thick patty smoky from the grill, on a brioche bun with cheese, bacon and avocado, and served with hot, crisp fries. We paired it with a Schnee Bock, a fine beer for the purpose. I have been eating at Brewster’s for years and was concerned when I saw that the menu had changed, but this was easily the best meal I’ve had there.
Unfortunately, the service was not of the same caliber as the food or drink. Our waiter was amiable but not very informative when it came to details about entrees, and water refills took multiple requests. Friends at an adjacent table who had a different server also had problems with slow service. I saw their waitress fiddling with a TV remote for some time while they were trying to signal her. It was a remarkable lapse for a place where so much else had been done right, and I hope it was an aberration.
Brewster’s at the Four Points by Sheraton claims to have the largest selection of beers of any hotel in the world, and I believe them. It is a well-curated selection and has garnered them a local following that is unparalleled for the area. Craft beer lovers will love this place, and even if you never have a sip you can find something on the menu to enjoy. I can’t guarantee that a friendly storyteller from Ghana will regale you with a folk tale in the lobby afterward, but it happened to me, and you may be as fortunate.
T.H. Brewster’s is deep inside the Sheraton Four Points — go through the main entrance and keep going straight. Meals are $16 to $24 per person, with vegetarian and vegan options available. High tables make wheelchair access a challenge. Parking is validated.
T.H. Brewster’s at Four Points by Sheraton, 9750 Airport Blvd., Westchester (310) 645-4600