For many of us Anaheim makes us think of Mickey Mouse and Disneyland. After all, the theme park has drawn hundreds of millions of people since it opened in 1955.
But unexpected treasures can be found just outside Disney’s walls.
Barbara and Greg Gerovac met at West Point where they were cadets. During the 24 years they served in the U.S. Army, they moved to different posts and positions around the world. For many years they were stationed in Bavaria, Germany, where they fell in love with the local breweries.
“Every small town has a brewery which just distributes locally,” says Barbara. “They are not looking to take over the world or corner the market. They just want to serve the community they are in.” When they talked about retiring from the military, they thought about doing something fun and interesting, like brewing beer.
In fact, they were so devoted to learning the craft when Greg retired he worked second shift in a Virginia brewery. “I was retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel and took a job for $6 an hour as a brewer’s apprentice. My boss at the time was 26 and wasn’t sure that I would be able to take orders from him, but we’re still good friends,” says Greg, whose grandfather worked for Milwaukee’s Pabst brewery for 40 years. When Barbara retired she also took a brewing job.
The couple ultimately moved west to Anaheim, a town which a rich history of brewing that goes back to the 1860s. One of the most prominent was Anaheim Brewery which opened in 1870, went through different owners and then closed during Prohibition. “All that was left was the beautiful logo,” says Barbara. “None of the brewers had made a post-Prohibition comeback.”
By 2008, they had both worked as successful brewers for a number of years. They thought, we know what we’re doing, why not open something in our own neighborhood? In the midst of downtown, the city owned a historic 1920s mission revival building with high ceilings and large windows called the Packard Building. So Greg and Barbara made their pitch to the city: let’s bring brewing back to downtown. They wanted to re-establish the famous Anaheim beer that disappeared during prohibition.
In 2011, Barbara and Greg opened Anaheim Brewery. Using the Bavarian model they love, the beer is sold locally and kept fresh. Paying homage to Anaheim’s rich brewing history, they use artwork inspired from historic labels. Their flagship Anaheim 1888, an unfiltered amber-colored lager, is made in the style of beer that was made at the original Anaheim Brewery. “It has a nice caramel-y after-taste.” says Barbara. The tasting room has a 30-foot-long vintage wooden salvaged bar where people can watch the brewing process. Outside is a 100-seat Beer Garden with authentic German beer garden tables which looks out into Farmer’s Park. “We wanted this to feel like a local tavern,” explains Barbara. “When you come in, everyone should feel comfortable.”
Here are some other treasures that make Anaheim special.
MUZEO houses Anaheim’s original Carnegie Library and a main art gallery which has both permanent and rotating exhibitions. This February, “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashion for Changing Times,” which spotlights the costumes and jewelry of Downton Abbey can only be seen on the West Coast at MUZEO.
Just across the street from the Disneyland Resort is Anabella Hotel. Set on seven acres of lush, landscaped grounds with California Mission-style architecture, there’s a main resort pool, jacuzzi and a more serene adult pool. At the hotel’s Tangerine Gill & Patio, chef Dustin Taylor, who has worked at Daniel Boulud and Alain Ducasse and won of the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen is committed to sourcing locally.
Built in 1919, the Packing House was the go-to spot for local farmers to unload their citrus-filled trucks, pack the fruit into wooden crates and ship them off. Now the Packing House has been beautifully restored into a food hall with a dizzying assortment of independently owned artisan bars and eateries like BXCR Wine Bar which offers a variety of wines from throughout the world and homemade flatbreads, charcuterie and cheeses. There’s a speakeasy, The Blind Rabbit, with a hidden entrance and scrumptious cocktails. Try soul food (think jambalaya and mac and cheese) at Georgia’s Restaurant, excellent Tandoori chicken at Shachi Mehra’s ADYA eatery or get the fried chicken sandwich and cheeseburger fries poutine at The Kroft. Savor the Kettlebar Pan Roast, (snow crab, lobster, shrimp, chicken, rice with a tomato cream base), at Kettlebar Steam Cooking. For dessert, head to Hans’ Homemade Ice Cream for Nutella ice cream, or crepes at Crepe Coop and more. Plus every weekend hear live music.
The Packing House
BXCR Wine Bar at the Packing House
BXCR Wine Bar at the Packing House
Meander along the Center Street Promenade with outdoor cafes, unique eateries, boutiques, art shows and street fairs. Gifted chef Jimmy Martinez has earned raves for his pineapple skirt steak tacos at his culinary treasure, Pour Vida Latin Flavor. For some primping or a blowout, go to Remedy Hair Shoppe.
Every Thursday downtown is the farmer’s market with standout vendors like Gaytan Family Farms for produce and fresh ranch eggs. Delectable BakeHouse has creatively crafted French Macarons. Jav’s BBQ, offers Texas-style barbecue which always sells out. Popsikle Shop sells carefully curated thrift finds. Go to The Bakeshack for European-style breads like Jalapeño cheese mini baguettes.
For more information visit www.VisitAnaheim.org.