From a punk rock rehearsal space to a honky-tonk-style bar complete with a mechanical bull, Abigaile restaurant has had many identities. Now, the gastropub has brought on a new brewer to help retool the house-made craft beers.
New York native Paul Papantonio will take over for Brian Brewer, who left Abigaile in 2015 to open the Hopsaint Brewery just a few miles down 190th Street in Torrance. Brewer crafted some phenomenal brews that stayed mostly under the radar (for better or worse).
Papantonio has worked at a litany of breweries, including Shipyard Brewing in Maine (one of the 25 largest craft breweries in the country), Fort Collins Brewery in Colorado, San Diego's Saint Archer Brewing, and most recently in Colorado at Oskar Blues.
"It was time to do my own thing," Papantonio said. "I saw the job listing that said 'brewpub on the beach,' and I knew that's where I wanted to be."
At Abigaile, Papantonio has full autonomy to create new recipes and brew any style that he likes, and he's spent the past couple of months becoming familiar with the copper-clad brewing equipment that's the second-most prominent design feature of the decades-old space. There's a lot of equipment crammed into the scant square feet behind the bar, but Papantonio says he's adapting.
"It's not too bad; I'm kinda a small guy," Papantonio said. "Plus, it's nice to have everything right at your fingertips."
He's eager to try out new recipes on the system, and he aims to have five to seven distinct house beers at all times.
So far, he's tested a double IPA, a black IPA, a spiced brown ale and a trio of lagers. In contrast to Brewer's often boozy and typically ultra-hoppy beers, Papantonio is focused on more easy-drinking styles, and he's especially interested in developing more lager recipes.
Both Papantonio's pilsner and Vienna lager were light-bodied with a firm bitterness and very clean finish. The Vienna is an amber-hued brew with a light, toasty malt character, but both lagers were hop-focused without being overpowering. His third lager was a dark and roasty Baltic porter made with palm sugar. The crisper finish of the lager yeast let the malt character take the spotlight, and Papantonio said he will use the base beer to experiment with added flavors.
"It's a cool beer to play around with," Papantonio said. He's drawn off a single keg of the beer to infuse with an experimental additive. His favorite so far has been toasted coconut flakes. "It's great to try stuff [on a small scale] before throwing a bunch into the full-sized batch."
He plans to use the variants to keep the tap list full for customers, and he hopes to soon set up distribution for his beers to allow him to brew in a variety of styles. The Abigaile restaurant is from the Blackhouse Hospitality group, which also runs five other restaurants, including Little Sister and Steak and Whiskey. With a distributor on board, the beer from Abigaile could be served at the sister restaurants, allowing Papantonio to craft specific brews for each outlet.
For now, you can try the new Abigaile brews from 5 p.m. daily or during Saturday and Sunday brunch service starting at 11 a.m. The new brewer also is planning an oatmeal blonde ale tinged with berries and a beer featuring locally roasted coffee that will be tailor-made for brunch service.
Abigaile, 1301 Manhattan Ave., Hermosa Beach, (310) 798-8227, www.abigailerestaurant.com.