When a brewer leaves and a new one arrives, you need to get to know a brewery all over again. The Brewery at Abigaile scored by grabbing Paul Papantonio to brew for them in Hermosa Beach after stints at Oskar Blues and Saint Archer Brewery. I asked the new brewer in town a few questions.
Sean Inman: How did you become a brewer (basically, what is your origin story)?
Paul Papantonio: My dad got me a Mr. Beer home-brew kit for Christmas my senior year of college. I brewed once or twice with it and decided to get the real deal, since my dad happened to work up the road from a home-brew store. I graduated college, had no job and lots of time so I started home-brewing a lot and getting pretty into it. I joined a home-brew club in town and would visit lots of breweries wherever I went and really liked how friendly and open everyone was, always willing to talk about beer, recipes, and processes. It’s a cool community where everyone supports each other, and one brewery supports another in whichever way they can. I feel like the craft brewing industry is one of the only ones where 2 sales guys from different breweries will go to a bar and fight for a tap, but when they’re done working go to the same bar and get a beer from the other guy’s tap.
As far as what made me want to become a professional brewer 1) I could never have a desk job. I like physical nature of brewing and not having to sit down for 8 hours a day. 2) I really like creating something, whether my own recipe or not, and creating something that most people are into drinking and are always interested to learn more and to talk about. 3) The friendly, community like atmosphere you get from breweries and people in the industry.
SI: What are your impressions of the craft beer scene in Los Angeles?
PP: Overall, it’s a lot further behind other places I’ve brewed like San Diego and Colorado. But so far I’m enjoying being able to brew somewhere the industry is on the rise and has so much room for the growth and education of craft beer. Instead of being in an area that’s oversaturated with breweries and you’re wondering how many more can actually open up there and stay open.
SI: What have you learned from your previous stops that you will be bringing to The Brewery at Abigaile?
PP: It’s all coming with me.
SI: How does the R+D series that you started involve customers?
PP: We get to hear feedback from customers on the beers and the ingredients used. This helps to see what they like, want, and to plan for future brews. Doing R+D beers will also allow me to test things before I do a full batch, it hurts your soul a lot less if you have to dump 5 gallons instead of 305 gallons. It also allows me to get weird with some ingredients and use things I haven’t used before.
SI: How do you come up with a recipe? Is it a style first or an ingredient that begins the process?
PP: It depends, sometimes there’s a certain style I want to brew. Sometimes there’s an ingredient or new hop or something that I want to use in a brew, or maybe someone says it would be cool to have a beer that tastes like thin mint cookies. Regardless of the situation I start every recipe by thinking about how I want the finished beer to taste, given the original Idea of the brew (style, ingredient, etc.). After I know how I want it to taste I can start picking the ingredients(malt, hops, yeast, water, etc.), and parameters (ABV, IBU, pH’s, etc.) I need to get it to taste that way.
SI: What is your go-to beer from another brewery?
PP: I generally don’t get the same beer over and over because there are so many good ones I haven’t tried yet. Locally, I’ve been gravitating towards the Smog City Hoptonic and Coffee Porter.
The Beer of the Week is from the barrel-aging world of Saint Archer Brewery. Tusk & Grain has released No. 1, a waxed bottle top with a blend within of barley wine, Imperial stout and Imperial Porter. Each component was aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels. Will this first offering scale the heights that Firestone Walker has set? This is a great chance to get in on the ground floor and see if the blending skills grow with each release.
This week’s Homework is be patient just a little longer. February 27, Brouwerij West finally swings open the doors on their warehouse space in San Pedro to show off their new brewing home and tap room after a long stint as a contract brewer and a longer stint of their beers not being on shelves. Sign up for their e-newsletter to stay in the loop and learn about their past beers and their new ones like a hoppy bitter blond and a traditional Wit with sour oranges.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.