The Benefits of Brewing Your Own Beer

Later in this story, we will look at five other restaurants that are brewing their own beer, such as TAPS Fish House & Brewery, which crafts this Imperial Russian Stout called remy’s Pappy.
Later in this story, we will look at five other restaurants that are brewing their own beer, such as TAPS Fish House & Brewery, which crafts this Imperial Russian Stout called remy’s Pappy. TAPS Fish House & Brewery

At the California brewpub Abigaile, brewmaster Paul Papantonio is enjoying the creativity and flexibility of working in a restaurant setting. Those high margins don’t hurt, either.

Before Jed Sanford painted the walls black and handed out spray cans to designers, the space that is now Abigaile was a steakhouse named Union Cattle Co. Locals knew the restaurant for its mechanical bull, proximity to the ocean, and impressive wine list. The fact the concept brewed its own beer, although sporadically, was more of an afterthought than a true selling point. The copper-clad setup, inherited from the previous establishment, Ein Stein’s Brewery, never really fit into the fabric of Sanford’s restaurant, or the demographics of the region for that matter. The beachfront city of Hermosa Beach, California, isn’t going to be confused with San Diego or Portland, Oregon, by West Coast craft beer aficionados anytime soon. Patrons are far more likely to pick up a macro selection and go sit in the sand than order an imperial stout better suited for a cold night by the fire.

But as Sanford graduated into his 30s and began to alter his priorities, he searched for a way to let the restaurant mature as well. Abigaile was born out of that refinement—a culinary-focused restaurant with a fresh, inventive menu that lured in a different kind of crowd. Right away, he knew it was imperative to revive the relic brewery. Abigaile is the only restaurant in Hermosa Beach with an on-site brewery and Sanford planned to embrace the distinction.

“We got the brewery running and brought in some really good food and just started doing it,” he recalls. “That was one of the big decisions when I changed concepts. If we’re going to keep this, I want to make it first class.”

Sanford hired former Stone brewer Brian Brewer, who spent months gutting and revamping the system. There are four 15 BBL brite beer tanks, one 30 BBL tank, a 30 BBL fermenter, and a 15 BBL direct-fire system with two 15 BBL fermenters—all located behind the bar in the heart of the restaurant, which is now led by renowned executive chef Tin Vuong.

Last September, 30-year-old Paul Papantonio stepped into the role after Brewer headed a few miles down the road to open Hopsaint Brewing. Papantonio brought along an impressive résumé, with stops at craft beer havens Oskar Blues, Shipyard, Fort Collins Brewery, and Saint Archer.

Papantonio read the job description (beachfront setting included) and made the leap. He had a lone, brief stint in a brewpub and wasn’t sure what to expect. Truthfully, the boom of the craft sector, which grew 13 percent in 2015, according to the Brewers Association, has completely redrawn the landscape for restaurants. Brewpubs alone, as noted by the same source, rose 12.2 percent from 1,470 to 1,650 locations from 2014 to 2015. This movement is especially rapid at full-service models, where curated beer lists are becoming as crucial as wine cellars. Brewing in-house elevates menus for both food and beverage. It can trigger major savings and even bigger gains. That’s something Papantonio noticed early on. “Two tanks of beer pay for my year’s salary. The markup on selling the beer here is a large profit margin,” he says. What that means is simple: Papantonio has unbridled rein to shop, imagine, and craft beer as he sees fit.


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