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Resurrected Brewery Brings Craft Beer to Hermosa

Craft brewing returns to the Beach Cities as the Brewery at Abigaile looks for success in Hermosa Beach and acceptance into the local craft beer scene.

An in-house, shiny copper brewing facility is serving up batches of beer at Abigaile in downtown Hermosa Beach.

Before Abigaile opened at the former home of Union Cattle Company in February, the facility had sat dormant in the restaurant's lofty space for more than 10 years.

Relegated to serving as a large decorative display piece behind the bar, the brewing equipment sat mothballed in the shadows of the steakhouse-themed restaurant and its mechanical bull.

The brewery's mash tun—meant to brew hundreds of gallons of beer—was instead used to shelve liquor bottles. The polished metal fermenting tanks—capable of fermenting a combined 120 kegs of beer—sat bone dry. 

However, when Union Cattle gave way to the locally produced menu concept of this year, was born, and along with it came the distinction of being one of the only beach-based breweries in the South Bay.

"I want us to be perceived as the local brewery ... It is kind of a neat thing to add to the community," said Abigaile owner Jed Sanford, who also owned Union Cattle. "We have had (the brewery) so long, so it is familiar to me, but I have never put the energy into it that I put now."

Sanford, who acquired the brewing system and current restaurant space from the now-defunct Ein Stein Brewing in 2002, said that the brewery did not fit into the Union Cattle concept. When he purchased the space, he actually considered paying someone to remove the equipment.

When , Sanford once again had a choice to make regarding the brewing facility.

"I thought a lot about actually whether I was going to keep it or not," said Sanford. "I had to commit real hard one way or the other, meaning get it out or really make it amazing ... I made the decision to completely commit to it."

With that commitment came the responsibility to produce high-quality beer that would appeal to the increasingly refined palates of beer drinkers and also stand out in a fast-growing craft beer market, Sanford said.

"You have to really be producing A-level stuff because there are so many choices and a lot of really good breweries," said Sanford. "People are really developing a better palate for knowing beer."

In order to make good beer, however, Sanford needed to find a good brewer.

"The key is really finding somebody who has the right talent," Sanford said. "A brewery in the right hands can be amazing; a brewery in the wrong hands can be pretty average or bad." 

Sanford found the right hands for the job with Brian Brewer, an experienced beer maker who once brewed for the immensely popular Stone Brewing Company in San Diego County. He's been brewing beer since he was 17 years old.

Brewer, who catches plenty of flak for his well-fitting but coincidental last name, said that unlike areas such as San Diego County, the South Bay still has plenty of unlocked potential for small breweries.

"It is kind of the last untapped resource for the craft beer industry in Southern California," Brewer said. "The market has nowhere to go but to expand ... In general, I think the trend is going to be more awareness and growth in the industry."

During remodeling, Brewer spent two months bringing Abigaile's brewing facility back to operating standards. The facility is now producing full-scale batches of beer to fill the five serving tanks at the restaurant's bar.

Brewer said his goal is to introduce craft beer to a mass audience but also please the beer aficionados that demand big, complex beers.

"I definitely like to try to brew with new ingredients and try new things experiment wise, but I do have my standard beers, and I do like my hoppy beers," said Brewer. "I want things that are easy to drink but also have a lot of character and flavor."

Although the size of the brewery limits how many beers he can make, Brewer said there are always one or two light beers, hoppy beers and seasonal or experimental beers on tap at all times.

"I would like people to step outside of their comfort zone and try new things," said Brewer. "You never know what you are going to find that you like."

Although Abigaile's current beers are only served at the restaurant, Brewer said he hopes they will some day be sold in local bars and eventually distributed outside of the South Bay.

"I hope the South Bay gets wind of this, and they come in and support us and we just grow from here," said Brewer. "The reins are in our hands ... We need to take it to the next level and bring awareness to everybody here and introduce some people to beer that they have probably never tasted before or knew existed."

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