Q&A With Nigel Heath, Absolution Brewing Company
When I was at the Sushi Chef Institute in October, I not only watched the giant sushi roll being made, but I met Nigel Heath, CEO and chief tasting officer of Absolution Brewing Company in Torrance at the event. A few weeks later, I went on a tour of Absolution’s impressive brewery, where the brand has been since 2013, and their tap room, which opened in 2014.
At any given time, Absolution boasts over 20 beers with awesome names on tap in the tap room, which hosts a monthly beer and sushi night with the Sushi Chef Institute on the first Thursday of every month, among other events.
“If you love big IPAs, hey, we’ve got five or six of those as well,” Nigel says. “If you’re not an IPA fan, that’s OK — we have everything from our proprietary Hefeweizen, through porters, stouts, through lighter blonde ales with seasonal fruits such as pomegranate and cranberry through barrel-aged beers. We have one for Christmas called Cardinal Noir, which is our red ale but it’s been in Pinot Noir barrels.” Pretty awesome.
Nigel, who has a background in quantum physics, was nice enough to take some time out to answer some questions for us about Absolution and working in the beer industry. Check out the video above for some of our tour!
How did you get involved with Absolution?
The three of us, the head brewer, myself, and the other partner, Steve, all have a love of English-style traditional ales from the 17th, 18th Centuries, so we all came together a few years ago, wanted to recreate some of those old ancient recipes that have long disappeared.
One of our tags, if you like, is “Old world recipes with new world ingredients.” We’re using the best of new world product in terms of Growing hops, but using those traditional artisan recipes that have long gone, so everything here is handmade. Truly artisan. Not machine or mass-produced.
Every ingredient is important when it comes to brewing. Is there something unexpected that people would be surprised highly influences the beer during the process?
I mean, it’s like anything artisan. We’re using the best in every category. We’re not cutting corners, we use high quality barleys throughout, which gives the Absolution beer is a characteristic flavor, quality, depth of flavor, and a smoothness that is a direct derivative of using that premium barley.
How would you compare British beer to American beer? What are some of the differences that stand out in the market?
What I grew up with, obviously, as a young man (not drinking underage, of course) was all natural product. The carbonation was only as a by-product of fermentation, so natural CO2 nothing was added. It was served, which the American market doesn’t like, warm. At body temperature, straight from a wooden cask on the bar counter.
Obviously, that isn’t necessarily going to fly in this market, but we’ve taken the best of those recipes and modernized them. They’re not English per se, we’re an American-English crossover brewery. As I said earlier we’re using the best of the old world with the best of the new. All of our products, our water, grain, hops, and yeast, no coloring, no chemicals, no additives. It’s a natural food product.
Using the best of grain, the best of hops, the best yeast, our location here, for many reasons, but one of the key was the water supply, which comes basically from a natural well here.
Where can our readers find Absolution beer?
Base camp is the tap room here, which is open six days a week, just not Tuesdays, so Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. We have up to 22 beers on tap. They’re all made here. We make our own cream soda and root beer as well.
Then we have accounts from San Diego to San Francisco on tap, so many fine bars and restaurants, a lot of hotels. Then, in terms of the packaged side, Vons, Ralphs, Whole Foods, every Total Wine in Southern California. BevMo now started carrying the product. Gelson’s, too name a few. You’ll find both our six packs of our key products and also our 22 ounce bombers in a lot of those stores locally.
I know you guys have partnered with the Sushi Chef Institute for a monthly sushi and beer night. Are there any other events that our readers can look forward to?
Readers could check with our website on a weekly basis and our blog on the website in terms of what’s happening from week-to-week. As you mentioned, the first Thursday of every month is sushi night and the sushi is with our great partners the Sushi Chef Institute, they come in and create spectacular sushi. Not just independently, but to pair with our various beers. Whilst we have a core set of beers, we have seasonal rotating beers all the time. Right now, we have a blond ale with cranberry, and another one with pomegranate for the holiday season. The sushi chefs have been pairing their different flavors with our most current beers.
We also have yoga. First Saturday every month at the brewery, which is complimentary before we open. Come along for a great workout for yoga and then have some beers afterwards.
We have regular food trucks rotating, we have a great barbecue truck, a great Mediterranean, just to name a few. They’re listed on our website every week. Some real popular items on the weekends to pair with our beers. Also, we do a lot of community and charity events. Some recent events, animal rescue for South Bay had their fundraiser here. A lot of the local kid’s sports teams hold their fundraisers here. The South Bay Women’s Guild is holding their fundraiser here. I can go on and on but check the website and if your readers are interested, there is a once a week email letting you know what’s on, what’s coming up, what beer specials, if you’d like to sign up for regular news.
What is probably your most popular of the beers and what is your personal favorite?
A couple of the beers that we sell in terms of the large volume market is our English-style IPA called Angel’s Demise, 7.2% alcohol, 75 IBU, which indicates the bitterness level. That’s both available in draft and in bottles as I mentioned at all those fine stores. That’s a really nice change, because a lot of women who don’t necessarily like big, mouth-wrenching hot bombs really like our IPA because it’s well-balanced.
Cardinal Sin is another one that’s popular — an Irish red ale, and not many people make a good Irish red ale. That’s a 5.7%, 37 IBU, nice hints of caramel and toffee. Then we have specialty beers like AD/JD, which is our IPA that’s been in Jack Daniels barrels. That’s barrel-aged, and you get whiskey on the nose, and a little hint of whiskey on the back pallet. That beer is very, very popular.
My favorite is Fallen Archangel which is a double imperial English IPA. So smooth, complex. Just layers of flavor just keep going. Watch out, that beer is 10.2% alcohol.