(Absolution Brewing Company, February 2015)
Absolution Brewing Company opened a little short of a year ago in the South Bay, Los Angeles’s up-and-coming center of craft brewing. Owners Steve Farguson and Nigel Heath, along with head brewer at the time Wes McCann, noticed an underserved market for microbrews in south LA County, observing that many in the region headed even further south to San Diego County for fresh beer. Since the City of Torrance had already been making efforts to attract craft brewers to the region, native-Angeleno Farguson drew on his experience as a brewing consultant to open his own shop closer to home (source). The brewery and tap room are actually located in the back of a nondescript tilt-up office park, buried behind an oil refinery and bordered by train tracks, but that fact does little to hide Absolution from the relatively large group gathered here to drink at noon on a weekday. Maybe the repurposed church pews (previously purposed at Heath’s church, evidently) and religiously-themed brew names (which you might have already figured, given the name of the brewery) are adequate to assuage the guilt of a liquid lunch….
Naturally, I chose one of their tea-totaling options…
The Pocket Pooj ponders a pardon.
Current head brewer Bart Bullington – who, it’s worth noting, was actively head brewing and shoveling grain out of a mash tun next to my pew during my visit – developed Absolution’s root beer recipe along with many of the, shall we say, holier brews. It’s heavy on the licorice and herbs, almost bordering on bitter, with a menthol finish. Nevertheless it’s quite refreshing, and the fact that it’s not too sweet actually makes it easier to drink. There’s no head at all and the bubbles are on the small side, the former being a little disappointing but the latter also making it easier to drink. Lest you be worried about the fate of the former head brewer, McCann was manning the bar, and he told me that they use nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide for the carbonation (assuming it’s still called carbonation if it’s not actually carbon…?). Unfortunately, the nitrogen limits Redeemer Root Beer’s availability to the tap house at the moment – it will not travel well in a growler, and will quickly go flat.
Well, in that case...
Inspired by the above exhortation, strategically placed on the restroom wall, I also had a glass of the Confession Cream Soda, which was actually a little spicy, too. Of course, I can't tell for sure whether that's intentional or just the root beer aftertaste talking. Either way, the Cream Soda does have a huge head of soft foam, and was also pleasantly not too sweet, with less vanilla than you'd typically expect in a cream soda.
Back to Absolution’s root beer, though: I like it well enough, but it’s also a little on the bitter side for my every day tastes. On the other hand, that same bitterness would actually make Redeemer a good root beer to cook with – generally the stronger ones make better root beer sherbets and whatnot. As a drinking root beer however, I’ll give Redeemer Root Beer a high 3.5.