We are lucky enough here in Santa Barbara to be part of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s tasting ground. Brewmaster A.J. Stoll and his team can use the facilities at the Funk Zone location to test new recipes and gauge the public’s reaction.
Good news for everyone outside of Santa Barbara and Buellton, some of those beers are making their way to bottles and distribution.
Over the next eight weeks, Figueroa Mountain will be releasing four new beers:
• Lizard’s Mouth IPA, a strong Imperial IPA with a pronounced bitterness and hop profile, in 22 oz bottles
• Big Cone IPA, a potent IPA with a huge hop aroma, in 22 oz bottles
• A yet-to-be-named Kolsch… in Cans!
• A yet-to-be-named saison brewed in collaboration with Whole Foods and Margerum Wine Company. that incorporates Sauvignon Blanc.
Of the four, I’m most excited about the latter two. For starters, a Kolsch in cans sounds like something I’d like to take to the beach or on a camping trip. I tasted the saison, and while it is still very young it is already brilliantly clear. The wine comes through and plays with the sulfur and pepper of the saison.
With that saison, as well as a handful of other barrel-aging projects that Stoll previewed this weekend, Stoll is beginning to emerge as a real player in the experimental beer realm. It’s very hard to compare what he’s doing to Barrelworks or Firestone-Walker’s barrel aging for several reasons, even though it’s tempting (not only are the breweries close in proximity, they’re both making fascinating beers out of barrels). The first difference is that Stoll and Figueroa Mountain don’t quite have the resources at their disposal that F-W does. They may one day, but they’re still the little brother in Buellton and the Central Coast in that regard. The other reason why it’s hard to compare Stoll’s work with that of Jeffers Richardson and Jim Crooks at Barrelworks is because they’re taking very different approaches.
Crooks and Richardson are taking a mad-scientist approach to classic and traditional beer styles — even if you aren’t familiar with a geuze or berliner weisse, they are. Stoll, on the other hand, is embracing his position in the heart of California wine country. Many of his barrel projects are a blend of beer and wine, not just wine grapes added to beer. It’s unique, and I get the distinct feeling that we the general public are just beginning to see what Stoll is capable of when he’s given the resources and freedom to experiment.