Note: This column originally appeared in the April 3 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press. Stay tuned to this space for more information about Santa Barbara Beer Week in July.
There have been few beers that I’ve looked forward to this year as much as Telegraph Brewing’s Obscura Peche. The peach sour ale has all the potential of being yet another great hit from brewer Paul Rey, and is due to be released soon.
The sad thing is, if we lived in Sacramento, we might have already tasted it.
Telegraph debuted the beer in early March for Sacramento Beer Week — a weeklong celebration of beer in the California capitol.
This is not to accuse Telegraph of abandoning its local market, as the Santa Barbara brewery is working to ensure a smooth release of the sour ale in bottles and on tap in its tasting room for the local community. Rather, this is an example of what Santa Barbara is missing without its own beer week.
The concept is simple — one calendar week dedicated to the promotion and celebration of beer. Breweries, bars and restaurants work together to host tap-takeovers, beer dinners and other sorts of beer-centric events.
I’m proud to say that we will soon have its own beer week, as fellow Santa Barbara beer columnist Zach Rosen (SB Sentinel) and myself are working together to organize the local beer community. The project is still a fledgling, but as it grows its wings Zach and I will fill in the details here in this space as well as others.
But this project, still in the conceptual phase, is not without its detractors.
I was chatting with a well-respected brewer friend of mine, and he told me that Santa Barbara’s beer wasn’t good enough for a beer week. He said that the consumers weren’t ready for one either.
Frankly, I had to disagree with him on both counts.
I look at the crisp and brilliant lagers brewed by Kevin Pratt Santa Barbara Brewing Company, and I see excellence. I see the same high-quality brewing at Hollister Brewing Company, where brewer Eric Rose showcases hops in a masterful way. I look at Telegraph, and I see truly fascinating and unique wild ales rivaled only by those being produced at Firestone Walker Barrelworks in Buellton, where it must be said the production budget is much larger than Telegraph’s.
I see the popularity of the Figueroa Mountain tasting room in the Funk Zone, and I know that crowds of locals and tourists are there for the wide variety and often extremely interesting beer produced by A.J. Stoll and his team of brewers. I look at the laid-back Island Brewing Company in Carpinteria, and I find great joy in pints of Jubilee Ale and Starry Night Stout.
It is still too early to assign any sort of judgment on the newest entry to Santa Barbara, Pure Order Brewing Company, but the early product has been impressive.
Add in local beer bars like Eureka!, American Ale and Brat Haus, as well as restaurants that showcase great beer like Pace Food + Drink, Olio E Limone and the Wine Cask (among many others), and Santa Barbara is rife with great options for beer.
As for the consumer, it’s likely true that wine has long been king in Santa Barbara.
But beer has always been a more plebian drink than wine, and Santa Barbarans are quickly recognizing its appeal. When I see crowds of people lined up outside of Figueroa Mountain’s tasting room, or even more crowding Barrelworks for a release of special beer I can’t help but assume that the Santa Barbara consumer is quickly learning to appreciate the value of beer.
The same is true at places like Santa Barbara Brewing Co., where baseball fans pack the lounge for games and choose locally-produced beer over the cheaper bottles of Bud Light.
And if the consumer truly doesn’t appreciate beer yet in Santa Barbara, then what better way to introduce them to everything the area has to offer than with a full week dedicated to the brew.
The brewing and beer community in Santa Barbara is young and relatively immature compared to places like San Diego, San Francisco and Portland. We are only now starting to realize the kinds of treasures we have in the local fermentors around the county.
But what we do recognize is that beer is good — and Santa Barbara beer is constantly getting better and more innovative.
I think it’s time to celebrate what we have.