The rapid growth and quickly expanding popularity of Figueroa Mountain aren’t enough for brewmaster A.J. Stoll. It seems he has to have a little something on the side.
Stoll and Fig Mountain are officially unveiling the brewery’s new label, Liquamentum, this weekend. But those at the Sept. 27 Figtoberfest in Buellton have already had a peak at those beers.
The side project will feature barrel-aged and innovative beers that might not work well for Fig Mountain’s normal line. Right now that’s because the beers are aged for a long time in barrels, but Stoll did not rule out the possibility of brewing sour beers or experimenting with other yeast strains. Beers that have already been on tap at Fig’s tap rooms like Petite Syrah Porter and The Grendel are examples of the kind of beer one can expect from Liquamentum.
I was invited, along with a few other members of the media, to a lunch and tasting of the new line earlier this week. We were fed well by Beto Huizar, the chef of Beto’s Place, which is opening in a space above the brewery as soon as the permits all go through (more on Beto’s place later).
The first beer on the menu was a familiar one for Whole Foods customer — Biere de Menage.
The beer is a saison aged in Sauvignon Blanc barrels and is comprised of a whopping 6% Sauvignon Blanc wine. Stoll and Fig Mountain brought in winemakers to help craft the blend, and Stoll had to make sure that the beer stayed well within the “beer” realm.
“We had some of these blends that were just ‘wow,’ way out there,” Stoll said. “I had to dial it back a bit because I wanted to make sure that these beers are still beer.”
The end result is really lovely and refreshing and the wine elements certainly peak their head out to play with your palate. It’s the lightest in the series, but has a nice body to it and tons of nuances in the nose and flavor.
Next up was Double Down Davy Brown — a double-mashed imperial brown ale aged in bourbon barrels from Cutler’s Distillery in the Funk Zone. Basically, Stoll took the first runnings from two mashes and made one beer — a very strong beer at over 11% ABV.
It’s a deep, dark brown with the slightest whiff of bourbon on the nose. There’s also lots of dark fruit with cherries, plum and raisins coming through. The taste is similar. It’s sweet for a beer, and the high alcohol is hidden very well. The fruit elements add a layer of complexity behind the malt-forward beer.
Finally, we got to Hell’s Half-Acre — a wine barrel-aged barleywine that was bottled more than a year after going into pinot noir barrels from Seasmoke. The beer is dark and strong like Double Davy Brown (stronger in fact at closer to 13% ABV), but when held to the light it shines a brilliant ruby. There are not many hops present in the nose anymore, but the bitterness still exists.
Once again, notes of fruit and oak play behind a complex foreground, but the nuances are different. This beer has more bitterness for balance, and the pinot barrels express themselves differently than the whisky barrels.
But, with all respect to Stoll, the star of the afternoon was Huizar and his food. The former Firestone Walker head chef prepared tri-tip sliders with accouterments, spent-grain pretzel bites with Davy Brown mustard and beer-brined hot wings alongside homemade ranch dressing and fresh carrots and jicama.
It was the perfect base for an afternoon of sipping strong ales, and I’ll be looking forward to the restaurant’s opening in the near future.