Farewell, Santa Barbara

Word has begun to spread already, so for many of Santa Barbara Beer’s readers this may be old news, but this will be likely the last post for this blog. It’s been a fun couple of years, but I’m moving out of the area and it wouldn’t make much sense to write about Santa Barbara beer and brewing when I live and work elsewhere.

There are plenty of projects ahead in the future, and those details when come out when they do, but for the moment let’s take a look to reflect on the past and current state of beer in Santa Barbara.

When this blog began in March of 2013, beer in the American Riviera was just beginning to take roots. Telegraph Brewing Company was in the process of expanding into its new and current location, Pure Order Brewing Company was still trying to get up and running and Island Brewing Company was the only option for beer in Carpinteria. Oh yeah, and no portion of Firestone Walker was owned by Duvel.

Two years later and not only was Pure Order up and brewing, but it is doing quite well. Telegraph continued its expansion and joined the contemporary beer scene with an IPA that stands along the best examples of the style in town. Not only does Island Brewing have some company in Carpinteria now, but it brewLAB and Rincon have proved to be impressive in their own right. As far as Island goes, the competition has seemingly only made the product coming out of the local area’s oldest production brewery that much better. Goleta’s Captain Fatty’s has become a family-friendly option in the area while Hollister Brewing Company continues to churn out Eric Rose’s typically impressive beer.

But not all developments have been unicorns and rainbows. Santa Barbara Brewing Company’s reviver, Kevin Pratt, said farewell to pursue other avenues. So too did Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s AJ Stoll, who is now back in the United States and plying his trade in Florida’s up-and-coming Funky Buddha. Oh yeah, and Firestone Walker “combined forces” with Duvel-Moortgat.

To be honest, I’m not sure exactly what that last sentence even means. A quick text conversation with David Walker, Jeffers Richardson and Jim Crooks confirmed that Duvel didn’t “buy out” Firestone Walker, but is definitely involved. To me, this sounds as though Duvel only bought a portion of the company — and not a controlling portion. All indications point to complete autonomy for Firestone Walker, but I’m sure as a major shareholder Duvel will want to ensure that the company remains profitable. Still, Ommegang and Boulevard have thrived under Duvel ownership, and I can’t imagine that Firestone Walker will be negatively impacted from its new partnership with the Devil.

If anything, I’m curious to see what Firestone Walker does with its new influx of cash. Along with the possibility of tapping into a larger distribution network, a deal of this type will likely provide the Paso Robles-based brewery with funds to take on new projects. The canning facility at the Paso campus is already a thing of beauty, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see more beer come out in cans. Or perhaps some of the funding will go toward speeding up progress at the upcoming Venice location. This is all pure speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Firestone Walker increase its national footprint the same way we have seen Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, Lagunitas, New Belgium and a handful of others open new plants in other regions of the country. Or perhaps Firestone may take a similar route as Figueroa Mountain and open up smaller tasting or tap rooms in various locations. Maybe Barrelworks will get its own wort production equipment as well. Who knows? The point is that this new partnership should only bring positives for Firestone Walker and beer fans across the country — perhaps across the world. Duvel has proven it has the ability to invest in craft brands without tainting the product or the spirit of the company with its efforts with Ommegang and Boulevard, and it seems likely that Firestone Walker and its customers will only benefit from this new partnership.

I’m sad to leave Santa Barbara with its perfect weather and its rapidly expanding beer scene. I wish that I would have the opportunity to report on the openings of M Special in Goleta and Third Window in Santa Barbara. My departure from the community won’t slow down the growth that we’ve already seen, and I imagine the small void I leave will be filled soon by someone else.

It’s been a fun journey. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Duvel Moortgat Combine Companies in USA

July 16, 2015 – Kansas City, Mo., & Paso Robles, Ca. – In an agreement signed earlier this week, Firestone Walker Brewing Company and Duvel Moortgat will combine their two companies in the USA.  The California brewery will continue to operate independently in Paso Robles under its current leadership of David Walker and Adam Firestone.

David Walker and Adam Firestone, joint founders of Firestone Walker said: “The Firestone Walker and Duvel Moortgat families have combined forces to broaden their capacity and scope as brewers. Long admirers of each other’s beers, culture and breweries, the two teams saw the perfect fit for an alliance. The partnership will allow Firestone Walker to develop our capacity across the US in a conservative and thoughtful way by consummating a life long tie with this family-owned international craft brewer, who continue their commitment to participating in the American Craft Revolution.”

“The relationship I have built with David and Adam made Firestone Walker the perfect fit for future growth,” said Michel Moortgat, CEO of Duvel Moortgat. “We share the same values; have a great mutual respect for each other’s achievements and a deeply-held belief in exceptional quality as a platform for long-term success. Bringing Firestone Walker together with Boulevard, Ommegang, Duvel and the other craft breweries in our family creates a stronger platform in the USA for us both and allows us to collaborate on brewing in different locations across the USA” 

“The most important thing that we can do for Firestone Walker is to help David and Adam manage the exponential growth that their team and their brewery is experiencing right now by providing financial and production capacity to support them,” said Simon Thorpe, President of Duvel Moortgat USA. “We are not integrating our organizations. Both Boulevard and Ommegang are also enjoying tremendous success and we still have much to do in realizing our dream for both these breweries.”

The transaction between Duvel Moortgat and Firestone Walker is expected to close later this year. It is an agreement between two private, family-owned companies, so no financial or contractual details will be disclosed. 

About Firestone Walker Brewing Company
Founded in 1996, Firestone Walker Brewing Company has grown to become one of the largest specialty brewers in California. Located in Paso Robles, it is known for crafting iconic pale ales and pioneering barrel-aged beers. Everything it does revolves around one goal; to make the world’s best beers. Firestone Walker distributes in 21 states. For more information, visit firestonebeer.com, facebook/firestone.walker or twitter.com/FirestoneWalker

About Duvel Moortgat
The Duvel Moortgat group, founded in Belgium in 1871, is an independent brewer of authentic specialty and craft beers. Around the world, the group is considered to be the leading producer of bottle-conditioned, high-fermentation beers, a reputation owed largely to the success of its best-selling brand Duvel. 

In the USA, Duvel Moortgat continues our belief in independent, family owned craft brewing and includes Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City MO and Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown NY. The company also imports its European craft brands including Duvel, Chouffe, Maredsous, De Koninck and Liefmans.
Please see our web site for further information: www.duvelusa.com.

First Beverage Group acted as financial advisor to Firestone Walker, and Spencer Fane Britt & Browne provided legal counsel. ING acted as financial advisor to Duvel Moortgat, and McDermott Will & Emery provided legal counsel.

A precap of the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival and La Piccola Collaboration Beer

FWIBF logo

Christmas doesn’t make me this happy. Birthdays don’t even come close. Few things get me as excited as the last weekend in May and the fourth Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Festival.

I won’t go into too much detail about all the great beers that will be at this year’s festival (if you’re curious, you can find the list here). I’ll have a little more info about that in my column in the Santa Barbara News-Press that will run on June 4. But suffice to say there’s a lot of good stuff.

But what makes the FWIBF stand out is not the amount of whalez(!) flowing from the best brewers in the world, it’s the overall high quality of beer. You can wander the aisles of the Great American Beer Festival and find some truly amazing beer, but you can also find a bunch of duds and a few outright stinkers. At FWIBF, the vast majority of beers poured are in the “world-class” category — so don’t expect me to be standing in lines for the popular beers while hidden gems lay waiting to be discovered.

However, there is one beer that I will gladly be lining up for — La Piccola Dark Saison, a collaboration beer brewed alongside Agostino Arioli of Birrifico Italiano. There will be three versions of this beer available at the festival — two from Firestone Walker Barrelworks, and one from Birrificio Italiano. Firestone brewmaster Matt Brynildson explained the collaboration process in a recent press release.

“With most collaborations, you start the beer together at one brewery, and it gets finished there, resulting in one beer,” Brynildson said. “Agostino and I decided to do something different. We sat down and designed the recipe together, then went back to our respective breweries to brew them on our own. We’ve been emailing back and forth for a year now, trying to replicate what the other was doing.”

LaPiccolaAfter Brynildson produced the wort in Paso Robles and pitched the brewery’s saison yeast, it was shipped down to Buellton where mad fermentationists Jeffers Richardson and Jim Crooks got to doing their thing with the barrels and bugs.

They inoculated the beer with a blend of brettanomyces lambicus and lactobacillus (better known as Brett and Lacto) and let those wild strains do their thing for eight months inside French oak puncheons.

The plan was always to add some black pepper to the brew, but after tasting the base product it was hard to avoid not releasing that as well.

“Once that finished we started tasting it and everyone really appreciated the version we created,” Crooks said. “That’s when we started thinking we wanted to do one called (La Piccola) Virtuosa which was without peppercorns.”

Another version was dosed with Sichuan peppercorns, which Richardson and Crooks agreed were quite the pepper.

“It’s like putting your tongue on a nine-volt battery,” Crooks said.

“It’s that feeling you get at the dentist’s office when the Novocain wears off,” Richardson added.

The result was two similar, yet distinctive beers.

“They’re both fantastic beers,” Richardson said. “The difference is you get this citrus rind, depth from the peppercorn beer…. it’s really quite pleasant. The amount blended in worked quite nicely. It will be really fun to compare and contrast with Birrifico Italiano.”

Both versions will be available at the festival and for sale at the Paso Robles Brewery and the Barrelworks facility starting at 3 p.m. on Saturday. However, the only place to taste the Birrifico Italiano version will be at the festival. Nobody this side of the Atlantic has had that yet, but Richardson speculated that it would likely be less sour than what they created.

For a little insight, Brynildson described Arioli’s style a bit in that same press release.

“Like many Italians, Agostino is a true gourmet, and he takes a chef’s approach to brewing,” Brynildson said. “He’s really into exotic spices and he wanted to play around with these Sichuan peppercorns, which are really weird and unique. We had to contact a spice hunter in Italy to get our hands on them.”

So skip the lines on Saturday, but don’t skip La Piccola.

What it Means to be a Community Brewery

pure order board

Recently, I had the opportunity to give a short speech at Blue Box 2015 — a conference hosted by First Beverage Group in Boulder, Colorado. It was a great opportunity to mingle with some movers and shakers in the beverage world, but I took it as a chance to talk about what it means to be part of a brewing community, and a collaborator within that community.

I believe video from that conference will be up soon, and I’ll post a link when that happens. But rather than laboring through a video of me nervously addressing strangers, you need look no further than one of our own local breweries to see what it means to be part of a brewing community.

Pure Order Brewing Company on 410 Quarantina Street is the epitome of the neighborhood brewery. They, along with Telegraph Brewing on Salsipuedes Street, are where the locals go for a drink when the crowds of visitors in the Funk Zone get a bit outside of comfort range. And for good reason — both breweries are making incredible beer.

Pure Order was recently among the winners at the Casa Pacifica in Ventura along with Institution Ales from Camarillo and The LAB in Agoura. While those other two are both great breweries, Pure Order was the only one in the winner list with a beer off its standard and regular production line — the Santa Barbara Pale. That beer will also be part of the upcoming Cost Plus World Market Summer Seasonal Variety Pack, which will be available nationwide. That’s a pretty big deal.

And yet, it’s Pure Order’s ability to keep things small and local that sets them apart. Recently, they’ve been helping me out by loaning their time, space and some equipment to help me brew 60 gallons of beer for a friend’s upcoming June wedding (and yes, full disclosure, this help is greatly appreciated and I’m sure impacts my favorable bias toward them. They also carry my book, We Make Beer, so I’m sure that doesn’t hurt either. I’m only human, but I like to believe that my opinions can remain relatively objective). This isn’t just because I write a beer column in the local newspaper or because I run this blog. James Burge and Pure Order are willing to help me out because I’m part of the local brewing community — the same way I’ve seen them help out home brewers who come in looking for advice and perhaps experience.

10 gallons of Strawberry Solstice, a collaboration beer I've brewed with Pure Order Brewing Company for an upcoming wedding.

10 gallons of Strawberry Solstice, a collaboration beer I’ve brewed with Pure Order Brewing Company for an upcoming wedding.

More and more often I hear locals tell me that Pure Order is their favorite brewery in town. I don’t think that’s a knock on any of the other breweries, as just about every brewery from Buellton to Carpinteria is producing high-quality beer right now (and one need look no further than the recent Dia de Los Obscuras to see how the beer community has embraced Telegraph). I think what that represents is how Pure Order has managed to capture Santa Barbara’s essence. Not just in the beer, but in the entire atmosphere provided at the brewery and its beer garden.

Beer isn’t just a business, at least it shouldn’t be. The best breweries aren’t just the ones pumping out the best liquid, they’re also the ones that represent and collaborate within the community (along those lines — there was a recent Instagram post from Kevin Ashford from Fig Mountain’s SB brewery showing a collaboration effort with Island Brewing’s Ryan Morrill, as well as both breweries’ brewing teams). Pure Order, certainly isn’t the only local brewery to embrace the community, but it’s embraced me, and I’m grateful.

edit: a previous version of this post misidentified Ryan Morrill as a brewer for Telegraph — he is the head brewer for Island Brewing in Carpinteria.

Recap of Telegraph’s Dia de Los Obscuras

Note: This column originally appeared in the May 7 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press

It can be hard to find the right words to describe a beer. After a while, words like floral, piney, caramel, chocolate and toffee all start to sound the same.

That’s part of the reason why I avoid writing reviews of beer. Who is to say that my palate is better than yours, or that my perception of a beer’s flavors should influence your appreciation?

But in the effort to avoid using contrived adjective after contrived adjective, my descriptions of certain beers can tend to be overly broad. For example, I’m fond of describing Telegraph Brewing’s beers as “unique.”

Unfortunately, I have no intention of abandoning this word when it comes to the projects that Telegraph and brewer Paul Rey are churning out.

Rey and Telegraph’s creativity were on full display May 3 for the Salsipuedes Street brewery’s second Dia de las Obscuras sour beer festival. With 10 beers on tap (only eight of which were actually sour, although all 10 involved wild yeasts) and a crowd of a few hundred people milling about, it was an intimate and altogether pleasant festival.

“I’m real happy with the way things turned out,” Rey said. “The main improvement from last year was having separate stations and spreading people out. That way everyone can just relax and not scramble to try and get a beer.”

I marveled at beers like the Indigenous Yeast Project, which was fermented with yeast captured and isolated by Rey underneath fruit trees from some property in San Roque.

“I’ve done it several times and captured wild yeast that’s produced DMS (dimethyl sulfide, a chemical compound that is undesirable in beer and tastes like old vegetables) or some pretty bad sulfur characters — just some harsh off-flavors,” Rey said. “This is the first one I’ve isolated that was really clean. I propped it up from a tiny jar to a growler with an airlock to eventually up to a 5-gallon carboy. A couple gallons of that went into this batch, which was about 12 to 13 gallons total.”

The beer itself was slightly reminiscent of Earl Grey tea.

I loved the tart and semi-sweet Framboise Palo Santo that was made with Telegraph’s house sour culture and raspberries. It was pink, sweet and fizzy enough that I could have enjoyed a whole pint of it yet complex enough that my party and I were content to sip on the small sample we were poured.

Then there was Johnny Parker. The sour ale is named after a friend of Rey’s and aged in a small wine barrel for about 18 months — about as long as Telegraph has been in its current location. In fact, the Johnny Parker beer was the first barrel added to Telegraph’s now sizeable barrel collection.

Apples were added, and there is a slight hint of apple cider to the beer. The plums and the peaches are less obvious, although the layers of intrigue are certainly added.

“It’s there for complexity, not to be an apple beer or a cherry beer,” Rey said. “It’s there for the complexity. I started with apples, then added some cherries — flavor giant is the variety… then some plums when I plummed the Gypsy Ale and some peaches. It wasn’t the same peaches that went into (Obscura) Peche, but it was the same peach tree.”

Johnny Parker was a favorite of mine, along with Demolicion Dos — a sour dark strong ale aged with a variety of fruit that included blackberries. I noticed that Johnny Parker was also a favorite of many of the area brewers that were in attendance.

I spotted brewers from the brewLAB in Carpinteria, Island Brewing Co., The Brewhouse, the Libertine Pub from Morro Bay and even local home brewer-turned-pro Josh Ellis who will be opening his own brewery in Goleta in the very near future.

I asked Rey what brought them all out to the event.

“Because they’re really into beer,” he said.

Perhaps. But I think they’re probably also really into Telegraph’s unique offerings.

Sean Lewis is a beer drinker, beer maker and the author of “We Make Beer: Inside the Spirit and Artistry of America’s Craft Brewers” (St. Martin’s Press). His column appears the first Thursday of the month. Follow him on Twitter @Sean_M_Lewis.

 

American Craft Beer Week at Island Brewing Company

American Craft Beer Week at Island Brewing Company

May 11-17, 2015

 

Carpinteria, CA — Island Brewing Company will again join forces with thousands of breweries across the country celebrating the culture and community of craft beer. Island Brewing Company will commemorate this year’s American Craft Beer Week with fun and frivolity, new, seasonal, and rare beer releases, community events, brewery tours, and more. Here’s the lineup:

Monday, May 11:  Activate the preschooler part of your brain, and prepare to lose yourself in the gluestick, glitter, magic markers of Crafting with Craft, while you spend an interesting evening coloring outside the lines (6-9). For one night only we’ll be pouring a limited release keg of the Russian Imperial Stout. At 11 % abv, it’s only the biggest beer we’ve ever brewed; huge chocolate notes, big malt character, sure to inspire.  Santa Barbara Food Connection will be serving up tortas and hamburgers on the patio 4-8.

Tuesday, May 12 It’s Beer Trivia (7-8:30) a great chance to impress your friends with your vast knowledge of all things beer without being showy, and take home some prizes to boot!  It’s also Customer Appreciation with $1 off pint coupons. On tap tonight for one night only: the return of our much loved big and bold Belgian Quad, 9.3% 27 IBU.  The French Food Truck will be serving up an authentic French food experience…. but with a twist (4-8).

Wednesday, May 13: The event that you’ve hopefully spent the last year training for: the 4th Annual Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament (6-8:30). You read that right and you already know the rules! But wait, there’s more.  Fire and Wine Catering will be on hand for some wood fired pizza! (4-8) and on tap for one night only: Belgian beer and hop lovers rejoice – We’ll be pouring a Belgian IPA 7.0 %, 62 IBUs.

Thursday, May 14: Brewer’s Appreciation Night, we will be celebrating the people that work so hard to brew the beer for you.  The brain trust that is our brewers in the back will be on hand for a guided tasting through our current beers starting at 6:30, as well as showing you and your crew around the brewery.   This is a great chance to tell them how much you love their work, probably learn a thing or two about beer, and have a few pints of deliciousness. Thursday sees the release of the 7th beer in our Variance IPA series.  The IPL, that’s an India Pale Lager, think hops, light body, and all good. Georgia’s Smokehouse will bring the Southern-style smokehouse BBQ (5-8).

Friday, May 15: Hold on to your hats. We will have Bourbon Barrel-aged Jubilee on tap. You read that right. This will not last long, so make it a point to convert your enthusiasm into action. This will also coincide with VIP Tasting $15 per tasting (ticketholders only, please) as we raid the barchives in amassing a tasting of some of yesteryear’s beers for a night not to be missed (6-8). Santa Barbara Food Connection fires up the grill from 4-8 for tacos and tortas and all things authentic.

Saturday, May 16: Excellence in sound and taste combine for Beerapalooza. We’re going to tap a cask of Chicory Vanilla Stout deliciousness for this  sun-soaked, all day, live music event featuring the soothing sounds of the Ben Wilmore Quartet (1 – 2:30), the groove of Sol Tree (3 – 4:30) and the one and only Pacific Haze (5 – 6:30). World Famous Franks parks on the patio 4-8 to deliver just what your palate is looking for.

Sunday, May 17: We’ll tap one more cask of amazingness to round out the week, a rum oaked Jubilee.  From 2-4 we’ll be conducting Hop Experiment tastings, adding different hops to the same beer for your education and the general progress of humanity. Who knows, you might end up on our sensory tasting panel. And we’ll have the always popular Beer Bingo (6 – 8). Confusion Catering will bring their unique blend of flavors to the patio from 2-6 and keep your hunger at bay.

Island Brewing Company is located at 5049 6th Street in Carpinteria, CA.  For more information about Island Brewing Company or American Craft Beer Week contact Laurie Matthews at (805)745-8272 or email laurie@islandbrewingcompany.com.  We hope you will join us in celebrating American Craft Beer Week!

Island Brewing Company lands six medals at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition

Note: The following is a press release from Island Brewing Company

Island Brewing Company lands six medals at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition

Carpinteria, CA – Island Brewing Company posted six medals at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition, judged April 18-19. A panel of certified beer judges critiqued hundreds of beers from the US and abroad in a blind-taste format covering 89 beer styles. Beers were judged against others of similar styles as defined by the Brewer’s Association Style Guidelines.

Island Brewing Company beers won for the following styles:

Gold Medal  –  Island Blonde,  German-style Kolsch category
Gold Medal – King Tide Double IPA,  Imperial India Pale Ale category
Silver Medal –  Starry Night Stout, Foreign-style Stout category
Silver Medal – Bourbon Barrel- Aged Jubilee, Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer categorySilver Medal – Big Island Barley Wine,  Barley Wine Style Ale categoryBronze Medal – Variance Belgian IPA , American-Belgo Style Ale category.

“It’s great to see the hard work and focus in the cellar paying off,” said head brewer Ryan Morrill. “We have a great, passionate team and it shows in our beer. It’s a exceptional time for craft beer–there’s more breweries and great beer out there than ever before and it is exciting to be a part of it. We’ve got some new beers coming out soon, so stay tuned.”

Island Brewing Company is open MondayThursday from 2-9pm, Friday and Saturday from 11-10pm and Sunday from 11-9pm at 5049 6th Street, Carpinteria, CA 93013.  For more information contact Laurie Matthews at Island Brewing Company at (805)745-8272 or laurie@islandbrewingcompany.com.

McConnell’s Ice Cream Creates New Flavor With Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. Beer

Note: The following is a press release from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company

 McConnell’s Ice Cream Creates New Flavor With Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. Beer

Buellton, California— Local ice cream purveyor, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams, recently launched a new flavor aimed at adults using beer from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company.  The new flavor is Davy Brown Ale incorporating the award-winning brown ale of the same name.  Davy Brown Ale Ice Cream pints are now available at McConnell’s Ice Cream and Yogurt Shop (728 State Street in Santa Barbara) and in Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s Santa Barbara taproom (137 Anacapa Street, Suite F in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone).  Buy a 22-ounce bottle of Davy Brown Ale and get a $1.00 off your pint of ice cream, or vice versa.  Just bring your receipt to either location for your discount.

“We’d made a few beer ice creams in the past, but this was an opportunity both to work with a brewery we’re huge personal fans of and take the time to really hone in on what it takes to make an exceptional beer flavor,” explains McConnell’s owner, Michael Palmer.  “Like any flavor, it’s always about achieving a balance of flavor profile. The Davy Brown Ale was a perfect match to the creaminess in the ice cream. Folding in the salty brittle took it to that next level. The Davy Brown Ale had all the properties needed to help our process and we’re super happy with the results. We hope McConnell’s and Fig Mountain customers are as well!”

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s Retail Operations Manager, Tony Grimes, agrees with Palmer: “Combining two of my favorite things—Fig beer and McConnell’s ice cream—is a dream come true.  It’s the best of both worlds.”  He adds that Davy Brown Ale has won nine medals and is one of the brewery’s core beers.  “I love the mocha-flavor of this beer.  The caramel and chocolate malts make this the perfect beer for ice cream.”

For more information about Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, their taprooms and beers, please visit www.FigMtnBrew.com.

Take Me Out to the Brewhouse

Just as wine experts do, beer experts love talking about beer pairings. And like wine experts, it’s hard for beer experts to not come off a little snobby when they point out that an IPA’s herbal aroma pairs nicely with a sharp goat cheese.

It also seems to me that most pairings are simply matters of personal taste and current moods. You might like a hoppy beer to go alongside your spicy buffalo wings — I prefer a robust porter.

But I hope we can all agree that nothing goes better with beer — any beer — than baseball.

And in Santa Barbara, no place puts the two together quite like The Brewhouse on Montecito Street.

Monday marks the first full day of baseball, and it also marks the release of one of my favorite seasonal beers, Baseball Saison. It’s a big and strong saison-style ale that has the bold aromas typical of the style, but the beer remains remarkably drinkable with a relatively thin body.

The beer dates back to 2008, and The Brewhouse’s founder and brewmaster, Pete Johnson, recalls that the introduction of the beer was greeted with positive reviews — from the consumers but perhaps also from divine forces.

“The baseball gods were so pleased that they delivered my Phillies to the World Series,” Johnson said.

Indeed, the Philadelphia transplant had the rare fortune of seeing his favorite team take home the title that season. The shortstop from that Phillies squad, Jimmy Rollins, signed to play with the Dodgers this past winter.

And while you won’t be able to catch Rollins and the Dodgers on TV until Time Warner Cable resolves some contract disputes with other cable carriers, you can catch the rest of the games on screen at The Brewhouse.

And if perhaps a beer isn’t strong enough to settle down the nerves of opening day, the brewpub is offering up a “Double Play” that includes the beer and a shot of whiskey from Santa Barbara’s own Cutler’s Artisan Spirits.

Mind you, this is no ordinary whiskey. The white liquor is a distilled version of the Baseball Saison, and some of those delicious aromas make it through into the whiskey — and still others are created or modified in the distilling process.

Ian Cutler, the man behind Cutler’s, will be on premise at The Brewhouse Monday to talk about the whiskey and answer questions.

And if you order a Double Play while wearing your favorite team’s jersey, hat or T-shirt, Pete will give your team a run on a scoreboard created precisely for the Baseball Saison release. The team that scores the most runs on Monday will have its logo adorn the tap handle for the rest of the year.

So Dodgers fans, please don’t avoid wearing your Yasiel Puig jersey on Monday just because he won’t be on TV around here until ESPN airs their game on Wednesday.

“If you don’t want to see that hated red and black SF, you better come in your jersey,” Pete warned.

And if a saison isn’t your beer of choice, The Brewhouse has several new beers that will go well with the start of baseball season.

I enjoy El Citra — a “session IPA” that has all the hop aromas and flavors of a regular IPA but is considerably lower in alcohol. The bitterness is also scaled back, as low alcohol typically means low malt, and a bitter beer without some caramel malt flavors to balance it out is not the kind of beer I’d like to quaff again and again while watching a game.

This may be the only time I ever say this, but Monday, and baseball season, can’t come soon enough.

Sean Lewis is a beer drinker, beer maker and the author of “We Make Beer: Inside the Spirit and Artistry of America’s Craft Brewers” (St. Martin’s Press).

 

Firestone Walker is in the Final Four

bracket

Personally, we here at Santa Barbara Beer think it’s silly to try and decide which brewery is the best, but that’s exactly what the folks at Thrillist are trying to accomplish with their Beer Madness Bracket.

And wouldn’t you know it, local heavyweight is in the FInal Four facing Founders. I shouldn’t say I’m surprised — those are two Kentucky/Duke-level contenders right there.

You can find the bracket and vote in it here.