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.



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).


Suds don’t stop at SB Border

Note: This column originally appeared in the January 1 issue of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Drink more beer. That’s my New Year’s resolution, what’s yours?

OK, to clarify, my New Year’s resolution is to drink more beer from more places. You would be hard-pressed to find a bigger fan of Santa Barbara’s beer and brewing scene than myself, and I’m always excited to see what’s next on the local horizon.

For instance, I’m very interested to see what home brewer-turned pro Josh Ellis can do in Goleta with his brewery opening this year called M. Special. And I’m equally curious about what Third Window Brewing Co. will look like when it opens this year at the corner of Haley and Laguna streets.

But sometimes, to better appreciate what we have here in town, it’s worth it to get out and hit the road (with a designated driver) and see what other areas have to offer.

I recently took such a trip with two people whom I know needed to get out and stretch their legs – Pure Order’s co-founders James and David Burge. The cousins have spent most of the past year either in the brewery or out on sales calls, and every time I’d ask them if they’d had a beer from here or there, it was always the same response: “Haven’t had a chance yet.”

So we got a car and driver for the day and headed south. The first stop was to Carpinteria and the brewLAB.

The nano-brewery wasn’t open, but they didn’t mind letting in some fellow brewers to talk shop and taste a few beers. It helped that James and Dave brought a small growler of their own beer to share.

The brewLAB is insanely small for a production brewery, and right now co-owners Steve Jarvie, Rob Peed and Peter Goldammer are barely making enough beer to supply their own taproom – but my oh my is it amazing beer.

We could have spent the whole night cleaning out their supply of beer, but our goal was to broaden our horizons further, so we kept pushing farther south. We didn’t go too far, though, as the next stop was just down the road at the newly opened Rincon Brewery brewpub in downtown Carp.

We managed to steal away brewer Shaun Crowley to talk about the beer, and we traded another growler for some pretty nice Rincon Brewery hats. After a few beers – the Warrior Pride Red and Indicator IPA were favorites – and more than a few orders of the pretzel bites with bacon and cheddar dipping sauce, we were back on the road.

Every time I drive south to Los Angeles, I try to make a pit stop at Institution Ale Co. in Camarillo. James and Dave had never been, and that needed to be rectified.

The small brewery, located in an industrial park not far from the Lewis Road exit off the 101, has been turning out some of Southern California’s best beer since it opened and recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.

We got in just before the taproom opened for the evening, which was nice because Institution tends to fill up quickly. The three of us shared a bottle of the First Anniversary beer, a barrel-aged strong ale with lots of complexity and nuance that was almost too much for our palates at that point.

Our next and last stop was even farther south in Agoura at Ladyface Alehouse and Brasserie. I’m not sure what I expected, but the actual pub was nicer than I imagined.

Most brewpubs have a certain feel – often an industrial one – that is hard to appreciate. Ladyface felt more like a nice restaurant. The beer and food were lovely, but even nicer was a chance to chat with and meet one of the pub’s managing partners, Cyrena Nouzille.

If I had to, I could probably settle on any one of those breweries as the only brewery for me for the rest of my life – but I don’t have to, and that’s the point. Santa Barbara is great, but we have a tendency here in the American Riviera to become a bit insulated.

For 2015, I encourage you to get out of the bubble and provide your palate with a little outside context. You’ll be glad you did.

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.


FYI — Telegraph has an IPA

Note: This column originally appeared in the Dec. 4 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press. Telegraph’s IPA is still on tap and they have recently released an old favorite, Rhinoceros, as well.

For a Thursday night in mid-November, Telegraph Brewing Co. was unusually busy. The local taprooms are always a common gathering place for Santa Barbara’s beer drinkers, but the crowd at Telegraph was in for something specific.

For the first time in its nearly nine-year existence, Telegraph brewed an IPA.

And while the style is ubiquitous at just about every other brewery in the country, Telegraph had built a reputation for making more esoteric styles.

“Most of our beers are, if not yeast-centric, (of a) yeast character,” Telegraph brewmaster Paul Rey said. “Cipher Key Session Ale, 1927 and the Ravena Stout are all brewed with an English strain that we really like. The two lagers are Czech Pilsner yeasts, but most of the other beers are with our house Belgian strain.”

Telegraph founder Brian Thompson stressed that this was not a matter of caving to peer pressure or doing something they didn’t want to do. According to him, this IPA was long overdue.

“The reason we haven’t brewed an IPA until now is not because we don’t like IPAs,” he said. “Every one of us really appreciates a good IPA. But Telegraph has always been about doing things differently. Looking back over the last five or six years, as the popularity of IPA grew, it felt like every brewery in the country was making multiple IPAs, and a lot of them were very mediocre, and it felt like a lot of brewers were just chasing a trend.

“Now, though, it feels very different; there is a big percentage of craft beer drinkers who only drink IPA, especially younger drinkers and new craft beer drinkers. IPA isn’t a trend anymore; IPA just is. And the style isn’t waning in popularity anytime soon.”

Telegraph’s American IPA was fermented with a neutral yeast. The strain, made popular first by Sierra Nevada up in Chico, leaves few traces that it was ever there apart from a bright, crisp ale — thus the other ingredients in beer, such as hops, are allowed to shine.

In the case of Telegraph’s IPA, that means plenty of pine and a little bit of melon notes come through in the aroma. The flavor profile is well-balanced, and there is a suitable bitterness that helps even out the sweetness from the malt.

It might not be the best IPA in town, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable beer. Most importantly for Telegraph, it gives local drinkers another reason not to go anywhere else. Each of Santa Barbara’s breweries have their own pros and cons, and a big con at Telegraph was a lack of a real IPA — the most popular style of craft beer in America.

The recent American IPA is just the first in a series of beers for the brewery before Thompson and his team can finally settle on one brew that will become “Telegraph IPA.”

According to Rey, the ultimate goal will be to put that beer into cans — a project that will require continued growth of Telegraph’s infrastructure and is at least a year away, likely more.

In the meantime, the brewery that never made an IPA will be coming out with a few more iterations of the style — beginning with a Belgian IPA and an English IPA in early 2015.

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.

Raise a pint for departing brewers

Note: This column originally appeared in the Nov. 6 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press. For more information, you can check out my farewell Q and A pieces with A.J. Stoll and Kevin Pratt on this site. I recently met with Fig Mountain’s new director of brewing operations, Mike Hastings, and will have more info on him at this space soon.

Santa Barbara’s beer culture stretches back to the late 1990s when brewers like Island Brewing Co.’s Paul Wright, Santa Barbara Brewing Co.’s Eric Rose (now owner of Hollister Brewing Co.) and The Brewhouse’s Pete Johnson were either already brewing great beer or getting close to opening their breweries. Nevermind the budding emergence of Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles.

But in 2010, the local beer scene was bolstered by the arrival of two men — Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.’s A.J. Stoll and Santa Barbara Brewing’s Kevin Pratt.

In Stoll, Fig Mountain had found a young brewer with the chemical and brewing know-how to help the new brewery expand while creating award-winning beers in the process. In Pratt, Brewco brought in an experienced brewer.

Stoll brought acclaim to Fig Mountain, and Pratt restored Brewco’s reputation as more than just a tourist trap.

And now, Santa Barbara is saying farewell to both.

Both brewmasters recently announced that they are departing their breweries this month for new ventures and new opportunities.

Stoll is off to Ireland, his ancestral homeland, where he and his partners are planning on opening Killarney Brewing Co. in a market he thinks is ready to explode in the same way the U.S. market has over the past decade or two.

“I always encouraged my staff to elevate themselves and take on new responsibilities and positions, and so that’s basically the same thing I’m doing,” Stoll told the News-Press. “My goal is to be an international brewery consultant … So in the short term, I’m going to this start-up in Ireland, and in the long term, what I’m going to be is I’ll be all over the shelf.”

Stoll will serve as a consultant for Fig, which is elevating head brewer Mike Hastings to director of brewing operations. Stoll will also help the Buellton-based brewery expand into Germany — a longtime dream of CEO Jaime Dietenhofer.

Pratt isn’t going so far — just up the road to Creekside Brewing Co. in San Luis Obispo. Pratt and his partners, under the umbrella of the newly formed Heirloom Brewing Co., are taking over the brewery as the first step toward establishing Heirloom as a production brewery.

Creekside won’t change much immediately but it will eventually serve as a tasting room and experimental facility for the larger production plant.

“We didn’t buy it to turn it into something else,” said Pratt. “We bought it because it was already a functioning brewery and already in the right construct we’re looking for — and a great location.”

The changes forced me to take stock of what we truly have here in Santa Barbara, and I went to visit an old favorite in The Brewhouse. Johnson continues to make high-quality, interesting beers out of his seven-barrel brewhouse. Recently, I sat down with him to taste some of the new beers on tap.

A favorite is the Milkman’s Handshake — a rich milk stout with loads of chocolate and roasted coffee notes to complement the sweetness from the lactose that gives the style its name.

Always a great place for strong beer, The Brewhouse also offers a Russian imperial stout playfully dubbed Crimea River. I also enjoyed the return of Football Saison, a staple for local drinkers every fall. The saison was dry and loaded with beautiful peppery aromas on the back end that you might expect from a saison, but at more than 7 percent alcohol by volume, it packs more of a punch than the typical farmhouse-style ale.

The Brewhouse is also about to release its 11th Harvest Ale. The annual beer utilizes fresh hops grown behind The Brewhouse and is a revelation of hop flavor and aroma.

It’s true that Pratt and Stoll brought great things to the Santa Barbara beer scene, and it will certainly be sad to see them and their talents go. But despair not, for the local community remains alive and well in those who have been around and are staying around.

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.


HEADS UP: Hop to it: New fall beers

Note: this column originally appeared in the Oct. 2 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Early fall in Santa Barbara is fantastic, because it’s really more like an extended summer — which, in Santa Barbara, is more like an extended spring anyway. So when my first book, “We Make Beer,” was released late last month, I wanted to celebrate at an outdoor venue.

I couldn’t think of any place better than Pure Order Brewing Co. on Quarantina Street. It has a lush grass yard and a nice hop garden growing right alongside the outdoor seating.

The only problem was those hops had all been picked.

The fall hop harvest is among the happiest times of year for a brewer and beer drinker. Many brewers celebrate the harvest by using freshly picked “wet” hops that haven’t been dried in new beers. Sierra Nevada’s Harvest Ale comes to mind, but I’m always a little overpowered by the herbal, grassy notes that shine through in wet hop beers. So I was happy to hear that Pure Order chose to dry their hops out before adding them to their product.

Before my book celebration, I sat down with James Burge, brewmaster at Pure Order, and tasted his next release. It was a lovely brown ale with a robust malt character that played alongside a beautifully fresh hop profile made with the hops grown in their garden and dried in the sun on top of their roof.

The beer is good but is only the first step for those freshly harvested hops. A brown ale is typically malt-forward, and the Pure Order version, which should be released this month, was no exception. The main purpose of brewing this beer was for James to gain an understanding of what his home-grown hops would contribute to a batch. The real showcase piece will be coming soon, as he intends to brew a black IPA using copious amounts of the Cascade hops grown on-site.

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.’s A.J. Stoll recently collaborated with Sea Smoke Vineyards winemaker Don Schroeder, as they harvested hops grown at the Sea Smoke property for a pale ale brewed at Fig’s Funk Zone location that A.J. plans on calling “Hop For Teacher.” While the name is still pending approval, the beer is already fermenting away and is scheduled for release on or around Oct. 11. It will be available at all of the brewery’s tap rooms in Santa Barbara, Buellton and Los Olivos.

What sets this beer apart from other wet hop beers is that rather than using the fresh hops after the beer is fermented as “dry hops” for solely aromatic purposes, A.J. and Don transformed the mash tun, the vessel where barley is soaked in hot water to provide the sugary liquid for the brew, into a hop back.

Essentially, after the beer was boiled, A.J. pumped the hot liquid back into the mash tun over a bed of hops, and then pumped it out from there through the heat exchanger for cooling and into the fermentation tank.

What this effectively does is extract more of the acids and volatile oils that add to the bitterness, flavor and aroma of a beer. The end result is a beer that picks up a full hop flavor and aroma. By contrast, the more common method of adding hop aroma to beer is by “dry-hopping” them, or adding hops into cool beer after it is fermented. Running warm beer through a hop bed in a hop back will add a considerable amount of flavor compared to the dry hop method.

So even though fall is here and winter is just around the corner, don’t embrace the dark, malty beers just yet. In fact, there’s no better time than now to enjoy the fruits of the hop harvest with a fresh hop beer.

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.


Local Breweries at GABF


I’m on my way to GABF for the weekend’s festivities. I’ll be signing books on Thursday and Saturday nights, but will also be covering the local breweries there in this space and in the Santa Barbara News-Press.

Firestone-Walker, Figueroa Mountain, Telegraph and Island Brewing have all won medals at the festival before, and they have once again entered into the competition. However, of the four, only Firestone-Walker and Figueroa Mountain will have booths at the event.

Both Firestone-Walker and Figueroa Mountain are entering beer into the competition from their side labels as well, with Barrelworks and the newly-debuted Liquamentum lines both up for judging.

Stay tuned for more details and coverage.

HEADS UP: Fall flavors in a pint

Note: This story originally appeared in the Sept. 4 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press. I’ve been avoiding posting my monthly columns on here because many of the recent ones were timely and irrelevant by the time the rights reverted back to me. This one is less constrained in that regard.

Today’s brewers operate under an understanding that a rising tide lifts all boats. In other words, the majority of modern beer companies would rather collaborate with their competitors than, well, compete.

Whether this is a good thing for craft brewers as the market segment continues to grow remains to be seen. For the consumer, however, it’s all good.

Take, for example, two breweries in our own backyard — Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. and Firestone Walker Brewing Co. In many respects, Fig Mountain is a David to Firestone’s Goliath, except without the slingshot. Firestone Walker is distributed on both coasts, while Fig Mountain is shipped only as far away as Sacramento. Yet both breweries owe much of their success to the Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura county markets.

Fortunately, the decision-makers at each brewery have come to realize that there’s plenty of room for both to grow. As long as consumers are willing to snag a Bud Light off the shelf of the grocery store, Firestone Walker and Fig Mountain can continue to coexist.

And as luck would have it, each brewery is celebrating the release of new beers in September.

First up is Fig Mountain, where brewmaster A.J. Stoll is debuting Ole Mole, an amber ale spiced with chilies that give it a distinctive mole flavor. Mr. Stoll refers to it as “liquid taco,” and it’s an apt description, both in flavor and aroma.

“It tastes like fruity chilies and chocolate and coffee. We added organic cumin, cinnamon and coriander to make it more authentic. It’s basically like Grandma’s mole recipe in beer.”

It is on tap now at Fig Mountain’s tap rooms in the Funk Zone, Buellton and Los Olivos. It joins a list of exciting new beers that includes the McKinley Peak Milk Stout. Served on nitrogen (the same system that gives Guinness its distinctive creamy texture), the beer is slightly sweet and is virtually a dessert in a glass.

Neither, though, can match the hype building for the release of Fig Mountain’s Liquementum brand. The side label is a pet project of Mr. Stoll’s that draws heavily on the influence of winemakers, and features barrel-aged beers. Up first will be Double Down Davy Brown and Hell’s Half Acre Barleywine. The two are strong beers that have been aging in whiskey barrels, and will be previewed at the Buellton brewery’s Sept. 27 “Figtoberfest” Oktoberfest celebration.

Fig Mountain will also have an Oktoberfest party at its Funk Zone spot on Sept. 20 — the same day that Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks project releases its latest creation, Feral Vinefera, upon the world. I have yet to try this beer as a finished product, but I did taste some of the components several months ago as they were aging. The sour ale was co-fermented alongside juice from wine grapes picked from brewery owner David Walker’s property and fermented in French oak barrels with a blend of wild yeasts. Then those barrels were blended together with the assistance of winemaker Andrew Murray of Andrew Murray Vineyards. Blends of beers made with sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc and orange muscat juice were then combined with Barrelworks’ Bretta Weisse to create the finished product.

Barrelworks will also release Agrestic, a sour ale that has long been a favorite of beer geeks in the area.

In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying the great beers already available in town. That includes the Handlebar Abbey Ale at Telegraph Brewing Co. Brewed with coffee from Handlebar Coffee Roasters in Santa Barbara, it’s the perfect beer to drink while dreaming about all the amazing beer you’re going to be drinking this month.

Sean Lewis is a beer drinker, beer maker and beer writer. His book, “We Make Beer: Inside the Spirit and Artistry of America’s Craft Brewers” (St. Martin’s Press), will be released Sept. 23. His column appears the first Thursday of the month in the Food section. Follow him on twitter @Sean_M_Lewis.


We Make Beer signings at Firestone Walker Barrelworks, Pure Order and GABF


I’m very happy to announce a bevvy of upcoming book signings and events for We Make Beer (pre-order now and get a sweet discount). So pause here and go get your pens to mark your calendar. I’ll wait.

Sept 20 — Firestone Walker Barrelworks Agrestic and Feral Vinifera Liberation

Agrestic 2014 Front label

Firestone Walker plays an important role in the stories I tell in We Make Beer, and barrelmeister Jeffers Richardson, as Firestone’s first brewer, lends his voice for the book to help tell that story. So it’s only appropriate that we have a table set up there where we can all sit around chat about the new batch of Agrestic.

Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 8.59.16 PM

Sept. 27 — Pure Order Brewing Company

This event will serve as the official book release party for We Make Beer. You can pre-order a copy now and bring it with you to the party (although I can’t guarantee your copy will arrive in time), or purchase one of the copies for sale at the brewery. The good thing about buying a copy at the brewery is that you’ll get a free pint out of it. Pure Order has been killing it lately, and that free pint is going to be pretty nice.

The event runs from Noon-4 p.m., with the book signing beginning at 2 p.m., and should be a rocking good time regardless of whether you buy a book or not (but please do). It will make a nice alternative to those who can’t make it up to Buellton for the Figtoberfest… although in theory one could get away with doing both!


Oct. 2 and Oct. 4 — Great American Beer Festival Beer Enthusiast Bookstore

For everyone going to GABF this year, you can catch me at the bookstore on Thursday the second from 8:30-9 p.m. and on Saturday the fourth from 6-6:30 p.m.

There are a few other events in the works as well. For instance, I’ll be at the Wisconsin Book Festival on Oct. 17 speaking at the Great Dane Pub, and there are some signings being discussed in Buellton and Solvang. More details on those when they’re available.

Santa Barbara Deserves a Beer Week

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.