Sierra Nevada hosts top Bay Area chefs for collaborative beer dinner

Note: The following is a press release from SIerra Nevada Brewing Company. They’re well outside our coverage area, but we know a lot of our readers have ties to Chico and Northern California and we wanted to share the information.

Chefs attending Sierra Nevada’s “Beer Camp” to create a custom beer

Chico, CA—March 25, 2015—Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is bringing eight top Bay Area chefs and two Bay Area mixologists to Beer Camp: two days designing and brewing a custom beer to eventually serve at their restaurants and available nowhere else. Sierra Nevada can’t let them leave, though, without whipping up at least one “dream team” meal.

 

On Thursday, May 7, the kitchen masters will lead a six-course beer dinner in the Sierra Nevada Big Room, and a very limited number of tickets will go on sale next Tuesday, March 31, at SierraNevada.com/BigRoom.

Each chef will create a signature dish paired with a Sierra Nevada beer, and the featured ingredients will include fresh produce from Sierra Nevada’s estate garden and local beef raised in partnership with the Chico State University Farm. Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman and UC Davis’ “Pope of Foam” Dr. Charlie Bamforth will join the intimate dinner as guest speakers. Proceeds will go toward the Torres Shelter in Chico, which provides overnight shelter and evening meals among other services to help men, women and families get back on their feet.

“This is truly an all-star team and dinner, and we’re honored to host such a great experience at our brewery,” said Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada’s founder. “Craft brewers often relate what they do to the creativity of chefs, and this group will no doubt show how well great food and great beer can work together.”

“Connecting chefs and brewers has always been one of my goals, and now we’ll not only collaborate on a beer but also host a dinner that supports a great local charity,” said Adam Dulye, Executive Chef for the Brewers Association. “This night will showcase what we all do in our individual establishments daily: create relationships, unite communities and tell stories through our voices, food and beer.”

PARTICIPATING CHEFS AND BARTENDERS

David Bazirgan—Dirty Habit

Stephen Call and Laurence Jossel—Nopa

Kevin Diedrich—BDK Restaurant & Bar

Adam Dulye—Brewers Association Executive Chef

Yanni Kehagiaris—Nopa and Liholiho Yacht Club

Angela Pinkerton—Craftsman & Wolves

Jennifer Puccio—The Cavalier, Marlowe, and Park Tavern

Todd Shober—Molina

Staffan Terje—Perbacco

The chefs’ collaborative Beer Camp beer will tentatively hit their San Francisco restaurant taps in July.

Sierra Nevada beer dinner overview:

  • WHAT: Premier Bay Area chefs preparing a six-course food and beer pairing dinner. Speakers include Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman and UC Davis’ Dr. Charlie Bamforth.
  • WHEN: Thursday, May 7, at 7 p.m.
  • WHERE: Sierra Nevada Big Room, 1075 E. 20th St., Chico, CA 95928
  • TICKETS: On sale starting next Tuesday, March 31. $100/person available online at www.SierraNevada.com/BigRoom or in the Sierra Nevada Gift Shop.
Advertisements

Bring Your Dog For Beer

Sometimes you need a good drinking buddy.

Sometimes you need a good drinking buddy.

Dogs are like children. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the type to call my dog my son, and I certainly don’t refer to myself as Seamus’ dad or, God forbid, daddy (his real dad is here). Basically, I’m not this lady.

Yes, that's a dog in a baby stroller.

Yes, that’s a dog in a baby stroller.

But dogs are like children in a few ways:

— You can’t leave them in the car with the windows up.

— You can’t hit them in public, at least not in California.

— You can’t just leave them in the house all day and not expect a disaster when you get back.

So, this being a beer and brewery blog and all, I’d like to take a moment to honor the breweries in Santa Barbara that are as pet friendly as you are. The good news is that just about every brewery in the area is dog-friendly, so it’s a good-sized list. These are in no particular order, except I’m going to start with The Brewhouse, which is probably the most dog-friendly brewery in the area.

The Brewhouse

The Brewhouse is a brewpub, and therefore a restaurant, so don’t expect to be able to bring your dog inside. However, there’s a good-sized patio where dogs are welcome and servers will offer you a dog bowl for your thirsty pooch. But what makes The Brewhouse the best? It’s the dog menu.

That’s right, The Brewhouse loves dogs so much that they’ve got a menu just for your dog. Seamus is on a pretty strict diet, so we don’t necessarily go for it, but if you’d like your best friend to enjoy some dog biscuits covered in beef gravy, or steak bites, or chicken strips, then The Brewhouse has you covered.

Solvang Brewing Company

Maybe you’re in town filling up on homebrew supplies at Valley Brewers (which is also dog friendly and their own brew-dog is frequently minding the shop), or perhaps you need a break from your wine-tasting day for a beer and a burger. Whatever the case, Solvang BrewCo has a great outdoor patio much like the Brewhouse, only bigger. And while they don’t have a dog menu, a server will gladly bring you a dog bowl and your dog can just beg some scraps from you.

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company

Both Fig’s Buellton and Santa Barbara locations have nice outdoor beer gardens where dogs are welcome. I typically shy away from bringing Seamus to the Funk Zone spot, as it’s all concrete and usually crowded, but the brewery’s main location in Buellton has a nice, soft artificial turf outside so your dog can get off his paws for a minute and chill out.

Pure Order Brewing Company

I can’t think of the last time I didn’t see a dog at Pure Order. The lush grass that originally adorned the beer garden has been replaced by a more drought-friendly landscape (I was sad to see it go, but it was a sensible and sustainable choice), but there’s plenty of room for the canine kind to roam and stretch their legs. I would never officially recommend taking your dog off-leash here, but I’ve seen more than a few dogs enjoying a little free-ranging among the hop garden*.

* A reminder — hops are toxic to dogs the same way chocolate is. If you have the kind of dog that likes to taste a little bit of everything in his environment, monitor him or her closely when the hops are out.

Telegraph Brewing Company

The city of Santa Barbara’s original production brewery welcomes friendly dogs into their tasting room. A note here though, the floor is all polished concrete, so if you happen to have a dog like mine that’s all rib bones, knee joints and ankles, bring something soft for it to lay down.

Captain Fatty’s

Enjoy Goleta’s newest brewery with the whole family — including the dog. The brewery has a certain appeal to families with young children (actually, I think Goleta in general has that appeal), so make sure your dog is good with kids before bringing them around.

Island Brewing Company

For some reason, I have a hard time heading south to Carpinteria without bringing Seamus. We’ve got friends with a dog he likes to play with (actually it’s a dog he likes to escape and explore with) and they’re welcome at all three of Carpinteria’s breweries. Island welcomes dogs on the patio, but not inside, so grab a seat under one of the umbrellas and send someone inside to get you a beer and a water bowl for your buddy.

Rincon Brewing Company

Rincon is a family-friendly brewpub, so you better bet that includes dogs. Like the other brewpubs on the list, dogs can’t come inside but are welcome on the patio. Seamus likes the high-top tables outside with plenty of room for him to stand underneath.

The brewLAB

The friendly folks at brewLAB welcome dogs to their small outdoor patio as well as inside their brewery. It can get crowded with people and other dogs from time to time, so I wouldn’t bring in a nervous animal, but your well-adjusted dog might enjoy sniffing a lot of new smells as you take in some of the best beer in the area.

Stay cool, y'all.

Stay cool, y’all.

Telegraph Brewing Announces Dia de las Obscuras Rare Beer Festival

Note: The following is a press release from Telegraph Brewing Company. Tickets go on sale March 21

Telegraph

Santa Barbara craft brewery to host two-session sour-beer/wild-ale event on May 3

Santa Barbara, CA—Telegraph Brewing Company announced details today for their Dia de las Obscuras Rare Beer Festival, showcasing its barrel-aged and wild-fermented Obscura Line of experimental beers, to be held on Sunday, May 3, 2015, at the Telegraph tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara. The award-winning Santa Barbara brewery will celebrate in grand fashion with ten Obscura beers on tap, shining a spotlight on Telegraph’s renowned experimental brewing program.

“This is an unparalleled opportunity for craft beer lovers to explore our most highly sought-after and difficult-to-find beers,” said Telegraph Brewing founder Brian Thompson. “To have ten taps dedicated to these rare beers is a testament to the flexibility and increased capacity of our new brewery space; that we have as much capacity to dedicate to the Obscura Line of beers as we do, allows us to put events like this together.” At Telegraph’s first Obscura event, Noche de las Obscuras, held as a part of Santa Barbara Beer Week 2014, the brewery poured eight different wild ales.

Dia de Las Obscuras will delight craft beer connoisseurs in two separate Sunday sessions (12 pm to 3pm, and 4pm to 7pm) hosted at Telegraph’s tasting room. Tickets and additional details about specific beers are available at TelegraphBrewing.com/obscura.htm

“The Latin word ‘Obscura’ means dark or shadowy, obscure, from unknown origins,” explained Trevor Scoggins, Telegraph’s sales manager. “And each of our Obscura beers displays that element of the unknown and the mysterious; that makes seeking out them out lots of fun for the drinker.”

Telegraph’s Obscura Line of experimental beers includes both award-winning favorites like Gypsy Ale and Reserve Wheat Ale, but also includes many one-off projects that will never exist again. Dia de las Obscuras attendees will have an opportunity to try beers from both sides of the project. Barrel master Paul Rey said, “We make a variety of elegant, complex beers that deserve a day of their own.”

Telegraph Brewing, an award-winning craft brewery located  on downtown Santa Barbara’s Salsipuedes Street, specializes in brewing uniquely American and Belgian-inspired beers using 100% domestic ingredients and as many local ingredients as possible. The brewery strives to capture in its beers the unique culinary and agricultural traditions of Santa Barbara and California’s Central Coast.

For more information, including descriptions of beers brewed by Telegraph, visit TelegraphBrewing.com.

Pure Order begins bottling

IMG_2140

Pure Order Brewing Company is growing up. The brewery will be celebrating its one-year anniversary in the coming months, and there will be more on that at this space later, but the news coming out of Quarantina St. is that Pure Order is putting Santa Barbara in a bottle.

At least, Pure Order is putting Santa Barbara Pale Ale in bottles — along with Red Eye Wheat and Crooked Neck Hefeweizen.

The beer is the same as what’s available on draft, but it is now wrapped in a beautiful label. Designed by brewer James Burge’s friend, artist Hunter Damiani, the stylized label and six-pack holder depicts the beauty of Santa Barbara.

“When I started, I wanted our labels to be works of art,” Burge said. “I wanted it to be something that you could put on your wall. Santa Barbara is a beautiful place, and to have anything but beautiful art would be a shame.”

Some of Damiani’s artistic label designs are on display at the brewery, which is also the primary location to buy Pure Order six-packs for now. Burge said that the brewery is in the midst of expanding its market and sales force into Los Angeles, and that introducing bottles to bars and restaurants in that market is part of the brewery’s expansion plan.

“I think the bottles are going to be the driving force down there more than taps,” Burge said. “The way the market is now, the taps are local and the bottle selections come from other spots. And I think the six-pack gives us an edge over bombers.”

Pure Order will also be releasing a new beer on March 14, which Burge described as a Pi beer. The beer, a saison, comes in at 3.1 SRM (that’s a color measurement, and a pretty light one), it has 41 IBU and boasts a 5.9% ABV in homage of the first X digits of Pi (3.14159).

The small batch likely won’t last long when it’s released on Pi day, when the calendar is at 3/14/15.

Ever wonder where those sweet Firestone Walker shirts come from?

If you’ve been around the Santa Barbara beer scene enough and been to any of Firestone Walkers special events (release parties, anniversaries, beer festivals, etc.) you may have spotted some of the Firestone folks wearing cool, creative t-shirts. You may have also noted that none of those shirts are in any of the company stores.

That’s because the shirts are a creation of Mike Wondrash, a Mission Viejo-based auto mechanic and huge craft beer fan. It’s gotten to the point where every event at Barrelworks in Buellton also serves as an unveiling of Wondrash’s latest creation.

I know I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with for tomorrow’s liberation of Feral One. In the meantime, we caught up with Wondrash to talk about where he gets his inspiration. And be sure to scroll to the bottom for pictures of Wondrash’s shirts.

Q: Tell me a little about yourself. What do you do when you’re not at beer events and where do you call home?
A: I’m married with two kids — a 28-year-old boy and a 24-year-old girl. I’ve owned an automotive repair shop in South Orange County for 31 years. I had cancer when I was six months old, so I walk a little funny, but I survived for 50-plus years.
When not at beer events I drink beer, look for hard-to-find beers and brew some also. I like gourmet food and I am not a bad cook either (my wife says I should have been a chef). I grew up and still live in Mission Viejo.

Q: When did you start making t-shirts for these Firestone events? Do you make shirts for other occasions as well, or is it just for beer things?

A: I believe the first shirt was the Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest in 2013. I made a shirt for Epic Beer Fest in San Diego, 2013, but just didn’t have my heart in it. I tried to count them up and I came up with 15 different shirts for Firestone.Q: Perhaps better than when did you start, why did you start making these shirts?
A: I started making shirts for Firestone events because they only sell their everyday shirts and the invitational shirts are boring as hell. (Barrelworks barrelmeister Jeffers Richardson) tried to get a shirt made just for the Barrelworks crew and had to fill out paperwork that the IRS wouldn’t even want (Note: Wondrash was mostly kidding). Once I started making shirts for their events I was hooked. I just wanted to do something fun and tried to up my game with every shirt.Q: What has been the response from Firestone to the shirts? What has been the response from other Firestone fans?
A: Oh My god, they — meaning the people at Firestone that I see at events — love them. I was told at last year’s invitational by one of the brewers that my “I want my Stickee Monkee” shirt gets talked about at their meetings, which put a smile on my face. Ever since we became friends with (Firestone Walker media and marketing specialist) Jemma Wilson she has been getting me actual Firestone Walker graphics which took my shirts to an all new level.
I made a shirt for the release of SLOambic and weeks later saw Jeffers in, I think, Philadelphia at a beer event wearing the shirt that I made. That was so cool.
As far as the fans, I am constantly being asked if I have any to sell, but I promised Jemma I would not sell any when she started helping me with graphics. I don’t feel it’s appropriate to sell shirts at their events. I’m just a patron like everyone else. But I think people really dig them because you won’t find them anywhere else and they probably don’t go to all the events like my wife and I do.

Q: Do you have a favorite shirt design that you’ve created?

A: All of them! But some get better responses than others. David Walker really likes Walker’s Wild Ride San Diego. It has a picture of Olivia, his Land Rover, on it. Jemma has told me she thought the first Stickee Monkee was my best. I love them all because I made them, but I think the best from my own design was the FWIBF 2013 Stickee Monkee. From when Jemma has been helping me I think it’s SLOambic release. It’s the actual label design on a shirt and it turned out fantastic.

Q: Where do you get the inspiration for the shirts?

A: From drinking top-quality craft beer from the best goddamn brewers on the face of the planet. You don’t have to use that, but it’s probably the truth. If I wasn’t 50-years-old I would love to be in the craft beer industry. Hey — maybe I can be the t-shirt guy for the industry.

How Slow Can You Go? Island Brewing Company Hosts Slow Bike Race!

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

image003

Carpinteria, CA — Ladies and gentlemen, start your…bicycles! Island Brewing Company will host a Slow Bike Race on Saturday February 28th from 12:00 – 4:00 pm. ‘Wait, wait, wait, what exactly is a Slow Bike Race,’ you may be asking. Here’s how it works: contestants will ride a two-wheeled bicycle over a fixed course, aiming for the longest interval of time. Slowest bike wins (feet go down, and you’re out, no fixed gears, or fancy shoes please!)

The format will include three divisions: 12 and under, 13-17, and 18 and over. The slowest three in each division will then compete for victory, bragging rights, and prizes. In short, it will be fun for the whole family. “This is an event that we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” says founder and owner Paul Wright. “The competition should be fun and fierce across all age groups. Moments of hilarity are pretty much guaranteed.”

There will be a $10 entry fee per rider 21 and over and $5 entry for under 21, proceeds which will be used to benefit the Carpinteria Children’s Project to purchase bicycles from Trek Bikes of Ventura (TBOV), which will also be donating to the event. So start riding slow and slower and slower and we’ll see you then.

For more information call: 805.745.8272

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. Signs with Craft Beer Guild of Los Angeles

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

-3

Buellton, California—   Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. has self-distributed their beer since they opened in November 2010.  It wasn’t until October 2014 that they decided to entirely outsource their distribution.  Previously FigMtnBrew had signed with Craft Beer Guild of San Diego in early 2012 and Pacific Beverage Company in November 2014.  It was then that owners Jim and Jaime Dietenhofer and Sales Director Alex Jones began talks with Craft Beer Guild Los Angeles to distribute their beer in Southern California.    FigMtnBrew signed with Craft Beer Guild of Los Angeles this month and started their partnership on January 12, 2015.   The distribution company will manage current and new Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. accounts throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties.

“Signing with Craft Beer Guild of Los Angeles allows us to consolidate our Southern California distribution footprint,” says Sales Director Alex Jones.  “Craft Beer Guild was the clear choice for us in Southern California.  Their knowledge and passion for craft beer is second to none.”

President Jaime Dietenhofer adds: “Craft Beer Guild’s parent company, L. Knife & Sons, based on the East Coast, is a well-respected distribution company operating for over a hundred years.  That kind of experience and history is exactly what we look for when forming partnerships.”

For more information about Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. visit www.FigMtnBrew.com or www.FigMtnBrew.com/sales to find a representative near you.

Feral Me, Feral You; Feral One, Feral Two?

Feral One batches 1 (left) and 2 side-by-side at Barrelworks.

Feral One batches 1 (left) and 2 side-by-side at Barrelworks.

By now, Santa Barbara beer fans have likely already heard of Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks liberation of Feral One, batch 2, on Valentine’s Day. About a year after the release of Feral One, Barrelworks’ first bottled beer, this liberation is something of an Anniversary beer and party for the boys at Barrelworks.

I recently sat down with barrelmeister Jeffers Richardson and blendmaster Jim Crooks with a bottle each of batch one and two to talk about the beer, the liberation and a few other things. A few issues were raised and addressed.

First of all, there’s the name. Originally, I believed that if there was ever a sequel to Feral One, a beer that Richardson describes as “a cuvee or blend of our best efforts,” that it would be called Feral Two. But Richardson and Crooks explained that the name is sort of a play on words — and while “one” was appropriate for the first beer released from Barrelworks, it also worked to describe it as The One that is Feral. In other words, the beer serves as a representation of everything that Richardson, Crooks and Barrelworks stand for.

So call it what you want — Feral One vintage 2015, Feral Two, Feral One 2.0 — just know that the official name is Feral One, batch 2.

My next concern was the price. The cheapest tickets for the liberation are $104 plus eventbrite fees. It’s a big barrier to entry for most of us, but it’s a good value. At $15.99 per bottle, the tickets get you six bottles ($95.94) and the other eight dollars and eventbrite fees go toward the other goodies available at the liberation and the chance to be able to say you tasted it before anybody else. Like previous liberations, there will be “feral foods” and rare beer tastings that more than make up for the eight dollar cost beyond the beer. Rumor had it that there might be a keg of the first batch of Feral One, now a year old, but that was not confirmed. In any case, it’s always fascinating to see what comes out of the barrels at Barrelworks.

Specifically, this new batch of Feral One picks up right where the first left off.

Feral One batch 1 (left) and 2 side-by-side at Barrelworks. Notice the slightly darker shade to batch 2.

Feral One batch 1 (left) and 2 side-by-side at Barrelworks. Notice the slightly darker shade to batch 2.

Richardson and Crooks sampled upwards of 80 barrels to find the right blend, and 23 ended up making the final blend. Like batch 1, the final beer has a pleasant tartness and lemon notes that accentuate a good, somewhat sweet background. It’s hard to recall exactly what Feral One tasted like a year ago, but this is reminiscent for sure — and that’s by design.

“This truly was a hedonistic approach,” Richardson said. “We didn’t have to recreate batch 1. We could create something else, but we really like batch 1.”

Perhaps the biggest difference is the color, which Crooks hypothesized came from the presence of Sour Solace, a beer that has aged in barrels at Barrelworks now for 48 months. After all that time in barrels, the relatively pale beer picked up color from the oak and oxygen. It also seemed to add a slightly more noticeable presence of vanilla and toffee, but it was faint enough that it could have been my mind affecting my palate, as those flavors tend to express themselves more in darker beers.

With any beer inoculated with lactobacillus, Feral One batch 2 certainly has a strong acidic character to it. But Crooks and Richardson argue that simply referring to the beer as a “sour” negates so much of what the beer has to offer.

“Acidity is the first thing people jump on,” Richardson said. “But they miss out on so much more if they’re doing that. What we’re trying to do, and the word we always use to describe it is ‘layers.’ We’re trying to make a beer with layers to it.”

Those layers come through in the sweetness of the malt, the wide array of slightly floral aromas underneath a slight yeast and sulfur note in the nose — and yes — in the tartness. Unlike some beers fermented with lacto though, Feral One batch 2, like the original, isn’t lip-puckeringly sour. It’s fizzy and tart enough to be refreshing, but not uninviting.

“A lot of people have gotten into beer because of (Pliny the Elder) and beers like that and ‘oh my gosh this is what hops are,'” Crooks said. “At Firestone, we’ve never been like that. Firestone and (brewmaster Matt Brynildson) have always been about balance and what’s drinkable.”

Batch 2 is certainly drinkable, but the real treat of the tasting session was a side-by-side comparison with a one-year-old version of Feral One batch 1. Batch 2 was slightly darker, and the edges of the flavors were somewhat sharper, so to speak, but there were more similarities than differences. And while batch 2 was a truly nice beer, there was no doubt that batch 1 provided a more enjoyable experience.

With that in mind, I asked Richardson and Crooks what the best way to age or cellar these beers was, since I’ll be coming home with 12 bottles on Valentine’s Day. Their recommendation was to store the bottles at room temperature, or cooler, but to avoid refrigerating them until you wanted to drink it. The reason was that the wide array of microflora that add to the complexity and character of Feral One go dormant at temperatures below 50 degrees, but continue to interact with the beer at cellar and room temperature. Storing the beer in warm (above 75 degrees or so) areas was not recommended, and the worst that could happen to a beer left in the refrigerator is that it would preserve it and its flavors as is — not a terrible outcome at all.

We also tasted a bottled version of Reginald Brett, which is essentially Double DBA given the Barrelworks treatment, and looked at plans for a future remodel of the Barrelworks facility to transform it from its current look into something more like an old-world abbey. Both that remodel and a possible release of Reginald Brett are little more than possibilities at the moment though.

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.

 

Cilurzo and Walker discuss brewing Pliny at Firestone Walker

Firestone Pliny

Edit: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Firestone Walker was brewing Pliny the Younger. Firestone Walker is brewing Pliny the Elder.

If recent lawsuits tainted your view of camaraderie in craft beer, just think back to last year’s announcement from Russian River Brewing Company that it would be brewing its famous Pliny the Elder double IPA at Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles while its new brewing system is installed.

Well, Russian River founder and brewer Vinnie Cilurzo have made the trek down to Paso Robles from Santa Rosa to brew his signature beer. Santa Barbara Beer caught up with Cilurzo and Firestone-Walker co-proprietor David Walker recently to discuss the venture. Below is a Q and A with Cilurzo and a response from Walker to the same questions. For those not interested in reading through it all, some of the main takeaways are that there are no immediate plans for a collaboration between Russian River and Firestone Walker, although neither said they were opposed to such an idea. Cilurzo also said that although Pliny is being brewed in Paso Robles, there are no immediate plans to distribute the highly sought-after beer to the area — although he did acknowledge that he would like to expand distribution to the 805.

Russian River co-founder and brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo adds a load of hops to the kettle of a Pliny the Elder brew recently at Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles. Firestone Walker is brewing Pliny for draft accounts while Russian River's new brewhouse is installed in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Vinnie Cilurzo.

Russian River co-founder and brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo adds a load of hops to the kettle of a Pliny the Elder brew recently at Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles. Firestone Walker is brewing Pliny for draft accounts while Russian River’s new brewhouse is installed in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Vinnie Cilurzo.

SB Beer: I’ve seen the press release about why you need to brew outside of your own facility, but what I wonder is: Why Firestone Walker? What do they provide that you chose them as a site to brew your beer?
Vinnie Cilurzo: When it became apparent to Natalie and I that we needed to replace our old, tired brewhouse we also knew that we couldn’t go without brewing during the shutdown and knew we’d have to find someone to temporarily brew for us.  Only a couple of brewer friends came to mind and Firestone Walker was the best fit as our brewing style is similar.  We are also extremely good friends with (brewmaster)Matt Brynildson and David Walker.  When we asked them if they could help us out we couldn’t even finish the question before they said yes.  It is humbling and gratifying to have such good friends in the business.

SBB: Is it just Pliny the Elder being brewed there, or are other beers like Blind Pig being brewed as well?
VC: It is just Pliny the Elder they are brewing for us and it is just draft Pliny.  When go into the shut down we’ll have all our fermenters full and all the Pliny coming from our tanks will be bottled.

SBB:  How many batches will be brewed at Firestone Walker and how long will Russian River be brewing there?

VC: It is just a temporary thing, it is something like 10 or 12 batches which sounds like a lot, but in the big picture a pretty small amount of beer for Firestone to brew.

SBB:  How do you compensate Firestone Walker for allowing Russian River to brew there — is it just a simple financial arrangement, or are there other concessions and agreements made?

VC: That is an interesting question, Adam (Firestone), David, and Matt are now members of the Russian River “beer for life” club.  We supply the hops from our hop supply and all other ingredients come from Firestone, when the beer is ready they fill our kegs.  It is actually a pretty simple arrangement.

(Note: Santa Barbara Beer would love to be a member of that club as well. Lucky.)

SBB: I know it’s been stated that there are no plans for a collaboration between RR and FW, but both breweries have a lot in common in terms of barrel-aging prowess and making beautiful hoppy beers. Is there any chance that a FW-RR collaboration could be in the near future?

VC: Honestly, this isn’t something that Matt and I have talked about.  Most important to both parties is to get an exact match on flavor profile.

Russian River co-founder and brewmaster Vinnie CIlurzo adds Dextrose to a batch of Pliny the Elder at Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles. The dextrose helps provide the double IPA with more alcohol while keeping the beer relatively dry. Photo courtesy of Vinnie Cilurzo.

Russian River co-founder and brewmaster Vinnie CIlurzo adds Dextrose to a batch of Pliny the Elder at Firestone Walker Brewing Company in Paso Robles. The dextrose helps provide the double IPA with more alcohol while keeping the beer relatively dry. Photo courtesy of Vinnie Cilurzo.

SBB: Did brewing at Firestone’s facility impact the way you approach beer — be it business or brewing — in any way?

VC: We are very close to the shut down so we’ve already brewed some beer.  Aside from some collaborations we’ve done at Sierra Nevada this is the only time I’ve brewed on a more automated system.  So it is a great experience for me. Our new brewhouse won’t be quite this automated, so it gave me a chance to learn.  Working with Matt and his team of brewers has been great, it’s been a great challenge to match flavors.

SBB: I know a lot of beer geeks in the Central Coast would love to see Pliny the Elder on shelves here. Is there any chance any of the batches brewed at Firestone Walker find their way to the 805?

VC: Unfortunately at this time the answer is no.  Someday we’ll have distribution down in the 805 but for now this beer will cover our current accounts and distributors.

———

Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson pours in a load of hops from Russian River Brewing Company at Firestone's facility in Paso Robles. The Central Coast brewery is brewing Pliny the Elder for draft accounts while Russian River's new brewhouse is installed in Santa Rosa.

Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson pours in a load of hops from Russian River Brewing Company at Firestone’s facility in Paso Robles. The Central Coast brewery is brewing Pliny the Elder for draft accounts while Russian River’s new brewhouse is installed in Santa Rosa. Photo courtesy of Vinnie Cilurzo

Below is David Walker’s response to a similar set of questions. Both Walker’s and Cilurzo’s responses have been edited for clarity.

David Walker: The press release kicked out by Vinnie and Natalie last year sums up the relationship pretty well, so not sure I can add much. 

Our brewhouse is nicely sized for Vinnie’s needs but we don’t expect those to hinder our brewing calendar for the few months while he is need of a brewhouse. Although it’s a big deal to brew Pliny and these guys are mates, it’s not unusual for craft brewers to help each other out; in fact Vinnie lent us a compact portable  bottling line for our Wild Ales at the Barrelworks to help us get that program off the ground. I think if you dig around you’ll find a ton of similar stories in the craft community.

(Note: I’ve done that digging in the past for research for We Make Beer — and I agree that this kind of helping and assistance is pretty commonplace among smaller brewers. What makes it unique here is the scale of Firestone Walker and Russian River)

Collab! Hell yes! I just need to broach the subject with Matt and Vinnie….they are proud brewers, no guarantees.

In terms of distribution, I am sure there is no change to their existing plans, we are merely helping them brew beer over a small window of time, I can’t see that altering their plans for the future. Pliny will remain fresh and in demand.