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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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!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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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.