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.


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.

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.

Meet Mike Hastings, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s new director of brewing operations.


photo courtesy of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company

photo courtesy of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company

It’s old news by now, but Figueroa Mountain’s award-winning brewmaster, A.J. Stoll, has departed for Ireland. Of course, Fig Mountain still goes on — and has no intention of taking a step back.

There’s no denying that Stoll was a great brewer. His collection of medals and well-crafted beers speak for themselves. And while the 30-year-old Stoll was a relatively young face in the brewing scene, Fig Mountain’s new lead guy, Mike Hastings, is a longtime brewing veteran.

Hastings began his career at Humboldt Brewing Company in 1989, and has spent the past 25 years brewing beer in California and Pennsylvania. He first arrived at Figueroa Mountain as the head brewer in December of 2011 — making this month the mark of his third year with the Buellton-based brewery.

“I was brought in to take A.J.’s spot to let him be more creative, go out in the public and do that sort of stuff,” Hastings said. “I was hired to do the day-to-day running of the show, making sure the product was consistent and that sort of stuff.”

As the head brewer, Hastings’ job included running the brewhouse and making sure the brewery’s stocks of hops and grain matched what was necessary for production. Stoll, meanwhile, was free to develop new beers, work on Anniversary Ale projects and do the kind of public relations and quality control jobs that come with the territory at a growing brewery like Fig Mountain.

And while those kind of tasks will fall to Hastings as the new director of brewing operations, the job of creating new beers will be delegated out to the entire brewing team. The brewery held its first “Brewers Roundtable” on Dec. 4*, as the team discussed what Fig should focus on for 2015.

“More heads are better than one. A.J. was an incredible recipe creator and a good leader, that’s for sure, but we might have been a little narrow-minded in terms of flavors we were looking for,” Hastings said. “Whereas if you bring in a broad range of palates, you might get something you never expected. A.J. and I had a little bit palate styles but he and I always came in the middle and said that’s a beautiful, beautiful beer. But nothing’s going to change at Fig, nothing’s going to drift. If anything, they’ll get a little better.”

It should be noted that Hastings’ previous quote was not a criticism of the former brewmaster, just that he believes a collaborative process might lead to more widely appealing beers.

And if you’re worried that Hastings will come in and change up your favorite beers at Fig, rest assured he says that won’t happen. After all, he was often the guy overseeing the production of much of those core beers up in Buellton.

“Those things are kind of set,” Hastings said. “You have to look at our success and what’s going on. Why mess with something that’s good? Hoppy Poppy is really successful, but we might look at modifying our Pale Ale a little bit. Pale Ales are a little blasé right now, so we might be looking to modify that or maybe make a session ale or something along those lines.”

If you’re looking for a beer that has more of Hastings’ stamp on it already, check out the 4th Anniversary beer. It’s a Belgian Quad-style beer brewed with fig extract (get it: quad for four years, figs for, well, Fig Mountain). The beer began with Stoll, but was finished and blended from barrels by Hastings and team.

“This beer had an excellent start,” Hastings said. “It was a great, great beer. The whole idea of our fourth anniversary and all the years of the hard work to bring it up to a high level, why not do a Belgian Quad?”

Hastings said that he’s already excited about beginning work on the 5th Anniversary beer, and suggested that he had some ideas already that he wasn’t ready to discuss. That beer will likely be the first real insight into what Hastings has to offer as the new head man in charge, while Fig fans in the meantime will be happy to know that not much will be changing for their favorite brewery.

Photo courtesy of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company

Photo courtesy of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company


* In a recent conversation with Fig’s CEO, Jaime Dietenhofer, he mentioned the hiring of several new brewers. Some of them will move into head brewing positions at the brewery’s satellite breweries and tasting rooms in Westlake Village and Arroyo Grande, both scheduled to open soon, as well as a brewer to take over the barrel-aging and mad-science aspects of the Liquamentum project which began under Stoll.




Fig Mountain at Four Years Old


I’ll admit it, I wasn’t always sold on Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company.

My first experience with the brewery coincided with my first weekend back in Santa Barbara. It was October, 2010, and this upstart brewery had a booth at the annual Santa Barbara Beer Festival at Elings Park. With their Hoppy Poppy IPA and Hurricane Deck Double IPA available, they seemed to me like every new brewery out there — coming in with big, boozy offerings but maybe not with the expertise to make truly impressive beer.

Four years later, I stand corrected.

Fig celebrated its Fourth Anniversary in Buellton on Nov. 27, and over that time span the brewery has emerged as not just one of the better breweries on the Central Coast, but in the country.

With the addition of a couple new tanks recently, Fig is producing beer at a rate of 20,000 barrels per year (big for a local brewery, but still small when you consider that Firestone Walker brews 10 times that amount — and three times that amount of its 805 alone).

“(The growth) was expected, but years from now,” Figueroa Mountain founder and CEO Jaime Dietenhofer said. “I’d be lying to tell you on the business plan — it wasn’t there. The hockey stick growth came sooner than expected.”

It’s hard to separate the growth and success of Fig from its former brewmaster, A.J. Stoll. Stoll was brought in very soon after the brewery opened, and helped develop an award-winning beer portfolio — including 11 medals at the Great American Beer Festival under his watch.

But Stoll is gone, or at least mostly gone as he will still be a part of the brewery’s development in Germany, where it plans to open a taproom. So what exactly does the future look like for Fig?

For one, Fig recently opened a taproom in Santa Maria to go with its satellite brewery in Santa Barbara, taproom in Los Olivos and of course the main facility in Buellton. There will also be satellite breweries capable of producing unique beers in Arroyo Grande, Westlake Village and San Luis Obispo in the near future as well.

Anywhere else?

“A taproom on the moon,” Dietenhofer said. “No, the big thing with the taprooms is a regional goal to be able to have a footprint from Paso Robles to Westlake. That was our focus. Our goal is to not continue on the taproom gig. Our goal is to reach a capacity where we can come up with new, compelling beers. There was a time during our growing pains that we couldn’t come up with new beers because we had to focus on our core beers. We want to keep making new beers to stay on the cutting edge.”

As for the brewing side of things, former head brewer Mike Hastings was bumped up to director of brewing operations, and he will oversee a team of brewers that will meet today (Dec. 4) for Fig’s first-ever Brewer’s Round Table — a collaborative session designed to get a mixed range of voices into the brewing process.

“Before A.J. left, the good thing was that we were able to have a lot of good hires,” Dietenhofer said. “Knowing that we were having growth we were able to bring on four or five head brewers that were head brewers at other locations. We built a team rather than having just one person at the top.

“We built a collaborative, and we called it the Brewers’ Round Table. December 4 is our first Brewers’ Round Table where it’s everyone has the ability to add something — whether it’s an anniversary beer, a taproom beer or even taking something to package. Its like we were talking about before taking the best people available like an NBA draft and getting them into our team and seeing what we can do with a team. Two heads are better than one and five heads are better than one. I think that’s going to take us to the next level. A.J. was an amazing part of the team and now we have some guys who can shine now and are ready to.”

From left, samples of Figueroa Mountain's 2nd, 3rd and 4th Anniversary Beers.

From left, samples of Figueroa Mountain’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th Anniversary Beers.

As for the 4th Anniversary beer itself, I’ll let Hastings explain it.

“This beer had an excellent start,” he said. “It was a great, great beer. The whole idea of our fourth anniversary and all the years of the hard work to bring it up to a high level, why not do a Belgian Quad?”

Get it? Four years… Quad — clever.

The beer is a barrel-aged Quad with a slight hint of figs from a locally-produced natural fig extract. It’s a beautiful dark brown with ruby highlights when held up to the light.

To be honest, I’d have liked to see a little more from the beer. Compared to the bourbon-barrel-aged Imperial Oatmeal Stout that was the 3rd Anniversary, this beer is a little pedestrian — if a well-made Quad can be considered such. It’s not that it’s a bad beer, very far from it, but perhaps not as exciting as you might expect for a once-a-year offering. In fact, I enjoyed the cask version available during the anniversary party that was aged on smoked poplar wood, figs and anise better.

Still, I’ve got a bottle in my fridge and I’ll be looking forward to seeing how it stands up to the test of time. I wouldn’t mind seeing a version of it, perhaps not barrel-aged for production reasons, available on a more regular basis at Figs’ numerous tap rooms.

It’s been a strong four years for Figueroa Mountain, and I know they’ve won over many of their doubters like myself. I look forward to seeing what the next four (and hopefully more) years bring.

Firestone Walker announces XVIII Anniversary beer

Note: The following is a press release from Firestone Walker. I’ve tasted the beer at Barrelworks on the release date, and it’s the same big, bold boozy goodness we’ve come to expect from Firestone’s anniversary series. Definitely another winner from the winemakers and brewers here.



14 Vintners Help Create Firestone Walker’s New Release XVIII Anniversary Ale


Paso Robles, CA: As the summer turns toward fall, you can count on two things in the Paso Robles wine country—the seasonal grape harvest and the annual blending of Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s next Anniversary Ale with guiding input from local winemakers.


The result this year is XVIII—a barrel-aged blend composed of nine distinct component beers, as determined by a friendly yet fiercely competitive blending session attended by 14 winemakers (see full list below). XVIII will be available in select markets across the United States starting in November.


The Anniversary Ale blending session has become an annual rite, with Brewmaster Matt Brynildson enlisting his closest friends in the local winemaking community to help create a beer that is greater than the sum of its parts.


“These winemakers are practicing experts in the art of blending, so it makes perfect sense to seek their counsel,” Brynildson said. “It’s like bringing in the ninjas.”


The winemakers are paired off and presented with numerous different component beers spanning an array of styles. The pairs are tasked with creating their own preferred blends from among the components. The preferred blends are then presented to the entire group and blind tasted. Individual votes are cast, and the blend with the most votes becomes the basis for the next Anniversary Ale. Russell From and Philip Muzzy of Herman Story Wines are credited with creating the winning blend that became XVIII, granting them possession of the coveted cardboard crown that is awarded to the winning team each year.


“It got pretty competitive this year,” Brynildson said. “There was a lot of smack talk leading up to the session. A few of the winemaker teams were caught stuffing the ballot by creating more than one blend, and there were accusations of performance enhancers leveled against the winners, but it didn’t result in any arrests or suspensions.”


Most of the component beers spent an average of a year maturing in retired bourbon, brandy and whiskey barrels, including two collaboration beers that Brynildson said “we probably won’t see again,” specifically: Ol’ Leghorn, a blonde barleywine brewed with 3 Floyds and aged in new American oak barrels; and Hydra Cuvée, a hoppy hybrid dark ale brewed with Flying Dog and aged in bourbon barrels.


In the end, Brynildson noted that “we got back to a stout-dominated blend this year,” with Parabola and Velvet Merkin constituting more than 40 percent of the final blend. At the same time, several other components layer in a subtle hoppy quality that Brynildson described as “really integrated and balanced.”




“We blended together 227 oak barrels and nine different beers creating something truly complex and exceptional.” Brewmaster Matt Brynildson                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Parabola / Aged in Bourbon Barrels / 38% of Final Blend

-Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout


Helldorado / Aged in Bourbon and Brandy Barrels / 16% of Final Blend

-Blonde Barleywine Brewed with Buckwheat Honey


Bravo / Aged in Bourbon and Brandy Barrels / 16% of Final Blend

-Imperial Brown Ale


Stickee Monkee / Aged in Bourbon and Whiskey Barrels / 14% of Final Blend

-Central Coast Quad Brewed with Belgian Candi and Mexican Turbinado (brown) Sugar


Velvet Merkin / Aged in Bourbon Barrels / 5% of Final Blend

-Traditional Oatmeal Stout


Hydra Cuvée / Aged in Bourbon Barrels; collaboration with Flying Dog / 4% of Final Blend

-Hoppy Hybrid Dark Ale

Wookey Jack / 100% Stainless Steel / 3% of Final Blend

-Black Rye India Pale Ale

OlLeghorn / Aged in new American oak barrels; collaboration with 3 Floyds / 2% of Final Blend

-Blonde Barleywine


Double Jack / 100% Stainless Steel / 2% of Final Blend

-Double India Pale Ale






XVIII is the ninth release in Firestone Walker’s anniversary series, dating back to the release of the inaugural anniversary release called “Ten” in 2006. Over the ensuing years, Firestone Walker has developed one of the craft beer industry’s most extensive barrel aging programs, spanning upwards of 1,500 barrels. Brewing beer with oak barrels has been a pioneering focal point for the brewery since its founding in 1996.


XVIII will be available in select markets across the United States starting in November. The suggested retail price is $23.99 for an individually boxed 22-ounce bottle.




“As a finished beer, XVIII is a dark and complex brew full of malt and barrel derived flavors, with Parabola leading the brew into the rich darkness. The beer is unfiltered and unfined, so there will be a small amount of sediment in the bottom of the bottle. XVIII is best enjoyed poured carefully into a half filled brandy snifter or wine glass. Allow it to warm to 55F to fully enjoy the pleasing and complex aromas. As the beer sits and breathes in the glass, rich dark chocolate, toasted oak and dark fruit qualities are revealed, so take your time. If you wait to open your bottle later, store it in a cool dark place. I suspect that this beer will age well and change favorably for years to come.”




“These are my friends and brothers in fermentation science, and practicing experts in the art of blending.” Brewmaster Matt Brynildson


·         Neil Collins – Tablas Creek, Lone Madrone

·         Chelsea Franchi – Tablas Creek

·         Justin Smith– Saxum

·         Mark Adams – Ledge

·         Kevin Sass – Halter Ranch

·         Molly Longborg – Halter Ranch

·         Russell From – Herman Story

·         Philip Muzzy – Herman Story

·         Matt Trevisan – Linne Calodo

·         Sherman Thacher – Thacher

·         Terry Hoage – Terry Hoage Vineyards

·         Steve Martell – Kaleidos

·         Eric Jensen – Booker

·         Brock Waterman – Brochelle


Also thanks to friends Arie Litman and Bobby Fox for lending their expertise to the blending session.

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. Announces New Partnership and Expansions

Note: the following is a press release from Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company — it details some of the things discussed in this post.

Buellton, California—   Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. is about to celebrate its fourth anniversary in late November 2014 and they have a lot to celebrate this year:

New Partnership
Jaime Dietenhofer, Jeff & Pete Jordano, Jim Dietenhofer
FIGUEROA MOUNTAIN BREWING CO. AND PACIFIC BEVERAGE COMPANY FORM ALLIANCEWith a small crew of people, father and son team Jim and Jaime Dietenhofer founded Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. as a 100-barrel production brewery in November 2010.  Thanks to the hard work of their dedicated staff, the company has self-distributed their beer from San Luis Obispo to Orange County since the very beginning.  It wasn’t until the company recently reached 20,000 barrels that the Dietenhofers made the decision to partner with Pacific Beverage Company, set to celebrate their 100th Anniversary next year.

If you ask Jaime Dietenhofer how quickly this partnership formed he would say it’s been a long time coming.  Jeff Jordano, President of Pacific Beverage Company, and his father, CEO Pete Jordano, initiated dialogue with the Dietenhofers in Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s first year of business.  The Jordanos maintained good contact and communication with the Dietenhofers until the time was right to transfer distribution rights over to Pacific Beverage Company.

“Pacific Beverage Company is the perfect fit for us.  It is a multi-generational company that understands the communities that our brand represents.  This was a very important factor during the decision making process,” explains President Jaime Dietenhofer.  “We’ve grown to the point that partnering with a successful, established company is a necessary next step.  Pacific Beverage Company has really ramped up their specialty craft beer division and we are thrilled to become a part of such an acclaimed group of breweries.  By joining forces, we can continue to advance craft beer on the Central Coast.”

Sales Director of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co., Alex Jones, adds to Dietenhofer’s excitement: “This new partnership allows us to focus on what we do best: making the highest quality craft beer.  Pacific Beverage Company will help supply accounts to ensure the best customer service for our clients.”  The distribution company will handle current and new accounts throughout the Central Coast in Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Ventura counties.

Current sales and distribution staff will be redirected to new roles within the company to ensure that staff members remain part of the Fig Family.


Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. will be opening three new taprooms this fall.  Slated to open in November, their first taproom will be located in Santa Maria at 560-B East Betteravia Road in the College Square shopping center.  The Grand Opening is set for Saturday, November 22, 2014.  The next two taprooms to open are outside of Santa Barbara County where there are currently three locations: Buellton, Los Olivos and Santa Barbara.  A fifth taproom in Westlake Village is planned for mid-December located in the brand new Target shopping complex at 30770 Russell Ranch Road, Suites E&F.  Following soon after is their Arroyo Grande taproom at 1462 East Grand Avenue which plans to open by mid-January 2015.  All three new locations will have a menu featuring gastropub cuisine, a Mug Club, live music and special events.

Westlake Village and Arroyo Grande will both have in-house breweries producing 1500 barrels each per year.  “Our two new taproom breweries will allow for increased production and produce unique specialties available to local accounts,” says Sales Director Alex Jones.

For more information about the new taprooms please visit www.FigMtnBrew.com or sign up for the new Mug Clubs by emailing mugclub@figmtnbrew.com.


Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company is going back to the homeland.  Owners Jaime and Jim Dietenhofer are excited to go back to their roots as they evaluate potential site selections for a new European brewery in the Bavarian region of Germany.  They are sending brewer AJ Stoll to spearhead the process.

“There is a high demand for American-style beers in Europe as of late.  It’s the perfect time to bring our New World style of beer to Germany as well as having the opportunity to learn from their rich history of brewing.  We are also looking forward to brewing a new line of European beers such as Dunkelweiss, Marzen, Weissbier and other lagers,” explains President Jaime Dietenhofer, “with the potential to import these beers back to the United States.”

While in Europe, Stoll will consult with a brewery in Ireland which has always been a dream of his.  “We can’t wait to see what recipes AJ is inspired to create while in Europe,” says Vice-President Jim Dietenhofer.

Stoll isn’t the only brewer with new endeavors.  Mike Hastings will take on a new role as Director of Brewery Operations for Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s production department.  Hastings joined Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. in December 2012 as the Head Brewer of Buellton.  Kevin Ashford, the Head Brewer of Santa Barbara, will take on an additional new role in the company.  While he continues to develop their growing cask program he will also assist with FigMtnBrew’s burgeoning brewery collaboration series.

Firestone Walker to release XVIII on Saturday

Note: the following is a press release from Firestone-Walker. I believe the Paso Robles event is all sold out, but I plan on stopping by Barrelworks after the Real Ale Invitational to get my bottles and taste the previous versions. See you there, everyone.

XVIII, the ninth blend in our Anniversary series, will be released October 25, 2014. 


Join us for the release of our XVIII Anniversary Ale! Purchase 3 or more bottles and get access to our XVIII Anniversary Party from 11am – 2pm.  Access includes beer tasting, food samples, live music, tours, games and more. As always, it will be a three bottle minimum per person to join us and we will be selling bottle tickets starting Monday, August 25th. 

Due to space limitations because of construction, we are hosting this year’s party in our new canning hall. This area is still under construction, so appropriate footwear is recommended.

Tickets on sale now!

For more information see our FAQ page or visit our Eventbrite page.

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.

Football and Beer Season

OK – It’s football season (kickoff is tonight). If you don’t know by now, some of the best places to watch the games in Santa Barbara County are our local breweries. Both Hollister Brewing Company and Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company have sent out press releases, and they are attached below.

I think it would be silly not to start with one of the obvious places in town though — Santa Barbara Brewing Company. The back lounge is a traditional location for Raiders and 49ers games, and will continue to be so. That said – here are the following press releases, starting with Fig Mountain’s.

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.
Hosts Events for NFL Season

Buellton, California—   Football season is in full swing starting September 4, 2014 and Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company is celebrating with special events and deals in their Buellton Taproom located at 45 Industrial Way in Buellton, California.  With the full NFL package on tv, football fans can immerse themselves in the game.   Wear your favorite team’s jersey during the game and get your pints for only $4.

Fantasy Football leagues can register their groups for pitcher and food discounts by contacting Taproom Manager, David Esdaile, at david@figmtnbrew.com  or (805) 694-2252 ext. 114.  Free shuttle service is available on Sundays for registered groups with a reservation by the previous Friday at 5pm.

Enjoy food for sale on Monday and Thursday nights such as hot dogs and tamales and food trucks on College Football Saturdays.  On Sundays the taproom will be open extra early, starting at 9:30am, with Micheladas and Hopped-mosas, for fans wanting to take advantage of the full day of football.  In the afternoon, BBQ sandwiches will be sold by Beto’s Place in the beer garden for $10.

If being a spectator isn’t enough, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. will be hosting half-time games such as the nostalgic game of paper football with a chance to win a free pint of beer on Mondays.  Los Olivos locals can watch football at the Los Olivos Taproom located at 2446 Alamo Pintado, Suite C.  For more information visit www.FigMtnBrew.com/Football.

Breakfast is Back!

  Starting Sunday, September 7th   breakfast is back!
Join HBC as we celebrate the
2014-2015 NFL season with
breakfast served Sundays 10am-2pm.
We’ve got the NFL package on 7 wide screen tvs, so you can watch your favorite team.




Not a football fan?  Enjoy our relaxing patio with our special Sunday drink specials, breakfast or our complete menu served 10am-close.





Breakfast Served 10am-2pm  


Chorizo and Egg Tacos…..10.5

3 corn tortillas filled with house-made chorizo, scrambled eggs, avocado, chipotle crema, cilantro and queso fresco.

Served with potatoes


Sausage, Gravy & Biscuits…..10

Homemade breakfast sausage and milk gravy over

buttermilk biscuits with two sunny side-up eggs


Hollister Scramble…..10.5

3 eggs, bacon, caramelized onions, sauteed spinach with gruyere cheese, served with a side of potatoes and toast


Huevos Con Chile…..10

Pork chili verde served atop a crispy corn tortilla with

refried beans and two eggs served scrambled or fried


Prosciutto, Bacon & Egg Sandwich…..12.5

Prosciutto, smoked bacon, frisee,
garlic aioli and two fried eggs on ciabatta.

Served with a side of potatoes


Mushroom & Goat Cheese Frittata…..11

Eggs baked with mushrooms, asparagus, creamy goat cheese

and topped with wild arugula and olive oil


Brioche French Toast…..9.5

Brioche French toast topped with maple whipped cream

and macerated berries




2 eggs….4



Rye or Sourdough Toast…..2

Cup of Fruit…..4.5





Beachside Blonde, Worcestershire, lime juice,

salt and pepper on the rocks with a salted rim



Fresh orange juice over our house sparkling wine,

Michel Olivier Blanc de Blanc


Sunday Special Bloody Mary…..8

Finlandia vodka, rich tomato juice and a handful of

other ingredients which shall remain nameless