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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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.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

Raise a pint for departing brewers

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

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

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

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

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

And now, Santa Barbara is saying farewell to both.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Q & A with SB Brewing Company’s outgoing Brewmaster, Kevin Pratt

IMG_0719

Last week I spoke with outgoing Figueroa Mountain brewmaster A.J. Stoll. He’s off to Ireland, but Santa Barbara Brewing Company’s Kevin Pratt is not going quite as far. He and his partners at the newly formed Heirloom Brewing Company, which will operate as a production brewery in the near future, is hoping to close escrow on San Luis Obispo’s Creekside Brewing Company this month.

I sat down with Kevin to discuss his upcoming future and his fleeting time at Brewco.

Kevin opened by discussing his feelings toward leaving Brewco to start his own brewing company.

PRATT: I feel very much the same way that a woman in the late stages of pregnancy must feel where I’ve gone through all the stages where this is what I’m doing and it’s great, I’m happy and everyone is happy for me. Then I educate myself on everything to come and I keep obsessing about it because I want everything to be great, just like a woman wants everything great for her baby. Then it gets to the last few months and it’s like here’s your due date. Then you get past that date and you say, ‘Ok, I’m done. I’m done now. Let’s have this, I’m really done.’ I feel very much like I’m slightly overdue.

Q: So you feel like you’re ready for Heirloom to be born.

A: I’m really ready for this. And I know there will be sleepless nights, and I’m Ok with that.

Q: When it starts, will it start off as Heirloom right away or is there an intermediate step.

A: First off, this project is Creekside Brewing. It’s not Heirloom. Heirloom is the parent company.

Q: Heirloom is the company buying Creekside?

A: Correct.

We’re not going to change Creekside to begin with. We didn’t buy it to turn it into something else. We bought it because it was already a functioning brewery and already in the right construct we’re looking for — and a great location. It just happened to be the right magical combination to make this purpose.

So we didn’t buy it right away saying hey we want to change everything. We could have bought any other bar and done that. It doesn’t work for us to change the name until we have a production brewery to stand behind it and provide more core beers. Hopefully this place will make a lot of experimental beers and fun stuff. It will be a great place to go to have the beers, have great food and a few things that are not on the beer menu.

Q: Under the leadership of you and Heirloom, and your partners, what can we expect in the near future at Creekside?

A: It’s always going to be classic beers in the modern world. This is how we’re, we’re always going to be making beers that are the core of beer culture — the best of beer culture. We’re always going to offer food that is the best of going out to a pub and casual dining. You can always expect the highest quality of both. And every now and then, some fun. We want to have some fun while we’re brewing, we want to have fun while we’re cooking and we want to be creative. Beer has been a wonderful set of evolution and creation over time. America is just the latest to enter the particular fray.

Q: What do you feel about your time here in Santa Barbara?

A: I love it. This has been one of the best challenges of my career. It’s been rewarding because I’ve been able to meet that challenge. It’s been rewarding on a business level because I’ve helped my company become something really important. It’s been rewarding because even as I exit, the transition here is about keeping it an important place, keeping the quality up, making sure we hire the right person, making sure that person follows it, and making sure that I’m available if there’s an issue. This is not a just a sudden departure.

Q: Along those lines you’re going to be hiring and training a new brewer to take over before you leave.

A: Hopefully I’m going to be hiring a brewer with a lot of training and skill. Hopefully I’m hiring a brewer that wants to make their own mark. I don’t want a brewer that just wants to take over. At least a third of my job has been being creative, getting new and interesting things going and getting new and interesting thought process among the public about it. The next brewer has to be able to embrace that.

The most important part of this is that the new brewer understands where we’re at and where we need to go. They need to stay on the path of making great classic beers, balanced beers in this market that meet the goals of the restaurant and still allow him or her enough room to play. There’s plenty of room for that. There are only three or four recipes that need to carry on, everything else they can put their own stamp on.

Q: This being your fourth year here, are there any regrets as far as things you didn’t get to accomplish or any things that you would like to change?

A: I really wish I had time to do more collaboration beers. I’m very much going to miss this brewery. I feel like I’ve built a hot rod I learned to drive really well and I’m going to miss not being able to drive that brewery. I’m going to miss some of the mentoring opportunities I’ve had with brewers. I’m going to miss the new breweries that are in town and the growth of that, but I’m also looking forward to basically regaining all of that in San Luis Obispo.

 

— That’s it. And if you’re sad about the departure of Kevin and AJ, fear not — there are plenty of new breweries on the horizon. I’ll be discussing Captain Fatty’s in Goleta and Rincon and BrewLab in Carpinteria in this space soon. Stay tuned.

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.

THREE NEW FIGUEROA MOUNTAIN BREWING CO. TAPROOMS SET TO OPEN IN 2014

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 CO. PREPARES TO LAUNCH “FIG DEUSTCHLAND”

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.

Fig Mountain Brewmaster talks about leaving for Ireland

A little while ago on Twitter, I teased that there were big changes coming to the Santa Barbara beer and brewing scene. If you don’t follow me on twitter — it looked like this.

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Well, the first of that big news is that Figueroa Mountain’s award-winning brewmaster, A.J. Stoll, is departing Buellton and the Central Coast to take his first step toward becoming an international brewing consultant — something that he has described as his dream job.

The basic rundown is that he isn’t technically leaving Fig Mountain, but his role is certainly changing. Head brewer Mike Hastings will take over as the director of Brewing Operations for Fig in A.J.’s absence.

The other big takeaway is that Fig Mountain is also going international and expanding to Germany. While he’s away, A.J. will help scout out a location to help the brewery contract brew and eventually build their own pub and beer garden area.

This is a dynamic story, and certain elements may need to be corrected as updates come out, but I caught up with A.J. for a Q and A to learn about all the new developments.

photo courtesy Figueroa Mountain

photo courtesy Figueroa Mountain

Q: So, I’ve heard the rumor that you’re leaving us here and heading to Ireland. Tell me a little bit about what it is you’ll be doing and where you’re headed.

A: I always encouraged my staff to elevate themselves and take on new responsibilities and positions, and so that’s basically the same thing I’m doing. My goal is to be an international brewery consultant. That’s just what I’d like to do — trouble shoot breweries, plan breweries write recipes and that sort of thing. That’s what I’d like to do. So in the short term I’m going to be going to this start-up in Ireland, and in the long-term I’m going to be is I’ll be all over the shelf.

Mike Hastings is moving up to director of brewing operations and he’ll runt he show for Fig in terms of the day-to-day logistical stuff. Everything else pretty much remains the same. I’m basically taking a lot of times away. They’re going to keep me on as a consultant. I’m not leaving or abandoning them or anything like that. There’s no real break, I’m just doing other things as well.

Q: So you’re not leaving Fig? You and Fig are still together even if your relationship is changing here?

 A: In a nutshell. It’s kind of like (Figueroa Mountain CEO) Jaime (Dietenhofer) says, everyone is a business. I’m just going one step further and creating myself as a business. For me it’s all about continuing to grow and working with different people, places and equipment. Working with Fig has been a huge opportunity and experience, and I’m looking forward to taking that one step further with new places and people.

Q: Did Fig make an offer or anything like that to keep you and try to sell you on not leaving or going to Ireland?

A: There’s a lot of shoulda-woulda-coulda, but it’s not really about that. It’s not about the money or anything like that. I’ve never had any and wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway. It’s more about my personal growth and continued education — that sort of thing for me.

Q: Well, tell me about this brewery in Ireland? What’s it called, who are you partnering with and what can we expect from that? (Note: Because not all the information is public yet, A.J. requested that I not mention the name of the brewery yet, although he said it is a real deal, there is already a site selected and the new brewing equipment will be arriving near Christmas).

A: It’s a new start-up in Ireland. The partners are based in Chicago and Ireland which is pretty normal it sounds like because I guess Chicago and Ireland are basically the same country at this point. They see what I see where the U.S. is saturated or getting saturated, but Europe is untouched. Craft beer is 9.5% market share or something like that, but in Ireland it/s .5% and it’s going to go vertical. It’s going to double or triple every year.

There’s a brewery out there that we’re modeled after that’s been established for several years and it just sold to MillerCoors for $17 million. So I think that’s a plan for the partners and I is to blow this thing up and make top-quality beer and sell. Or maybe it’s a cash-cow and we love it and keep it forever. I don’t know. I’m committed to them for a time, assuming all things go well. Fuck, I don’t know, the whole thing could tank.

(Note: I looked into this and couldn’t find which brewery was sold for $17 million, but I’ll take A.J.’s word on it all.)

Q: I remember from social media that you were in Ireland a couple months ago. Was that trip to start to lay the groundwork for all of this?

A: No, it was actually the opposite. I went over there to get the hell out of Dodge and go on vacation. I met these guys and talked about it. Beers were consumed and whatnot and it kind of went from there. There’s no dark side about it. There’s no underhanded dealings. Basically when I made my decision I went to Fig and said, ‘this is what I want to do, this is where my heart is at — let’s figure it out.’

Q: So it was on that trip that you met those guys? You met those guys on a vacation randomly?

A: Yep.

Q: Can you talk about this Fig in Germany thing going on?

A: Basically the plan is to have a brewery contract for us and start distribution over there. The Americana thing is kind of big around there, which I think is hilarious because Germany invented beer as far as I’m concerned. What are we going to teach them? But basically we’re going to look for a contract brewery over there and then work on building a facility over there. Nothing huge, like a pub and beer garden situation like in Santa Barbara — that sort of thing.

Q: So when are you heading out? When are you leaving us?

A: I’m going to fly out next month, the middle of next month — the 12th. I’ll fly back for Christmas to launch the brewery in Arroyo Grande or to plan the launch of the Arroyo Grande and Westlake facilities. The brewery designs are basically done and we even have brewers for those locations already, basically I’ll just be giving it the (stamp) of approval. Then I don’t know. The same thing with Germany. We were talking about going the next month or the following, but now we’re talking about Germany maybe. Not sure when I’m going over there.

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Well, that’s it. We’ll miss ya here on the Central Coast, A.J. Feel free to send as much beer home as you need to!

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Fig Mountain’s Real Ale Invitational is Saturday

Note: the following is a press release from Fig Mountain Brewing Company. Please note I’ll be there signing copies of We make Beer – so I won’t be providing any feedback or coverage of the event to avoid conflicts of interest. I will say I’m really looking forward to this though.

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Cask Beer Tasting Event Features 20 Craft Breweries
Buellton, California—   Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company is celebrating the increased presence of cask ale on the West Coast by hosting a festival dedicated to this type of beer on Saturday, October 25, 2014 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM.  Twenty California craft breweries will be showcasing their own styles of real ale at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s flagship brewery and taproom in Buellton, California located at 45 Industrial Way.

Hosted by Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company and sponsored by Montecito Bank & Trust, the Real Ale Invitational will donate a portion of the proceeds as well as a funds raised from a silent auction to the Los Padres Forest Watch.  The Invitational features the following twenty breweries:

Ballast Point Brewing Co. | Beachwood Brewing Co. | Belching Beaver Brewing Co. | Bottle Logic Brewing | Central Coast Brewing | Coronado Brewing Company | Eagle Rock Brewery | El Segundo Brewing Co. |Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. | Golden Road Brewing | Ironfire Brewing Company | The Libertine Pub | MacLeod Ale Brewing Company | Monkish Brewing | Noble Ale Works | Pizza Port Brewing Co. | Poseidon Brewing Company | Santa Barbara Brewing Co. | Smog City Brewing Company | Stone Brewing Company

Admission in advance is $40—or $45 at the door­—and includes a souvenir glass along with unlimited cask ale tastings.  Live music will include DJ Selecta Shaggy during the invitational followed by The Caverns and Figueroa Jones inside the taproom from 5:00 to 9:00 PM.  Food trucks, Al Fresco Picnic and The Pairing Knife, will have food for sale during the event.  Sean Lewis, author of We Make Beer, will be signing and selling books during the tasting.  Vendors include art from the Will Rise Project, a new Santa Barbara-based company dedicated to highlighting the work of local artists in whatever form that takes.

A limited number of tickets are available for a 4-course pairing lunch prior to the Invitational from 11:30 AM until 1:00 PM.  Meet the cask masters who have perfected the skill of brewing real ale while enjoying a 4-course meal prepared by Beto Huizar, Executive Chef of Beto’s Place, a new restaurant slated to open in Fig Mtn Brew’s Buellton taproom later this year. The family-style meal offers paired with cask ales from Pizza Port Brewing Co., Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co., El Segundo Brewing Co. and Noble Ale Works.  The menu includes dishes such as citrus-cured Alaskan Halibut, Roasted Squash with bacon and pecans, Duck Confit, and beer-braised Short Ribs; just to name a few.  Tickets to the lunch cost $75 and include admission to the Invitational.

Shuttle tickets are available from Santa Barbara to Buellton via Jump on the School Bus which will pick up passengers at the Santa Barbara taproom before noon and then return from Buellton at 4:30 PM.  Shuttle reservations can be placed at the Santa Barbara taproom located at 137 Anacapa Street, Suite F.  Tickets cost $15 and include round-trip transportation and a complimentary beer.

For more information about Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s Real Ale Invitational or to purchase tickets, visit http://RealAle.NightOut.com or pick up tickets at any FigMtnBrew taproom.

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High Resolution Photos and Interviews Available Upon Request.   
Hashtag: #RealAle   Tag: @FigMtnBrew

About Real Ale: 
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company has embraced cask ale via their cask program run by Head Brewer of Santa Barbara, Kevin C. Ashford.  Each taproom boasts a cask engine for new releases every “Firkin Friday” featuring many of their standard ales. These casks contain high quality ingredients such as hops, spices, coffee, cacao, and even locally grown fruits. Real Ale, or cask beer, is “beer that is unfiltered which undergoes a secondary fermentation and conditioning process. This process naturally carbonates the beer to a softer texture.  It is poured directly from the cask—essentially a 10.8 gallon stainless steel barrel—without additional Nitrogen or Carbon Dioxide assistance,” Ashford explains.

About Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company:
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. was founded by father and son team, Jim and Jaime Dietenhofer, in 2010.  With a passion for craft beer, they set out to pay homage to the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley with handcrafted beer and hand-drawn artwork depicting the local landscape on their labels. They brought on Brewmaster AJ Stoll who now oversees a team of brewers in their Buellton, California brewery.  With three locations in Santa Barbara County, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. beer can be found in their taprooms or at select retailers and restaurants throughout California.  Learn more about #FigMtnBrew or where to find their beer at www.figmtnbrew.com.