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!

Take Me Out to the Brewhouse

Just as wine experts do, beer experts love talking about beer pairings. And like wine experts, it’s hard for beer experts to not come off a little snobby when they point out that an IPA’s herbal aroma pairs nicely with a sharp goat cheese.

It also seems to me that most pairings are simply matters of personal taste and current moods. You might like a hoppy beer to go alongside your spicy buffalo wings — I prefer a robust porter.

But I hope we can all agree that nothing goes better with beer — any beer — than baseball.

And in Santa Barbara, no place puts the two together quite like The Brewhouse on Montecito Street.

Monday marks the first full day of baseball, and it also marks the release of one of my favorite seasonal beers, Baseball Saison. It’s a big and strong saison-style ale that has the bold aromas typical of the style, but the beer remains remarkably drinkable with a relatively thin body.

The beer dates back to 2008, and The Brewhouse’s founder and brewmaster, Pete Johnson, recalls that the introduction of the beer was greeted with positive reviews — from the consumers but perhaps also from divine forces.

“The baseball gods were so pleased that they delivered my Phillies to the World Series,” Johnson said.

Indeed, the Philadelphia transplant had the rare fortune of seeing his favorite team take home the title that season. The shortstop from that Phillies squad, Jimmy Rollins, signed to play with the Dodgers this past winter.

And while you won’t be able to catch Rollins and the Dodgers on TV until Time Warner Cable resolves some contract disputes with other cable carriers, you can catch the rest of the games on screen at The Brewhouse.

And if perhaps a beer isn’t strong enough to settle down the nerves of opening day, the brewpub is offering up a “Double Play” that includes the beer and a shot of whiskey from Santa Barbara’s own Cutler’s Artisan Spirits.

Mind you, this is no ordinary whiskey. The white liquor is a distilled version of the Baseball Saison, and some of those delicious aromas make it through into the whiskey — and still others are created or modified in the distilling process.

Ian Cutler, the man behind Cutler’s, will be on premise at The Brewhouse Monday to talk about the whiskey and answer questions.

And if you order a Double Play while wearing your favorite team’s jersey, hat or T-shirt, Pete will give your team a run on a scoreboard created precisely for the Baseball Saison release. The team that scores the most runs on Monday will have its logo adorn the tap handle for the rest of the year.

So Dodgers fans, please don’t avoid wearing your Yasiel Puig jersey on Monday just because he won’t be on TV around here until ESPN airs their game on Wednesday.

“If you don’t want to see that hated red and black SF, you better come in your jersey,” Pete warned.

And if a saison isn’t your beer of choice, The Brewhouse has several new beers that will go well with the start of baseball season.

I enjoy El Citra — a “session IPA” that has all the hop aromas and flavors of a regular IPA but is considerably lower in alcohol. The bitterness is also scaled back, as low alcohol typically means low malt, and a bitter beer without some caramel malt flavors to balance it out is not the kind of beer I’d like to quaff again and again while watching a game.

This may be the only time I ever say this, but Monday, and baseball season, can’t come soon enough.

Sean Lewis is a beer drinker, beer maker and the author of “We Make Beer: Inside the Spirit and Artistry of America’s Craft Brewers” (St. Martin’s Press).

 

Bring Your Dog For Beer

Sometimes you need a good drinking buddy.

Sometimes you need a good drinking buddy.

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

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

Yes, that’s a dog in a baby stroller.

But dogs are like children in a few ways:

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

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

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

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

The Brewhouse

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

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

Solvang Brewing Company

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

Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company

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

Pure Order Brewing Company

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

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

Telegraph Brewing Company

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

Captain Fatty’s

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

Island Brewing Company

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

Rincon Brewing Company

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

The brewLAB

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

Stay cool, y'all.

Stay cool, y’all.

Telegraph Brewing Announces Dia de las Obscuras Rare Beer Festival

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

Telegraph

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pure Order begins bottling

IMG_2140

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.