Saturday was the first of what the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens hopes to be an annual event – the Santa Barbara Beer Gardens. I was able to attend, along with my wife and dog*, and take a couple photos and enjoy each of the beers thoroughly. Below, in italics, are the individual beer stations and the tasting notes provided by event host and fellow Santa Barbara beer columnist, Zach Rosen. The non-italicized words are my own – the photos are courtesy of my wife, Victoria Knowles.
Cheers to Zach for a well-run event!
1. Pure Order Brewing Co Crooked Neck Hefeweizen
Help us welcome Santa Barbara’s newest brewery, Pure Order Brewing Co, in their first public appearance. The meadow is undergoing an extensive renovation that will revive it to an indigenous display of wildflowers and grasses. The young shoots emerging from the ground capture the delicate state of this fledgling brewery, that, with time, will become a fixture in our community as permanent as the Blaksley Boulder. Crooked Neck Hefeweizen is full of refreshing flavors of banana, clove, and honey bread that will prepare your palate for the path ahead.
Indeed, this was a great way to introduce Santa Barbara’s newest members to the beer community. The Crooked Neck Hef was the perfect warm-up beer on the sunny, but just-so-slightly cool day.
2. Surf Brewery Imperial Red Ale
When you reach the top of the Meadow Section, make the short trip up the flight of stairs to reach the mesmerizing Meadow View. Fill your glass with Surf’s Imperial Red Ale then turn around to take in the expanse of the American Riviera. Mosaic hops create a rich tapestry of tropical, floral, and fruity flavors whose diverse character captures the sight of this unique blend of California coast and Mediterranean climate. Return here at dusk and watch the beer’s burgundy hues complement the violet sky, green landscapes, and deep blues of the breaking surf as Waters Risin’ plays a gentle but vivid meadow set to draw the festival to a close.
The Imperial Red only built upon the good feelings starting to rise after Pure Order’s Crooked Neck. Although the setting was truly not too different from the Blaksley Boulder and Pure Order’s table, the Imperial Red managed to set a starkly different tone. Or rather, it provided a fairly complementary tone, as it elevated the event from a friendly exploration of beer and the Botanic Gardens to a truly serious beer tasting. It was rich and complex, and had enough punch to carry you on to the next stop of the tour.
3. Santa Barbara Brewing Co King Saaz
Take a seat and relax in this grove of coastal redwoods. Let the crisp, maltiness of this imperial Pilsner soothe you as you sit in this cool, shady section of the gardens. The extra dose of Saaz hops in this beer give it an enormous grassy, floral flavor that matches the size of these colossal trees while providing a green character that compliments the surrounding undergrowth. This special, unfiltered version, of King Saaz has a more substantial body and heartier flavor that helps it stand tall in the presence of these looming giants. Waters Risin’ will play a deep, bold canyon set that will draw you into the canyon and travel with you as you move down the ravine.
In the above photo, SB Brewing Company’s Kevin Pratt pours a sample of King Saaz. Grassy, floral and with a strong punch of Pilsner malt, King Saaz stood up nicely to the redwoods – my favorite part of the Botanic Gardens. Although, in hindsight, I wonder if the Imperial Red wouldn’t have worked as well or better in the redwoods, with King Saaz fitting nicely in the meadow section as well. Next time, Zach.
4. The Brewhouse Abbey Ale
Mission Dam & Aqueduct
The Mission Dam lies between The Brewhouse and Santa Barbara Brewing Co, the two foundations of our local beer scene. This State and County Historic Landmark was built in 1807 to supply the Santa Barbara Mission with water. This cornerstone of Santa Barbara is serving their Abbey Ale, a beer inspired by the monastic brews of Belgium. Its flavors of yeast, apricot and caramel apple, completed by a prickle of clove, provide sweet, bubbling notes to the swoosh of water and crackle of birdsong.
I think Zach’s description here really says it best. It was fitting, it was enjoyable and it was a lot of fun to see it next to King Saaz – which is a drastically different beer. As Zach writes, two cornerstones of Santa Barbara’s beer scene with two very different styles.
5. The Dudes Brewing Co Grinning Face Porter on Cask
What is a bridge but a smile that you can walk upon, bringing you from one pleasant spot to the next. The Grinning Face Porter will certainly put a smile on your face and take you to that happy place. Walk over the Campbell Bridge, and let the lush surroundings and swirling stream below give you an exotic mood that fits the tropical flavors coming from the coconut sugar, toasted coconut flakes and vanilla beans used in this decadent brew. This special edition cask has been aged on additional coconut flakes and vanilla beans.
This beer was like German chocolate cake in a glass. I could have come back for this at the end and called it dessert. The Dudes were also serving this beer on top of vanilla ice cram as a beer float – something in which I didn’t partake, but was receiving rave reviews from those in attendance.
6. Island Brewing Co Avocado Honey Ale
Grab a glass of Avocado Honey Ale and take a seat at this peaceful patio overlooking Mission Creek. A brisk flavor of sweet malts and floral hops spring out of the glass to bring a breathtaking freshness that accompanies the lovely views of the canyon below. Avocado honey is used in this beer to give it a crisp character that highlights the live honey bee hive in the nearby Manzanita section.
Victoria and I actually hit this stop last, but were so glad that we didn’t just skip out on it. This beer is a favorite among Santa Barbara and Carpinteria locals, and I’m always reminded why when I drink it. Island Brewing is pure relaxation in a bottle.
7. Telegraph Brewing Co Handlebar Abbey on Oak
The Discovery Garden is full of interactive exhibits and plants that inspire the senses. Explore this section as you sip on Handlebar Abbey Ale. This special edition of Abbey Ale is blended with an oak tincture and cold-pressed Salvadorian coffee from Handlebar Coffee Roasters. The lively coffee aromas give way to flavors of caramel and maraschino cherries that are softened by the woody notes of oak. This complex beer with layers of flavor will give you plenty to discover as you take in the different tree exhibits and surrounding coffeeberry plants.
This is another winner from Telegraph, which has begun to emerge as a leader in experimental beers in the area. Fig Mountain, up next on the tasting tour, does a good job of trying new things at its Funk Zone location and in Buellton, but Telegraph really nailed this one with the oak playing quite nicely with the coffee and caramel of the Abbey Ale.
8. Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co Davy Brown Ale
ShinKanAn Teahouse & Gardens
A Japanese tea garden is designed to connect man with nature and in California there was no man more connected to nature than Davy Brown. This bold but balanced American brown ale captures the wild spirit of the famed bear hunter and contrasts it with the delicate, structured nature of the chanoyu tea ceremony. This authentic teahouse is surrounded by local native plants in a traditional Japanese form to create an atmosphere that is uniquely Californian. Flavors of toffee and cocoa blend with a touch of piney hops in a sturdy but refreshing beer that embodies the enduring, harmonious nature of Japanese architecture.
I know that Zach enjoyed pairing Davy Brown Ale with the Japanese tea garden. The two concepts are simultaneously alike and dissident enough to make for a really interesting pairing. Coupled with an award-winning Davy Brown Ale, and Figueroa Mountain’s showing at the Beer Garden was a natural fit.
*Dogs are typically allowed in the garden, but were not supposed to be for this event. However, enough of us showed up with our pooches that they let us in as long as we were not in the food area. Lucky dogs.