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.

Santa Barbara Beer Week is Coming Soon

Santa Barbara Craft Beer Week is Here

July 7-13

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — For the first time ever, the Santa Barbara beer community has rallied together to celebrate good beer in the American Riviera. For the week of July 7-13, local breweries, bars and restaurants are hosting events and offering specials that honor locally crafted brews and the local community.

These events include, but are certainly not limited to, rare releases, tasting sessions with local brewmasters, live music and lots of food and beer. Santa Barbara Beer Week already has events lined up from Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Telegraph Brewing Company, Santa Barbara Brewing Company, Island Brewing Company, Pure Order Brewing Company, The Brewhouse, Armada Wine and Beer Merchant, Eureka! Burger and many more, with new events still being added every day.

For more information, visit www.sbbeerweek.com and follow us on Twitter: @SBBeerWeek with the hashtags #SBBeer and #SBBeerWeek. If you’d like to add an event or if you have any questions, please email sbbeerweek@gmail.com.



Santa Barbara Deserves a Beer Week

Note: This column originally appeared in the April 3 edition of the Santa Barbara News-Press. Stay tuned to this space for more information about Santa Barbara Beer Week in July.

There have been few beers that I’ve looked forward to this year as much as Telegraph Brewing’s Obscura Peche. The peach sour ale has all the potential of being yet another great hit from brewer Paul Rey, and is due to be released soon.

The sad thing is, if we lived in Sacramento, we might have already tasted it.

Telegraph debuted the beer in early March for Sacramento Beer Week — a weeklong celebration of beer in the California capitol.

This is not to accuse Telegraph of abandoning its local market, as the Santa Barbara brewery is working to ensure a smooth release of the sour ale in bottles and on tap in its tasting room for the local community. Rather, this is an example of what Santa Barbara is missing without its own beer week.

The concept is simple — one calendar week dedicated to the promotion and celebration of beer. Breweries, bars and restaurants work together to host tap-takeovers, beer dinners and other sorts of beer-centric events.

I’m proud to say that we will soon have its own beer week, as fellow Santa Barbara beer columnist Zach Rosen (SB Sentinel) and myself are working together to organize the local beer community. The project is still a fledgling, but as it grows its wings Zach and I will fill in the details here in this space as well as others.

But this project, still in the conceptual phase, is not without its detractors.

I was chatting with a well-respected brewer friend of mine, and he told me that Santa Barbara’s beer wasn’t good enough for a beer week. He said that the consumers weren’t ready for one either.

Frankly, I had to disagree with him on both counts.

I look at the crisp and brilliant lagers brewed by Kevin Pratt Santa Barbara Brewing Company, and I see excellence. I see the same high-quality brewing at Hollister Brewing Company, where brewer Eric Rose showcases hops in a masterful way. I look at Telegraph, and I see truly fascinating and unique wild ales rivaled only by those being produced at Firestone Walker Barrelworks in Buellton, where it must be said the production budget is much larger than Telegraph’s.

I see the popularity of the Figueroa Mountain tasting room in the Funk Zone, and I know that crowds of locals and tourists are there for the wide variety and often extremely interesting beer produced by A.J. Stoll and his team of brewers. I look at the laid-back Island Brewing Company in Carpinteria, and I find great joy in pints of Jubilee Ale and Starry Night Stout.

It is still too early to assign any sort of judgment on the newest entry to Santa Barbara, Pure Order Brewing Company, but the early product has been impressive.

Add in local beer bars like Eureka!, American Ale and Brat Haus, as well as restaurants that showcase great beer like Pace Food + Drink, Olio E Limone and the Wine Cask (among many others), and Santa Barbara is rife with great options for beer.

As for the consumer, it’s likely true that wine has long been king in Santa Barbara.

But beer has always been a more plebian drink than wine, and Santa Barbarans are quickly recognizing its appeal. When I see crowds of people lined up outside of Figueroa Mountain’s tasting room, or even more crowding Barrelworks for a release of special beer I can’t help but assume that the Santa Barbara consumer is quickly learning to appreciate the value of beer.

The same is true at places like Santa Barbara Brewing Co., where baseball fans pack the lounge for games and choose locally-produced beer over the cheaper bottles of Bud Light.

And if the consumer truly doesn’t appreciate beer yet in Santa Barbara, then what better way to introduce them to everything the area has to offer than with a full week dedicated to the brew.

The brewing and beer community in Santa Barbara is young and relatively immature compared to places like San Diego, San Francisco and Portland. We are only now starting to realize the kinds of treasures we have in the local fermentors around the county.

But what we do recognize is that beer is good — and Santa Barbara beer is constantly getting better and more innovative.

I think it’s time to celebrate what we have.

Santa Barbara Beer Garden – A Tasting Tour


Last summer, Santa Barbara Sentinel beer columnist and friend of Santa Barbara Beer Zach Rosen hosted a small festival in Santa Barbara’s Botanic Garden that celebrated local beer and California’s natural flora. The private event was a success, and he and the Botanic Garden have brought it back for another round.

On February 22, Zach, myself and about 250 Santa Barbara beerdoes (Zach’s word and my favorite descriptor for beer geeks) will tour through the Botanic Garden tasting eight beers from some terrific California Breweries. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased here.

I recently spoke with Zach for a piece that will run in Thursday’s News-Press, and you can check that out for more information. However, if you’d like to take a gander at the beers and tasting notes for them, I’ve copied them below. See you there.

Winter ’14 Beer Garden Tasting Notes

1. Pure Order Brewing Co Crooked Neck Hefeweizen

Blaksley Boulder

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.

2. Surf Brewery Imperial Red Ale

Meadow View

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.

3. Santa Barbara Brewing Co King Saaz (unfiltered)

Redwood Section

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.

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.

5. The Dudes Brewing Co Grinning Face Porter on Cask

Campbell Bridge

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.

6. Island Brewing Co Avocado Honey Ale

Office Terrace

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.

7. Telegraph Brewing Co Handlebar Abbey on Oak

Discovery Garden

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.

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.


SB Beer and the Mint 400

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the iconic and iconoclastic Hunter S. Thompson book begins as an ill-fated attempt to cover a dirt race outside of Sin City called the Mint 400. It was also what made me realize that I truly wanted to be a journalist, and that the journalistic staples of who, what, when, why and where didn’t have to be as dry as the desert air.

As soon as Thompson attempts his coverage of the race, the impossibility of the task is made clear. The clouds of dust and constant whirring of engines along the race’s route totally obfuscate the action in the same way that booze, ether and hallucinogens muddle up the later adventures of the book. There are those able to cut through the haze and see things that are going on, his clean-cut and highly professional photographer being one of them, but in doing so they miss the whole point. The buggies and bikes roaring through clouds of dust are on a meaningless and pointless path that only served to generate noise and dirt. As they bore on ceaselessly into the night, Thompson retreated to the bar where he could focus on those who stayed on the outside of the never ending race, but not so far away that they could not supply their own cynical opinions on the race. The whole incident stands as a metaphor for the people and stories that Thompson found to be truly intriguing. The subjects captured in his photographer’s lens were meaningless to him, because they were little more than interchangeable parts to the noisy, dirty race. Similarly, those who moved in conventional circles the way society intended were of little interest to Thompson. What followed in the book was an attempt to tell the story of the outliers and drifters that chose not to ride on the noisy, dirty and pointless race course laid out by society.

Wait… isn’t this a beer blog? It is. I’m getting there.

Some may argue that the craft beer industry began as something of a counterculture movement itself. Little guys like Sierra Nevada and Anchor pit themselves against brewing giants, and took every chance they could to gain a foothold into the marketplace. But the American Beer Revolution has progressed to a point that good beer has become mainstream – and breweries have become a part of popular culture and general society.

As the movement toward the middle continues, it is becoming more and more difficult to see through the opaque clouds of dust and understand what is really going on. With each press release announcing a brewery’s expansion or the arrival of a new brewery, more clouds of dirt are thrown into the air. Each of these things are newsworthy for their own reasons, but what about those clouds of dirt?

Thompson chose to ignore the race, and focus on those clouds of dirt. So if the takeaway from the Mint 400 was that the race was filthy and pointless, what is the takeaway from news like this announcement of the opening of Pure Order Brewing Company and the recent announcement of Telegraph Brewing Company’s expansion? It is certainly exciting, but I wonder what clouds of dirt are being thrown in the air here? Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone is already a haven for wineries, and now it appears that it will soon be an even more alluring destination for beer drinkers as well.

Pure Order will be located a mere block away from Telegraph’s new location (and its current one). Then there is the recently opened Figueroa Mountain brewery and taproom on Anacapa St., as well as old staples Santa Barbara Brewing Company and The Brewhouse. I want to be clear and state that I am excited, and I believe that this is ultimately a very positive thing for Santa Barbara and beer drinkers in the area. However, I hope that these breweries and brewers can avoid the pitfalls of the racers in the Mint 400. I hope that they can continue to push boundaries and explore new territory, so that when they do kick up dust, they do it on their own. A lone racer streaking through the desert with a rooster tail of sand behind him is a fascinating image. We celebrate that pioneer and innovator. A crowd of racers following the prescribed course gets lost in its own dust.