With the wine grape harvest in full swing and the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association’s annual Celebration of Harvest set for Rancho Sisquoc this Saturday, October 12, it can be easy to forget that the region’s beer culture is more popping than ever, with an increasing number of homegrown breweries, as well as more options for trying craft beers from around the world. Here’s a look at the latest and greatest flowing from the taps this autumn.
The Ales of Autumn
Seasonal Round-Up of Santa Barbara Beers
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Firestone Brewing’s Velvet Merkin: In 2004, Firestone’s brewmaster Matt Bryndilson concocted an oatmeal stout that he christened the “Velvet Merkin.” But when it came time to release it to the masses, folks got cold feet about the name, the latter word of which refers to a pubic wig. So they went with the more tamely named Velvet Merlin for the six-packs, yet Bryndilson couldn’t shake the Merkin dream. So in September, he unleashed the Velvet Merkin back upon the public, this time undergoing extra aging in bourbon barrels to give the utterly smooth finished product some distinct roasted and toffee notes. It’s worth the wait. (620 McMurray Rd., Buellton; (805) 225-5911; firestonebeer.com)
Santa Barbara Beer & Wine Festival: Designed for serious connoisseurs, featuring an intimate lineup of five brewers and five wineries, this first-time festival goes down this Sunday, October 13, noon-4 p.m., at the Casa de la Guerra, with benefits going straight to the S.B. School of Squash. Co-organizer Zach Rosen, who was the youngest Certified Cicerone ever when he achieved that beer sommelier degree in 2010, hopes to break from the “overindulgent nature” of most beer festivals, so he’s blending in some live art, as well. “The hope is to mesh the beer, wine, and art subcultures into an environment that will highlight the creative communities blossoming in our area,” said Rosen. (sbbwfest.com)
Captain Fatty’s Coming: “The free-beer market is booming,” jokes Preston Angell of Goleta’s new Captain Fatty’s Craft Brewery, which has been pouring free tastes of early batches at events like Figueroa Mountain’s FigtoberFests. That’ll end soon, as they’ll have their licenses by the end of October, which will open the way for tastings. Angell, a Westmont biology grad, was brought in by longtime home-brewers John Wadell and Bryan Anderson to round out their business. “I’m Fatty,” admits the thin Anderson. “John’s the Captain.” Though still experimenting, they’ve developed a few key recipes, from a Vortex IPA to Parcel 19, a honey pale ale that sources honey and citrus from Hollister Ranch. Just like winemakers controlling how their grapes grow, the Captain Fatty’s team is working with the California Malting Company to discuss how to grow and prepare their grains. They’ve also got a line on hops grown in Carpinteria. “Once we get bottling,” said Anderson, who expects that to be in about a year, “people will be able to take home a true bottle from Santa Barbara.” (captainfattys.com)