Beer Snob: The Ocean is on the Wrong Side Edition – Part 1
Preface: In attempt to not overwhelm you with stories of drinking beer and to keep you from inferring that I am somehow a raging alcoholic (I’m not) I’ve broken the beer tour portion of our west coast trip into two parts. Enjoy.
As I have mentioned before, no matter where we travel, Rizzo and I try to find the local beers to sample. Our trip to Santa Barbara, California was no different. I’ll preface this edition of beer snob with the following statement: I am not typically a big fan of beers from the west coast. This is not because I get all discombobulated since the ocean is on the wrong side (it is and I do) or because the west coast is full of a bunch of tree-hugging hippies (it is but I’m also a tree hugging hippie). This preconceived notion of West Coast beers is primarily based upon my experience with IPAs from California. I already don’t like IPAs because they are too hoppy. Well, most California beers I’ve had try to take that hoppy flavor to a whole new level. I was convinced that in California brewers just decided to forget about any other ingredients necessary in brewing beer and just ferment straight hops. I’m happy to report that, even though I still hate IPAs, California breweries can still make a good beer.
Anacapa Brewing Company
After a 5 ½ hour flight from DC to LA we still had a 2 hour drive to get from LA to Santa Barbara. Not wanting to waste the trip or a moment while we were baby-free, Rizzo hopped on her phone and did some quick research. We found several breweries on our route and we settled on Anacapa Brewing Company in downtown Venice, California.
Anacapa is a small brewery and restaurant right in the middle of downtown Venice. I was certain that Rizzo and I had made the right choice simply based on the town. We are big fans of exploring small towns especially if they have a cool downtown area to explore and this little section of Venice fit that bill to a T.
Anacapa had five beers they were pouring and Rizzo and I both got a flight. As is the custom at most breweries, the flight was brought out on a paddle made specifically for the purpose. What was unique about these paddles was that they were made by the local high school. I really liked this because it shows that just because a business serves alcohol doesn’t mean it is evil and it can work with the local school systems. This is a benefit for both the local business community and the local education system.
Here is a brief overview of what we were drinking:
- Seaward Golden – This is a delicious and light golden ale. When most people think of day drinking or all day beers, they conjure images of Coors Light or Bud Light or some other light beer that barely qualifies as a beer and is more like colored water (I will never get an endorsement on my blog from Coors or Anheuser-Busch and I’m ok with that). I think more of beers like this. I could drink this all day long and all night. If it was possible to bottle the sunshine in California it would taste like Seaward Golden. 4.5 out of 5.
- Pierpoint IPA – I found Pierpoint IPA as bad as Seaward Golden was good. I’ll be the first to admit this is strictly based upon my on bias. This beer was doomed from the beginning for me since I despise IPAs. The good news for this beer is that it tastes exactly like it is supposed to taste. I’m finding the more beer I try the more I can tell if an IPA is a good example of an IPA, even if I can’t stand the taste. This beer certainly meets the criteria of a California IPA. If hops were steroids then this beer would be Barry Bonds. If you like hoppy beers then this beer is the one for you. .25 out of 5 (the very fact that it is a beer means it must get at least a .25 rating). I’d probably give this 3 out of 5 if I liked IPAs.
- Papa Bear’s Oatmeal Porter – Now this is more my kind of beer. Deep malty flavors and a nice dark color. The beer was smooth but not too overpowering. It had some very light coffee notes. This wasn’t a bad porter but I didn’t find it outstanding either. Even through it wasn’t special, it was still a very good porter that I would never turn away. 3.5 out of 5.
- Wet Hopped American Amber – Something new we haven’t covered before here in Beer Snob is wet hopped beers versus dry hopped beers. Anacopa has given us the opportunity for this lesson in beer brewing. Hops are the seed cones and are actually very delicate flowers. These flowers don’t survive very long after being cut so most hops are dried in order to preserve the oils and flavors necessary to brew beer year-round. Wet hops are, in fact, not wet at all but are freshly cut. Since the hops have not gone through the drying process they tend to produce a milder, less bitter flavor that is most closely associated with hoppy beers. Wet hopped beers tend to be smoother than other beers brewed with traditional, or dry, hops. Wet hopped beers are typically seasonal in late summer and early fall when hops are freshly harvested. This American Amber is a good example of the wet hopped brewing process. Instead of the taste of a grapefruit fruit being smashed in your face by the circus strong man of an IPA, you get the subtle citrus notes resulting for the wet hopped brewing. I could still taste the influence of the west coast brewing but this wasn’t overly hoppy and would make a nice transition for those wanting to try more hoppy beers (if you are crazy and want to do that kind of thing). 3 out of 5.
- Sour-Sweet Summer Wheat – I have a small group of friends that are passionate about beers and we all keep track of our beer adventures using the application Untappd. Often when drinking a German-style beer we will refer to it as drinking a “kraut” beer. This is referencing one of our inner circle, Craig, who has German blood flowing in his veins. Knowing that the term “kraut” is a derogatory slang for German, I have decided to stop using the term and simply refer to any German-style beers as a “Craig” beer. This Sour-Sweet Summer Wheat is indeed a Craig beer. This is a Berliner Weisse that is named exactly right. It is sour and it is sweet. I’m not sure how they did it but this beer somehow tastes sweet but still make you pucker. For me, this isn’t an everyday beer but is very interesting. A type of beer that I wouldn’t mind trying at the end of the day but I don’t think I could drink more than one. 3 out of 5.
Anacapa not only provides a varied and tasty beer selection but it has an extensive food menu. I can’t speak for everything on the menu but I will say that the sandwich I had was fucking outstanding (sorry for cursing, Mom, but this sandwich was so good that a “fuck” was warranted). I enjoyed a fried chicken sandwich that was topped with ghost pepper cheese, chipotle mayo, and pickled jalapeno peppers. Yes, if you don’t like spicy food then you most definitely won’t like this sandwich. However, if you like to eat something with a little kick then this sandwich is perfect. The amount of spice was just precisely balanced. I was worried when ordering because it included ghost pepper cheese. Ghost peppers are the hottest peppers on the planet I thought that maybe this was one of those sandwiches that the dude from Man v. Food would try to take down on next week’s episode. This wasn’t the case at all. The combination of peppers, cheese, and fried chicken made for a delicious sandwich with just the right amount of flavor. If you are worried that all the food is spicy then fear not! Rizzo chowed down on Turkey & Brie sandwich served on a ciabatta roll served with homemade cranberry relish and she said it was delicious.
If you are ever in the neighborhood I highly recommend you pay a visit to Anacapa Brewing Company. If you are a beer lover it won’t disappoint. If you aren’t a beer lover you will still be glad you went to sample the delicious meals available.
Telegraph Brewing Company
After a leisurely stroll of 13.1 miles, Rizzo was ready to hit the town to grab a cool, refreshing beverage. I was happy to oblige so we made our way to Telegraph Brewing Company in Santa Barbara, California. The brewery and tasting room are located in a warehouse area of Santa Barbara. One thing I have learned during all my trips to various breweries is never to judge the beer by the location of the brewery. Some breweries produce some great tasting beer while located in the middle of an industrial park with barely a tasting room to speak of other than a few stools next to the taps. Other breweries have a great looking restaurant and tasting room associated with the brewery but have terrible beers. Telegraph Brewing falls into the category of the former. The tasting room is comfortable and spacious with a separate area to throw a few darts while enjoying your brews. On this day, as I imagine is the case for most days, a food truck was parked so close to the opened garage doors of the tasting room that you could reach out and grab your food truck tacos without even leaving the brewery. I also really appreciated how the brewery supports local artist by having photographs from local photographers available for purchase along the walls.
Flights are available and can be mixed with any or all of the on-tap beers. During my visit, 8 beers were available. I selected the following 5 for my flight:
- White Ale – For all of you amateur beer drinkers (or wine drinkers, or fine diners, or anyone who plans on tasting something) make sure you do not eat a mint before taking a drink. This will most definitely damage the results of the tasting. I’m worried that is what happened with this White Ale. The White Ale is a 4.5% ABV described as a witbeir. Something seemed slightly off to me but I am seriously concerned that this had more to do with the mint I just ate in an attempt to cleanse my pallet (only a douche will say cleanse my pallet so yes, I am a douche). I’m usually a fan of witbeir and the crisp, clean flavors they have but something just seemed slightly off to me. Not a bad beer but not my favorite. 2.5 out of 5.
- Fiesta Pilsner – If you are a beer snob like me and you are looking to find this beer in Untappd, you’ll need to search for Cerveza de Fiesta. This is a nice crisp pilsner that has a funny name for a German-style beer. I say German-style as this beer seemed to have the distinct hoppy, bitterer flavor associated with the German-style pilsner. I’m not usually a pilsner guy due to the hoppiness but this one isn’t’ bad. 3 out of 5.
- Reserve Wheat Ale – This beer represents the second Craig-beer of the weekend with a 5% ABV Berliner Weisse. In the same style as the Sour-Sweet we had at Anacapa the day before, this beer seemed much less sweet and just had the sour which I preferred over the Anacapa offering. Again, a good beer from Telegraph at a 3.5 out of 5.
- Handlebar Ale – Listed as a double Belgian, if you are looking for this beer in your Untappd app search for Abbey Ale with Handlebar Coffee. This ale is brewed with coffee that is locally roasted at, you guessed it, Handlebar Coffee in Santa Barbara. At 8.2% ABV you would think this would have an “alcoholicy” flavor that that certainly isn’t the case. The beer smells like a smooth cup of coffee and it tastes very much like an iced coffee you might get at your favorite coffee house (not at Starbucks. Starbucks is terrible). Usually these coffee notes come with heavier beers like an oatmeal stout but this beer is still light enough to drink all day long. This beer would be a perfect replacement for your evening coffee with dessert. 4.25 out of 5.
- Rhinoceros – The highest alcohol offering on the Telegraph board at 10%, this Belgian strong ale was good but didn’t have as much of the strong ale flavor that I would have hoped to taste. I was also surprised to learn that this beer clocks in at 70 IBUs. I usually don’t like beers with IBUs much over 40 but with this beer the bitterness didn’t overwhelm with was great. I would have liked a stronger ale flavor but otherwise this was a very respectable beer. 3.5 out of 5.
If you are ever in the Santa Barbara area looking for a brewery I would highly recommend Telegraph. All of the beers are good, some are great, the tasting room is comfortable and relaxed, and food is available.
Coming up in part 2: We don’t love all the breweries from the west coast.