In what is proving to be a glorious time in history for beer enthusiasts everywhere…tap real estate is booming! With well over 1,600 craft breweries throughout the U.S., California’s Santa Ynez Valley is taking this opportunity to foster the craft beer spirit and is expanding its annual celebration of craft beer from one week to the entire month of May. It is officially Craft Beer Month in the Santa Ynez Valley and to kick-off the festivities, we have a gathered a bit of insight into this brewing revolution.
Why Craft Beer? Flavor.
It is all about having a broad spectrum of flavors and choices. Something the wine industry has forever been exploring and that the Santa Ynez Valley knows so very well, now affords beer drinkers the same palate pleasing opportunities.
A few basics for those who may not be familiar:
- Craft beer is made by small, independent brewers. This allows fresh, high quality, and carefully chosen ingredients to be used. Often interesting and non-traditional ingredients are also added for a spin on the ordinary. These elements, combined with the heart and soul of the brewmaster, produce innovative and delicious choices for everyone’s tastes.
- Craft beer is often brewed and transformed by seasonal availability and therefore differs by region. Unique styles and seasonal ingredients pair for an infinite combination of brews.
- Craft Beer is just that…truly a craft. Beer that is as innovative, diverse and individually unique and surprising as the brewers themselves.
Basic Styles of Craft Beer:
- Lagers: made with yeasts that prefer lower temps when fermenting and tend to be smoother and mellower than ales.
- Ales: quite the opposite, prefer warmer processing temps, which typically translates into more of a flavor impact. These usually involve a higher alcohol content and many more varieties than lagers.
Specific Styles of Craft Beer: although too many to list, here are the main players:
- Wheat beer (Weizens) are often cloudy in appearance and the flavor ranges greatly. Typically lighter in flavor, some may be considered ‘spicy’ and reminiscent of European styles.
- Brown Ale: Typically a darker amber color, it is a very old style beer and is said to be earthy and less bitter in flavor.
- Pale ale is one of the world’s most popular beer styles. The aroma and flavor of hops is definite yet balanced with malt. Marked by the often times citrusy character of American hops.
- India Pale Ale (IPA): Dating back to the time when English troops needed to preserve the life of their beer traveling on their voyages to India, extra hops were added as a natural preservative thus producing the slightly bitter (read hoppy) and crisp flavor profile.
- Double IPAs or Imperial IPAs. Multiply the amount of hops and added malt for balance and the result is a fairly intense and bold hoppy giant.
- Stouts are made with black, unmalted barley which results in a heavily roasted flavor and thick head. Little hop flavor but often with hints of coffee, chocolate, licorice, and molasses.
- Pilsners are relatively young style beer with crisp, strong varying hop flavor and fragrant.
Craft Beer Month in Santa Ynez Valley features more beer events than even the most seasoned craft beer lover can imagine! Click here for full event details. Some of the highlights not to be missed include:
The 2nd Annual Buellton Brew Fest at the River View Park, Saturday, May 11, 12-4pm, featuring Craft Beer from nearly 30 breweries along with music, food, and fun. Featuring a Craft Soda component for the designated drivers, bring your beach chair, blankets and relax and enjoy the afternoon with the sounds of Burning James and the Funky Flames. Tickets $45 – last year was a sell-out so reserve your tickets early! Price includes unlimited tastings, one meal, and a souvenir tasting glass.
Americana meets Craft Beer! Fast cars, neon lights, hamburgers & shakes, and Surf Rock at the Friday Night Beer Dinner, May10. Chances are you have never paired your beer with a milkshake..but they will show you how! The Buellton Beer Fest is partnering with BIN 2860 and the iconic Mendenhall Musuem guaranteed to make this a dinner like no other! $75 (tickets are extremely limited).
Passport Craft Beer Tasting adventure – During entire month of May, visit at least 6 designated passport stops for craft beer tasting paired with a special discount and you will be entered into the Beer Country Giveaway. Participating stops in Solvang include: the Wandering Dog Wine Bar, Solvang Brewing Company, Randy’s Taproom, Sante Wine Bar & Lounge, The Good Life, and Valley Brewers. Passport stops in Buellton include: Firestone Walker Brewering Company’s Barrelworks, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, Avant Tapas & Wine Bar, and the Winner’s Circle at SYV Marriott. Passport stops in Los Olivos are: Bin 2860 Wine Shop, and Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant and the Passport stop in Santa Ynez is the Ranch & Reata Roadhouse.
Craft Beer Education – For those thirsty to learn all about craft beer, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company is offering a Beer Class with FMB Brew Master, AJ Stoll. Valley Brewers is featuring both a Yeast Starter Class, and a Free Cheese demo, where you will learn how to make cheese fondue; a great food pairing with beer! The Wandering Dog Wine Bar is hosting Friday night Beer Classes, an Ales vs. Lagers Class, a Beer Styles Class, and a High-End Specialty Brews event. Bin 2860 will be hosting beer-themed classes with topics ranging from ales vs. lagers to sour beers to yeast classes as well as brewing demos.
Special Craft Beer Deals can be found at Solvang Brewing Company anytime during Craft Beer Month and Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s Barrelworks will be releasing a Library Anniversary Ale every Friday. Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company is offering special “pint nights” and progressive brew tastings throughout the month.
Special Craft Beer Events are hoppin!
- Beer Olympics, Guess the Brew Night, Mom’s Sunday in the Garden with Montgomery Dougherty, and Firkin Friday at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company
- Beer & Dessert Pairings and Meet the Brewmaster at The Good Life
- Certified Cicerone Flights and more at the Wandering Dog Wine Bar
- Solvang’s Third Wednesday Beer & Wine Walk
- Anniversary Vertical Tasting at Firestone Walker Barrelworks
- Randy’s Taproom at C & R Imports First Thursdays
- Brewmasters Dinner hosted by Solvang Brewing Company’s May 15, along with daily specials and Pint a Day contest
- Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe’s special craft beer month flights
With the entire month of May devoted to Craft Beer, make it a midweek rendezvous or even a relaxing weekend getaway. Book your stay at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, making it your home-base for all the local craft beer festivities. Take advantage of our featured $20.13 dinner entrees carefully paired with fabulous craft beer selections at the Starting Gate Restaurant. Our Winner’s Circle Lounge is proud to be a featured stop on the Craft Beer Passport event and is featuring 15% discount on food & offering beer flights. The fabulous local beer selections include:
- Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s rich and complex Davey Brown Ale, hop extravaganza Hurricane Deck Double IPA, and their award winning Danish Red Lager on tap
- Manrock Brewing Company’s Reaper-cussion IPA
- 805, a truly local blonde ale on tap from Firestone Walker Brewing Company as well as their first ever Imperial IPA: Double Jack IPA and the rich, dark Wookey Jack