Wineries are a dime a dozen in the Santa Ynez Valley. But doughnuteries? Not so much. Ironically, I discovered God’s Country Provisions at a wine-and-doughnut pairing event at a nearby winery. That is what put me on the path to discover the source of these divine creations.
In San Diego where Modern Times Beer started, sought-after kegs tend to kick quickly. Same for larger cities where it operates tasting rooms and pubs such as L.A. and Portland. But here in Santa Barbara at the Academy of Recreational Sciences, beers tend to stick around a bit longer. Because SB.
Also at MT, when a beer has the word “dessert” in the description, you should usually expect a beer that’s terribly rich and wonderfully sweet. A barrel-aged imperial stout brewed with some combination of vanilla beans, coffee grinds, coconuts, cinnamon sticks, cacao nibs, and macadamia nuts that tops 13 percent alcohol is the Modern Times normal.
So with the fact that Nectarnomicon is billed as an “ultra-fruited dessert sour,” there are a host of surprises to unpack in the beer, starting with the fact that it tiptoes in the tulip glass at 3.6 percent ABV. But Nectarnomicon, with the present keg on at the taproom being the Maui Wowie Edition, is no subtle session ale. It’s more accurately a glass of pineapple and mango juice with a hefty dose of coconut and nutmeg (remember, this is a dessert sour ale) with some fermented malt juice blended in. And it’s delish — morning, noon, or night.
There’s such thing as the All 50 States Club. It doesn’t consist of all that many people since even most Americans never visit all 50 states. But among the folks who do, North Dakota is notoriously the last one. It’s not home to major attractions like theme parks, National Parks (plural) or, in my case, destination breweries. Or at least that I knew of, because like almost everyone, I’d never been. So I deigned to hit every single one over the course of a long weekend. You can read about it here in this story for October.
Pardon the unnecessarily long post title. But I’ll work in a Tom Jones reference every chance I get!
But this isn’t about Sir Tom. It’s about Detroit. And its beer scene! Grand Rapids, K’zoo, and other Michigan cities get the glory, but Detroit has a beer ethic that fits its work ethic. I wrote about them for CraftBeer.com
Even in this era with thousands of breweries, hundreds of which have made a name for themselves based on brewing destination-worthy beer, surprisingly few brewmasters have the type of name recognition that Chuck Silva has earned. That’s due, in large part, to being a veteran of nearly a dozen years at San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing, where he garnered nearly a dozen GABF medals. This is the story of how he came home to Paso Robles where he and his wife Mary Jo to create Silva Brewing.
I much prefer writing about other people than other people writing about me, but when it’s a story about a new beer class I’ll be teaching–and it appears in the student newspaper, the Daily Nexus, of my alma mater because said class will be at UCSB–I’d say that slaps. OK, I shouldn’t say anything slaps because I’m no longer one of the young people. But I’m honored–and as a flashback I’ll add that I’m stoked–to have created the University’s first-ever beer tasting and appreciation class. The pitch was fairly simple: the University has offered its wine tasting class for decades (I took it in the ’90s), it’s time to get with the 21st century and put beer education on equal footing (even though Santa Barbara is, by and large, wine country.)
With Beer 101* I’ve created a curriculum that covers, however sparsely, the entire 10,000 year history of mankind’s foibles in fermenting grain as well as deeper dives into the chief regions and styles of beermaking today. It’s an eight-week course, open to anyone over 21, not just students! Sign up, join us, and if you’re not careful, you just might learn a thing or two.
*Updated 9/10/19: The beer class will henceforth be known as The Beer Class
I was honored to be invited to write an essay for the inaugural #FlagshipFebruary campaign. In my essay about Firestone Walker DBA—click here–I open with a quote on craftsmen and craftsmanship by legendary designer Charles Eames. But here’s his quote that served as a bookend.
In 1957 Eames declared that the title of craftsman “places a tremendous responsibility on those who claim it.” He then referenced a fellow architect named Mies van der Rohe who Eames claimed once said, “I don’t want to be interesting. I just want to be good.”
Those are fitting words for DBA’s epitaph, yet DBA will never die. Not DBA’s somewhat fierce, perhaps nostalgic, decidedly local fans (myself included) have anything to say about it.
It wasn’t one singular inspiration but a handful that were all blended together to form one delicious idea: exploring the world and its peoples through their sweetened, fried doughs. These aren’t delicacies that are referred to as doughnuts, but I challenge you to explain why they are not such. To workshop these stories, I get to contribute to The Takeout–a culinary website from the same publisher as the seriously-funny innovators of “fake news,” The Onion.
First up: Navajo fry bread. Yes, the Indian food staple is now part of most tribe’s cookbooks or maybe you think it’s just fry-dough or a carnival staple, the elephant ear. Here’s where the yummy treat originated.
As the great American philosopher Fred Eckhardt declared, “Listen to your beer.” And since beer speaks to people, at least those smart enough to listen and thoughtful enough to hear it, it speaks of hops growing on the bines, amber waves of barley blowing in the field, or yeast hitchhiking on the breeze.
Brewmaster Matt Van Wyk’s beer obviously sings to him. He, along with brothers Brian and Doug Coombs, are the composers behind Alesong Brewing and Blending in Eugene, Oregon. And while they create a wide range of barrel-matured beers from earthy saisons to viscous imperial stouts, no doubt it’s the emphasis on vinous, wild ales that is music to sour beer lovers’ ears. But if their newest GABF medals are any indication, they could almost rename the brewery WineAlesong. And there are others singing similar tunes. For this reason, I got to write about those brewing at the intersection of wine and beer for CraftBeer.com.
In 1995 when Santa Barbara Brewing Company opened, the country was home to about 800 breweries. By January 2019, there were some 900 craft breweries in California alone (it hit 1,000 long before year’s end). Over the years, that made Brew Co., as it came to be widely known, a little less special — so much so that Brew Co. is now dead. But long live The Cruisery, which is taking over the iconic space.