Though better known as a land of vineyards and wineries, the Santa Ynez Valley happens to be a mecca for beer-lovers, too, from the historic creation of Firestone Walker Brewing Company more than 15 years ago to more recent openings, such as Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, which came on the scene in November 2010. In sudsy celebration of the area’s beer-making tradition, Kady Fleckenstein of the Santa Ynez Valley Visitors Association is spearheading the first-ever Santa Ynez Valley Craft Beer Week, which runs May 12-20 in conjunction with the American Craft Beer Week.
“I’m a serious craft beer lover, so I couldn’t be more excited about Craft Beer Week!” said Fleckenstein, who recently answered a few of our questions via email.
What inspired a Santa Ynez incarnation of Craft Beer Week?
Even though the Santa Ynez Valley is a burgeoning craft beer region, we are growing rapidly, and our visitors association felt it was time to let everyone know about our new beer tasting options in the Santa Ynez Valley. Having a beer trail map and organized beer events makes vacations for beer enthusiasts much more enjoyable. Between our existing beer tasting rooms, new breweries, and brand-new home brew supply shop, it was time for a Santa Ynez Valley Craft Beer Week.
Tell me about the highlights.
There really is something for everyone during our first Santa Ynez Valley Craft Beer Week. The Buellton Brew Fest will appeal to every type of craft beer lover and is an incredible deal. For only $25 in advance or $35 at the door, attendees will get a meal and unlimited beer tasting with over 20 craft breweries. Held on the first day of the week, Saturday, May 12, the event will feature live music in the beautiful setting of River View Park in Buellton.
For the “beer nerd,” as I refer to myself often, there are classes at Wandering Dog Wine Bar in Solvang and Bin 2860 in Los Olivos that cover a variety of topics: IPAs, ales vs. lagers, home brewing, beer and cheese pairings, sensory evaluation, and more.
The best part about having such a great craft beer industry in the Santa Ynez Valley is that we are able to satisfy all of those couples made up of one beer lover and one wine lover. Los Olivos Café’s Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company Beer vs. Santa Barbara County Wine dinner on Tuesday, May 15, is a great event for those kind of couples. Each course is paired with a different wine and beer, and you can decide which pairs better. Another Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company-focused dinner will be held at Valley Vino on May 14 with food by Succulent Café. It’s such a great change of pace to have beer maker dinners in addition to the usual winemaker dinners found in wine country.
Is it hard for the wine-soaked region to gain recognition for its beer? Is there a growing number of beer-sipping visitors? Or do wine tourists simply add beer to their routines?
There is a famous saying in wine country that “it takes a lot of beer to make wine.” Winemakers are some of our craft beer industry’s biggest fans. Wine connoisseurs can enjoy a fine craft beer the same way as a fine wine.
At the same time, there are plenty of folks who prefer beer over wine or don’t drink wine at all, and they will focus their entire vacation on craft beer. I speak from personal experience when I say you can create an amazing trip based entirely on good food and craft beer.
New breweries such as Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company and Solvang Brewing Company have really helped our wine country expand into the world of craft beer. In the last year, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company has grown so rapidly that you can now find their beer in bottles throughout area shops, and there are several tasting rooms that offer their beer on tap, such as Randy’s Taproom and Valley Vino Wine Bar in Solvang.
Our mind-set in wine country is that of enjoyment and evaluation. We’re always pairing wine or beer with different foods or analyzing flavor and aroma profiles. While they are made differently, you can enjoy craft beer the same way as wine, making it very appealing with gourmands everywhere.
Any more breweries on the horizon for the valley?
There are potentially two new breweries opening in the next year, and we’re hoping the growth of craft beer in our area will encourage more breweries and satellite tasting rooms to open in the Santa Ynez Valley. Also, with the addition of Valley Brewers, the home brew supply shop in Solvang, we expect a lot more home brewers to emerge in the upcoming year.
Anything else to know?
Even after Craft Beer Week is over, we hope visitors and locals will take advantage of our new Beer Trail Map and online events calendar to enjoy craft beer in the Santa Ynez Valley all year long.
For complete info on Santa Ynez Valley Craft Beer Week, see syvbeer.com.