Name of Bar: The Brewhouse
Address: 229 West Monetcito Street
Location: inland West Beach between the tracks of Downtown and the supermercados of the West Side
Days/Hours: 11 AM – 11 PM Monday through Friday, 10 AM – 12 AM Saturday and Sunday, kitchen closes at 10 PM every day
Happy Hour: 4 – 6 every day, $3.50 pints of their housemade brews!
Known For: its easy pace, friendly environment, and exquisite selection of unique ales, lagers, and pilsners
Notable Decor: local art and incredible nature photos
Patrons: farmers’ market types, enlightened college students, and other locals with high standards
Special Draw: brunch buffet on Saturday and Sunday mornings!
Music: local bands of every stripe, but their sound is definitely of the mellow rock variety
Discovery of the Night: They have a menu for dogs!
Word to the Wise: For more information, check out http://www.sbbrewhouse.com/, not http://brewhousesb.com/.
Before you leave, you should…: Try their habanero pilsner – but for the love of god don’t order a full pint!
My experience: Half-way through my slice of chipotle goat cheese cheesecake with raspberry sauce, I realized something: when I’m eating a piece of cheesecake, I go on autopilot. I don’t think about the ingredients or the process of creating the dish. But when the Brewhouse uses goat cheese, when they throw in peppers and farmers’ market-quality berries, you have to stop and wonder at this creation. You have to think about the cheesecake not just as something delicious you’re putting into your mouth, but as the synergistic assemblage of spices and flavors, berries that take months to ripen and goat cheese that represents the ultimate flowering of one tiny twig on an evolutionary tree that’s taken millennia to grow.
I reached for a taster in front of me. A snifter of opaque fluid, inky dark brown. The Brewhouse creates their beer just yards away, in big copper drums you can see from the sidewalk. Big cauldrons. Something wonderful goes into these seven-barrel batches, something that touches the mind just as luxuriantly as the taste buds. A dash of mysticism, perhaps? Their brews seem rich in memory, transporting the drinker to another time, a childhood memory, a scene from a book, an ancient myth. Vow of Blindness knocked me flat into an introspective blur, the darkly fruity Barleywine lost me in a Persephone’s bedroom, and the Black IPA felt dark and complex like a riddle wrapped in Amazonian flavors. I took a long draught.
But the Brewhouse isn’t just serving up complex culinary concoctions and brews. They’re doing it in a thoughtful way that pays homage to a particular Santa Barbaran spirit. Their food is always prepared using wholesome ingredients, but there’s a flash of the Californian, a dash of excess. Their burgers are grass-fed and topped with local avocadoes and fresh sesame seed buns, but they wrap their filets in bacon. And they’ll give you a beer with that slice of meat, but it won’t be the kind of beer you gulp down and soon forget. (These aren’t the kind of meals you sling at cowboys or thick-headed carnivores who are just satisfied that something was killed and they get to eat it.)
To put it simply, this is Santa Barbara’s twist on comfort food and drink. And looking around this bar, at these people who gather around these wooden tables in the low light, who relax outside in the sun, they are Santa Barbara’s twist on comfortable. They wear sandals and clever t-shirts, cargo shorts and beards. Backpacks stuffed with farmers’ market produce hang from their tattooed shoulders, and they’ll share an organic cigarette with the stand-up comedians who float up from LA. They’re rooted somewhere in the earth, and somewhere out in the swirls of the cosmos.
Maybe I’m just a romantic, but I think food and drink can be transportative, if not transformative. And they can tell us something about ourselves, if they speak loud enough and if we choose to listen. If you’ll follow me that far, then the Brewhouse of West Beach is worth checking out.