No matter how carefully you control yourself, beer festivals tend to become exercises in overindulgence, without much encouragement to stop and smell the roses, let alone the redwoods. The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden will attempt to remedy that reality by becoming the Santa Barbara Beer Garden on February 22.
“The Beer Garden is about taking a few beers and really exploring their flavors,” says certified cicerone Zachary Rosen, the event’s organizer. “Setting matters. If you are in summer, lying out on a sunny beach, a high-alcohol, chewy barley wine will not sound very appetizing. Now take that same beer and serve it next to a fireplace in the middle of winter, and that beer becomes far more desirable. The Beer Garden allows you to explore this idea very intimately. Drinkers are going to go from staring out at the Pacific Ocean to being down in a canyon, gazing up at redwoods. The Botanic Garden has an incredible array of environments that reflects the diverse climates of California. It really is the perfect place to have a beer.”
Seven beers from seven breweries will be featured, each matched to its perfect spot. Though he does beer-pairing dinners and teaches beer classes, Rosen explained, “My real focus is on abstract beer pairings, combining beer with music, movies, art, etc. The S.B. Beer Garden is part of my work with beer and atmosphere pairing.”
So he’s matching up the Garden’s recently restored meadow with a Crooked Neck Hefeweizen from Santa Barbara’s newest brewery, Pure Order Brewing Co., which officially doesn’t open until March. “These German-style wheat beers are fruity, refreshing, and crisp,” said Rosen. “I had tasted a test batch of the beer, and it had a sunny sweetness to it that I felt fit the meadow nicely.” It’s also the first suggested beer of the trek, what Rosen calls “a wonderful welcoming beer.”
The other combos are Surf Brewery’s Imperial Red Ale at the Meadow View; Santa Barbara Brewing Co.’s King Saaz amid the redwoods; The Brewhouse’s Abbey Ale at Mission Dam; The Dudes’ Brewing Co.’s Grinning Face Porter Cask at Campbell Bridge; Island Brewing Co.’s Avocado Honey Blonde Ale at the Garden Deck (near beehives); Figueroa Mountain Brewing’s Davy Brown Ale at the ShinKanAn Teahouse & Garden; and Telegraph Brewing Co.’s Handlebar Abbey Ale on oak at the Discovery Garden. There will be some complementary nibbles, with the opportunity to buy more food that’s being thoughtfully prepared by Country Catering, such as honey-ale-battered fish tacos alongside Island’s avo-honey ale and an 18-hour braised pork sandwich with apple mustard slaw and smoked Gouda cheese with Telegraph’s ale. There will also be two sets of live music in two locations from Waters Risin’, a three-piece acoustic band from Ventura. “Their first set is in the redwood section down in the canyon,” said Rosen. “People will start off above the music and walk down into it as they get deeper and deeper into the ravine.”
Rosen is clearly excited for this ultimate match of beer and botany. “I had visited the gardens as a child, but I returned there a few years back,” he explained. “One of the first thoughts to pop into my head when I entered the gardens was, ‘So how am I going to serve beer here?’ It is such a beautiful area, and I cannot picture a more perfect place to drink beer.”
The Santa Barbara Beer Garden takes over the S.B. Botanic Garden (1212 Mission Canyon Rd.) on Saturday, February 22, 1-5 p.m. Call (805) 682-4726 or see sbbg.org/classes-events for tickets.