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With the wine grape harvest in full swing and the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association’s annual Celebration of Harvest set for Rancho Sisquoc this Saturday, October 12, it can be easy to forget that the region’s beer culture is more popping than ever, with an increasing number of homegrown breweries, as well as more options for trying craft beers from around the world. Here’s a look at the latest and greatest flowing from the taps this autumn.

Firestone Brewing’s Velvet Merkin: In 2004, Firestone’s brewmaster Matt Bryndilson concocted an oatmeal stout that he christened the “Velvet Merkin.” But when it came time to release it to the masses, folks got cold feet about the name, the latter word of which refers to a pubic wig. So they went with the more tamely named Velvet Merlin for the six-packs, yet Bryndilson couldn’t shake the Merkin dream. So in September, he unleashed the Velvet Merkin back upon the public, this time undergoing extra aging in bourbon barrels to give the utterly smooth finished product some distinct roasted and toffee notes. It’s worth the wait. (620 McMurray Rd., Buellton; (805) 225-5911;

Santa Barbara Beer & Wine Festival: Designed for serious connoisseurs, featuring an intimate lineup of five brewers and five wineries, this first-time festival goes down this Sunday, October 13, noon-4 p.m., at the Casa de la Guerra, with benefits going straight to the S.B. School of Squash. Co-organizer Zach Rosen, who was the youngest Certified Cicerone ever when he achieved that beer sommelier degree in 2010, hopes to break from the “overindulgent nature” of most beer festivals, so he’s blending in some live art, as well. “The hope is to mesh the beer, wine, and art subcultures into an environment that will highlight the creative communities blossoming in our area,” said Rosen. (

Captain Fatty’s Coming: “The free-beer market is booming,” jokes Preston Angell of Goleta’s new Captain Fatty’s Craft Brewery, which has been pouring free tastes of early batches at events like Figueroa Mountain’s FigtoberFests. That’ll end soon, as they’ll have their licenses by the end of October, which will open the way for tastings. Angell, a Westmont biology grad, was brought in by longtime home-brewers John Wadell and Bryan Anderson to round out their business. “I’m Fatty,” admits the thin Anderson. “John’s the Captain.” Though still experimenting, they’ve developed a few key recipes, from a Vortex IPA to Parcel 19, a honey pale ale that sources honey and citrus from Hollister Ranch. Just like winemakers controlling how their grapes grow, the Captain Fatty’s team is working with the California Malting Company to discuss how to grow and prepare their grains. They’ve also got a line on hops grown in Carpinteria. “Once we get bottling,” said Anderson, who expects that to be in about a year, “people will be able to take home a true bottle from Santa Barbara.” (

BiN 2860’s Take-Home Brews: Though located in the heart of wine country, the Fess Parker family-owned BiN 2860 is staking a claim on craft brews, with nearly 200 specially selected options for sale at the bottle shop. This fall’s offerings include The Bruery’s Autumn Maple, brewed with yams, molasses, and maple syrup in Orange County; the New Zealand-based 8 Wired Brewing Co.’s Saison Sauvin, whose farmhouse yeast delivers funky flavors; Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Smashed Pumpkin, a special seasonal brew made by the Portland, Maine, brewery’s top dog, Alan Pugsley; and the Black Maria Imperial IPA from Denmark’s “gypsy brewery.” We will be reviewing these and other BiN 2860 beers every week at (2860 Grand Ave., Los Olivos; (805) 688-7788;

Figueroa Mountain’s Holiday Plans: Coming off the heels of two wild “FigtoberFest” weekends at the Funk Zone brewpub and the original headquarters in Buellton, Figueroa Mountain continues going strong with a wide selection of seasonal brews, including the Munich-style dunkel, Oktoberfest lager, and bock made for the parties, as well as the recently released Big Cone Black Ale and Magpie Baltic Porter. For those seeking rarity, however, hold out for the third-anniversary ale, which is aging in Cutler bourbon barrels and should be out by Thanksgiving, or a tad longer until Christmastime, when they’ll release a Magpie Porter blended with Rusack Winery petite sirah that’s aging in Sea Smoke pinot noir barrels. (137 Anacapa St.; (805) 694-2255;

Telegraph Teams with Wine Cask, UCSB: As Brian Thompson endures the stereotypically exhausting process of opening a bigger facility next door to Telegraph Brewing Company’s original location on Salsipuedes Street, his team continues cranking out new brews, including the upcoming Prime Meridian Ale, a dry-hopped Belgian brown that Thompson says has a very distinct lemon and mango character. But he’s also teaming up with the Wine Cask and UCSB historian Lisa Jacobson for an educational lecture on brewing’s history alongside a pairing dinner on Thursday, October 10. Tickets are $50, so call the Wine Cask for reservations at (805) 966-9463. (416 North Salsipuedes St.; (805) 963-5018;

Hollister Brewing’s White Star XPA: There’s always about 16 beers on tap at Hollister Brewing Company in Goleta, but regulars get most riled up with the coming release of the White Star XPA, which brewmaster Eric Rose calls “a super-hoppy pale ale on nitrogen.” The nitro infusion gives it a Guinness-like mouthfeel, lifting the already vibrant hops to a new level. (6980 Marketplace Dr., Goleta; (805) 968-2810;

Island Brewing’s Barrel Program: The Carpinteria brewery’s ever-popular Avocado Honey Ale hit the taps last weekend during the Avo Fest, but they continue to fine-tune their bourbon-barrel-aging program, with three currently on sale: the Starry Night Stout (winner of gold medals at both the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup); the Bourbon Barrel Aged IPA, selected as one of the best 186 beers in the world by All About Beer magazine; and the Imperial Ale, another GABF gold winner, this one with high hops and alcohol. The brewery is also planning to expand in the near future and may start putting their beer in cans too. (5049 6th St., Carpinteria; (805) 745-8272;

Pure Order Gets Ready: Two years in the making, Santa Barbara’s newest brewery is slated to open in the next few weeks near the corner of Quarantina and Reddick streets on the Eastside. Cousins James and David Burge based Pure Order Brewing Company on the old German purity law of 1516 — the “Reinheitsgebot,” which dictates that only water, malt, yeast, and hops can be used in making beer — but their aim is to make ales that are reflective of Santa Barbara. “Our hope is to craft a beer that is the embodiment of everything that makes our small little beach town and its lifestyle among the most desired in the world,” said David, whose evolving list includes a Crooked Neck Hefeweizen, a Red Eye Wheat, a Santa Barbara Pale Ale, and a Black Gull Porter, among others. (410 N. Quarantina St.; (805) 966-2881;


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