Rare Beers Star at Villa Wine Bar & Kitchen

Sean and Gabi Larkins of Vino Divino Open Casual Lounge on Anacapa Street

<b>WINE GUY WITH BEER:</b> After years of running his still-thriving bottle shop Vino Divino, Sean Larkins is now serving rare beers, food, and, yes, still wine (like this lovely Samsara he's drinking) at his new Villa Wine Bar & Kitchen on Anacapa Street downtown.
Paul Wellman

Sean Larkins built his reputation on selling awesome, hard-to-find, fairly priced wines at Vino Divino, his still-thriving bottle shop on De la Vina Street. And his new spot on Anacapa Street, the Villa Wine Bar & Kitchen (619 Anacapa St.; 770-5283), does include “wine” in the name and offer quite a few superstar labels to sip. But in a rather wine-soaked scene, the star of Villa is Larkins’s selections of rare beers that you’ve probably never even heard of, most excitingly the Belgian and German ales on tap.

“For Belgian and German beers, it’s just us, Dutch Gardens, and the Brat Haus,” said Larkins a few weeks ago while pouring a Bayreuther Kellerbier into a tall ceramic half-liter stein. “And that’s the other thing: All these beers come in a special glass.”

Included in that draught list is the crisp yet malty Schönramer Gold from Bavaria; the heady and rich St. Bernardus, whose recipe was invented by Trappist monks in West Flanders; and the lushly spiced Gouden Carolus Tripel, by a Belgian brewery that first made beer for a hospital back in the 1400s. The balance of Villa’s eight revolving taps feature a who’s who of American craft brewers, from Telegraph on Salsipuedes Street to Mad River from Humboldt County, Abita from New Orleans, and Pizza Port in San Diego. And the beers are all fairly priced, $6-$9 for hefty pours, a price some bars charge for low-end lagers. Flights can also be had for those wanting samples of all.

Certainly, the wine shines, too, whether it’s regional experts like Qupé or fringier selections like the white wine friulano from Northern Italy, all also priced to sell, creeping up from $20 in increments of $10. But brand-new for Larkins and his wife, Gabi, a critical component to the business, is their food service, allowing their fans to pair libations with good eats for the first time ever. Given that they don’t have a full kitchen — their dreams of a pizza oven are also on hold after taking way too long to figure out — it is simple fare: cheese boards, bruschetta, salads, panini, and desserts. More options may come in the future, but with solid ales and a very Santa Barbara-esque setting — dripping fountain and red tiles included — a hot panino is just about all you need to complete the experience.

Check out Villa’s Facebook page here.


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