For Certified Cicerone Zach Rosen, the challenge of creating unique beer-based events is a consuming passion. He loves a great venue almost as much as he likes his hops, and on Saturday, February 15, he’s got a live one. The Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science, and Technology, a k a SBCAST, is one of the best-equipped event spaces in the city, and in addition, for Rosen, it’s also his home.
Having created such mind-bending boutique beer festivals as Hoptopia, five years of the Santa Barbara Beer Garden at the Botanic Garden, and, in 2018, Biegrnette: Light, Life, and Death, also at SBCAST, Rosen is joining forces with actor/directors Pacomio Sun and Marisol Miller-Wave to bring back ShakeSBeer, a concept he has presented once before in 2015 at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum. The night will begin at 5:30 p.m. with a one-hour performance on the main stage, followed by an extended period until 9 p.m. during which the “directed experience” portion of the program kicks in.
Participants are challenged to fill their cups at a variety of different stations around the space, each of which will have both scenes from Shakespeare’s plays and beers paired with the plays and their characters. For example, SBCAST has a hot tub, and for Rosen, the decision of who to put in it was an easy one. “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, of course,” Rosen told me late one recent afternoon over a hazy IPA at Third Window on Haley Street. “They’re Hamlet’s bros from school, so you know they would find the hot tub.”
For Rosen, “flavor is a form of communication,” so he’s matching Shakespeare’s language with equally sophisticated styles of suds. For Juliet, he has a golden sour ale gruit, a choice that leads our conversation on a wild digression into the history of ale and lager, a yeast-driven shift in hops processing that dates to approximately the era in which Shakespeare wrote his plays.
The grandson of acclaimed cookbook author and globe-trotting Jonathan Gold avant la lettre Betty Evans, Rosen revels in the cultural contexts and historical structures that accompany the study of his favorite beverage. For him, the world of beer is as big as the world itself, which makes Shakespeare, that most worldly of authors, a natural companion.
Additional pairings to look forward to include a Lizard’s Mouth IPA with aged dragon fruit, jasmine, and cardamom notes that glows bright purple, making it a perfect analogue to the sensual spirit of Queen Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There will also be a honeysuckle-flavored offering to represent her human lover, the irrepressible Bottom. All of the tastings will be organized so that patrons flow seamlessly from one scene to the next on a veritable river of exotic brew.
The beauty of these beer events, and perhaps the aspect that most captures Rosen’s imagination, is the spirit of friendship and curiosity that unites the wide range of people who attend. There’s no one age group that dominates, and there are at least as many couples as there are singles wandering around.
What they have in common is a more than usual interest in the finer points of brewing and a willingness to go on an evening long adventure with others. The broad range of ages makes for interesting conversations, as does the presence of couples, many of whom will be extending Valentine’s Day to the whole weekend by giving each other the gift of a ticket. Rosen chalks up the feeling of camaraderie to beer’s universality, what he calls its “comprehensiveness” as a part of human culture. Just add Shakespeare and call it the Globe in a glass.
4•1•1 | ShakeSBeer is Saturday, February 15, 5:30-9 p.m., at SBCAST (513 Garden St.). For tickets and information, go to ShakeSBeer2020.com.