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Figueroa Mountain Brewery

Local brew taps into local character

Jamie and Jim Dietenhoffer
Jamie and Jim Dietenhoffer's micro brews already have fans from all over.

by Ann Blumenthal

In addition to all its other delights, the Santa Ynez Valley has become an unforgettable beer tasting destination. I recently had the pleasure of visiting Figueroa Mountain Brewery in Buellton where they are crafting a wide range of artisanal, deliciously drinkable beers. Their brews have a distinctly regional panache, and they’re only available right here in Santa Barbara County.  Inspired by the microbrewery culture of the Pacific Northwest, the Dietenhoffer family has reinvented the art of the hop with Valley history and culture at its heart.

  I was enthralled by their charming pub in the midst of the brew tanks and the many old photographs of original Valley settlers with their spittoons and pistols. The rustic coziness warmly reflects the character and culture of the area and the beers are named for Valley icons (like early pioneer Davy Brown), beloved local places (Paradise Road) and Santa Ynez Valley cowboy and Danish culture.
  Jamie Dietenhoffer fell in love with great craft beers and the brew pubs at San Juan microbreweries in Washington State a decade ago, and wanted to bring the idea home with a Santa Ynez Valley flavor. He started Garage Envy five years ago, but never gave up his dream of a Valley microbrewery. Jamie and his dad, Jim, opened Figueroa Mountain Brewery the day after Thanksgiving last year and have hit the ground running, making approachable, drinkable, hand crafted beer. Shying away from the fad for excessive hoppiness and uniqueness for its own sake, they are a welcome addition to the microbrewery renaissance, producing straightforward, flavorful American-style beers ranging from the crisp liveliness of their Pilsner to the mellow richness of their brown ales.
  Quaffing a crisp Paradise Road Pilsner an arm’s length from the tanks it was mashed and brewed in is a unique experience on the Central Coast, and one I thoroughly enjoyed. With great beer, fun events and a welcoming ambiance, Figueroa Mountain Brewery’s brew pub has been attracting locals and visitors alike. Owner Jim Dietenhoffer describes it as “the new Cheers” for its friendly regulars of all ages and sociable embrace of tourists and newcomers. My friend Hannah is a regular because she likes the inclusive, intimate atmosphere and the lively crispness of her favorite beer. Although it was my first visit, I felt very much at home. The locals reach out to each other, share advice about the area with visitors and embody the welcoming openness of the Santa Ynez Valley. The camaraderie is infectious.
  Well launched by Jason Courtney, the award winning brewmaster, the stein has been passed to a fiery young West Coast yeast wrangler, AJ Stoll. As we walked through the brew tanks he spoke passionately about the beer and his work, palpably excited about the energy and direction of the promising new microbrewery. “I want to create great beer,” he said, eyes alight with enthusiasm, “My fingerprints are all over the existing beers, and I’m planning new seasonal beers that will rotate on tap all the time.” He leaned his ear to a stainless steel tank to listen to the sound of new beer bubbling, vigilant and protective of the process even as he talked. The art of creating approachable beers to go with everything from pizza to sushi inspires him. He tries to buy as many ingredients as he can locally, but for special terroir nuances he goes wherever the ingredients are, whether it’s hops from Germany and England, or malt from the Mid-West. Assistant Brewer Andrew Bach glows with the same passion and excitement. He is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic; I was impressed with his contagious zest for the beer and went away with a much deeper knowledge of the brew craft than I would have thought possible.

  I met Bar Master David Esdaile, who has moved over from Firestone Brewery, bringing his hospitable charm and the Scane Column of Quarters, a London tradition he inherited from his grandfather. He showed off the stainless steel pillar surrounded with beer dipped quarters donated by patrons, proud of the thousands of dollars for the Make a Wish Foundation, Lung Association, Cancer Society and Scleroderma Association it has raised. David is serving up Monday Night Pint Night, Movie Night and Pizza, and always affordable tastings for those who can’t decide between a lager and an IPA. He brings in local artists to play acoustic country or soft rock every Friday night for the intimate crowd of young professionals, ranchers, tourists and families who frequent the pub for the cozy atmosphere, good food and great beer. April 2nd is Rib Night, where patrons will bring in their home cooked ribs to share and watch basketball together.
  For now, the only place to taste Figueroa Mountain’s brews is at the brewery and on tap in selected locations throughout the county. They’ve had a very enthusiastic response from patrons at events like the recent Maritime Museum benefit. The Brewery has also been invited to plan food and beer pairings with top chefs on the Central Coast and has attracted the attention of a celebrity chef or two. I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for those events. My mouth waters at the thought.
  The Davy Brown Mug Club sells out as soon as they add more mugs and over 400 aficionados from San Francisco to San Diego swing by to refill their growlers, currently the only way to enjoy the beer at home. I was amazed to learn how widely their beer is appreciated, only months after opening.
  Jim and Jamie Dietenhoffer set out to produce approachable, drinkable hand crafted beers, and it looks like they have achieved their aim. They are already brewing ambitious new plans for increasing production and making their tasty beverages more widely available. In the meantime, this flavorful local refreshment is only available here in Santa Barbara County–and aren’t we lucky?
  In contrast to wine, where the variety of grape determines much of the flavor, a brewer builds a recipe element by element, making dozens of choices between German hops or American, between wheat or barley, between one yeast and another, to create the subtle vision you taste in your glass. So raise a mug of one of Figueroa Mountain’s lovingly crafted brews, relax and celebrate the good fortune that led you off the beaten track to this warm and cheery brew pub tucked away at the end of Industrial Way in Buellton.

Paradise Road Pilsner
Pale yellow, with a mild tingle of carbonation and bright mouthfeel, this classic Pilsner has a light fresh scent, and crisp, clean flavor. Hannah’s favorite and one of mine too.
Wrangler Wheat
Unfiltered, pale yellow, in the German weizen style but not too heavy, with a citrus flavor and hint of banana. It’s made with American Hefeweizen yeast and pure American Wheat malt. Whether you’re a fan or new to wheat beer, this one goes down easy.
Hoppy Poppy IPA
IPAs are distinguished by the boldness of the hops. This bright golden, best selling IPA has a fruity nose and flavor, not excessively hoppy and bitter, and is very refreshing and accessible.
Danish Red Lager
It pours an appealing red color, and has the rich, multifaceted flavor you expect in a darker beer with a surprisingly mildness, not too hoppy or bitter. Scrumptious. 
Davy Brown Ale
A classic robust brown ale with moderate carbonation for a creamy feel, its rich caramel, chocolate and smoky flavors add complexity and character but don’t overwhelm the brew.
Stagecoach Stout
This Guinness-type dark beer has a softer, more delicate mouthfeel and the oatmeal in the mash balances and refines the bitterness. It is full bodied—an intense, rich ale with a strong hint of coffee. Very smooth for the sophisticated palate.
Where to find Figueroa Mountain beer on tap:
Buellton: Marriott Hotel, Clubhouse Sportsbar, Gino’s Pizzeria
Santa Ynez: Maverick Saloon
Los Olivos: Mattei’s Tavern
Solvang: Tower Pizza
Santa Barbara: Cold Springs Tavern, Union Ale House, Pierre LaFond, Petrini’s Pizzeria, Hob Nob

Coming in April! Davy Brown Ale in bottles. Keep an eye out for it!

Figueroa Mountain Brewery
45 Industrial Way, Buellton, CA 93427

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