Thursday, June 16, 2011

AHA Trip Day 1

Threading highway 101 through the ag lands that blanket the space between California's Southern coastal mountain ranges and the Pacific ocean, Christina, Mauricio and I stopped in Beulton to Visit the Firestone Walker tap room for lunch and a pint but decided to make a quick detour to Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. A short distance down the road, and located in a commercial section of town, Figueroa is the new kid on a block that could use a few more new kids.  
I know I just uploaded a guest post regarding Figueroa Mountain but since head brewer AJ Stoll is a personal friend from Santa Cruz, it didn't feel right not stopping to say hello myself. Lucky for us, AJ was in the process of loading a truck for a beer delivery and was gracious enough to take time out and give us a quick tour of the facility where he's brewing award winning beers. AJ recently moved down from Ukiah where he turned around Ukiah Brewing, transforming the mediocre and often times contaminated beers into stellar examples of classic styles.
 Now he seems proud to be heading up this fledgling venture, working with new equipment and already preparing the brewery for expansions to support the growing demand for the excellent beers he's producing. He showed us the  grain mill room that is specifically designed to be explosion proof and the construction going on, in preparation for a couple more larger fermentors. The brewing system appears physically demanding', the mash tun requires mashing in using large paddles (oars) but AJ says he enjoys this 'hands-on' approach, as he flexes his muscles smiling.
 We settled into the tap room and sampled a spectrum of delicious beers. Including the gold metal winning pilsner and American brown. Not to mention well made wheat, pale, Hoppy Poppy IPA and a red lager.
He surprised me when he explained a hopping technique that he uses effectively. AJ says he applies just two charges of hops in his beers including his IPA. A bittering hop at the beginning of the boil and then one other addition at the very end of the boil at the whirlpool. Incredibly, the hop aroma and flavor are pronounced and I plan to try this on my next homebrew.
Fortunately for the locals, they now have a choice besides Firestone Walker. So, stop by and say hello to AJ and thank him for bringing his considerable talents to Buelton.
 As we got back on the road I was already thirsty for more, and I know just the spot to stop. Goleta, a city just North of Santa Barbara is home to Hollister Brewing Company  Not only a great line up of superb beers but delicious food. Although a bit on the pricey side, there food hit the spot for these weary travelers and with a pint of The Pope IPA we were almost ready to run the gauntlet of the rush hour L.A. traffic. I said almost. Six lanes of stop and go, bumper to bumper insanity for several hours makes me question the whole idea of massively sprawling communities. Who are all these people and where are they all going at the same time? More importantly, why are they all in front of us? I need to get to San Diego, and get into some serious beer drinking. Soon!

Arriving in S.D. we felt the relief of finally reaching our destination and were eager to sooth our parched throats with sweet, sweet beer. Where can we find such a beverage? How about a section of town call Southpark.
We heard that Stone Brewing was having a 'soft opening' for their new retail store . We joined the neighborhood locals who crowded the narrow side walk outside the already filled to capacity room, waiting for their turn to have their growlers filled. Initially armed with high hopes of getting a chance to compare samples that were being served in a 'keep it' taster glass and getting our own growlers filled I felt my patience starting to wain.

Succumbing to my low tolerance for lining up to drink (even for the best of beers) and especially when I'm at the end of the line, I made my apologizes and abandoned my colleagues. I slipped into a fancy wine bar next door that just happened to have Stone's IPA on tap. I ordered a pint, took a comfortable seat with some strangers and enjoyed my beer sin linea.

At the end of our long journey, we made it to our destination that will be home for the duration of the National Homebrewers Conference experience. We broke into the homebrew and talked about the day. Now, it's time to plan our strategies for getting the most out of this geekiest of homebrew events.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Santa Cruz misses you already! Have a great time but hurry back soon...

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