I can't say I'd ever considered the problem of one day getting sick of wine. (Getting sick from wine on the other hand...) But faced with an entire weekend's worth of winery visits, the possibility of it cropping up became a very real concern. What if, horror of horrors, we came down with wine fatigue halfway through? Thankfully, a solution was at hand. Why, we could just drink beer in between! Wonderful, palate cleansing beer, made locally in Buellton, just a short ways away. I'd heard of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. thanks to the local craft vendor just round the corner from our apartment in Downtown, who sold me their Lizard's Mouth Imperial Double IPA. After drinking it, I'd always meant to try more of their beers. J, who's made it his mission to try as many breweries up and down the West Coast as possible, was unsurprisingly amenable to the idea.
J was in charge of administering our vast stock of water, a duty he performed admirably. At a base ratio of 1:1 water to wine, with an additional half bottle drunk at the end of each tasting, we were possibly the soberest people within a 5 mile radius by the time we decided to leave the verdant shade of Rusack Winery. (He kept it up all weekend, and I honestly don't think I'd ever been so hydrated in my life.) The drive to Industrial Street took less than ten minutes, perhaps shorter than the amount of time we spent poring over the beer menu and deciding which eight beers to make up our sampler. Wouldn't do to act with undue haste when it comes to important considerations such as these.
Pros of sharing a beer sampler:
TRYING ALL THE BEER!
If there's something you're not quite feeling, someone else will gladly drink it for you.
Cons of sharing a beer sampler:
None. Some people think it's having to share, but honestly, if you both really like something, you can always get more of it later.
As is apparent, we were pretty chuffed with our selection. Even the beers that didn't wow us were still pleasant. It's a special kind of wonderful to drink beer in the place it has been made, lounging on sofa seats and holding your glass up to the late afternoon sun, an act that can turn an ordinary pilsner to molten gold.
By the time we were halfway through our sampler, we were intrigued enough by what we were drinking to ask if they did any brewery tours. They're not formally scheduled, but David the head brewer was around, and happy to talk us through their creative process. The bottling machine has been shut off for the day, so we were able to actually hear what he had to say as he walked us around the space, which will soon be expanding further (Hooray!). We'd arrived a couple of weeks too early to try their limited edition St Patrick's Day brew, but we did get to catch a glimpse of some of the by-products of the fermentation stage. J helps his neighbor out with home brews, and was therefore quite excited to see that the brewery had a very similar set-up for their own experimental beers, albeit on a slightly larger scale.
I'm not one to adulterate my beers normally, but they had a beer float pairing one of their Imperial Stouts with mint chocolate chip ice cream that sounded like absolute fun. I wouldn't advise drinking it on the regular, but it was a great accompaniment to the three quick rounds of Cornhole (Bean Bag Toss!) that we played with a couple of brewery regulars. My aim's usually terrible, but beer helps somehow, so I acquitted myself quite nicely. We learned a few tricks that those frequenting Fig Mountain Brew Co. absorb by osmosis, including one definitely not sanctioned by the brewing team. The Highway 101 Kolsch can be a bit bland on its own, and Lizard's Mouth tends to be too hoppy for the casual drinker, but mix the two, and the resulting Roadkill blend is apparently to die for, especially on sultry summer evenings. Now you know.
We moved over to another spot for dinner, lured by the promise of happy hour food and drinks. It turned out that we were just on the cusp of it, which led me scrambling to assemble enough glasses to pour out all the wine samplers I wanted before the prices jumped. J found it hilarious, while I was just glad I didn't accidentally shatter anything in my rush across the wall of enomatic machines. We feasted on the fanciest Mac N Cheese I've ever tasted (And S makes really good Mac N Cheese), and Yuppie Crack, individual bites of goat cheese stuffed dates, wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, drizzled over with a sweet balsamic reduction, which totally lived up to its name.
We opted to go for a walk after dinner to explore the outskirts of Solvang, and wound up standing over a meadow where a group of deer had assembled. When I was a little under two years old, my parents took me to Nara Deer Park, where I cheerfully doled out bits of the specially formulated snack biscuits. It made for some wonderful pictures initially (Objectively, I was a very cute child), but what you don't see, and what was indelibly imprinted onto my brain, was when a bunch of rather brazen deer got it into their heads to chase me for said biscuits. I told J this story, and said I wanted to run towards them.
J: They're wild deer. Wild Deer always run away. And they're way faster than you.
Me: Did I say run towards them? I meant charge and make them scatter in panic.
I'd interrupted his near segue into insurance and the perils of running a deer over with a car, but J was kind enough to charge at the herd with me, and as we sped down the hill, every last one of them loped off into parts unknown. The meadow was ours, and I exulted in my vengeance. We settled down to watch the sun set over the (nearby? far away? - we weren't inclined to fish out our phones to check) mountain before us, excited for the rest of the weekend.