25 Jun Beer In Wine Country: Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co
There is a saying in the wine biz that it takes a lot of beer to make great wine. So, it seems only natural that a brewery would set up shop in Santa Barbara wine country.
Jaime Dietenhofer grew up in Los Olivos and wanted to start a brewery when he was in high school. Perhaps it was in his blood, as he is of German heritage. But, his dad Jim laughed and told him to go to college. He went to Whitman in Walla Walla, Washington and researched beer while he was there. It was the mid-90s and breweries were growing in the Northwest. Jamie also studied abroad in Vienna, Austria for a year with his now wife Meighan. Between Austria and Germany, they visited a lot of biergartens. Jaime then attended graduate school at UCSB for economics and green development but his dream to own a brewery didn’t die. Regardless, his father told him to get a job.
Jamie started pimping garages and started a business called Garage Envy. He did this for 12 years and had a show on the DIY Channel for 3 1/2 years. During this time, Jaime spent 15 years building his idea, interviewing over 140 brewers and writing a business plan.
Then in 2008, he presented his idea again to his dad and this time his dad agreed to start a business with him. The economy was failing and they were able to purchase things cheaply. Then, in 2010, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company opened their doors. The first year they made 600 barrels, 1200 in the second year, 3600 in the third year, 8000 in the fourth year and 15,000-20,000 by the end of this year (their fifth year).
The main brewery and bar is in Buellton but they also have locations in downtown Santa Barbara (in the Funk Zone), Westlake Village and Arroyo Grande.
There are 6-8 core beers and approximately 20 beers at any time. And, Jamie is playing with wine barrels, mezcal barrels and acquavit barrels. He has partnered with various winemakers in the area to create fun brews like the Biere de Menage, a farmhouse ale brewed with sauvignon blanc must. As Jamie told me, “it’s always an adventure. It’s fun to test and try new things and then to see people’s reactions.”
With all of the choices, the best part is that you can do a tasting flight and try a few different beers.
Beer is not one of my areas of expertise. I appreciate beer but find so many to be very big and hoppy. I don’t like my wine big and overdone and I don’t like my beer like that either. Jamie agrees that many beers today are too hoppy which can kill the palate. The talent is in the balance and a couple favorites I tried were Zero to Sexy, a golden mocha coffee ale, and Danish Red Lager, a Vienna Lager with caramel notes. With beers like these, I will be back to try more!
It’s great to see that after all these years, Jamie’s high school dream is a reality.