The other day, I said something about how I was tiring of craft IPA and how everybody was making the same thing anyway and implied that maybe the whole craft beer thing was a racket that I was about done with. Then I read a few of my older posts and realized that what I didn’t like about the beers I was drinking was what I didn’t like about the wines I drank in Temecula – they were tasting room treats used to lure tourists and affluent locals into spending more on getting buzzed while carrying the local banner. Not so at Island Brewing Company in Carpinteria. Here,a 16-ounce pint is $4. Damn reasonable. And the beer is damn good. This place is the real deal.
This place is about making beer. Good beer. Beer for people that spent too much time on the beach or just got chased by a seal or nearly were blown to Hawaii while kite surfing. Or maybe even spent the day growing or harvesting avocados. This is Carpinteria, the home of the great Avocado Festival that lures 80,000 people into this town of 13,000 every year.
But here’s the best part: you can walk to it. Who wants to drive to a brewery and have to drive home? In Vermont, the Magic Hat brewery is basically in the ‘burbs of Burlington. Burlington. In Wisconsin, Sprecher has moved to the ‘burbs of Milwaukee. Island Brewing Company is an honest-to-goodness urban brewery, almost like my old favorite, Goose Island in Chicago. They’re right downtown, near the train station, near the beach, near the … campground. Yep, you can camp in Carpinteria State Park and walk to a damn brewery. It’s wonderful. You’ll just have to walk home eventually, and that’s tricky. Like many of the other California campgrounds we’ve stayed at, Carpinteria State Beach Campground has a bit of a ground squirrel problem. There are burrows everywhere. You could turn an ankle.
Luckily, it closes at 9PM. It’s tempting to go broke here drinking through sunrise, but we ended up doing some damage anyway. It feels a lot like the Old Sugar Distillery in Madison, Wisconsin – early close, frequented by those in-the-know, delicious, all the crafting supplies clearly visible from the bar area because it’s just a one-room operation. It’s a great place to have a beer.
And we weren’t alone. Next to us, a gent was having a post-work brew and enjoying a mystery novel. Hungry for books, I tried to learn about the author, but it wasn’t happening. It wasn’t the time for a serious discussion. To the other side, a couple couples were enjoying each other along with their beers. Behind us, a more boisterous group. Our bartender? A young Axl Rose lookalike. Paradise City, indeed. Another regular pointed me in the direction of a local chocolatier for Valentine’s Day.
What should you order? Everything we had was very, very good, so do want I did – get a Blackbird Porter with an Island Pale Ale (their IPA) chaser. Why just pick one at a time?
Go soon to get their Big Island IPA, a double IPA that was highly recommended to us by one of the patrons. His theory is that they’re waiting to kick one of the seasonal kegs to open up a tap for the Big Island. It should be available shortly, but alas, we’ll miss it. We’ll have to wait until we move here.