On a shady lane in Buellton, a family-owned brewery brings a new wave of stylish beers and convivial fun to the Santa Ynez Valley. Called Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, it offers handcrafted brews, savory snacks served in a cozy pub and a customized brewing system complete with ringside seats.
Jim and Jaime Dietenhofer, the brewery’s founding father-and-son team, produce rustic American lagers and ales, along with a variety of seasonal suds. Committed to quality, the two are innovative brewers who maintain an ever-evolving line-up of singular beers.
“Our main thing is to focus on our region and satisfy our local customers by making good quality beer,” says Jaime Dietenhofer. “We want to always have something new and to make our mark as a regional brewery that everyone’s proud of.”
To the delight of locals, the proprietors christened their handcrafted brews with names that reflect the distinctive history and memorable characters of the Santa Ynez Valley.
Dark brown and toasty, Davy Brown Ale commemorates a fabled early resident of the Los Padres Mountains. Wrangler Wheat, an ale made with American wheat malt, honors the local cowboy culture, while the rosy-hued Danish Red Lager salutes the Danes who founded Solvang in 1911.
A light, refreshing brew, Paradise Road Pilsner honors the abundance of water in a scenic slice of Santa Barbara County, and Hoppy Poppy IPA, described as a “West Coast-style ale,” pays tribute to the bright orange flowers that blanket local hills in spring.
“Stagecoach Stout is named after the stagecoach stop in Los Olivos,” Dietenhofer explains, “and another one we’ll be adding is San Rafael Reserve, because Figueroa Mountain is in the San Rafael Mountains.”
Just off the lobby of the industrial building that houses Figueroa Mountain Brewery, red double doors swing open to reveal a welcoming space lined with wood paneling. Large reproductions of the company’s colorful labels greet the eye, while flat-panel televisions beam sports action, and a corrugated faux-roof shelters a small bar bristling with taps.
Standing beyond the pub area, the stainless steel tanks of the brewing system gleam like rocket modules. The contrast excites, inspiring customers to learn more about the beverage that brims in their glasses.
“Come and see a working brewery,” Dietenhofer urges. “There’s no place else in the Valley where you can do that, and I think that is something people yearn for, especially beer purists who want to know how it’s done.
“The biggest thing,” he adds, “is your beer is made just thirteen feet away. And there’s no beer fresher than that!”
The brewery’s wares are available on-site by the pint, in four-ounce samplers, and in bottles. Customers can also buy reusable 22-ounce growlers that they fill with their favorite brew and enjoy at home.
“We keep doubling the order of our growlers,” Dietenhofer says, “and they sell faster than we can get the glass made.”
Brewery regulars who join the Davy Brown Mug Club receive benefits and discounts, including 25-ounce mugs of beer at 16-ounce prices.
“It’s for locals, the people who come in all the time,” Jaime Dietenhofer explains. “The mugs are individually marked and numbered, and they have the Davy Brown logo on them.”
Amateur chefs will want to enter the brewery’s lively cook-off contests, held several times a year amid a flurry of tasting and informal voting. For home brewers with questions, the staff holds monthly meetings designed as forums to help “spread the knowledge around.”
Born and raised in the Santa Ynez Valley, Dietenhofer graduated from high school and headed for the Pacific Northwest, a wonderland of microbreweries. He then traveled to Austria, where exposure to Bavarian brews re-ignited a longstanding desire to make quality beer.
Dietenhofer returned to the U. S., founded a successful business called Garage Envy (“The last bastion in home improvement, because everyone’s garage is a terrible mess”) and, with his father, began dreaming of opening a brewery.
“Even in high school I thought of doing a brewery,” Dietenhofer says, “but it was way too early and my dad looked at me like I was crazy. Our process was long, but the stars aligned and we knew the timing was right to start the business.
“We’re German boys,” he adds, “so we like our beer. We’re getting back to our Bavarian heritage.”
Offering a welcome alternative for wine tasters, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company has even earned a spot—marked by a little beer bottle—on the wine-trail maps.
“We’re gonna call this beer country now,” Dietenhofer says with a chuckle. “I’m all for it!”
INFO: Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company is located at 45 Industrial Way, Buellton, and open Mon., Thurs., and Fri. 4 to 8 p.m.; Sat. and Sun. 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., closed Tues. and Wed. For information, call 694-2252 or log on to figmtnbrew.com