“Craft beer, THE beverage of the 21st Century…” Paul Wright, Island Brewing
Walking into Island Brewery‘s 15th Anniversary party was like stepping into a family reunion – of past, present, and future. Their ceremonial anniversary party was not your average sudsy soiree. From bagpipes and Polynesian dancing to Taiko Japanese drummers and steel percussion, guests were welcomed to island life hospitality (and some FANTASTIC beers).
Opening in 2001, Island Brewery (IBC) has quickly turned sleepy Carpinteria into a hoppy heaven for brewers. Behind the magic is the Wright family, who fully embrace the “aloha attitude.” Sipping on their crisp and refreshing Tropical Lager, I sat down with Paul last Saturday to discuss family, home brewing, and falling in love with island life (and his beautiful wife Cheryl).
Meeting in Oahu during his time in the service, Paul can thank his wife for his hobby turned passion. Gifting Paul a “Beer Machine” home-brew kit in the 90s…well, the rest is history. Learning the craft from the ground up at Marin Brewery Company, he quickly won several prestigious home-brew awards with the Homebrewers of Marin and Elsewhere (HOME). Wanting to be closer to his daughters, the couple went all in opening the beachside brewery in their mid-50s.
Looking over at his wife and grandkids playing chess (and the infamous Beer Machine kit), it became apparent that Island Brewing is about this kind of dedication – to their craft, their family, the people of the 805.
“We are constantly changing but will always stay true to the relaxed, family vibe,” said Laurie Wright, General Manager (and proud daughter).
Blessed with an ocean view, their labels are inspired by family memories, surfing, local festivals…even Amtrak. This fall, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner will start serving their Hopliner IPA on local trains, inspired by the train tracks right outside. Make sure to watch out for the King Tide Double IPA – a BIG beer cresting into a flood of flavor. Lost at sea? Point your compass rose of Big Island IPA in the right direction, towards Santa Cruz Island.
“We wanted our anniversary to be ceremonial, to really celebrate music and life from many different islands,” said Laura Wright. “It will be a tour through the islands.”
The VIP Beer Tasting took us on a tour of five specialty archived beers, bourbon barrel aged, with high ABV and rich malty flavors. While IBC’s top sellers include their Island Blonde and Avocado Honey Ale, Paul spoke fondly of his Jubilee Scotch Ale, a favorite homebrew recipe from his early days in Marin County. Kicking it up a notch for their anniversary is their Bourbon Barrel Anniversary Ale, with notes of toasted coconut, vanilla, and brown sugar.
“These are our most special beers, we wanted to showcase our bourbon barrel collection,” said Paul Wright. “They are hardly ever out, so it is a real treat.”
Other selections included a Bourbon Barrel Russian Imperial Stout, Double Nut Brown, Barrel Aged Big Island, and their Russian Imperial Stout. The intensely rich and robust beers paired perfectly with the island cuisine, from pulled pork and BBQ ribs to sweet Hawaiian rolls and tropical snow cones from Kona Ice.
As “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” echoed on the ukulele, I could not help but smile at the shared love of suds, surf, and Santa Barbara living. Like my favorite IBC summer brew, Perpetual Saison, this is one brewery that is sure to endure for future generations. As I asked Paul about his favorite beer, he chuckles…the beer in his hand of course. Happy Anniversary IBC…to another 15 years, Mahalo!
“Island is a microcosm of how America should be, drinking beer all day!” said Paul Wright. We love establishing these relationships, this is our community.”
Taste. Trek. Travel.