SCCBB Archives-Anacapa

by C. C. Hansen (aka the Ventura Craft Beer Examiner, back in the day)

In 2010, I had a gig with the now-defunct online news site, Examiner.com, as the “Ventura Craft Beer Examiner.” Throughout 2010, 2011, and 2012, I had the privilege to interview brewers and brewpub managers and servers all over the Golden State of California.

One of these brewers was Adam Ball at Anacapa Brewing on Main Street in Ventura. I have no idea where Adam is now, but I thought very highly of him and his seven-barrel brew system back in 2010. Below is a three-part series on him which was originally published as three posts on Examiner.com

From Claude Monet’s Water Lily series, 1919

Picasso, Matisse, and Monet worked at their craft for an entire lifetime. The result was the birth, development, and establishment of Modern Art as we know it. Their style of painting was so vibrant, so accessible, and so enduring that there are few people today who don’t recognize either the names or the styles of these great artists.

Craft beer is all about individual artistry. We are at a time in the history of craft beer in America that is comparable to the influential Armory Show in New York 100 years ago that changed the face of art in America forever.

The VCBE has already introduced you to one of the up-and-coming artists in the area, David “Griff” Griffiths of Ladyface Alehouse. In this column and the next two, we will introduce you to another local beer artisan, Adam Ball of Anacapa Brewing Company in Ventura.

Adam Ball, Brewmaster at Anacapa Brewing

In the early 1900s, painters were flocking to Paris and encouraging each other in the development of their craft. In the early 2000s, the San Diego craft beer scene was where Adam Ball honed his craft, working both for Ballast Point and Karl Strauss. He also spent some time at the Seibel Institute in Chicago, home of the World Brewing Academy.

“I ran Karl Strauss’s downtown brewpub for about 2-1/2 years,” recalls Adam. “So I got to brew every specialty beer they put out. The experience of being in San Diego and learning from all the people making great beer down there –  I can’t put a price on it.”

The Imperial Stout that Adam brewed at Karl Strauss won an award at the World Beer Championships sponsored by the Beverage Tasting Institute. It was, in part, this recognition of Adam’s skill that helped him get a gig of his own at Anacapa Brewing back in 2007, and he’s never looked back.

“We come out with about 35 different types of beer a year,” says Adam, adding that the brewpub has four mainstays that he tries to keep on tap year-round. “That would be our Whitecap Wit, a Belgian-style wheat beer made with orange peel, a little bit of lemon peel, and coriander; Santa Rosa Red, an American red ale – not too hoppy, with a nice balance of caramel malts and Northwest Pacific hops; our IPA; and our Seaward Gold or Blonde, which is our ‘bridge’ beer – it’s kind of like a hybrid American blonde/Kolsch-style.”

“Bridge beer” is a term craft brewers use to describe a beer that is similar to one of the recognizable commercial beers, “but with flavor,” as Adam puts it.

Next time we’ll talk about Adam’s IPA and the brewer’s palette (as opposed to his palate)

PART II

One of the beer styles that most showcases a brewer’s artistry is the India Pale Ale, or IPA. Adam Ball, head brewer at Anacapa Brewery in Ventura, is one of the rising stars in the art of brewing craft beer, and he has the medals to prove it.

“Being competitive in the IPA category is something to be proud of.” –Adam Ball on medaling with his IPA at the Los Angeles Beer competition.

“We did the Los Angeles Beer competition last year and won a couple of awards there: a couple of silvers and a bronze.”

One of the silvers was in the IPA category. “Being competitive in the IPA category anywhere in California is something to be proud of. We wear that medal pretty proudly around here, and we’re pretty proud of our IPA,  when we have it on tap.”

Easier said than done for Adam, whose brewery, Anacapa, is small and running at full capacity. “It takes me about 24 days to brew the IPA, and we go through a tank of it – about 14 kegs –  in 9-10 days. So, the IPA’s got a good buzz about it.”

Why are IPAs such a creative medium for brewers?

“There are so many new hop varieties coming out every year,” answers Adam, explaining, “As brewers, we’re artists, so it’s like we’ve got a new color: I think I’m going to use that color instead. So it gives us a lot of individual expression.”

How does that play out for you?

“I make my IPA the way I think an IPA should taste, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t like other versions… Mine has a nice grapefruit, piney, flowery finish to it. I try to leave the kind of harsh excess bitterness out of the front of the beer and really focus on the aroma and flavor.”

The pint of Borchard’s Bock the VCBE tasted on his visit to Anacapa Brewing is still one of the best beers he’s ever tasted.

Two key statistics for craft beer drinkers to focus on are alcohol by volume (ABV), and international bittering unit (IBU). Like many craft brewers, Anacapa lists both for most of their beers on their website.

“I try to put the focus on the fact that, hey, people are coming in and they’re going to be eating food, and you don’t want to be eating food with a beer that’s going to make everything going to taste like hops. So my beer is like, yeah, it’s going to taste like hops – not to say that it’s not going to have a bold hop flavor to it – but you’re going to smell it, you’re going to taste it, and it’s going to complement your food as opposed to overpowering it.

“And that’s my big thing: people don’t realize how important beer and food pairing is. You’ve been hearing ‘wine and food’ for so many years, but beer pairs with food way better than wine. And beer can do things that wine can’t do, like certain food styles you wouldn’t even mess with wine, like spicy foods. I don’t know many wines that can handle spicy foods. IPA – are you kidding me? – I like the way it’ll just cut through the spiciness, give you a nice little coating for the next bite – the fullness just complements – like a fish taco – anything spicy.”

Next time we’ll conclude our conversation with Adam by talking about what’s on the horizon, not only for Adam and Anacapa, but for craft beer on the Central Coast.

PART III

“One of our big beers that we just started doing two years ago is our spruce tip ale,” recounts Adam Ball, Anacapa Brewery’s resident artisan brewer. “Actually, it’s a collaboration with VIBE (Ventura Independent Beer Enthusiasts), the homebrew club that meets at Anacapa every month. A couple of our members spend six months in Ojai and six months in Alaska. They go up into the mountains in Alaska and pick fresh spruce tips, then bring them back. I really value my relationship with VIBE.”

Adam also collaborates with other brewers in the area. “We’re all friends, we all know each other,” he says. “I go up to Island Brewing Company or Santa Barbara Brewing Company, drink beer and we talk: what’s next, what’s working for you, what’s not working for you, what did you do new, what did I do new? Having that kind of community is what’s driving the beer industry in this area.”

The growth in craft beer drinkers over the last couple of years has been great to see, notes Adam. “We’ve been known as a wine area for so long and now beer is becoming a focal point in the community. We get offers all the time now to be in different festivals – organizers see the benefit of having a local brewery involved. This is our community, so we’re more than willing to do what we can to help out.”

Craft beer lovers know about the Southern California beer scene (especially in San Diego) and the Northern California Beer scene, but the Central Coast has been flying under the radar, so to speak. “We’re all trying to make a name for ourselves,” says Adam, “We’re all helping each other, sharing ideas.” 

What kind of ideas?

“One of my best friends is president of the San Diego Brewer’s Guild,” replies Adam. “He’s the kind of guy that will go to the local farm and ask, what’s in season? He just did a Belgian Wit that’s brewed with kumquats from a local farm – what a great idea! He calls it ‘Kum with Me.’

“We’ve done some different things with local growers – I use local honey. But I feel like the potential here is untapped.”

Should Anacapa be able to expand, Adam says, “We’re right on the cusp of getting into a whole new creative vibe – I feel like we’re creative now, but we’re not as creative as we could be, and once we get to that next level, we’ll be able to do a lot more things – it’ll open up a lot more doors for us.”

“We’re all trying to make a name for ourselves,” says Adam, “We’re all helping each other, sharing ideas.”

Adam Ball

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s