“Not all alcohol is made equal,” says Katie Hershleft, founder of the Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival’s new winter installment, Wild Brew Fest. Traditionally fermented alcoholic beverages have been made for thousands of years with local, seasonal ingredients and fermented with wild yeast and bacteria naturally found in the air. On the other hand, much of today’s mass-produced alcohol is made with genetically modified ingredients, corn syrup and fermented with packaged yeast, and is often consumed at a great cost to our health.
If the former sound like your best option, it is—drinking traditional, wild brewed alcohol provides us with a very different experience—on our taste buds and in our bellies. Not only do traditional brews offer more complex tasting profiles, but they also provide beneficial bacteria that help metabolize and digest alcohol that is otherwise hard for our bodies to process.
Origins of the Wild Brew Fest
Wild Brews originated from the Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival, as a way to meet the community’s increasing demands to learn and experience traditional alcohol fermentation.
While the Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival brought together people of all ages to enjoy a variety of fermented foods, this event will delve deeper into traditionally brewed and wild fermented alcoholic beverages. Its vision is to give people the opportunity to learn how these drinks are made and engage in the traditional alcohol fermentation process. “This event celebrates local brewers who keep the craft alive and maintain the tradition,” said Event Director Katie Hershfelt. “It is meant to encourage people to know what they are drinking and empower them to make these drinks at home.”
- Pure Order Brewing Company: combining German tradition with the Santa Barbara lifestyle through using only four ingredients–hops, malt, yeast, and water.
- Telegraph Brewing Company: merging traditional European brewing techniques with locally grown ingredients.
- 101 Cider House: made with natural ingredients, locally sourced herbs and 100% fresh pressed fruits.
- Symbiosis Jun: traditionally fermented tea made with green tea and local honey.
- Bees Brothers Brewing Mead: made by local beekeepers.
- Unity Vibration Kombucha Beer: made with organic dried hops and organic fruits.
- Cutler’s Artisan Sprits: spirits produced using fresh and local ingredients.
- Ventura Spirits: hand crafted novel spirits of bold and unique flavors.
- Dozens of local and regional fermented alcoholic libations including traditionally crafted wild and sour ale, native yeast fermented wine, cider, mead, jun, sake, distilled spirits, fermentation-inspired cocktails, and other creative libations.
- Small Bites created by SOhO Restaurant, Bob Appetit and our Culinary Collaborators featuring locally sourced ingredients and ferments of all kinds.
- The DIY pickle station you saw at the Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival—a collaboration between Pure Order Brewing Co and Pacific Pickle Works, providing a unique experience to ferment seasonal vegetables with fresh beer.
- Engaging educational talks by traditional alcohol fermentation experts on wild yeast and bacteria, botanical spirits, DIY brews, traditional sake and absinthe.
- Valley Brewers pop-up shop featuring all the supplies you need to jump start your next home brew project.
The Wild Brew Fest is a highly cooperative event. SOhO Restaurant & Music Club, Cultivate Events and Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival’s partners for the festival collaborated with fifteen culinary partners to create a menu that is 100% local.
Proceeds benefit SOL Food, a local non-profit that promotes seasonal organic and local food and permaculture projects in Santa Barbara County.
This event highlights a very important aspect of traditionally brewed alcohol—it is meant to be shared. So come taste and learn about the area’s best traditionally brewed and wild fermented beer, cider, jun, mead, wine, sake, spirits and more at the first annual Santa Barbara Wild Brew Fest and find out how you can help keep the art of traditionally fermented alcoholic beverages alive.
If you’re interested in learning more, or you just want to taste the best traditionally made beer, wine, mead, cider, jun, kombucha beer, and sake our community has to offer, plan on attending Wild Brew Fest on March 6 from 3pm-6pm at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club. For more info and to purchase tickets, visit WildBrewFest.NightOut.com. The event includes tastings of more than two dozen traditionally fermented and locally crafted libations, tasty bites featuring ferments of all kinds, a DIY Pickle Station, and talks by experts in traditional alcohol fermentation.