Island Brewing Company

By Curtis Taylor

Sun, Surf and Suds

What could be better than sitting on a patio in the warm Southern California sun with a view of the Pacific Ocean? How about sitting on a patio in the warm sun with a view of the Pacific while enjoying a fresh beer? Fortunately for those of us who live here or for those who are driving through Southern California, there is such a place and it is called Island Brewing Company (IBC).

IBC is located in Carpinteria, Calif., a quintessential surf town where nearly every palm tree-lined street will lead you to the beach. And all of this is just the icing on the cake as IBC is better known for their award winning beers. Most recently, they won a gold medal at the World Beer Cup in May 2012 for their foreign extra stout named Starry Night.

IBC is no stranger to Great American Beer Festival (GABF) honors, either. Their Big Island IPA—a massively hopped and highly alcoholic double IPA, aged in bourbon barrels—was a gold medal winner in the barrel-aged category at the 2010 GABF. Big Island also took gold at the L.A. International Beer Festival in 2012 with three other IBC beers!

What You Should Know

First Friday Cask Tappings

Once a month, IBC features one of their beers as a cask-conditioned ale. What makes this so special is that one cask of the beer is racked off of the batch before it’s finished fermenting into a small keg. When the beer has finished fermenting and conditioning, it is then tapped each month at an event called First Friday. The beer is served much warmer and at lower carbonation levels than usual, but serving the beer this way allows the malt flavors to shine through. These beers are generally consumed by the end of the weekend, so be sure to check out their website so you don’t miss the next First Friday cask tapping.

Barrel-Aged Bottles

IBC also ages some of their bigger beers in bourbon barrels. Look for these bottles in their taproom beer fridge as they are rarely on tap. 

Eats at IBC

The IBC taproom doesn’t serve food so you will want to bring your own; homemade or carryout, all is welcome. However, if you do come in and stay longer than you thought and need some food (believe me, this happens a lot) they keep menus from local restaurants on hand so you can easily order some take out or delivery. Every once in a while, IBC will host special events or food trucks, so be sure to like or follow IBC on Facebook and Twitter so you can plan accordingly.

In the Beginning

Before there were gold medals, barrel-aging programs or even many homebrew supply shops, Paul Wright, owner/brewmaster of IBC, thought he was going to become a wine maker. As a matter of fact, Paul spent a few years making his own wine after he completed his formal fermentation education at UC Davis. Fortunately for us beer geeks, he was never happy with the way his wines turned out and one fateful Christmas, Paul’s wife gave him a Beer Machine which forever changed his life. 

Shortly thereafter, Paul joined a homebrew club, retired the Beer Machine, went all grain and became president of his homebrew club. Under his leadership and with help from its talented members, Homebrewers Of Marin and Elsewhere (HOME) became the California homebrew club of the year.

Through his work with HOME, Paul became interested in commercial brewing and started volunteering at Marin Brewing Company in Lakespur, Calif., where he started on the ground floor, quite literally. His first jobs were cleaning the floors and kegs. He eventually moved up to kegging and bottling a couple days a week and this is where Paul added real-world brewing experience to his UC Davis education.

When Paul’s day job relocated to Las Vegas, he and his family decided moving to Sin City just wasn’t going to work for them and they packed up their bags and moved south to Carpinteria. It was then and there that Paul realized his dream and opened IBC, and he hasn’t looked back! By the way, the original Beer Machine kit can still be seen at the brewery sitting in a place of honor over Paul’s office.

The Future of IBC

Soon IBC will be getting on the band, err can-wagon. That’s right, cans. The canning machine is setup and the cans have arrived, but the can design/labeling is holding up the process. Paul is hopeful that the full setup and canning process will begin late this winter. I am especially looking forward to this, as it means there won’t be any reason that I can’t have a beer at the beach. Well, almost no reason. Anyway, keep an eye out for their official announcement sometime this winter!


Curtis TaylorCurtis Taylor, @HopHeadSaid, is a Certified Cicerone® and writes about food pairings and other beer-geekery at HopHeadSaid.com.