Jan 19, 2016 – If there is one word to describe Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing’s annual Twisted Tasting, it would be BIG. Everything about the experimental beer event is grand, momentous, out of the ordinary. And each year it gets bigger and bigger, with thematic inspiration to push it over the top every time. For the 2016 Twisted Tasting, on January 30th, it really couldn’t get any bigger. The Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium will be transformed into a Big Top, where vintage circus characters will set the stage for what will be, in founder Emily Thomas’ words, “a freakshow of the senses.”
Wild costumes, decadent food pairings, lively entertainment, and, of course, lots and lots of beer are what one can expect at these memorable events. In year’s past, brewers from near and far were invited to bring their experiments, creating a crowd of visitors from far afield. But this year, Thomas says, “With the explosion of breweries opening over the last two years, the trend within the industry is to drink local and distribute local. We have breweries joining us from the Bay Area and the Central Coast, but with all of the great breweries in Santa Cruz, we really didn’t have to reach too far.”
The truth is that Santa Cruz is a new epicenter of the beer community, and that growth isn’t looking to slow down anytime soon. There’s at least three new companies set to open any day now, including East Cliff Brewing, Shanty Shack and Elkhorn Slough Brewing Company down in Watsonville. Elkhorn Slough will be making their premier at Twisted Tasting, along with all of our other beloved local brewers, contributing some very noteworthy, not-to-be-missed quaffs to sip.
Thomas says, “The great thing about Twisted is that it gives brewers a chance to take a break from brewing the daily flagships and get creative with ingredients and processes. All year long, I think about beers for Twisted. Last summer we were working with the most amazing Santa Rosa plums at the Cremer House. Those plums not only had the perfect balance of tart and juicy sweet, but their aroma was unlike yields we had worked with before. I knew that I had to make a beer with them.”
“We got 50 pounds from Knoll farms and using a couple of chardonnay barrels from Odonata, blended them with an amber style ale. One of those barrels will be paired at Twisted. The aroma of those Santa Rosa plums really shines in this barrel-aged amber,” she adds.
Various ciders and spirits from our local Venus Spirits will be on offer as well, so if beer isn’t your thing you can still take part. And the food alone is sure to coax some folks out, with astounding concoctions being planned by El Salchichero, Kickin’ Chicken, Companion Bakeshop, Lionfish Supperclub, Real Good Fish, The Cremer House, The Kitchen at Discretion Brewing and Assembly.
Tabitha Stroup, owner and creative mastermind behind Friend in Cheeses Jam Co., has given a sneak peek, saying she will be making something called the “3CPO” with Fiscalini XO bandage wrap 28-month cheddar shards and candied chilies to go with Corralitos Brewing’s Coconut Porter, as well as maple cotton candy for the Corralitos Chili Porter, made with peppers from Fire Tongue Farm.
Andrea Mollenauer from The Food Lounge is collaborating with SCMB “to come up with elevated circus-themed cuisine,” hints Thomas.
But perhaps one of the most interesting things on tap at Twisted this year isn’t something to consume, but to watch. “This year I was able to twist the arm of my yoga teacher, Puja Chance, and have the Samba Stilt Circus perform at Twisted. Without spoiling anything, they will have a huge presence at the event. We have also teamed up with the Aerial Arts School of Santa Cruz. They are bringing their cast of characters, jugglers, performers and, of course, artists hanging and swinging from ropes,” she adds.
Also, as partners on the event,The Arts Council is getting a few artists on board to showcase their wares, like Liz Crain’s hand-formed ceramic beer cans and Jen Hennig’s large ceramic circus-themed sculpture.
See full list of participating breweries and chefs and buy tickets here.
Amber Turpin is a food writer and baker who homesteads in Ben Lomond.