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Two special "Dinner With the Winemakers" fundraising events for the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute in Santa Barbara, which aids diabetic children and adults, will be held in the coming months. They'll feature great chefs -- you'll feast like epicurean royalty -- and winemakers. 

At Ember restaurant in Arroyo Grande on April 10, wines by Sinor-LaVallee, Ancient Peaks, Deovlet Wines and Biddle Ranch Vineyard will be featured. Winemakers Mike Sinor and Ryan Deovlet will pour their terrific wines and discuss them with attendees. Chef Brian Collins, owner of Ember, is creating an exciting multicourse dinner, paired with wines from these participating winemakers.

The second winemaker dinner will be May 17 at S.Y. Kitchen in Santa Ynez and feature wines by Storm Wines and Notary Public, both made by winemaker Ernst Storm.

There also is a dinner in the works for the fall in Santa Barbara with winemaker Paul Lato of Lato Wine Company.

Because these are fundraisers, tickets are higher priced at $250 per person, but you can get tax credit for your donation.

For details and tickets to attend the Ember Winemakers Dinner, visit events/event-registration.aspx?id=2261.

For more information, contact Kara Hornbuckle, event and stewardship manager with Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, at 805-682-7640, ext. 246, or email her at khornbuckle

Firestone introduces a new lager

I have loved Firestone Walker craft brews ever since 1996, the first year they were created. I only recently learned, nearly 18 years after the release of the original Firestone Lager, that Firestone Walker Brewing Company (usually referred to simply as Firestone) has brought it back.

It’s reportedly a new and improved lager for those who who want a superior lager.

I must admit, wine is first and foremost my love in the craft beverage world, but Firestone ranks among my favorites for craft brews.

“Our original Firestone Lager came out in 2000, but it proved to be ahead of its time," Firestone brewmaster Matt Brynildson said. "But it eventually got squashed by the hoppy beer craze.

"Now that people are finally coming around to the idea of craft lager beers, we felt it was high time to revisit and reinvent Firestone Lager.

"The result is a next-generation lager that is impeccably brewed, impossibly smooth and uniquely easy to drink. This is a beer with deep local roots, so we thought it would be fun to do something special for our friends in the community.”

He continued: “We pulled out the original Firestone Lager recipe, dusted it off and used it for inspiration,” noting that the original Firestone Lager was discontinued in 2007.

“The DNA of the original is still there, but we tweaked the malt and hop bills. The result is a lager that is steeped in tradition, but with a touch of modern New World flair.”

Brynildson pointed out that while it’s Firestone Walker’s easiest beer to drink, it's the most difficult one to make.

“This beer demands technical perfection from our entire team, from the brewhouse to the lab," he said. "When brewing a lager beer, you’re working with this bright, transparent canvas that will reveal the smallest flaw.”

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The completion of Firestone Walker’s state-of-the-art brewhouse extension last summer helped drive the dream of revisiting the lager style, Brynildson said.

“We have the team, and now the tools, to execute on this pursuit of the perfect lager which I think is every brewmaster’s dream.”

At the Firestone brewery, the brewmaking team commonly calls this lager the “unicorn beer.”

“It’s this idea of something that a lot of people don’t think exists, a beer that offers the same easy-drinking attributes of mass domestic lager, but with pure craft quality and an all-malt pedigree,” Brynildson said.

He added that while Firestone Walker remains at full throttle with its IPAs and other hop-driven beers like Pivo, Firestone Lager fills a void in the brewery’s portfolio with a bit of a break for both the palate and the mind.

“At the end of the day, Firestone Lager is made for drinking, not thinking,” Brynildson said. “It’s all about enjoying a good, clean beer.”

Learn more about this fine, multiple-award-winning brewhouse and its tasting rooms in Buellton and Paso Robles at They also have very good restaurants at both locations.


Reach Kathy Marcks Hardesty at Kathy@ centralcoastcritic .com.