Santa Barbara Viva Lager

Last summer, I was all about pilsners. Depending on where I was I drank either Trumer Pils, Santa Barbara Brewing Company’s Blonde Ale or Figueroa Mountain’s New Zealand Pilsner. At home, I drank Pivo Pils. I was pilsner obsessed, and it probably burned me out a little bit because this summer has been all about hops for me.

Until now.

I stopped by Pure Order Brewing Company on Thursday afternoon to get a taste of the brewery’s Viva LAger, a coastal lager released for Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days, or Fiesta. The beer was a revelation and one of the best lagers in town. It’s my new favorite from Pure Order.

Brewer and co-owner James Burge explains the reasoning behind the Viva LAger, which is made using agave nectar during the whirlpool — a distinct departure from Pure Order’s Reinheitsgebot roots and the first foray into a series of special releases dubbed the Chaos series.

“It was a way to launch our Chaos line,” Burge said. “We thought that such a momentous occasion as Old Spanish Days was a good fit for us to go against the grain and I’ve always wanted to do a specialty beer for Fiesta. I think Fiesta is an important part of Santa Barbara, and that’s why we chose to launch our Chaos line for Santa Barbara and Pure Order Brewing Company.”

The beer seems to fall somewhere between a Vienna Lager and a Marzen both in terms of flavor and color. It’s about as dark as a Pale Ale (it’s darker than POBC’s IPA, Santa Barbara Pale Ale) and there’s a distinct caramel/toffee sweetness that rides alongside a relatively strong bitterness. All of this is lifted off the palate by a nice, effervescent carbonation.

I haven’t seen it there personally, but it’s my understanding that the beer is on tap at Union Ale and Killer B’s as well as, of course, the brewery’s tap room.

Viva La!