Thursday, December 5, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 40
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Orcutt's Blast 825 Brewery ushers in new era with self-pour wall of taps

NICK POWELL

The wonder of self-pour taps might be common knowledge in some circles, but they’re all brand spanking new to me. On a recent Friday, I explored these space-age contraptions at the vaguely corporate but also thoroughly enjoyable Blast 825 Brewery in Old Orcutt. This new way to serve beer works like this:

Patrons prove their age and give their money to a bartender, who programs a seemingly magical card with enough credits to cover 32 ounces of beer. Then the happy patron can take that wonderful card and stroll over to a wall of taps with 40 plus options and digital explanations of each brew. Placing the card in a special slot at each tap activates the faucet and lets the beer flow. People can sip samples at their leisure or pour full pints of their favorites. Glasses are at the ready in a nearby refrigerator. 


A Blast and a half
For a good time, head to Blast 825 Brewery, where fun is king. The service is fast and friendly; the drinks are plentiful; and the food is a step above your basic bar grub. Check the restaurant’s calendar on Facebook for a list of special events, like a comedy show Sept. 5, regular concerts, DJ nights, and Sunday brunches with bottomless drink options throughout football season. Located at 241 S. Broadway St., unit 101, in Old Orcutt.

SELF-TAPPER BREWS
Through its cunning application of space-age technology, Blast 825 Brewery takes something good (beer) and makes it better. A fancy card programmed with your personal running tab lets you buy by the ounce and sample as many styles as you’d like.
PHOTO BY NICK POWELL

It’s a beautiful system and a truly remarkable feat of modern science. Someday we’ll struggle to describe to our grandchildren the paralyzing anxiety of selecting one beer when there’s 37 options and a roomful of people vying for the attention of the rushed bartenders. All you could do was order the first IPA you saw and hope for the best.

I was there to have a little drink and chat with William D’Urso, a new colleague here at the Sun who just moved to the area from Long Beach. He owed me a beer, and I had heard that Blast 825 Brewery had a new menu. 

D’Urso has been around a bit—raised in Vermont, studied in Germany, then wrote for years in Los Angeles. He’d seen this self-pour situation before and showed me the ropes. It was everything I’d ever wanted from a beer sampling experience. I always feel like I’m putting the bartender through hell asking to sample this and that, even if it’s slow at the bar. I choose quickly, but I would love to take my time and taste different styles. Flights are fun, but they’re kind of cumbersome and don’t let you go all in if you really like a particular draught. Self-pour solves all of those issues.


COWBOY, BABY
Forget barbecue chicken pizza. I know it’s a classic for a reason, but it’s time to mix things up a bit—with some tri-tip. This Orcutt Cowboy pizza was blasted at 825 degrees Fahrenheit and served crispy and chewy and cheesy all at the same time.
PHOTO BY NICK POWELL

With so many options, I wanted to try something outside my comfort zone and went for a pear hard cider and a sour beer with cucumber. Both were interesting but not really my bag. I tried a hazy double IPA from Offshoot Beer Co. that D’Urso recommended and remembered why I keep coming back to those dependably delicious IPAs. This one had strong hops with a juicy sweetness in the background, which apparently comes from the specific yeast strains that produce the signature cloudy haze. I later tried to search Offshoot Beer Co.’s website to find the specific name of their brew, but these people seem to dedicate their entire production toward pumping out new hazy IPAs every week. So I don’t know if I had the Two if by Sea or the Stretch or the Pawz. I also suspect that, given the great example I sampled and their constant focus and experimentation on only hazy IPAs, most of their beers are probably very good.

Blast 825 Brewery gets its name from their extreme-heat pizza ovens that can cook a medium-sized pie to crispy perfection in just three minutes at 825 degrees Fahrenheit, so I had to try a pizza and chose one with a local twist, the Orcutt Cowboy, which was basically a classic barbecue pizza but with tri-tip subbed in for chicken. 


WHO’S A GOOD CHIP?
Nacho enthusiasts often get so consumed in constructing the perfect pile of toppings that they end up with only a few perfect bites before it all kind of melts into that sad swamp of limp chips. But these babies stayed crisp, even when drenched in delicious beer cheese.
PHOTO BY NICK POWELL

Otherwise, the menu offered mostly standard but inviting franchise fair—burgers, apps, salads, and steaks. D’Urso ordered nachos, and both plates came out almost immediately. The food was good, not anything amazing, but solid. I enjoyed it, and it went great with the beers. It just wasn’t the star of the show.

The vibe made the experience. Every section of the building seemed perfectly designed to maximize fun. The patio area was kid friendly with cornhole and games. The dining room was spacious enough for patrons to spread out but set up so that tables retained some privacy. The bar was lively with a musician onstage and folks moving back and forth to sample beers. The service was attentive and friendly. The entire time I was there, I don’t think I ever had to wait for anything. 

I had beers to sample in the brief time our food was cooking and good conversation back at our seats. If ever it lulled, we could pop up for another little sample of something.

D’Urso noted that the place seemed like it was designed precisely to appeal to millennials, which both of us are. It made sense. I’d never felt so understood, so truly seen by anyone, let alone a restaurant. They knew what I wanted before I did. I’m not sure how to feel about it.


PEAKING AT PRETZELS
It was love at first sight. The only problem? I didn’t order that pretzel. It belonged to an exceedingly nice and patient couple across the bar who graciously let some weirdo take pictures of their food.
PHOTO BY NICK POWELL

Run by Milano Restaurants International, a franchiser specializing in American/Italian casual dining, Blast 825 Brewery is our generation’s Applebee’s or Chili’s. I could tell that the vibe was methodically fabricated, but that was easy to overlook because it’s exactly what I want in a bar experience. They’re even hosting a comedy show Sept. 5, and they sometimes set up Sunday bounce houses so kids and parents can enjoy their weekends at the same spot. 

My only lingering unease comes from the clearly pressured, overly eager service. It’s a weird complaint when the service is too good, but I’ve had to pretend to be that eager. I just get uncomfortable whenever I witness it.

When our 32 ounces were divided and consumed and we ran out of politics to talk, D’Urso went off to work on what sounds like a doozy of an article, and I went home to watch Hulu with the people I love. Not a bad evening. 

Contributor Nick Powell is looking for interesting people to show off their favorite food spots. Please send itineraries to npowell@santamariasun.com.

Powell’s Picks

• I tried the new bao buns that were recently added to the menu at Al Pho in Santa Maria this weekend, and they were killer little snacks. This Asian street food is similar to tacos in that some meat and veggies are folded into a flat bread, but the combination of cilantro, pickled onion, carrots, pork belly, and Sriracha sauce on those fluffy rice buns is off the charts. Get your hands on some at 1201 E Main St. 

Flying Goat Cellars in Lompoc is celebrating its 20th harvest with an intimate winemaker dinner at the 1251 West Laurel Ave. location on Sept. 14. Attendees will get a sneak peak if the harvest process, advanced samples of upcoming wines, and a delicious lunch with vegetarian options. Tickets cost $50 for the general public and $25 for wine club members.

• There’s a new noodle in the house, specifically chef Golzar Barrera’s APF Ramen at Haven Provisions in Solvang. This long-term pop-up noodle house opens Sept. 5 and will serve high quality ramen from Thursday to Sunday with lunch and dinner services. On Sunday, they switch gears and serve a Persian-inspired brunch, featuring a beef shank stew and a sweet and savory chicken porridge. Stop by 448 Atterdag Road for a truly unique breakfast. 

Contributing writer Nick Powell is cooking up ideas for fresh food recommendations. Send your suggestions to npowell@santamariasun.com.




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What do you think of the wind energy project the county Planning Commission approved just south of Lompoc?

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