If we believe (as we should) that San Luis Obispo (aka SLO) County has the correct relationship of breweries per capita, then there should be at least 33,000 breweries across the United States (at last count, there were just over 8,000 or so). Clearly the rest of the country has some catching up to do. This is a beer-lover’s paradise: More than a dozen microbreweries now produce award-winning beers here.
But let’s begin this tour of Central Coast breweries 30 miles to the north, in Paso Robles. There, the enormous—and perennial medal-winner—Firestone Walker Brewing Company invites you to take a tour of its facility, then relax with seasonal bistro fare in The Taproom restaurant.
Heading south, to the aforementioned brewing hotbed of San Luis Obispo, be sure to hit the first brewery to enter the field, way back in 1988: SLO Brew. Naturally popular in that youthful and lively university town, SLO Brew is still going strong, and its family-friendly brewery and taproom The Rock boasts indoor/outdoor seating, fire pits, and games and activities. Other standout brewmeisters that have opened their taps since then are Central Coast Brewing and Barrelhouse, as well as Tap It, 7Sisters, Santa Maria Brewing, and Bang the Drum breweries.
Not even 15 miles away, on the coast itself, in the dramatic meeting of earth and sea that is Morro Bay, gastropub brewer The Libertine Pub offers an eclectic menu and spirited beers. Heading south a bit into the heart of the Central Coast’s wine country, you’ll find father-and-son run Figueroa Mountain Brewery, which has five tap rooms stretching from Arroyo Grande down to Westlake Village, just north of Los Angeles. Also further south, in Goleta, Hollister Brewing Company has up to 15 different creations on tap at any given time. And of course Santa Barbara, with its proximity to Isla Vista, home of UC Santa Barbara and over 20,000 college students, has a few breweries of its own: Pure Order Brewing Company, Third Window Brewing, and Telegraph Brewing Co. should all be on any beer lover’s brewery-visit list.