GABF medals are fun to write about. As explained elsewhere in this issue, GABF medals mean something. For any brewer, winning one is a high professional achievement.
This year, Central California brewers had plenty to brag about — in “threes” yet. For starters, Figueroa Mountain won three medals this year. And one of those winners, Lighter Than I Look dark lager, medaled for the third year in a row!
Central Coast Brewing of San Luis Obispo did the same trick with Monterey Street Pale Ale. Having scored gold or silver in the past three years, this beer is now a standard for American-Style Pale Ale, one of the most competitive and prestigious GABF categories.
Salinas’s Alvarado Street Brewery also brought home a medal for the third straight year. This year, the victor was Yeast of Eden — Skeptics & Believers, a sour beer. Originally famous for California commons and IPAs, Alvarado Street recently began “playing” with kettle sours. This medal proves that the brewery is good at it.
Three breweries won their first GABF medals, and all three were gold! Two were sour beers: Goleta’s Captain Fatty’s winner was Kalliope, a Berliner weiss, while Casa Agria of Oxnard won with El Sur, a lambic brew. Dust Bowl Brewing broke through with Public Enemy Baltic Porter. That victory was particularly well deserved. The Turlock brewery makes some very good beers; unfortunately, too many of them don’t seem to fit into the GABF’s categories.
Finally, Firestone Walker added “only” two medals to its trophy wall. FW’s Pivo claimed its latest award, further proving it is one of the best pilsners in Craft Beerland. Their other winner was 10 Buck Chuck, a collaboration sour brew FW made with Silva Brewing.
In other news, two new breweries opened, while a third returned. The returnee was the Three Stacks and a Rock establishment in Morro Bay. That place opened earlier this year but closed only a few months later without ever serving a drop of its own beer. New owners just reopened the place, this time with beers made on-site!
The first beers numbered three: Smash Pilot Pale Ale; Crash Pilot, the same beer but flavored with chilies; and JSR Chocolate Porter. By the time you read this, at least two IPAs and a lager will have joined the list. Since the house brewery is a little nano, expect lots of experimentation.
There are guest beers too. Recent choices included The Bruery, Modern Times Beer and Saint Archer, as well as locals Santa Maria and Central Coast. The menu is equally brief: house-made chips, truffle fries, hummus, bratwurst and grilled prosciutto and cheese sandwiches.
To check out the return of “3S&R,” head north on Highway 1 past the turnoff for Highway 41 and turn right at the first stoplight. Quickly turn left onto the frontage road and look for the brewery in a strip mall on your right.
In San Luis Obispo, 7 Sisters Brewing has opened after a long “fermentation.” There’s a large patio, almost as large as the establishment itself, and a crowning mural of the landmark Seven Sisters peaks.
Nearby, in San Luis Obispo, 7 Sisters Brewing has opened after a long “fermentation.” It’s a good-looking place, using all sorts of recycled materials. The bar was built from old school lockers, and former shop tables fill the seating area. There’s a large patio, almost as large as the establishment itself, and a crowning mural of the landmark Seven Sisters peaks. (The Seven Sisters are the remnants of ancient volcanos. Morro Rock, marking Morro Bay’s harbor, is the most famous.)
The owner and brewer built his own brewery, and he’s already shown he’s not afraid to experiment with it. Table Beer, a Belgian single, serves as his “intro” beer. His Morro Rock Kolsch is flavored with cucumber and lime, while his Belgian ale features peppercorns, and his brown ale is spicy. The IPA is a single-hop brew with a different hop in every batch! An upcoming imperial stout promises to be just as interesting.
The menu of snacks and treats is equally playful. There are three different grilled cheese sandwiches, a farmer’s board of local cheese and salumi (pricey, but worth it) and something called a SLO cone. That last item is an ice cream cone stuffed with salumi and cheeses and topped with a savory sauce.
To experience 7 Sisters, exit the 101 freeway at Los Osos Valley Road and turn east in the direction of the airport. At the T-intersection, turn left, and then turn right after passing a Trader Joe’s. Take the first right and look to your left.
About 30 minutes north, in Atascadero, you’ll find the new Dead Oak Brewing Company inside a downtown storefront. Walking in, you’ll see a wood-topped bar on the left, lots of communal tables and, in the rear, a brewery behind a waist-high wooden fence. Judging by Dead Oak’s first beers, the brewery’s forte will be well-made versions of classic styles like brown ale, cream ale and porter. The early standout is English Special, a particularly good take on ESB. A pale ale and a kettle sour lead the coming attractions. IPA? Dead Oak calls its “Another IPA.” I kinda like their attitude.
To judge for yourself, exit the 101 freeway at Highway 41 and turn east into downtown Atascadero. Turn left at the first stoplight. One block after passing a park, turn right. Dead Oak will be on your right. Note: Dead Oak is around the corner from the Street Side Ale House, which, in turn, is across the street from Atascadero’s first brewery, Tent City.
Elsewhere in Atascadero, Santa Maria Brewing is building a brewery and distillery within a former Harley-Davidson dealership. The brewery, now being installed, was formerly Dunbar Brewing’s production facility in nearby Santa Margarita. Expect Santa Maria Brewing to open its Atascadero site in mid-2018.
Meanwhile, be on the lookout for Firestone Walker XXI, the brewery’s annual anniversary beer. This year’s edition starts with Velvet Merlin oatmeal stout and ends with a dash of Helldorado Blonde Barley Wine Ale. Add three other beers, and the result is full of alcohol and terrific for communal drinking. Share a bottle with (many) friends.
Three Stacks and a Rock Brewing
3118 Main St.
Moro Bay, CA 93442
7 Sisters Brewing
181 Tank Farm Rd.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Dead Oak Brewing
5905 Entrada Ave.
Atascadero, CA 93422