This is a big year for three Central Coast beer institutions. We’ll start with the oldest brewery in the southern half of California, SLO Brew. They’re celebrating their 30th anniversary.
Those have been eventful years. SLO Brewing was a brewpub in downtown San Luis Obispo that grew into one of the first national craft beer brands before receding into bankruptcy. New owners renamed it Downtown Brewing and revitalized it as a music venue. But another ownership change brought back the original name and a renewed focus on the beer. In the last couple of years, the original brewpub (with the original brewery) was re-located onto San Luis Obispo’s main street, a separate production brewery was opened, and widespread distribution resumed.
Yes, SLO Brew has a lot to celebrate. The big party will happen in September. In the meantime, there will be lots of anniversary beers to enjoy, including some collaboration brews.
Across town, Central Coast Brewing is celebrating its 20th anniversary. CCB started as a Brew On Premise, a place where erstwhile homebrewers could make beer without messing up their own kitchens. CCB soon converted into a production brewery but found themselves in a curious situation: They possessed three separate breweries in their facility but, for a very long time, could sell beer only in 4oz tasters! Nowadays, CCB is a powerhouse: Their Monterey Street Pale Ale is recognized as an industry standard.
CCB marked its 20th year by opening a second, larger brewing facility in early March. I’ll describe their new place in a separate article. In the meantime, check it out yourself: Exit the 101 freeway at Madonna Road but turn away from the famous Madonna Inn. On the other side of the freeway, turn right at the T-intersection and look to the right.
Speaking of the Madonna Inn, yes, you will find a big beer festival there come Memorial Day weekend. The California Festival of Beers was one of the oldest beer festivals in the U.S. However, after some 30 years, the fest’s longstanding sponsoring charity decided to fold its tent.
Tradition cannot be denied so there will still be a beer festival come Memorial Day weekend. The new organizers are the people behind the very successful SLO and Visalia Craft Beer Festivals so we know the new event is in good hands.
They plan to return the festival to its roots: lots of beers from anywhere & everywhere. Remember, the California Festival of Beers was originally named the International Festival of Beers. Back when it started, there were only a handful of craft breweries in the entire country. The event had no choice but to feature beers from all over the world.
In other news, Firestone Walker is adjusting its beer portfolio again. Discontinued is Pale 31, the pale ale that was so long a FW cornerstone. Apparently, pale ale doesn’t sell like it used to.
But returning is Firestone Lager, the third beer FW ever brewed. Yes, back in the 90s, long before there was Union Jack, FW offered a lager alongside its iconic DBA. Firestone Lager is a Münchner, not a pils. Try it alongside a Pivo to sense the difference.
Meanwhile FW’s Barrelworks is celebrating five years in Buellton. They’ll mark the year by releasing some Barrelworks beers in cans while building a coolship in a nearby vineyard.
Up the street, Libertine Brewing’s satellite Buellton tasting room is stalled. However, they will be opening a second satellite tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara.
Before this year is over, longstanding Santa Barbara Brewing will be joined on State Street by Libertine, Modern Times, Institution Ales, Captain Fatty’s, and Night Lizard. With The Brewhouse on the other side of the train station and Figueroa Mountain and Topa Topa only steps away in the Funk Zone, downtown Santa Barbara will soon host a crowded beer scene.
Central Coast Brewing Co.
6 Higuera Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401