Central Coast Family Outing

It has become a November tradition for us to travel down to the southern part of the Central Coast to explore what is new in their beer scene. This year, we took the opportunity of Merideth being off work on Veteran’s Day to make the journey to San Luis Obispo County to visit two new breweries.

Porter and Stout in Pismo Beach

On a rainy morning, we piled Porter and Stout into the car and headed  south. Wanting to make the day a family outing, our first stop was a park in Pismo Beach to walk the dogs. Unfortunately, my research turned out to be faulty. What I thought was an off-leash park, turned out to be a leash-only park. My mistake was compounded by a light rain beginning to fall. After a short on-leash walk, Porter and Stout looked very disappointed as we bundled them back into the car.

Pismo Brewing in downtown Pismo Beach

It was a short ride from the park to downtown Pismo Beach. This was our first time in the city center of this well-visited tourist community. Pismo Beach Brewing is conveniently located on a side street a block from the main drag.

Taster set at Pismo Brewing

The cozy tasting room was sparsely populated. Merideth and I grabbed a seat at the granite-topped bar in front of the TV so I could watch the USA v France soccer match.

There were six beers to sample in their taster set. From several sources, we had heard Pismo was having brewing “issues” and this came out as a distinct “house”flavor in the beers. Both Merideth and I found this flavor to be a bit odd, especially in the lighter-bodied beers. For me, the IPA was the most drinkable, as the nice hop bite overtook the house flavor.

I certainly hope Pismo works out their brewing issues because I took a liking to the place. We’ll give them more time and make another visit in the future.

Tap It Brewing

Tap It Brewing, located next to the San Luis Obispo airport, was the second stop on our outing. Walking into the small tasting room, we were greeted by the friendly bartender. Explaining that we wanted to watch the soccer match, she led us from the front room to a much larger orange-colored space that included the brewery and a bevy of orange-colored tables. Merideth and I found a seat in front of the big TV and set down to watch the second half of the USA v France match.

Tap It had two beers on, a Pale Ale and an IPA. They were very enjoyable with a similar citrus hop character. Of course, the IPA was my beer of choice.

Hope Porter and Stout don't see this picture

The star of our Tap It visit was the very friendly brewery cat. As soon as we sat down, the cat jumped up on our table to check out our beers. Within a minute, the cat was purring on my lap. I felt bad for Porter and Stout, who were sitting out in the cold car.

At the end of the match, we finished our beers and bade farewell to our new kitty friend. It was time to begin the journey home. Our trip to San Luis Obispo County was short but it is always a fun experience seeing what our Central Coast brethren are up to.

View all the images from our Central Coast outing…

A SLO Saturday

We decided to break from our normal weekend routine and take a little road trip down to San Luis Obispo. Lately, weekends have been about Merideth writing the book and me doing yard work. We needed a little respite.

Our early beer travels mostly involved day trips to nearby cities. We were young and didn’t have money for elaborate trips.  It’s interesting how things come full circle, except we’re not that young anymore.

SLO’s newest beer venture

We left Carmel Valley bright and early on Saturday morning and drove two and a half hours to our first stop, two-month old Creekside Brewing in San Luis Obispo. After Creekside, we planned to head back north, stopping at the string of breweries that were about 10 minutes apart.

Did you know there is a creek that runs through SLO city center? I certainly didn’t. Located a block off of downtown, Creekside Brewing sits right above San Luis Creek in a very pleasant, small-town California setting.

Creekside’s outdoor seating overlooking the creek

There is a cave-like bar downstairs, but on this beautiful Saturday, we sat on their quaint little deck that overlooks the creek and ordered a taster set.

Creekside had five beers available to try; Hefeweizen, Dunkelweizen, Pale Ale, Stout and a ‘Lite’ beer. Unfortunately, they were out of  IPA which, as a hophead, is my benchmark beer.

All the beers, were well done; the Stout had a nice roast to it; the Hefeweizen was very Bavarian. Even the ‘Lite’ had a bit of oomph for the usually dreaded style.

Summer weather really hit California on Saturday and it was nice to relax with a Hefeweizen and watch the world go by… at least for a hour or so.

Central Coast Brewing

A short drive brought us to our second stop in San Luis Obispo, Central Coast Brewing. It began in 1998 as a brew on premise and, like other BOPs, Central Coast altered their business model as the craze waned.

Their new model has them brewing their own beers under the Central Coast Brewing label as well as making private label brews for local restaurants. On Saturdays, you can still brew your own batch of beer.

Today’s offerings at Central Coast

The couches set in front of the bar area make the tasting room cozy. There is a nice outdoor standing area, as well. Presently, CCB can only serve taster-sized beers. However, in the future they hope to serve full pints. In the time that we were there, a steady stream of customers came through ordering tasters and purchasing bottles to go.

Beers are 5 tasters for $5 from their regular beers, with specialty beer tasters costing $2 each. We had almost nine beers to choose from with the most interesting being a Chai Cream Ale. The second chai-flavored beer we have tried in the last year, I have to say that the Stout we had at Yak & Yeti was a better complimentary style to the chai. As Merideth commented, the light body of the cream ale gave it the flavor of a holiday spiced beer. The Chai Cream Ale will be great to drink in the Fall.

In the end, we weren’t able to spend a lot of time relaxing at Central Coast because our friend JJ called. She was waiting for us at Dunbar Brewing.

Taster set at Dunbar

The newest entry on the Central Coast beer scene is Dunbar Brewing in Santa Margarita, a one road town just north of San Luis Obispo. Located in a small space behind Ancient Peak Winery’s tasting room, Dunbar could be one of the smallest breweries we have ever seen. The kit appeared to be one of those high-end homebrew set ups that I have always dreamed of having (if I ever manage to actually get back into homebrewing). Dunbar Brewing is a one-man operation and Chris was manning the bar as we entered the air-conditioned oasis.

Merideth and JJ

Joining JJ and a bevy of locals at the intimate bar, we ordered our taster set. Chris had five beers available, English Ale (a Bitter), IPA, Scotch Ale, Brown Porter and a Stout. It is always a somewhat dodgy proposition visiting a very new brewery – sometimes things aren’t quite dialed in – but Chris’ beers were quite nice.  The IPA and the Porter were the standouts.

It was great catching up with JJ. Unfortunately, the afternoon was progressing and we had one more stop to make.

Union Jack IPA with it’s 2008 GABF Gold Medal

While we have no plans of moving, if we did, it might be farther south on the Central Coast to be closer to Firestone-Walker. I am a huge fan of their beers and we just don’t get to their tasting room enough.

Besides the regular lineup of beers, there was a Hefeweizen and Lil Opal, a 3.5% session beer made from the second running of their Big Opal Wheat Wine.  Both were very tasty beers. What I really stopped for was a brewery fresh pint of Union Jack, Firestone’s 2008 GABF gold medal winning IPA. Not only did I get a pint, but I was also able to hold Matt’s gold medal.

Our SLO day was over.  A beautiful day, good beer and great people… another satisfying day of beer travel.