San Luis Obispo gave its name to the county it is found in, about half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles.
It was first established by the Spanish in the 18th century and is known for its historic architecture, an underground series of tunnels below the city, and the California Polytechnic State University. Despite being so far from two major cities, San Luis Obispo has close to 10 breweries in the city, all of which are worth visiting.
1. Central Coast Brewing
Central Coast Brewing has been brewing since the dawn of the craft beer age. Set up in 1998, they pride themselves on their one-of-a-kind ales and lagers.
They take their craft so seriously that they’ve developed their own Tactical Thirst Response Unit – a mobile tap truck. Rather like food trucks popping up at special events, Central Coast’s TTRU can be rented for private parties and public events.
Central Coast now has two taproom locations. The original spot has been serving San Luis Obispo for more than 20 years, both inside and out, where you can bring your own food while enjoying a pint or a flight.
Their new taproom feature its own kitchen and game room. Both taprooms have a large number of beers on draught so you can taste their wide range of flavors.
- Monterey Street – 5.5% ABV Pale Ale – Gold GABF winner in 2015 and 2017 for “American Style Pale Ale.”
- Lucky Day IPA – 7% ABV IPA – Winner of bronze at GABF 2018 for “American Style Strong Pale Ale.”
2. Libertine Brewing Company
Libertine Brewing Company prides themselves on breaking the mold of the lager-heavy beer industry in California. Having started in 2012, they brought DIPAs, Belgian sours, and barrel-aged beers to the area. Two years later, they began experimenting with wild ales.
Their taproom is something to brag about, as they have 77 taps of beer to offer, 14 of which are their own house sours.
They offer craft cocktails as an alternative to beer that use spirits from local distilleries. Libertine’s taproom has its own kitchen that celebrates taco Tuesday and serves brunch on the weekends.
This taproom is only one of four locations owned by the brewery, but worth a visit thanks to everything they offer – including comedy nights, drag shows, and trivia nights.
- Llama Shades with Apricot & Syrah – 10.2% ABV Bière de Garde – One of their highest-rated beers on Untappd, it has Syrah wine notes.
- Pacific Ocean Blue – 4.5% ABV Gose – Brewed with sea water from the Pacific itself.
3. Liquid Gravity Brewing Company
Liquid Gravity was founded by an industry veteran, Brendan Gough, who worked at several other breweries on this list before founding Liquid Gravity.
They have a tendency to brew IPAs, but like all craft breweries today they experiment in other styles such as sours, stouts, and dunkels.
The taproom at Liquid Gravity is open five days a week, each of which is assigned a visiting food truck for snacking except Sunday which is Bring Your Own Food.
They also have regular live music often set up right in front of the brew tanks. They have a large outdoor space so you can enjoy your drink on their shady patio.
- Liquid Gravity IPA – 7% ABV IPA – What better than a namesake? It’s a single-hop West Coast IPA.
- Miami Heist – 8% ABV Double Hazy NEIPA – Compare when east meets west in one of their most popular beers.
4. SLO Brew Rock
SLO Brew can boast that they’re one of California’s oldest-running brewpubs. They first opened in 1988 and have expanded beyond beer, offering quality dining alongside their award-winning beer.
SLO Brew’s dedication to brewing traditional styles doesn’t prevent them from adapting to changing time – in 2016, they started offering their beer in cans. Today, they also brew and distill micheladas and whiskeys.
SLO Brew’s brewery is housed in an establishment called The Rock, which is also the site of their taproom and restaurant.
Their kitchen offers burgers, salads, and sharing plates. They offer 23 different drinks on tap, including alcoholic kombucha.
The indoor/outdoor space is huge, offering the largest event space in the county. They don’t take reservations, so finding space is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Something to keep in mind, especially if you want to go for $5 pints at Happy Hour.
- Feelin’ Your Oats – 5.7% ABV Oatmeal Stout – Bronze winner at GABF 2016 in the “Oatmeal Stout” category.
- Mango Michelada – 4.5% ABV Michelada – Made with SLO Brew beer, this drink blends savory and sweet.
5. Barrel House Brewing Co
Barrel House Brewing Co is the largest family-owned craft brewery in the county. They started in 2013 and have prided themselves on remaining independent ever since.
Now, they have four different taproom locations where you can get exclusive, taproom-only releases. Their regular line-up is strictly IPA-based, available year-round and in bottles and cans. Lately, Barrel House has been dipping their toes in sour ale brewing.
Barrel House’s San Luis Obispo taproom is a speakeasy, built in a never-before-used space downstairs in historic downtown.
They have 16 taps from which they pour their regular line-up, special brews, and their very limited edition barrel-aged beer. You can simply enjoy you drink, play a game of shuffleboard, or gather friends for live music or trivia nights.
- Strawberry Daze – 5% ABV Blonde Ale – Brewed with fresh strawberries for a summery taste.
- Curly Wolf – 9% ABV Imperial Stout – Their highest-rated beer on Untappd. It’s brewed with maple syrup, vanilla, coffee, and coconut.
6. Humdinger Brewing
Humdinger is a micro-brewpub in Arroyo Grande, just south of San Luis Obispo, but well worth the mention. They only have four fermentors but manage to produce enough beer to warrant an exclusive member’s club. There are three different levels to the club that you can choose from. Before you commit, maybe a trip to the taproom to test them out.
The taproom is conveniently located on the main W Branch Street of Arroyo Grande. There, you can slake you thirst from one of their many taps of their own beer and hard seltzer as well as guest beers.
You can also fill up on Taco Tuesday or Wings Wednesday, or simply enjoy their in-house kitchen any other day of the week. They often have live music and events at the taproom, too.
- Dingerdays – 4.5% ABV Fruit Beer – Have you ever had a strawberry lemonade drinking beer?
- Fog Crusher – 6.2% ABV NEIPA – Their most popular beer on Untappd.
7. Firestone Walker
This brewery hardly needs an introduction. Firestone Walker is arguably one of the best known breweries in the country. They have been so successful that they have reached commercial heights, producing over 500,000 barrels of beer in a single year.
They have won many awards, the first notable one being for their Firestone Pale Ale which was named “Best Beer in America” back in 2006.
You can visit this brewing legend’s taproom in Paso Robles where you can take a brewery tour or simply hang out (or in) in their taproom.
There’s a gastropub at this location that offers burgers, tacos, and pizzas or small bites and sharing dips served with house-made chips. They pair best with brewery-only beers – brews you can’t order anywhere else!
- Wooley Jack – 8.3% Black Rye IPA – The 2020 GABF winner of gold for “American Style Black Ale.”
- Firestone Double Barrel Ale – 5% British Pale – The first beer that put them on the map.