Photos by David Mulvihill
The Best of Both
For many years the wine regions of Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles have offered wine drinkers an abundance of notable wineries to choose from for their tasting experiences. Excellent (and plentiful) craft brewery choices now also exist. A recent summer weekend provided opportunity to venture north and spend some quality time enjoying both with family.
Leaving Orange County early on a Saturday morning allowed for avoiding most of the Los Angeles traffic and making it to Buellton in time for lunch at Firestone Walker Barrelworks. Those leaving later or hitting L.A. traffic could consider an alternate lunch stop at Ladyface Ale Companie in Agoura Hills or Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co in Westlake Village. Note: Fig Mtn locations can also be found in Santa Barbara, Arroyo Grande, Santa Ynez and the original location also in Buellton.
Firestone Walker Buellton offers patrons an assortment of menu items, a hearty selection of Barrelworks wild-side brews (finely crafted by Sour Jim Crooks, Jeffers Richardson and team) and many of the beers brewed at FW’s Paso Robles production facility.
Four salad options included a crispy Brussels sprouts and baby spinach salad with goat cheese and tomatoes tossed with champagne vinaigrette. The 805 Tacos plates include choices of drunken cauliflower, pork belly, braised short rib, pork belly and fresh fish. Sandwiches (basil chicken, pulled pork and burgers) were also available, as well as a number of large plates and pizzas. If you don’t get to FW Buellton, FW’s Paso Robles restaurant and brewery is less than an hour and a half north.
Notable alternate recommended brewery lunch stops in the area of Buellton include Solvang Brewing Company or the aforementioned Figueroa Mtn. Solvang Brewing Company’s original location is in the windmill building in the heart of the nearby Danish village of Solvang. And, not far away is SBC’s sizeable newer facility in Lompoc.
Afternoon plans called for arriving in Paso Robles with plenty of time for a visit to Silva Brewing, which is just south of downtown. Former Green Flash Brewing Co. Brewmaster Chuck Silva left his long time employ in San Diego a few years back to return to the area he grew up in and open his own brewery with his wife MJ. During San Diego’s craft beer renaissance, Silva became an integral part in the defining of many facets of San Diego craft beer, the growth of Green Flash and, along with his growing team over the years, the brewery being honored with 7 World Beer Cup and 11 Great American Beer Festival awards. Dylan Prokop and Kayla Kitchin ably assist Chuck and MJ in the brewery.
Having missed recent limited-run releases of the new Silva Stout and The Pink Stuff, the day’s beer list included two German-style beers: 1st Gold, a 4.5% ABV kolsch, and Sweet B Altbier at 5%. Belgian styles included a farmhouse-style saison and MJ’s Spicy Ginger Saison. Deliciously ginger-forward, the beer is apparently named after Chuck (MJ’s spicy ginger). For the hop inclined, three IPAs and a hoppy pale were also on the board. On the dark side, Nut Farm, a nitro walnut milk stout, and Esspress-O-Boros, an espresso-infused imperial stout, were available.
The aforementioned The Pink Stuff (a sparkling Rosé-beer fermented in French oak with Grenache juice combined with a kettle sour and Saison yeast) will likely see a second release in October. Barrel-aged versions of Silva Stout will also likely make an appearance in the future.
Approaching Silva Brewing is a bit different. Arriving off of Pine St. requires actually walking into and through The Pour House. The Pour House is a long established Paso Robles tap house that shares the adjacent space and welcomes Silva visitors to come in through its establishment. Alternately, folks can enter from the alley behind the building. The Pour House, also worth a stop during your stay, is a great place to enjoy a wide variety of great craft beer (both local and beyond), as well as live music many evenings.
After playing the role of designated driver for Sunday’s winery visits and tastings, a long overdue visit to BarrelHouse Brewing (not to be confused with Buellton’s Barrelworks) was in store for this reporter. Barrelhouse Brewing and Beer Gardens is about 3 miles south of downtown Paso, located in a light industrial makers-complex called Tin City. Tin City is also home to a number of wineries and Tin City Cider. The BH tap-list typified the popularity of the hops-craze with four IPAs (mango IPA, hazy New England-style IPA, BarrelHouse IPA and Big Sur Double IPA) and Really Nelson (hoppy pale ale). The hoppy-side was balanced by a well-appointed lager, two blondes, an oatmeal stout and a maple-vanilla-bourbon imperial stout. The tart/sour spectrum was covered by a boysenberry sour, passion fruit Berliner Weiss and pineapple chamomile sour. If you don’t make it as far as Paso Robles, consider stopping at BarrelHouse Brewing’s basement-level tasting room in downtown San Luis Obispo.
After Monday’s breakfast at Cowgirl Cafe, it was time to journey home. A couple of additional brewery stops along the way were also in order. Heading through San Luis Obispo, SLO Brew, Tap It Brewing and Central Coast Brewing are great choices for award-winning craft beer.
Further south, the Hollister Brewing (Goleta) and Telegraph Brewing (Santa Barbara), along with many others, would also have been very worthwhile. For us, they and others would have to wait until next trip. Our plan called for visits to Carpinteria’s Island Brewing Co followed by Topa Topa in Ventura.
Island Brewing recently celebrated its 17th Anniversary. Mid-July festivities included release of Island’s 17th Anniversary Ale (imperial amber ale aged in bourbon barrels) and Island’s Annual Slow Bike Race. During our visit, the kolsch-style blonde, Pacific Coast hefe, and Island IPA we shared were most-quenching.
Just a few minutes down the road lay Ventura, a nice place to wait out L.A. traffic and enjoy some dinner. This was also good occasion to finally go to Topa Topa Brewing Co. Topa Topa’s Cali Common, Flatlands Saison and Chief Peak tasted fresh and delish during this long overdue visit. Topa Topa has a second location in Santa Barbara. Owners Jack Dyer and Kyle Thompson, along with Head Brewer Casey Harris provide a welcoming respite in a city that has experienced a great deal of growth in craft brewing in recent years. Currently, there are at least 9 craft breweries in Ventura.
When travels take you to Ventura, Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo Counties, take comfort in the fact that outstanding craft beer is never far away. Enjoy the craft and much fun along the way.