Firestone Walker Brewery – Paso Robles:
We actually visited Firestone Walker earlier this year, but I never put any info up for it, so here we are. We enjoyed our first brewery tour, which showed us a lot of neat things in the large scale craft brew process. From the blind tasting panel room, to the signature double barrel fermenting systems and bottling line, it was quite a unique and personal experience (there were only 5 of us on our free guided tour). A tasting room and gift shop is located at the brewery entrance, where all of their available beers can be had on tap, as well as some classics for sale in the bottle (I picked up a 2012 vintage Parabola). The gift shop also has t-shirts, custom Firestone Walker barware, and other branded merchandise.
Across the street from the brewery is the Tap Room restaurant, which offers a good selection of food, as well as fresh taps of all of their currently available selections. We shared a Barbecue Chicken Pizza, which used a barbecue sauce made with their Walker’s Reserve Porter, and it was amazing. By far the best beer was their Velvet Merlin Oatmeal Stout, which was being bottled and kegged next door during our tour. Fresh and on tap, one of the best stouts I’ve head. Overall, definitely a fun experience, especially if you’ve never been to a brewery before.
We stopped into a counter-only style fish/taco shop for dinner after checking into our hotel, and ordered the first brews of the vacation. On the left is a Firestone Walker 805, and on the right is a Deschutes Black Butte Porter. The both went well with tri-tip tacos with spicy salsa.
We found this place a few trips back. It is a very awesome tap house with a great selection of craft beer. The taps are constantly being rotated out, so as soon as a keg empties, something new is there to take its place. They also recently began brewing their own sour ale aged in Chardonnay barrels. There is a restaurant attached as well, which we ate at one night. They get their beer from the Libertine, so the same selection can be had at dinner. On to the pictures!
– Mikkeller Brewery: Orange Yuzu Glad I Said Porter (Porter w/Orange Peel-6%ABV). Roasty Porter with an orange citrus/rind twist, another interesting combination I wouldn’t think would work, but does.
– Brouwerij West: Dog Ate My Homework (Ale Brewed w/Blackberries-7%ABV). Pretty sweet, very blackberry-forward flavor, with generic ale aftertaste. Blackberry flavor wasn’t fake, but not a huge fan overall.
– Ballast Point: Sextant Coffee Oatmeal Stout (Dry stout brewed w/Cafe Calabria coffee- 6.8%ABV)- Poured on nitro, which helps develop a creamy mouthy/body. More coffee ground flavors than oatmeal stout flavor, the other way around would make it more than “just okay”.
Creekside Brewing Company-San Luis Obispo
The first of three breweries we visited in San Luis Obispo, and the one we ate lunch at as well. They had four of their own beers available on tap, as well as a guest tap of Green Flash Double Stout. We also had a very good lunch, with great ambiance of outdoor deck seating over the nearby creek/bridge.
I had a stout infused bacon cheeseburger, topped with stout braised grilled onions, with a blueberry-habanero barbecue sauce. Maybe one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. My wife had a grilled turkey club with avocado, which was much healthier than my meal, and pretty tasty as well. To the Beer!
In order, the taster flight is listed on the info chart (sans the stout, which was unavailable at the time). Their wheat beer was pretty run of the mill, as was their amber rye. Their brown was a little subpar for the style to me, but their imperial IPA was good. After we had paid and were getting ready to walk down the street, our server ran out and let us know their Double Dark Stout had just been kegged, and offered us a free taster. It was very fresh tasting, but not particularly standout. Maybe some additional conditioning or aging will help it out. Overall, I was appreciative of Creekside Brewing, and the food and beer will be a regular stop when we’re in San Luis Obispo.
SLO Brew – San Luis Obispo
Just about two blocks away from Creekside is SLO Brew. Definitely the least “crafty” beer place we visited, it seemed really geared towards the large college crowd in the area. We ordered a taster flight of six beers.
We had their Honey Blonde, Nitro IPA, Reggae Red, IPA, Oatmeal Stout, and a seasonal Blueberry Wheat. I thought their best offering was the Reggae Red, which was good-not great. The rest deteriorated in quality quickly, with their IPAs and Oatmeal Stout being sub-par representations of the style. We likely won’t be going back to SLO Brew, unless there is a neat concert in their on-site venue.
Central Coast Brewing – San Luis Obispo
Our third and final stop in San Luis Obispo (all in one day, I may add) was Central Coast Brewing. Very much just a small tasting room inside of a fully operating brewery, the beer offerings here were easily the best from the San Luis Obispo breweries, both in quality and variety. We ordered a huge 11 taster flight of everything they had available, and spent a few hours talking beer with the very friendly and knowledgeable bartenders, brewers, and local patrons. The owner’s bottle collection was also on full display, which is quite impressive-enough to make any hobo drool over possible CRV values. Pics!
Names/Descriptions from the Brewery-(left to tight, top to bottom on taster flights)
Topless Blonde (American Blonde Ale-5.2%): Full bodied and goes down easy. Our lightest offering is clean, crisp, and extremely drinkable. The slightly sweet malt character and delicate hopping rate creates a one-of-a-kind blonde ale that is a favorite among CCB patrons.
Topless Red (English Mild-4.6%): Our Topless Red is low in alcohol, but loaded with flavor. The use of traditional English ingredients lends a biscuit-like malt profile and slightly fruity yeast character that are the signature flavors of this quaffable session ale.
Topless Brew-Nette (English Brown Ale-5.8%): The third beer in our Topless series, this medium bodied English style ale has a bready malt character which is accented with notes of chocolate and coffee and finishes with a pleasant nuttiness. Preferably consumed in large quantities, this beer will leave you asking, “Who-castle?”
Stenner Creek Stout (Oatmeal Stout-5.8%): An English seasonal variant of sweet stout, the liberal use of flaked oats adds a silky creaminess to the mouthfeel. To further enhance this effect our Stenner Creek Stout is often served on Nitrogen. Packed with notes of caramel, chocolate, and coffee this full-bodied beer is luscious, balanced, and extremely drinkable.
Lucky Day IPA (American IPA-7.2%): Did someone say there is a hop shortage? This beer might be to blame! Lucky Day has a firm upfront bitterness, a soft mid-palate, and a resinous lingering bitterness that is sure to appease any hop lover. This beer is loaded with tropical fruit, citrusy and pungent hop flavor and then heavily dry-hopped to achieve its intoxicating aroma.
Chai Ale (Spiced Beer-5.1%): Using our blond ale recipe as the canvas for this one of a kind brew, we add chai spices during the fermentation process to allow the flavors of the beer and chai to meld seamlessly. The result is a truly unique combination of flavors; sweet malt, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove dance on the palate before ending with a tingling dry finish. Accept no imitations. This is SLO County’s original Chai Ale.
El Hefe (Hefeweizen-5.51%): The famous yeast used to produce German Hefeweizen gives El Hefe its classic banana and clove flavors. We then turned German brewing tradition on its head, drawing inspiration from Belgium, and added orange peel and orange blossom honey to layer in a delicate sweetness and refreshing citrus character to the beer.
Catch 23 (Dark Rye IPA-7.5%): We’ve all heard the question, “Do you prefer malt or hops?” Well, here at CCB we say have your cake and eat it too! Our Catch 23 is an excessively hopped ale brewed with Rye and Roasted malts. The use of rye gives this beer a luscious pillowy mouthfeel to support the aggressive citrusy, piney hop profile. Rounding out the beer, the use of roasted malts gives Catch 23 its dark color and adds a significant complexity to the malt character.
Terrace Hill (Double IPA-9.5%): If IBUs are what you crave, then Terrace Hill may be your new favorite Double IPA. It is named after a San Luis Obispo landmark that hosts the infamous SLO Little 500 bike race. This beer has a hazy golden color with a white head. A piney hoppy flavor balanced by sweet malt and a grapefruit finish. Pair this with your favorite big flavor foods.
Bourbon Creek (Oatmeal Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels): A limited release version of our Stenner Creek Stout, that has been aged for several months in Kentucky bourbon barrels. Once the beer was drawn from the barrel it began to take on a rich, dessert-like character with highlights of vanilla, coconut, and milk-chocolate. This beer is very limited!
Bourbon Imperial Stout- They don’t have a description available, but it was a big, bourbony, high alcohol stout.
Central Brewing Rootbeer (Old Fashioned, w/Real Sugar): We had a bottle at the brewery, and picked up 5 to go. They had just finished bottling it about 30 minutes before we walked in, and it is absolutely delicious!
From what I remember (I was pretty inebriated by the end of this brewery), the standouts were the Brew-nette, the stout, the imperial IPA, and the chai spiced beer, and the root beer. No beer was bad, but there wasn’t anything too special about the rest. Overall, definitely a fun visit.
Cambria Beer Company – Cambria
Our last beer stop took us north up the coast to the Cambria Beer Company. A quaint taproom, with three beers available.
Beers available on tap (left to right in the taster flight)
Mudhoney Oatmeal Stout – 5%ABV
Old #23 Robust Porter – 5.6% ABV
Coffee Porter on Nitro – ABV N/A
Their best was their Old #23, as I was let down by another sub-par oatmeal stout (one of my favorite varieties of beer, but none that I tried can match the Firestone Velvet Merlin, or the Anderson Valley Barney Flats). Their coffee porter was decent, but there was a bit too much acidity from the coffee, which deteriorated the pretty good base porter instead of complimenting it. The guy working there was on his phone most of the time we were there (I’m pretty sure he was the owner/operator), so not a whole lot of information about the history of the place could be learned. I wouldn’t mind stopping in again and trying their other offerings in the future.
We had a blast on our vacation. The weather was beautiful, the food was good, and we tried a ton of new beer. I didn’t want to go too deep into thoughtful reviews of each one, I just wanted to enjoy myself and discover new things. I’ll try to find some of these beers bottled to do reviews on in the future.
I would highly recommend doing a craft beer tour in your area if you get a chance. Get out and discover what you like, and be amazed by the way your palate and preferences change as time goes by, and as you become better acquainted with the care, effort, and passion put into beer by these microbreweries. The way so many different flavors can be imparted into minimal water, malt, hops, and yeast ingredients continues to reach and delight me. This beer-cation has only enamored me more into the world of craft beer. Cheers everybody, and more reviews will be coming very soon!