TOP-5 SLO Brewpubs

Readers of this blog will know of my affection for brew-pubs and tap-rooms.  NOT.  Lots of un-inspired brown food, heavy on grease and salt, a winelist completely devoid of anything interesting, walls of televisions vying for your attention, and a bro-heavy clientele wearing the first thing they found on the floor that afternoon.  I am a wine & food person–I don’t drink beer, know nothing about it, and don’t even own a baseball cap–which means I should probably stay away from brew-pubs.  But I don’t.  I can’t help it.  I keep looking for little dining gems–even if they are beer-centric.  And I have found several right here in our little section of HWY 1.

BAYWOOD ALE HOUSE  Los Osos    NUMBER ONE on the list and practically a secret spot I kept hearing about, recently visited and was absolutely BLOWN AWAY.  This place rocks on so many levels.  Menu is tiny and simple, always with chalk-board specials.  The food is nothing short of amazing.  Service easy and relaxed–but clearly professional.
 Ordering at the bar is not my favorite thing to do, but they make it SO painless, anticipating everything with brilliant efficiency.  A great grouping of wines BTG or bottle–rosés, locals, bubbles–all interesting labels and nothing ‘tap’.  It appears cramped and crowded at first but rooms open onto rooms open onto patios and more patios and everyone is amply seated.  1 small television over bar.  This is the most-excited I’ve been about a restaurant in Los Osos since Mare Bleu.  Get the Shepherd’s Pie.  Get the Satay and a salad.  Order a bottle of rosé!  OK fine… drink beer–I won’t judge.

MILESTONE TAVERN  San Luis Obispo    The newest restaurant on the list and just CRUSHING it in the few weeks they’ve been open.  Hundreds of beers–I don’t know how many literally, but it seemed like hundreds.  Winelist a serviceable affair of 4 reds/4 whites–all on tap.  Plate after plate of food arrives–all gorgeous and perfectly plated and tasting as good as it looks.  Lots of Socal food-trends on the menu.  Beautiful restaurant–open and airy with plenty of seating and a huge bar.  5 or 6 televisions, but it is easy to sit so one is not glaring at you–it’s a BIG room.  Service prompt, professional and considerate of your space.  This is easily going to be one of my new top few go-to lunch-spots in SLO.  Get the deep-fried ribs.

SANTA MARIA BREWING COMPANY  Nipomo      A lovely little out-of-the-way spot I was quite impressed with.  Friendly, family-like service with a menu covering the usual suspects of finger-food and sliders but all well-prepared and each with an interesting twist.  Hardly any television-action and an interesting little selection of wines from various quality local producers.  Hitching-Post Rosé?!?  SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!  Well-priced and highly recommended.  Get the Tri-Tip Slider.  Because Santa Maria, DUH!

FIGUEROA MT BREWING CO  Arroyo Grande     The latest location in this growing local chain has been packing them in since opening.  Cold and un-inviting room.  Noisy and feeling quite cafeteria-style with a gargantuan bar and TV’s placed around room in a nearly impossible-to avoid layout.  Winelist a curt affair of 3 reds and 3 whites–all boring safe national choices (surprising for a company alleging roots on Foxen Canyon Road) and judging from the labels am guessing all are on tap.  Service aggressively cloying and impersonal.  If you can overlook all of that, the food is quite wonderful!  No, really, it is great food–of a predictable style, of course–but very well done.  Get the Carnitas Sandwich–it is some of the best pulled-pork you’ve ever had.

SHELL BEACH BREWHOUSE  Shell Beach     A long convoluted menu representing many styles and regions of cuisine from Poke to Korean tacos to fried chicken to oysters to wedge salads (hello 1995) and of course the myriad of choices served between two pieces of bread which are the nutritional staple of beer-guy.  This whole menu is basically utensil-optional.  I’ve ordered off the far corners of it and everything has been average-to-good.  BUT THE WINELIST!!!  The winelist is better than most of the restaurants within 10 miles.  BTG is going to be some of the usual ‘tap’ suspects several places listed higher on this list serve, but the bottle-list goes DEEP.  Televisions fairly easy to avoid and take a sweater because it’s Shell Beach and the place is quite ‘airy’.

Just to round this out, here’s your ‘also ran’ BONUS THREE:  Brewpubs I have visited, tried to eat at, and just can not bring myself to do it.  I probably never will.  They could be wonderful, so here’s a free plug for them.  Let me know.

BLAST 825 TAPROOM  San Luis Obispo   Followed the build-out closely and made a plan to try this new spot downtown, was given a tour of their ‘style’ of ordering (prep-counter, build-it-yourself, cafeteria-line ordering; pre-charged card for drinks–all ridiculously over-complicated for someone looking to sit down and have a meal).  A wall of beer, TV’s blaring, off-puttish staff and food which looked mediocre at best caused me to change my mind.  Was told “No wine” when I visited.

LIBERTINE BREWING  Morro Bay   On THREE separate occasions I have made a decision to dine at this popular establishment on the Embarcadero.  Each time I have walked in, looked at the depressing menu and walked out.  Honestly, it is the SMELL inside this place more than anything which causes me to not commit to a meal.  Perhaps it is a wonderful smell to micro-brew-aficionado, but to me it is nauseating.  Can’t do it.  No clue if they have wine.  Never got that far.

MANROCK BREWING COMPANY  Grover Beach   A clay pizza oven fired up in the evening provides basically the only food-source at this small outdoor spot with a long bar and outdoor patio.  The pizza is rumored to be quite good.  One or two interesting local bottles of wine on a chalkboard.

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