A two-day loop from LA north to Paso Robles showcases some West Coast vets like Firestone Walker alongside new pubs, breweries and instagram-worthy ocean views.
Take U.S. Route 101 west from LA until you hit Agoura Hills and European-styled brew-pub and cafe Ladyface Ale Companie. Grab a seat at the patio for mountain views, a flight of French farmhouse ales and the beautifully prepared bouillabaisse seafood stew with local rock cod. After you’re full, continue along 101 for about 20 miles until you hit Institution Ale Co. in Camarillo. Nine taps flow in the tiny tasting room, plus there’s a cask tapping at 2 p.m. every Saturday. Then it’s up the coast for a drive past Ventura and Santa Barbara to Goleta and Hollister Brewing Co.’s casual brewpub, which keeps up to 15 of its beers on tap. Next, hug the coast through a 90-degree turn north at Gaviota and a short drive to the Buellton taproom of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. for a pint of GABF medal-winning Davy Brown Ale. The day’s final beer stop sits a mere mile away: Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s Barrelworks facility—home to the brewery’s venerable wild ale program. Split the 805 Pizza topped with spinach pesto, mushrooms and artichoke hearts, and sample sour treats like Feral One, a blend of Barrelworks’ beers that changes with each batch; in April, Barrelworks plans on debuting two beers, Feral Peach (wild ale with peaches) and Champs de Fraises (wild ale with strawberries). Then it’s time to head north to Pismo Beach, where, atop a bluff, SeaCrest OceanFront Hotel provides spec-tacular views of the Pacific and access to the cave-dotted beach below.
After the complimentary continental breakfast at the hotel, hit the road and head 40 miles north to Firestone Walker Brewing Co.’s home base in Paso Robles. The Visitors Center boasts 14 taps of the award-winning brewery’s beers; if you want a tour of the brewhouse and cellar, reservations are recommended. Then it’s time to head back south for the return trip, starting at Libertine Brewing Co. in San Luis Obispo for a pour from the all-wild-ale lineup—Summer Breeze, a sour ale brewed this year with locally sourced raspberries and persimmons, should be available. Order a plate of cheese and jerky to snack on. Tap It Brewing Co. is a mere 3-mile jaunt, where you can sample beers in the diamond-plate-paneled tasting room (the IPA is a GABF gold medal-winner) while watching the brewers in action through the opening behind the bar. Then, settle in for the 90-mile drive back to Santa Barbara and a quick stopover at Telegraph Brewing Co.; if one of the limited-release, experimental Obscura Series (often brewed with fruit or spices) is on tap, definitely try a taste. Finally, head along the ocean again to Ventura for a flight served on a mini-surfboard at Surf Brewery; nab a few bottles to take home.