Beer and music have long been drinking buddies. A concert is simply not complete without one fist heralding devil horns and the other one clutching a cold brewski — a balance of fire, fuel and refreshment. One of the coolest beer music venues on the West Coast has to be in the excellently named San Luis Obispo (a city located roughly midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco). San Luis Obispo (or SLO Town) is one of California’s oldest communities, and its historic downtown is home to SLO Brewing Co., the longest running brewpub in the area since prohibition and an amazing concert venue, feeding the edgy tastes of audiophiles from nearby Cal Poly.
After closing the doors of its beloved Garden Street brewpub last December, SLO Brew recently announced the highly anticipated opening of its new location on Higuera Street in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo. Just steps away from its former location, SLO Brew is debuting a music partnership with The Knitting Factory Presents, a menu curated by Chef Thomas Fundaro and new craft beer flavors. That’s on top of its beautiful locale.
“This area, to me, is one of the biggest attractions, because it’s quintessential California,” said Steve Courier, SLO Brew’s recently named full-time brewmaster. “We’re right in the middle, so you can go 15 minutes north to Morro Bay, and it feels like Northern California, or you can go 15 minutes south to Pismo Beach, and it feels like Southern California. We’re basically an hour and a half away from Big Sur, which is amazing. There’s not a lot of people here, so it’s very open and the climate is very coastal. I always brag about our area when I talk about our brand.”
Before we forget, SLO Brew also opened up a production plant just on the outskirts of town called The Rock, replete with a new canning line. The brewery will start to package beyond kegs for the first time since opening in 1998. Rock and roll, right?
“It’s a rotary, six-head, automatic Criveller canning line,” said Courier. “It’s actually super pro, but it’s only six heads, so it’s just like any big, rotary canning line that you would find, but it’s small. It’s actually cool because it was a good entry level unit for us to just get our feet wet in canning but also still have a quality machinery. It’s the best of both worlds.”
With a Criveller rotary canning line and a 30-barrel capacity at The Rock, Courier will be expanding production of SLO Brew’s most popular and award-winning craft beers to 5,000 barrels in the first year and 10,000 in the second. He will also be introducing specialty and seasonal brews on a regular basis. With plans to open mid-January, The Rock will also feature a biergarten restaurant, catering kitchen, event space and another concert venue.
Right now, all of that cool food, beer and music is flowing through SLO Brew’s new downtown pub, which features the original 10-barrel brewing tanks. The company’s new gastropub concept features a full-sized restaurant with expansive indoor and outdoor dining options. In addition to the variety of signature pizzas, pub favorites and shareable plates, SLO Brew’s 14 taps will pour its four signature beers along with its own specialty and seasonal brews, as well as one or two guest taps.
SLO Brew’s partnership with the Knitting Factory is certainly a solid complement to that aforementioned food and beer selection; the Knitting Factory nightclub being one of New York City’s most eclectic and avant-garde music venues. Bands and artists that have graced SLO Brew stages in the past range from Toro y Moi and Public Enemy to Jeff Bridges, Snoop Dog and STRFKR (which stands for Starfucker, BTW). The pub is outfitted with a state-of-the-art sound system, a mezzanine level Whiskey Lounge with views of the stage and rustic and industrial décor festooning the entertainment space. The music has also invaded the beer and marketing.
“We have a long history with lots of good music,” said Courier. “Actually, one of our flagships is called Reggae Red. Back in the mid-‘90s, when bands like Sublime and that whole reggae movement was hot back then and that style was probably about 80 percent of all the bands that played here. It was so big at that time, we crafted a beer with hemp seeds in it and made it more malty and branded it after that style of music. We still have it, but then music has always been a big part of our culture here.”
In addition to SLO Brew’s grand opening of the pub, it also announced the opening of its brand new downtown lodging option, The Lofts. Perched directly above the downtown facility on the second floor, The Lofts offer guests convenient and comfortable one-, two- and three-bedroom accommodations that are perfect for any type of celebration or getaway. With its trio of venues, SLO Brew is guaranteed to become one of the signature experiences of the Central Coast. To get the full and complete lowdown, we phoned Courier to discuss some of these exciting expansions.