San Luis Obispo, Calif.’s SLO Brewing Co. is celebrating the grand opening of Rod & Hammer’s SLO Stills — a new small batch distillery and craft tasting room — on Saturday, Nov 2. Guests can expect five handcrafted spirits to complement the latest venture’s striking Central Coast furnishings and timeless ambience.
“Over the past three years we have been experimenting with distilling small batches of rye whiskey,” said cofounder Rodney Cegelski. “Today we have a full distillery and brewery operating under one roof.”
Rod & Hammer’s first spirit, a Reserve Rye Whiskey, stands as a bold testament to SLO Brew’s roots as the oldest microbrewery on the Central Coast since prohibition. Paying homage to the kinship between craft beer and brown spirits, the smooth and spicy rye whiskey is derived from in-house beer mash produced at SLO Brew Rock’s 30-barrel brewhouse.
The distillery will also feature a Straight Rye Whiskey, a classic American Straight Bourbon, an uncut Cask Bourbon, California juniper and Valencia orange Dry Gin, alongside a chill haze filtered Vodka.
Aged in 15-gallon New American oak barrels, each SLO Stills whiskey is cut with purified and desalinated Pacific Ocean water to represent the link that united founders Rodney Cegelski and Hamish Marshall. Ten years ago, the Shell Beach surfer Rod met Hammer, an Aussie jackaroo and fostered a friendship grounded in appreciation for quality spirits and the Central Coast.
“SLO Stills was crafted to reflect our story,” said Marshall. “Now that things are up and running, we want to share that personal, elevated experience with our visitors.”
Cool Barrel Club concept
Guests will have the opportunity to become founding members of The Barrel Club, receiving a personal 5-gallon oak barrel to age their own custom SLO Stills whiskey over a year’s span inside the tasting room. Club members can also enjoy early access to special releases, paired with complimentary tastings and roughly 28 (750mL) bottles of personalized bourbon.
Head distiller Paul Quinn will consult members on customizing the depth and flavor of their spirit with varying oak infusions at a range of char levels. On a quarterly basis, participants will be invited to taste their whiskey from the barrel to determine whether the spirit should be bottled or continue to age.
“We’re sharing the craft experience by walking people through the distillation process and teaching them to create a unique spirit that’s completely their own,” said Quinn.
Anchored by a copper horseshoe bar, the tasting room comes embellished with cowhide upholstered seating and leather couches for a relaxed, intimate atmosphere. Wicker lanterns cast a warm glow over the whiskey lounge from an industrial ceiling, featuring functional piping that carries grain from onsite silos into the Rock’s brewery. Adjacent to the active distillery, the room displays enticing scenes of vintage surfboards, a historic direct-fired “reflux still” deemed Ol’ Woody, and Marshall’s enduring masterpiece, a locked antique Cary Safe.
Upcycled planks from the original Pismo Pier have been transformed into floating shelves supporting the entire range of Rod & Hammer’s SLO Stills spirits. An artisanal craft cocktail menu boasts a signature Smokey Old Fashioned, Vaquero Margarita, classic Manhattan, Whiskey Mule and a decadent Whiskey Sour to pair with sweet and savory tapas. The SLO Brewing Co. lineup of Porch Pounder canned wine, Tio Rodrigo craft beer micheladas and select SLO Brew beers will also be available at the bar.