Summer festival season is around the corner. In San Luis Obispo County that means celebrating the area’s wonderful wines, craft beers and ciders.
The season’s many festivals are a great way to sample local goods and meet the people who produce them while enjoying summer sunshine and great tunes. (They’re also an opportunity to stock up on drinkware, as many events include a commemorative glass with admission.)
Here’s a guide to some of the fun events in store. Party on.
(A note: With the exception of the Templeton Wine Festival, events are 21 and older. Most offer discounted tickets for non-drinkers and designated drivers.)
Brew at the Zoo
5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Saturday
Charles Paddock Zoo, 9100 Morro Road, Atascadero
It’s grown-up day at the zoo with this event, returning for a third year. Sample craft beer, cider and wine while you party with the animals, sing karaoke and dance to music. Tickets cost $30 to $35 and food is available for purchase.
Templeton Wine Festival
1 to 5 p.m., May 6
Templeton Park, 550 Crocker St.
Sip, sample, shop and dance under the shady oaks. Check out booths featuring more than 30 wineries and a dozen-plus boutiques while snacking on specialty foods, or find a shady spot to sit and listen to the soulful tunes of Joy Bonner. Admission is $35 to $45.
Central Coast Cider Festival
5 to 8 p.m. May 13
Pavilion on the Lake, 9315 Pismo Ave., Atascadero
This celebration of the area’s surging cider scene returns for a second year with pours from 13 cider houses, an English pig roast dinner and music by Erin and the Earthquakes. Tickets cost $55 to $65.
Paso Robles Wine Festival
Various times, May 18 to 21
Various locations, Paso Robles
Now in its 35th year, the festival will feature more than 70 wineries, plus food and artisan merchants, at its Grand Tasting on May 20 at Downtown City Park in Paso Robles.
Also in store for the ultimate celebration of Paso Robles wine country are four days of winemaker dinners, open houses, seminars, tours and more. Admission to the Grand Tasting costs $70 to $145. Other events range from free to $125.
California Festival of Beers
Noon to 5 p.m., May 27
Madonna Inn Meadows, 100 Madonna Road, San Luis Obispo
The region’s oldest and largest beer festival has been raising mugs as well as money for Hospice of San Luis Obispo County for 30 years. Sample brews from California and beyond while boogeying to bands, hitting up food trucks and playing lawn games. Tickets cost $60 to $80.
Wine, Waves and Beyond
Various times, June 2 to 4
Various locations, Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo
On June 3, Barrel to Barrel at The Cliffs Resort in Pismo Beach features 40 wineries and breweries, local bites and live music. The festival wraps up June 4 with a surf contest, vintage car show and beach party. Admission costs $20 to $85, with some free events.
Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest
Noon to 5 p.m., June 3
Paso Robles Event Center, 2198 Riverside Ave., Paso Robles
Considered one of the country’s best beer fests, the 6-year-old Invitational brings 50 top brewers from around the world for an epic afternoon of tasting. Tickets cost $90 to $200 but are sold out, so if you come across one, snag it fast.
Paso Pinot and Paella Festival
2 to 5 p.m., June 4
Paellas in huge pans brimming with seafood, meat, veggies and rice from top local chefs pair deliciously with Paso Robles’ spice-laden pinot noirs. Sample as many as you can and vote for the People’s Choice winner, then groove to world music band Incendio. The festival benefits local youth performing arts groups. Admission is $75.
Festival of Albariño
Various times, June 16-17
Various locations, Paso Robles
Returning for a second year, this celebration of the aromatic white varietal kicks off with an albariño-pairing dinner at Brecon Estate. On June 17, start with an educational panel and tasting at Derby Wine Estates, then head over to Broken Earth Winery for a walkabout tasting of more than 30 local producers. Tickets cost $35 to $135.
Roll Out the Barrels
Various times, June 22-24
Various locations, San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo wine country takes center stage with Barrels in the Plaza, June 22 at Mission Plaza. The event features local wines and winemakers along with tasty bites from local chefs and the infectious sounds of Bear Market Riot.
Then trek through Edna Valley for special tastings, pairings, music and more June 23 and 24. Admission to Barrels in the Plaza is $30 to $60; an eight-stop passport costs $75.
Atascadero Lakeside Wine Festival
Various times, June 23-25
Various locations, Atascadero
Support the Charles Paddock Zoo while sampling local wines plus a few beers and ciders at the main event June 24 at the zoo and the adjacent Atascadero Lake Park. Also in store are a Mayor’s Winemaker Dinner on June 23 at the park and a June 24 golf tournament at Chalk Mountain Golf Course. Free tastings are available June 25 at several participating wineries. Tickets cost $60 to $75.
Bacon & Barrels Festival
1 to 5 p.m. July 14-16
Madonna Inn Meadows
This celebration of pork and barrel-made beverages from beer and bourbon to wine and whiskey returns for a second year with samples, chef and mixologist demos, music and games. Tickets cost $60 to $100. Spring for the $325 VIP package for access to a kickoff dinner and a bloody mary brunch.
Paso Robles Winemakers’ Cookoff
6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 12
Paso Robles Event Center
In a 19-year tradition, local winemakers don their chef hats to see who can cook the best grub at a fun evening filled with bribery, crazy costumes and general merriment. Put on by the Paso Robles Rotary Club, the event raises about $30,000 for college scholarships each year. Admission is $85.
Central Coast Wine Classic
Various times, Aug. 25-27
Various locations, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach and Arroyo Grande
Revel in the refined world of rare and fine wines at the 32nd annual Wine Classic as founder Archie McLaren celebrates his 75th birthday. Bid on exclusive and large-format wines as well as luxury goods and services while surrounded by exotic sports cars at an auction on Aug. 26. Round out the weekend with gourmet vintner dinners and a caviar brunch. Tickets cost $75 to $175.
More festival fun
This story is the first in a series about San Luis Obispo County’s wine, beer, spirits and cider festivals. Check back in early fall for another festival roundup. Visit www.events.sanluisobispo.com for information on more events.