Craft beer is all the rage these days, but one spot in San Luis Obispo has been showcasing such suds since May of 1981 — Spike’s Pub.
“Sierra Nevada (Brewing Co.) was only six months old when Spike’s first opened,” noted the pub’s owner, Andrea Miller. Originally a co-owner of Spike’s in 2006, she became sole owner in 2009 and is working on a vision “to take it back to what was in the ’80s — all about the beer,” albeit with some tasty pub fare as well.
Spike’s has 35 taps, including two nitrogen taps (a carbonation process that results in creamier beers) and another usually dedicated to a hard cider. The taps rotate very frequently, so you’ll see several new labels on every visit. A recent selection included everything from Coronado Brewing Hibiscus IPA, to Big Sky Brewing Moose Drool Brown Ale, to Pilsner Urquell, plus local representation from Barrelhouse Brewing, Central Coast Brewing, Firestone and Tap It.
“I want Spike’s to be the place you go to get a beer you can’t get anywhere else,” said Miller, (though she also makes sure she always has her regulars’ favorites on tap). To that end, she not only seeks out the latest keg finds, but has also started a Spike’s “Cellar” with hard-to-find commemorative beers. The average beer drinker might not know what a “Vertical Epic” or a “Sucuba” are, but aficionados certainly do.
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Miller knows that “while people like that we have a variety,” the vast selection of ales, ambers, IPAs, pilsners, porters and stouts might overwhelm some visitors, so she makes sure that all of her staff is as up-to-date on the beers as she is. “Tell us what kind of beer you already like,” she said, and they’ll point you to a pleasing pint.
That’s also the case with pairing the beers with the Spike’s menu. For example, Miller noted that sour beers really aren’t going to go with any food, so you’re better off starting with something else with your meal. (For Thanksgiving turkey, by the way, she suggests a Barrelhouse Stout or their Harvest Spiced Brown Porter.)
Though Miller doesn’t plan to revamp the straightforward Spike’s menu, “we’re making more things fresh,” mainly thanks to the addition of veteran chef Joe Bolster in the kitchen. Items such as salad dressings, salsas and most of the 11 different wing sauces are now being made in house, as are the tortilla chips and hand-cut French fries. In addition, Spike’s now bakes all its own hamburger buns, French rolls and the sourdough bread bowls for its house-made Guinness beef stew, clam chowder and soups.
Spike’s has long been known for its “Skins” — six potato skin options ranging from the American with cheddar cheese and bacon bits to the A-Doodle-Doo with chicken, Jack cheese and either hot or barbecue sauce. Not surprisingly, appetizers such as croquettes and Redhook ESB battered shrimp are also popular pub fare, but so too are the Club salad, turkey Reuben on marbled rye, and any of the burgers.
Miller frequently noted that an essential component of Spike’s is its die-hard following. “The regulars here are really great,” she said, adding that a couple of them even pitched in on a recent project of studding the ceiling with dozens of beer taps.
“To them, this place is theirs,” she said. “It’s really like home to a lot of them.”