Music News & Reviews

SLO Brew celebrates 30 years with new concert venue — and a distillery is on the way

In 1988, a small brewpub opened on Garden Street in downtown San Luis Obispo, the first on the Central Coast since Prohibition.

Thirty years later, that brewpub has a new downtown location with stylish second-floor accommodations, plus a larger brewery and taproom near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport and a newly minted event hall next door. A distillery and tasting room are also on the way.

“This really fulfills the vision we have for SLO Brew,” Rodney Cegelski said Thursday at a media preview event unveiling the new concert and event venue next to SLO Brew Rock. He partnered with Hamish Marshall in 2010 to revamp the brewery.

Along with SLO Brew Rock, the new Event Center is the site of Saturday’s 30th anniversary festival, which features food, beer and music on two stages.

SLO Brew Music028
SLO Brew’s new concert venue is located next to SLO Brew Rock near the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. Joe Johnston

With a capacity of 609 people, the venue aims to amp up the brewery’s long history of live music, hosting bigger shows than SLO Brew’s downtown location with better sound and lights backed by a giant LED screen.

Concerts featuring electronic, reggae and other acts are already scheduled through the fall, but the space is expected to host a variety of events.

“We’ll do fashion shows, movie nights, weddings, the biggest Super Bowl party you’ve ever seen,” marketing director Johnny Kenny said.

The space, which can accommodate about 200 people for seated events, is also available for private events and conferences, he said.

A courtyard with picnic and fire tables sits between the event hall and taproom restaurant, creating a seamless indoor-outdoor spot offering food, drinks and entertainment. In the backdrop is SLO Brew Rock’s namesake rock formation.

SLO Brew Music021
An outdoor seating area stands between SLO Brew’s new concert venue and SLO Brew Rock in San Luis Obispo. Joe Johnston

“It’s a pretty impressive place to throw a party,” Cegelski said.

The eatery and event venue will soon be joined by a distillery being set up in unused storage space on the other side of the restaurant. Called Rod and Hammer’s SLO Stills, after Cegelski and Marshall’s nicknames, the distillery will offer a range of spirits with a focus on whiskey distilled from SLO Brew’s beer wort.

Marshall and Cegelski hope to open the distillery in a month or two and eventually offer the spirits downtown as well.

The distillery will cap off a flurry of SLO Brew activity over the last couple of years. In addition to the new locations, the brewery has included expanding its distribution to Northern, Southern and Central California.

“It’s been quite a journey of reviving a brand and growing it,” Marshall said. “After this, we don’t want to build anything else — except sales.”

SLO Brew 30th Anniversary Festival

Noon to 11 p.m. Saturday

SLO Brew Rock, 855 Aerovista Place, San Luis Obispo

$30, $40 at door, $100 VIP

805-543-1843 or

Sally Buffalo writes about wine, beer and spirits. Reach her at