There’s no need to pinch yourself — yes, it is 2011, and yes, that is SLO Brewing Co. that’s open for business on Garden Street.
For the past several years, the space had been operated as Downtown Brewing Co. under a lease arrangement with the building’s owner, WestPac Investments Inc. Last summer, WestPac bought the business from Compass Health and in the fall opted to reopen it as SLO Brewing Co., complete with a refreshed menu and a remodeled upstairs restaurant. (The downstairs areas remained open throughout the remodel and continue to showcase a vibrant live music scene on almost every night of the week.)
“The SLO Brew name really ties into the heritage of the brewery and is an homage to downtown,” said general/restaurant manager Monte Schaller. “It’s really a part of historic San Luis Obispo.”
Remodeled with a brighter feel, the overall layout upstairs remains unchanged, with vintage brick walls reaching up to exposed wooden beam ceilings. However, the interior now sports a stylish floor-to-ceiling partition — complete with a cozy two-sided fireplace — that’s an effective separation between the main bar and dining area and the pool tables.
“The remodel had two main focuses,” said Schaller. “The first was the brewery and its proud heritage, which had kind of gotten lost.”
The brewing facility itself was upgraded, he said, but it remains under the direction of award-winning brewmaster Steve Courier, who has been at the helm since the label was established in 1988 by Mike and Becky Hoffman. About six SLO Brews are on tap, along with several Firestone drafts, and a full bar.
As such, SLO Brewing Co. can still tap into its loyal beer fans, and with 14 televisions scattered throughout, it’s certainly a great place to watch the games with a cold one.
Overall, the remodel seems to have shifted the clientele away from what had become a predominantly college crowd into a broader mix of students, sports fans, families and locals who want to support a community microbrewery.
“The second focus was on the menu,” said Schaller. “We wanted more upscale pub food, and to not only use more beer in the recipes, but also pair items better with the beer.”
Courier and other staff members collaborated with chef Misael Pineda, who has returned to the kitchen (which was also upgraded during the remodel) for what will be his sixth year with the restaurant.
“We were definitely going to keep our most popular specials, like the Sunday ribs and the Wednesday wing nights, but we also wanted more items that were healthier, not just fried,” said Schaller.
Indeed, though you can still get crispy chicken wings, onion rings and fries, you can also order grilled chicken tacos, the hummus platter with farmers market vegetables, or fettuccini with tomato basil cream sauce.
Other options range from house-made nachos with fresh salsa to fish and chips made with SLO Brew Porter, from tender pork ribs to pulled pork sliders with Honey Blonde Ale cole slaw, from a buffalo chicken pizza to a slow-cooked tri-tip sandwich with Amber Ale jam.
In addition, there are several salads to choose from, such as the classic Caesar or the SLO Brew Ahi Salad with jicama and ginger lemon wasabi dressing. Any of the salads can be made into wraps and served with your choice of pasta or crispy brewer’s fries.
Schaller expects the SLO Brew team will “probably look at the menu again this summer and make some tweaks — that’s part of the fun — and we really want to have something for everyone to enjoy.”