Restaurant News & Reviews

True brew: The beer scene in SLO County

In July 2009, Shawn and Olivia Copen took over the Montelone Rock and turned it into The Pour House.
In July 2009, Shawn and Olivia Copen took over the Montelone Rock and turned it into The Pour House. The Tribune

Here’s the second of two articles about SLO County’s beer scene. Last week’s showcased some locally brewed labels, while this week’s looks at two neighborhood spots — a microbrewery and a beer bar.

Dunbar Brewing

22720 El Camino Real, Suite A, Santa Margarita | 704-9050 | Guest taps and other info posted on Facebook page.

Tasting room hours: 3 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Thursday; 1 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 1 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Pints start at $4.

The diminutive Dunbar Brewing may be small on space, but its beers are big on flavor.

Self-taught brewer Chris Chambers originally launched Dunbar in Los Osos in 1997.

In 2000, he “took a break from the brewery,” joined the Army and spent six years in active service plus two in reserves.

He reopened his craft microbrewery in 2009, this time in Santa Margarita (it’s right on El Camino but tucked away, so trust the address or look for the sandwich board out on the sidewalk).

“My vision for Dunbar is to be a small neighborhood brewery,” he said. “I offer high-quality beers to the town at a great price, and I’ve also made sure that it’s a conversation pub — no TVs, no loud music playing — just a great place to have some amazing beers and get to know your neighbors.”

Chambers brews what he calls “Forty Deuce Ales,” his own well-balanced spin on traditional Irish, English and Scottish ales. In keeping with the authenticity of those styles, some of the Dunbar drafts are on nitrogen taps, a real treat for beer aficionados.

Typically used for Guinness, these taps produce much smaller bubbles, allowing Chambers “to give the beer a smooth, silky finish, and beers poured on nitrogen don’t give you a full, bloated feeling that you can get from overcarbonated beers served using CO2.”

Admittedly, Chambers focuses “more on malt than hops; however, my India Pale Ale will stand up to anyone’s.”

Other Dunbar beers available on a regular basis include English Style Ale, Brown Porter, Scottish Heavy and Oatmeal Stout, but Chambers has also crafted brews such as Bourbon Barrel Aged Brown Porter, Scotch Barrel Aged Scottish Heavy, SMASH Ale (a single malt, single hop ale) and a spiced Christmas Ale.

The Pour House

1331 Vendels Circle, Paso Robles | 239-2868 | | Current beer list and music schedule available on website

Tasting room hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Wednesday; 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday and Friday; 2 p.m. to midnight Saturday; and 2 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Pints about $5.

This area is well known for wine tasting, but savvy beer lovers know they can tap into some serious suds at The Pour House.

In July 2009, Shawn and Olivia Copen took over the existing Montelone Rock, a local joint in an industrial area just south of Paso Robles that was already featuring several taps and live music.

They kept the overall concept the same, maintaining the vibrant music scene but putting more of an emphasis on premium specialty beers. (The Copens also chose to keep things simple and not offer food other than snacks, but you’re welcome to bring in your own or have pizza delivered.)

“We’re an American beer bar in support of the American craft beer industry,” said Shawn, though you’ll discover some select imports here as well. Typically the 14 taps (at least four more are planned) carry favorites such as Anchor Steam, Speakeasy Prohibition Amber and Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout, but you’re just as likely to find gems like Lagunitas IPA, Heretic Evil Twin or a Sea Dog Blueberry Wheat.

The Pour House also carries more than 80 different bottled beers (which are available for retail sale). Olivia noted that even if you usually go for drafts, this list is well worth a look because “they’re all incredible beers, and most of them you’re never going to find on tap, like Rogue Double Dead Guy and Sea Monster Imperial Stout.”

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