Sometimes where you sip is as important as what you sip.
Fortunately, San Luis Obispo County has embraced the German concept of the “biergarten,” or, beer garden — outdoor areas where folks come together to share drinks, food, friendly conversation and even a game of cornhole or giant Jenga. Whether you’re looking to bask in the sun while knocking back a frosty ale or watch the sun set over the hills with a belly-warming stout, there’s a local craft brewery to suit your style.
All these spots are child- and pet-friendly, so grab Fido and the kids and head out to enjoy some fine weather and brews.
Bang the Drum Brewery
Where: 950 Orcutt Road, San Luis Obispo
When: 4 to 9 p.m. Monday, 2 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday
The line between indoors and out blurs at Bang the Drum, where the bar area opens onto a funky patio with nooks and crannies offering cozy seating options. Food trucks stop by regularly, the micro-batch brews rotate frequently, and card games and drum sessions break out spontaneously.
The vibe and the crowd are wide-ranging, with an energetic DJ dance party one night, a soulful Songwriters at Play concert on another. Trivia night takes over every Wednesday, and special events celebrate everything from so-called “yacht rock” to Afro-Latin soul and horror-themed disco.
BarrelHouse Brewing Co.
Where: 3055 Limestone Way, Paso Robles
When: 2 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday
Most of San Luis Obispo County’s beer gardens would be better described as beer patios, but BarrelHouse’s Paso Robles brewery is the real deal. A lush lawn surrounds a rushing waterfall, rock walls and an old truck bed where bands play most weekends.
An expansion in the back offers more space to chill and an amphitheater-style stage for bigger acts. Grab a picnic table, spread a blanket on the grass or try the addictive hook and ring game. You can belly up to the outdoor bar to slake your thirst, and with food trucks on the grounds seven days a week, you’ll never go hungry either.
ManRock Brewing Co.
Where: 1750 El Camino Real, Suite A, Grover Beach
When: 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, 1 to 9 p.m. Saturday, 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday.
The roar of Highway 101 out front fades away as you step into ManRock’s back patio, surrounded by green hillside trees. Hops curl up trellised planters and stacked barrels provide ambiance, as aromas of cheese and tomato sauce waft from the large brick oven where the crew fires up thin-crust pizzas.
Musicians take the corner stage most Wednesdays and Fridays, and the small but satisfying menu features some great weeknight deals. A loaded hot dog and a pint can be purchased for $12 on Monday, while Tuesday means two-for-$6 tacos and half-price growler fills, Wednesday brings burgers and $2 off pints and Thursday delivers $15 pizza-and-pint combos.
SLO Brew’s The Rock
Where: 855 Aerovista Place, San Luis Obispo
When: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
With a massive, volcanic rock at center stage, a visit to SLO Brew’s new brewery near San Luis Obispo Regional Airport resembles a remote, mountain-side outpost — if that outpost offered fresh, craft beer and tender, falling-off-the bone smoked meats.
Wash down selections from the full menu with one of SLO Brew’s core beers or small-batch brews only available on site. Picnic tables, lounge chairs surrounding fire pits and comfy couches provide plenty of choices for settling in, while ladderball and cornhole beckon more active visitors. On top of atmosphere, the rock provides unique natural acoustics to enhance the sounds of occasional performers.
Tap It Brewing Co.
Where: 675 Clarion Court, San Luis Obispo
When: Noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday, noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday, noon to 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.
Just a few blocks from The Rock, Tap It has been hosting craft beer drinkers in its expansive back lot for seven years. The space boasts a giant fire-pit table for communal gathering, while sofas and table-topped barrels offer more private seating.
The brewery’s gear-head theme extends outdoors, with retired Tap It racing cars and a fire truck repurposed as a beer dispenser. There’s even an old Jeep turned into a flower planter.
The vibe outside is far more chill than the bright orange tasting room, except on Fridays when things get rocking with live music. Food trucks pull right into the lot and, on Thursdays, pint-plus-meal deals are available.
Sally Buffalo writes about wine, beer and spirits. Reach her at email@example.com or on Twitter @sallybuffalo.