BarrelHouse Brewing to open speakeasy-themed taproom in SLO

The new BarrelHouse Brewing Co. taproom is at 1033 Chorro St. in downtown San Luis Obispo.
The new BarrelHouse Brewing Co. taproom is at 1033 Chorro St. in downtown San Luis Obispo.

A new barbershop is going in at 1033 Chorro St. in San Luis Obispo — but that’s not all.

Beyond the barber, the old-fashioned chair and the storefront with a secret identity is BarrelHouse Brewing Co.’s latest project: A speakeasy-themed taproom in the basement of a building built in the 1800s.

The taproom opens at 5 p.m. Friday after 10 months of work transforming the location — between Which Wich and the recently opened Wingstop — into a place for customers to step back in time.

“It’s downstairs, and we’ve got the barbershop upstairs. It’ll be like an old-school vibe,” said Jason Carvalho, BarrelHouse co-owner and president. “It’s all brick and steel. … The downstairs has never been used for retail, so we had to retrofit and flood-proof; it was a challenge.”

BarrelHouse will focus on serving its specialty barrel-aged and sour beers in San Luis Obispo, and leave all brewing operations to its location in Paso Robles. The San Luis Obispo spot, which has a capacity of 70 people, isn’t about pint nights or “mass quantities of fizzy, yellow beer,” Carvalho said. “We don’t want people throwing up in the toilets.”

“You can go anywhere in downtown and find the same beers,” he added. “We wanted something new and fresh. Some of the beers we’re introducing in SLO, we started brewing three years ago.”

Although food won’t be prepared on-site, BarrelHouse plans to partner with a nearby restaurant to offer a limited menu. Carvalho would not yet say which eatery is involved.

Meanwhile, the barbershop upstairs isn’t just an act.

“It’ll be an actual working barbershop, straight razor, to tie into that 1920s feel,” Carvalho said. “It’s like the old days; they’d have another business front, it might be a seamstress shop, and you walk through that to get to the speakeasy.”

Carvalho, a Cal Poly alumnus, would not disclose profits or investments, but he said the business is experiencing 100 percent growth and turning a profit.

“We are reinvesting everything back into the company; if we get extra capital, we’ll buy more barrels, we’ll open a new taproom,” he said.

Because of the expansion, the brewery grew its staff to 21 employees, with six dedicated to the San Luis Obispo location. Hours at the new taproom will be 2 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

BarrelHouse, which opened in 2013 on Limestone Way in Paso Robles, has other projects in the works. At the Paso Robles location, a sour ales facility is set to open this month, and once that is up and running, the brewery will expand its production of 22-ounce bottles to include 12-ounce six packs of some of its portfolio beers, such as the IPA. In addition, it will add more fermentation tanks in February. And, there is a goal to open another taproom in 2016, but Carvalho wouldn’t provide details.

“Our goal is not to be the biggest brewery,” he said. “We want to focus on barrel-aged and unique beers, and not just volume. Whatever the market can take will be our growth pattern.”

After brewing 1,000 barrels in its first year, BarrelHouse has grown to brewing 5,000 barrels in 2015, with a goal to brew 8,000 to 10,000 barrels in 2016. That would make it one of the largest breweries in San Luis Obispo County. BarrelHouse has produced 50 to 60 different beers to date, Carvalho said.

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