A Craft Beer Crawl Down the Pacific Coast Highway
North Coast Brewing Company
Miles off PCH: 0
43 miles down the highway from Leggett, where the PCH begins, sits this early pioneer of California brewing. Literally right off the highway—which is known as Shoreline Highway this far north, and which is hardly bustling—North Coast has been putting out a wide variety of offerings since 1988. Even beer industry newbs have surely heard of beers like Old Rasputin, Old Stock Ale and Brother Thelonious, but all are worth revisiting.
North Coast Brewing Company, 444 N Main St. Fort Bragg, CA; 707-964-2739
Miles off PCH: 3
San Francisco deserves more than just a quick stop, but if you’re on a PCH road trip, you might not have time for more than that. And, while there are plenty of great San Fran breweries to visit, your best bet is to hit a beer bar just a few miles from Highway 1. There, at this hardscrabble pub, which celebrated its 30th anniversary earlier this summer, you can try top offerings from many of the Bay Area’s top breweries like Cellarmaker and The Rare Barrel. Toronado also offers rare and limited beers from other California breweries that are close, but not quite on the PCH—notably Russian River, Lagunitas, and The Lost Abbey.
Toronado Pub, 547 Haight St. San Francisco, CA; 415-863-2276
Half Moon Bay Brewing Co.
Miles off PCH: 0
One of the most picturesque stops on your PCH road trip will be this casual family restaurant and brewery opened in 2000. The outdoor patio faces Pillar Point Harbor and often features live music to go alongside crushable beers and seafood. One of the greenest breweries in California, Half Moon was the state’s first spot to make beer from recycled water. While the brewery’s beers have mostly been an afterthought for the geekier beer community, of late they’ve been chasing more adventurous offerings, like their recent batch of Take It to the Limit barleywine aged in Woodford Reserve barrels.
Half Moon Bay Brewing Co., 390 Capistrano Rd. Half Moon Bay, CA; 650-728-2739
Sante Adairius Rustic Ales
Miles off PCH: 0
When you hear there’s a world-class farmhouse brewery right on the coast near Monterey Bay, you might expect something quaint and cutesy. Instead, just south of Santa Cruz, in a bland industrial park sits SARA as they’re known. Opened in 2012 by Adair Paterno and Tim Clifford, the Belgian-inspired brewery uses “house microbes” and wine barrel-aging in order to create funky beers like West Ashley, an apricot saison aged in French Oak Pinot Noir barrels, and Saison Bernice, a farmhouse ale fermented from a variety of wild yeasts and bacteria. The brewery isn’t quite charming, but the beer is world-class.
Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, 103 Kennedy Dr. Capitola, CA; 831-462-1227
Libertine Brewing Co.
Miles off PCH: 0.5
Today, Libertine is a multi-faceted, multi-locational brand throughout the Central Coast region, but their flagship spot opened in downtown San Luis Obispo in 2012. There, they currently offer 76 tap-lines of beer and wine, a good portion of which are their own creations. Focusing mainly on sours, Libertine brews wild ales (courtesy of a coolship), kombucha, and even cold brew. The wild ales even extend to the cuisine, like in their gose-battered fish ‘n’ chips (served with a housemade barrel-aged vinegar, natch).
Libertine Brewing Co., 1234 Broad St. San Luis Obispo, CA; 805-548-2337
Telegraph Brewing Co.
Miles off PCH: 0
In beautiful Santa Barbara, the well-heeled locals are more likely to sip wine—though Telegraph has changed that somewhat. Using mostly locally-grown ingredients, the downtown brewery tries to make modern interpretations of old-world beers. Thus, they have their Belgian-style California Ale, an English-style Stock Porter, and the Los Padres saison. Their tasting room offers ten beers at a time, alongside darts and ’80s-era arcade games.
Telegraph Brewing Co., 418 N Salsipuedes St. Santa Barbara, CA; 805-963-5018
Monkish Brewing Co.
Miles off PCH: 6
While the so-called “New England-style IPA” is de rigeur in the beer world today, its purveyors are no longer strictly in the northeast. In fact, Henry and Adriana Nguyen's Los Angeles area brewery might now be one of the world’s top producers. Opened in 2012, the brewery had initially focused on Belgian styles (they famously had a sign in their taproom reading “No MSG. No IPA.”). While they’re still making top-notch barrel-aged saisons and wild ales—like Invert the Sun, a boysenberry sour—it’s their weekly runs of canned IPAs like Potholes and Backpack Full of Cans that lead to lines down the block.
Monkish Brewing Co. 20311 S Western Ave. Torrance, CA; 310-295-2157
Beachwood BBQ & Brewery/Blendery
Miles off PCH: <1
Seemingly designed for the PCH beer traveler, this SoCal mini-chain has several locations right off the highway. Originally opened as a barbecue restaurant and beer bar in Seal Beach in 2006, a brewpub was added on the promenade in downtown Long Beach in 2011, and would quickly win Mid-Sized Brewpub of the Year at the Great American Beer Festival. They also have Beachwood Blendery, an all-sour brewery, about a mile-and-a-half off the PCH, which opened in 2015. Besides beer, their North Carolina pulled pork sandwich, baby back ribs, and wild boar meatloaf should be on your radar.
Beachwood BBQ & Brewery, 210 E 3rd St. Long Beach, CA; 562-436-4020
Firestone Walker - “The Propagator” (Venice Beach)
Miles off PCH: 0
While Firestone Walker, one of the nation’s premiere breweries, has its main “clean” brewing location in Paso Robles and an all-sour Barrelworks in Buellton, neither are quite close enough to the PCH for this journey. Luckily, last year, the longtime brewery (est. 1996) opened a spot in LA near the beach. Using a small scale German brewhouse, The Propagator produces one-off beers like a Fresh Hop Pale Ale. While their gastropub-like restaurant offers Firestone Walker favorites on tap and to go, as well as Central Coast wines.
Firestone Walker – The Propogator, 3205 Washington Blvd. Marina Del Rey, CA; 310-439-8264
Pizza Port Brewing Co.
Miles off PCH: 4
While Pizza Port has 5 brewpub locations beachside along the southern California coast, all of them are south of the PCH’s terminus at Dana Point and I-5. But take the I-5 a few more miles south will get you to Pizza Port’s northernmost brewpub and it’s well worth ending your trip there. Yes, you are going to treat yourself to some pizza, preferably from Pizza Port’s “Anti-Wimpy” menu which features California-esque toppings like BBQ Chicken Pizza. Pair that pie with beers like the house Cool Down Lager or any number of west coast IPAs. And, maybe, just maybe start planning your next road trip.
Pizza Port Brewing Co., 301 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA; 949-940-0005