Santa Barbara Beer Scene

With 18 breweries in Santa Barbara County - 10 of those in just the last 5 years and more on the way - the craft beer boom doesn’t show any signs of slowing down in the 805.

From the opening of the Santa Barbara Brewing Company in 1995, the now nationally recognized Firestone Walker Brewing soon followed in Los Olivos, along with The Brewhouse in SB and Island Brewing Company in neighboring Carpinteria. 

The scene picked up again in 2006 when the city welcomed its first brewery devoted to Belgian and English styles in 2006 with the arrival of Brian Thompson’s Telegraph Brewing Company.  In that time, Firestone Walker moved to Paso Robles and Hollister Brewing was just a year away from opening its brewpub doors.

It wasn’t long before Solvang Brewing Company and Figueroa Mountain Brewing opened in 2010. Fig Mountain added a second location in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone in 2013 and a new era was born. From 2014-2017, 9 new brewery locations opened in SB County, many by Santa Barbara natives and alumni of the founding breweries.

And if you thought these breweries were just pumping out the same boring and tired light lagers or overly bitter and malty IPAs, you’d be way off. The style wheel of Santa Barbara’s brewing scene covers just about every shade there is. 

Looking for some world class and award winning lagers? Fig Mountain’s Creative Director and Head Brewer for SB, Kevin Ashford is pumping out some of the cleanest, most authentic lagers around. If you’re looking for hype styles like hazy IPAs, check out newcomer Third Window Brewing or Captain Fatty’s in Goleta.  

Looking for sours? Telegraph Brewing has an extensive and creative program of sour and wild beers. Barrelworks, the sour and wild arm of Firestone Walker Brewing Co. is well worth the short drive up to Buellton for the chance to sample Firestone’s award-winning wild beers at their source.

In addition to classic Pales, IPAs, and twists on familiar styles, like an Amber brewed with avocado honey, Island Brewing Company in Carpinteria has your Bourbon barrel aged beer fix. With its award-winning strong ales, like the underappreciated Barleywine, Island is putting just about everything into Bourbon barrels.

Want to try beers that are a little more experimental? Fellow Carp brewery BrewLAB does very small batch, innovative styles, many containing locally-sourced produce and herbs.

Not in the mood for beer? Don’t miss Apiary. Located right next door to brewLAB, Apiary is pumping out small batch meads and ciders made from local apples and honey, infused with foraged botanicals and fruits.  

And if you’re looking to try all of these in one place, hit up one of Santa Barbara’s beer festivals. With a great sampling of local brews, rest assured your ticket is likely supporting worthy local non-profits. 

Don’t miss ZooBrew. Benefiting the SB Zoo, this popular fest sells out every year. Or sample both local and other West Coast brews while strolling through the beautiful 230-acre Elings Park at the Santa Barbara Beer Festival. 

If you’re looking for an intimate, curated experience, Zach Rosen’s Santa Barbara Beer Garden features local breweries producing malt beverages that use ingredients sourced from and benefiting the SB Botanical Garden. 

Whatever the style, atmosphere, or location, don’t underestimate Santa Barbara’s diverse beer culture. While our area is known for its wine, you’re just as likely to hear, “So where can I grab a beer?” 

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