Photo Credit: Blake Bronstad, Courtesy of Pure Order Brewing Company
Three cheers for Santa Barbara! From downtown thoroughfares to Goleta side streets, visitors are enjoying greater drinking diversity, and a big part of that evolution can be credited to the emerging craft beer scene in Santa Barbara. To help you navigate this ‘hoppy’ change of pace, we’ve carefully crafted a list of the best craft breweries in the Santa Barbara South Coast.
THE FUNK ZONE
If you’re a beer connoisseur traveling to Santa Barbara, you’ve likely already tasted the hops of Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. This Funk Zone fixture has a large selection of beers (25 on tap!), and is a friendly location to linger all afternoon. Bring the dogs, have pizza delivered from Lucky Penny next door, and kick back with a pint of the Blood Orange Summer Squeeze. Once you’re in the sunshine and under Figueroa’s signature red umbrellas, you won’t want to leave. Visiting on a weekend? Make sure to stay for live music on Saturdays.
Validation Ale, the Funk Zone’s newest addition to the craft brew scene, is where tech brains and beer-lovers unite. The beer on rotation in this tap room is ever-changing, and determined by the customers themselves. Here’s how it works: Whichever beer is most-ordered rises to the top of the menu—it’s validated—until that spot is claimed by the next top-rated brew. This unique, customer-driven concept was designed by the owners’ desire to bring only the best and most innovative beer recipes to Santa Barbara.
There are so many reasons to love Lama Dog Tap Room + Bottle Shop. Not only is there a huge selection of rotating beers on tap, 20 to be exact, the menu also includes cider, wine, and boozy kombucha. If this isn’t enough, like the name and décor, which features a Warhol-like mural in dedication to the resident dog, Lama, this location is extremely dog-friendly. Finally, if you’re looking to grub while you indulge in their large selection of libations, The Nook serves up some seriously delicious eats.
Adjacent to Lama Dog and within the Waterline, is Topa Topa Brewing Co. While Topa Topa is definitely not new to the craft brew scene, its location in Santa Barbara is. Bringing in good vibes and great beers, we can’t help but mention how their bartenders are the nicest of all time. Recommendation: order a Chief Peak IPA and strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you.
Brass Bear Brewing & Bistro is a hidden gem within The Funk Zone. This tucked-away location is worth the find and a full pour. Don’t know what to get? Choose a beer flight with four samples. If your hunger is coming out of hibernation, we’d pair the Hopping Grizzly IPA with the bistro’s new Brass Bear Burger or one of their killer grilled cheese sammies. For those who prefer grapes to hops, wine is also available by the glass. While savoring your beer and meal pairing, soak in the sunshine on Brass Bear’s expanded outdoor patio with optimal space for social distancing.
A new addition to the Funk Zone’s brew scene, Rincon Brewery is located on prime real estate between Yanonali and Santa Barbara Streets. Originally established in Carpinteria, this hotspot offers hot-off-the-press paninis, flatbreads, salads, and a stacked kid’s menu. A platinum-level certified Ocean Friendly Restaurant, Rincon Brewery also uses its craft beers in the preparation and cooking of many menu items. But the real draw of course is the beer! Try the Bates Blonde for a light, refreshing sip or the Jellybowl, featuring seasonal fruit like pomegranate and blood orange, making for a deliciously tart after taste.
Traveling by train? Stopover at The Brewhouse, a popular locals spot just a hop, skip and jump away from the Santa Barbara Amtrak station. Those with a sense of humor will appreciate its beer list, with crafty names like Motivation Destroyer IPA and Lobotomator Doppelbock. While watching the game on one its many TV’s, experience a taste of the unusual with their chile-infused Habanero Pilsner. Traveling with man’s best friend? Bring ’em along! The Brewhouse is dog-friendly, with a dedicated food menu just for your four-legged friend.
SOCO (SOUTH OF COTA)
Located within The Mill, Third Window Brewing Co. has a local legacy. Founder and CEO Kris Parker is the grandson of late film and TV star Fess Parker and son of Santa Barbara County winemaker Eli Parker. Blazing a new frontier with brews like OKO Bomb! (brewed with OKO Caribe cocoa nibs), you can expect great things from this brewer. When visiting, we recommend kicking back with a good beer and great food from Third Window Kitchen, serving locally sourced, seasonally inspired dishes that coincidentally pair well with beer from Third Window Brewing Co.
DOWNTOWN SANTA BARBARA
If you crave sizzling pizza with your cold brews, Institution Ale Company has you covered. Their tall pours come in a wide variety of unique flavors, including Blueberry Day Dreamin’ and The Flue, a Habanero Smoked Porter that will have you sniffling with good reason. The expansive tasting room patio offers ample space to gather with friends to watch the game, test your own skills with classic arcade games, and their menu includes warm soft pretzels and a Spicy Honey Bacon Pizza that will leave you drooling.
Night Lizard Brewing Company combines environmental awareness with delicious beer. What more could you ask for? The State Street parklet provides for a welcoming space to taste beer and learn about sustainability of the Central Coast. Its namesake, the Night Lizard, is just one of a few dozen endangered coastal California species that the brewery dubs its beers after. Plus, 10% of all profits go towards environmental education and protection. Drink beer and save the planet at this local hot spot.
Within Santa Barbara Public Market, you’ll want to plant yourself at The Garden’s Victoria Street parklet all afternoon long. In addition to 41 craft beers on tap, delicious eats can be ordered from The Kitchen, or you can bring in food from the other market purveyors like Corazon Cocina and Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar.
At this microbrewery in Goleta, it’s more than just the beer that makes this place special. At M. Special Brewing Company, feel among friends as you tap into their large beer selection. With the tagline, “Good beer. Every time.” you’re in for a treat. Live music and food trucks have become a staple at this brewery. Even dogs love to visit! While you enjoy a Lazy Eye Special Double IPA, treat Fido to a doggie beer biscuit. There’s lots of outdoor space for an afternoon of good fun.
Feel at home and enjoy really good beer when at Draughtsmen Aleworks. Bring your pals for trivia nights, live music and food trucks – their in-person and virtual calendar of events is always full with entertaining events and an approachable atmosphere to match. As for what’s on tap? Draughtsmen specializes in small-batch beers that are inspired by the classics, ales, IPAs and the occasional experimental brew.
All are welcome at Captain Fatty’s Brewery, even the kiddos. Not only is there an area for the kids to play, the root beer on tap is for all ages. For those over 21, the beer selection ranges from highly hopped IPAs to malty, velvety stouts. Try the Walk the Plank Milk Stout, topped with a toasted marshmallow. You can also enjoy Captain Fatty’s in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone at their second location in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.
Since 2007, Hollister Brewing Company has been a popular option in Goleta’s Camino Real Marketplace. House beers flow from 15 taps and are hoppy but balanced, with a wealth of IPAs and pale ales. Popular options include Pencil Pusher Pale Ale, Hippie Kicker IPA and Shaky Hands, an Imperial coffee porter that doubles as either an upper or downer.
Named after the hops that induced revolutionary changes in the brewing industry, Centennial Beer Hall serves two dozen unique beers and focuses on independent American craft breweries and artisan producers. Whet your whistle on a number of IPAs, Belgian Tripels, Sours, Saisons and so much more. Along with serving refreshing beverages, the hotspot is also host to comedy shows, live music and trivia on the weekends, so grab a pint and enjoy yourself.
Still thirsty? Find more information about Santa Barbara breweries.