On the Road to SLO
By Bobby Bush
If a cliché was ever true, it certainly is about Los Angeles. This over-populated traffic jam
of a metropolis is a nice place to visit, but I would never want to live there again. I
learned that lesson years ago.
So, using the Memorial Day holiday as an excuse, we airplaned to LA and stayed
just long enough to visit friends, then headed northward toward San Luis Obispo, where a
beer festival (reported earlier) and more brewpub adventures awaited.
First stop, less than a hour up the coast (with good traffic), was in Ventura.
Anacapa Brewing Company opened for business on June 5, 2000. Housed in a city
street store front, it’s an elongated brick-walled room, on a busy downtown street.
Modern art provided sparse decoration. A long, 18-seat convex bar, with a cool concrete
counter top, served well as we started into our first beer of the waning morning. From an
indented sampler paddle, the miniature mug of Hurricane Hefeweizen, with a thin slice of
lemon on its rim, was smooth, surprisingly American in style. Somewhat sweet at the
start, this best selling summer seasonal brew slowly allowed faint hoppiness to enter its
taste profile before giving way to a nice hop bite at the end. The most popular beer
year-round, Seaward Golden Ale was somewhat thin, as most tricycle beers are. Wafting
a grassy nose, its body was honey-rich with a fruity finish, leaving a somewhat winey
Pierpoint Pale Ale was an extremely satisfying American Pale, fruity with lingering
bitter finish, while Offshore Amber Ale, introduced by citrus scent, played with brief
caramel flavor chased by a long bitter finish and aftertaste. Chestnut brown in hue,
Empire Dark Mild brimmed with roasty, toasty malt taste. Its deep color was deceiving
for its flavor was milder than its in-your-face appearance forebode.
Anacapa brewer Guy Bartmess, who previously brewed for Steelhead, works right
behind the bar. Mash tun, brew kettle, fermenters and double stacked serving tanks line
the wall. There’s no glass partition between brewery and bartender, though Bartmess
usually begins his brewing days around 4:00 AM so interference is non-existent.
Just six blocks from the ocean, Anacapa was named for one of the smallest of the
Channel Islands which seemingly float just off the coast. An interesting menu, which
includes fish tacos, quesadillas de Margarito (du jur), gourmet brewhouse sausages and
grilled fresh vegetable panini, Anacapa Brewing was a great spot to start this eight
brewpub weekend. Check ‘em out at www.anacapabrewing.com.
Continuing north on Highway 101, we careened through the Ojai Valley. Horses
were almost as plentiful as cars along the narrow, winding road to the town of Ojai, where
our target resided. Open barely one year, Ojai Brew Pub occupied a corner of a
non-descript shopping strip. While the missus slept in the car, I paid this friendly brewpub
a visit, smiling at a sign on the door which established a cell phone-free environment
An old Dead tune provided background to the bartender’s insistence that there was
no taster tray to be had. Only three beers on tap this day - Dr. Finster’s Oatmeal Stout
and East End IPA were out - I began with a pint of Chief Peak Pale Ale, which proffered a
berry-esque mouthfeel and slightly sour finish. Golden Road Ale was lighter and
smoother, golden with a hint of chocolate. Very, very traditional El Jefe’s Hefe Weizen
was unfiltered and silky. Wish I’d had a chance to taste the out-of-stock beers.
Brewer/owners Paul McCaw and Alex Kopf, a New Jersey-born Clemson
graduate, were slammed. The seven barrel brewhouse was being pushed to the maximum,
partly due to off-premises keg sales to the populous of Ojai Valley, which number around
20,000 people and lord knows how much livestock. Ojai Brewing’s menu looked
interesting, though I would wait to eat lunch later, with black bean nachos, artichoke and
green chili dip, Nicoise Salad, Quattro Formaggi pizza, Polenta pizza and crunchy fish
tacos. Once they warmed up to my inquisitive Southern face, the waitstaff and brewers
were extremely friendly. Ojai Brewing would be an easy place to lose an afternoon or two
in. But it was time to wake the lil’ lady and move on.
She was wide awake for a stop in Ojai Valley wine country. We visited Firestone
Walker winery just before it closed. Along with a few bottles of wine, we purchased beer
produced at their microbrewery in Buellton, just a few miles away. From 22 ounce
bottles, Firestone Double Barrel Ale was amber, medium-bodied and malty complex, while
Firestone Lager, the only other Firestone brew, was a crisp, litling lager. Not bad for a
Follow along next week as we venture to San Luis Obispo and beyond.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush