Highway to Hops Central Coast Beer Festivals
Photos/Words by Mike Miller
California’s Central Coast is home to some of the best beer festivals on the planet. Widely known for its wineries, the Central Coast also offers a diverse range of beer, ciders, and spirits, and there are plenty of festivals and celebrations for them all. These celebrations offer a fun-packed day whether you are a true beer lover or a novice taster.
Ignacio Garcia of Santa Barbara is a regular attendee of the festivals on the Central Coast, and he loves trying new beers and meeting new friends. “Our local beer festivals are a great time if you have never gone to one. We have so many wonderful breweries in the state of California and the festivals are fun social events. I have met so many new friends over the years thanks to our common affinity for beer and good times,” he said.
Garcia is also a big fan of the food and music at the festivals. “Each festival has a little different vibe, which is cool. You will see a lot of the same vendors, but there is always something new, which I appreciate. The food and the music are always a highlight, so if you are looking for a fun day with friends or if you are hosting guests from out of the area, a local beer festival is always a great option,” he added.
If large festivals are not your thing and you prefer to go at a slower pace and visit breweries on your own, you are in luck. The Central Coast Brewers Guild offers a comprehensive interactive beer trail map. For more information on this exciting adventure, visit centralcoastbrewersguild.com.
Here is a sampling of some of the more popular beer festivals hosted along Highway 101. Be sure to plan ahead and get tickets in advance because many of these events do sell out!
San Luis Obispo Craft Beer Festival
February 24, San Luis Obispo
This year’s first beer festival definitely falls into the “will sell out” category. The San Luis Obispo Craft Beer Festival will feature many of the most popular breweries in the country, as well as several from the local area for those looking to enjoy their favorite local beverages. For those hoping to sample options other than craft beer, selected cider, spirits, and kombucha will also be poured. Tickets include souvenir tasting cup, unlimited beverage samples, selected food samples, beer educational seminars, and access to everything the festival has to offer.
The event will be held at the Alex Madonna Expo Center (120 Madonna Rd., San Luis Obispo) and will begin at 1 pm. Due to the popularity of the event, attendees are encouraged to use rideshare or walk to the expo center. Free shuttles run continuously starting at 11:30 am from Launch & Ladder, Campus Bottle, and Novo.
For tickets and more, visit my805tix.com/e/slo-craft-beer-fest.
Central Coast Craft Beer Fest
March 23, Atascadero
In March, beer lovers can enjoy the offerings of more than 55 independently owned craft breweries, ciders, seltzers, kombucha, and wineries from all over California at the Central Coast Craft Beer Fest in Atascadero. The sixth annual event will be held on Saturday, March 23 at the famous Sunken Gardens in historic Atascadero.
“This event only features independently owned craft breweries,” said event organizer Andres Nuño.
The 2024 Central Coast Craft Beer Fest will feature plenty of excellent live entertainment for music lovers of all types. This year’s lineup will include Silk Ocean, Carbon City Lights, and DJ sets by Traffic Records. The festival will also host a diverse offering of food trucks, a wide variety of merchant vendors, and lawn games, including the always popular mega-sized beer pong. Admission includes a souvenir glass and samples from any of the craft breweries, wineries, seltzers, ciders, and kombucha on site.
The Central Coast Craft Beer Fest benefits local charities and the Central Coast Brewers Guild. Free shuttle services and parking options are available.
For tickets and more, visit centralcoastbrewersguild.com/beerfest.
Lagerville Beer Festival
April 13, Buellton
The fifth annual Lagerville Beer Festival is the event not to miss this April. Held in Buellton at Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, Lagerville is widely touted as the nation’s premier lager event. Typically, the event features more than 50 breweries from across the globe — some from as far away as Germany. Best beer awards, including a people’s choice, are awarded at the end of the day and are highly coveted, meaning each brewery is bringing its A-game. You’ll also find plenty of variety in terms of food and music.
Lagerville will take place on April 13 and slated to run from noon to 4 pm. VIP tickets get you a souvenir glass, exclusive tastings, and entry at 11 am. A shuttle service is available, with stops in Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Santa Maria (tickets available at online check-out).
The festivities will take place at the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company, located at 45 Industrial Way in Buellton, CA.
For tickets and more, visit lagerville.beer.
Buellton Brew Fest
May 4, Buellton
In the month of May, your best bet to find great beer, food, and live entertainment is the Buellton Brew Fest, which will be held on May 4 at the Riverview Park.
Over the last decade, the Buellton Brew Fest has become one of the most popular events in the area thanks to the fact that more than 55 craft breweries, wineries, ciders, and spirit companies are on-site to share their beverages. Also making this a popular event is its variety of live entertainment, lawn games, food trucks, vendors, and a beautiful venue.
“This event is the longest standing craft beer festival on the Central Coast,” Nuño said.
VIP tickets are available which will get you into the event an hour early, at 11:30 am, as well as access to special tastings. This event has sold out the last two years, so make sure to purchase your tickets well in advance! Proceeds will benefit the Buellton Chamber of Commerce.
For tickets and more, visit buelltonbrewfest.com.
Surf ‘n’ Suds Beer Festival
Aug. 10, Carpinteria
The largest beer festival in the area tends to be the Surf ‘n’ Suds Beer Festival, in the coastal town of Carpinteria. This event is held at the Carpinteria State Park, just steps from the beach, and it offers plenty of space and shade. While the live music line-up is still in the planning phase, the Surf ‘n’ Suds Beer Festival never disappoints when it comes to food or music.
“This is the premier and largest craft beer festival on the Central Coast featuring over 80 craft breweries, seltzers, ciders, wineries, and kombucha companies,” said Nuño. “It’s right at the beach and the location can’t be beat.”
For tickets and more, visit surfbeerfest.com.
If you are looking for a fun full-day event, consider a beer festival because there truly is something for everyone (everyone 21 and over, that is). Best to plan ahead, share a ride, and designate a sober driver. Cheers!