Craft ~ brews and reviews
By Greg Richardson
I am passionate about craft brewing,
listening, and monastic life. Each year, about this time, I
drive a few hours from Southern California to a monastery in Big
Sur. My annual retreat is an opportunity to spend time
reflecting, remembering, and listening to silence.
The drive north, and the return trip
back south, helps me let frustrations and aggravations drop
away. It gives me a chance to prepare for my time away, and plan
how to apply insights as I return.
Several monasteries around the world are
known for brewing their own beer. Unfortunately, the monastery I
visit is not one of the handful in the United States that does.
Even so, the trip up and the trip back
are also excellent times to visit new craft breweries along the
way. I do not stop at every place on each trip, but I explore
and see what I can discover.
place to visit is Ladyface
Ale in Agoura Hills.
Depending on the time of day we depart, Ladyface is a very good
place to stop for a meal. I particularly appreciate
their Picture City Porter, which goes well with lunch or dinner.
Ladyface has a full menu of appetizing
beers. A few years ago, Ladyface was the second stop on my first
Southern California Craft Brewery Pilgrimage. It is our last
stop in Los Angeles County.
continue up the coast toward Big Sur we cross into Ventura
County. The stop that tempts me is Surf
Brewery in Ventura.
Surf has a large tasting room which is a
combination surf museum and craft brewing showroom. They display
surfing and brewery videos, and have live music on
Saturday evenings. Surf also donates 1% of their total sales to
the Surfrider Foundation.
has a range of delicious beers. My favorites are their American
Oatmeal Stout, Oil Piers Porter (especially infused with
Espresso), and their Black IPA Style Ale.
From Ventura we continue along the
Pacific Coast to Santa Barbara, where we have two options.
If we have
not stopped to eat, Santa
Barbara Brewing Company has
a satisfying menu of meals and their own brews. Not
surprisingly, I prefer their State Street Stout.
option is the tasting room of Telegraph
Brewing Company. For more
than 10 years, Telegraph has been brewing premium California
craft beers in Santa Barbara.Telegraph California Ale is their
flagship beer. I also enjoy their Stock Porter and Ravena Stout.
As you can imagine, there are several
reasons not to stop at each brewery on our list each year. For
one, it might take us twice as long to get to Big Sur. For
another, driving along the coast on Highway 1 between Hearst
Castle and our destination can be challenging even without an
elevated blood alcohol level.
Barbara, we head inland. Our next potential stop, in Buellton,
is the home of Firestone
Walker Brewing Company.
Firestone Walker offers an extensive food and beer menu. They
brew many excellent beers. The one which stands out for me is
their Velvet Merlin, though I need to try their Velvet Mocha
From Buellton, our trip takes us through
San Luis Obispo, where we transition from the 101 to Highway 1.
Driving along Highway 1 is stunningly beautiful as it follows
the rocky California coast. It can be a little challenging to
navigate. There is at least one more stop before we focus our
attention on Big Sur.
Beer Company is in the
town of Cambria. Their tasting room is welcoming and friendly.
Cambria offers excellent bourbon barrel beers, as well as their
regular brews. I enjoy a flight, especially Mudhoney Oatmeal
Stout and Old #23 Robust Porter.
Leaving Cambria, we pass Hearst Castle
and enter the more circuitous stretch of Highway 1. It is about
another hour to Big Sur, so we have plenty of time to prepare
for the contemplative retreat days.
There are still some towns and potential
breweries along the route I would like to explore. I have not
stopped in San Luis Obispo or Morro Bay, for example, and have
heard about potential places in Carpinteria and Pismo Beach.
Fortunately, there is always next year .
Greg Richardson is a leadership and
organizational coach, and a spiritual life mentor, in Pasadena,
California. He is passionate about craft brewing, listening, and
monks and monastic life. Greg is a recovering attorney,
executive, and university professor. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and
he is on Twitter @StrategicMonk.
You can email Greg at StrategicMonk@gmail.com.