Dozens of brews on draft and a smorgasbord of eats await visitors

Santa Maria Brewing Company opened for business in Downtown Paso Robles last month and the 2,090-square-foot taproom and restaurant at 1401 Park Street has enjoyed a warm welcome. The 14th Street corner is the city’s newest craft beer and food destination.

Inside, bartender Chad introduces thirsty visitors to an impressive gallery of two dozen brews available on draft to satiate every preference. All beers are fresh and locally made in Santa Maria.

Among their popular brews is their flagship Santa Maria Pale Ale, which won bronze at the 2004 California State Fair “when we were a seven-barrel brewery,” says brewmaster and co-founder Dan Hilker. In 2005, Santa Maria Brewing Company’s lively English IPA was also awarded a Gold medal.

Santa Maria Brewing Co PR 12-min

Photo credit: Rick Evans

Their French Style Saison is distinctive and flavorful and the Double Eagle Honey Blond is a flavorful, smooth and aromatic American blonde ale. Cali-Veza, made with Mexican lager yeast, is an easy-drinking summer refresher. Julicious, a double IPA, evokes tropical hints with a hoppiness that is unburdened by 8.4% ABV.

Red ale fans will want to check out the Resolution Red. “B410,” created by Bryon Fortin (hence the name) is a resinous, piney and hoppy IPA. Porter fans should definitely try the Black Gold, a forward yet balanced blend made with coffee and Peruvian cocoa nibs.

Perhaps the runaway hit for the season is their Mo-Tra Blood Orange IPA, made with Mosaic and Citra hops at 7.4% ABV. Customers are raving about this one, including Rick Horlings.

“I think this one just might be my favorite,” Horlings said, smiling and taking another sip. “The flavor is just so good!”

An assortment of entrees from the kitchen compliment the beer.

“This is top-shelf blue-collar food,” said Hilker, “a higher level of pub fare and nothing is over $20.”

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Photo credit: Rick Evans

Half-pound hamburgers, dogs, large salads and fries are on the menu. Smaller bites and appetizers include pulled pork taquitos, buffalo wings, and a trio of sliders in soft buns with your choice of tri-tip or house pulled pork and fresh slaw. Haystacks of onion rings are served with freshly made chipotle aioli.

“We’re hoping to do certain theme dishes at both restaurants when we open in Atascadero,” said Hilker, “like maybe a ‘Meatloaf Monday.’ You can even call in your order to pick up dinner to go.”

In 1996, Hilker and co-founder Gary Ford sought to create a brewery that locals could enjoy. His first Nipomo location drew a faithful clientele and it also afforded Dan an opportunity to conceive a sizable selection of beers. Neighboring store owner Byron Moles felt confident about Hilker’s product and expressed interest in buying the business. His desire was to take it to the next level in expansion and number of locations.

After years of prodding, a kindred work ethic and Moles’ vision for bottling, distribution and sales finally convinced the founder. By 2010, the deal was sealed. Hilker continues to retain interest in the business and develop new beers with Bryan Fortin, the Director of Brewing Operations.

Currently, all beers are freshly made in the brewery in Santa Maria. However, conversion of a 25,000-square-foot brewery facility at San Luis and Curbaril avenues in Atascadero is underway, with a slated opening this fall. The former Gary Bang Harley Davidson dealership will also house a tap room and a large-scale restaurant with plenty of barbecue offerings on the menu.

Santa Maria Brewing Co PR 8-min

Photo credit: Rick Evans

“Byron is such a passionate believer in our product. He’s not an absentee owner. We do it all,” said Hilker, describing a congenial vibe coupled with hard work. “Our sweat and blood is in this business. We are a self-contained, boots-on-the-ground operation with all-hands-on-deck – doing everything from building brewery equipment to making the beer to mopping the floor. Byron has put together a team that can accomplish things. You’re going to see a lot happening in the near future.”
For hours of operation, Beer Club details and more, visit www.santamariabrewingco.com. Call (805) 369-2256.