Craft brewing in California has been on the rise in recent years with more breweries operating in California than in any other state. And there is no better place to sample some of the best California beers than in Santa Barbara that’s known for sandy beaches and endless sunshine-filled days!
While Santa Barbara is famous for its popular wine-tasting tours, it is also home to some of the top independent breweries in California. Many of these craft brewers offer amazing food while others have fun events with live music, comedy shows, and trivia nights for a great evening out.
Whenever I’m in Santa Barbara, I like to check out a few local breweries and see what new beers they have come up with. You can take brewery tours at many, enjoy samples, or simply spend a couple of hours in their taprooms savoring great beer.
Here are the 9 best breweries to check out in Santa Barbara! We hope this list will inspire you to plan a special trip to this incredible part of the California coast and go on an adventure to discover amazing local brews.
1. Best For Outdoor Patio – Third Window Brewing
Third Window Brewing Co. is dedicated to creating quality brews using local ingredients. They take their inspiration from traditional European beers, especially those from Belgium.
This friendly and welcoming brewery occupies a delightful location with a pet-friendly patio that’s adjacent to a winery. I highly recommend this brewery if you’re looking to enjoy the California sun with a fresh and smooth Pilsner in your glass in a lovely outdoor setting. Third Window has a lovely taproom in a restored vintage barn that is popular with locals and visitors alike.
I recommend you try ‘The Light’, a traditional Belgian pilsner that offers up gorgeous country notes with honey and straw to the fore. Fresh and delectable, it weighs in at a very drinkable 5.4%.
If hoppy beers are your thing go straight for ‘Grey Ghost‘, a 6% dry-hopped pale ale that is strong in taste and a true classic of the style, with a massive hops aftertaste that is worth the wait.
- Location: 406, East Haley Street, Suite 3, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
- Website: Thirdwindowbrewing.com
- Instagram: @thirdwindowbrewing
2. Best Brewery With Food – Institution Ale Co
The Institution Ale Co. is one of the best gems among the Santa Barbara breweries, especially when you pay a visit to the welcoming taproom where you can choose fantastic pizza to go with their excellent beers.
Open all day seven days a week, Institution Ale Co. is a place that you’ll visit once and want to go back to! The food is exceptional, but the craft beer they specialize in ranks among the best I’ve tried in Santa Barbara.
Among the favorites is ‘Restraint‘, a simply delicious Brown Ale that leaves you with plenty of flavors. At 6% it’s just the right strength for a long, slow drink.
The ‘Relapse’ is a simply stunning Imperial Red Rye ale that offers you a solid flavor that tops at 8%, no less. This is quality beer available in cans and kegs, and you’ll love it when you try it!
3. Best For Thirsty Environmentalists – Night Lizard Brewing Company
The cleverly named Night Lizard Brewing Company is among my favorite Santa Barbara brewers. Family-owned and run, with a commitment to helping the environment and using locally grown ingredients wherever possible, this is my sort of brewery!
Each brew takes the name of an endangered California species and highlights the need for conservation while allowing you to enjoy a delicious drink.
Available in kegs and cans, among my favorites is the magnificent ‘Tiger Salamander Saison’, a 7.2% craft ale in the traditional Saison rustic style that originates from Belgium. Another great one from Night Lizard is ‘Island Fox Red’, a delightfully tasty red ale that measures a neat 5.5% and is wonderfully rich to the taste.
These are just a couple of an extended range of delicious, carefully brewed ales representing many different styles, each one with outstanding quality.
- Location: 607 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93001
- Website: Nightlizardbrewingcompany.com
- Instagram: @nightlizardbrew
4. Best For Bold Beers – Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company
If you are making a short list of the best breweries in Santa Barbara, make sure that Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company is on it! Founded by a father-son team, Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company now is one of the fastest-growing breweries in California with a passion for creating quality craft beer on the Central Coast.
Of all their beers the brown ale is a favorite to many. The simply amazing ‘Davy Brown Ale’ is a traditional brew that offers caramel, chocolate, and coffee to the taste as a good brown ale should. At 6.7% it’s full-bodied enough but not too strong.
An interesting choice from the Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company is the lovely Danish Red Lager. The flavors include a fruity malt taste that lingers, and the wonderful amber color is just glorious.
The Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company’s tap room is a great place to hang out among friendly and welcoming Santa Barbara locals. I highly recommend checking it out when they have live music for a great night out. If you want to bring your four-legged friend, the tap room does allow seating with dogs on their outdoor patio.
- Location: 137 Anacapa St, Suite F, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
- Website: Figmtnbrew.com
- Instagram: @figmtnbrew
5. Best For Beer-Fuelled Events – Draughtsmen Aleworks
Draughtsmen Aleworks is one of the most fun places I’ve had the pleasure to visit! The lively events and entertainment that you can experience at the wonderful Draughtsmen Aleworks locations include everything from live music to regular trivia nights and yoga.
Then there’s the beer, which is beautifully crafted, using locally sourced ingredients, and covers all the bases when it comes to glorious craft beer and ales.
You’ll love the sensational ‘Citracide’ Extra Pale Ale with its citrus and honey palate and 6.4% strength. Another favorite is the wonderfully traditional ‘Crimson and Clover’ Irish Red, an easily drinkable award-winning brew with so much fruity taste at 6%.
If you’re looking for something a bit different, the ‘Proton’ is an Imperial Russian Stout with an 11% kick and a taste of chocolate, cherry, and dark malt flavors that will amaze you. This is a place to go with friends and simply have a great time with wonderful beers!
- Location – Santa Barbara: 1131 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
- Location – Goleta: 53 Santa Felicia Dr, Goleta, CA 93117
- Website: Draughtsmenaleworks.com
- Instagram: @draughtsmen
6. Great For Brews & Bites – Brass Bear Brewing
Brass Bear Brewing was started by a husband-wife duo who left New York to travel the world and open a brewery. And if the beer menu at the Brass Bear Brewing isn’t enough, wait until you see the food at this wonderful brewery and bistro that’s located close to the beach!
Imagine a top-quality burger made with 2-year-old aged cheese, and served with a stunning double IPA – ‘Hopping Grizzly’ – which simply exudes hops on the palate. Now that’s a combination that will just make you drool but luckily you can satisfy your cravings at the wonderful Brass Bear Brewery and Bistro. The friendly welcoming ambiance here is second to none!
Other beers include the gorgeous ‘Blood Orange Ale’ that hits you with strong and spicy citrus notes and the traditional and beautifully balanced ‘Goldilocks Blonde’ which is as fresh and straight as it gets.
With attractions including a great food menu, rotating guest ales, and even a pop-up comedy night every now and again the Brass Bear Brewing Company is one not to be overlooked on your Santa Barbara visit!
- Location: 28 Anacapa St Unit E, Santa Barbara, CA 93001
- Website: Brassbearbrewing.com
- Instagram: @brassbearbrewing
7. Best For Creative Beers – Captain Fatty’s Brewery
With an intense passion for craft brews, Captain Fatty’s Brewery is dedicated to producing excellent beers on the Central Coast.
The friendly ambiance of Captain Fatty’s taprooms has a modern vibe yet one that is steeped in beermaking. With a variety of beers for every taste, you’re bound to find something here that you’ll love!
Using quality ingredients and not being afraid to experiment brings you interesting beer choices such as ‘Siesta Fiesta’, a 7.5% stout inspired by Mexican spiced hot chocolate and brewed with cocoa nibs & cinnamon. Or try the ‘Calypso’, a thirst-quenching cucumber Sour that is as tasty and fresh as it gets. Visit once and you’ll be hooked on this amazing brewery!
- Location – Santa Barbara: 214 State St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
- Location – Goleta: 6489 Calle Real Suite D, Goleta, CA 93117
- Website: Captainfattys.com
- Instagram: @captainfattys
8. Best For Craft Delights – Topa Topa Brewing Co
If you’re looking for a craft brewery that is famed for delicious and often unusual flavors, the Topa Topa Brewing Co. is one for your list.
Whatever new brews they have come up with never leave you disappointed! With a top team of highly experienced brewers, Topa Topa has a reputation for ingenuity that they like to keep on top of.
‘Chief Peak‘ IPA is one of the core range of beers. With its delicious citrus notes and tropical flavors, this beautifully light-colored 7% craft beer hits right home with its hoppy overtones.
While their headquarters are located in Ventura, Topa Topa has tasting rooms all over the lower Central Coast that we often visit. The Santa Barbara Funk Zone taproom is their northernmost one.
- Location – Santa Barbara: 120 Santa Barbara St, Santa Barbara, CA 93101
- Website: Topatopa.beer
- Instagram: @topatopabrewingco
9. Best For Fine German Ales – Pure Order Brewing Company
Lovers of traditional German ales will get easily hooked on the Pure Order Brewing Company beer choices.
Using a traditional brewing method that dates back 500 years, this is a brewery that focuses on creating fine-quality beers using only the four main ingredients: hops, malt, yeast, and water. The results are excellent ales that are unmatched in quality with a hint of California sunshine to add spice and freshness.
Try the delightful ‘Crooked Neck,’ an ale made to the strict rules of the old German methods that oozes flavors and will draw you back for more. Or, you may prefer the traditional Santa Barbara Pale Ale, the original ale from this amazing brewery weighing in at a healthy 7.7% and as delicious as it comes.
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