You can’t hope for a better damned beer road trip than California’s Pacific Coast Highway. This 650-mile drive takes you through each of the stereotypically California images clanging around your hop-addled head. From the Beach Boys’ Southern California fun and sun to the storybook tide pools filled with starfish to the towering redwoods at the north end of the state, the PCH has it all. You’ll even hit both Los Angeles and San Francisco, so there’s ample opportunity for stadium beer on this run, too. Go sports team!
You can knock out the PCH in three days easily unless you opt to do it on a bike and yes, people peddle the whole route. The northern end of the highway is particularly good for cycling, so saddle up—and don’t forget to pack a bottle opener.
Photo via Left Coast/Facebook
The PCH begins in Dana Point, an Orange County beach town near San Clemente, and what’s San Clemente known for? If you said “The Nixon Library” you’re not wrong, but you’re reading the wrong list. San Clemente is home to the great Left Coast Brewing Company, makers of fantastic beers since 2004. I like stouts, and their Voo Doo is a good one. If you prefer your beers lighter, they’ve got you covered there, too.
Photo via VC Wines
I used to own this rattletrap of a British sports car that broke down if I looked at it wrong, so finding myself stranded alongside the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu wasn’t my first rodeo. I cussed and banged around under the hood, trying to stop the flood of gasoline dumping all over the hot exhaust manifold, and then I looked up and saw the most perfect sunset. Suddenly I was in a Beach Boys album cover, and life didn’t seem so bad. Other than the fire, I mean.
Now, if the Sundowner Brewery had been around back then, I’d have been even happier. They offer a great assortment, including a barley wine, and they’re much more reliable than my cruddy old English car.
Photo via Santa Barbara Brewing/Facebook
Santa Barbara is one of the most beautiful towns you’ll ever visit. The weather is perfect, the beach is great, and everyone is laid back. A city this awesome has to have an eponymous brewpub and hey, what do you know? Here it is: The Santa Barbara Brewing Company. They enhance their menu of seven year-rounders with seasonal selections, so no matter when you visit you’re in for something good.
Photo via Pismo Beach/Facebook
Pismo Beach is a great age test: If you hear that name and your first thought is “Bugs Bunny,” not only are you probably around my age, but I want to party with you, cowboy.
But if Pismo Brewing has their way, next time you hear “Pismo” you’ll think beer rather than long-eared galoots. They make a half dozen brews and a root beer, so good news, kids: Daddy won’t be leaving you in the car on this stop. Probably.
Photo via Visit Monterey
We’re in the neighborhood of the Lone Cypress now, the most photographed tree in the world. We’re also in Henry Miller’s old stomping grounds. Big Sur is one of California’s real treasures, so don’t be surprised if you get the urge to extend your road trip a day and hang out.
And if you are going to hang out, The Big Sur Taphouse is a great place to be. Go for the Big Sur Golden. When in Rome, am I right?
Photo via Speakeasy/Facebook
San Francisco isn’t hurting for breweries, but my favorite by far is Speakeasy. There’s a good chance that wherever you are right now you can get your hands on a Speakeasy beer, and if you do, go for the Big Daddy IPA. But come on, we’re in the City! Let’s head over to Speakeasy’s Tap Room!
Photo via North Coast/Facebook
Fort Bragg: What a great little town. Here’s where you’ll see your tide pools, starfish and sea lions, but man is that water cold. After the beach, go to North Coast Brewing Company to warm up. Their food is outrageous and as for their beers? I recommend that you try them all.
This might be a good place to stop for the night; as a matter of fact, this is probably a good place to stop our road trip. We have 45 miles to go before the PCH officially ends in Leggett, but we aren’t going to do better than North Coast Brewing Company. Come on!