A Santa Barbara Funk Zone Craft Beer Tour
It's official, I've fallen head over heels for the California coastal city of Santa Barbara. And it only took 5 years of living in California to do so. I know, I'm late to the ball game. Be that as it may be, while I've spent time in Santa Barbara in the last few years, it really took properly exploring Santa Barbara's most eclectic, artsy district, the Funk Zone, to really see the light. But if we're really being honest here, the Funk Zone is less funky, and more hipster. Yet the Funk Zone is no less cool because of it. While it's bordered by two of Santa Barbara's busier, touristy areas, the Santa Barbara Waterfront and State Street, the Funk Zone definitely gives off a much more artsy, local, chic vibe. And though the Funk Zone may have strong art influences, what immediately stands out while walking its streets is the craft drink influence; namely, the many wine tasting rooms as part of the Urban Wine Trail, and for our purposes, the craft breweries and beer bars.
Even better, you can visit all of the Santa Barbara's Funk Zone breweries without ever having to order a Lyft or drive across town. Winner, winner beer dinner! As such, in this post I'm taking you on a self-guided Santa Barbara Funk Zone craft beer tour.
Brass Bear Brewing
Alright, I know I'm not supposed to show favorites, but Brass Bear Brewing may just be my favorite, from the concept to their story to the space to the beer they're making. Their motto: "Eat Local. Drink Local. Love Local." The Brass Bear name comes from a national parks road trip that the owners took from New York to California, and more specifically because of how the sun hit off a family of black bears at my favorite national park, Glacier National Park. It's like the brewery was made for me. What's more, their food menu includes unique food items like Tico Tacos with Costa Rican slaw (I lived in Costa Rica).
The Santa Barbara brewery itself, however, is low on frills, located at the back of an industrial-style building in the heart of the Funk Zone. Brass Bear Brewing's craft beer selection includes several of their own beers, of which I enjoyed the DIPA. However, they also serve other local beer and wine, and have a grill, which you can watch them cook on if sitting at the bar. Also of note are their pairing dinners, which they do from time to time, and sell tickets for on their website.
Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company
If you're a beer lover who lives or has spent time in California, then you've probably come across Figueroa Mountain Brewing Company. Opening in nearby Buellton, Figueroa Mountain Brewing has became a staple of the California Central Coast, with six taprooms, including one taproom in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone. You'll be hard-pressed to find a brewery where you can try so many beers, with more than 20 different beers. Their IPA beers are my go-to beers (per the usual), though many of their award-winning beers are of other varieties, like the Davy Brown Ale and Stagecoach Stout. The highlight of Figueroa Mountain Brewing's Santa Barbara taproom, however, is the outdoor patio. Hello, endless summer.
Lama Dog Tap Room + Bottle Shop
It's just one beer, they said. You can even get some work done on their Wi-Fi, they said. It'll be fun, they said. Hours later and I'm still roped into one of the coolest craft beer spaces I've been into, and looking at last-minute hotel rooms to book for the night instead of driving home. And it all started here at Lama Dog, inside the Waterline, an adaptive reuse space in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone, housing it, Topa Topa Brewing, Fox Wine Co., and an artist collective selling wares and goods. Yes, it is that cool.
I had actually walked into Lama Dog to make it my workspace for the afternoon, as I had been told they had free Wi-Fi. I was pleased to find a couple others using the space for that very reason (while sipping beer, of course) when I walked in. But Lama Dog isn't a brewery. It's first a taproom, featuring more than 20 revolving craft beer taps, but also a bottle shop with more than 300 different bottles of beer from around the world (and even small lot bottles of wine!). What I give them major props for, however, is having an updated list of both the taps and bottles on their website. Plus, they have an in-house, certified cicerone, who teaches a variety of beer education classes.
Topa Topa Brewing Company
Topa Topa Brewing Company is mere steps from Lama Dog, located on the other side of the Waterline. And let me tell you, it's a carnival of the senses as soon as you walk in, from the chit-chat of the artist collective to the wafting aromas of delicious food and drinks to the artistic touches filling the large, open space. Topa Topa's motto: "Good vibes, great beer." These are my people!
Unique to Topa Topa Brewing Company is that their head brewer, Casey Harris, comes from what's arguably one of the West Coast's best breweries, Stone Brewing (in San Diego), where he rose the ranks to become their senior brewer. Topa Topa's brewery is actually located in Ventura, while they opened their new tasting room in Santa Barbara at the Waterline. Among their beers on tap at the Funk Zone tasting room is a session IPA, IPA, oatmeal stout, and saison.