Breweries and tap rooms are popping up all over the Central Coast.

According to the California Craft Brewers Association, more than 850 craft breweries call the state home. That’s more than any other in the nation. Locally, you can experience some of the best.

Personally, I have always been a wine connoisseur or tequila fan.

On recent adventures for Keys 2 the Coast, in hot pursuit of finding the best places to wine, dine and explore, my eyes have been opened wide to a whole new world of dramatically different drinking delights.

Some friends and I stopped into Naughty Oak Brewing Company & Taproom in Old Orcutt, just south of Santa Maria. Old Orcutt is a tiny community bursting with personality. Coming up Highway 101, exit on Clark Avenue, head west and you’ll find Naughty Oak at 165 South Broadway Street. They also have a second location at 3569 Sagunto Street in Santa Ynez.

What a fun place! Their beer flights allow their guests to choose what they would like to taste, making it easy to find a favorite.

Owner Steve Kitts shared, “We wanted to create a place where friends could come in and enjoy a variety of great beers that are surprisingly unique… Like our popular Castaway. It’s based off an old Irish dry-style recipe, and we hand-toasted coconut flake and infused it into our Irish Stout, which brings out characters of vanilla, chocolate, and coconut.” It tastes kind of like an Almond Joy candy bar.

Naughty Oak doesn’t prepare food, but they offer menus from several surrounding local establishments. Numerous family-owned businesses provide great food, within walking distance. One of my favorites is Patricio’s Pizzeria, which is only one block away. What goes better with beer than a fantastic pizza?

Another favorite to the south is the Brass Bear Brewery and Bistro, located at 28 Anacapa Street, #E, one block up from the beach in the Santa Barbara funk zone. The business was started by Seth and Lindsay Anderson, who has a knack for creating intriguing beers and fantastic food.

What’s a Tico taco? It’s a delicious, spicy, tequila, lime and pork sausage taco. We also chose the chicken skewers, that where delicately marinated with herbs and garlic, served with a side of brown mustard and tzatziki sauce. Savory potato cakes made by smashing potatoes, egg battered and grilled. The cole slaw made with cabbage, lime, onion, cilantro, and tomato, was not your typical slaw. You will love this place. Four beers are offered in their flight. The Goldilocks Blonde and the Cave Age Lager are fantastic. The Hopping Grizzly is intense and delicious. The Berry Patch lager was remarkable.

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Have you ever tasted a beer that bursts with berry flavors, exciting the palate? Kaity Dean shared, “I love working here because the owners and my team are committed to ensuring that everyone who comes in has a great experience.”

Stop in for happy hour Monday through Friday, from 12 to 6 p.m., to enjoy a pint for $5. The staff is friendly, and the food is delicious ... and something great is always brewing!

In San Luis Obispo County, check out the Shell Beach Brewhouse, at 1527 Shell Beach Road in Pismo Beach. It’s walking distance from the beach, and it’s a lively gastropub and sports bar where you can slurp fresh and spicy oyster shooters to get the fun times started. During football season on Sundays, you can get your suds on early. The bar opens at 10 a.m. Choosing from the 30 rotating beers on tap can be a challenge, but I suggest that you try the Cali Cream Ale. This spot is family friendly, and if you’re hungry, they are known for delicious burgers. If you are feeling adventurous, try the peanut butter, banana, bacon burger. It’s delicious.

Try a savory and juicy pulled pork sandwich or a Costa Rican rock shrimp ceviche. If you like beet salad, its loaded with beets, goat cheese, and candied almonds. It’s a local’s hangout and a great place to get the scoop on things to do on the coast.

So, if you have a good head on your shoulders, get out to one of the Central Coast's fantastic brewing companies and tap that draught!

Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys2TheCoast.com. Keys 2 The Coast is a travel resource for Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Monterey counties, offering recommendations on “local choices” for the best places to wine, dine and explore. Visit keys2thecoast.com or Keys2TheCoast on Facebook.

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