Who’s Pouring for Indy Hops?

Meet the Nine Breweries and Brewpubs Serving You Suds and Stamps This Month

Who’s Pouring for Indy Hops?

Meet the Nine Breweries and Brewpubs
Serving You Suds and Stamps This Month

By Matt Kettmann | June 29, 2023

Validation Ale | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom

Read the ‘Beer Geeks’ cover story here.

Not that you needed another reason to sip on some suds during the summertime, but it’s time for the Santa Barbara Independent’s annual Indy Hops, a month-long cheers to the many breweries and brewpubs serving up ales to our thirsty readers. Those who collect stamps on their Indy Hops passports from every one of the nine participants are invited to the July 31 “Drop Party,” where your efforts will be rewarded with, of course, more beer. Here’s where you’ll be drinking. 

The Brewhouse

After taking over The Brewhouse from the longtime owners last year, Grant Danely made some improvements but retained the core formula of brewing fresh beer and serving delicious food. 

“We’re the oldest and most local operating brewery with a full restaurant and bar in Santa Barbara,” he said. “We opened the Montecito Street location on May 26, 1998, and are still going strong after 25 years.” First-time visitors should try the Condor Pilsner, which even works for those who don’t consider themselves beer-drinkers. 

They’ll be hosting their own raffle at the end of Indy Hops, with the winner getting a free flight of fours beers, a $25 gift certificate, and free gorgonzola chips.

229 W. Montecito St.; (805) 884-4664; sbbrewhouse.com

Centennial Beer Hall 

In 2021, Ron Batdorf turned the longtime Mercury Lounge location in Old Town Goleta into Centennial Beer Hall, bringing craft brews from around the world to the heart of the Good Land. 

“We pride ourselves on offering a wide array of beers sourced from our incredible local breweries as well as a selection of special and uncommon offerings,” said Batdorf. “Our rotating tap list provides an opportunity for guests to try new, seasonal, and limited-release beers each time they visit us.” 

Indy Hops participants can enjoy a pint for just $5 on their first visit when you show your passport. 

5871 Hollister Ave., Goleta; (805) 324-4724; centennial

Institution Ale

This father-son brewery opened a decade ago in Camarillo before expanding to Santa Barbara in 2019, when it became one of the most buzzing spots on State Street. 

“The devil is in the details when making beer,” explained co-owner Shaun Smith, the son in the equation. “We don’t have a ‘secret sauce’ or niche that we rally around. We’re just focused on brewing consistently great beer and serving it as fresh as possible.” 

Since Institution is known for their West Coast–style pales and IPAs, try the Somewhere Golden Pale Ale, which shows off the hop love. Also hop-forward but malty, the Mosaic Pale Ale is a fan favorite, while the Stranded Coconut Stout is for those seeking richer ales. It’s brewed with fresh coconut that they toast, and served on nitro. 

516 State St.; (805) 482-3777; institutionales.com

Island Brewing Company 

In 2001, when Paul Wright opened Island Brewing in Carpinteria, there were just three breweries in the whole region. Four years later, the brewery moved to its current location right on the railroad tracks off of Linden Avenue, where it’s a fixture of the seaside community. 

“The brewery serves a full spectrum of beers, from lagers to stouts, including the Starry Night Stout, which won gold at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup,” said the brewery’s Mark Matthews. “But perhaps the beer that causes the most head turning, and Untappd reviews, is the Avocado Honey Ale.” 

Brewed with dark, rich, molasses-like avocado honey, the ale was originally created for the annual Avocado Festival but quickly became a staple, with variations including an IPA, amber ale, and bourbon-barrel version. “The best course of action is to come to Island Brewing Company, sit on the patio, watch the trains go by, see the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, and taste the Avocado Honey Ale — sunshine in a glass — at the source!” said Matthews. 

5049 6th St., Carpinteria; (805) 745-8272; islandbrewing

Lama Dog Tap Room + Bottle Shop

Lama Dog became the Funk Zone’s prime central gathering place when the tap room opened in May 2016. 

“Lama Dog’s main focus is to bring in the best possible beer we can, both on draft and in can or bottle,” said owner Pete Burnham, who takes trips in his pickup every couple of weeks to buy straight from breweries around California and employs full-time beer buyer Chris Thompson to scour the world. “Beer styles and trends change often, so we do our best effort to stay on top of what’s new and upcoming in the beer world. We utilize our resources to bring in a large variety of the best possible beer available for everyone to enjoy.”

116 Santa Barbara St.; (805) 880-3364; lamadog.com

M. Special Brewing Company

M. Special quenched the thirst of Goleta when it started pouring in a former office complex near the busy intersection of Storke and Hollister in 2015. Those vibes expanded to State Street five years later. 

“We saw a need for approachable craft beer in the Santa Barbara community, and we have executed in fulfilling that need ever since,” said cofounder and brewmaster Joshua Ellis, who’s proud of the brand’s brew-collar work ethic. “We’re not trying to make beer into something it’s not — there is no need to stick your pinky out while you’re drinking it.” 

Try the flagship M. Special American Lager, Sabado Tarde Tangerine Blonde Ale, and G-Town Grapefruit IPA for a scan of their flavors. 

6860 Cortona Dr., Building C, Goleta; 634 State St.; (805) 968-6500;

Rincon Brewery

Rincon Brewery began in Carpinteria in October 2014, expanded to Ventura in 2017, and then opened on a prominent Funk Zone corner in 2020. They just finished building a full kitchen in the latter location and are excited to show it off. 

“We are a restaurant and brewery that has a full menu and vast array of craft beers brewed locally in the 805,” said owner Luisa Hyatt, who’s proud of their “ocean-friendly” certification from Surfrider because, “It goes right along with the values of the brand.” 

Beer is integrated into their food, such as the tri-tip marinated in La Reina Lager, the Mac Brown Ale–laced cheesy bacon beer dip, and the stout-powered BBQ sauce. This month, they’re highlighting the Friendship Paddle’s “Spread the Love Lager,” with proceeds supporting April Medina-Watson and cans featuring a painting by last year’s Paddle beneficiary, Chris Potter. 

5065 Carpinteria Ave., Carpinteria; (805) 684-6044; 205 Santa Barbara St., Ste. 1B; (805) 869-6627; rinconbrewery.com

Solvang Brewing Company

Founded in 2010 by Solvang-born Cari Renfrow and her husband, Stephen Renfrow, this centrally located brewery on Mission Drive/Highway 246 — which also has a location in Lompoc — serves the standard range of brews as well as a full menu of food. Try the Valhalla IPA, Odin’s Oatmeal Stout, or Blue-Eyed Blonde Lager, brewed in the traditional helles style.  

1547 Mission Dr., Solvang; (805) 688-2337; solvangbrewing.com

Validation Ale 

Validation Ale was opened a year ago in the heart of the Funk Zone by two longtime Santa Barbara technology veterans, who also enlisted partners to run the gastropub menu. They developed a participatory model that pits two beers of similar styles (like “Light” or “Hoppy”) against each other, with the established beer, a k a “Validated,” being challenged by the new “Vying” recipe. 

“If the challenger outsells the incumbent, it takes the place of Validated and we brew another new beer to try and outdo ourselves again,” said CEO and cofounder Brian Deignan. “Essentially, our tap list is controlled by the community that drinks our beer, and we’re constantly innovating and creating based on our guests’ preference.”

The top seller is an “extremely crushable” Cold IPA called “Mo Frosty,” though it may be wise to start on the crisp Italian pilsner “Convalida” or the Golden Coffee Ale “Morning Gold,” which is served on smooth nitro and sports a chocolate-vanilla finish. Wanna turn it up to 9.2 percent? Then the current Hoppy challenger “Yanonali” is your piney, citrusy West Coast Double IPA.

Validation will be hosting the July 31 Indy Hops drop party, so there’s no excuse not to have this stamp on your passport. 

102 E. Yanonali St.; (805) 500-3111;


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