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Walk SLO's craft beer mile: Hop On Walking Tour meets at the corner of Prohibition history and local craft beer 

Hop On Beer Tours owner Brant Myers has a strange request for his newest patrons: “Hop off.”

That is, hop out of the van and onto the street with his new Hop On Walking Tour, which encompasses four crafty local breweries, a slice of hot ’za, and a sprinkling of Prohibition era history. Hop into a fascinating world hidden just below your every step. Peer behind brick walls and around dusty corners, where ill-gotten barrels hide in plain sight. We’re talking juicy tales of hardened bootleggers, wild gunslingers, and infamous booze runners—all back-dropped against the dramatic landscape of the Central Coast.

Plus, did I mention, there’s beer?

Myers will continue his driving tours—which run from Firestone Walker Brewing Co. to the north, Solvang Brewing Company to the south, and everywhere in between, including cider and distillery stops. The only difference is that now the beer ambassador is able to offer an additional tour that can operate on a more nimble scale. That’s a very good thing for locals as well as tourists. In essence, this new walking tour is far more casual, affordable, and central to downtown SLO.

click to enlarge HOP OFF AND TUNE IN:  Hop On Beer Tours owner Brant Myers is offering a new, 1-mile walking tour that encompasses four breweries, lunch, and a bit of interesting San Luis Obispo Prohibition era history. Pictured, Libertine Brewing Company, the last stop on the tour. - PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • HOP OFF AND TUNE IN: Hop On Beer Tours owner Brant Myers is offering a new, 1-mile walking tour that encompasses four breweries, lunch, and a bit of interesting San Luis Obispo Prohibition era history. Pictured, Libertine Brewing Company, the last stop on the tour.

“Downtown SLO has gotten to a point where there’s a need for this kind of tour, but we are still a relatively small destination compared to places like Denver, Portland, and Sydney,” Myers said. “I thought, ‘How can I continue to bolster the craft beer scene while also accommodating smaller groups?’”

Instead of making multiple stops in a van after zipping by the scenery, patrons are invited to stretch out in the fresh air, put sneaker to asphalt, and learn about local lore while actually immersing themselves in the true “SLO life” (read: slow-paced and chill, dude).

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that downtown SLO is currently exploding with cool beer joints crafting everything from fruity sours to barrel-aged stouts. These local faves—BarrelHouse Speakeasy, Central Coast Brewing, SLO Brew, and the recently completed Libertine Brewing Co., among them—are all on the roster for the company’s April debut opening.

Myers said he aimed for a three-to-four hour tour with about 30 to 45 minutes at each brewery. Why? The craft beer aficionado wants his tour-goers to really soak in the SLO’s unique brewery scene, not rush from one pint glass to the next.

Groups include about eight people max, which means you actually get the chance to rub elbows with local brewers, ask a billion questions, and get to know your tour-mates. A guide is always on hand to talk hops, make tasting recommendations, and generally be your “designated drinking buddy.”

“I chose groups of eight people because there’s eight slices in a pizza,” Myers said.

The $50 price tag comes with a slice of pizza and salad, plus two 4-ounce tasters per stop. If you want more, go for it. Myers said he knows different people want to drink different amounts of beer, and that’s OK.

“You’ll have a tasting flight lined up, but then have the option to try other beers if you like; you can totally do that,” Myers said. “If you like that IPA or want to try that nitro coffee stout, have a pint.”

However, as Myers so wisely notes on his website FAQ, “This is not a sweet pub crawl!!!”

WALK THIS WAY:  Hop off and drink up! Learn about local Prohibition history, sip some superb suds, and maybe even make a few friends along the way. Learn about Hop On Walking Tours at hoponwalkingtours.com.
  • WALK THIS WAY: Hop off and drink up! Learn about local Prohibition history, sip some superb suds, and maybe even make a few friends along the way. Learn about Hop On Walking Tours at hoponwalkingtours.com.

Instead, expect a heady combination of curiosity and community. Myers said the idea sprang from a walking tour he created for SLO Craft Beer week. Not long after that tour, he found himself studying up on local history at the SLO Historical Society. He assumed that the combination of beer and local Prohibition history would be totally—well—intoxicating.

“We have a huge Prohibition history in our town, and not that many people really know about it,” Myers said. “Bootleggers went from Avila and Montaña de Oro to run barrels into town. Not only do you get to learn about craft beer, you also get to learn a little history about SLO. I thought that would be really cool.”

Myers still finds out facts about SLO Town history that make his eyes bug out of his head. In a land where everyone’s focused on wine grapes, dirt biking, and yoga, it’s fun to remember that this was, truly, “The Wild West.”

Things may have changed drastically in downtown SLO since Prohibition era times, but one comfort flows steady and pure through the ages: the allure of stopping at your local neighborhood joint for a cold beer.

“Breweries, historically, were always local, neighborhood stops,” Myers said. “Think of England and their public house. It’s where you went to drink with friends. That’s what’s happening in SLO, and what we want to share with this tour.”

Hayley Thomas Cain has her walking shoes on and a pint in her hand. She can be reached at hthomas@newtimesslo.com.

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