By Connor Allen OF VINO MAGAZINE
They say most people come in one of either two categories, you’re either an artist or an engineer. The engineers of this world like to deal with exact sciences, they like to know that if you add two things together that it will be the same answer every time, they hang their hats on it and build careers around it. And while one deals in exact sciences, the opposite is true of the other, the artist enjoys ambiguity and learns how to make beauty out of the chaos.
This principle has been applied to many things — even beer makers.
“It sounds cheesy,” Libertine Brewing Company General Manager Sean Zurbriggen said. “But we let the barrell tell us when it’s ready, you know, we don’t rush it. It’s not like an IPA.” The Brewery has over 600 barrels in their program. Some use whiskey barrels, some use wine or cordials, you name and they have used it.
Libertine Brewing Company in San Luis Obispo specializes on making beer, but not cut and dry beers like ale’s, pilsners; and IPA’s, they specialize in sour beers which takes time and added steps.
“We are taking younger and newer ones,” Zurbriggen explained. “You know you might have a beer that is not quite ready but has just the right characteristics that it helps another beer taste better or taste right.”
Rather than anchoring around a few cornerstone beers, Libertine has gone the opposite route focusing mostly on single batches and filling their bar with beers from near and far.
The seemingly endless line of taps is the first thing you see when you enter the restaurant. Trying to count them seemed foolish, so I did it anyways, and I was right, it was foolish. Half way through my first attempt I began tapping my foot and humming along to a nostalgic tune that was flirting with my attention span.
“Dunn dunn nu nuhh nu nuh nuh dunn dunn... I can’t get no-” and suddenly I forgot about the taps as I began to absorb the ambiance around me. The wall that borders Broad Street in San Luis Obispo was up and single beams of sunlight shone into the restaurant through the trees outside.
The most powerfully majestic painting (or maybe it was a photo, I didn’t analyze it, I just gazed upon it like a kid looking at his first nudie mag) of Freddy Mercury hangs in the corner over the ramp to the restrooms. It reminded me of that feeling you get when you enter one of your friends grandma’s houses and see a giant Jesus painting hanging over the fireplace, you understand that Tom foolery will not tolerated with the son of God watching over you, but with Freddy, it seemed to usher in a vibe relaxation with a hint of recklessness.
“Old music is a huge part of what we do,” Zurbriggen told me. “A lot of our labels are driven from old Stones and Beach Boys albums and stuff like that. We have a beer called Good Vibrations, we did one called Summer Breeze, we’ve done Under My Plum which was a play on ‘Under My Thumb.’”
As for the music that is played, he says it is a hodgepodge of everyone that works there. Several employees bring in records from their own collections so to put their own fingerprints on atmosphere.
Libertine truly has something for everyone, the actual number of taps (I was told) they have is 77. Their own sour creations usually occupy around 20 taps, that rotate quickly, with wine holding down eight to 10 of their own. The remaining 50 taps could literally be anything from anywhere.
“If you want to try to get beers you’ve never been able to get before of have never seen, this is the place,” Zurbriggen says. “We have connections with Shelton Brothers and Lime, who are good distributors from outside that state that bring stuff from all over that you can’t just get anywhere.”
On any given day they can have beers from breweries (not sours) in Colorado, England and everywhere in between that can be enjoyed with your belly up to the bar or in the sun on the patio.