The weather outside may be frightful in some cities, but in Santa Barbara it’s a comfortable 60 degrees. For locals, this means a couple of things: scarves, boots, and beanies are a must (we’ll use any excuse), and secondly, it’s time to drink beer. There’s nothing like getting cozy by the fireplace in a dark pub on a winter night (even if the mercury is hovering well above freezing). In the spirit of the season, I’ve compiled a list of the top five watering holes to warm up, shoot pool, throw a few darts, and imbibe in the fruits of local breweries.
With a namesake of its ilk, the Joyce is a central spot to sip local brews at the bar while pontificating literary subjects…or your next dart move. If you prefer a less mind bending pub experience, order a Santa Barbara Blonde (who wouldn’t want one of those?) and saddle up by the fire to take in the tunes of Ulysses S. Jasz, a throwback band which serenades patrons on Saturday nights. Barrels of peanuts keep patrons thirsty, and dancing is a must on the husk-littered floor.
Live Irish folk music, a crackling fire, and strong stouts are a constant at this Gaelic haven. Steak and Guiness pie, beer battered fish and chips, and other traditional fare is served up for a special price on the 17th of each month, and Saint Patrick’s Day is more than just a holiday at the pub (the faint of heart need not enter). The venue’s four pool tables are always packed, and the dance floor usually gets some action after visitors have thrown back a few specialty pints—Black & Tan, Harp Shandy, and Black Velvet, to name a few—down the hatch.
The words dark and quirky come to mind when describing this bar, which is tucked down a side street two blocks off of State. Single cigarettes are sold at the cash only bar, and the hipster staff stays busy pouring agave-wine margaritas and cold brews on tap. Purple walls and well-worn armchairs are accented by black and white photos and touches like feathers and teapots. If that’s not enough to get you there, stop by for open mic night on the second to last Tuesday of each month and you’re guaranteed priceless entertainment.
This spot is packed with patrons enjoying handcrafted brew and live music four days a week. The frosty beer here couldn’t get more local—Montecito Street Wheat, Saint Barb’s Dubbel, and Harry Porter are brewed on site in two large copper vessels. The imaginative ales move straight from the fermenter to the serving tanks, through the beer tap, and if you’re lucky, passed your lips. Drink up everyday from 4 pm until 6 pm when happy hour couldn’t get happier with half-price pints and appetizers under $6.
Admittedly, this is not a cozy pub, but I’d be remiss to leave it off the list. Handmade beer is crafted at this very off the beaten track brewery, where locals congregate for frosty pints of Belgian-style White Ale, Stock Porter, Oatmeal Stout, and more. If you fall in love with one of Telegraph’s full-flavored brews (which is hard not to do), take a growler of your drink of choice to share with friends or savor at home. If you want to rub elbows and make friends with some real beer drinking Santa Barbarans, this is the spot.