The corner of Osos and Monterey streets in downtown San Luis Obispo is about to start pumping with amber libations and a full-service restaurant.
Locals Chris and Bambi Banys are putting the finishing touches on their new brewhouse, slated to open in mid-January. The 3,500-square-foot space replaces Mexican restaurant Qué Pasa at 1009 Monterey St.
- Photos By Cherish Whyte
- FROM SCRATCH Antigua co-owners Chris and Bambi Banys remodeled every inch of their new brewery—with an occasional assist from community members. Their exterior mural was designed by local company Canned Pineapple.
Aptly named Antigua, the brewery abuts two historic buildings—the art deco Fremont Theater, built in 1941, and the Sperry Building, originally constructed in 1898 and currently housing Mo's Smokehouse BBQ and Woodstock's Pizza.
"To us, [the name Antigua] conjures the idea of old-fashioned artistry and personal dedication to craft, and evokes the connection modern San Luis Obispo has to its historic roots," Bambi said.
"We designed our own logo, with help from a professional graphic artist. The image is a golden hop, rising like the sun over San Luis Obispo," she said. "The idea is that of a glorious new age of beer dawning over the Central Coast."
- Photo By Cherish Whyte
- WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS Antigua's state-of-the-art brewery uses steam lines running from a rooftop boiler, as well as custom-built tanks from Criveller Group, based in Healdsburg. Local ranchers make use of the facility's spent grain.
Antigua may evoke images of times past, but the facility is a new-age marvel. During the past two years, passersby may have noticed extensive construction, from craning a steam-powered boiler to the roof and forklifting in massive custom-designed tanks, to even carving up Monterey Street to install new underground gas lines.
The Banyses' painstaking attention to detail extends to every aspect of the establishment, which will accommodate roughly 80 people indoors, with additional patio seating.
"We are handcrafting as much as possible," Bambi said. "For example, we repurposed butcher block desks that [I] had made for Chris' prior office into branded patio tables; burned and scraped wood from the brewing equipment shipping crate to make the front apron of the bathroom sinks; made wood flight serving trays from trees cut at the SLO Country Club; made live-edge tables from a walnut slab salvaged from a tree removed in Creston; and burned, scraped, and sealed the wood that will wrap the bar front and make one of our exterior signs.
"We believe in quality in all things, not just the beer," she continued. "So, if we do something, we give it nothing less than our best effort and pay attention to the details. That's who we are as people, and we think the customers deserve it. That's why I'm on round four of getting the bar top just right."
While the Banyses put the finishing touches on their brewery, their new tanks are already yielding great pours, including a porter, IPA, and double IPA. Customers can purchase four-packs of 16-ounce cans in the taproom, online, and for shipment throughout California.
Antigua beers are unique in that their hops are farmed from their own property. Competitors import dry and pelletized hops from the Pacific Northwest, Bambi explained.
- Photo Courtesy Of Antigua Brewing
- ALL-IN AT ANTIGUA FARMS The Banys family established a hop farm on their SLO property three years ago. Piper Banys, 15, and her brother, Mason, 12, assist parents Chris and Bambi during harvest time.
"Pelletizing is the process of pulverizing the dried hops to dust and turning that dust into pellets that look like rabbit food," she explained. "As you can imagine, just like with the herbs used in cooking, flavor is lost at each step of the process."
The Banyses, on the other hand, "strive to make the freshest, most exciting, best-tasting beer you've ever had," Chris said.
"It starts on our San Luis hop farm, where we personally nurture and grow the hops that add fresh, intricate flavors to our brews. We then add the finest malts; pure, triple-filtered water; the best yeast strains; and use a state-of-the-art, steam-fired brewhouse," he continued.
"We currently have around 1,500 bines planted on roughly 1 acre—hops are considered bines rather than vines," Bambi added. "We have the capacity to expand to several more acres as needed once the brewery is open."
The Banyses have been brewing for friends, family, and events for several years, but have not sold their beverages—until now.
Mike Hicks, an Antigua fan and owner of Lincoln Market and Deli in SLO, started stocking their beers last month.
He said he met the couple at Paragon, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu martial arts facility in SLO.
"I learned that they were in the process of opening up a brewery in downtown SLO, which is no small feat, and that they were unique in the fact that they were growing their own hops," Hicks said.
- Photos By Cherish Whyte
- HEAVY HITTERS Antigua's current lineup includes Pandemic Porter, a rich blend of chocolate, coffee, and fresh hops; The Grand Hoppening IPA; and hefty Thor's Hammer Immortal IPA. Stay tuned for a lager, hazy IPA, red ale, and more.
"As the owner of ... a sandwich and beer store, I jumped at the chance to carry their beer. After trying their beer, I was glad I did. The Thor's Hammer double IPA was floral and full-bodied, but not overly hot and heavy like some double IPAs can be," he said. "The Grand Hoppening IPA had a delicious blend of hoppy and malty notes that is more uncommon than some one-dimensional West Coast IPAs."
When it comes to creating their offerings and bringing their vision to fruition, Bambi said she and Chris collaborate on everything.
A home brewer for nearly 20 years, Chris "had the original vision and is in charge of beer and beverage development," Bambi said, while she "has a big hand in the aesthetic, branding, and design elements."
When not working on their brewery, training three times a week in jiu-jitsu, or spending time with their two children, the Banyses retain rewarding day jobs.
Chris is a trial lawyer with his own firm in SLO. His caseload, including pro bono work for clients who can't afford legal help, takes him around the state. Bambi is a specialized nurse practitioner working in interventional pediatric cardiology at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto.
Juggling their multiple pursuits is time-consuming, but the Banyses don't do moderation.
"You only live once," Bambi quipped.
Quality is their driving force, and they hope it pays off as the couple fulfills a lifelong dream of having their own place "to craft exceptional beer and share it with [others]," Bambi said.
Their full-service kitchen will hardly be an afterthought, with house-made recipes "we have honed over the years," she added, hinting at favorites including macaroni and cheese and "the world's best chocolate chip cookies." Δ
Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte is partial to Antigua's Pandemic Porter. Reach her at [email protected].