Santa Maria Sun / Eats
ManRock Brewing in Grover Beach offers up craft beer, wood-fired pizza, and a lesson in California history
BY HAYLEY THOMAS
Deshia Hiebner loves to watch the expressions on customers’ faces when she tells them the origin of the name “ManRock Brewing Company.” Eyes usually widen from amused to curious to spellbound, all in the span of a brief conversation. Although the Grover Beach hangout sounds like it was named after an ’80s metal band (or some kind of rowdy man cave), it’s really all about family.
Deshia’s husband and ManRock Brewing Company Brewer, Mike, boasts strong ties to early California history. In fact, his great-grandfather and great-grandmother (of the Mansfield and Plaskett clans, respectively) homesteaded land north of Gorda back in the 1800s.
The Mansfield family ranch stood where the popular Plaskett Creek campground stands today, affording the family with a spectacular view of crashing waves and craggy coastal peaks. The modern-day campground, as well as historic Plaskett rock, were titled in honor of the brewer’s great-grandmother.
“Mansfield rock and Plaskett rock flanked the homestead property, leading to the name ‘ManRock,’” Deshia said. “For Mike, naming the brewery after the history was a way to keep that family heritage alive.”
By the 1960s (when property taxes ballooned), the old homestead was sold to the U.S. government for a single dollar bill. Still, family anecdotes remain, echoing through the generations. Take this one for example: One day, a well-dressed man and his associates showed up at the house looking for lodging. As the story goes, “granny came to the door with her gun.”
That’s just what you did back in those days. To be sure, both parties were packing heat.
“She agreed to feed everyone and allow them to stay on the property as long as they would be gone by morning,” Deshia said. “She had no idea that she had put up William Randolph Hearst.”
Now, whenever the couple travels up north, they make a point to stop by that rich and mysterious land. They’ve since discovered geocaches and ancient benchmarks (metal placards adorned with the family name forged into the stone) at the base of the family rocks.
It makes sense, then, that family remains a huge part of the ManRock Brewing Co. tradition today. Deshia mans the brewery’s kitchen and outdoor wood-fire pizza oven, as well as takes care of most of the marketing. Mike performs all of the brewing duties while son Blake (currently gearing up to attend brewing school in San Diego) helps out his father.
Their daughter, Paige, is a soon-to-be fermentation science major at Allan Hancock College and the current manager of the tasting room.
“We all do a myriad of things,” Deshia said. “The community really embraced our family. They really saw just how hard we worked to make this happen.”
Beer has always been in the family. In fact, Mike’s mother performed her fair share of home brewing, setting up her son with his very first kit.
“From there, Mike went straight into building his own little brew system and learned how to brew,” Deshia said. “His dad has always been a Coors Light person, which is kind of ironic.”
After 20 years working in the corporate retail management field—and simultaneously feeding his craft-brewing hobby—something had to give. After relocating from Thousand Oaks to Las Vegas to the Central Coast, he decided that his family wasn’t going to move again.
He was going to go forward with his lifelong dream.
Deshia, who was working as a full-time accountant, remembers the day in 2011 when her husband came home from work for the last time.
There was a wild gleam in his eye.
“I’d never seen him so excited. He said, ‘Today’s the day. We’re going to open a brewery,’” Deshia said. “We had talked about it for 10 years, but we never really thought about how we could actually make it happen.”
As it turns out, a lot of hard work, creativity, and community support proved to be the answer. The couple opened its first location in Grover Beach in 2012 before relocating to a nearby building adjacent to A.J. Spurs.
From the outside, you would never guess that the brewery boasts a sunny patio area for hanging out as well as a five-barrel brewing system and a clean, modern bar tucked away inside.
Deshia said something is always “a little different and a little better” at the brewery.
Not only can you sip on a ManRock’s small-batch blonde, amber, house IPA, double IPA, seasonal stouts, and bourbon-barrel-aged beers, but you can also partake in tangy, mildly sweet mead—a rarity on the Central Coast.
Wine from Tolosa Winery as well as pinot noir by Killer West—an extremely boutique Santa Maria area winery—is also available by the glass.
Loyal regulars have watched as ManRock upped its beer count, brought on Edna Bakery pizza dough, and added fun toppings like arugula and pear. Currently, the family is experimenting with creating fresh-baked pretzels in the outdoor pizza oven(which can reach up to 600 degrees in a snap).
“It’s been fun to have people see how we’ve changed, and I appreciate all those people who want to grow with us,” Deshia said.
Along with craft beer and wood-fired pizza, customers also enjoy a bit of that fuzzy Cheers feeling when they stroll through the front door. Kids are welcome and leashed dogs can lounge in the casual patio area. This is the laid-back vibe ManRock Brewing Company has become known for in Grover Beach.
Oh, and if you want to know about the origin of the name, get ready for a trippy ride back in time.
“We have always brought more to the table than beer, although we didn’t always know it,” Deshia said. “We get to know our customers’ families and know their lives. Being community supportive isn’t just the backbone of the Central Coast. It’s the backbone of everything we do here.”
HayleyThomas is getting buzzed on history at email@example.com.
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