Santa Clara Valley Brewing Brews Inaugural Beer, Plus Q & A with CEO Tom Clark

Santa Clara Valley Brewing brewmaster Steve Donohue (l) and CEO Tom Clark (r) on their inaugural brew day, April 26, 2013
Santa Clara Valley Brewing brewmaster Steve Donohue (l) and CEO Tom Clark (r) on their inaugural brew day, April 26, 2013

News last year of Steve Donohue opening his own brewery created quite a buzz. Not only were South Bay beer fans excited about Donohue’s new venture – Santa Clara Valley Brewing – but so, too, were beer fans throughout the Bay Area.

Steve Donohue – A Popular South Bay Figure

Donohue is active on social media and possesses a down-to-earth personality and an endearing dry sense of humor. He also makes consistently well-regarded beer and has the remarkable distinction of having recently won four consecutive medals at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival from 2008 to 2011.

Santa Clara Valley Brewing – Progress Updates

Donohue has been providing updates through Facebook and Twitter, including the following progress information:

  • Dec. 2012: Leasing of building space to house among other things, an office, a cold box unit, kegs, and other supplies.
  • March 2013: TTB and California ABC license approvals.
  • March 25, 2013: The brewing of a collaboration beer to be aged in wine barrels and ready in June 2014. Hermitage Brewing Company noted that their collaboration beer is a sour ale with a base beer that is pale golden yellow comprised of barley malt and lots of wheat. Fermented with brettanomyces, the ABV for the finished product will be about 4.5%.
  • April 26, 2013: The brewing of the inaugural batch of Santa Clara Valley Brewing’s first solo effort, an IPA, which will be available in two to three weeks.

Inaugural Batch

When visiting with Donohue at Hermitage Brewing this past Friday (Santa Clara Valley Brewing will be contract brewing until they open a brewing facility of their own), he was busy tending to his inaugural batch of beer, an IPA. Assuming the beer label is approved in time, the IPA will be released in a couple of weeks in bottles and kegs and called Electric Tower IPA.

To help mark this milestone brewing day, Donohue was soon joined by his business partner, Tom Clark, and their respective spouses. They had arrived in time to see the addition of the first hops to the IPA.

Q & A with Santa Clara Valley Brewing CEO Tom Clark

Tom Clark is the CEO of Santa Clara Valley Brewing. Friendly, smart, and down-to-earth, Clark has maintained a low profile with regards to his role in creating Santa Clara Valley Brewing; until now, that is.

He has taken time to share a bit of his background, how Santa Clara Valley Brewing and his partnership with Donohue formed, how the name Santa Clara Valley Brewing came about, what he has learned so far, and when and where he expects to establish their own brewery.

What is your general background?

I’m originally from the Northeast. I went to UMass in Lowell for my BS in Computer Science. After graduation I was recruited by Apple, and my wife and I moved here in 1991. We bought our house in Willow Glen in 1993 and have lived here ever since. Currently I manage an engineering team at Apple.

How did Santa Clara Valley Brewing come about? How did your partnership with Steve Donohue come about?

I have been homebrewing off and on for the past 20 years, and when you homebrew everybody asks, “When are you going to open your own place?” I never really thought about doing that until a few years ago when it occurred to me that San Jose was really lacking when it came to a “local” beer scene.

I then started coming up with the concept of a local craft brewery that area residents could identify with and call their own. I casually pitched the idea to friends and eventually one of my buddies contacted me and told me that he knew a local award-winning brewer who was interested in starting his own brewery. This was about 18 months ago.

I subsequently contacted Steve and we met up to talk about our ideas. Turns out we had a very similar vision, and we lived about a mile and a half away from each other!

How did you guys come up with the name Santa Clara Valley Brewing?

We wanted to identify the company with the region, so we kicked around a lot of possibilities. We are proud of the heritage of the area, from the early settlements through its agricultural past and up to today’s Silicon Valley, so we liked the idea of using “Santa Clara Valley” to encompass all of that.

Steve has already leaked the names of our first two offerings, Electric Tower IPA and Peralta Porter, so I’ll leave that up to you to investigate the genesis of those names. :)

All of our beers will pay homage to the valley’s history.

Your first beers will soon hit the market. What have you learned up to this point? How will you deal with the pressures?

The buzz has been incredible. I never thought we’d have so many beer bars, bottle shops and restaurants already anticipating our first release.

For me it’s been a real eye opening experience. Steve and I have had “staff meetings” at many local establishments and it seems like wherever we go somebody comes up and says, “Aren’t you Steve Donohue?”

Steve really knows his stuff and I couldn’t be happier with the partnership we’ve established.

When can we expect a brewery facility?

That’s an idea we’ve tossed around from the start. We’d like to cement our brand first and then concentrate on establishing a “home base” where we can brew on our own schedule and also offer tastings, much like our local wineries do. Look for that in the next year or so.

Do you guys plan on opening your brewery in San Jose?

Yes, our plan includes a tasting room, so we’d like to open a facility someplace close to downtown, where we can anticipate plenty of foot traffic.

Would you like to add anything else?

Just that we’ve had an incredible amount of support from our friends and families, whom we thank immensely.

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