Strike Brewing Company is nearing completion on a brewery and tap room in San Jose that could produce up to 5,000 barrels of beer annually.
The space on 10th Street takes up just under 6,000-square-feet of a large 90,000 square-foot warehouse building about a mile south of downtown San Jose.
The idea for Strike originated in 2008, stemming from a love for home brewing and the observation that there was a dearth of options for drinkers wanting a full-flavored beer with relatively low alcohol content.
Co-founders and South Bay residents CEO Jenny Lewis and brewmaster Drew Ehrlich wanted to make sure their first releases emphasized session beers with less than 5 percent ABV.
They also connected their brand to beer drinkers who lived very active lifestyles. Lewis was a collegiate swimmer at Rice University while Ehrlich played baseball at Stanford, eventually playing a couple years professionally with the Red Sox organization. Their commitment to starting Strike led Lewis to embark on an MBA program while Ehrlich spent those years gaining professional brewing experience.
Since releasing their first offerings back in December 2011 on a contract basis with Hermitage Brewing Company, sales have steadily risen, requiring more capacity to keep up with demand.
Strike currently has four beers offered year-round—the session Blonde, session Brown, IPA and Imperial Red. These staples can be found at locations throughout Northern California, including Safeway throughout Santa Clara County, select BevMo and Costco stores and even the San Jose International Airport.
Last month, Strike mounted a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise $20,000 to help furnish the tap room. Brewing equipment arrived several weeks ago and final preparations are under way. I visited with Lewis and Ehrlich at the soon-to-open brewery site.
Do you have a better idea of when the brewery will open?
Lewis: We have inspections to get through. It’s possible to do test batches early June. We could soft open the tap room in mid to late June once we have a few new things coming out that we can pour. We’ll do a grand opening in July once we smooth everything out and know what beers we want on tap. We’ll have an eight-tap system so we want eight fun things on those taps. The first one coming out is the new pale ale that we already announced.
Speaking of which, how did you decide on the “Opening Pitch” Session Pale Ale as your next new beer?
Lewis: We wanted to add to the session series. When we first launched back in December 2011, we put out four session beers and haven’t done one since. There’s clearly a huge demand for them; you have all the big guys doing it and everyone knows what that word means now. It’s just a good hoppy, summer beer. We want to eventually make it a baseball season beer.
Ehrlich: We’ll continue to focus on our session and year-round beers, but we’ll be able to do more small batch beers. I look forward to creating some more interesting seasonals, barrel aging some beers, developing a house yeast and making sours.
Why open your brewery in San Jose?
Lewis: The building itself is great, in close proximity to venues like Sharks Ice, Spartan Stadium, and San Jose Municipal Stadium, along with other locations within walking distance or a bike ride away. San Jose is a place we’ve gotten to know and love.
Though we want to expand distribution throughout the Bay Area and beyond, there’s no reason to go anywhere else. Plus the number of South Bay production breweries is still very low compared to other regions. With the opening, we’re giving the South Bay another local place to drink, mingle and call our own.
Congratulations on hitting your Kickstarter goal. What can you say about the tap room?
Lewis: Thank you. That was a relief. The tap room’s going to be about 600 square feet. It’ll be a roped-off area, similar to what you see in other tap rooms—a couple high-top tables and a couple picnic tables. There will be a big wall of fame with all the names of the first Mug Club members on it. We have more than 150 names to put on that.
Who are greatest sources of help?
Lewis: My dad. He’s heavily involved. He’s really watching our finances at this point. Coming from a biotech operations background, he has a lot of know-how on how to build a manufacturing facility and keep budgets under control. There are others, but he’s the one involved on a day-to-day basis that I work with, and he’s always there to edit my presentations and emails to potential investors and whatnot.
Ehrlich: Steve Donohue (Santa Clara Valley Brewing co-founder and brewmaster) has definitely helped me a lot. Whenever I have any questions, I can go to him. The same with Peter Licht (Hermitage Brewing brewmaster). He’s helped me out quite a bit. I shot out questions to the Bay Brewers Guild and have gotten some good answers back. And really, any of the South Bay brewers.
Has the reality of the brewery opening sunk in yet?
Lewis: It sinks in every time I write a check, but getting this place actually open is first on our minds right now. There’s still a lot to do.
Ehrlich: Now that the equipment is here, it’s sunk in a lot more. I can’t wait to get the system up and running, get it dialed in so we can get it fully operational and running at peak capacity as quickly as possible.
[This post was shared on SanJose.com.]