We recently went on an excellent, adult-themed walking tour in downtown San Jose titled “Breweries, Bars & Brothels.”
Presented by the folks of San Jose Walks & Talks, the description for the hour-and-a-half long walking tour included, in part:
“Kickoff the New Year with a walk back in time, when San Jose lived up to its reputation as a drinking town. An alcohol themed version of our downtown walking tour will cover San Jose’s colorful drinking past and also introduce you to what is brewing in the present.
“This interactive stroll around the heart of the city will visit former brewery locations, introduce famous brews, and infamous drinkers. Stay after the tour and enjoy a drink at one of the downtown establishments pouring local favorites from Santa Clara Valley Brewing, Hermitage Brewing, and Strike Brewing.”
Local high school history and economics teacher Greg Adler, with assistance from San Jose State grad. student Jeremiah Haze, took us to a number of downtown San Jose sites accompanied by Greg’s expertly told stories that were both entertaining and full of titillating tidbits.
In addition to learning more about Fredericksburg Brewery, I learned lots of new facts and stories about people, locations, businesses and events from the past that, indeed, all point to San Jose having been quite the drinking town.
Though much was focused on the past, there were plenty of shoutouts given to current-day places and folks, including:
Greg greeted a group of us – about 20 – at Original Gravity Public House. He introduced the concept of San Jose Walks & Talks and what was in store for us on the walking tour. He also facilitated a brief discussion on the meaning of “original gravity.”
And then we were off to explore various parts of downtown San Jose as seen through the lens of a drinking town going back to the mid-1800s.
There were opportunities to win prizes throughout the tour. I happened to score some chocolates for helping to explain the Reinheitsgebot.
Greg wrapped up the walking tour by colorfully describing what life was like on Post St. back in the day when it was known as El Dorado St.
After wifey and I said our goodbyes to Greg and Jeremiah (pictured above)…
We stayed on Post St. and offered up our hellos to Kevin Alan of Divine Wineries.
Our outing was thoroughly enjoyable, and the walking tour exceeded our expectations – interactive, entertaining, informational, well organized and smoothly run.
We look forward to signing up for the other walking tours presented by San Jose Walks & Talks.
[Update 1/12/17: The next “Breweries, Bars & Brothels” walking tour is set to take place during SF Beer Week on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2pm-3:30pm.]
For a limited time, through Jan. 1, tickets for all 2017 Beerwalks – including the Ciderwalk and the Sakewalk – are available at 25% off current early bird ticket prices by entering Promotional Code “Christmas” (without the quotation marks) prior to “CHECKOUT.”
Listed below are the events scheduled for 2017:
Beerwalk Sunnyvale, Sat., Feb. 11 at 2pm
Beerwalk Downtown San Jose, Thurs., March 23 at 6pm
Beerwalk Downtown Campbell – Star Wars Theme, Thurs., May 4 at 6pm
Sakewalk Japantown San Jose, Thurs., June 8 at 6pm
Hermitage Brewing Company will release three new beers Wednesday, Dec. 7 at its Winter Release Party, starting at 4pm at their Tap Room (1627 S. 7th St.). El Burrito Loco will be on hand to serve up Mexican eats.
The Winter Release Party will feature the following three beers (with notes from the brewery):
Blood Orange American Sour: “The blood orange is the darling of the citrus world with its trademark sweet and tart citrus flavors and a richer, berry-like sweetness. The beer pours a deep ruby red color in the glass and explodes with an amazing aroma of 35,000 fresh cut oranges.”
That 70s Beer (a collaboration beer between Hermitage Brewing and Palo Alto Brewing brewed with Comet, Cascade and Cluster Hops): “That 70s IPA is our homage to a much simpler time, like, 45 years ago. We used only malts and hops (Bullion, Comet, Cluster and Cascade hops) that were readily available in the 1970s, and combined them with a modern brewing approach.”
Half Tun Milk Stout Nitro: “To make the Half Tun, we collected the second runnings off a recent batch of Two Tun, a technique knows as “Parti Gyle” brewing. The result is smooth, sweet, and easy drinking, with notes of dark chocolate and a hint of coffee. Served on Nitro, it’s like chocolate milk for adults.”
Cellarmaster Greg Filippi is particularly enthused about his latest sour beer offering and can’t wait for it to be tapped and shared:
“We blended beautiful blood oranges into a tart and refreshing blonde ale and aged it in our cellar for 18 months, creating a juicy sour with lots of citrus and a hint of sweet raspberry.”
I had the good fortune of sampling the contents of the barrels used to make the Blood Orange when Greg took me on an impromptu barrel tasting a little while back. So I’m extra excited to taste the final blended creation.
Below are some pictures from the barrel tasting, which took place in late October.
First, a bonus tasting of the base beers from the two 100-BBL foeders that Hermitage acquired earlier this year (excellent starts to both foeder-aged beers, of which I’ll write more about in a future post).
Greg drawing samples from the aforementioned barrels that were used to make Blood Orange American Sour.
I had originally stopped by Hermitage to simply enjoy their latest Single Hop IPA, but I fortuitously bumped into Greg and his lovely family. After catching up, Greg asked if I had some time to taste the progress of his latest projects. And what ensued was a tasty, educational and memorable tasting experience. Thank you, Greg, for being so gracious with your time!
Taplands in Santa Clara opened this year in early March – March 5 to be exact – and has since become a go-to spot for many locals and non-locals alike. Indeed, Taplands has become one of our favorite places to hang out and enjoy a beer. We greatly enjoy the bright space, the vibe, the friendly staff and the tasty quick bites.
The folks behind Taplands are the husband-and-wife duo of Matt Hartenstein and Shannon McGinley, who recently told me that she and Matt simply wanted to create a neighborhood place that they themselves would enjoy visiting regularly.
Matt’s vision for Taplands is nicely spelled out on their website:
“My vision for Taplands is to be the center of beer discovery and enjoyment in the Silicon Valley. I want our customers to feel like it is a neighborhood bar and ‘packy’ and beer aficionados to feel like they have a place that understands and appreciates their sophisticated palettes. Lastly, I want the brewing community to recognize us as a place where their craft is recognized and truly appreciated. Thank you for making us a destination on your beer discovery journey!
“We call ourselves a neighborhood brewery in the pre-Prohibition sense. At that time there were over 4,000 breweries in America! And most were producing beer just for the folks who lived within their own little neighborhood. We want to bring that back! We brew one batch at a time, 15-30 gallons at a time, producing craft beer exclusively for the customers of our taproom. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or twitter to find out when we are tapping our next house made beer!”
Matt recently took the time to share more about his and Shannon’s backgrounds, how the idea for Taplands came about, what’s next for Taplands and more.
Can you share a bit of your backgrounds? What are your South Bay connections?
We moved from San Francisco to Sunnyvale in 2003, where we still live. I have been a home brewer since 1991, and like all home brewers dreamed of making it a career.
During the first craft wave in the 90s, Shannon and I had some ideas for a craft beer business that devolved into Taplands. As we got older we saved for this dream. Along with some help from the SBA we were able to take the step.
The original plan is still on the horizon as Taplands develops.
Can you expand on that last statement?
I think we have barely scratched the surface of our mission and goals at this point. We want Taplands to be a craft beer “hub,” where people can learn about and explore craft beer.
That is where Taplands gets its name – it was meant to be reminiscent of the original Disney map of lands. Like Frontier-land or Future-land, Taplands was meant to be a place to explore and discover craft beer.
Our intention was to make a place where folks of all kinds could learn about craft beer in an unpretentious setting, like a cafe for beer.
We also brew our own beer. With this we intended to create an environment such as the pre-prohibition neighborhood brewery, which brings us to the final intent – a community-oriented neighborhood pub where everybody is welcome.
How did you go about selecting the South Bay and Santa Clara as the location for Taplands?
We originally wanted to open Taplands in Sunnyvale so we could return the tax dollars to our community, but the process proved very difficult. I would be happy to discuss this in further detail, but basically the state of commercial real estate in Silicon Valley is not conducive to independent businesses.
It took 10 months and a dozen rejections before finding the location we are in. We chose it because the landlord was willing to have us!
And we are grateful for that. It has turned out to be better than any of the other locations that we would have thought perfect. We have learned a lot about our own business plans from this location and this community.
So far, have expectations been met?
It is hard to know what you will get when starting a business, but our expectations have been far exceeded, and we are grateful to the community who has supported us.
We are particularly proud to have met that neighborhood goal – our customers are of all ages and a good percentage walk to our place.
Business has been great!
How/when did you get into craft beer?
I started drinking craft beer around 1991 when I started home brewing. A friend said, “You’re going to start making real beer, so you better start drinking it.” I think all home brewers are throwing back a few while brewing!
Back then ambers were the rage. I was hooked on Boont Amber and Moose Drool.
Now I consider myself an IPA drinker, although I have recently become obsessed with the Gose style of beer. Shannon prefers “big” beers – high ABV doubles and triples, Tripels and Quads.
But I love to brew everything. I like to get creative and use offbeat ingredients – like rose petals in our Whole Lotta Rosie Blonde.
Can you share more about the beer offerings at Taplands?
Taplands has 24 taps and roughly 50 bottle selections. We serve from three different tap towers that are separated by style.
We offer 8 lighter beers that rotate between saisons, sours, wheats, lagers, pilsners, etc., 8 taps that rotate pale ale and IPA, 2 nitro, 2 ciders and 4 taps that rotate darker beers like porters, stouts and browns.
Jim Noe is our brewer along with myself. He is a friend I have brewed at home with. We have brewed 7 different beers to date that range from porter, red, pales and IPAs.
We mostly choose what to brew based on whim and home brew recipes. We have no intention to become a production brewery; we produce only for our customers at the bar. And we know we are not master brewers. We seek only to improve and satisfy our customers.
Can you talk a bit about your Snacks and Sandwiches menu?
Although we are not alone in this model, it is very unique to offer our own beer alongside others. To be permitted to do this, it was required to offer food.
We did not want to open a restaurant, nor would this location suit one. So we decided on a simple menu that complements beer.
We have 3 panini offerings – spicy turkey, pesto Italian and traditional with fresh mozzarella and tomato.
In addition we offer grilled pita with dips, charcuterie and a cheese plate.
We hope to adapt, alter and expand the offerings in the future but we will keep it simple.
We have been open for 6 months and closed on Mondays until now. We just began service on Mondays last week for opening night of Monday Night Football.
Until now we have been feeling things out and getting used to the business.
Be on the lookout in coming months for special events like pint nights and tap takeovers, in addition to new menu items and food specials.
We are also beginning preparations for our first anniversary blowout in early spring.
Anything else to add?
Taplands has a laid back environment with a cafe feel. You’ll be right at home alongside all ages and types of people chatting and getting to know one another. And the patio is dog friendly.
Thanks to everyone for the support, which has been overwhelming. We created a place where we would want to hang out, and we are grateful that others feel that way too!
Oktoberfest in Munich takes place from September 17 to October 3 this year, and I’m sure there are many like me who wish they were going but won’t be.
Fortunately, there are a number of local, Oktoberfest-inspired events and celebrations taking place throughout San Jose and nearby, providing plenty of opportunities to enjoy German and German-style beer and food in a festive atmosphere. Many of the Oktoberfest celebrations will also feature live entertainment and family-friendly activities.
Below is a roundup of this year’s local Oktoberfest events listed by date. I’ll add to it as new ones come to my attention. Please let me know if I’m missing any. Prost!
Fri., Sep. 9 – Sun., Sep. 11: Redwood City Oktoberfest
What: For 3 days, downtown Redwood City will celebrate their 3rd annual Oktoberfest. There’ll be a huge tent with lots of seating, music (AlpinersUSA), dancing, contests and lots of beer, beverages, food and more. An entrance fee ($18-$20 and $10-$12 for kids & designated drivers) includes a commemorative stein and 1 drink ticket.
What: 4th annual Oktoberfest from 4pm-9pm with live music from The Family Gruber Band plus German food and German beer. Admission to the beer garden is $10 for ages 21 and over, $5 for ages 13-20 and free for 12 and under. Feel free to come dressed in your best Lederhosen or Dirndl.
What: Annual Oktoberfest from Sep. 16-18. They’ll be serving German beers plus a special German menu and be hosting musical guests all weekend. Come casual or dressed in your most authentic German outfits and celebrate.
Sat., Sep. 17 and Sat., Sep. 24: Ludwig’s German Table
What: Get out your Lederhosen and Dirndl and join Ludwig’s for Oktoberfest on Sep. 17 and Sep. 24 from 2pm-10pm. They’ll be turning their restaurant into a traditional Munich style festival ground with live music and special Beer Garden & Restaurant ($28) and Hall ($35) tickets.
What: The Tech Museum of Innovation presents Geektoberfest 2016, an annual event where brewers and scientists will explore the biology of beer with talks, demos and tastings. In conjuction with Geektoberfest, Content Magazine will host a Beer LAB event on The Tech’s private rooftop terrace, featuring music, food and beer tastings available only to Beer LAB guests. Ticket prices vary from $18 to $100. Local participating brewers include DasBrew, FireHouse Grill & Brewery, Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, Half Moon Bay Brewing Company and Santa Clara Valley Brewing.
What: 4th Annual Oktoberfest – taking place Oct. 1 and Oct. 2 – presented by Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant, Tied House and the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce. They’ll be taking over a part of Mountain View’s Dana St. and Bryant St. with the parking lot, promising to be bigger and better than the previous years. There’ll be German beer, good food and family friendly entertainment.
Where: Parking lot at Dana St. and Bryant St., Mountain View
More info.: TBA
Sun., Oct. 2: OktoBRAfest
What: The 3rd Annual OktoBrafest takes places at the San Jose Woman’s Club from 3-6 pm. $25 tickets include a buffet of sausage, potato salad, sauerkraut, bread, dessert and one beer, cider or wine. Additional beverages are available for a suggested donation of $5.
What: Their 4th annual Oktoberfest celebration – their longest running event – returns with a new name – Oktober Beer & Music Fest – and promises to take things to a new level, featuring 3 bands this year and activating the entire Market instead of only the Sidewalk Cafe. The event will have games in different areas throughout the Market. Early bird tickets are $30 and will score you 3 beers instead of 2, but tickets do go up the longer you wait. From 2pm-8pm.
What: From 11am-4pm, enjoy the annual Peninsula Oktoberfest at Hiller Aviation Museum. There’ll be music (San Mateo Elks Band and Bayern Maiden), German beer and food trucks. There’ll also be beers from Devil’s Canyon, Voodoo Brewing and Anchor Steam.
What: Campbell Oktoberfest is hosted by the Campbell Chamber of Commerce, and it’s an entire weekend of live music, tasty food, arts & crafts, a kids zone and – of course – beer. Featuring 4 stages of live music and dozens of food vendors. Oktoberfest dress encouraged.
The beer follows their previous collaboration beer released earlier in the spring of this year – Clean Spin Triple IPA, a super smooth, citrusy Triple IPA coming in at 9.5% ABV.
About the new collaborative beer, Palo Alto Brewing brewer Kasim Sayed says:
My Name is Mud is an ‘East Coast IPA.’ Where clarity – or lack-thereof – is a hallmark for a beer, we collaborated to create a cloudy, juicy and satisfying IPA.
“Entirely unfiltered and ‘muddy,’ rolled oats and English yeast contribute to the haze as well as the malty complexity and velvety mouthfeel. Late hopping with Centennial, Cascade and Citra hops in the kettle supply hop flavor. Dry hopping with Galaxy, Mosaic and more Citra to make this one a juicy treat.”
Hermitage Brewing head brewer Greg Filippi recently posted a photo of the beer on social media:
Greg added, “Sneak peek of our latest collaboration with our good friends at Palo Alto Brewing: ‘My Name is Mud’ is a big, fruity IPA that borders on ridiculously cloudy. Sweet and juicy like they do back East. Look for it in Palo Alto Thursday and at the Hermitage Tap Room Friday.”
The brewing teams from both Palo Alto Brewing and Hermitage Brewing will be at the Tap Room in Palo Alto at 2pm on Thursday for the new release.
Look for more collaborations down the road. Kasim shares, “After we brewed the delicious Clean Spin Triple IPA in the spring, we decided that we had to keep this collaborative effort to make the fun beers going. This is just the latest of beers that we will be creating together.”
The event takes place at Empire Seven Studios, located in San Jose’s Japantown at 525 N. 7th St., and all proceeds from the beer sold will benefit Exhibition District. From Exhibition District’s website:
“We are a collaborative of artists and creatives who pay working artists professional wages for professional work that beautifies San Jose for residents, businesses and visitors. Our work aims to strengthen the local economy by keeping professional artists engaged, employed, and active. Our goal is to make our city the cultural destination of Silicon Valley.”
“This is something near and dear to my heart,” long-time Firestone Walker senior sales manager Antoine Riffis – a San Jose native and local resident – recently shared on social media. “I have a lot friends who are artists, and I really love what they’re doing for the scene here in Silicon Valley… I’ve been wanting to do an event involving art for some time.
“All the beer profits from this art show will help fund upcoming local art projects in San Jose. Please come out and support.”
Kasim and Freewheel Brewing’s Alisha Blue were recently enjoying a pint and reminiscing about their previous collaboration beer which was brewed some time ago. Alisha mentioned how at the time, it had been one of the first beers she helped brew at Freewheel. Kasim, in turn, suggested that it was time to collaborate on another, and the wheels <ahem> began to turn quickly on what beer style to brew.
Both Kasim and Alisha wanted to brew a beer that was different than the usual West Coast style, so they decided to brew a Belgian-inspired beer.
Kasim shares, “We did a bit of a tie-in with our own styles, but the beer is quite unique. We used all English malts and English and Pacific Northwest hops, but the interesting part is that we blended the Duvel yeast strain with the Freewheel house strain.
“The beer is called Eye of the Storm for the way the boil looked – whole leaf hops twisting around a pocket of wort. It was a cool sight.”
Though the collaboration is expected to be available in time for the upcoming Silicon Valley Beer Week (which begins Friday, July 22), distribution will be limited to a small number of establishments, including Freewheel Brewing, The Rose & Crown and Palo Alto Tap Room.
Not only have the sour beers coming out of San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company been generating tasty results and a growing buzz, but they’ve also garnered recognition at major beer competitions in the state.
Case in point: Sour Cherry Sour, released in January, bested 39 other breweries at the California State Fair Commercial Craft Brew Competition held last month to win 1st place in the Sour Ale category. Incidentally, offerings from venerable Drake’s Brewing Company and Alvarado Street Brewery won 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in the category.
Sour Cherry Sour also took home the bronze medal in April at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer category.
More about Sour Cherry Sour from Brewmaster Peter Licht
How did this beer come about?
Hermitage Brewing Company brewmaster Peter Licht explains, “I started brewing sours 20 years ago at Coast Range. The Sour Cherry is only my 4th American Sour Series release under my Hermitage brand. I brewed Sour Cherry and nurtured it in the cellar for a couple of years. We selected from several ages of sour beer fermented and aged with various wild yeasts and bacteria.
“I have to share [the awards] with my partner in crime, cellarmaster Greg Filippi, who conducted the final blending with sensory input from the palate of our entire brewing team.
“We are all pretty proud of how much a pleasure this one is to drink. They are expensive to produce but worth it!”
Sour Cherry Sour Tasting Notes
Sour Cherry Sour is blended from more than 30 American wine barrels cellared between 1 and 2 1/2 years. According to notes from the brewery, more than 5,000 pounds of sour cherries – Montmorency cherries, to be exact – were added to make the beer, about 5 1/2 pounds per gallon.
The beer pours crimson red with a moderate, pink head. A slight acidic sharpness on the nose quickly gives way to a bright cherry aroma. The flavor is initially sharp tartness followed by a sweeter tartness from the sour cherries.
Adding to the complexity of the beer are the background traces of tannins and funk from the long Brettanomyces fermentation and maturation in oak. A mild acid level further helps to mask the 6.5% ABV. The finish is fairly dry.
Where You Can Get It, Plus Future Bottled Sour Beers
Sour Cherry Sour can be found in 750-ml. champagne-size bottles at a number of local beer stores and retails for approximately $29.99. It is also available on draft in limited quantities, including among other locations at the Hermitage Brewing Company Tap Room (1627 S. 7th St.) and Taplands in Santa Clara (1171 Homestead Rd.).
Future releases of Hermitage’s American Sour Series, starting with Strawberry Rhubarb, will be bottled in single-serve 375-ml. bottles and retail for $12.99.
More about the American Sour Series from Head Brewer and Cellarmaster Greg Filippi, Plus Upcoming Sour Beer Releases
Cherry Sour Cherry is the fourth release from Hermitage Brewing’s American Sour Series, following Sour Pumpernickel Rye, Sour Peach Ale and their first sour project Boysenberry American Sour Ale.
Hermitage Brewing Company head brewer and cellarmaster Greg Filippi shares more about Hermitage’s sour beer production. “We call our technique American Sour. It’s a product of intent, not “wild” or “spontaneous” mysterious fermentations. The acidity is from organic acids produced during fermentation first in stainless steel, then in the barrel.
“We have a new 5,000-barrel capacity sour beer annex adjacent to the production brewery and tap room, and I have a dozen sour beers in the works for the next couple years.
“I’ve just finished my final blend on Strawberry Rhubard, and we’ll package it early July.
“Then French Blackberry and Blood Orange will finish out 2016.”
In offering a sneak peek to the upcoming Strawberry Rhubarb release, Greg quips, “Be careful with this one, it’s dangerously good.”
About Hermitage Brewing Company
Hermitage Brewing Company was founded in 2009 as a production facility. It is part of the MJC Group’s family of companies comprising the pioneering Tied House Brewery & Cafe founded in 1987 in Mountain View, and more recently, West End Tap & Kitchen in Santa Cruz and East End Gastropub in Capitola.
Owner and brewmaster Peter Licht, along with the MJC Group, opened and launched Hermitage Brewing for his own line of beer and to supplement Tied House’s 20-barrel brewery. Peter graduated from the Master Brewers Program at UC Davis in 1994 and worked at Coast Range Brewing from 1995 to 2008. He has an English Literature degree from Columbia and named his brewery after an obscure passage from the epic tome, Don Quixote.
Hermitage produces nearly two-dozen beers annually under its own label, including Hoptopia, Maltopia, 408 Session IPA, Citra Single Hop IPA and their monthly Single Hop IPA Series. The brewery has recently been modernized from grain to glass, including a new brewing system, packaging line, centrifuge, fermentation tank farm and a 5,000-barrel capacity sour beer annex for Hermitage to grow into. The annex – or the “sour” side – is required to separate the funky yeasts and bacteria used to brew sour beers from the more traditional brewery yeast strains used on the “sweet” side.
Santa Clara Valley Brewing is celebrating the release of their latest offering – Alviso Mills Hefeweizen (5.6% ABV) – with what looks to be a mini-Sommerfest on Thursday, June 23 from 3pm-9pm at their tap room (101 E. Alma Ave.).
The summer seasonal beer – which sales manager Peter Estaniel tells me will be available draft only – promises to evoke the aromas and flavors of a classic Bavarian-style Hefeweizen – cloves, bananas and a hint of bubble gum on the finish. For me – and I suspect many others – it’ll be a perfect tonic for the current summer heat.
Handheld Catering will be on hand (naturally) to provide a German-themed menu to complement the beer.
Wurst with Sauerkraut, $10.00
Pretzel with House Made Mustard, $6.00
Apple Streudel, $9.00
I’m really looking forward to tasting this beer; it’ll be a great prelude to the other Hefeweizens I’ll be enjoying during a visit to my wife’s Bavarian hometown later this summer.
Lastly, as with a number of previous Santa Clara Valley Brewing beers, I looked up “Alviso Mills” and was pleased to come away with more local historical knowledge. Prost to that!