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Tasty Beers on Tap for Silicon Valley Beer Week 2014

KraftBrew Beer Fest
KraftBrew Beer Fest

The local region will be a “hoppening” place during the 2nd Annual Silicon Valley Beer Week (SVBW), which starts today and runs to Aug. 2.

Beer fans will have plenty of daily opportunities to enjoy good beer, including the following sampling of options:

FRIDAY, JULY 25

The only event taking place today is the SVBW Kickoff event from 6-9pm at downtown San Jose’s Blackbird Tavern. Chefs Dawn Smith (Blackbird Tavern) and Luis Silva (Naglee Park Garage) have prepared a beer-inspired menu to pair with specialty beers. A “Z Pass” ticket is required for this event (the same “Z Pass” is also good for the culminating KraftBrew Beer Fest on Aug. 2). Special beers include Bruery Smoking Wood (Rye Whiskey Barrel Aged Smoked Beer), Echt Kriekenbier (Belgian Cherry Sour), Straffe Hendrik Wild (Belgian Pale with Brettanomyces), Bayerischer Bahnhof Berliner Weisse (Traditional German Sour Wheat), Allagash Confluence and more. More info.

SATURDAY, JULY 26

It has been an exciting time for downtown San Jose’s Original Gravity Public House. Their recent two-year anniversary celebration coincided with the unveiling of their finished expansion project. Original Gravity’s first SVBW event is “Pucker Up! Sour Fest 4.0” and features 15 national and international sour and wild ales. The lineup includes:

Allagash – Golden Brett (American Wild Ale)
Almanac – Bourbon Sour Porter (Sour Porter)
Anderson Valley – The Kimmie, The Yink and the Holy Gose (Gose)
Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck – St. Louis Gueze (Gueze)
Bruery – Sour in the Rye (American Sour Ale)
Cismontane – Marea Roja (Flemish Style Red)
Drake’s – Barrel of Peril (Sour Tripel aged w/ Brett in Chardonnay Barrels)
Freigeist – Sauer Porter Raspberry (Wild Ale w/ Raspberries)
Jolly Pumpkin/Anchorage – Calabaza Boreal (American Wild Ale w/ Grapefruit and Peppercorn)
Lost Abbey – Spontaneous Cheer (American Wild Ale)
Mort Subite – Mort Subite Kriek (Lambic w/ Cherries)
New Belgium – La Folie (Flanders Style Brown Ale)
Priaire – Funky Gold Mosaic (Dry Hopped Wild Ale)
Russian River – Supplication (Sour Brown aged in Pinot Barrels)
Struise – WeltKrieg (Kriek)

Sour Fest is a popular Original Gravity event for sour beer fans and also provides a good opportunity for those curious about the “fruit, funk and tart” characteristics of sour beers to try them out. More info.

SUNDAY, JULY 27

Jack’s Libation House in Los Gatos, home to what is likely the South Bay’s largest beer garden, hosts a festive Los Gatos Brew Fest, featuring rare beers and one-offs from Firestone Walker (Paso Robles), Drake’s (San Leandro), Lagunitas (Petaluma), 21st Amendment Brewery (S.F.), Calicraft (Walnut Creek), Heretic (Fairfield), Stone (Escondido), Knee Deep Brewing (Auburn), Alpine (Alpine) and New Belgium (Fort Collins, CO). The event starts at 11am.

On hand will be Alpine’s Patrick McIlhenney, Calicraft’s Blaine Landberg, Knee Deep’s Jeb Taylor and Drake’s John Martin. More info.

MONDAY, JULY 28

Downtown Mountain’s Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant will feature 14 guest taps, seven from Allagash and seven from The Bruery, including:

  • Humulus Lager
  • Hottenroth
  • Loakal Red
  • White Chocolate
  • Sucre – Madeira barrel aged
  • The Wanderer
  • BeRazzled
  • Neddles
  • James Bean
  • Saison
  • Golden Brett
  • Odyssey
  • Confluence
  • Red Howes

Kegs will be tapped at 5pm and pour until the beer runs out. More info.

Downtown Campbell’s Spread Deli & Bottles hosts Six River Float Night with their neighbors, Snake and Butterfly Chocolates from 5pm-8pm. More info.

TUESDAY, JULY 29

Downtown San Jose’s Good Karma Vegan Cafe hosts a dinner and tap takeover featuring The Bruery. A private paired dinner takes place from 5pm-6pm. Good Karma then opens to the public at 6pm with 19 beers on tap, including Grey Monday, Berazzled, The Wanderer, Tequila Barrel Aged Sucre and more. More info.

Santa Teresa Golf Club and Lagunitas team up to present the final Santa Teresa Summer Beer Talk on the Bar and Grill Patio. “Lagunitas Bloopers” takes place from 5:30pm-6:30pm and will be a discussion on how brewing mistakes can lead to brewing success. There will be beer tasting and happy hour prices on Lagunitas beers. For only $5 you will get to taste beers and participate in a discussion hosted by Lagunitas. More info.

Liquid Bread Gastropub in downtown Campbell presents Chef’s Choice Craft Beer Dinner, featuring selections from executive chef John Burke. The menu includes the following:

  • AMUSE: grape salad, almonds, olive oil
  • OREGON SHRIMP SALAD: mâche lettuce, toasted bread, palm hearts, charred tomato vinaigrette & REISSDORF KÖLSCH (german beer with light citrus, notes of sweet grain, and a mild hop finish)
  • UNI: basil spaetzle, chinese pepper, sesame seeds & WIDMER BROTHERS SAISON À FLEURS (farmhouse ale brewed with chrysanthemum, jasmine, and szechuan peppercorns)
  • LOCAL SOLE: salsify purée, woodear mushrooms, lollipop kale, pine nuts & EINSTöCK OLGERO (icelandic white ale dry with hints of coriander and orange peel)

Liquid Bread will offer the Chef’s Choice Craft Beer Dinner Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. More info.

WEDNESDAY, JULY 30

Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant will host a pop-up dinner with Hangar 24, pairing their beers with a four-course menu created by executive chef Colby M. Reade. The sample menu includes:

  • AMUSE BOUCHE (paired with Helles Lager) seared scallop spoon
  • RAVIOLO AL UOVO (paired with Farmhouse Saison) ox tail / braised greens / egg
  • BRAISED BEEF CHEEKS (paired with Alt Bier Ale) heirloom summer vegetables / veal glace / guanciale
  • CHOCOLATE TRIO (paired with Chocolate Porter) light chocolate pot du crème / chocolate porter ice cream / dark chocolate truffle

The prix fixe dinner is available for $75 per person with seating times available from 5:30pm-9pm. Reservations can be made by emailing brittany@steinsbeergarden.com or calling 650-386-1367. More info.

THURSDAY, JULY 31

The Farmers Union in downtown San Jose’s San Pedro Square will host Flights and Bites featuring beers from Stone Brewing Company. Executive chef Alex Jimenez will present six dishes paired with Stone beers starting at 6:30pm. The following is the beer-and-food pairing menu.

  • Chefs Crostini Fig Jam: Humboldt Fog goat cheese, jerk nuts paired with Stone Cali-Belgique IPA
  • Grilled Chicken Skewers: spicy peanut sauce paired with Stone IPA
  • Mushroom Cigars: porcini aioli paired with Stone Liberty Station Colonel Sykes East India Porter
  • Pulled Pork BBQ Sliders: apple-jicama slaw, jalapeño, brioche bun paired with 2012 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine
  • Housemade Veggie Sliders: white cheddar, cajun remoulade, brioche bun paired with Arrogant Bastard Ale
  • Pork & Ricotta Meatballs: crushed & roasted tomato paired with Stone Liberty Station The Sacred Druid

On hand will be Stone’s craft beer ambassador “Dr.” Bill Sysak. More info.

Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose is the host of the 2nd Annual California Craft Beer Throw down featuring Double IPAs. Last year’s winning Double IPA came from Heretic Brewing Company, and owner/brewer Jamil Zainasheff will be in attendance to defend his title against the offerings of Stone, Firestone Walker, Lagunitas, Altamont, 21st Amendment, Knee Deep and others. More info.

FRIDAY, AUG. 1

The last SVBW event for Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose is a good one, featuring the nearly divine offerings from Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey, including:

  • Deliverance ’13
  • Agave Maria
  • Older Viscosity ’12
  • Old Viscosity ’13
  • Red Poppy
  • Santas lil Helper ’12
  • Cuvee De Tomme ’13
  • Angels Share Grand Cru
  • Track #8
  • Spontaneous Cheer
  • Framboise De Amerosa

Liquid Bread Gastropub hosts their 2nd Annual Ice Cream Social with Lagunitas Brewing Company from 3pm-5pm.

Enjoy a variety of ice cream flavors or build your own float. Examples include:

  • Lagunitas Imperial Stout & Salt Carmel Ice Cream
  • Rabbits Foot Meadery Cider & Champagne Strawberry Sorbet
  • Classic Root Beer Float with French Vanilla.

The Grapevine in Willow Glen will have Stone Brewing’s Dr. Bill will be on hand for a beer and cheese pairing event starting at 5pm. The event features 6 beers and cheeses:

  • Cabecou with Stone Saison
  • Picandine Pico with Stone Cali-Belgique IPA
  • Piave Vecchio with Stone Ruination IPA
  • Beemster Gouda Aged 18 months with Stone 2013 Oaked Smoked Old Guardian
  • Jasper Hill Bailey Hazen Blue with 2013 Double Bastard Ale
  • Colston Basset Stilton with Stone 2012 Imperial Russian Stout

Only $35 in advance or $40 at the door. Serving sizes: all beers are 4 oz pours and cheeses between 1/2 to 3/4 oz. portions. More info.

SATURDAY, AUG. 2

The popular KraftBrew Beer Fest is the culminating SVBW event and takes place at Gordon Biersch Brewing Company in San Jose’s Japantown. “This year’s festivities feature 60+ American craft, Belgian and German imports, home brews, a beer launch booth releasing a special or unique brew for tasting every hour, craft beer panel discussions, brewery tours, and lots of great food!” More info.

At last count, there were over 150 events listed on the SV Beer Week website, giving beer fans and those new to the world of beer a serious case of a first world problem – too many beer choices.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

Silicon Valley Beer Week 2014 Expands to Nine Days

Silicon Valley Beer Week 2014

The 2nd annual Silicon Valley Beer Week (SVBW) will take place Fri., July 25 to Sat., August 2, 2014, as restaurants and venues throughout the region will offer specials and host a wide variety of events all devoted to beer.

Last year in its inaugural year, over 80 South Bay and Peninsula establishments participated by hosting nearly 185 beer-related events. SVBW looks to build on last year’s overall success by expanding to nine days this year.

Kicking off SVBW is a beer-inspired culinary event on Fri., July 25 from 6pm-10pm at Blackbird Tavern in downtown San Jose (200 South 1st Street).

From Sat., July 26 to Fri., Aug. 1, there will be multiple events taking place each day, providing both beer enthusiasts and those new to the beer world with plenty of event options.

On Sat., Aug. 2 from 1pm-7pm, the closing event features the KraftBrew Summer Beer Fest taking place at the Gordon Biersch Brewery in Japantown (357 East Taylor).

For more information on the SVBW kickoff event and the KraftBrew Summer Beer Fest, including the “Z Pass” that provides entrance to both events, visit their ticket page.

All the events are listed on the Silicon Valley Beer Week website and will also appear in the program guide that will be distributed in the July 23 issue of Metro Newspaper. Stay up-to-date on announcements, news and giveaways by following SVBW on Facebook, Twitter (@svbeerweek) and Instagram (@svbeerweek).

Expect the current number of events – about 110 or so – to increase as more establishments sign up to host events in the ensuing days.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

The Downtown San Jose Beer Scene

BOTTLED UP - Jake McCluskey, general manager of the Market Beer Co. at San Pedro Square Market, says that the shop stocks larger bottles of craft beer to encourage customers to share
BOTTLED UP – Jake McCluskey, general manager of the Market Beer Co. at San Pedro Square Market, says that the shop stocks larger bottles of craft beer to encourage customers to share

A growing number of folks are seeking out better beer by returning to their favorite spots or trying out new places, eager to enjoy a glass—or more—depending on the occasion. And in a continuing nod to the burgeoning craft beer landscape, respectable beer hubs are taking shape throughout the South Bay.

In downtown San Jose, the number of establishments offering good beer is helping to raise Silicon Valley’s profile among the state’s notable beer regions. There are currently a dozen or so downtown locations that serve better beer, with more places set to open.

The San Pedro Square neighborhood is turning into quite a beer hub on its own, with a block of distinct establishments serving craft beer. We’re talking about San Pedro Square Market Bar, the Garage Bar, Market Beer Co., O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub, Firehouse No. 1 Gastropub, Los Gatos Brewing Company, Britannia Arms, and the recently opened Farmers Union.

Along with the Market and Garage bars inside San Pedro Square Market, there’s also Market Beer Co. which opened this past March, becoming San Jose’s first craft beer bottle shop.

Since then, they have added eight taps and have more than 200 craft beer bottles. Market Beer Co. has quickly gained a following due in large part to the efforts of general manager Jake McCluskey and his knowledgeable and friendly team of beertenders, all of whom help to create a fun and relaxed vibe.

“We stock only bomber-sized (22 oz.) bottles to encourage sharing among our customers. For our taps, we try to get smaller-sized kegs so we can rotate our draft beers quickly,” McCluskey says. “It’s a place where you see seasoned beer connoisseurs talking beer with the greenest newbies. It’s cool to be a beer geek but not a beer snob.”

Of its 50+ beer taps, O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub dedicates 38 of them to craft. General manager David Mulvehill says he values the link between craft breweries and O’Flaherty’s, viewing both as small businesses helping to support one another.

O’Flaherty’s main goal, according to Mulvehill, is to make everyone feel welcome, referring to their motto, “You’re a stranger here but once.” He says, “We need to keep the integrity of an Irish bar – customers can enjoy a Coors Light, Stella, Guinness and feel welcome. We believe everyone is a beer drinker and that we can provide a stepping stone for them, from Stella to a craft beer. And we always have something to offer the beer geeks.”

For beer and food pairings, Firehouse No. 1 Gastropub and Los Gatos Brewing Company fit the bill. Firehouse is currently San Jose’s only gastropub and serves mostly craft beer from its eight taps. Los Gatos Brewing Company has three rotating guest taps, plus five of their own offerings crafted by brewmaster Kent Wheat. Currently, there’s a cask-conditioned porter as well.

Britannia Arms serves more traditional pub fare, along with pints poured from a combined 42 taps—24 inside the bar and 18 more out in the 3,000 square-foot, heated patio. Most of the 42 taps are craft selections.

The Farmers Union, which opened this past Thursday, rounds out the current crop of beer-centric places within San Pedro Square. A large square bar is the focal point of the establishment, and general manager Aaron Williams says that they will have at least 25 of their 60 taps dedicated to craft beer.

Williams says, “We are targeting a diverse clientele that likes great food paired with our great selection of craft beer. We will always have at least 25 taps dedicated to craft beers with flight options available. We want to support the local brewers as well as serve the highest quality craft beers possible.”

Original Gravity Public House became San Jose’s first establishment focused 100 percent on beer from the get go thanks to the efforts of owners Johnny Wang and Dan Phan. They celebrated their one-year anniversary on Saturday and have already made concrete plans for expanding the current location.

“We take craft beer very seriously but always aim to have a fun and informative conversation about it,” bar manager and events coordinator Rob Monroe says. “We hope to teach without the snobbery and find something new and exciting for you each and every time. No question is a dumb one, and we understand everyone’s palate is as diverse as our beer list.”

Original Gravity rotates beers in and out of its 25 taps so often that Monroe says the best way to keep up with what’s on tap is to check the website, where patrons can find live updates of the latest offerings.

Numerous customers throughout the recent decades have enjoyed the food, beers and the outdoor patio of Gordon Biersch. “We offer eight handcrafted traditional German lagers,” head brewer Jeff Liles says. “I would recommend starting off with a sampler of our beers. This way our guests get a chance to try some of our unique styles and flavors.”

Some people are still surprised when first noticing the extensive draft selection at SmokeEaters, which specializes in hot wings. ““SmokeEaters is the place to meet up with friends to eat great food, drink some cold beer and catch a game,” general partner Mike Burke says. “We rotate our craft beers frequently; do not hesitate to ask to sample a style of beer. With the expansion of the craft market, there are some great styles and brewers out there popping up almost every week. We want the customer to love the beer they are drinking.”

When it comes to Good Karma Vegan Café, many people quickly become hooked on not only the beer menu but the place’s carefree vibe. Owner Ryan Summers and the Good Karma staff simply know their beers. Summers embraces the downtown beer scene: “There’s just too much rad beer to be had, and we deserve the awesome beers right here.”

Live music is a wonderful accompaniment to good beer, and this combination is prevalent among several previously mentioned locations. Café Stritch—with nearly ten craft beer taps—and the recently opened Blackbird Tavern—with eight mostly craft beer taps—join the ranks of these establishments that feature live music.

Blackbird co-owners Chris Esparza and Brendan Rawson seek to provide a full sensory experience, matching food and beer to their live music. For example, when New Orleans jazz is playing, don’t be surprised to see featured beers from Louisiana’s Abita Brewing.

Folks passing by ISO: Beers can see that a lot of progress has been made at the yet-to-open beer bar and tasting lounge. The wait is nearly over. According to co-owner Dee Singh, what is left is painting, putting in floors, and installing fixtures. He plans to have 37 taps for beer and hopes for a mid-August opening. Customers will also be able to purchase bottles to go.

Rounding out the members of the downtown San Jose beer hub are longstanding establishments Trials Pub and Teske’s Germania. Trial’s offers an authentic British pub vibe and traditional English ales on tap, on cask, or in bottles. At Teske’s, it’s about experiencing German fare in a rustic Bavarian setting that includes a beer garden.

All of Teske’s beers are from Germany co-owner Greg Baumann says, and he invites visitors to come and enjoy the casual setting with a lager, pilsner, dopplebock or hefeweizen. Their current offerings include Spaten Premium Lager, Höfbrau Dunkel, Franziskaner Hefe Weizen, Bitburger Pilsner, Köstritzer Schwarzbier and Stiegl Lager on tap, with many more bottled German beers.

As Original Gravity’s Monroe put it, everyone’s palate is different. So it’s very fortunate to see the growing diversity reflected in the downtown San Jose beer scene. Ultimately, our personal preferences determine not only which beers we like, but also which places we return to over and over again.

Downtown San Jose Beer Hub

Blackbird Tavern
200 S. First St.

Britannia Arms (The Brit)
173 W. Santa Clara St.

Café Stritch
374 S. First St.

Firehouse No. 1 Gastropub
69 N. San Pedro St.

Good Karma Vegan Café
37 S. First Street

Gordon Biersch
33 East San Fernando St.

ISO: Beers
81 East Santa Clara St.

Los Gatos Brewing Company
163 W. Santa Clara St.

O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub
25 N. San Pedro St.

Original Gravity
66 S. First St.

San Pedro Square Market
87 N. San Pedro St.

SmokeEaters
29 S. Third St.

Teske’s Germania
255 N. First St.

The Farmers Union
151 W. Santa Clara St.

Trials Pub
265 N. First St.

[An abridged version of this post was shared on SanJose.com.]

Roundup of South Bay Beer News and Events for March 2013 and Beyond

Silicon Valley beer fans increasingly thirsty for good beer (photo taken at the recent Meet the Brewers fest at Hermitage Brewing Company)
Silicon Valley beer fans increasingly thirsty for good beer (photo taken at the recent Meet the Brewers fest at Hermitage Brewing Company)

Compelling news and developments concerning the Silicon Valley craft beer landscape are making the rounds at a relatively high rate it seems.

The San Jose Co-op Brewery has been in the media spotlight lately and the Market Beer Company recently opened in San Pedro Square Market. More establishments with a beer focus are hosting noteworthy events along with new beer-centric establishments expected to open soon, or later this year.

Added to all this good news is that more media outlets are covering such news and events, providing updates for the local, beer-thirsty public.

Here’s a quick look at some upcoming news and events in the South Bay beer scene:

St. Patrick’s Day specials – A number of local brewpubs have been advertising their specials celebrating St. Patrick, including Faultline Brewing Company, Tied House, and FireHouse Grill & Brewery. Check out their respective Facebook pages for the details.

Grand opening of Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant – Many interested parties have been eagerly anticipating the announcement of the grand opening date for Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant. Per a recent media release, the date for the official grand opening is set for Thursday, March 28, 2013. Among the 30 beers on tap personally selected by owner Ted Kim will be: Hangar 24 Chocolate Porter, Linden Street Urban People’s Common Lager, Lost Abbey Avant Garde, Kiuichi Hitachino Next White Ale, Krusovice Cerne Dark, Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, New Belgium Rampant, and North Coast Old Rasputin. Expect the beers to complement the offerings from executive chef Colby Reade, who has prepared a 25-item menu focused on modern American comfort food.

Opening of ISO: Beers – Excited readers have been asking about the opening date for ISO: Beers craft beer bar and tasting lounge located in downtown San Jose, especially after initial hopes for a fall opening as mentioned in a previous article. After receiving the last series of approvals from the city, expect an opening date for some time in April and an announcement soon.

Opening of Hermitage Brewing Company tasting room – Some South Bay beer fans may have heard directly from Hermitage Brewing Company about a tasting room that was to be built in time for last month’s SF Beer Week at their San Jose brewing facility on 7th Street past Spartan Stadium. Unexpected circumstances delayed the opening of the tasting room, but according to Hermitage brewmaster Peter Licht, the construction and opening of the South Bay’s first brewery tasting room will certainly happen.

Opening of SpreadFrom the folks behind Jack’s Bar & Lounge in Japantown San Jose and the South Bay-based Beerwalks comes Spread bottle and small deli shop in downtown Campbell to open no later than May. Announced via social media, Charlie Mann shares, “We will have 300 – 400 different beers by the bottle and an amazing wine selection, charcuterie with great cheeses, beers on tap, incredible sandwiches at lunch with some fondues at night mixed with fresh baked bread and a neighborhood feel…”

Gordon Biersch 25th anniversary celebration – A recent Facebook event page announced the Big Bands & BBQ 25th Anniversary Bash to be held Sat., May 18, 2013 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Gordon Biersch brewery in Japantown San Jose (357 E. Taylor St.). Admission is $10 and tickets can be purchased now.

Tied House 25th anniversary celebration – Mountain View’s Tied House is celebrating their quarter-century mark as well. Look for them to share their celebration plans soon.

Opening of Blackbird Tavern – Situated at 200 S. 1st St. next to the Camera 12 Cinema in downtown San Jose, Blackbird Tavern seeks to bring good food, live music, and good drinks, including choice craft beers to downtown San Jose later this spring.

Dates for Silicon Valley Beer Week officially set – In an email last Sunday, Metro newspaper and Naglee Park Garage / KraftBrew Beer Fest jointly announced the official dates for the first annual Silicon Valley Beer Week. The kickoff to SVBW begins with a special beer event on Sunday, July 28, 2013 followed by five days of hosted events throughout the valley, closing with the Kraftbrew Summer Fest on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013. There is a gathering of the Silicon Valley beer community, including brewers, restaurants, cafés, and other venue owners scheduled for later this month.

Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company inaugural beers – For many Bay Area beer enthusiasts, their South Bay highlights for 2013 might very well revolve around Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company and its brewmaster Steve Donohue, a four-time, consecutive medaling winner of the prestigious Great American Beer Festival. With a likeable personality, sharp wit, and his track record of well-crafted brews, Donohue has a strong support base among beer fans. Like him, they eagerly await for all the approvals and formal permission to be granted so that brewing and selling can begin.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

A Brief History of Craft Beer in the South Bay

Meet the Brewers at Hermitage Brewing Company, Feb. 19, 2011
Meet the Brewers at Hermitage Brewing Company, Feb. 19, 2011

It was the Feb. 2011 second annual Meet the Brewers beer festival held at San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company that provided me more than just a memorable beer experience. Truth be told, my wife and I had originally gone mainly for the food trucks, but when in Rome…

I tried a refreshing Tied House Brewery wheat beer which served as a prelude to the Campbell Brewing hefeweizen with its pleasant combination of sweetness and bitterness. My wife, who is from Bavaria, heartily approved.

After talking with the pourers – many of whom were the actual brewers – about their beers, I opted for unfamiliar-to-me beer styles next.

The Uncommon Brewers organic brown ale had a flavor profile of roasted nuts and a slight bitterness. Seabright Brewery’s oatmeal stout poured black and smooth with hints of dark chocolate. Finally, there was the Faultine Brewery porter, a dark beer that smelled and tasted of roasted coffee beans.

The beers were tasty; they also paired well with our Korean tacos and burritos that we got from one of the aforementioned food trucks.

We left relatively early and did not sample any more beers from the other breweries, but thanks in large part to this beer festival, I gained a new hobby – to learn more about beer and the wide range of beer styles while checking out the local beer scene.

We began complementing our already existing wine rituals with beer exploration. I’d go online and learn about solid examples of various beer styles and match that information with the selections at nearby stores that sold craft beer.

I stayed up-to-date with Peter Estaniel’s BetterBeerBlog to see if there was anything new going on in the South Bay.

In April 2011, the first KraftBrew Beer Fest – organized by Naglee Park Garage – took place at the historic San Jose Woman’s Club, and we tried a larger selection of different styles of domestic and international beers.

Some beer styles we enjoyed from the first sip (IPA for my wife), while others we grew to appreciate over time (IPA for me).

Events like the Meet the Brewers beer festival and the KraftBrew Beer Fest not only provided opportunities to discover the wide variety of beer styles, but they also showed that there are plenty of folks in the area interested in good beer.

For the next year-and-a-half, our appreciation for beer and the local beer scene would continue to grow, and for me in particular become a passion as I started blogging and writing about the local beer scene.

Local Craft Beer Boom

As recently as late 2008, William Brand wrote that the South Bay was a craft beer desert, but from our ventures out to local beer spots, stores and events, we learned that Brand’s observation was surely evolving.

Beer enthusiasts no longer had to routinely drive at least 45 minutes to try the latest touted, hard-to-get beer. There were establishments that made and carried great beer right here, from Morgan Hill through San Jose to Palo Alto.

We observed first hand the growing demand for – and distribution of – good beer, a relatively recent development according to a number of longer-term South Bay beer fans. The various, possible reasons for why the South Bay was such a latecomer continue to be discussed (and might perhaps be a topic in a future write-up).

Fortunately, such discussions these days often end on a positive note; many beer drinkers throughout the South Bay are enjoying the current craft beer boom and imagining the potential for the local area.

Craft Beer Movement and the South Bay

“Craft beer” – as defined by the Brewers Association – refers to beer made by a “small, independent, and traditional” brewing company. Such definitions illustrate the contrast between local and regional craft beer brewing companies and the giant, macro brewing companies that still dominate the overall beer market.

But according to recent numbers released by the Brewers Association in March, overall beer volume sales are down while the U.S. craft brewing industry continues to grow in volume and dollar sales. More beer drinkers are trying craft beer and learning about the various aspects that make craft beer more compelling compared to macro beer.

This nationwide growth within the craft beer segment reflects the growing interest and demand for craft beer here locally. A number of recent developments highlight the increasing popularity of craft beer within our region – from the popular and successful beer festivals to the growth of local brewing companies like Hermitage and Strike, as well as a new San Jose brewery that is in the works.

Greg Filippi - Lead Brewer at Hermitage Brewing Company, May 18, 2012
Greg Filippi – Lead Brewer at Hermitage Brewing Company, May 18, 2012

The Bay Brewers Guild, a collective of brewers representing the South Bay and nearby Santa Cruz and Monterey areas, continues to take shape, while the spotlight on the beers made at our local brewpubs – and the brewers who make them – grows bigger and brighter.

More establishments are offering craft beer in the South Bay and taking care to ensure that their staff are knowledgeable enough about beer to be able to make just the right recommendation to both beer enthusiasts and newbies alike.

Restaurant James Randall in Los Gatos has joined California Café (both the Palo Alto and Los Gatos locations) in hosting a growing number of beer-and-food-pairing events.

With craft beer’s growing popularity, it’s no surprise that more folks are interested in homebrewing and joining homebrew clubs. “We receive several inquiries a month from new homebrewers… where even just a year ago inquiries were much more infrequent,” says Derek Wolfgram, president of the homebrew club Silicon Valley Sudzers.

And there is a growing list of craft beer-centric businesses that have just opened or are set to open this year.

In downtown San Jose, the list includes craft beer bars Original Gravity Public House and ISO: Beers, and restaurant Blackbird Tavern.

In Campbell, there is Liquid Bread beer bar. In Mountain View, there are Jane’s Beer Store, South Bay’s first specialty beer store, and Steins Beer Garden + Restaurant.

History and Emergence of the South Bay Beer Scene: Breweries

Even hardcore South Bay beer fans might be surprised to learn that the valley had its share of early breweries, as cited in the 1992 book The Bars of Santa Clara County: A Beer Drinker’s Guide to Silicon Valley co-written by Bay Area beer scribe Jay Brooks and Karen Knezevich.

These breweries produced predominantly German-style beers and included Eagle Brewery (San Jose, 1853), Fredericksburg Brewery (San Jose, 1856), and other San Jose breweries opening between 1875 and 1905, including San Jose Brewery, Louis Krumb’s Brewery, and the St. Claire Brewing Company. After breweries such as these closed, there were no local South Bay breweries until the mid-1980s.

Breweries like Winchester Brewery and Palo Alto Brewing Company would come and go, but not before making their impact.

In 1986, Pete Slosberg launched Pete’s Wicked Ales in Mountain View thanks to Palo Alto Brewing Company and Bob Stoddard, of whom Slosberg refers to as “one of the first, true pioneers” in craft brewing.

Stoddard would later open his eponymous Brewhouse & Eatery in Sunnyvale in 1993 (now FireHouse Grill & Brewery) and in Campbell in 2002 (now Campbell Brewing Company/Sonoma Chicken Coop).

Mountain View’s Tied House Brewery opened in 1988, and later in the same year Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch opened the first Gordon Biersch brewery restaurant in Palo Alto.

The second Gordon Biersch opened in downtown San Jose in 1990, replacing a brewpub that had closed in four months, proving in part that South Bay native Gordon – “Born in San Jose. Grew up in Los Altos,” he shares – had a strong case of South Bay pride. Gordon would go on to open a brewery and bottling facility in San Jose in 1997.

Dan Gordon, June 26, 2012
Dan Gordon, June 26, 2012

Los Gatos Brewing Company opened in 1991 with their downtown San Jose location opening in 2010.

El Toro Brewing Company started in 1992 with the opening of their Morgan Hill brewpub in 2006.

Additional breweries and restaurants would open, including Sunnyvale’s Faultline Brewing Company in 1994.

“We have breweries here in the South Bay that have been around for a while, and it’s nice to see people appreciating beer more,” states Campbell Brewing’s brewmaster Jim Turturici.

Steve Donohue, currently brewing at Hermitage while working on the initial stages of opening Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company in San Jose, asks that people give South Bay breweries a chance and says, “I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

Steve Donohue and Peter Licht (Brewmaster at Hermitage Brewing Company), June 22, 2012
Steve Donohue and Peter Licht (Brewmaster at Hermitage Brewing Company), June 22, 2012

Craft Beer Bars and More

Moving along the local craft beer landscape, every beer region has its share of go-to hangouts for good beer. Since last year, Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose has become a destination for the South Bay craft beer community. General manager Kevin Olcese has earned a solid reputation for his beer knowledge and passion, for bringing in hard-to-get beers on tap, and for informing customers via Facebook of the latest beer arrivals.

Kevin Olcese, June 26, 2012
Kevin Olcese, June 26, 2012

Olcese, however, is quick to give credit to Palo Alto’s Rose & Crown Pub and San Jose’s Wine Affairs – “They’re huge,” he simply says – for helping to pave the way in the beer scene, contributing greatly to the American and micro/craft beer knowledge base among local beer drinkers.

Kasim Syed took over the Rose & Crown in 2006 with an immediate goal to bring better quality beers along with beers that other places didn’t have. His second goal was to get people to try these different beers and get his customers to change their tastes. On a moment’s notice, he would drive to Santa Rosa to pick up a single keg of the latest Russian River Brewing Company offering – all to get more people to try different styles of beer.

As for the growing number of local beer spots, Syed says, “It’s not a competition. It’s about giving people choices; there’s more fun with more choices. These are happy times right now.”

Kasim Syed, June 27, 2012
Kasim Syed, June 27, 2012

Owner Diane Chang-Laurent remembers opening Wine Affairs in November 2007 with only five Belgian beers in bottles. But the customers, including mostly homebrewers at the beginning, would constantly request various beers from particular breweries. The beer focus really took shape in 2009.

Chang-Laurent says, “All the credit goes to the customers. They pushed me, and I listened.” As for the growing number of beer spots opening up in the South Bay, she says, “The more, the better. Plus, competition is always good.”

Diane Chang-Laurent, June 28, 2012
Diane Chang-Laurent, June 28, 2012

In downtown San Jose, Ryan Summers opened Good Karma Vegan Café in 2006 and has worked quietly yet diligently on bringing and maintaining a quality rotating craft beer selection – currently 15 beers on tap – for Good Karma’s loyal following. The new beer-centric establishments will “create a draw for everybody and help us take the customer experience even further as each of us continues to think about how to stand out.”

Ryan Summers, May 17, 2012
Ryan Summers, May 17, 2012

The craft beer focus began in 2008 for Bobby’s Liquors in Santa Clara thanks to Sukhjeev Singh, better known as Dee to his customers. Among the varied bottled craft beers in stock, Bobby’s offers a well-regarded collection of hard-to-get bottled sour ales.

Look for Dee and his wife to open ISO: Beers in downtown San Jose later this fall, which he says is “a beer bar and tasting lounge that will offer about 2,000 refrigerated, bottled craft beers and feature 50 to 60 craft beers on tap starting out.”

San Jose’s Naglee Park Garage and Jack’s Bar & Lounge, while providing respectable craft beer offerings, are coordinating large-scale South Bay beer events, like the Garage’s upcoming Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest (their third KraftBrew installment), taking place in downtown San Jose on Saturday, July 21. Event goers will get to enjoy a variety of beer styles along with great food and music in a festive atmosphere.

The next South Bay Beerwalk hosted by Jack’s (their third beerwalk) takes place in Campbell on Saturday, August 11, providing the opportunity to check out downtown Campbell while sampling beers from Northern California.

South Bay Craft Beer Scene Going Forward

Having been born and raised in San Jose (and still living here), I have seen various communities spring up over the years, communities bonded by a myriad of cultural facets, like art, music, food, sports and technology. We can now include craft beer; co-owner Dan Phan of Original Gravity Public House notes, “Beer is the universal beverage that has been bringing people together on common ground for thousands of years.”

Dan Phan and Johnny Wang, April 9, 2012
Dan Phan and Johnny Wang, April 9, 2012
Dan Phan and Johnny Wang, June 28, 2012
Dan Phan and Johnny Wang, June 28, 2012

The late esteemed English writer and journalist Michael Jackson wrote in his 1997 book The New World Guide to Beer, “The world always knew that beer was a noble and complex drink, but, for a moment in history, that was forgotten. Now it is being remembered.”

Indeed, many folks, including Dan Gordon, have felt the momentum for good beer building in the South Bay ever since the 80s and 90s. Fast forward to today, and there is no doubting the momentum. Notable Bay Area beer editor and writer Mike Pitsker agrees that the South Bay beer scene is on the up-and-up. And brewer Steve Donohue adds the capstone comment, “We’re just scratching the surface.”

[An abridged version of this post was shared as the cover story in the annual beer issue for Metro Silicon Valley.]