Tag Archives: Brendan Rawson

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.]

KraftBrew WinterBall

KraftBrew Beer Fest in San Jose
HEADS OF THEIR TIME: The last KraftBrew event enticed beer lovers to the historic Landmark Ballroom.

Beer festivals are great ways to connect people with better beer, and San Jose is fortunate to have the KraftBrew beer fests on a regular basis. Started by the trio of Luis Silva, Brendan Rawson and Chris Esparza—owners of the San Jose restaurant Naglee Park Garage—the KraftBrew festivals celebrate the valley through great beer, food and live music.

The fourth installment, KraftBrew WinterBall will be held Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Landmark Ballroom at the San Jose Woman’s Club. The event will feature tastings of more than 35 seasonal and holiday beers, many reflecting variations of bold, complex and spicy notes in aroma and flavor.

The beer list includes Belgian beers Affligem No‘l and St. Bernardus Christmas Ale, as well as Lost Coast Winterbraun, Heretic Shallow Grave Porter, North Coast Old Stock Ale, Port Brewing Santa’s Little Helper, Lost Abbey Gift of the Magi, He’Brew Jewbelation 16, Firestone Walker Velvet Merlin, Ninkasi Sleigh’r Altbier, Uinta Anniversary Barley Wine and Shmaltz/Terrapin Reunion Ale 2012.

KraftBrew event specialist Vanessa Reed confirms that South Bay beers will be available for tasting. Look for Hermitage Maltopia and Ale of the 2 Tun Imperial Stout, Strike Imperial Red and Faultine Winter Strong Ale and Dunkel Weisse. She adds, “The WinterBall is a tasting event; unlike past KraftBrews, where people could choose to buy tastes or full glasses, for this event we will only pour 4-ounce tastes of the beers.” The “tasting event” mentality is a good one as winter beers typically have higher alcohol levels than their season counterparts.

The event runs from 6 to 11pm. Tickets are limited and available at the presale price of $35 each (any remaining tickets to be sold for $45 the day of the event). A ticket includes the beer tastings and light appetizers consisting of artisan cheeses and meats, charcuterie, fruit platters and other beer-friendly snacks from Naglee Park Garage. There will be food for sale from the food truck Grilled Cheese Bandits. Bay Area favorite the Bang will provide the live music.

Tickets can be purchased at a KraftBrew partner location, including Naglee Park Garage, Good Karma Vegan Cafe, Original Gravity Public House, Wine Affairs and Kelly’s Liquors.

KraftBrew WinterBall
Saturday, Dec. 8, 6-11pm; San Jose Woman’s Club, 75 S. 11th St., San Jose.

[This post was shared on SanJose.com.]

Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012 Seeks to Innovate and Engage

Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

The highly anticipated Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest takes place in downtown San Jose on Post Street, between Market & South First, on Saturday, July 21, 2012 from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.

This 2012 Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest is the third installment of the KraftBrew Beer Fest series, and though the first one held in April 2011 was successful, the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest held earlier this January was bigger and better. Sure, the KraftBrew could have rested on their laurels, but they seem to have chosen the more challenging route of trying out new elements at this summer beerfest, hoping to raise the bar once again.

Origins of KraftBrew Beer Fest

KraftBrew Beer Fest was created by the trio of Louis Silva, Brendan Rawson, and Chris Esparza, owners of the San Jose restaurant Naglee Park Garage (The Garage) on 505 East San Carlos Street. In addition to chef Louis’s love of good beer, what helped them believe they could coordinate a beer festival was the growing success of The Garage’s Oktoberfest celebrations bringing together great Bavarian fare and live music. For these gentlemen, the sense of community and accessibility is strong and serves as the foundation for the KraftBrew Beer Fests.

KraftBrew founders and Naglee Park Garage owners Louis, Chris & Brendan (photo courtesy of Naglee Park Garage)
KraftBrew founders and Naglee Park Garage owners Louis, Chris & Brendan (photo courtesy of Naglee Park Garage)

Louis is the talented chef who has matched wits with Guy Fieri on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Brendan is well connected to the San Jose arts and culture scenes, including serving as the acting Executive Director of San Jose Jazz. Chris has been active in cultural and civic development through his San Jose consulting firm Giant Creative.

What to expect at this year’s Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest

The last two KraftBrew Beer Fests were held in the Landmark Ballroom at the San Jose Woman’s Club. According to Chris, “Based on the previous KraftBrews, we needed more room for beers and people, especially as we wanted to bring more exotic, hard-to-find beers. But look for smaller beer events at the Landmark Ballroom, like very unique beer and dinner pairing events.”

In addition to some of the more well known summer beers like hefeweizens and lagers, there will be sours, framboise, lambic, and saison beer styles. There are two special features for the passionate beer fans to participate in:

  • Panel discussions featuring the manager and owners of San Jose craft beer establishments, including Harry’s Hofbrau of San Jose, Wine Affairs, Good Karma, and Original Gravity. There are also panel discussions to include homebrewers and professional brewers.
  • The launching of special beers – either never brewed before, rarely brewed, tough to get in the Bay Area, or special anniversary beers – every hour.

Families are more of a focus; look for root beer floats made from Devil’s Canyon root beer and locally made vanilla ice cream.

Great music and food will once again be featured, including popular acts Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic, Monkey, Will Sprott, and Ben Henderson & Good Hustle and specially prepared food from The Garage and Harry’s Hofbrau.

Their goal is to provide a quintessential street festival vibe while cultivating a South Bay community, one forged by music, food, beer, and local partners.

Chris Esparza adds, “The Garage is a 30-foot restaurant with a 60-foot patio; we’re just a neighborhood joint. We want KraftBrew to reflect this spirit but on a bigger community level. You don’t need to spend $40 to have a great experience; you can try great beers for $15 as well while enjoying great music.”

The 2012 Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest also has additional standout features, including going green and offering Zythophile “Z” passes. For more information about these features and for “Z” ticket information, please check the following links:

To purchase “Z” tickets, click here.

KraftBrew Beer Fest Facebook page.

Naglee Park Garage event page.

Program and glassware from the 2011 KraftBrew Beer Fest
Program and glassware from the 2011 KraftBrew Beer Fest
Waiting in line for the 2012 Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest
Waiting in line at the 2012 Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest
Fun times at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Inside the 2012 Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest
Great turnout at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Outside the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Waiting for a pour at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Enjoying beer at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

 

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

Highlights of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

Outdoor area of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Outdoor area of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

The Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012, organized by Naglee Park Garage owners Chris Esparza, Louis Silva, and Brendan Rawson along with the Giant Creative Services team, took place on Sat., Jan. 28, 2012.

This beer festival, scheduled so early in the year, was an indicator that 2012 could be a very good year for San Jose craft beer enthusiasts. Well before the 3 p.m. start time, a long line had already formed outside the entrance to the Landmark Ballroom at the San Jose Women’s Club, stretching a number of blocks down 11th Street.

The front of the line at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
The front of the line at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Eager attendees waiting in line
Eager attendees waiting in line

This was the second of the KraftBrew beer festivals, the first one taking place at the same location in April 2011. The attendance at the inaugural KraftBrew Beer Fest was excellent, but the turnout for this Beer Fest seemed to dwarf the attendance at the inaugural event.

Also, though last year’s festival was organized and well run, the four main parts of the beerfest – the food, music, beer education station, and the pouring stations – were fine-tuned just that much more this second time around.

More than a few folks, deterred by the long line, decided to go elsewhere. But once inside, most if not all festival goers had the pleasure of enjoying good food, music, and beer.

Of note was the growing involvement of the South Bay craft beer community, including Faultline Brewery and Kelly’s Liquors.

Many already know that good music and beer make for a great experience. Add to the combination a community that is thirsty for good beer, and something even better is bound to occur. Such was the case at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012.

The next Kraftbrew Beer Fest

Soon after the January 2012 KraftBrew Beer Fest took place, the date for the Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest was announced for Sat., July 21, 2012 at a larger, outdoor space in downtown San Jose. For updates, like the KraftBrew Beer Fest Facebook page and be sure to check out the Naglee Park Garage website on an ongoing basis.

More pics from the Winter Kraftbrew Beer Fest below.

Peter Estaniel (left) of BetterBeerBlog.com and Andrea Lee of San Jose at Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Peter Estaniel (left) of BetterBeerBlog.com and Andrea Lee of San Jose at Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Already a large crowd at the beginning of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Already a large crowd at the beginning of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Pouring stations at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Pouring stations at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Kelly's Liquors and Faultline Brewery at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Kelly’s Liquors and Faultline Brewery at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

Fun times at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

The outdoor area of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
The outdoor area of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

Great turnout at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

Waiting for a pour at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

Mrs. and Mr. BetterBeerBlog and Kevin Olcese of Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Mrs. and Mr. BetterBeerBlog and Kevin Olcese of Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]