Long-time South Bay theater artist John McCluggage presents the next installment of ShakesBEERience San Jose with The Taming of the Shrew on June 30 at Café Stritch, where theater fans can enjoy the presentation with an equally enjoyable beverage in hand.
The ShakesBEERience model was launched in Portsmouth, N.H., three years ago by 7 Stages Shakespeare Company, to which McCluggage and his wife Alexandra have close connections. He is an associate artist and occasional director and actor, and she a member of the company’s advisory Board.
Dividing their time between New Hampshire and California and having spent many years in San Jose’s theater scene, the duo, co-founders of Buck Hill Productions, thought it would be perfect to bring west, meeting John’s personal artistic goal of producing theater in non-traditional venues and at places people naturally gather for other pursuits.
“ShakeBEERience is sort of like theater jazz—it matches perfectly with the venue,” Alexandra says. “We are thrilled to partner with Café Stritch. [Owner] Steve Borkenhagen is a long-time friend and arts supporter and we knew Stritch would be the place to launch the series.”
ShakesBEERience, Alexandra says, is a response to a contemporary audiences’ desire for engaging programming, interactive, informal experiences and opportunities to socialize. Works of Shakespeare are presented in a unique, playful and accessible way in an easy-going and entertaining environment where the audience drinks, eats and has a good time.
“We call ShakeBEERience, ‘a pub, a pint and a play,’” she says. “It’s an experience, not a performance. You don’t need to know anything about Shakespeare. You just come along for the ride and enjoy the event. Whether you come for the whole reading, or can just stay for one scene, the ShakesBEERience you have is up to you.”
Expect professional actors and local community celebrities to carry scripts and move about the bar, engaging with audience members on occasion and toasting each other when appropriate.
Admission to the staged reading is free though there is a suggested donation. Seating is first come, first serve, and there is a club membership that provides guaranteed, reserved seats. Previous presentations have been standing room only, so consider arriving early to get your seat and a pint or two.
ShakesBEERience is at Cafe Stritch on June 30. Admission is free and the show starts at 7pm.
Offerings from Lagunitas Brewing Company can be found at a myriad of locations throughout the South Bay and beyond. But during SF Beer Week, Good Karma Vegan Cafe in downtown San Jose (37 South First Street) will be the hot spot for an epic Lagunitas event entitled “Get High-Westified & SF Fusion 20 Release Party.”
The event title is in reference to Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout (2012) aged in bourbon barrels from High West Distillery and the special SF Beer Week edition of the Lagunitas Fusion Series (made in part by some of the Good Karma crew). The event takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 11 from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
South Bay native and long-time San Jose resident Rudy Kuhn is the Central California Market Manager for Lagunitas and shares the following:
Good Karma is definitely the biggest SFBW event. The tap list is gonna rival the Lagunitas Tap Room. Ryan [Good Karma owner and beer aficionado Ryan Summers] has been cellaring a bunch of these flavors in anticipation for this event. It’ll be a true showcase of the dank and dark sides of Lagunitas… some of our happiest offerings and some of the few darker and barrel-aged beers we’ve made over the past few years. We’ll get funky with some vinyl spinning, too.
The beer lineup includes cellared kegs of 2013 SoCo Sour Stout, 2012 Brown Shugga, and 2013 Hairy Eyeball along with fresh Maximus Double IPA, Sucks, and IPA. Folks can also keep the glassware while supplies last.
A different kind of event takes place on Friday, Feb. 14, 7 p.m. at downtown San Jose’s Café Stritch. Rudy shares:
Taking place at Café Stritch is the spawn of our Beer Circus. We’re bringing some of those freaks down to San Jose for a pre-party and to show the locals a good time. We’ll have two of our recent Fusion beers and party down until The Bang start to jam away the night on the stage.
Rudy is just as happy in discussing the other exciting beer events coming up throughout the South Bay, like the Sweet and Sour Festival also taking place on Friday, Feb. 14 at Good Karma and Original Gravity Public House. Rudy adds, “You can pucker up with some sours at OG and then get some sweet barrel-aged brews across the street at Good Karma.” The Original Gravity event, “Pucker Up! Valentine’s Day Sour Fest 3.0,” takes place from 4 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. while the Good Karma event, “St. Valentine’s Barrel-Aged Sweeties,” takes place from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Be sure to say hi to Rudy, an exemplary representative of the local beer scene – he’ll be the guy with the big smile, big beard, and the big bundle of positive energy flowing around him.
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.