Tag Archives: California Cafe Palo Alto

Beer Dinner Featuring Santa Clara Valley Brewing and Hermitage Brewing Company

California Cafe Palo Alto
California Cafe Palo Alto

The South Bay’s newest brewing company, Santa Clara Valley Brewing, recently announced their first beer dinner event which takes place tonight, July 25, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at California Cafe Palo Alto (700 Welch Road). The food-and-beer pairing event is part of California Cafe’s ongoing Brewmasters Dinner series.

As a new brewery, Santa Clara Valley Brewing currently has two beers out in the market – their Electric Tower IPA and Peralta Porter. To round out the beers for the four-course dinner, Santa Clara Valley Brewing is joined by San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company. And yesterday, Hermitage Brewing released the menu for this decidedly South Bay-focused brewmasters dinner.

Amuse

El Dorado Single Hop IPA, Hermitage Brewing Company

First Course

Food: Fish & Chips, macadamia nut encrusted opah, mulato pepper spiced potato chips
Beer: Electric Tower IPA, Santa Clara Valley Brewing

Second Course

Food: Open Faced Capresse Sandwich, smoked burrata, heirloom tomato, crispy basil, rye bread
Beer: Maltopia Scotch Ale, Hermitage Brewing Company

Third Course

Food: Short Ribs 3 Ways, mini taco, beef wellington, empanada, roasted habañero salsa, porcini demi-glace
Beer: Ale of the 2Tun Imperial Stout, Hermitage Brewing Company

Fourth Course

Food: Summer Smores, house made graham cracker, chocolate, marshmallow
Beer: Peralta Porter, Santa Clara Valley Brewing

The cost of this dinner is $45 per person, exclusive of taxes & gratuity. For reservations, call California Cafe at 650-325-2233.

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Metro’s Best of Silicon Valley 2013: Shopping & Services, Editors’ Picks

Japantown beerwalkers in 2012
San Jose Japantown beerwalkers in 2012

Best Homebrew Store

Beer and WineMakers of America

755 E. Brokaw Road, San Jose. Homebrewing is growing in popularity. Local homebrew supply shops are attracting more customers than ever before, and many folks have turned to San Jose’s Beer and WineMakers of America as their go-to homebrew store. Open since 1975, they have gained a loyal customer base largely thanks to their fair prices and friendly staff, including the knowledgeable and affable owner Rich. (AL)

Best Community Showcase

The Beerwalk

www.thebeerwalk.com. Wine walks shedding light on local businesses have been mainstays throughout the valley. Leave it to the folks from Jack’s Bar & Lounge to try the model with beer. Beerwalks took place last year in Japantown (twice), downtown Campbell and Willow Glen, connecting many folks to new-to-them local shops and restaurants. (AL)

Best Beer-and-Food Pairing Event

California Cafe Palo Alto

700 Welch Road, Palo Alto. The beer-food concept is not new, as the South Bay’s 10 brewpubs naturally connect good food to fresh, local beer, but more folks are discovering the delights of special beer-and-food pairing events. California Cafe in Palo Alto hosts an ongoing brewmasters dinner series, and its annual South Bay Brewmasters dinner, held last February, filled the large, main dining area to capacity. Customers were treated to a five-course dinner that paired each course with two beers from different South Bay brewing companies, including Tied House, FireHouse Grill & Brewery, Los Gatos Brewing, Hermitage, Strike Brewing and Palo Alto Brewing. (AL)

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Third Annual South Bay Brewmasters Dinner at California Café in Palo Alto

Photo of essential beer ingredients from the 2012 South Bay Brewmasters Dinner at California Cafe Palo Alto
Photo of essential beer ingredients from the 2012 South Bay Brewmasters Dinner at California Cafe Palo Alto

California Café in Palo Alto kickstarts their Brewmasters Dinner series for 2013 with the upcoming Third Annual South Bay Brewmasters Dinner this Thursday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. This dinner will be a more inclusive affair featuring beers from the South Bay’s Strike and Hermitage brewing companies, Belmont’s Devil’s Canyon, Concord’s Black Diamond, and Pittsburg’s Heretic Brewing.

The five-course menu features two brews per course, and part of the fun will be figuring out which particular brew pairs more successfully with a particular course, an idea shared two years ago by BetterBeerBlog’s Peter Estaniel based on a previous experience of his.

Last year’s South Bay Brewmasters Dinner was arguably the best beer-and-food pairing event to exclusively feature South Bay breweries in the Bay Area in terms of overall quality and popularity. What makes the South Bay Brewmasters Dinners so special is the pairing of each course with two different beers plus the participation of multiple breweries and brewmasters in one evening.

Executive chef Todd Yamanaka has created the following menu:

First Course: BLONDES DON’T WORRY

  • Kielbasa wrap, sauerkraut, whole grain mustard panna cotta
  • Devil’s Canyon Silicon Blonde vs. Heretic Worry

Second Course: CHEDDAR CHOWDER

  • Bacon, chives, herbed pate choux
  • Hermitage Maltopia vs. Devil’s Canyon Lager Diabla

Third Course: DIVERS DELIGHT

  • Bacon wrapped scallop, amaranth, endive, blood orange gastrique
  • Strike Brown vs. Hermitage Hoptopia

Fourth Course: RED’S DOWN HOME COOKING

  • Braised brisket of beef, baked beans, jalapeno cheddar muffins
  • Black Diamond Dubbel Down vs. Strike Imperial Red

Fifth Course: FLOATING AWAY

  • Vanilla gelato
  • Heretic Shallow Grave vs. Black Diamond Peak XV

The cost of this dinner is $55 per person exclusive of taxes and gratuities. To make reservations, call 650-325-2233 or send an email to paloalto@californiacafe.com.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

Lost Coast Brewery Beer Dinner at California Cafe Palo Alto

California Cafe Palo Alto
California Cafe Palo Alto

There is a Halloween themed dinner at California Cafe in Palo Alto featuring beers from Lost Coast Brewery on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 starting at 6 p.m.

Check out the following from their recent newsletter:

“Some years ago, in a castle far, far north of the bay, Lost Coast Brewing Co. got its start when an intelligent pharmacist had a dream to create her own brews.  Her home brews quickly transformed into very popular Bay Area brews enjoyed amongst friends in good times and celebration.

“Executive Chef Todd Yamanaka channels the wicked Halloween spirit in a four course pairing menu, featuring dishes such as Suckling Sacrifice and a hair-raising Witches’ Brew. Break out those spooky costumes for a chance to win dinner for four!”

Having been started by the previous executive chef Mark Pettyjohn, the beer dinners at California Cafe have been their most popular events. Chef Todd has been continuing these events and for this October beer dinner, seems to have put together a slightly terrifying, yet mouth-watering inducing, menu.

Menu for Lost Coast Brewery Brewmasters Dinner

First course: Possessed “egg” salad (burrata, duck confit, raspberry coulis, hazelnut) paired with Raspberry Brown

Second course: Sucking sacrifice (candied bacon, suckling pig, rainbow chard, waffle, micro mustard green) paired with Indica IPA

Third course: Witches stew (lamb, roasted root vegetables, puff pastry) paired with 8 Ball Stout

Fourth course: Missing “digit” (ricotta, chocolate tuile, persimmon coulis) paired with Downtown Brown

The dinner is $45 per person, excluding taxes and gratuities. Call 650-325-4339 to reserve a space.

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San Jose Area Beer Events for Oct. 22-27, 2012: Harry’s Hofbrau, California Cafe and More

Enjoying good beer in the South Bay
Enjoying good beer in the South Bay

The following is a collection of craft beer events in San Jose and the greater South Bay for the upcoming week and beyond. As events and beer lineups may change from time to time, please do check with the establishment directly, especially if you are extra excited about a particular event and/or beer.

Beer events this upcoming week

Mon., Oct. 22, 2012: San Jose’s Wine Affairs hosts their weekly beer tasting event, this time entitled “Attack of the Pumpkin (Beers)!” 1435 The Alameda, 408-977-0111. From their recent newsletter: “We welcome back one of our all-time favorite breweries: Lagunitas! We are doing this in style. Tapping of Fusion 10 at 4:20 p.m., plus get a Lagunitas mason jar while supplies last. Then from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. taste 6 incredible beers with the amazing Rudy from Lagunitas. Tasting 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. $12/person or free for members.”

Tues., Oct. 23, 2012, 4 p.m. – closing: The Counter Santana Row, offers a “Mix-It-Up” 4 mini burger & beer pairings, including Devil’s Canyon Full Boar Scotch Ale and Lagunitas IPA. 3055 Olin Ave., 408-423-9200.

Wed., Oct. 24, 2012, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Catch live music and good beer at Poor House Bistro with “Blues & $2 Brews” featuring Bear Republic Brewing Co. 91 South Autumn Street, 408-292-5837.

Wed., Oct. 24, 2012: Palo Alto’s Rose and Crown hosts an all-day Lagunitas Brewing Company event. 547 Emerson Ave., 650-327-7673. From a recent Twitter update: “All Wednesday we will be having a Lagunitas party, pouring Brown Sugga, Fusion 10, Daytime and IPA. Lagunitas crew will arrive at 4:20 p.m.”

Thurs., Oct. 25, 2012, starting at 6:00 p.m.: Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose hosts their weekly Pint Night. Check the Harry’s Hofbrau Facebook page for updates. 390 Saratoga Ave., 408-243-0434. From a recent Facebook update: “Now get ready for [the] annual Schneider takeover! Ceramic handmade mugs will be available for you to take home and a lineup of amazing German beers. Eisbock, Edel, Original, Hopfen, Aventinus, and a tap X Nelson keg refermented in the keg 6 months. We will have Bavarian Pretzels made in-house to purchase. Get your lederhosen ready mein friends. Prost!”

Thurs., Oct. 25, 2012, starting at 6:00 p.m.: California Cafe in Palo Alto hosts a Lost Coast Brewery brewmasters dinner.

Thurs., Oct. 25, 2012, 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.: It is an Original Gravity Public House pumpkin patch event in downtown San Jose. 66 South First St. From the Facebook event page: “Come out Thursday for the Original Gravity Pumpkin Patch! We will be hold a pre-carved jack-o-lantern contest. The top three will be selected to haunt our back patio leading up to Halloween. Winners will also be given 2 free beers of their choice and fed! We will also be tapping some really cool specialty pumpkin ales. Sound like fun? Thought so. Hope to see you all there pumpkin heads! Pouring Uinta – punk’n, Timmerman’s – Pumpkin Lambicus, Shipyard – Smashed Pumpkin, Dogfish Head – punkin, Midnight Sun – Treat, The Bruery – Autumn Maple.”

Thurs., Oct. 25, 2012, starting at 6 p.m.: Jack’s Bar & Lounge in Japantown offers up their weekly $2 Pint Night. Check the Jack’s Bar & Lounge Facebook page for updates. 167 East Taylor St., 408-287-5225.

Fri., Oct. 26, 2012: BevMo! stores host weekly Beer Tasting events on Fridays. Check your local BevMo! store for details.

Sat., Oct. 27, 2012, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub in downtown San Jose hosts their monthly beer event featuring Deschutes Brewery. 25 North San Pedro Street, 408-947-8007.

Looking ahead: Save the date

Sat., Nov. 17, 2012: The next SJ Beerwalk takes place in downtown Willow Glen.

Sat.-Sun., Nov. 17-18, 2012: Left Bank Brasserie Santana Row hosts a prix fixe meal paired with beers from Drake’s Brewing Company as part of their Left Bank Santana Row Summer Beer Pairing Series, La Fête de la Bière. 377 Santana Row, Suite 1100, 408-984-3500.

Sun., Dec. 9, 2012, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Morocco’s Restaurant in Mountain View hosts a beer dinner featuring Strike Brewing Company. Check out this Facebook event page for the details.

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Beer-forward Restaurants a Part of 2012 Silicon Valley Restaurant Week

Oryza Bistro Asiana - one of the participating restaurants during Silicon Valley Restaurant Week 2012
Oryza Bistro Asiana – one of the participating restaurants during Silicon Valley Restaurant Week 2012

Silicon Valley Restaurant Week is back again and takes place starting Wed., Oct. 17, 2012 until  the following Wed., Oct. 24, where 46 participating restaurants will offer special 3-course dinner menus at discounted prices.

The following is an excerpt from a recent email from SanJose.com: “From Bushido’s izakaya-style dining experience, to newcomer The Table’s innovative homegrown offerings, there are plenty of unique options to suit anyone’s palate. Even the Silicon Valley Capital Club is offering non-members the opportunity to take in its breathtaking views while enjoying Michelin star rated chef, Michael Miller’s contemporary specialties like Pressed Duck Confit or Chile Yuzu Prawns.”

Further on the plus side is that a number of participating restaurants have a track record of serving good beer, hosting food and beer pairing events, or both. Such establishments include:

Silicon Valley Restaurant Week provides a great opportunity to try out a restaurant that is new to you and sample the South Bay’s culinary diversity.

It is great to see that some of the restaurants have a focus on their beer menus as well.

As reservations are highly recommended, view menus and book a table online at:

SiliconValleyRestaurantWeek.com/Restaurants

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San Jose Area Beer Events: Sep. 3-9, 2012

Recent tap takeover event at Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
Recent tap takeover event at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose

The following is a collection of craft beer events in San Jose and the greater South Bay for the upcoming week and beyond. As events may change from time to time, please do check with the establishment directly, especially if you are extra excited about a particular event.

Beer events this upcoming week

Mon., Sep. 3, 2012, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.: San Jose’s Wine Affairs hosts an “End o’ Summer Beers” beer tasting event. 1435 The Alameda, 408-977-0111. “Celebrate Labor Day and the end of summer! Featuring fresh hop ales, summer wheats, and refreshing saisons. $10/person or FREE for Members!”

Tues., Sep. 4, 2012, 4 p.m. – closing: The Counter Santana Row, offers a “Mix-It-Up” 4 mini burger & beer pairings, including Devil’s Canyon Full Boar Scotch Ale and Lagunitas IPA. 3055 Olin Ave., 408-423-9200.

Wed., Sep 5, 2012, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Catch live music and good beer at Poor House Bistro with “Blues & $2 Brews” featuring Karl Strauss Brewing Company. 91 South Autumn Street, 408-292-5837.

Thurs., Sep. 6, 2012, starting at 6:00 p.m.: Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose hosts their weekly Pint Night. Check the Harry’s Hofbrau Facebook page for updates. 390 Saratoga Ave., 408-243-0434.

Thurs., Sep. 6, 2012, starting at 6 p.m.: Jack’s Bar & Lounge in Japantown offers up their weekly $2 Pint Night. Check the Jack’s Bar & Lounge Facebook page for updates. 167 East Taylor St., 408-287-5225.

Fri., Sep. 7, 2012: Tied House Brewery & Cafe in Mountain View hosts September’s First Firkin Friday. 954 Villa Street. 650-965-2739. “A firkin is a cask filled with real ale. (Firkin refers to the size of the cask as well.) A different cask ale is concocted and tapped at 5 p.m. every first Friday of every month. Join us to try real ale and taste the difference. We donate the profits from the sales of firkin pints to local non-profits because we are dedicated to our community.”

Fri., Sep. 7, 2012: BevMo! stores host weekly Beer Tasting events on Fridays. Check your local BevMo! store for details.

Looking ahead: Save the date

Mon., Sep. 10, 2012: San Jose’s Wine Affairs hosts a Firestone Walker event. 1435 The Alameda, 408-977-0111. “Mark your calendar: If you love beer, make sure to be here on Monday, Sept 10th for a Firestone Walker Event that is sure to be EPIC. Details to follow…”

Wed., Sep. 12, 2012, starting at 7 p.m.: Restaurant James Randall in Los Gatos hosts a beer dinner event featuring Firestone Walker Brewing Company.

Fri., Sep. 14, 2012, starting at 7 p.m.: Palace Cafe in Sunnyvale hosts a 5-course beer pairing dinner featuring beers from Strike Brewing Company. 139 South Murphy Ave., 408-774-6111. The current cover photo of the Strike Brewing Facebook page lists the 5-course menu and beers. RSVP to (408) 774-6111; only 30 tickets available.

Sat., Sep. 15, 2012, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.: The Los Gatos Brewing Company 20th Anniversary/Oktoberfest celebration takes place. 130G North Santa Cruz Ave., 408-395-9929. “Los Gatos Brewing Company is having a 20th Anniversary/Oktoberfest celebration!!! Join us for tasty German food, cold beer, live music and tons of fun!!! This is an outdoor event. Our restaurant will also be open with a special Oktoberfest menu!” For complete details, visit their Facebook public event page.

Sat.-Sun., Sep. 15-16, 2012: Left Bank Brasserie Santana Row hosts a prix fixe meal paired with beers from Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company as part of their Left Bank Santana Row Summer Beer Pairing Series, La Fête de la Bière. 377 Santana Row, Suite 1100, 408-984-3500.

Sat., Sep. 22, 2012, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Peter B’s Brewpub hosts the 2nd Annual Monterey Beer Garden, which will feature a number of South Bay breweries.

Thurs., Sep. 27, 2012: California Cafe in Palo Alto hosts a Strike Brewing Co. brewmasters dinner.

Sat.-Sun., Oct. 20-21, 2012: Left Bank Brasserie Santana Row hosts a prix fixe meal paired with beers from Gordon Biersch Brewing Company as part of their Left Bank Santana Row Summer Beer Pairing Series, La Fête de la Bière. 377 Santana Row, Suite 1100, 408-984-3500.

Sun., Oct. 21, 2012: Morocco’s Restaurant in Mountain View hosts a beer dinner featuring Strike Brewing Company.

Thurs., Oct. 25, 2012: California Cafe in Palo Alto hosts a Lost Coast Brewery brewmasters dinner.

Sat., Nov. 17, 2012: Save the date – the next SJ Beerwalk takes place in downtown Willow Glen.

Sat.-Sun., Nov. 17-18, 2012: Left Bank Brasserie Santana Row hosts a prix fixe meal paired with beers from Drake’s Brewing Company as part of their Left Bank Santana Row Summer Beer Pairing Series, La Fête de la Bière. 377 Santana Row, Suite 1100, 408-984-3500.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

San Jose Area Beer News and Events: Aug. 27-Sep. 2, 2012

Lips of Faith tap takeover at Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
Lips of Faith tap takeover at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose

The following is a collection of craft beer events in San Jose and the greater South Bay for the upcoming week and beyond. As events may change from time to time, please do check with the establishment directly, especially if you are extra excited about a particular event.

Beer events this upcoming week

Mon., Aug. 27, 2012, 4 p.m. – 10 p.m.: San Jose’s Wine Affairs hosts their End of the Month Beerfest with discounted drafts and bottled beers. 1435 The Alameda, 408-977-0111.

Tues., Aug. 28, 2012, 4 p.m. – closing: The Counter Santana Row, offers a “Mix-It-Up” 4 mini burger & beer pairings, including Devil’s Canyon Full Boar Scotch Ale and Lagunitas IPA. 3055 Olin Ave., 408-423-9200.

Wed., Aug. 29, 2012, starting at 6 p.m.: Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose hosts a special New Belgium Lips of Faith tap takeover. Check the Harry’s Hofbrau Facebook page for updates. 390 Saratoga Ave., 408-243-0434. “Here it is the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the taplist for our tap takeover: La Folie (2012), Cocoa Mole, Alpine Collaboration Super IPA (new release), Peach Porch (new), Tart Lychee, Kick (2011), Prickly Pear Saison, Berlinerweiss (archived), Matt’s Ale (archived), Lost Abbey collab, Super Cru (2011), Abbey Grand Cru (2011), Bier De Mars (aged), Red Hoptober (new great seasonal), Ranger IPA, Fat Tire. This event took over 3 months to get together and is going to be great! We have a banjo band playing jams; the West Coast Ranger team will be here and of course free appetizers. This is just the first in many upcoming large tap events so keep an eye out; the next one should be Knee Deep.”

Wed., Aug. 29, 2012, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Catch live music and good beer at Poor House Bistro with “Blues & $2 Brews” featuring Schmaltz Brewing Co. 91 South Autumn Street, 408-292-5837.

Thurs., Aug. 30, 2012, starting at 6 p.m.: Jack’s Bar & Lounge in Japantown offers up their weekly $2 Pint Night. Check the Jack’s Bar & Lounge Facebook page for updates. 167 East Taylor St., 408-287-5225.

Thurs., Aug. 30, 2012, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery in Campbell hosts the Chef and Brewer’s Autumn Dinner. 1875 South Bascom Ave., #700, 408-377-0707. The Campbell Rock Bottom Facebook page currently has a photo of the menu. “Please call 408-377-0707 to make reservations. It’s just $50 per person and that includes tax and gratuity! A credit card number will be required when making reservations and cancellations must be done at least 48 hours in advance.”

Thurs., Aug. 30, 2012: California Cafe in Palo Alto hosts a Black Diamond Brewing Co. beer dinner.

Fri., Aug. 31, 2012: BevMo! stores host weekly Beer Tasting events on Fridays. Check your local BevMo! store for details.

Looking ahead: Save the date

Fri., Sep. 14, 2012, starting at 7 p.m.: Palace Cafe in Sunnyvale hosts a 5-course beer pairing dinner featuring beers from Strike Brewing Company. 139 South Murphy Ave., 408-774-6111. The current cover photo of the Strike Brewing Facebook page lists the 5-course menu and beers. RSVP to (408) 774-6111; only 30 tickets available.

Sat., Sep. 15, 2012, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.: The Los Gatos Brewing Company 20th Anniversary/Oktoberfest celebration takes place. 130G North Santa Cruz Ave., 408-395-9929. “Los Gatos Brewing Company is having a 20th Anniversary/Oktoberfest celebration!!! Join us for tasty German food, cold beer, live music and tons of fun!!! This is an outdoor event. Our restaurant will also be open with a special Oktoberfest menu!” For complete details, visit their Facebook public event page.

Sat.-Sun., Sep. 15-16, 2012: Left Bank Brasserie Santana Row hosts a prix fixe meal paired with beers from Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company as part of their Left Bank Santana Row Summer Beer Pairing Series, La Fête de la Bière. 377 Santana Row, Suite 1100, 408-984-3500.

Sat., Sep. 22, 2012, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Peter B’s Brewpub hosts the 2nd Annual Monterey Beer Garden, which will feature a number of South Bay breweries.

Thurs., Sep. 27, 2012: California Cafe in Palo Alto hosts a Strike Brewing Co. brewmasters dinner.

Sat.-Sun., Oct. 20-21, 2012: Left Bank Brasserie Santana Row hosts a prix fixe meal paired with beers from Gordon Biersch Brewing Company as part of their Left Bank Santana Row Summer Beer Pairing Series, La Fête de la Bière. 377 Santana Row, Suite 1100, 408-984-3500.

Thurs., Oct. 25, 2012: California Cafe in Palo Alto hosts a Lost Coast Brewery brewmasters dinner.

Sat.-Sun., Nov. 17-18, 2012: Left Bank Brasserie Santana Row hosts a prix fixe meal paired with beers from Drake’s Brewing Company as part of their Left Bank Santana Row Summer Beer Pairing Series, La Fête de la Bière. 377 Santana Row, Suite 1100, 408-984-3500.

[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

Indeed, 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.”

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 doubt about that 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 – also without the pictures – was shared as the cover story in the annual beer issue for Metro Silicon Valley.]



FireHouse Grill & Brewery Brewmaster’s Dinner at California Cafe Palo Alto

California Cafe Palo Alto
California Cafe Palo Alto

Two standouts in the South Bay craft beer community link up this Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 6:30 p.m., as California Cafe Palo Alto hosts another of their ever popular Brewmaster Dinners. This month’s dinner features Sunnyvale’s FireHouse Grill & Brewery and their award-winning brewmaster, Steve Donohue.

The final menu will become available tomorrow on the California Cafe Palo Alto events page. Here’s a look at the tentative menu:

FIRST COURSE

Seared Day Boat Scallop

Vanilla-Grapefruit Butter, Pepper Cress

Paired with St. Eve’s Belgesque Goldish Strong Revolutionary Ale

SECOND COURSE

Hefe Soaked Roast Chicken

Banana Mole, Pickled Papaya, Crisp Plantain Chip

Paired with Hefeweizen

THIRD COURSE

Coffee Crusted Angus Ribeye

Wild Mushroom Risotto, Blackberry-Liquorice Demi

Paired with Brendan’s Irish Stout

DESSERT COURSE

Hardly Glazed Plums

Pine Nut-Prune Chutney, Honey-Cinnamon Sabayon

Paired with Hardly Thomas Barley Wine

Brewmaster Steve Donohue has represented the South Bay well, having won a medal each of the past four years at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival. Dinner guests will have the good fortune of experiencing the creations of an award-winning brewmaster along with the mouth-watering dinner courses.

The dinner is $45.00 per person, excluding tax and gratuity. As recent Brewmasters Dinner events have sold out, call California Cafe Palo Alo at (650) 325-2233 to make your reservations as soon as possible.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]