Steve Altimari of High Water Brewing and Drew Ehrlich of Strike Brewing Co.
Strike Brewing Co.’s Tyler Rusten and a pour of Strike’s tasty Winter Camp (Winter Warmer Olde Ale). Tyler later shared that he had accepted a brewer position at Fearless Brewing Company in Oregon. Best wishes, Tyler!
Santa Clara Valley Brewing’s Coleen Clark.
Michael Barker of Sactown Union Brewery and Peter Licht of Hermitage Brewing Company share a laugh.
El Toro Brewing Company’s Geno Acevedo.
Almanac Beer Co.’s Brian Sneed, Fernando Tovar and Fernando’s wife Sandra.
Hermitage Brewing Company’s Mark Fazzio, Nicole Marquez and Joel Wind.
Enjoying a pour of Luponic Distortion No. 004 from Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s Mark and Corey.
FireHouse Grill & Brewery’s Larry Hoang.
Beer enthusiasts Anita Arguello and Mike Condie.
Santa Clara Valley Brewing’s Coleen Clark and Hermitage Brewing’s Carolyn Hopkins-Vasquez. Carolyn later shared that the end of the year would be her last day as marketing director of Hermitage Brewing Company and Tied House. With her family moving to Sacramento, her departure (which I’ve mentioned previously) is a big blow to the local beer scene (for instance, Carolyn coordinated this event). We’ll miss you, Carolyn!
Jon Siddoway and Siobhan Faul of Red Branch Cider Company and Rabbit’s Foot Meadery.
SF Beer Week kicks off this Fri., Feb. 6 with the Opening Gala at SF’s Fort Mason Center, Herbst Pavilion, where over 80 Bay Area breweries will be pouring their finest offerings. As a testament to the Opening Gala’s popularity, tickets sold out in just twelve days back in December. Participating South Bay breweries include:
Campbell Brewing Company
El Toro Brewing Company (Morgan Hill)
Gordon Biersch Brewing Company (San Jose)
Hermitage Brewing Company (San Jose)
Palo Alto Brewing Company
Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company (San Jose)
Strike Brewing Company (San Jose)
SF Beer Week runs through Sun., Feb. 15 and features hundreds of beer-related events, over 700 at last count. As in years past, there is a plethora of beer-related events taking place in the South Bay.
The following is a list of some of the standout, predominantly South Bay-centric events scheduled throughout this opening weekend. These are the events that I would love to attend if I could clone myself.
Note: Some of the events will require tickets to be purchased ahead of time. Visit the SF Beer Week website for the complete schedule of events.
SATURDAY, FEB. 7
Fibbar Magees, 156 South Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale: Lagunitas Extravaganza, 11am-11:30pm. A tap takeover features 15 Lagunitas offerings, including a vintage Imperial Stout (2013) and the release of their annual special SFBW Fusion beer (Fusion 27).
Market Beer Company, 100 N. Almaden Ave., San Jose: Walker’s Wild Ride, 11:30am-1:30pm. Market Beer Company, located inside the San Pedro Square Market, is the first Bay Area stop for Firestone Walker co-proprietor David Walker and barrelmeister Jeffers Richardson. They are bringing their collection of specialty Barrelworks sour beers.
Rose & Crown, 547 Emerson St., Palo Alto: Sour Sunday in PA (Part 1), 11:30am-11:30pm. Get pucker faced with Rose & Crown yet again at their annual sour beer event, with offerings from Russian River, Bear Republic, Palo Alto Brewing, The Bruery, plus more on tap and in bottles.
Beerwalk: Japantown, Jackson St., San Jose: Japantown Beerwalk, 2-6pm. The award-winning Beerwalk series returns triumphantly to Japantown, the site of the first ever Beerwalk three years ago, and will feature offerings from a number of local breweries, including Hermitage, Santa Clara Valley Brewing, Strike, Gordon Biersch, Faultline, FireHouse and more. The first 60 to check in the day of the event will receive a complimentary tour of the nearby Gordon Biersch bottling and production facility. Tickets are $30 if purchased in advance at Jack’s Bar & Lounge or online.
Wine Affairs, 1435 The Alameda, San Jose: 6th Annual Double Blind Double IPA, 2-8pm. Always a fun event, come out and blind taste 8 Double IPAs and help determine the best in show. Admission is $15 per person.
Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company, 935 Washington St., San Carlos: Mavericks Brewing Tunnel Vision IPA Release, 2-5pm. Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company hosts the 2nd Annual West Coast Craft Can Invitational (16 confirmed breweries) which will showcase some of the Bay Area’s finest canned beers. A special beer launch features Half Moon Bay’s Mavericks Brewing and their newest canned beer Tunnel Vision IPA in 16-oz. cans. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online.
Harry’s Hofbrau, 390 Saratoga Ave., San Jose: Annual Stone Tap Takeover with Secret Ruination Firkin! 5-11:30pm. A special tap list of Stone beers will include a cask of Ruination conditioned with secret ingredients for which you will have to come out to find out.
SUNDAY, FEB. 8
Mission Creek Brewing Company, 777 The Alameda, San Jose: Bangers and Beer: An Ode to the Perfect Pair, 12-4pm. Mission Creek Brewing, California’s first Whole Foods store with in-store brewery, looks to honor the perfect pairing that is sausage and beer by pouring their own Mission Creek beers, along with other local beers, to be paired with items from an exclusive menu highlighting their made-in-house sausages.
Oak & Rye, 303 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos: Pizza & Beer Pairing, 12-3pm. The popular and well-regarded restaurant Oak & Rye will be making special pies (all you can eat) to pair with offerings from Firestone Walker, Oskar Blues and Ballast Point. Tickets are $30 and gets you unlimited food and 8-oz. pours of up to 9 beers. Tickets can be purchased online.
Bierhaus, 383 Castro St., Mountain View: Meet the Brewers: Clandestine Brewing, 1-5pm. Meet the founders of Clandestine Brewing and enjoy an afternoon of their beers. Plus there will be raffle prizes.
San Pedro Square Market, 87 N. San Pedro St., San Jose: Lagunitas Beer Parade, 1-4:30pm. Enjoy offerings from Lagunitas inside the Market or out in the patio as you roll through the Market Bar (1-2pm), Garage Bar (2-3pm) and Market Beer Company (3-4:20pm) for special releases that are typically available only at the brewery. There will be live music and giveaways.
The Brew Hub inside Whole Foods Market Cupertino, 2099 Stevens Creek Blvd.: Sierra Nevada Off-Flavor Tasting Panel, 1:30-6pm. Expand your skills towards understanding beer flavors and aromatics by participating in this sensory training event. Registration is $35 and includes beer for the flavor tasting and two Sierra Nevada beers: barrel-aged Torpedo and barrel-aged Narwhal (6 oz.). Tickets can be purchased online.
Santa Teresa Golf Club, 260 Bernal Road, San Jose: Meet Strike Brewing – A Talk and Tasting, 3-5pm. Come learn more about Strike Brewing Company, including how they built their business and what the future holds. A $5 tasting fee includes 4-oz. samples of 5 of their beers. There will be $4 pints and bottles of their beers as well.
Several establishments are celebrating SF Beer Week with week-long specials. Highlights include:
Mixx, 420 Castro St., Mountain View: Mixxing with Firestone: 4 Course Pairing Menu. Chef Joel Whitaker will prepare four courses to pair with four of Firestone Walker beers, including Pale 31 baby crab cake with Pale 31, butter lettuce wedge with mustard vinaigrette with Double Barrel Ale, salmon with Thai curry with Union Jack IPA and a scoop of housemade Wookie Jack sorbet with spiced cake bite with Wookie Jack. $40.
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, 390 Capistrano Rd.: Beer and Dessert Pairing. Each dessert bite created by chef Gaston Alfaro has been paired with one of brewmaster James Costa’s seasonal beers (4-oz.), including Mavericks gingersnap mascarpone tart paired with Brown Ale, mini bleu cheese cheesecake with candied bacon and a maple bourbon reduction paired with Double Bore IPA, spiced poached pears paired with PaPa Juice Barleywine and beeramisu paired with Calf-eine Coffee Milk Stout. $20.
Psycho Donuts, 2006 S. Winchester Blvd., Campbell: A Psycho Donut Walks into a Firestone… Firestone Walker, Hella Hot Hot Sauce and Psycho Donuts are teaming up to create an 805 Apricot Blonde Ghost, Union Jack Glazed and Chocolate Merkin.
As you can see, there are options galore. What SF Beer Week events do you plan to attend this weekend?
San Francisco Beer Week 2015 kicks off with the Opening Gala, the Bay Area’s premier beer event taking place Fri., Feb. 6 from 6-10pm at the spacious Fort Mason Center – Herbst Pavilion in San Francisco.
The SF Beer Week Opening Gala cannot come quickly enough for beer fans, and many have already purchased their tickets which recently became available online.
The Opening Gala welcomes over 80 Bay Area breweries and features many of their finest offerings. South Bay breweries include:
Campbell Brewing Company
El Toro Brewing Company (Morgan Hill)
Gordon Biersch Brewing Company (San Jose)
Hermitage Brewing Company (San Jose)
Palo Alto Brewing Company
Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company (San Jose)
Strike Brewing Company (San Jose)
Campbell Brewing will participate in the Opening Gala for the first time, providing those new to the brewery the opportunity to sample beers from brewmaster Jim Turturici, winner of recent, consecutive medals from the prestigious Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and the World Beer Cup.
Opening Gala tickets are $75 and include a commemorative glass with which to enjoy unlimited four-oz. samples of brewery offerings. Local food will be available for purchase from Alicia’s Tamales, Belly Burgers, Good Foods Catering, Kung Fu Tacos, Rosamunde Sausage Grill, Soul Groove and Curry Up Now.
Visit the Opening Gala Eventbrite page to purchase tickets and for event details, including ticket policies and notices and the current list of participating breweries. As in recent years, expect tickets to sell out quickly.
SF Beer Week, presented by the SF Brewers Guild, runs through Sun., Feb. 17. Visitors to the SF Beer Week website will see the just-released schedules for the first wave of beer-related events taking place throughout the Bay Area and can conduct searches for events by regions – San Francisco, East Bay, North Bay and South Bay. South Bay beer fans need not worry; many more events will show up in the coming days and weeks.
The following is a roundup of many of the local beer-centric events taking place throughout the rest of this month in the South Bay.
Wed., Oct. 15 – Fri., Oct. 17
Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant is having a tap takeover with Drake’s Brewing from Oct. 15 to Oct. 17, 5pm-9pm each day. Drake’s Hausfest Lager will be one of the featured beers.
Thurs., Oct. 16
Market Beer Company (inside the San Pedro Square Market – the building on the corner of St. John and Almaden) will host their first “Locals Only” tap takeover event showcasing select draft beers from four local breweries, all from San Jose – Santa Clara Valley Brewing, Hermitage Brewing, Strike Brewing, and Clandestine Brewing. The event starts at 5pm.
This week’s edition of Thursday Beer Night at Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose features the South Bay debut of Golden Road Brewing out of Los Angeles. The tap list promises to be stellar, with opportunities to meet a brewery representative and take home glassware. Beer Night starts at 6pm.
Join Campbell Brewing Company for a special evening as guests will toast brewmaster Jim Turturici at 7pm for his recent medals from the Great American Beer Festival, including a silver medal from this year’s GABF for his Mastiff Barleywine in the Barley Wine-Style Ale category and a gold medal from last year’s GABF for his Scottish Ale in the Scottish-Style Ale category.
These medals complement a silver medal from this year’s World Beer Cup for his Romanov Imperial Stout in the British-Style Imperial Stout category.
There will be opportunities to sample his winning beers in the brewery as well as enjoy the latest seasonal beer – Weizenbock.
Fri., Oct. 17
Good Karma Vegan Café celebrates their 8th anniversary with a celebration featuring a number of offerings from owner and beer aficionado Ryan Summers’ personal beer collection. The party starts at 6pm and on tap will be rare, specialty and cellared kegs from the following breweries:
Sante Adairius Rustic Ales
Almanac Beer Co.
Port / Lost Abbey
Dogfish Head Beer
Plus a surprise or two to be announced
Sat., Oct. 18
The next quarterly installment of “Pints for Non Profits” takes place at Original Gravity Public House starting at 1pm. Three local non-profit organizations will be paired with three California breweries, and a percentage of proceeds from beer sales this day will be donated to the respective non-profit.
Veggielution paired with Lagunitas Brewing
UNAREP paired with Firestone Walker
Aspiranet paired with Ballast Point Brewing
Sat., Oct. 18 – Sun., Oct. 19
Downtown Campbell celebrates Oktoberfest featuring German food, beer and wine, live music and arts and crafts.
Mon., Oct. 20
Wine Affairs weekly beer tasting event features a Germany vs. USA tap takeover on all 12 taps. The event takes place from 4pm-10pm.
Tues., Oct. 21
Bay Area Beer Socials has teamed up with Stone Brewing for a pre-Halloween pub crawl in downtown San Jose.
Approximate beer schedule:
5:30pm – Market Beer Company
6:30pm – The Farmer’s Union – a cool new place with fantastic food!
7:30pm – Good Karma – More fantastic food and cool ambiance!
8:30pm – TBD
Thurs., Oct. 23
Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose presents a number of beers from Shipyard Brewing, including Monkey Fest IPA, Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Barrel-Aged Double Old Thumper and Barrel-Aged Pumpkinhead. The event starts at 6pm as usual.
The latest installment of Beerwalk takes place in Willow Glen from 2pm-6pm, and it’s the Halloween edition.
Tickets can be purchased in advance for $30 online at www.thebeerwalk.com. In the case the event does not sell out, tickets can be purchased day of for $35.
There will be a costume contest, an after party at the soon-to-open 20twenty Cheese Bar and prize raffles.
The current list of breweries includes:
Hermitage Brewing Company
Santa Clara Valley Brewing
Faultline Brewing Company
FireHouse Grill & Brewery
21st Amendment Brewery
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
Anchor Brewing Company
Karl Strauss Brewing Company
Headlands Brewing Company
Six Rivers Brewery
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Green Flash Brewing Co.
Thurs., Oct. 30
Fans of Heretic Brewing Company are in luck as Market Beer Company hosts a Heretic Brewing Tap Takeover event starting at 5pm.
Fri., Oct. 31
Original Gravity hosts their annual Halloween costume contest starting at 7:30pm. Three categories (Scariest, Funniest and Most Original) will be judged by the staff, and the winner of each will receive a meal (Sausage/Grilled Cheese and Duck Fat Fries) and a beer of choice on draft for one cent.
Participants must bring valid ID and a before-and-after photo with makeup or have a removable mask. The contest kicks off at 7:30pm with the results revealed at 9pm.
Announced earlier today, Silicon Valley’s Campbell Brewing Company has won a silver medal in the Barley Wine-Style Ale category at this year’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF), held annually in Denver, CO and host to what many consider the country’s leading beer competition.
The honor marks the second year in a row that Campbell Brewing brewmaster Jim Turturici has medaled at the GABF. Last year, his Scottish Ale took gold in the Scottish-Style Ale category.
I had the privilege of tasting this year’s medal winner – Mastiff Barleywine – three months ago during a visit to Campbell Brewing to meet with Turturici.
The beer had been quietly aging since 2011, and we were immediately struck by the aroma and bold flavors upon our first sips. Turturici specially noted characteristics of dates, candied apricots and bready cognac. Within minutes, he was on the phone with a GABF representative to include this beer with his other submissions.
Aptly named, Mastiff Barleywine is a shout out to Turturici’s own big and beautiful mastiff, a much beloved member of his household.
A hearty congratulations to Jim Turturici on his silver medal. Cheers!
Hearty congratulations are in order for Brewmaster Jim Turturici from the South Bay’s Campbell Brewing Company (200 East Campbell Ave.).
Campbell Brewing just earned a gold medal at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival this past weekend.
The winning beer? Campbell Brewing Scottish Ale in the category of Scottish-Style Ale.
From a conversation earlier today, Jim, who has been with Campbell Brewing the past five years, shared how he found out that he won, what winning means for him, more about the winning beer, and what is in store at Campbell Brewing Company.
How did you find out that you won?
First off, I usually attend GABF, so it’s funny that the one year I don’t attend, I win.
I was actually on my way to get a burrito, and Steve Donohue (note: currently the Brewmaster of Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company and himself a four-time, consecutive GABF medaling winner) texted me that I just won gold for my Scottish. I texted back, ‘Bullsh**!’ We’re good friends, and we like messing with each other.
Then I got the same text from my former assistant brewer Greg Filippi (note: currently the Lead Brewer of Hermitage Brewing Company). I texted back to Greg the same thing: ‘Bullsh**.’
I figured that they were both teaming up to prank me.
But then I started getting other random texts from people congratulating me, so I knew that it was not a joke.
Steve did say that even though he would mess around about a lot of things, he wouldn’t be joking about a GABF medal.
What was your reaction?
Total happiness. It’s an item to cross off the bucket list.
I like my beers. I like my recipes. I know what they are, and it’s nice to receive confirmation from peers and colleagues. It’s a rewarding feeling.
There’s also a part of me that feels vindicated a little bit. It’s been a challenge working here the past five years for various reasons. I’ve been fighting to get the Campbell Brewing Company name out, so getting recognition is nice.
But bottom line: I am stoked to win it for myself and for the brewery, but I’m also stoked for the South Bay – hopefully people can recognize that there are breweries here.
Talk more about your now GABF gold medal winner Scottish Ale.
It’s a malt bomb. If you ever wanted to know what a pure malty beer tastes like, it’s this one. Deep garnet color. Really smooth. Heavy caramel notes without being too sweet. No residual sugar but has a cooked sugar flavor. No hop profile at all.
If you want a malty, 6.8% ABV beer, this is it. Just a nice, heavy beautiful beer.
I still remember the pairing of this beer and the pork belly from the beer-and-food pairing event this summer. They combined perfectly.
The Scottish Ale is one of the mainstay beers at Campbell Brewing, so you’ll always find it on tap here.
Campbell Brewing Company Update
Jim also shared additional information on what is going on with Campbell Brewing Company.
With the location and the connection to Sonoma Chicken Coop continuing to cause confusion among customers, look for a separation towards the beginning of next year. Says Jim, “It will be good to clear everything up so that we’re simply Campbell Brewing Company. The managing team of Jerry McDougal and operations manager Dan Doherty are working to sort that out.”
And still unbeknownst to many, renowned Michelin-starred Executive Chef Mike Miller, formerly of Silicon Valley Capital Club and Trevese, has been working at Campbell Brewing Company. He partnered with Jim this past summer on a stellar beer-and-food pairing tasting event and continues to refine the current menu offerings.
Jim adds, “We can now say that Campbell Brewing Company is home to a Michelin-starred chef and award-winning beers.”
The third San Jose Beerwalk took place in nearby downtown Campbell this past Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 with hundreds of beerwalkers strolling through downtown Campbell on a gorgeous, warm summer day. While visiting a variety of stores and restaurants that served as designated pouring stations, beerwalkers had the opportunity to enjoy good beer from mostly Northern California breweries.
This is the first Beerwalk to take place outside of San Jose’s Japantown, and the attendance indicated that these South Bay Beerwalks are as popular as ever. Anticipation of good beer was an effective remedy for the long lines at check-in and at some of the pouring locations. Also, waiting for beer pours provided additional opportunities to mingle and check out the local downtown Campbell shops and restaurants.
Of note was the presence, once again, of beers from a number of South Bay breweries like Hermitage, Tied House, Strike, Gordon Biersch, Campbell Brewing, Faultline, Los Gatos Brewing, FireHouse Grill & Brewery, and Rock Bottom Campbell.
Special highlights were the tours of the Campbell Brewing facility provided by Campbell Brewing brewmaster Jim Turturici and a first look inside the soon-to-open Liquid Bread Gastropub, which served as both a check-in and pouring location after the owners received the keys just one day before the Beerwalk. Look for Liquid Bread to open later this fall with a soft opening next month.
It was the second annual Meet the Brewers beer festival held in Feb. 2011 at San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company that provided 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 about their beers – many of whom were the actual brewers – I opted next for unfamiliar-to-me beer styles.
The Uncommon Brewers organic brown ale had flavors of roasted barley and pleasant, light bitterness. Seabright Brewery’s oatmeal stout poured black and smooth with flavors suggesting dark chocolate. Finally, there was the Faultine Brewery porter, a dark beer that smelled and tasted of roasted coffee beans.
The beers were tasty and 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 its wide range of 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, would 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.
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.
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: “I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
According to Summers, 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.”
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 the craft beer community.
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.”
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 Metro Silicon Valley beer issue.]
Amidst picture perfect weather and orchestration by South Bay craft beervangelist Peter Estaniel of BetterBeerBlog, the 2012 Better Brew Tasting Garden craft beer festival, took place last Friday, June 1, at the 5th Annual SubZERO Festival of arts and culture in downtown San Jose.
Mere steps from the beerfest were gourmet food trucks and the engaging sights and sounds of local artists and musicians. Folks who came just for the Better Brew Tasting Garden had the opportunity to see and hear great artwork and music, while people who came primarily for the art, music, and food had the chance to try out a myriad of tasty beers.
Attendees had the opportunity to taste beer from 15 breweries, ranging from an Imperial Brau Pilsner from Gordon Biersch, German-style gold ales from Rock Bottom Campbell and Hermitage Brewing, ESB styles from Campbell Brewing and Firestone Walker, a porter from Uncommon Brewers, pale ales from Cedar Street Brewing and Seven Bridges Cooperative, to IPAs from Strike Brewing, Peter B’s Brewpub, Santa Cruz Aleworks, Lagunitas, and Seabright Brewery.
An element that elevates the status of a particular beer festival is the presence of the folks who make the beers being poured. And the Better Brew Tasting Garden had its fair share of brewmasters on hand to talk about their beers, including Strike Brewing’s Drew Ehrlich, Campbell Brewing’s Jim Turturici, Peter B’s Kevin Clark, and Rock Bottom Campbell’s Russell Clements.
Of note was the public debut of the Bay Brewer’s Guild, a brewery collective from the South Bay, Santa Cruz, and Monterey areas whose mission is to further promote the craft beer scenes in these regions.
Despite the large number of attendees, beer tasting lines moved briskly and the filled-up space never felt too crowded. By all accounts, this beerfest was a resounding success thanks to the excellent turnout, a smoothly run operation by Peter and his team of volunteers, and the great fun that was had while enjoying good beer. Special mentions go to event sponsor Lagunitas Brewing Company and to Cherri Lakey and Brian Eder of the Anno Domini art gallery, the folks behind the SubZERO Festival.
On the heels of last year’s well-regarded, inaugural Better Brew Tasting Garden, this year’s version has raised the proverbial bar even higher, helping to provide further evidence that it is a good time to be a beer fan in the South Bay.
The second San Jose (SJ) Beerwalk with its IPA theme took place Saturday, April 28, 2012, and it was a resounding success based on initial feedback. Contributing success factors were the organization, more South Bay brewery involvement, and the wonderful San Jose springtime weather.
Beerwalkers were also noticeably exploring and engaging the various Japantown businesses, about 18 or so, that served as pouring locations. It is safe to say that this second SJ Beerwalk was even better than the first very popular, sold-out SJ Beerwalk held this past February.
For craft beer fans, there was plenty to be happy about, while the participation of more South Bay breweries was a welcome development. Among the local South Bay breweries and their beers were the following:
Some of the other participating breweries included:
Devil’s Canyon and their IPA and Scotch Ale
Santa Cruz Ale Works and their IPA and Hefe
Firestone Walker and their Wookey Jack and Union Jack
Sierra Nevada and 3 different IPAs – Ruthless Rye, Torpedo, and Hoptimum
Anchor Brewing and their Liberty Ale
Stone Brewing and their Cali-Belgique IPA and Sublimely Self Righteous Ale
Lagunitas and their IPA
Anderson Valley and their Hop Ottin’ IPA and Summer Solstice
Those interested in the next SJ Beerwalk will have to wait several months as the third SJ Beerwalk will take place in late July or early August. For the latest SJ Beerwalk updates, like the SJ Beerwalk Facebook page.
Some more pictures from the second SJ Beerwalk below.