Tag Archives: Dan Phan

Original Gravity Public House Celebrates 5-Year Anniversary

Original Gravity Public House

[Updated 7/20/17]

Original Gravity Public House in downtown San Jose is set to celebrate its five-year anniversary on Saturday, July 22 starting at 12pm to closing.

As in past years, a stellar tap list will help mark the milestone.*

  • Alesmith – Decadence (2014) (Wheat Wine)
  • Allagash – Golden Brett (Dry Hopped Golden Ale w/ Brett)
  • Altamont – Maui 3x (Triple IPA w/ Mosaic & Citra)
  • Altamont – BA Something New (Bourbon Barrel aged Imperial Stout)
  • Alvarado Street – Chiffon Fog (Double IPA w/ Vic Secret, Mosaic, El Dorado, Denali & Eureka)
  • Alvarado Street – Nitro Best Part of Waking Up (Stout w/ Coffee)
  • Alvarado Street / Original Gravity – Tumeke Pils (Pilsner w/ Simcoe, Motueka, Pacific Gem & El Dorado)
  • Bruery – White Chocolate (2017) (Bourbon BBL aged Barley Wine w/ Cacao Nibs & Vanilla)
  • Cascade – Sang Du Chêne (2015) (Oak aged American Wild Ale)
  • Coronado – BA German Chocolate Cake (Bourbon Barrel aged Imperial Stout w/ Toasted Coconut)
  • Coronado – Pompous Moose (Witbier w/ Ruby Red Grapefruit, Orange Peel & Coriander)
  • Deschutes – The Abyss (2013) (Barrel aged Imperial Stout)
  • Drake’s – 1500 (Dry Hopped American Pale Ale)
  • Elkhorn Slough – Jewel (Barrel aged Saison)
  • Faction – S.A.P.A. (American Pale Ale w/ South African Hops)
  • Faction – Summer IPA (IPA w/ Nelson, Galaxy & Citra)
  • Fieldwork / Original Gravity – More Betterness (IPA w/ Citra, Mosaic & Calypso)
  • Fieldwork – Galaxy Sauce (Double IPA w/ Galaxy)
  • Firestone Walker – Pivo Pils (Hoppy Pilsner)
  • Firestone Walker – XIX Anniversary (Barrel aged Strong Ale Blend)
  • Lost Abbey – Genesis of Shame (Foeder aged Sour Blonde Ale w/ Peaches)
  • The Good Beer Co – George (French Oak BBL aged Wild Ale w/ Peaches)
  • Lost Abbey – Track 8 (2015) (Barrel Aged Quad w/ Cinnamon & Chilis)
  • Mission Trail – Fairy Land (Port Barrel aged Cider Pluot Blend)
  • Modern Times – Double Dry Hopped Orderville (IPA w/ Mosaic, Ekuanot & Nugget)
  • North Coast – Barrel aged Old Rasputin XIX (Bourbon BBL aged Russian Imperial Stout)
  • Perennial – Abraxas (2016) (Imperial Stout w/ Chilis, Cacao Nibs, Vanilla & Cinnamon)
  • Russian River – Yup, that Beer. No not the one released in February
  • SARA – Tomorrow, Today (IPA w/ Simcoe, Citra & Mosaic)
  • SARA / Peter Hoey – Hoeybier (Odonato Wine Barrel aged Saison w/ Brett)
  • SCVB / Original Gravity – Fountain Alley (American Pale Ale w/ Wakatu, Centennial & Mosaic)
  • SCVB – Barrel aged Loma Prieta (Rye) (Rye Barrel aged Imperial Stout)
  • Temescal – Take the Time (Keg Conditioned Saison)
  • Temescal – Extra Credit (IPA w/ Citra & Dr. Rudi)
  • Track 7 – One Legged Zebra (Nitro) (White Stout w/ Vanilla, Cinnamon & Lactose)

* List Subject to Change at Any Time

Additionally, Original Gravity has partnered with Santa Clara Valley Brewing, Alvarado Street Brewery and Fieldwork Brewing Co. to create three collaboration beers to be released on tap on Saturday.

Look for a very limited number of the Fieldwork collaboration to be available in cans.

There’ll be pop-up food specials, music in the patio and commemorative shirts for sale.

Earlier this month, owner Dan Phan shared the following message on Facebook:

“Wow, can’t believe it’s going to be FIVE YEARS! Seems like yesterday I decided to change course and open a business. I’m so thankful for all the people who have been involved with Original Gravity over the years, especially my business partner Johnny Wang. I’ve made lifelong friendships and met so many amazing people throughout the years.

Dan Phan and Johnny Wang, April 9, 2012

“A big shout out to the guys who run the show at Original Gravity. Thank you Rob Monroe and Anthony Jwanouskos for your extraordinary leadership throughout the years. Original Gravity wouldn’t be what it is without our amazing staff.

“If you’re free July 22nd, come party with us and see what we’ve been up to. We got to brew three awesome beers with three amazing breweries! Come down to the bar that day and have a beer with me.”

Collaboration beer (Fountain Alley Pale Ale) brew day at Santa Clara Valley, Credit: Original Gravity
Collaboration beer (the second batch of Tumeke Pils) brew day at Alvarado Street Brewery, Credit: Original Gravity
Collaboration beer (More Betterness) brew day at Fieldwork Brewing Co., Credit: Original Gravity



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.]

Original Gravity 1-Year Anniversary

Original Gravity general manager Moonlynn Tsai
Original Gravity general manager Moonlynn Tsai

Owners Dan Phan and Johnny Wang opened Original Gravity Public House in downtown San Jose last July to much fanfare among local beer fans, and rightfully so. Their 25 rotating taps and bottled beer selections have been focal points since day one, and they have done much to help raise the profile of the South Bay beer scene.

To celebrate their one-year anniversary, Original Gravity is throwing a bash on Saturday, July 20 starting at 12:30pm. An impressive beer lineup and specialty tappings of highly regarded beers—among others, Drake’s Aroma Coma and Aroma Prieta, Sainte Adairius West Ashley, Russian River Supplication and Firestone Walker Parabola—anchor the day’s festivities.

There will be food specials, vinyl records spun on the patio courtesy of On the Corner Music and the chance to meet the original brewmaster of Firestone Walker, Jeffers Richardson. He now heads up Barrelworks, home to Firestone Walker’s wild (also known as sour) and strong ale programs.

Phan and Wang credit general manager Moonlynn Tsai and bar manager/event coordinator Rob Monroe for creating a team both well versed in beer knowledge and passionate about the beer industry. “We’re always happy to talk about beer and answer any questions a customer may have,” Phan says.

In addition to their beer offerings, many customers also enjoy the tidy food lineup that includes gourmet sausages, grilled cheese sandwiches and duck fat fries.

And here’s a piece of great news for Original Gravity fans: They have recently finalized expansion plans to open up an extra 1,000 square feet of much-needed space by tearing down the interior sidewall along the hallway that leads to the patio, and utilizing the area that’s currently behind the wall.

According to Phan, they will install another bar consisting of 10 more taps, carve out a designated area for a beer-aging program, and have enough room to host bands, trivia game nights and private parties. They expect to have the expansion completed within the next 6-8 months.

Be sure to check out their website for the one-year anniversary party details, including the beer menu and the specialty tapping times.

Original Gravity Anniversary
Sat, July 20, starts at 12:30pm, 66 S. First St., San Jose

[This post was shared on SanJose.com.]

Craft Beer Crawl in Downtown San Jose


More and more craft beer hot spots are opening in downtown San Jose, and a beer crawl is an enjoyable way to visit a number of these destinations that serve better beer. Not only do you get to enjoy some heady brews, but you’ll become better acquainted with a variety of establishments to figure out which ones merit return visits.

For my birthday earlier this fall, my brother and I went on a downtown beer crawl along San Pedro and First streets. We visited four out of the 10 or so beer places that are all located within walking distance from one another.

SAN PEDRO SQUARE MARKET BAR
87 N. San Pedro St.; sanpedrosquaremarket.com

At around 5:30pm, we lucked out in finding a table with a good view of both TVs at the San Pedro Square Market Bar. Many folks started settling in to watch the 49ers. We ordered food from the neighboring restaurant mere steps away, and a friendly wait staff took our orders selected from among the eight draft and 20 bottled beer options.

Bar manager Brian Rhett, who has worked at the Market Bar for a year, made the rounds and shared some big news: there are plans in the works to open a 100 percent craft-beer bar with a few dozen taps next summer in the open space on the other side of the building where Bellano Coffee (a.k.a. B2) has set up shop.

The variety and the close proximity of the food vendors in the open market, as well as the outside seating area in the Adobe Peralta Plaza, are undoubtedly great draws for the Market Bar.

O’FLAHERTY’S IRISH PUB
25 N. San Pedro St.; oflahertyspub.com

Though the San Pedro Square Market Bar was cozy, we were eager to continue our beer crawl. Within seconds, we stepped into O’Flaherty’s and found the dining area filled with families and people celebrating the end of the workday. Fortunately, a few spots at the bar opened up.

We checked out the lineup among the 38 beers on tap and placed our orders with the friendly server, who informed us that their biggest sellers were still whiskey and scotch but that more customers were ordering craft beer than before.

General manager Dave Mulvehill told us that their craft beer focus started taking shape back in July with the addition of 16 taps. He has also set up a beer club offering discounts on beers, tastings and free trips to select breweries, as well as monthly beer-related events.

GOOD KARMA VEGAN CAFE
37 S. First St.; goodkarmavegancafe.com

After walking a couple blocks, we arrived at Good Karma. We headed to the back, past the food station, to where the beers are. We were struck by the considerable knowledge of our server, and she answered all our questions about the current beer menu, which consists of 15 draft beers—and in particular about the various sour ales on tap.

A nearby customer with a bright smile let us know that she was a regular and loved Good Karma for its beer selection. Owner Ryan Summers stopped by to ask what beers we were having, and an enthusiastic conversation ensued around our latest and greatest beers tasted.

My brother said that he couldn’t wait to return, as he really enjoyed Good Karma’s lively and down-to-earth vibe. We agreed that Ryan exudes a contagious positivity. Despite being huge sports fans, we didn’t miss having a TV around—the conversations were that enjoyable.

ORIGINAL GRAVITY PUBLIC HOUSE
66 S. First St.; originalgravitypub.com

Across from Good Karma was our last stop. Inside, the Original Gravity team was working diligently. Owners Johnny Wang and Dan Phan, along with general manager Moonlynn Tsai, were either in the kitchen or behind the bar.

The beer lineup—25 taps and bottled selections—was impressive. Having had their much-anticipated grand opening celebration in September, business had been holding steady according to Johnny. He confirmed that the folks serving beer at Original Gravity were expected to pass the certified beer-server exam offered by cicerone.org. Rob Monroe, bar manager and event coordinator, shared that his main goal is for customers new to craft beer to take away something positive from their experience.

[This post was shared on SanJose.com.]

Original Gravity Public House Celebrates Memorable Official Grand Opening

Original Gravity Public House in downtown San Jose celebrates grand opening
Original Gravity Public House in downtown San Jose celebrates grand opening

Congratulations to Original Gravity Public House, which hosted their official grand opening last Saturday, Sep. 15, 2012. Beer fans turned out in droves to celebrate this notable South Bay craft beer establishment in downtown San Jose.

Original Gravity Public House celebrates their grand opening
Original Gravity Public House celebrates their grand opening

With plenty of sunshine and special access to neighboring outdoor patio space, Original Gravity owners Dan Phan and Johnny Wang were excited to be able to present their full food menu, featuring gourmet grilled cheeses and poutine to accompany the already well-received sausages and duck fat fries.

Original Gravity owners Dan Phan and Johnny Wang at the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration
Original Gravity owners Dan Phan and Johnny Wang at the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration

And, of course, there was the beer menu for the festive day that included hourly tappings of specialty and limited kegs and excellent offerings from the likes of Firestone Walker, Lagunitas, The Bruery, Drake’s, Evil Twin, Ninkasi, Calicraft, Alesmith, Uncommon Brewers, New Belgium, Port Brewing, Heretic, Stillwater, Midnight Sun, Deschutes, Flying Dog, Gouden  Carolus, Dogfish Head, and Sierra Nevada.

Outdoors at the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration

Earlier this year, there was quite the anticipation for Original Gravity’s opening among South Bay beer fans, especially after learning about the Original Gravity owners and their plans. The wait has been worth it.

More pics from the grand opening:

Moonlynn Tsai of Original Gravity at the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration
Moonlynn Tsai of Original Gravity at the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration
Original Gravity's Rob Monroe at the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration
Original Gravity’s Rob Monroe at the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration
Tony Riffis of Firestone Walker and Rudy Kuhn of Lagunitas at the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration
Tony Riffis of Firestone Walker and Rudy Kuhn of Lagunitas at the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration
Jenny Merit of San Jose's Wine Affairs at the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration
Jenny Merit of San Jose’s Wine Affairs at the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration
San Jose beer fans Stef and Andrea enjoying the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration
San Jose beer fans Stef and Andrea enjoying the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration
Peter Estaniel of BetterBeerBlog_Hermitage Brewing, Tony Riffis of Firestone Walker, and yours truly at the Original Gravity grand opening celebration
Peter Estaniel of BetterBeerBlog_Hermitage Brewing, Tony Riffis of Firestone Walker, and yours truly at the Original Gravity grand opening celebration

Indoors at the Original Gravity Public House grand opening celebration

[This post was also shared on Examiner.com.]

Original Gravity Public House Set to Open in Downtown San Jose

When it opens, Original Gravity will offer a variety of specialty beers (courtesy of Original Gravity)
When it opens, Original Gravity will offer a variety of specialty beers (photo courtesy of Original Gravity)

From the large, hanging chandelier made of recycled beer bottles to the decor and warm lighting along the hallway leading to the outdoor patio in the back, South Bay natives Dan Phan and Johnny Wang have worked diligently in setting up a beer bar that is welcoming and comfortable.

Original Gravity Public House, set to open later this month, offers 25 rotating taps of carefully selected craft beer with a wide variety of styles and price points in an unpretentious environment. “From the novice craft beer drinker to the most hardcore beer enthusiast, we have something on tap for you,” says Phan. For the hardcore fans, expect to see Dogfish Head’s 120-minute IPA on tap. There will also be 20–25 bottled beers, including selections from Avery and Great Divide brewing companies.

Original Gravity not only features a stellar lineup of beer but food as well. Phan and Wang have recently amped up their efforts to perfect the menu, organizing tastings with friends and family to dial in the food. The main focus will be 20 different sausages from mainly local providers, grilled-cheese sandwiches and duck-fat fries to be enjoyed inside, in the dog-friendly back patio or on the South First Street sidewalk.

Phan and Wang had originally hoped to open a beer bar in Orange County, but when things did not work out, they turned their attention back home. They were convinced that San Jose was ready to support an establishment that focused primarily on quality beers on tap.

Beer fans will note its proximity to Good Karma Vegan Cafe and Gordon Biersch Brewery & Restaurant. Add to the mix several other establishments already offering solid craft beer options in the area, as well as other beer-centric places set to open later this year, and you’ll notice that downtown San Jose is quickly becoming a respectable beer hub. It’s a welcome development for Phan and Wang, beer fans who appreciate the finer aspects of beer.

As a home brewer with a background in biochemistry, Phan takes beer appreciation to a different level. “I’m partial to the science of beer,” he says, which helps explain the name Original Gravity.

Phan says, “Some fellow beer geeks coined this term while enjoying some home brews. Original gravity is a measurement of the liquid wort [a water mixture that is infused with malt sugars that is fermented to make beer] that is used in an equation to calculate the alcoholic beverage volume after the brewing process is complete.”

In talking with Phan and Wang, one gets the sense that you’re talking to two smart guys who are likeable and down-to-earth. They’ve appreciated the challenges of navigating all the city and state departments involved in opening a restaurant business, especially for the first time, and they chalk it up as great learning experiences.

More importantly, one can see and hear their excitement for the opportunity to bring their customers unique, hard-to-find beers from outside the Bay Area as well as showcase local, Bay Area beers. They also can’t wait to offer unusual food items like Korean kalbi sausages from Los Angeles and host special food and beer pairing events.

Original Gravity Public House
66 S. First St., San Jose

[This post was shared on SanJose.com.]

A Brief History of Craft Beer in the South Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Craft Beer Boom

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

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

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

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

Craft Beer Movement and the South Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History and Emergence of the South Bay Beer Scene: Breweries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craft Beer Bars and More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

South Bay Craft Beer Scene Going Forward

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

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

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

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

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



Original Gravity Public House to Open in Downtown San Jose Early Summer, Plus Q & A with Co-Owner Dan Phan

Original Gravity Public House Owners Dan Phan (l) and Johnny Wang (r)
Original Gravity Public House Owners Dan Phan (l) and Johnny Wang (r)

Downtown San Jose will have a craft beer bar all its own later this summer with the arrival of Original Gravity Public House at 66 South First Street, between Santa Clara and San Fernando Streets. Customers will enjoy craft beer options from 25 rotating taps alongside specialty food items, including 20 different artisan sausages, fries, and grilled cheese sandwiches, all to be enjoyed by families indoors or in an outdoor patio.

The duo behind this venture are South Bay natives Dan Phan and Johnny Wang, who met while attending UC Irvine. Going their separate ways after university, Dan worked in the biotech industry in South San Francisco for 6 years. Johnny worked in insurance and finance, and both eventually reconnected over their shared desire to leave behind the daily, corporate grind to pursue their passion – creating a business together that revolved around opening a local craft beer bar.

Both Dan, from Milpitas who attended Bellarmine College Preparatory, and Johnny, who grew up in Cupertino and attended Monta Vista High School, are proud of their South Bay roots and are happy to be able to bring a craft beer bar and restaurant to San Jose. In fact, it will be San Jose’s good fortune that their initial goal to establish their beer bar in Orange County did not pan out.

Dan recently took time to answer some craft beer-related questions, his thoughts on the craft beer scene in San Jose, where he goes to drink good beer, and what guests can expect from Original Gravity.

When, where, and how did your passion for craft beer start?

I had my first craft beer at my local university pub in 2003. Our university pub was very anti-establishment and only served craft beers on tap. We had Stone, Lost Coast, and Rogue to name a few.

I was hooked and from there I learned that beer’s history is as ancient as wine’s and that there are more styles and flavors of beer than there are wine. Beer may be humble, but it is not simple. It is the universal beverage that has been bringing people together on common ground for thousands of years.

In the business of craft beer, the same camaraderie can be found. In an era where market competitors are usually seen as bitter rivals, such aversion is hard to find in brewing. I think it all points to the fact that being a brewer is partial to being a member of a group of people who absolutely know that what they do for a living makes a lot of people happy.

You guys are about to open up Original Gravity later this summer in the heart of downtown San Jose. Why did you select San Jose? What’s your take on the current craft beer scene in the San Jose area? What’s your sense of the history of the craft beer scene in San Jose and the South Bay up to today? How has it changed over the recent years? Where do you see it going?

I’ve always considered San Jose my home. After coming back to the Bay Area after college and living in San Francisco for a few years, it baffled me to why we didn’t have any real options to enjoy a large variety of craft beers on tap in San Jose or anywhere else in the South Bay.

San Jose and the South Bay in general have long well been known as a place of innovation attracting some of the best young professionals in the high tech and social networking industries. A prime market for craft beer drinkers, but the South Bay has been considered a dead zone for craft beer over the years.

That’s now going to change with places like ours opening up and the efforts of other entrepreneurs in the South Bay that you have been covering in your ongoing series of the San Jose area craft beer scene.

Not only do we have players in the hospitality business pushing for craft beer, but we have guys like Peter at BetterBeerBlog.com clamoring for better beer in the South Bay in the blogosphere, which has a strong presence in our new Web 2.0 generation.

I think in no time you’ll see the South Bay have its very own variety of tap rooms and specialty bottle shops. The way the craft beer industry is growing each year nationally and with the emergence and power of social networks, the word is getting out about craft beer and it’s here to stay.

What are you favorite places to get good beer?

My favorite places to grab a beer in the Bay Area would be Beer Revolution out in Oakland or City Beer up in San Francisco. I think they have the most eclectic selections when it comes to craft beers on tap as well as in the bottle. For the South Bay my two go-to spots would have to be Wine Affairs and Good Karma.

Please share how you came up with the name Original Gravity.

I’ve been a home brewer for a couple of years and having a background in Biochemistry, I’m partial to the science of beer. Some fellow beer geeks coined this term while enjoying some home brews. “Original Gravity” is a measurement of the liquid wort (a water mixture that is infused with malt sugars that is fermented to make beer) that is used in an equation to calculate the alcoholic beverage volume after the brewing process is complete.

Construction is now well under way. How has this whole process been like for you guys? What have been some of the highlights already?

For the both of us, it’s our first foray into small business, and it has definitely been a learning process. Being a lab geek in my previous life, I was meticulous in my research on putting together a good business plan and reading as much as possible all the city and state codes and regulators we’d eventually be vetted by before being able to open the business.

It hasn’t been easy navigating all the city and state departments that it takes to open a business, but it’s been a great learning experience. We’ve gained invaluable knowledge that will help us grow our business in the future if we’re to be successful.

Please share a little about what guests can expect from Original Gravity? What will be the offerings?

We plan on offering 25 rotating taps of craft beer with a wide variety of styles and pricing points that everyone can enjoy. From the novice craft beer drinker to the most hardcore beer geek, we will have something on tap for you.

In addition to the craft beer, we will be grilling and have 20 different artisan sausages for our customers. Other food offerings include duck fat fries and a variety of special grilled cheese sandwiches. All of our beers and food can be enjoyed on our dog friendly patio or sidewalk cafe on 1st Street.

Also we want to let our customers know that our menu and web page will be symbiotic. Whatever we have displayed on our menu board showing what’s on tap at the bar will be able to be seen simultaneously on our web page. Since we’ll constantly be rotating taps in and out at the bar, our customers will be able to know what’s on tap with a simple click on their phone or web browser.

Anything else to add?

We’re hoping to open this summer and you can follow our progress by visiting our web page at www.originalgravitypub.com, liking us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/originalgravitypub, or following us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/OrigGravPub.

Thanks all for your interest, and please come support us and San Jose.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]