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 first San Francisco Beer Week took place in 2009, and was reportedly the first of its kind in the country. Now, there are well over 100 beer weeks taking place in various cities and regions throughout the world.
For this year’s Fifth Annual SF Beer Week, there were over 500 craft beer-related events taking place over ten days throughout the Bay Area, including the South Bay, East Bay, San Francisco, and North Bay regions. These 500+ events were 35% greater than last year’s record numbers.
There was only one event that I attended outside of the South Bay, and that was the amazing Opening Celebration that took place on the first day of SF Beer Week, Friday Feb. 8, 2013, at San Francisco’s Concourse Exhibition Center presented by the San Francisco Brewers Guild and their partners.
Here are some pics from the event.
When in Rome… Excitedly headed right over to Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing Company for some Pliny the Younger.
Pliny the Younger.
Russian River Brewing co-owner and president Natalie Cilurzo holding court.
A pic of Russian River Brewing co-owner and brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo.
Jack Van Stone, Eureka’s Lost Coast Brewery Northern CA sales manager.
Time for some Drake’s Brewing Company of San Leandro.
And their Hopocalypse Black Label.
Who’s this funny guy?
It’s Palo Alto Brewing Company founder and brewer Kasim Syed (middle) with siblings Sikandar (left) and Alia (right).
San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company brand manager Peter Estaniel.
South Bay’s Strike Brewing Company co-founder and brewmaster Drew Ehrlich (right).
Morgan Hill’s El Toro Brewing Company and founders Geno and Cindy Acevedo.
Enjoying El Toro Brewing India Pale Ale.
Snapped a pic of Pittsburg’s Heretic Brewing Company crew with founder and brewmaster Jamil Zainasheff (second from left).
Lincoln’s Knee Deep Brewing Company.
Knee Deep Brewing Hoptologist on cask.
Rob Monroe, bar manager and events coordinator for downtown San Jose’s Original Gravity Public House.
Rosamunde Sausage Grill.
Berkeley’s Bison Brewing owner and brewer Dan Del Grande.
Rudy Kuhn, Lagunitas market manager for the Santa Clara County, Central Coast, and Central Valley areas.
Jake McCluskey, manager of Kelly’s Liquors in San Jose.
Antoine Riffis – Firestone Walker Silicon Valley and East Bay regional sales manager, Rudy, and Rob.
High Water Brewing president and brewmaster Steve Altimari.
A pic of the entrance area with folks continuing to roll in.
Jay Brooks – veteran beer writer and Bay Area guy.
Just checking the line for Russian River Brewing. Not surprisingly, I heard that they had run out of their Pliny the Younger rather quickly.
Chico’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Company.
Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Celebrator Beer News 25th Anniversary Double Pale Ale.
San Jose’s Gordon Biersch Brewing Company.
Gordon Biersch Zwickel Bock.
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company brewmaster James Costa and San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company lead brewer Greg Filippi.
Palo Alto Brewing Cool Beanz Coffee Porter.
Alex Slosberg and Will Shelton of Mavericks Beer and brewmaster James of Half Moon Bay Brewing.
This event marked the public debut of the beers of Mavericks Beer, created in partnership with Half Moon Bay Brewing.
Pete Slosberg of Mavericks Beer (and of Pete’s Wicked Ales fame) drew a crowd most of the entire time we were there.
Pete is a craft beer pioneer and Bay Area guy.
What a “worthy” highlight from that evening!
There were over 65 Northern California breweries, ranging from new nanobrewers to the craft brewing pioneers. I heard that last year’s Opening Celebration was really great, but I’m sure that this year’s was even better. The dozens of folks I’ve spoken to have had nothing but praise for this year’s event.
Pliny the Younger and Hopocalypse Black Label were certainly memorable, and I had the good fortune of enjoying all the beers I tasted. Catching up with all the South Bay folks was fun as usual. Experiencing the debut of Mavericks beers and hanging a bit with the premier Bay Area beer scribes (can’t believe I forgot to take a picture with Celebrator’s Mike Pitzker – got too caught up in talking with him) were also treats. But without a doubt, the highlight of the evening was the chance to spend some quality time with wifey – a big thanks to my bro’ for childsitting that evening.
South Bay. Greater South Bay. Silicon Valley. Santa Clara County. The San Jose area and its neighbors. Whatever the geographic label, there is a growing number of media outlets filing reports and articles dedicated to beer-related news and events taking place locally.
From newspaper articles and radio reports to blogs and vlogs, coverage of the South Bay craft beer scene is at an all-time high. The extensive coverage is positive as more folks can learn about the various ways to go about enjoying good beer, such as checking out local brewing companies and brewpubs, beer bars, restaurants, stores that sell quality beer, homebrew shops, and homebrew clubs.
On the business side, cheers to the founding entrepreneurs behind Tied House (1988), Gordon Biersch Palo Alto (1988), Gordon Biersch San Jose (1990), Los Gatos Brewing (1991), El Toro Brewing (1992), Stoddard’s Sunnyvale (1993 – now FireHouse Grill & Brewery), Faultline (1994), and Stoddard’s Campbell (2002 – now Campbell Brewing). For the past twenty to twenty-five years, these local establishments have provided customers a chance to enjoy fresh, quality beer throughout the South Bay and its neighboring areas.
And cheers to the relatively newer folks (e.g., brewing companies, beer bars, gastropubs, beer stores, individuals coordinating community-wide beer events, etc.) who are taking up the good beer cause throughout the local South Bay communities and beyond. The early players included places like Rose & Crown (2006), Good Karma (2006), and Wine Affairs (2007) among others. Then came enterprises like Hermitage Brewing, Strike Brewing, Harry’s Hofbrau, Kelly’s Liquors, Bobby’s Liquors, Jane’s Beer Store, Original Gravity, Liquid Bread, Beer Walk, KraftBrew, O’Flaherty’s, SmokeEaters, and more.
These businesses all have a common bond – at least one person in their midst, if not many more, who is passionate and knowledgeable about, and appreciative of, good beer and diligently endeavors to share good beer with others.
On the media front, kudos to the one-and-only Better Beer Blog for modeling the way and providing consistent South Bay coverage since March 2007.
The following are some of the latest examples of the recent coverage spike of the local, South Bay craft beer scene. Expect more coverage in the year ahead as new beer-related developments take place and the public’s appetite for such coverage continues to grow.
Sunnyvale’s Faultline Brewing Company Doppel Bock and Brown Ale.
Sunnyvale’s Rabbit’s Food Meadery owner Mike Faul and his Red Branch Hard Raspberry Cider and Hard Black Cherry.
San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company brewmaster Peter Licht.
Los Gatos Brewing Company brewmaster Kent Wheat and assistant Kyle Wheat.
Los Gatos Brewing Company Dunkelweizen and Coquettish Blonde.
Sunnyvale’s FireHouse Grill & Brewery.
FireHouse Porter and IPA.
San Jose’s Gordon Biersch Brewery Company brewer Lars (standing directly behind Czech Style Pilsner barrel).
San Leandro’s High Water Brewing Company brewmaster Steve Altimari (center) and Morgan Hill’s El Toro Brewing Company brewmaster Geno Acevedo (right).
El Toro Brewing Company Poppy Jasper and Negro.
The South Bay’s Strike Brewing Company CEO Jenny Lewis and brewmaster Drew Ehrlich.
Strike Brewing Company Blonde and Stout.
Campbell’s Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant brewmaster Russell Clements (right).
Rock Bottom Brewery Raccoon Revival and Brown Bear.
Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company of Belmont.
We were able to get to the beer fest at around the starting time. Here’s what the crowds looked like less than an hour in, which was more crowded than last year’s crowd at about the same time.
The Bay Brewers Guild president Dan Satterthwaite, brewer at Gordon Biersch Brewing Company and founder of hopefully soon-to-open Cedar Street Brewing Company.
Bulgogi burrito with Rock Bottom Raccoon Revival.
Hermitage Brewing Company Special Bitter with Mandarina Bavaria and Simcoe – both on cask.
Hermitage Brewing Company lead brewer Greg Filippi (right).
Drake’s Brewing Company of San Leandro and brewer and production manager John Gillooly.
Santa Cruz’s Uncommon Brewers founder and brewermaster Alec Stefansky (right).
Uncommon Brewers Golden State Ale.
Santa Cruz’s Seabright Brewery assistant brewer Matt.
Seabright Brewery Saison Dumas and Sacrilicious.
High Water Brewing Campfire Stout.
High Water Brewing’s Steve Altimari, Drake Brewing Company’s John Martin, and Hermitage Brewing’s Peter Licht.
Monterey’s Peter B’s Brewpub Chardonnay Stout.
The folks from San Jose’s Jack’s Bar & Lounge arriving – Charlie Mann (left) and Jordan Trigg (right).
Alas, time for us to leave.
Yes, as the pictures suggest, a great time seemed to be had by all. This was the third year in a row that I attended the Meet the Brewers festival. I still remember our first one in 2011 – wifey, the toddler, and I had originally attended because we were really into food trucks at the time, but wifey and I quickly appreciated the various offerings from the local breweries, and we’ve been doing our best to buy local beers ever since then.
Regarding this year’s event, what an extra special treat for me to take the young adult (formerly known as the older kid) – I even think he’s slowly beginning to like IPAs. :)
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.
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 and says, “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. 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 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.”
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.]
Proceeds from four donated casks were to benefit a lupus foundation.
Alpha Session from Drake’s Brewing and Hops on Rye from Firehouse Brewing.
Appetizer and raffles.
Mr. and Mrs. BetterBeerBlog.
We’re so glad to have been able to attend this event. We drank tasty beer, caught up with good folks, got to meet Tied House’s director of marketing, and did our little part in helping out a good cause. Tied House, for sure, is going to be a place we’ll be returning to often.
A few days after having visited Tied House, we stopped by El Toro Brewing Co. on our way back from a trip to Gilroy Gardens.
El Toro IPA and Deuce Imperial IPA.
The beers were excellent, and the food hit the spot as well.
El Toro Brewing Co. is another place that we’ll certainly be returning to.
Campbell Brewing Company. 200 East Campbell Ave., Campbell. 408-866-2699; www.facebook.com/CampbellBrewingCompany, Campbell. Note: Located inside the Sonoma Chicken restaurant, their beer offerings on tap (not listed on their website) include: Kolsch, Hefeweizen, Pale, ESB (Extra Special Bitter), Scottish Ale, and a seasonal Barleywine (10% ABV).
Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant. 33 East San Fernando Street, San Jose. 408-294-6785; www.gordonbiersch.com. Note: There is also a location in Palo Alto.
Los Gatos Brewing Company. 163 W. Santa Clara Street, Downtown San Jose. 408-292-9928; www.lgbrewingco.com. Los Gatos location: 130 N. Santa Cruz Avenue. 408-395-9929.
These following locations make up the San Jose restaurants and bars that serve compelling beer:
Wine Affairs. 1435 The Alameda, San Jose. 408-977-0111; www.thewineaffairs.com. Notes: Craft beer fans of this place know not to be fooled by their name. There are special beer tastings that occur on Monday nights.
Harry’s Hofbrau. 390 Saratoga Ave., San Jose. 408-243-0434; www.facebook.com/pages/Harrys-Hofbrau-San-Jose/143417649033860. Note: Their “Thursday Pint Nights” featuring a particular craft beer/brewery have become increasingly popular, as this San Jose location has ramped up its craft beer offerings this past year.
Yard House. 300 Santana Row, San Jose. 408-241-9273; www.yardhouse.com/CA/san_jose. Note: With this location opening earlier this year in April in Santana Row, this place continues to be very popular, thanks in part to the over 130 beers on tap.
Teske’s Germania Restaurant and Beer Garden. 255 N. First Street (at Devine), San Jose. 408-292-0291; www.teskes-germania.com. Note: German dining featuring German draft and bottled beers.
The Naglee Park Garage. 505 East San Carlos Street (at 11th Street), San Jose. 408-286-1313; www.nagleeparkgarage.com. Note: A small, respectable craft beer selection on tap.
Tee Nee Thai Cuisine. 1423 The Alameda, San Jose. 408-947-7927. Note: Their Yelp page offers the best online source of information for this place, which offers a quality section of Belgian beers in bottles.
Lastly, there is a cluster of San Jose area bottle shops and stores that carry an array of top-notch craft beer selections: