In recent years, Tied House (954 Villa Street, Mountain View) has brewed a special batch for this festival. This year’s beer is Tied House California Common, a straw-colored, sessionable ale with a light malt and not-too-hoppy flavor – sure to be a perfect match for many while soaking in the warm 80-degree weather. Complementing the California Common on tap will be Tied House’s flagship beer, Cascade Amber.
Tied House also hosts their monthly Firkin Friday special today with a 5pm cask ale tapping of their Cascade Amber infused with strawberries.
Silicon Valley Beer Week (SVBW) kicks off today and runs through Sat., Aug. 2. Local restaurants and businesses will present a seemingly endless number of beer-related events and specials to celebrate good beer and to help cement the South Bay and Silicon Valley as a bona fide beer region.
Among the many terrific events throughout beer week are the ones that stand out for their all-encompassing local vibe, where local businesses feature local breweries.
For $25, watch as many movies as you can from among 12 being shown that day, and enjoy a beer-tasting event from 1pm-4pm featuring members of the Bay Brewers Guild, including Hermitage Brewing Company (San Jose), Strike Brewing (San Jose), Santa Clara Valley Brewing (San Jose), Gordon Biersch (San Jose), Campbell Brewing, Faultline (Sunnyvale), Tied House (Mountain View), Uncommon Brewers (Santa Cruz) and Santa Cruz Ale Works.
Rootstock Wine Bar in Los Gatos hosts Strike Brewing from 5pm-8pm. Strike will pour four of their offerings, and Rootstock will provide a food pairing with each beer. There will be an opportunity to meet the brewer as well. The cost of the event is $25. Rootstock requests RSVPs. Call (408) 354-7668 or email email@example.com.
Downtown Mountain View’s Tied House Brewery and Cafe celebrates SVBW with a special menu pairing new items with carefully selected beer flights. The food-pairing selections, available from July 25 to Aug. 2, include:
Mary’s Heritage Chicken: Free range, California raised chicken, brined, grilled, over cauliflower puree, green bean hash paired with Hoptopia IPA, Ironwood Dark and Villa Street Pale Ale ($14.50)
Oatmeal Stout Braised Lamb Shank: Smoked mozzarella polenta, mustard greens paired with Maltopia (Silver, Cal State Fair 2014), Ale of the 2 Tun (Gold, Cal State Fair 2014), Oatmeal Stout ($18.95)
Pan Seared Salmon (market price): Parsnip puree, French lentils, watercress salad paired with Alpine Gold, Single Hop Citra IPA, Single Hop Mosaic IPA
House Made Sausages: Smoked mozzarella polenta, braised broccoli rabe paired with Maltopia (Silver, Cal State Fair 2014), Single Hop Citra IPA, Cascade Amber ($12.25)
Faultline Brewing Company in Sunnyvale will feature a particular beer each day of the week at happy hour prices all day and provide a special appetizer and entrée pairing menu. Monday celebrates Faultline’s Hefeweizen and includes the following appetizer and entrée pairing options:
Appetizer: Smoked Salmon Sour Dough Canapés – House smoked salmon, atop sour dough toast with dill & lemon cream
Entrée: Beer battered Scallop, Shrimp & Chips – Our classic FBC beer batter with scallop and shrimp, and house-made pomme frits and jalapeno tartar sauce.
TUESDAY, JULY 29
An all-San Jose event takes place at 7 Stars Bar & Grill as they host a #DrinkLocal Tap Takeover featuring Strike, Hermitage and Santa Clara Valley Brewing. Starting at 6pm, there will be raffles throughout the evening, and representatives from each brewery will be in attendance to answer any questions about their beers.
Faultline Brewing’s focus this day is Pale Ale. Food pairing options include:
Appetizer: Shrimp Potato Latkes – Shrimp Potato Cakes with blackberry infused Pale Ale Relish atop of arugula and toasted almond salad
Entrée: Fire Braised Chicken Tostada – Tender morsels of chicken fire braised with Fresno Chilies, red onion and corn, on crispy corn tortilla topped with a tomatillo & cilantro salsa served with Spanish style basmati rice
WEDNESDAY, JULY 30
The latest edition of Beerwalk takes place in Santana Row from 6pm-9pm. Offerings from twenty or so breweries will be poured at various shops and businesses throughout the Row.
A number of the participating breweries are Bay Brewers Guild members, and in all, beerwalkers will have the chance to taste beers from Hermitage, Strike, Santa Clara Valley, Rabbit’s Foot, Faultline, Santa Cruz Ale Works, Lagunitas, Almanac, Speakeasy, Anchor, Sierra Nevada, Hangar 24, Headlands, CaliCraft, 21st Amendment, 6 Rivers, Ballast Point, Ninkasi, Green Flash and Firestone Walker.
Beerwalk 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.
Santa Clara’s Wicked Chicken will have Santa Clara Valley Brewing Electric Tower IPA and a surprise offering on tap all day.
Vino Locale in Palo Alto will feature a tasting flight of Palo Alto Brewing Company beer, including Hoppy Ending Pale Ale, Atlas Double IPA, Nice Lacing Belgian Rye IPA and Cool Beanz Coffee Porter, to be paired with tapas plates.
Faultline celebrates Stout with the following pairing options:
Appetizer: Stout Beer Battered Conch Fritter – Conch marinated in ghost peppers, lime and Maui Sweets, blended into a sweet/ spicy Stout beer batter, than deep fried and served with a cilantro-Jerk pesto
Entrée: FBC Cadillac Burger: 1/2 pound burger, with caramelized onions, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles, topped with an easy over fried egg on a butter toasted egg roll.
THURSDAY, JULY 31
Downtown San Jose’s nomikai presents a “Meet the Brewer and Dinner” event at 6pm featuring Strike Brewing. In addition to their specialty pizza menu, there will be a special dinner menu – tangy BBQ ribs, summer corn on the cob with sriracha butter and nori fries along with a Strike beer flight featuring Blonde, Imperial Red, and Chin Music Extra Pale Ale for $18. This event offers one of the first opportunities to try Chin Music outside of Strike’s recently opened taproom.
Faultline focuses on Kolsch with the following pairing options:
Entrée: Pepper-Pot Stew – Mixed meat chicken stewed with a FBC Kolsch beer, black pepper, three chilies, Creole mire poix and naturally sweet yams.
FRIDAY, AUG. 1
Hermitage Brewing invites all to celebrate International IPA Day [updated 8-1-14: the official IPA Day is Aug. 7] with an IPA Day event of their own at their Tap Room from 4pm-8pm. In addition to their signature single-hop series of IPAs will be a special cask IPA. The Amazing Dr. Zarcon’s Breathing Machine and Smothered Food Truck will provide the entertainment and good eats, respectively.
The focus for Faultline on this day is IPA, with the following options:
Appetizer: Pork Belly Buns – Slow Cook “Asian Persuasion” Style pork spiced with sweet plums, ginger, cilantro and coriander rolled in a lightly steamed bun, accompanied with a spicy “IPA” peanut butter dipping sauce
Entrée: Beer Smoked Bratwursts Ragout – Smoked Bratwurst simmered with FBC IPA, sweet onions, lemon blossom, mustard powder and ghost pepper, served in a French Baguette boat atop of scallion mash potatoes and sweet and sour apple ragout
Compelling news and developments concerning the Silicon Valley craft beer landscape are making the rounds at a relatively high rate it seems.
The San Jose Co-op Brewery has been in the media spotlight lately and the Market Beer Company recently opened in San Pedro Square Market. More establishments with a beer focus are hosting noteworthy events along with new beer-centric establishments expected to open soon, or later this year.
Added to all this good news is that more media outlets are covering such news and events, providing updates for the local, beer-thirsty public.
Here’s a quick look at some upcoming news and events in the South Bay beer scene:
St. Patrick’s Day specials – A number of local brewpubs have been advertising their specials celebrating St. Patrick, including Faultline Brewing Company, Tied House, and FireHouse Grill & Brewery. Check out their respective Facebook pages for the details.
Grand opening of Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant – Many interested parties have been eagerly anticipating the announcement of the grand opening date for Steins Beer Garden & Restaurant. Per a recent media release, the date for the official grand opening is set for Thursday, March 28, 2013. Among the 30 beers on tap personally selected by owner Ted Kim will be: Hangar 24 Chocolate Porter, Linden Street Urban People’s Common Lager, Lost Abbey Avant Garde, Kiuichi Hitachino Next White Ale, Krusovice Cerne Dark, Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier, New Belgium Rampant, and North Coast Old Rasputin. Expect the beers to complement the offerings from executive chef Colby Reade, who has prepared a 25-item menu focused on modern American comfort food.
Opening of ISO: Beers – Excited readers have been asking about the opening date for ISO: Beers craft beer bar and tasting lounge located in downtown San Jose, especially after initial hopes for a fall opening as mentioned in a previous article. After receiving the last series of approvals from the city, expect an opening date for some time in April and an announcement soon.
Opening of Hermitage Brewing Company tasting room – Some South Bay beer fans may have heard directly from Hermitage Brewing Company about a tasting room that was to be built in time for last month’s SF Beer Week at their San Jose brewing facility on 7th Street past Spartan Stadium. Unexpected circumstances delayed the opening of the tasting room, but according to Hermitage brewmaster Peter Licht, the construction and opening of the South Bay’s first brewery tasting room will certainly happen.
Opening of Spread – From the folks behind Jack’s Bar & Lounge in Japantown San Jose and the South Bay-based Beerwalks comes Spread bottle and small deli shop in downtown Campbell to open no later than May. Announced via social media, Charlie Mann shares, “We will have 300 – 400 different beers by the bottle and an amazing wine selection, charcuterie with great cheeses, beers on tap, incredible sandwiches at lunch with some fondues at night mixed with fresh baked bread and a neighborhood feel…”
Gordon Biersch 25th anniversary celebration – A recent Facebook event page announced the Big Bands & BBQ 25th Anniversary Bash to be held Sat., May 18, 2013 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Gordon Biersch brewery in Japantown San Jose (357 E. Taylor St.). Admission is $10 and tickets can be purchased now.
Tied House 25th anniversary celebration – Mountain View’s Tied House is celebrating their quarter-century mark as well. Look for them to share their celebration plans soon.
Opening of Blackbird Tavern – Situated at 200 S. 1st St. next to the Camera 12 Cinema in downtown San Jose, Blackbird Tavern seeks to bring good food, live music, and good drinks, including choice craft beers to downtown San Jose later this spring.
Dates for Silicon Valley Beer Week officially set – In an email last Sunday, Metro newspaper and Naglee Park Garage / KraftBrew Beer Fest jointly announced the official dates for the first annual Silicon Valley Beer Week. The kickoff to SVBW begins with a special beer event on Sunday, July 28, 2013 followed by five days of hosted events throughout the valley, closing with the Kraftbrew Summer Fest on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013. There is a gathering of the Silicon Valley beer community, including brewers, restaurants, cafés, and other venue owners scheduled for later this month.
Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company inaugural beers – For many Bay Area beer enthusiasts, their South Bay highlights for 2013 might very well revolve around Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company and its brewmaster Steve Donohue, a four-time, consecutive medaling winner of the prestigious Great American Beer Festival. With a likeable personality, sharp wit, and his track record of well-crafted brews, Donohue has a strong support base among beer fans. Like him, they eagerly await for all the approvals and formal permission to be granted so that brewing and selling can begin.
Here are some pics from the first public event hosted by the San Jose Co-op Brewpub on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 at The Drying Shed Restaurant in San Jose. The SJ Co-op Brewpub, consisting of a small group of volunteers, held an information session and beer tasting event to help kick off their inaugural membership drive.
Sunnyvale’s Faultline Brewing Company Kolsch and London Porter.
South Bay’s Strike Brewing Company CEO Jenny Lewis (left).
Strike Brewing Brown and Imperial Red.
Andy (left), Joe (center), and Peter (right) welcoming guests and introducing the San Jose Co-op Brewpub concept.
Hats off to the folks who volunteered, planned, and executed this event, including Peter Smith, Joe Silva, Julia, Cameron, Bernard, Aileen, Andy, Amanda, Looney, Nathan, and others I missed seeing or meeting that day.
The San Jose Co-op Brewpub project is an intriguing one, and I’ve already written several articles about them and this event.’
It was very exciting to see such an impressive turnout. Having attended a planning meeting a few days before this event, I know the turnout surpassed most if not everyone’s expectations. It was also great seeing the ensuing support and enthusiasm for the co-op brewpub idea, punctuated by the long line of people signing up to become a “founding member.”
I’m sure I’ll be writing much more about this co-op brewpub project.
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. :)
The third weekend in September is when Oktoberfest starts every year in Munich, Germany. Its popularity has sparked Oktoberfest-inspired festivities all over the world. Los Gatos Brewing Company already celebrated their Oktoberfest in conjunction with their 20th anniversary on September 15. But thankfully, there are more ongoing and scheduled Oktoberfest events in San Jose and the South Bay.
Thurs., Oct. 4, 2012, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Jack’s Bar & Lounge in Japantown offers up an Oktoberfest Pint Night. 167 East Taylor St., 408-287-5225. Per their Facebook page: “Oktoberfest! This Thursday for Pint Night we’ll have two uber kegs [Gordon Biersch über keg of Marzen. Unfiltered and unpasteurized] with 1 liter steins! There is only a limited supply so be sure to come early!”
Thurs. – Sat., Oct. 4 – 6, 2012: Naglee Park Garage celebrates their 6th annual Oktoberfest. 505 East San Carlos St., 408-286-1100. According to the Facebook event page: “Oktoberfest at Naglee Park Garage is upon us! Please join us… (October 2 – 6) as we celebrate our 6th annual Oktoberfest with a week-long special menu. Plus, Thursday, October 4th, we’ll be starting a three day run of great beer featuring Hofbräu Munchen and festive music with Jessica Rose & Six Gun Rhythm, The Champions and The Bang all running through Saturday night on the patio…get your steins and your friends ready!”
Sat., Oct. 13, 2012: Wine Affairs celebrates Oktoberfest all day. 1435 The Alameda, 408-977-0111. According to their weeky newsletter: “In lieu of tastings next week, we will be celebrating Oktoberfest all day Saturday, 10/13, featuring discounted wine, beers, and special menu items. From 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., we will have a joint beer/wine tasting of German wines and Oktoberfest beers. The tasting is free for members or $12/person. Prost!”
Ongoing – Sun., Oct. 21, 2012: Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant continues the spirit of their Oktoberfest-themed party back on Sep. 11 celebrating the tapping of their seasonal FestBier (an “amber lager with a slightly sweet toasted maltiness, balanced by… spicy German Hersbrucker hops”). Until Sun., Oct. 21, enjoy items from their seasonal fall menu with this Oktoberfest-style FestBier.
Sat. – Sun., Oct. 20 – 21, 2012, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Left Bank in Santana Row commemorates Oktoberfest with their fourth food and beer pairing event of this year, this time featuring Gordon Biersch Brewing Company. Details and complete menu provided at the Left Bank events page.
Thurs., Oct. 25, 2012: Harry’s Hofbrau hosts their Oktoberfest event. From their Facebook page: “Some of you may be asking, ‘Hey Harry! Are you going to do an Oktoberfest event or what?’ To that we say, ‘Javol!’ October 25th we are having our annual Schneiderweiss takeover – Aventinus, Edelweiss, Original, (the amazing) Hopfenweiss hoppy wheat, new this year Eisbock (12%!), and finally a very limited release keg we are going to keep a secret. Prost!”
Fri. – Sun., Oct. 12 – 14, 2012: BYR of Belgium in Campbell celebrates Oktoberfest with the following specials per their Facebook page update: “Starting at 7 p.m. tonight till Sunday evening, 25% off pitchers of beer and all bottle beers!”
Sat. – Sun., Oct. 13 – 14, 2012: Downtown Campbell’s Liquid Bread Gastropub hosts an Oktoberfest soft opening. 379 East Campbell Ave., 408-370-3499. Per an earlier Facebook update: “Can’t wait for Oktoberfest on Sat. & Sun., Oct. 13th and 14th. We will have a soft opening selling a bunch of German beers & delicious brats! Come say hi! Official opening to follow shortly…” For a previous article on the soon-to-open Liquid Bread Gastropub, click here.
Ongoing – Fri., Oct. 26, 2012: Sunnyvale’s Faultline Brewing Company Oktoberfest celebration continues until Fri., Oct. 26, having started Sep. 24. From their press release: “‘This year, we plan on having an extensive specialty menu that has more than 15 traditional Bavarian and German dishes with a Californian twist. Everything from sausage platters, potato-beer soup, schnitzel and soft pretzels will be available. Guests can buy Oktoberfest items like limited edition T-shirts and liter steins,” [Christa] Shaw [of Faultline] said. During Oktoberfest, the San Jose restaurant is featuring traditional German music from Thursday through Saturday nights, and the facility will be decorated from top to bottom in Oktoberfest-related decor. ‘We will have our award-winning Oktoberfest brew that won a gold medal at the LA County Fair and a silver medal at the Sacramento State Fair! We will also have other German styles of beer like Hefeweizen, Dunkel Weizen and Kolsch,’ Shaw said.”
Sat., Oct. 27, 2012, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.: Steak Out Biergarten in Mountain View hosts Oktoberfest – Beyond Bavaria, presented by the German International School of Silicon Valley. 383 Castro Street, 650-209-0383. “Authentic German, Austrian and Swiss foods. Huge selection of European and local beers. Live entertainment from one of the largest German speaking communities in California. Plus raffle and silent auction!”
Sat., Oct. 13, 2012, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.: The third annual Peninsula Oktoberfest takes place in Redwood City with several South Bay breweries participating.
As events and beer lineups may change from time to time, please do check with the establishment directly, especially if you are extra excited about a particular event and/or beer.
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 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.]
This year’s American Craft Beer Week takes place this upcoming week from Mon., May 14, 2012 to Sun., May 20, 2012. There are numerous places for people to enjoy good beer in San Jose and the greater South Bay. Several South Bay breweries have made special announcements on how they will celebrate American Craft Beer Week (ACBW).
Faultline Brewing Company
Shared in an email announcement yesterday, Faultline Brewing Co. (1235 Oakmead Parkway, 408-736-2739) in Sunnyvale will honor ACBW on Monday, May 14 and Tuesday, May 15 by offering a pint of their IPA for the Happy Hour price of $3.50 all day on both days.
“Our brewers, Russell Clements and Larry Hoang collaborated with our chef, Juan Ramirez, to create a pairing of our fine, handcrafted beers with choice cheeses and sausages. The sampling plate will include smoked Gouda with Oatmeal Stout, aged Cheddar with Raccoon Red, Pepper Jack with IPA, Andouille sausage with Mary Jane IPA, and Bratwurst with Kolsch. This offer will be available all week long for $12.95.
Also, you can meet the Brewmaster at 4:00 PM Monday through Friday and take a tour of our brewery. Looking forward to seeing you and celebrating American Craft Beer Week.”
Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant
In an email announcement earlier this morning, Gordon Biersch San Jose (33 East San Fernando Street, 408-294-6785) revealed they will offer an unfiltered version of their Czech pilsner, brewed exclusively for ACBW. On Tuesday, May 15, an exclusive daily combo of the unfiltered Czech and a bratwurst will be available for $10. Also, their Head Brewer will be giving 15 minute brewery tours from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.