Local good guy Jake McCluskey has become quite the human interest story in recent years.
SFGate and ABC7 News just recently chronicled his latest fitness journey – running on every street in San Jose and logging over 2,400 miles. Taking 15 months to do so, it was also a way for Jake to explore San Jose and spread awareness of various community pockets throughout the city.
I’ve also written about Jake, for instance, back in 2015 when he was gearing up for his run from San Francisco to San Jose to raise awareness for the Silicon Valley Children’s Fund and in 2012 when he was helping to elevate the local beer scene as manager of Kelly’s Liquors.
To me, he’s the same now as he was then – a down-to-earth, genuine person who is generous, delights in helping others and does all that he can for a good cause.
“I’m a lucky person,” Jake recently told me. “I know I’m getting a second chance, and I want to take as many people along with me if they want to. I don’t want to preach. If you want to go, I’ll help and do all that I can.”
‘Make Jake Smile’
It’s been wonderful to see the support that the local beer community – and beyond – has been giving to Jake and his recent GoFundMe campaign.
Set up by friend and local business owner/marketing specialist Carl Foisy, the money raised will go towards paying for services to help with Jake’s severe dental health challenges.
Jake shared with me, “It was a hard decision to go public with my problem, and the really hard part is yet to come, having everything yanked out of my head. But it has to happen. And I’m feeling so blessed with all the support. It’s like the spirit of the beer community – people helping one another.”
Local resident – and all-around good guy – Jake McCluskey is a fixture in the San Jose beer scene. He has worked at a number of popular beer establishments, including Kelly’s Liquors, Market Beer Co. and ISObeers, and currently works as taproom manager and assistant brewer at Strike Brewing Company.
Many are drawn to his enthusiasm, big heart and down-to-earth vibe, and if there is something happening in the South Bay beer scene, it is very likely that Jake already knows about it.
A little over a week ago, Jake shared on Facebook his intentions to do something special for this year’s Father’s Day on June 21, which happens to also fall on his birthday – to run 50 miles from Good Karma Artisan Ales & Café in downtown San Jose (37 S. 1st St.) to Cellarmaker Brewing Company in San Francisco (1150 Howard St.).
[Update from Jake on May 15, 2015: Just a quick update on KarmaMaker. The original plan was to run from SJ to SF, but for several reasons I’ve decided to start in SF and finish in SJ. I will be leaving Cellarmaker when they close at 11pm on Saturday June the 20th. I plan to get up there around 7pm and hang out for a bit. If you can come hang out before I bounce that would be rad. Thank you Connor and crew for the hospitality. So I hope to be hitting San Jose and Good Karma between 9am and 11am. Ryan and his amazing staff have agreed to open early at 9am and host what should be one hell of a party. Thank you everyone for your support and sorry for any confusion.]
His main goal is to help raise money and awareness for the Silicon Valley Children’s Fund. A fundraising page titled “KarmaMaker” has been set up on Razoo to collect donations and currently stands at $295. Of note, the Sobrato Foundation will match donations dollar for dollar. For video of Jake discussing the upcoming run, click here.
More from the KarmaMaker Facebook event page:
This Father’s Day, June 21, [Jake] will attempt 50 miles going from Good Karma Artisan Ales & Cafe in San Jose to the Cellarmaker Brewing Company in San Francisco. Why? He is raising money for the Silicon Valley Children’s Fund.
The Silicon Valley Children’s Fund is an exceptional organization that helps the foster youth of Santa Clara County become successful and self-sustaining adults. You can participate in transforming their lives by providing funding for scholarships, mentoring and incidentals such as meals, school supplies, college applications and bus passes.
To offer your support go to: http://svgives.razoo.com/story/Karmamaker or call Malisa Barklay of the Silicon Valley Children’s Fund at 408.484.6200. The Sobrato Foundation will match your donation dollar for dollar!
Jake grew up without a father and this year Father’s Day also lands on this birthday. He wants to do something positive to commemorate the occasion. So he’ll run/walk/crawl with a goal of 10 hours at 12 minutes a mile. Be there for Jake and Silicon Valley foster kids. Help make Jake’s Day a runaway success!
April 27, 2015: Jake McCluskey to Run for a Good Cause
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.
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.
San Jose’s first fully dedicated craft beer bottle shop will open in downtown San Jose’s San Pedro Square Market in early March with an expected soft opening this Friday, March 1, 2013. [Update on 2/27/13 – the soft opening has been pushed back to Mon., 3/4/13.]
The Market Beer Company will have 7 window coolers to hold over 300 refrigerated craft brews, all of which will come in either 22-oz bottles (also known as “bombers”) or 750-ml. There will also be 5 to 10 taps.
For now, beers must be enjoyed at San Pedro Square Market, but plans are in the works to procure an off-sale license so that customers can take bottles to go.
Market Beer will be in the good hands of Jake McCluskey, who was recently hired to manage the shop. Jake previously worked eight years at Kelly’s Liquors in San Jose, assembling a team of passionate, knowledgeable, and service-oriented craft beer enthusiasts who helped to elevate Kelly’s status as a top place to get good beer.
Jake shares, “Leaving Kelly’s was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make. I could only do it knowing that there was already a strong group of folks in place with Brandon, Jay, and Stevie.”
Another important factor in his accepting the general manager position was the location. San Pedro Square Market is fast becoming a go-to destination for its 20 plus unique dining and retail offerings and live entertainment all currently located within three market halls and the outdoor Peralta Adobe Plaza.
Jake envisions endless possibilities on how Market Beer could help to promote the growing craft beer movement in San Jose and throughout the South Bay.
“I’m just excited and really looking forward to devoting all my time to the business of craft beer, whether it’s bringing in good beer for beer fans or educating people who are new to craft beer,” Jake says.
He points to both the cheese shop that is mere steps from Market Beer and the soon-to-open chocolate shop that looks to be even closer. “Artisan cheese. Gourmet chocolate. A good, matching beer. That’s the holy trinity right there in being able to show successful beer and food pairings.”
Jake also notes the nearby neighbors who are promoting good beer – from San Pedro Square Market Bar to O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub to Los Gatos Brewing Company – and is happy to see the San Pedro Square block turn into a burgeoning beer hub.
The initial, planned hours for the Market Beer Company will be Sundays to Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursdays to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Kelly’s Liquors in San Jose is located at 498 North Fourth Street and is a part of the Hensley Historic District, one of San Jose’s oldest neighborhoods and renowned for the large concentration of Victorian homes in the central city area.
The area is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was adopted as a local Historical Landmark District in 1990.
Owned by the same family since 1938 (current owner is Dennis Kelly), Kelly’s Liquors has recently cultivated a stellar reputation among the San Jose craft beer community.
In addition to their craft beer offerings, many beer fans appreciate the high level of customer service, ranging from friendly employees who are enthusiastic about good beer to the Kelly’s Liquors Facebook page where customers are kept up-to-date on the latest arrivals of sought-after beers.
As a testament to the good-natured vibe at Kelly’s Liquors, they were selected by editors in the Metro’s best of Silicon Valley 2011 issue as the “Best Family Friendly Liquor Store.”
And the person who deserves much if not all of the credit for leading the craft beer charge at this popular bottle shop is manager Jake McCluskey.
Jake recently took time to share a little about himself and answer some beer-related questions, including how he began with Kelly’s Liquors, where he goes for good beer, and his thoughts on the South Bay craft beer scene.
What is your personal and/or professional connection to San Jose and the South Bay?
I moved to San Jose from New England in 2000. With all of the diversity and culture I instantly felt that San Jose was right where I needed to be.
When, where, and how did your passion for craft beer start?
I was at a friend’s barbeque a few years back when we ran out of “real” beer. My friend offered me a Racer 5 which I reluctantly accepted. The color, aroma, and taste just blew my mind. Up to this point I believed my television – that beer was just yellow, fizzy stuff.
When did you join Kelly’s Liquors, and did you start offering craft beer right away?
I started with Kelly’s Liquors in 2005 after being laid off from the semiconductor industry. We always had a small craft beer section but shortly after that first Racer 5 we began expanding it.
The customer response was huge. This motivated us to seek out those hard-to-find beers and to keep all the seasonal releases in stock. We are fortunate enough to know some great beer distributors.
Is there a growing interest in craft beer among your customers?
The interest and knowledge level of our customers is outstanding. Our customers range from craft beer newbies all the way to certifiable beer geeks. The most enjoyable part of my job is watching that transition happen.
We recently have begun to offer mix-and-match 6 packs. This is a great way to help bridge the craft beer learning curve.
What are you favorite places to get good beer?
Hands down my absolute favorite place to drink great beer on tap is Good Karma. I also love what Harry’s, Jack’s, Wine Affairs, and SmokeEaters are doing.
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? What would you like to see happen?
We continue to sell more and more good beer, and judging by the interest and attendance of events such as KraftBrew and the Beerwalk, I think the local craft beer scene is booming.
It is nice that we no longer have to leave San Jose to get great beer or to attend events. I would love to see San Jose have our own beer week.
Anything else to add?
I would love to invite your readers to come check out Kelly’s. We are located at 498 N. 4th St. right here in San Jose. They can also check us out at our website or like us on our Facebook page.
We update our FB with all new beer arrivals, and yes, we even update when we get fresh Pliny in.
Just one last thing I would like to add is that all of us at Kelly’s – myself, Dennis, T.J., Brandon, Nate, and even Joel – drink and have a passion for the beer that we sell.