Tag Archives: Jeff Liles

The Downtown San Jose Beer Scene

BOTTLED UP - Jake McCluskey, general manager of the Market Beer Co. at San Pedro Square Market, says that the shop stocks larger bottles of craft beer to encourage customers to share
BOTTLED UP – Jake McCluskey, general manager of the Market Beer Co. at San Pedro Square Market, says that the shop stocks larger bottles of craft beer to encourage customers to share

A growing number of folks are seeking out better beer by returning to their favorite spots or trying out new places, eager to enjoy a glass—or more—depending on the occasion. And in a continuing nod to the burgeoning craft beer landscape, respectable beer hubs are taking shape throughout the South Bay.

In downtown San Jose, the number of establishments offering good beer is helping to raise Silicon Valley’s profile among the state’s notable beer regions. There are currently a dozen or so downtown locations that serve better beer, with more places set to open.

The San Pedro Square neighborhood is turning into quite a beer hub on its own, with a block of distinct establishments serving craft beer. We’re talking about San Pedro Square Market Bar, the Garage Bar, Market Beer Co., O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub, Firehouse No. 1 Gastropub, Los Gatos Brewing Company, Britannia Arms, and the recently opened Farmers Union.

Along with the Market and Garage bars inside San Pedro Square Market, there’s also Market Beer Co. which opened this past March, becoming San Jose’s first craft beer bottle shop.

Since then, they have added eight taps and have more than 200 craft beer bottles. Market Beer Co. has quickly gained a following due in large part to the efforts of general manager Jake McCluskey and his knowledgeable and friendly team of beertenders, all of whom help to create a fun and relaxed vibe.

“We stock only bomber-sized (22 oz.) bottles to encourage sharing among our customers. For our taps, we try to get smaller-sized kegs so we can rotate our draft beers quickly,” McCluskey says. “It’s a place where you see seasoned beer connoisseurs talking beer with the greenest newbies. It’s cool to be a beer geek but not a beer snob.”

Of its 50+ beer taps, O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub dedicates 38 of them to craft. General manager David Mulvehill says he values the link between craft breweries and O’Flaherty’s, viewing both as small businesses helping to support one another.

O’Flaherty’s main goal, according to Mulvehill, is to make everyone feel welcome, referring to their motto, “You’re a stranger here but once.” He says, “We need to keep the integrity of an Irish bar – customers can enjoy a Coors Light, Stella, Guinness and feel welcome. We believe everyone is a beer drinker and that we can provide a stepping stone for them, from Stella to a craft beer. And we always have something to offer the beer geeks.”

For beer and food pairings, Firehouse No. 1 Gastropub and Los Gatos Brewing Company fit the bill. Firehouse is currently San Jose’s only gastropub and serves mostly craft beer from its eight taps. Los Gatos Brewing Company has three rotating guest taps, plus five of their own offerings crafted by brewmaster Kent Wheat. Currently, there’s a cask-conditioned porter as well.

Britannia Arms serves more traditional pub fare, along with pints poured from a combined 42 taps—24 inside the bar and 18 more out in the 3,000 square-foot, heated patio. Most of the 42 taps are craft selections.

The Farmers Union, which opened this past Thursday, rounds out the current crop of beer-centric places within San Pedro Square. A large square bar is the focal point of the establishment, and general manager Aaron Williams says that they will have at least 25 of their 60 taps dedicated to craft beer.

Williams says, “We are targeting a diverse clientele that likes great food paired with our great selection of craft beer. We will always have at least 25 taps dedicated to craft beers with flight options available. We want to support the local brewers as well as serve the highest quality craft beers possible.”

Original Gravity Public House became San Jose’s first establishment focused 100 percent on beer from the get go thanks to the efforts of owners Johnny Wang and Dan Phan. They celebrated their one-year anniversary on Saturday and have already made concrete plans for expanding the current location.

“We take craft beer very seriously but always aim to have a fun and informative conversation about it,” bar manager and events coordinator Rob Monroe says. “We hope to teach without the snobbery and find something new and exciting for you each and every time. No question is a dumb one, and we understand everyone’s palate is as diverse as our beer list.”

Original Gravity rotates beers in and out of its 25 taps so often that Monroe says the best way to keep up with what’s on tap is to check the website, where patrons can find live updates of the latest offerings.

Numerous customers throughout the recent decades have enjoyed the food, beers and the outdoor patio of Gordon Biersch. “We offer eight handcrafted traditional German lagers,” head brewer Jeff Liles says. “I would recommend starting off with a sampler of our beers. This way our guests get a chance to try some of our unique styles and flavors.”

Some people are still surprised when first noticing the extensive draft selection at SmokeEaters, which specializes in hot wings. ““SmokeEaters is the place to meet up with friends to eat great food, drink some cold beer and catch a game,” general partner Mike Burke says. “We rotate our craft beers frequently; do not hesitate to ask to sample a style of beer. With the expansion of the craft market, there are some great styles and brewers out there popping up almost every week. We want the customer to love the beer they are drinking.”

When it comes to Good Karma Vegan Café, many people quickly become hooked on not only the beer menu but the place’s carefree vibe. Owner Ryan Summers and the Good Karma staff simply know their beers. Summers embraces the downtown beer scene: “There’s just too much rad beer to be had, and we deserve the awesome beers right here.”

Live music is a wonderful accompaniment to good beer, and this combination is prevalent among several previously mentioned locations. Café Stritch—with nearly ten craft beer taps—and the recently opened Blackbird Tavern—with eight mostly craft beer taps—join the ranks of these establishments that feature live music.

Blackbird co-owners Chris Esparza and Brendan Rawson seek to provide a full sensory experience, matching food and beer to their live music. For example, when New Orleans jazz is playing, don’t be surprised to see featured beers from Louisiana’s Abita Brewing.

Folks passing by ISO: Beers can see that a lot of progress has been made at the yet-to-open beer bar and tasting lounge. The wait is nearly over. According to co-owner Dee Singh, what is left is painting, putting in floors, and installing fixtures. He plans to have 37 taps for beer and hopes for a mid-August opening. Customers will also be able to purchase bottles to go.

Rounding out the members of the downtown San Jose beer hub are longstanding establishments Trials Pub and Teske’s Germania. Trial’s offers an authentic British pub vibe and traditional English ales on tap, on cask, or in bottles. At Teske’s, it’s about experiencing German fare in a rustic Bavarian setting that includes a beer garden.

All of Teske’s beers are from Germany co-owner Greg Baumann says, and he invites visitors to come and enjoy the casual setting with a lager, pilsner, dopplebock or hefeweizen. Their current offerings include Spaten Premium Lager, Höfbrau Dunkel, Franziskaner Hefe Weizen, Bitburger Pilsner, Köstritzer Schwarzbier and Stiegl Lager on tap, with many more bottled German beers.

As Original Gravity’s Monroe put it, everyone’s palate is different. So it’s very fortunate to see the growing diversity reflected in the downtown San Jose beer scene. Ultimately, our personal preferences determine not only which beers we like, but also which places we return to over and over again.

Downtown San Jose Beer Hub

Blackbird Tavern
200 S. First St.

Britannia Arms (The Brit)
173 W. Santa Clara St.

Café Stritch
374 S. First St.

Firehouse No. 1 Gastropub
69 N. San Pedro St.

Good Karma Vegan Café
37 S. First Street

Gordon Biersch
33 East San Fernando St.

ISO: Beers
81 East Santa Clara St.

Los Gatos Brewing Company
163 W. Santa Clara St.

O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub
25 N. San Pedro St.

Original Gravity
66 S. First St.

San Pedro Square Market
87 N. San Pedro St.

29 S. Third St.

Teske’s Germania
255 N. First St.

The Farmers Union
151 W. Santa Clara St.

Trials Pub
265 N. First St.

[An abridged version of this post was shared on SanJose.com.]

Maibock Lager Tapping Party at Gordon Biersch San Jose April 2, 2013

Gordon Biersch San Jose assistant brewer (l) and brewmaster Jeff Liles (r) at a December 2012 event featuring unfiltered Marzen from a wooden barrel
Gordon Biersch San Jose assistant brewer (l) and brewmaster Jeff Liles (r) at a December 2012 event featuring unfiltered Marzen from a wooden barrel

To celebrate spring, Gordon Biersch is releasing their Maibock, a traditional spring time beer, with tapping parties throughout their many locations. The tapping party at the San Jose brewery restaurant (33 East Fernando St.) is open to the public and takes place on April 2, 2013, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

According to a recent newsletter and press release, the Gordon Biersch Maibock is considered a traditional “Rite of Spring.” Maibock is a strong Einbeck-style lager with a warming caramel malt balanced with noble Hersbrucker hops.

The Maibock tapping party also introduces a special, limited-time spring menu from April 2 through May 12 featuring new menu items: a starter, dessert, and four new entrées.

  • Starter: Asian Ribs (slow-cooked pork ribs with 5-spice rub and crackling ground peanuts for dipping).
  • Dessert: White Chocolate Mousse Lemon Cake (housemade lemon cake layered with white chocolate mousse, drizzled with lemon glaze and topped with fresh blueberries and a warm blueberry sauce).
  • Grilled Swordfish: Swordfish steak drizzled with lemon vinaigrette, served with quinoa kale pilaf.
  • Crunchy Tilapia: Tilapia coated with a smoked almond crust topped with baby arugula salad tossed in lemon vinaigrette and served with quinoa kale pilaf.
  • Parmesan Encrusted Chicken: Panko and parmesan encrusted chicken breast topped with tomato-basil relish served with garlic spinach.
  • Superfood Salad: Fresh kale with blueberries, toasted smoked almonds, Craisins and feta cheese tossed in lemon vinaigrette.

There will be passed appetizers, live music, and a charity raffle, with partial proceeds to benefit Pacific Autism Center for Education.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

San Jose Area Beer News and Events: Sep. 17-22, 2012

Kevin Olcese on his last day at Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose this past Thursday. He will take the reigns at Harry's Hofbrau in Redwood City, where up to 28 taps have already been installed
Kevin Olcese on his last day at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose this past Thursday. He will take the reigns at Harry’s Hofbrau in Redwood City, where up to 28 taps have already been installed

The following is a collection of craft beer news and events in San Jose and the greater South Bay for the upcoming week and beyond. 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.

Recent beer news

Kevin Olcese, who has successfully worked to bring good beer to San Jose and the South Bay, has left his general manager position at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose. His last day was this past Thursday. He will now work at Harry’s Hofbrau in Redwood City, which has recently added up to 28 taps.

Larry Hoang recently left the assistant brewer position at Rock Bottom in Campbell. He will be the beer manager at the soon-to-open Liquid Bread Gastropub in downtown Campbell.

Beer events this upcoming week

Mon., Sep. 17, 2012: San Jose’s Wine Affairs hosts their weekly beer tasting event, this week featuring Boulder Beer Company. 1435 The Alameda, 408-977-0111. “Hoopla! Not only is it a fun thing to say, it’s also a delicious brew by Boulder Beer. Recently available in the South Bay, Boulder brewing will be here pouring their line-up this Monday, 9/17 from 6pm-8pm. $12/person or FREE for members.”

Tues., Sep. 18, 2012, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.: A taco and beer pairing event takes place at Gordon Biersch San Jose. 33 East San Fernando St., 408-294-6785. “Join Head Brewer Jeff Liles in the bar for a pairing of our signature handcrafted beers and a delicious taco bar! Discover how different types of beer pair perfectly with the spices and flavors of everyone’s favorite Mexican dish. Bring your friends and don’t forget to ask for a complimentary tour of our onsite brewery. See you then!”

Tues., Sep. 18, 2012, 4 p.m. – closing: The Counter Santana Row, offers a “Mix-It-Up” 4 mini burger & beer pairings, including Devil’s Canyon Full Boar Scotch Ale and Lagunitas IPA. 3055 Olin Ave., 408-423-9200.

Wed., Sep 19, 2012, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Catch live music and good beer at Poor House Bistro with “Blues & $2 Brews” featuring Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company. 91 South Autumn Street, 408-292-5837.

Thurs., Sep. 20, 2012, starting at 6:00 p.m.: Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose hosts their weekly Pint Night. Check the Harry’s Hofbrau Facebook page for updates. 390 Saratoga Ave., 408-243-0434.

Thurs., Sep. 20, 2012, starting at 6 p.m.: Jack’s Bar & Lounge in Japantown offers up their weekly $2 Pint Night. Check the Jack’s Bar & Lounge Facebook page for updates. 167 East Taylor St., 408-287-5225.

Fri., Sep. 21, 2012: BevMo! stores host weekly Beer Tasting events on Fridays. Check your local BevMo! store for details.

Sat., Sep. 22, 2012, 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.: Peter B’s Brewpub hosts the 2nd Annual Monterey Beer Garden, which will feature a number of South Bay breweries.

Looking ahead: Save the date

Thurs., Sep. 27, 2012: California Cafe in Palo Alto hosts a Strike Brewing Co. brewmasters dinner.

Sat.-Sun., Oct. 20-21, 2012: Left Bank Brasserie Santana Row hosts a prix fixe meal paired with beers from Gordon Biersch Brewing Company as part of their Left Bank Santana Row Summer Beer Pairing Series, La Fête de la Bière. 377 Santana Row, Suite 1100, 408-984-3500.

Sun., Oct. 21, 2012: Morocco’s Restaurant in Mountain View hosts a beer dinner featuring Strike Brewing Company.

Thurs., Oct. 25, 2012: California Cafe in Palo Alto hosts a Lost Coast Brewery brewmasters dinner.

Sat., Nov. 17, 2012: Save the date – the next SJ Beerwalk takes place in downtown Willow Glen.

Sat.-Sun., Nov. 17-18, 2012: Left Bank Brasserie Santana Row hosts a prix fixe meal paired with beers from Drake’s Brewing Company as part of their Left Bank Santana Row Summer Beer Pairing Series, La Fête de la Bière. 377 Santana Row, Suite 1100, 408-984-3500.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]