Tag Archives: Kasim Syed

Palo Alto Brewing Company and Hermitage Brewing Company to Release Collaboration Beer – My Name is Mud IPA

Palo Alto Brewing Company and Hermitage Brewing Company are set to release their next collaboration beer – My Name Is Mud IPA – first in Palo Alto on Thursday – July 28 – at Palo Alto Tap Room (233 University Ave.) and then in San Jose the following day, Friday – July 29 – at Hermitage Brewing Company (1627 S. 7th St.).

The beer follows their previous collaboration beer released earlier in the spring of this year – Clean Spin Triple IPA, a super smooth, citrusy Triple IPA coming in at 9.5% ABV.

About the new collaborative beer, Palo Alto Brewing brewer Kasim Sayed says:

My Name is Mud is an ‘East Coast IPA.’ Where clarity – or lack-thereof – is a hallmark for a beer, we collaborated to create a cloudy, juicy and satisfying IPA.

“Entirely unfiltered and ‘muddy,’ rolled oats and English yeast contribute to the haze as well as the malty complexity and velvety mouthfeel. Late hopping with Centennial, Cascade and Citra hops in the kettle supply hop flavor. Dry hopping with Galaxy, Mosaic and more Citra to make this one a juicy treat.”

Hermitage Brewing head brewer Greg Filippi recently posted a photo of the beer on social media:

My Name is Mud IPA

Greg added, “Sneak peek of our latest collaboration with our good friends at Palo Alto Brewing: ‘My Name is Mud’ is a big, fruity IPA that borders on ridiculously cloudy. Sweet and juicy like they do back East. Look for it in Palo Alto Thursday and at the Hermitage Tap Room Friday.”

The brewing teams from both Palo Alto Brewing and Hermitage Brewing will be at the Tap Room in Palo Alto at 2pm on Thursday for the new release.

Look for more collaborations down the road. Kasim shares, “After we brewed the delicious Clean Spin Triple IPA in the spring, we decided that we had to keep this collaborative effort to make the fun beers going. This is just the latest of beers that we will be creating together.”

Palo Alto Brewing Company and Freewheel Brewing Company to Release Collaboration Beer – Eye of the Storm Belgian-Style Golden Ale

Freewheel Brewing Company

Two peninsula breweries – Palo Alto Brewing Company and Redwood City’s Freewheel Brewing Company – brewed a collaboration beer earlier this week. It seems the beer, according to Palo Alto Brewing’s Kasim Syed, came about more or less on a whim.

Kasim and Freewheel Brewing’s Alisha Blue were recently enjoying a pint and reminiscing about their previous collaboration beer which was brewed some time ago. Alisha mentioned how at the time, it had been one of the first beers she helped brew at Freewheel. Kasim, in turn, suggested that it was time to collaborate on another, and the wheels <ahem> began to turn quickly on what beer style to brew.

Freewheel Brewing Company Brewer Alisha Blue
Freewheel Brewing Company Brewer Alisha Blue

Both Kasim and Alisha wanted to brew a beer that was different than the usual West Coast style, so they decided to brew a Belgian-inspired beer.

Kasim shares, “We did a bit of a tie-in with our own styles, but the beer is quite unique. We used all English malts and English and Pacific Northwest hops, but the interesting part is that we blended the Duvel yeast strain with the Freewheel house strain.

“The beer is called Eye of the Storm for the way the boil looked – whole leaf hops twisting around a pocket of wort. It was a cool sight.”

Freewheel Brewing Company and Palo Alto Brewing Company
Freewheel Brewing Company Assistant Brewer Erica DeAnda (left), Alisha Blue and Palo Alto Brewing’s Kasim Syed

Though the collaboration is expected to be available in time for the upcoming Silicon Valley Beer Week (which begins Friday, July 22), distribution will be limited to a small number of establishments, including Freewheel Brewing, The Rose & Crown and Palo Alto Tap Room.

Palo Alto Tap Room: Local Craft Beer and Good Eats on University Avenue

Palo Alto Tap Room
Palo Alto Tap Room

Home to a bevy of restaurants, shops and cafés, University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto is now home to Palo Alto Tap Room (233 University Ave.), founded by husband-and-wife Kasim and Guldem Tanyeri Syed – owners of The Rose & Crown – and brothers Andrew and Lars Smith.

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Gulden and Kasim

The Tap Room, which opened in early February, has 16 taps plus a cider tap and features a creative menu of items made from scratch.

The menu – overseen by Lars – consists of a tidy set of appetizers (Deviled Eggs, Poutine, Buttermilk Fried Pickles, among others), wings, salads, sandwiches (Grilled Cheese, Grilled Veggies, Fried Chicken, Beer-Braised Beef) and a Beer Float dessert.

Look for weekly specials, including the currently ongoing special Fried Chicken and Waffles on Sundays. Ingredients are locally sourced to the extent possible and include free-range chicken and hormone-free meat.

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Upon entering the Tap Room, there is a sleek, open bar on the right side and big communal tables on the left. Towards the back area are two pinball machines and a jukebox. Board games are available as well. The space is bright, inviting and clean, and the atmosphere is friendly thanks to the efforts of Andrew, who manages the front of the house, and the staff.

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Andrew and Kasim

Most of the beers on tap are from Palo Alto Brewing Company; Kasim started Palo Alto Brewing back in 2008 and has been at the forefront of the local craft beer scene. When he and his wife took over The Rose & Crown in 2006, he spent the initial years diligently seeking out the different beers that other places did not carry and challenged his customers to try out new, diverse beers, converting many along to way to becoming beer enthusiasts.

Though a number of Palo Alto Brewing beers can be enjoyed at The Rose & Crown – located just a couple blocks away – and are also available throughout the peninsula and the Bay Area, the Tap Room provides the opportunity to enjoy new experimental and collaboration beers.

According to Kasim, the lure of a new beer often compels customers to try an offering that is a bit different, and the subsequent feedback is consistently positive. Recent examples include Grapefruit Tart Deco Sour, Lychee Tart Deco Sour, Peanut Butter Stout, Nitro Hoppy Ending Pale Ale, Blood Orange Tart Deco Sour, Raspberry Tart Deco Sour, Triple Berry Stout and Passion Fruit Stout.

Recent collaborations have included Grapefruit Belgian Tripel with brewer Saul Reyes of Tied House and last month’s debut of Clean Spin Triple IPA with San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company, where the majority of Palo Alto Brewing beers are currently brewed. Before the release of Clean Spin, Kasim approached Hermitage Brewing brewmaster Peter Licht and head brewer Greg Filippi with an idea for a Triple IPA, resulting in an offering that has proven popular among many local beer fans.

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Clean Spin Triple IPA Collaboration with Hermitage Brewing Company

During a recent visit with my family, it was readily apparent why Clean Spin Triple IPA has been so popular – smooth and well-balanced, especially for a beer at 9.5% ABV.

Customers can try a variety of beers at the Tap Room by ordering the “Flight of the Day,” a sampling of five pre-selected beers on tap. Our bartender Kristalynn Todd was knowledgeable about each of the beers and provided attentive service.

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I enjoyed a beer flight that consisted of my other favorites of the day – the tasty Tart Deco Sour (brewed in partnership at Belgium’s De Proef Brouwerij) and the delicious Raspberry Tart Deco Sour, which I knew – and Kasim agreed – wouldn’t last long.

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It was nice to see another local beer on one of the several guest taps – Saison brewed in collaboration with Drake’s out of San Leandro and San Jose’s Santa Clara Valley Brewing. Kasim tells me to look out for future collaboration beers with Santa Clara Valley Brewing as well.

We devoured our appetizer order of Poutine with Cool Beanz (Porter) gravy and jack cheese. My wife enjoyed the Chopped Salad with house-made Hoppy Ending (Pale Ale) mustard vinaigrette, while our boy and I thoroughly enjoyed a Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Fried Chicken Wings, respectively. The sauces for my wings included house-made traditional buffalo, jalapeno lime glaze and my favorite Atlas (DIPA) BBQ.

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With its central location on University Avenue and its welcoming vibe, Palo Alto Tap Room is a great place to enjoy good beer and quality bites, either by yourself or with friends and family. We’ll certainly be back soon.

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[This post was shared on Examiner.com without all the pictures.]

The Beer Lover’s Gift Guide to the South Bay

Magnum IPA and Ale of the Imp from Hermitage Brewing Company
Magnum IPA and Ale of the Imp from Hermitage Brewing Company

Good beer in the South Bay continues its ascent, with many locally made, quality offerings available in bottles to give—or to get together and share.

San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company opened their tap room this past July, offering visitors the chance to taste well-crafted beer while connecting with the down-to-earth Hermitage vibe. Bottles of Hermitage beers are for sale at the Tap Room and can also be found in stores throughout the area, such as Saratoga Bottle Shop and local markets. Bottles of their Single Hop IPA Series continue to be popular items. For the colder weather season, the Ale of the 2 Tun Imperial Stout is a good choice. There’s also limited release, Ryetopia, a rye barley wine aged for a year in Kentucky bourbon barrels. It’s the first product of Hermitage’s barrel-aging program. The brew sounds like its own self-contained holiday confection with notes of chocolate, caramel, toffee, licorice, vanilla oak and—of course—bourbon. Another gift possibility: make a present of tickets—and maybe even offer to drive?— to Hermitage’s fifth annual Meet the Brewers Festival, Feb. 15 at their tap room ($35 per person/$5 designated driver).

Continuing its growth since the launch of their first beer in late 2011, Strike Brewing Company recently made a huge announcement—the construction of its own brick-and-mortar facility in San Jose at 2099 S. Tenth Street. Founders Jenny Lewis, Ben Lewis and Drew Ehrlich expect to open their brewery in early 2014. In the meantime, Strike bottles, such as their Brown, along with their IPA and Imperial Red (all $4-$5 per bottle), can be found at Cask & Flask in San Jose, and local markets such as Zanotto’s and Sprouts. And their seasonal stout, a Russian Imperial style with its deep chocolate and coffee notes coming in at 9 percent ABV, is back in a limited release, due out next month.

Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company proprietors Tom Clark and Steve Donohue possess great pride for the local area, as evidenced by their namesake brewery, as well as the names of their first series of beers brewed earlier this year—Electric Tower IPA ($6-$8 per bottle) with its hoppy, citrusy flavors and the chocolaty Peralta Porter ($5.50-$7 per bottle), both available at local bottle shops, including Jane’s Beer Store in Mountain View and Market Beer Company in downtown San Jose’s San Pedro Square. The bottles have artwork and write-ups on the labels that pay homage to this region’s history. The next beer to be made available in bottles will be an Imperial Red—ready just a couple weeks into 2014. Brewmaster Donohue says, “I was just looking at the final five label mockups. We’ll be brewing the red, probably late December. It should be bottled and available in mid-January.”

Rabbit’s Foot Meadery was founded in 1995 by Mike and Maria Faul, and business has never been busier according to Mike, no doubt fueled by the growing interest in ciders in conjunction with the increased demand for locally made, artisanal products. Rabbit’s Foot offers a diverse selection of meads (wine made out of honey), ciders and honey ales. Flavors range from light and dry to the sweeter profiles. Visitors can sample Mike’s creations at the Meadery, where the tasting fee is $5.50 and no appointment is needed. Both beer and wine drinkers often appreciate and enjoy meads and ciders; plus they make for tasty gluten-free gifts. Bottles of Hard Peach and Apple Honey cider are $5.99 (500 ml.) and a 750 ml. bottle of Sweet Mead goes for $16.99. Most of the meadery’s offerings are available in bottles under the Red Branch Cider Company label and can be found, in addition to their tasting room, at many local locations that sell quality beer.

Owner and brewer Kasim Syed of Palo Alto Brewing Company has been diligently brewing well-regarded beers since 2009. Most of his ales are available in bottles, and many of them are punnily-named: including his Hoppy Ending Pale Ale and the Barley Legal Coconut Porter—with a flavor profile of roasted malt, coffee, dark chocolate and a hint of coconut milk—and Cool Beanz Coffee Porter, brewed with Philz Coffee. Kasim’s beers are available in bottles ($5-$7 per bottle)  at a growing number of locations throughout the valley, including Ava’s Downtown Market & Deli in Mountain View and Boynton Liquors in San Jose.

[This post was shared on SanJose.com.]

Scenes from the 2013 SF Beer Week Opening Celebration

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.

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When in Rome… Excitedly headed right over to Santa Rosa’s Russian River Brewing Company for some Pliny the Younger.

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Pliny the Younger.

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Russian River Brewing co-owner and president Natalie Cilurzo holding court.

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A pic of Russian River Brewing co-owner and brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo.

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Jack Van Stone, Eureka’s Lost Coast Brewery Northern CA sales manager.

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Time for some Drake’s Brewing Company of San Leandro.

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And their Hopocalypse Black Label.

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Who’s this funny guy?

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It’s Palo Alto Brewing Company founder and brewer Kasim Syed (middle) with siblings Sikandar (left) and Alia (right).

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San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company brand manager Peter Estaniel.

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South Bay’s Strike Brewing Company co-founder and brewmaster Drew Ehrlich (right).

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Morgan Hill’s El Toro Brewing Company and founders Geno and Cindy Acevedo.

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Enjoying El Toro Brewing India Pale Ale.

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Snapped a pic of Pittsburg’s Heretic Brewing Company crew with founder and brewmaster Jamil Zainasheff (second from left).

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Lincoln’s Knee Deep Brewing Company.

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Knee Deep Brewing Hoptologist on cask.

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Trumer Pils.

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Rob Monroe, bar manager and events coordinator for downtown San Jose’s Original Gravity Public House.

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Rosamunde Sausage Grill.

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Berkeley’s Bison Brewing owner and brewer Dan Del Grande.

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Rudy Kuhn, Lagunitas market manager for the Santa Clara County, Central Coast, and Central Valley areas.

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Jake McCluskey, manager of Kelly’s Liquors in San Jose.

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Antoine Riffis – Firestone Walker Silicon Valley and East Bay regional sales manager, Rudy, and Rob.

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High Water Brewing president and brewmaster Steve Altimari.

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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.

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This event marked the public debut of the beers of Mavericks Beer, created in partnership with Half Moon Bay Brewing.

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Pete Slosberg of Mavericks Beer (and of Pete’s Wicked Ales fame) drew a crowd most of the entire time we were there.

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Pete is a craft beer pioneer and Bay Area guy.

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What a “worthy” highlight from that evening!

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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.

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Always Grateful,


A Familiar Face Hosts New Beer Bar Opening at Harry’s Hofbrau in Redwood City

Kevin Olcese in front of Harry's Hofbrau San Jose this past July
Kevin Olcese in front of Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose this past July

As the general manager of Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose up until his departure last month, Kevin Olcese played an important role in raising the profile of the San Jose area craft beer scene since early 2011. It was his mission to continually work on bringing in hard-to-get beer so that South Bay beer fans had more choices on where to go to get good beer.

When asked about the reasons for the ostensible growth throughout 2012 in craft beer sales in the South Bay, the brewery representatives participating in the weekly pint night events consistently pointed to Kevin’s knowledge, passion, and persistence in wanting to offer better beer at Harry’s. Kevin, who often worked the bar pouring drinks, deflected the insider accolades and was sure to be deferential to the folks who had already established a South Bay craft beer presence before him like Wine Affairs’ Diane Chang-Laurent and the Rose & Crown’s Kasim Syed.

New Beer Bar Opening Night

Since he left Harry’s Hofbrau last month, Kevin has been busy working on his newest endeavor – taking the family restaurant Harry’s Hofbrau in Redwood City and turning the bar into a craft beer bar with 28 taps as well as building a biergarten patio. He has scheduled a special opening night event on Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 beginning at 6 p.m. to officially commemorate the new beer bar.

In recently catching up with Kevin, he could barely contain his excitement. “I am stoked about this opening event! Our patio is coming along nicely and the entire draft system is complete. We are doing free appetizers (more than usual), the patio will be lit, and the games will be on both screens.”

Kevin was just as excited about the draft beer list for the opening night:

  • Pliny the Elder
  • Russian River Sanctification
  • Bourbon Barrel Angel’s Share
  • Dogfish 120 Minute
  • Mikkeller Black Hole
  • The Bruery Autumn Maple
  • Ballast Point Victory at Sea 2011
  • Ballast Point Dorado DIPA
  • Alpine Brewing Super IPA Collab
  • Moylan’s Hop Craic
  • Dogfish Head Bitches Brew
  • Lagunitas Brown Shugga
  • Flying Dog Single Hop Series Citra
  • Unibroue Terrible
  • Bayerischer Bahnhof Brett Lambicus Berliner
  • Sierra Estate Hop
  • Mongo
  • Uinta Dubhe Imperial Black IPA
  • Alaskan Smoked Porter
  • … the list goes on with Sculpin and a few other favorites

Benefit for Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose

For those that frequent the San Jose Harry’s Hofbrau, Kevin was quick to point out an “awesome” tidbit about the transfer of beers that only make it to the Redwood City Harry’s Hofbrau. “For example, the Dogfish event we just had at San Jose, we poured Positive Contact which wasn’t distributed to the South. Just to the North. Therefore, we were the only ones in San Jose to get it… We can bring something different to the table in San Jose.”

Speaking of the San Jose location, a Facebook update made yesterday listed upcoming pint nights:

  • Thurs., Oct. 18, 2012: Widmer Okto and 1/2L steins with discounted refills
  • Thurs., Oct. 25, 2012: Schneiderweiss Oktoberfest takeover with steins
  • Thurs., Nov. 1, 2012: TBD
  • Thurs., Nov. 8, 2012: Heretic Brewing’s head brewer Jamil will make an appearance with multiple taps
  • Thurs., Nov. 15, 2012: Lagunitas takeover mason jar event
  • Thurs., Nov. 22, 2012: Sierra Norwhal Imperial Stout, Barrel-Aged Ovila, Estate

Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose – 390 Saratoga Avenue, 408-243-0434

Harry’s Hofbrau in Redwood City – 1909 El Camino Real, 650-366-3733

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

A Brief History of Craft Beer in the South Bay

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

It was the second annual Meet the Brewers beer festival held in Feb. 2011 at San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company that provided 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 about their beers – many of whom were the actual brewers – I opted next for unfamiliar-to-me beer styles.

The Uncommon Brewers organic brown ale had flavors of roasted barley and pleasant, light bitterness. Seabright Brewery’s oatmeal stout poured black and smooth with flavors suggesting dark chocolate. Finally, there was the Faultine Brewery porter, a dark beer that smelled and tasted of roasted coffee beans.

The beers were tasty and 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 its wide range of 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, would become a passion as I started blogging and writing about the local beer scene.

Local Craft Beer Boom

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

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

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

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

Craft Beer Movement and the South Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History and Emergence of the South Bay Beer Scene: Breweries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craft Beer Bars and More

Moving along the local craft beer landscape, every beer region has its share of go-to hangouts for good beer. Since last year, Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose has become a destination for the South Bay craft beer community.

General manager Kevin Olcese has earned a solid reputation for his beer knowledge and passion, for bringing in hard-to-get beers on tap, and for informing customers via Facebook of the latest beer arrivals.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In downtown San Jose, Ryan Summers opened Good Karma Vegan Café in 2006 and has worked quietly yet diligently on bringing and maintaining a quality rotating craft beer selection – currently 15 beers on tap – for Good Karma’s loyal following.

According to Summers, the new beer-centric establishments will “create a draw for everybody and help us take the customer experience even further as each of us continues to think about how to stand out.”

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

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

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

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

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

South Bay Craft Beer Scene Going Forward

Having been born and raised in San Jose (and still living here), I have seen various communities spring up over the years, communities bonded by a myriad of cultural facets, like art, music, food, sports and technology.

We can now include the craft beer community.

Co-owner Dan Phan of Original Gravity Public House notes, “Beer is the universal beverage that has been bringing people together on common ground for thousands of years.”

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

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

Indeed, many folks, including Dan Gordon, have felt the momentum for good beer building in the South Bay ever since the 80s and 90s.

Fast forward to today, and there is no doubting the momentum.

Notable Bay Area beer editor and writer Mike Pitsker agrees that the South Bay beer scene is on the up-and-up.

And brewer Steve Donohue adds the capstone comment, “We’re just scratching the surface.”

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

Highlights of the South Bay Brewmasters Dinner at California Cafe Palo Alto

California Cafe Palo Alto hosts South Bay Brewmasters dinner
California Cafe Palo Alto hosts South Bay Brewmasters dinner

Last year, the monthly series of food and beer dinner events hosted by Palo Alto’s California Cafe were their most popular events.

This year’s series of food and beer dinners started off with a big bang with last month’s South Bay Brewmasters Dinner featuring five breweries held on Thurs., Feb. 16, 2012 as part of SF Beer Week, where two beers were paired with each course of the five-course dinner.

Beer ingredients, including barley, grains, hops, yeast, and water
Beer ingredients, including barley, grains, hops, yeast, and water

The dinner began with the head brewers of the five participating breweries taking turns introducing themselves and expounding on the beer philosophy of making good beer. They were Steve Donohue of Firehouse Grill & Brewery, Kent Wheat of Los Gatos Brewing Company, Drew Ehrlich of Strike Brewing Co., Peter Licht of Tied House/Hermitage Brewing, and Kasim Syed of Palo Alto Brewing.

The brewers were situated in four centrally located tables in the main dining area of the restaurant, providing a further treat for those diners also seated at these particular tables.

Accompanying the first course of pan seared snapper with lobster dumpling and curried lobster broth was Strike Brewing Co.’s Blonde and Los Gatos Brewing Company’s Lexington Lager Czech Pilsener.

1st course - pan seared snapper, lobster dumpling, curried lobster broth with Strike Brewing Blonde and Los Gatos Brewing Lexington Lager Czech Pilsener
1st course – pan seared snapper, lobster dumpling, curried lobster broth with Strike Brewing Blonde and Los Gatos Brewing Lexington Lager Czech Pilsener

The second course, a trio of rabbit consisting of stuffed saddle, herbed loin and seared rack, and truffled gnocchi (natural jus), was paired with Strike Brewing Co.’s Brown and Los Gatos Brewing Company’s El Gatoberfest.

2nd course - trio of rabbit, stuffed saddle, herbed loin, seared rack, truffled gnocchi (natural jus) with Strike Brown and Los Gatos Brewing El Gatoberfest
2nd course – trio of rabbit, stuffed saddle, herbed loin, seared rack, truffled gnocchi (natural jus) with Strike Brown and Los Gatos Brewing El Gatoberfest

The third course, braised veal breast with parsnip puree and roasted chanterelles, was paired with Tied House/Hermitage Brewing’s Hop X and Palo Alto Brewing Co.’s “Atlas” Double IPA and prompted the possibly rhetorical question for craft beer enthusiasts, “Does anything NOT go with a good hoppy beer?”

3rd course - braised veal breast, parsnip puree, roasted chanterelles with Tied House/Hermitage Brewing's Hop X and Palo Alto Brewing Atlas Double IPA
3rd course – braised veal breast, parsnip puree, roasted chanterelles with Tied House/Hermitage Brewing’s Hop X and Palo Alto Brewing Atlas Double IPA

The fourth course was the favorite among many – sous vide bison with celery root-horseradish puree and braised fennel. This course was paired with Firehouse Brewery’s One Tun Imperial Stout (OTIS) and Tied House/Hermitage Brewing’s Ale of the 2 Tun Imperial Stout.

4th course - sous vide bison, celery root-horseradish puree, braised fennel & Firehouse One Tun Imperial Stout (OTIS), Hermitage Ale of the 2 Tun Imperial Stout
4th course – sous vide bison, celery root-horseradish puree, braised fennel & Firehouse One Tun Imperial Stout (OTIS), Hermitage Ale of the 2 Tun Imperial Stout

The last course of the evening was the dessert course, apricot semifreddo with guava & ginger, which was paired with Firehouse Brewery’s Hops on Rye India Pale Ale and Palo Alto Brewing Co.’s Nice Lacing Rye IPA. Whereas the hoppy beers from the third course might have been expected to pair well with the savory course, a number of folks were surprised with the effectiveness of these dessert and rye beer pairings, which again begged the question, “Does anything NOT go with a good, hoppy beer?”

Dessert course - apricot semifreddo, guava & ginger with Firehouse Brewery's Hops on Rye India Pale Ale and Palo Alto Brewing Nice Lacing Rye IPA
Dessert course – apricot semifreddo, guava & ginger with Firehouse Brewery’s Hops on Rye India Pale Ale and Palo Alto Brewing Nice Lacing Rye IPA

The dessert course also provided a comic relief to the evening. Many did not blink an eye when the apricot semifreddo came with chopsticks instead of spoons. Though unusual, many likely presumed that the chopsticks signified a playful end to the evening. However, diners learned to their amusement that spoons indeed were to be distributed with the dessert course and that a miscommunication caused chopsticks to be distributed instead.

No matter, for the South Bay brewmasters dinner was a successful one. The driving forces behind its success were once again Executive Chef Mark Pettyjohn and his staff (see previous article), as well as General Manager Andre’ Hall and his team.

Executive Chef Mark Pettyjohn and Sous Chef Madison Montoto
Executive Chef Mark Pettyjohn and Sous Chef Madison Montoto

A similar event was held last year during SF Beer Week, and Chef Mark thanked Peter Estaniel from the BetterBeerBlog (for his comprehensive recap of this dinner, click here) for passing on the idea of pairing a course with two beers instead of just one. Indeed, having two beers for each course provided greater opportunities for both craft beer novices and enthusiasts alike to find their appreciation points in the respective food and beer combinations.

Chef Mark shared that there were about 35 more people at this year’s event compared to last year’s event, which was also successful by all accounts. A number of folks who attended this year’s event have already stated that they cannot wait for next year’s, which is a testament to the California Cafe staff who work diligently to provide a VIP experience for all their guests.

Kent Wheat of Los Gatos Brewing (left), and Strike Brewing team Drew Ehrlich (front), Jenny Lewis (right), and Ben Lewis
Kent Wheat of Los Gatos Brewing (left), and Strike Brewing team Drew Ehrlich (front), Jenny Lewis (right), and Ben Lewis
Steve Donohue of Firehouse Brewery visiting with some of the Tied House/Hermitage Brewing team
Steve Donohue of Firehouse Brewery visiting with some of the Tied House/Hermitage Brewing team
Steve Donohue of Firehouse Brewery chatting with Peter Licht of Tied House/Hermitage Brewing
Steve Donohue of Firehouse Brewery chatting with Peter Licht of Tied House/Hermitage Brewing
Peter Licht of Tied House/Hermitage and Jason Gutierrez of Firehouse Brewery enjoying the evening
Peter Licht of Tied House/Hermitage and Jason Gutierrez of Firehouse Brewery enjoying the evening
Guests enjoying the sold-out beer and food pairing event
Guests enjoying the sold-out beer and food pairing event
Guests enjoying the sold-out beer dinner
Guests enjoying the sold-out beer dinner

The next two brewmasters dinners at California Cafe Palo Alto have been announced: Moylan’s Brewmasters Dinner on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 6:30 p.m. and Triple Voodoo Brewmasters Dinner on April 26, 2012. As these special dinners will undoubtedly sell out, call 650-325-2233 to make your reservations as soon as possible.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]