Tag Archives: Kevin Olcese

Scenes from the 2nd Annual IPA Day Event at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose

Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose held their IPA Day event this year once again on the last day of SF Beer Week, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013. And like last year, I was able to find some time to check it out.

Here are some pics:

The beer menu and finalized tap list – curated by general manager Kevin Olcese per the usual – was posted on their Facebook page the day before the event:

Russian River – Pliny the Younger
Drakes – Black Label Hopocalypse
Russian River – Pliney the Elder
Drakes – White Label Hopocalypse
Fifty-Fifty brewing – S.S. Steiner experimental IPA
Dogfish Head – 120 Minute IPA
Deschutes – Hop Henge experimental IPA
Green Flash – Palate Wrecker DIPA
101 – North brewing- Heroin IPA
Tap It brewing – IPA (GABF GOLD Medal Winnrer!)
Stone and Drakes collaboration – 1/4 century problems
The Brewery Abigaile – DIPA
Sierra Nevada Collaboration – Hop Harmony
Newport Brewing – straight outta Newport IPA
Knee Deep and Boulder collaboration – Shakenbake Rye.P.A
Sea Bright Brewing – The Blur DIPA
Lagunitas – Maximus
Almanac – Single Origin Chinook IPA
Karl Strauss – Tower 20 DIPA
Firestone Walker – Double Jack
Mission Brewing – Shipwrecked DIPA
Uinta – Detour DIPA
Ballast Point – Big Eye (NITRO)
Coronado Brewing – Islander IPA
STONE – Ruination
Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery – Organic IPA
Port Brewing – Mongo DIPA
Firestone Walker – Wookey Jack Black Rye.P.A
Ballast Point – Sculpin
Dogfish Head – 90 minute IPA
Widmer Brothers – Falconers IPA
Ninkasi – Tricerahops
Hermitage – Single-hop Galaxy
Devil’s Canyon – California Sunshine IPA

The allotment of Russian River’s Triple IPA Pliny the Younger was long gone by the time I arrived, but there was quite a bit of Drake’s Triple IPA Hopocalypse Black Label still available, which was more than fine by me.

It was great seeing friend and craft/specialty brand manager for DBI Beverage of San Jose Greg Sonick providing expert hospitality.

Had a very nice chat with Silicon Valley Sudzers homebrew club members Derek, Keith, and Tom.

It was about mid-afternoon, and there was a full house at Harry’s.

Enjoyed hanging out with friend Kregg.

From left to right: Drake’s Hopocalypse DIPA White Label, Drake’s Hopocalypse Black Label, Almanac Single Origin Chinook IPA, and Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA.

Boulder Beer Co. Shakenbake Rye IPA Collaboration Brew with Knee Deep Brewing Co.

Hats off to Harry’s bar manager Jeremy and his team.

By all accounts, this was another awesome event.

Cheers!

~Andy

Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose Excited for SF Beer Week 2013

Kevin Olcese, general manager of Harry's Hofbrau
Kevin Olcese, general manager of Harry’s Hofbrau

The 2012 SF Beer Week in February of last year helped to put Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose on the South Bay craft beer map in a major way with a number of memorable events, including the culminating IPA Day featuring Pliny the Younger. Fast forward to today, and their Thursday Pint Night events continue to attract many beer fans throughout the valley.

Actually, the combination of ample space, hearty food, knowledgeable pourers, and the passion and determination that Harry’s Hofbrau general manager Kevin Olcese has for bringing in good beer all make Harry’s Hofbrau a go-to San Jose beer spot any day of the week.

Kevin is particularly excited for the fast approaching 2013 SF Beer Week, which takes place Feb. 8-17. He shares, “We are planning similar events to last year but bigger this year with a few new faces! I hope the events live up to expectations.”

There are currently several Harry’s Hofbrau events listed for the South Bay region on the SF Beer Week website schedule page, but there are the following updates. The Deschutes event has since fallen through, but Kevin has confirmed the Stone Brewing and Ballast Point events:

Wed., Feb. 13, 2013, 6 p.m. – 11 p.m.: Stone Brewing 28 Tap Takeover. This is the listed description: “Did we say 28?! Yes. Every tap in the house will be a special brew from our friends at Stone Brewing. Double dry hopped? Barrel-aged? Collabs? Who knows?! But we can assure, this is going to be awesome! Also on hand will be the man who wrote the book IPA, Mitch Steele, to meet and talk brewing!”

Sat., Feb. 16, 2013, 6 p.m. – 11 p.m.: Barrel-Aged, Rare, and Favorites from Ballast Point. The listed description states: “We loved this event last year, and this one is sure to be even better! Different barrel aging/variations on Victory at Sea, variations on Sculpin, and few other rarities. Meet the guys from the brewery as well!”

With Kevin’s track record, Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose will very likely surpass expectations and serve as a craft beer oasis during SF Beer Week 2013, especially with the following information just received from him:

Look for a rare beers night from Dogfish Head on Sat., Feb. 9, 2013.

Expect a The Bruery tap takeover with the brewer on hand on Tues., Feb. 12, 2013

A Firestone Walker event with brewmaster Matt Brynildson is set for Fri., Feb. 15, 2013.

The annual IPA event with 28 IPAs on tap featuring Pliny the Younger (with more this year than last year) is scheduled to wrap up the South Bay’s SF Beer Week run on Sun., Feb. 17.

Better start marking your calendars right now.

As events and beer lineups may sometimes change, please check with the host establishment directly if you are extra excited about a particular event and/or beer during SF Beer Week.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

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.]

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.]

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 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.

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 and says, “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. 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 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.”

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

Indeed, 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.”

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 doubt about that 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 – also without the pictures – was shared as the cover story in the annual beer issue for Metro Silicon Valley.]



San Jose Area Beer News and Events: July 16-22, 2012

Widmer Brothers beer event at a recent pint night at Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
Widmer Brothers beer event at a recent pint night at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose

The following is a collection of recent San Jose area beer news and a list of craft beer events in San Jose and the greater South Bay for the upcoming week and beyond. As events may change from time to time, please do check with the establishment directly, especially if you are extra excited about a particular event.

Recent beer news

  • Check out the recent articles on Bobby’s Liquors (the South Bay’s premier bottle shop for hard-to-get bottled beers) featuring the soon-to-open ISO: Beers craft beer bar and tasting lounge, as well as the upcoming Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012.

Beer events this upcoming week

  • Mon., July 16, 2012, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.: San Jose’s Wine Affairs features Belgian beers to help kick off Belgian independence week. 1435 The Alameda, 408-977-0111.
  • Tues., June 17, 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., July 18, 2012, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Catch live music and good beer at Poor House Bistro with “Blues & $2 Brews” featuring Napa Smith Brewing Co. 91 South Autumn Street, 408-292-5837.
  • Wed., July 18, 2012, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.: A Perfect Finish Wine Bar beer tasting event in honor of the Summer Kraft Brew Beer Fest. 55 South First Street, 408-288-6000.
Widmer Brothers beer event at a recent pint night at Harry's Hofbrau
Widmer Brothers beer event at a recent pint night at Harry’s Hofbrau
  • Fri., July 20, 2012: BevMo! stores host weekly Beer Tasting events on Fridays. Check your local BevMo! store for details.
  • Sat., July 21, 2012, 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.: The Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012 will take place in downtown San Jose on Post Street between Market and South First Streets.

Looking ahead: Save the date

  • Wed., July 25, 2012, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.: Catch live music and good beer at Poor House Bistro with “Blues & $2 Brews” featuring Palo Alto Brewing Co. 91 South Autumn Street, 408-292-5837.
  • Sat., July 28, 2012, 12:30 p.m. – 5 p.m.: California Beer Festival takes place in Santa Cruz and features a number of South Bay brewing companies.
  • Sat., July 28, 2012, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.: Bay Area Brew Festival will take place in San Francisco’s Fort Mason and will feature a number of South Bay brews.
  • Sat., Aug. 11, 2012, 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.: SJ Beerwalk takes place in downtown Campbell.
Mike McKee of Widmer Brothers at a recent Widmer pint night at Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
Mike McKee of Widmer Brothers at a recent Widmer pint night at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose
San Jose beer fans Carlos and Gary at a recent Widmer pint night at Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
San Jose beer fans Carlos and Gary at a recent Widmer pint night at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose
San Jose beer enthusiasts (left to right) Joe, Russ, David, and Antony at a recent Widmer pint night at Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
San Jose beer enthusiasts (left to right) Joe, Russ, David, and Antony at a recent Widmer pint night at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose
San Jose beer fans Noreen and Jim at a recent Widmer pint night at Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
San Jose beer fans Noreen and Jim at a recent Widmer pint night at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose
The spotlight shines on general manager Kevin Olcese at a recent Widmer pint night at Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
The spotlight shines on general manager Kevin Olcese at a recent Widmer pint night at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose Takes on the Most Bitter Beer Bar Challenge

Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose takes on the Most Bitter Beer Bar Challenge
Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose takes on the Most Bitter Beer Bar Challenge

Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose made huge waves in the local craft beer scene during S.F. Beer Week earlier this year, culminating with a very popular IPA Day that featured Pliny the Younger for those who arrived early enough. Since then, Harry’s has continued to serve as a go-to location for good beer in the South Bay.

Now, general manager Kevin Olcese, in his low-key yet direct style, has called on all IPA fans to represent San Jose and the greater South Bay in Stone Brewing’s Most Bitter Beer Bar Challenge.

General manager Kevin Olcese of Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose ready to take on the Most Bitter Beer Bar Challenge (photo taken on IPA Day during SF Beer Week)
General manager Kevin Olcese of Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose ready to take on the Most Bitter Beer Bar Challenge (photo taken on IPA Day during SF Beer Week)

Starting Friday, June 8, 2012 until Sunday, June 17, 2012, South Bay beer fans can help Harry’s achieve “Most Bitter Bar” status by visiting Harry’s and ordering among the following Stone beers:

  • Stone IPA
  • Stone Cali-Belgique IPA
  • Stone Ruination IPA
  • Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale
  • (and any of the dry hopped or double dry hopped versions of these beers)

The bar that pours the most of these hop-focused beers throughout the 10 days wins “the undying glory of being named ‘Most Bitter Bar’ for a period of one year.”

Of particular note, especially for the many fans of Ruination IPA, is that Harry’s Hofbrau as a result of their participation in this challenge, will receive a keg of the Stone Ruination Tenth Anniversary IPA that will be tapped at a yet-to-be-disclosed day and time. This version of Ruination comes in at 10.8% and is double dry hopped with 2 pounds of citra and centennial hops per barrel.

Kevin says, “Since this is their 10th year making Ruination, it’s quite special. This beer is supposed to be epic. This is Stone’s Pliny the Younger if you will, and I can’t wait to try it.”

The “Most Bitter Bar” designation sounds good enough, but Kevin adds, “Can you imagine how surprised everyone would be if a bar from San Jose won this thing? Breweries would really start taking us seriously here.”

Indeed, Harry’s success would be a great marker for San Jose and the South Bay’s continuing march towards capturing craft beer credibility and becoming a legitimate beer city and region.

The entrance to Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
The entrance to Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose
Prost! from Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
Prost! from Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose
Inside Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
Inside Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose
Jeremy Eseroma of Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
Jeremy Eseroma of Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose
Kevin Olcese of Harry's Hofbrau (photo during SF Beer Week this past February)
Kevin Olcese of Harry’s Hofbrau (photo during SF Beer Week this past February)

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

Upcoming Harry’s Hofbrau Pint Nights and Strike Brewing IPA and Imperial Red

General Manager Kevin Olcese of Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
General Manager Kevin Olcese of Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose

South Bay craft beer fans can now pencil in their plans for the next six Thursday evenings, as Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose released their Pint Night schedule yesterday on their Facebook page. Many of the featured beers are limited, and continued hats off to General Manager Kevin Olcese for coordinating these Pint Nights.

  • Thursday, May 10, 2012: Stone Brewing takeover (Double Dry Hopped Ruination, Vanilla Bean Smoked Porter)
  • Thursday, May 17, 2012: Hop 15 from Port Brewing (11% IPA very limited)
  • Thursday, May 24, 2012: Evil Twin Brewing Biscotti Break Imperial Porter
  • Thursday, May 31, 2012: Stillwater Brewing Stateside Saison
  • Thursday, June 7, 2012: Midnight Sun Brewing Panty Peeler Tripel
  • Thursday, June 14, 2012: One-Year Aged Uinta XV Barleywine (aged here)

South Bay beer fans might also want to make note of Wednesday, May 23, 2012; that is when Strike Brewing Company‘s first set of non-session beers will land on store shelves.

Strike Brewing Brewmaster Drew Ehrlich
Strike Brewing Brewmaster Drew Ehrlich

As Strike brewing announced yesterday (also through their Facebook page), “The first batches of IPA and Imperial Red have hit the tanks… It looks like the IPA will be around 5.5% and the Imperial Red will be about 6.5%, so these won’t be part of the Session Series. We will continue to have our Blonde, Wit and Brown all year long and the Porter will be back in the winter… and there are lots more session beers we’ll be adding in the future!”

Those that have had a tasting of the first test batches can attest to the great flavors of the Strike brewing IPA and Imperial Red. These two beers are sure to be instant hits.

Thumbs up to the test batch of Strike Brewing IPA
Thumbs up to the test batch of Strike Brewing IPA
Another thumbs up to the test batch of Strike Brewing Imperial Red
Another thumbs up to the test batch of Strike Brewing Imperial Red

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

Highlights of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

Outdoor area of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Outdoor area of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

The Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012, organized by Naglee Park Garage owners Chris Esparza, Louis Silva, and Brendan Rawson along with the Giant Creative Services team, took place on Sat., Jan. 28, 2012.

This beer festival, scheduled so early in the year, was an indicator that 2012 could be a very good year for San Jose craft beer enthusiasts. Well before the 3 p.m. start time, a long line had already formed outside the entrance to the Landmark Ballroom at the San Jose Women’s Club, stretching a number of blocks down 11th Street.

The front of the line at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
The front of the line at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Eager attendees waiting in line
Eager attendees waiting in line

This was the second of the KraftBrew beer festivals, the first one taking place at the same location in April 2011. The attendance at the inaugural KraftBrew Beer Fest was excellent, but the turnout for this Beer Fest seemed to dwarf the attendance at the inaugural event.

Also, though last year’s festival was organized and well run, the four main parts of the beerfest – the food, music, beer education station, and the pouring stations – were fine-tuned just that much more this second time around.

More than a few folks, deterred by the long line, decided to go elsewhere. But once inside, most if not all festival goers had the pleasure of enjoying good food, music, and beer.

Of note was the growing involvement of the South Bay craft beer community, including Faultline Brewery and Kelly’s Liquors.

Many already know that good music and beer make for a great experience. Add to the combination a community that is thirsty for good beer, and something even better is bound to occur. Such was the case at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012.

The next Kraftbrew Beer Fest

Soon after the January 2012 KraftBrew Beer Fest took place, the date for the Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest was announced for Sat., July 21, 2012 at a larger, outdoor space in downtown San Jose. For updates, like the KraftBrew Beer Fest Facebook page and be sure to check out the Naglee Park Garage website on an ongoing basis.

More pics from the Winter Kraftbrew Beer Fest below.

Peter Estaniel (left) of BetterBeerBlog.com and Andrea Lee of San Jose at Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Peter Estaniel (left) of BetterBeerBlog.com and Andrea Lee of San Jose at Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Already a large crowd at the beginning of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Already a large crowd at the beginning of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Pouring stations at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Pouring stations at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Kelly's Liquors and Faultline Brewery at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Kelly’s Liquors and Faultline Brewery at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

Fun times at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

The outdoor area of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
The outdoor area of the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

Great turnout at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

Waiting for a pour at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

Mrs. and Mr. BetterBeerBlog and Kevin Olcese of Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012
Mrs. and Mr. BetterBeerBlog and Kevin Olcese of Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose at the Winter KraftBrew Beer Fest 2012

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

Highlights of the San Jose IPA Day with Pliny the Younger at Harry’s Hofbrau

Long lines at the IPA beer event at Harry's Hofbrau San Jose
Long lines at the IPA beer event at Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose

The last SF Beer Week event held by San Jose’s Harry’s Hofbrau last month on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012 was an IPA beerfest. Based on the overwhelming turnout, this capstone event certainly cemented Harry’s status as a bona fide San Jose craft beer establishment.

Lines stretching down the hallways of Harry's Hofbrau San Jose
Lines stretching down the hallways of Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose

Russian River Brewing Company’s elusively popular triple IPA, Pliny the Younger, known in some circles as the best beer in the world, was the main draw to this event. Scheduled to be tapped at 3 p.m., lines formed outside the restaurant as early as 10 a.m.

Pliny the Younger presale ticket at Harry's Hofbrau San Jose
Pliny the Younger presale ticket at Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose
Pouring the first round of Pliny the Younger at Harry's Hofbrau San Jose
Pouring the first round of Pliny the Younger at Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose
The first round of Pliny the Younger at Harry's Hofbrau San Jose
The first round of Pliny the Younger at Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose
The first round of Pliny the Younger about ready to be distributed
The first round of Pliny the Younger about ready to be distributed
Pliny the Younger at the IPA beerfest at Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose
Pliny the Younger at the IPA beerfest at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose

Yes, there were many disappointed beer drinkers without a Pliny the Younger drink ticket, but with 27 different IPAs on tap for this event, there was plenty of opportunity to try other well regarded IPAs and DIPAs, including:

  • Pliny the Elder (Russian River Brewing)
  • Hopocalypse (Drake’s)
  • Double Jack (Firestone Walker)
  • Tricerahops DIPA (Ninkasi)
  • 90 Minute (Dogfish Head)
  • Sculpin (Ballast Point)
  • Ruination (Stone)
  • Hop Stoopid (Lagunitas)
  • Fusion 7 (Lagunitas)
  • Hops on Rye (Firehouse Grill & Brewery)
  • Atlas DIPA (Palo Alto Brewing)
  • Hop Henge Experimental (Deschutes)
  • Inversion (Deschutes)
  • Retribution (High Water Brewing)
  • Mongo DIPA (Port Brewing/Pizza Port)
  • Green Flash Imperial
  • Le Freak (Green Flash)
  • Hop Craic XXXXIPA (Moylan’s)
  • Mach 10 (Bear Republic)
  • Shipwrecked (Mission Brewery)
  • Centennial Hop (Flying Dog)
  • Raging Bitch (Flying Dog)

Just before the start of last month’s SF Beer Week, general manager Kevin Olcese had high hopes of enticing both craft beer enthusiasts as well as those new to craft beer to his carefully planned Beer Week events. To his delight, the subsequent turnout surpassed even his expectations.

Peter Estaniel of BetterBeerBlog.com enjoying Pliny the Younger at Harry's Hofbrau San Jose
Peter Estaniel of BetterBeerBlog.com enjoying Pliny the Younger at Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose
A craft beer enthusiast (yours truly) overanalyzing Pliny the Younger at Harry's Hofbrau San Jose
A craft beer enthusiast (yours truly) overanalyzing Pliny the Younger at Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose
Long lines all day at the IPA event at Harry's Hofbrau San Jose
Long lines all day at the IPA event at Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose
General manager Kevin Olcese of Harry's Hofbrau San Jose
General manager Kevin Olcese of Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose

For the latest updates on Harry’s Hofbrau Thursday pint night special, like the Harry’s Hofbrau San Jose Facebook page. Also, Harry’s Hofbrau recently created a BeerMenus.com page to update their draft and bottle lists on an ongoing basis.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]