There’ll be 30+ breweries, all within 150 miles of San Jose, plus live music and mobile eats.
I’ve had the good fortune of attending most of the previous Meet the Brewers beer fests and have greatly enjoyed each of them thanks to the good beers, good food, excellent organization and great people and vibe.
I’ll post again with additional info., including the names of the participating breweries, as such information becomes available.
The annual Meet the Brewers beer festival – held at San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company (1627 S. 7th St.) – is a marquee SF Beer Week event that showcases and celebrates the local brewing community. This year’s Meet the Brewers beer fest marks its seventh year and takes place Sat., Jan. 30 from 1pm-5pm. With more available space, this year’s festival will be the biggest one yet, with over 30 participating breweries.
For those new to craft beer, Meet the Brewers provides a festive environment to enjoy and learn about different beer styles, meet the brewers who make them and experience the vibe of the South Bay beer scene. There will be live music, SJ Made artisan vendors and mobile eats courtesy of Brother Baby’s BBQ, Gow Chow and Hoshi on the Go.
The festival is family friendly and has consistently run smoothly thanks to the coordination efforts of Carolyn Hopkins-Vasquez, marketing director for Hermitage and Tied House, and her event team. In a previous Q&A post from 2012, Carolyn and Peter Estaniel discussed the origins of the Meet the Brewers beer festival.
Meet the Brewers also welcomes select breweries from neighboring communities like the Peninsula, Monterey, Santa Cruz and the East Bay. The following breweries have confirmed their participation at this year’s event:
Almanac Beer Co.
Alvarado Street Brewing
Craft Artisan Ales
Half Moon Bay
Palo Alto Brewing
Rabbit’s Foot/ Red Branch
Rock Bottom, Campbell
San Jose Cooperative Brewery
Santa Clara Valley Brewing
South City Cider
Tickets are $40 and as in past years, proceeds benefit Can Do MS and The Bay Brewers Guild. This year’s sponsors include Caliva, Eureka! Restaurant Group, Beer Snobiety, Yelp and LYFT. In addition to their own booth, the affable folks from Beer Snobiety will be in charge of raffles and prizes to take place throughout the afternoon.
Recently announced was the first wave of scheduled beer events for the 2014 edition of SF Beer Week presented by the San Francisco Brewers Guild, set to take place from Fri., Feb. 7 to Sun., Feb. 16. Expect many more South Bay events to be listed in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, be sure to consider the following popular events:
San Jose Beerwalk in San Jose
[Note: Purchase ticketsbefore midnight on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, to save $5 on the $30 tickets. Enter discount code: stockingstuffer.]
The Beerwalk is hitting the streets of Japantown San Jose again for SF Beer Week on Sat., Feb. 8, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Whether you attended any Beerwalks previously, this event is a great way to kick off SF Beer Week.
Tucked away minutes from Downtown San Jose sits the charming Japantown business district. Stroll the streets and discover all the unique boutique shops, art studios, and great restaurants you cannot find anywhere else in San Jose. All while sipping on great beers and enjoying the social enthusiasm of shopkeepers and beer lovers alike.
The Beerwalk was created around more than the idea of sampling great beers, but rather to provide the outlet for our community to come together to explore the neighborhoods and small businesses which help make San Jose the great city it is today.
Tickets can be purchased in advance for $30 at Jack’s Bar & Lounge or online at www.thebeerwalk.com. In the case the event does not sell out, tickets can be purchased day of for $35. Ticket includes beer samples, custom glass, and passport. Plus, first 60 folks to check-in the day of the event receive complimentary tours at the Gordon Biersch Brewery and Bottling facility.
Check-in registration begins at noon. For more information, visit www.thebeerwalk.com or like us on Facebook at The Beerwalk. To benefit the Japantown Business Association (JBA) & The Bay Brewers Guild.
Meet the Brewers Beer Festival
[Note: Early bird tickets are currently on sale for $30 dollars (reflecting $5 off) until January 1, 2014.]
Tied House Brewing and Hermitage Brewing Company (HBC) will host the fifth annual Meet the Brewers beerfest on Sat., Feb. 15 at San Jose’s Hermitage Brewery (1627 S. 7th Street, San Jose) from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., featuring a variety of Bay Area food trucks and over fifteen breweries from the South Bay, Peninsula, and Monterey Bay Area.
Here is a current list of participating breweries:
Rabbits Foot Meadery/ Red Branch Cider
Los Gatos Brewing Company
Santa Clara Valley Brewing
The Rare Barrel
More from a recent press release:
2014 marks the 5th Annual Meet the Brewers beer festival. Join us for the best mobile eats paired with the best local breweries from Silicon Valley and Monterey Bay. Proceeds will be donated to Can Do MS, a national non-profit who helps thousands of people living with MS.
Peter Estaniel, Brand Manager for HBC says:
“It’s hard to believe that this will be the fifth year for Meet the Brewers Craft Beer Festival! This event started humbly with a handful of local South Bay breweries, and has quickly grown to include fantastic, small batch breweries from Oakland through Monterey. This is one of the few festivals where craft beer fans will be able to actually meet, and interact, with the men and women behind their favorite craft beers.”
The featured breweries participating in Meet the Brewers 2014 are: Uncommon Brewers, Seabright Brewery, El Toro Brewing, Strike Brewing, Rabbit’s Foot Meadery, Peter B’s Brewpub and more to be announced. Gourmet food trucks will be provided by Moveable Feast.
Carolyn Hopkins-Vasquez, Director of Marketing and Events for HBC says:
“The South Bay and Monterey areas are really experiencing a brewery renaissance, and it’s exciting to be able to showcase these new and up-and-coming businesses. What’s even better is the willingness of all the brewers to put in their time and craft to help us celebrate the South Bay craft beer scene. The Bay Brewers Guild will also host a raffle to raise money for their organization. It’s the Guild’s second year participating and having a brewers’ guild dedicated to this area just proves the brewing community in our area is growing. We look forward to seeing what another five years brings for both the festival and the Guild.”
Sunnyvale’s Faultline Brewing Company Doppel Bock and Brown Ale.
Sunnyvale’s Rabbit’s Food Meadery owner Mike Faul and his Red Branch Hard Raspberry Cider and Hard Black Cherry.
San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company brewmaster Peter Licht.
Los Gatos Brewing Company brewmaster Kent Wheat and assistant Kyle Wheat.
Los Gatos Brewing Company Dunkelweizen and Coquettish Blonde.
Sunnyvale’s FireHouse Grill & Brewery.
FireHouse Porter and IPA.
San Jose’s Gordon Biersch Brewery Company brewer Lars (standing directly behind Czech Style Pilsner barrel).
San Leandro’s High Water Brewing Company brewmaster Steve Altimari (center) and Morgan Hill’s El Toro Brewing Company brewmaster Geno Acevedo (right).
El Toro Brewing Company Poppy Jasper and Negro.
The South Bay’s Strike Brewing Company CEO Jenny Lewis and brewmaster Drew Ehrlich.
Strike Brewing Company Blonde and Stout.
Campbell’s Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant brewmaster Russell Clements (right).
Rock Bottom Brewery Raccoon Revival and Brown Bear.
Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company of Belmont.
We were able to get to the beer fest at around the starting time. Here’s what the crowds looked like less than an hour in, which was more crowded than last year’s crowd at about the same time.
The Bay Brewers Guild president Dan Satterthwaite, brewer at Gordon Biersch Brewing Company and founder of hopefully soon-to-open Cedar Street Brewing Company.
Bulgogi burrito with Rock Bottom Raccoon Revival.
Hermitage Brewing Company Special Bitter with Mandarina Bavaria and Simcoe – both on cask.
Hermitage Brewing Company lead brewer Greg Filippi (right).
Drake’s Brewing Company of San Leandro and brewer and production manager John Gillooly.
Santa Cruz’s Uncommon Brewers founder and brewermaster Alec Stefansky (right).
Uncommon Brewers Golden State Ale.
Santa Cruz’s Seabright Brewery assistant brewer Matt.
Seabright Brewery Saison Dumas and Sacrilicious.
High Water Brewing Campfire Stout.
High Water Brewing’s Steve Altimari, Drake Brewing Company’s John Martin, and Hermitage Brewing’s Peter Licht.
Monterey’s Peter B’s Brewpub Chardonnay Stout.
The folks from San Jose’s Jack’s Bar & Lounge arriving – Charlie Mann (left) and Jordan Trigg (right).
Alas, time for us to leave.
Yes, as the pictures suggest, a great time seemed to be had by all. This was the third year in a row that I attended the Meet the Brewers festival. I still remember our first one in 2011 – wifey, the toddler, and I had originally attended because we were really into food trucks at the time, but wifey and I quickly appreciated the various offerings from the local breweries, and we’ve been doing our best to buy local beers ever since then.
Regarding this year’s event, what an extra special treat for me to take the young adult (formerly known as the older kid) – I even think he’s slowly beginning to like IPAs. :)
In addition to trying some beers from the South Bay’s Strike Brewing Co. later this evening at the SF Beer Week opening celebration which is sold out, their website lists where else to find them throughout the week.
Friday, February 8th – SF Beer Week Opening Celebration at the Concourse Exhibition Center in San Francisco.
Saturday, February 9th 2 – 6pm – BeerWalk Japantown. Whether you attended any Beerwalks previously, this event is a great way to kick off SF Beer Week. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $30 at Jack’s Bar & Lounge or online at www.thebeerwalk.com. In the case the event does not sell out tickets can be purchased day of for $38. Registration begins at noon (12pm). Event runs from 2 to 6pm.
Sunday, February 10th at 11am – 4th Annual SF Beer Week Beer Run. 11am run along the Los Gatos Creek Trail, starting and finishing at C.B. Hannegan’s in downtown Los Gatos. This event is free to run in and then there will be beer specials and food following the run.
Monday, February 11th – Pint Night at Buddy’s Bites & Brews in Hayward.
Wednesday, February 13th 6pm – Beer Pairing at Rootstock in Los Gatos.
Saturday, February 16th 12 – 5pm – Meet the Brewers at Hermitage Brewing in San Jose. Get tickets here. The 4th Annual Meet the Brewers Beer Festival is back and better than ever. More breweries, the best food trucks in the Bay, and new additions to festival activities will make this a day to remember. Join us for the biggest San Francisco Beer Week event in Silicon Valley. Stay tuned for brewery and food truck line up, plus exciting updates.
The fifth annual SF Beer Week runs from Fri., Feb. 8, to Sun., Feb. 17, and a record number of events are planned throughout the Bay Area. Among the many South Bay participants are Harry’s Hofbrau, Wine Affairs, Original Gravity Public House, Rose & Crown, Liquid Bread Gastropub, and Hermitage and Strike brewing companies.
Feb. 9, 2-6pm: Beerwalk in Japantown San Jose
Beerwalks, coordinated by Jack’s Bar & Lounge, have proven to be fun adventures. For this Beerwalk, visitors can stroll the streets and visit the local businesses in Japantown while tasting great beer. Tickets are $30 if purchased in advance, and $38 the day of. www.thebeerwalk.com.
Feb. 10, 11am-2pm: SF Beer Week Beer Run
Get in a run, and enjoy some Strike Brewing beers afterward at C.B. Hannegan’s in Los Gatos. www.beer-runner.blogspot.com.
Feb. 11, 4:30-10pm: Lagunitas Craft ‘Beerds’ Night
The folks at Wine Affairs in San Jose host a facial-hair-themed good time with sudsy offerings from Lagunitas.
Feb. 12, 6-8pm: Scott’s Seafood Mountain View Brewmaster Dinner
The evening features a four-course meal with beers from Hermitage Brewing. Tickets are $45, excluding tax and tip, and reservations are required.
Feb. 13, 11:30-1am: Pliny the Younger at Rose & Crown
Palo Alto’s Rose & Crown Pub serves some of the hard-to-find Pliny the Younger from the Russian River Brewing Company.
Feb. 14, noon-11:30pm: Pucker Up! Valentine’s Day Sour Tap Takeover
Try up to 15 sour beers at Original Gravity in downtown San Jose.
Feb. 15: Firestone Walker Presents the Roots of XVI
Scheduled to make appearances for this event at Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose are current brewmaster Matt Brynildson and the original brewmaster Jeffers Richardson.
Feb. 16, noon-5pm: Meet the Brewers Beer Festival
At the Fourth Annual edition of the festival, at Hermitage Brewing in San Jose, sample beers from South Bay and nearby breweries and meet many of the brewers. Tickets are $35 if purchased in advance and $40 at the door.
Feb. 17, 11am-3pm: Beer Brunch
Enjoy brunch at Liquid Bread Gastropub in downtown Campbell with Lagunitas beer cocktails.
Expect events to sell out or draw large turnouts-a continuing sign of the demand for good beer in the South Bay.
Established in 2009, San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company has gotten increasingly busy trying to meet the demand for local craft beer – both for their own beers and through their contract brewing services.
Recently, their Ale of the 2Tun Imperial Stout with its smoothness and dark chocolate notes; their Single Hop Series Citra IPA with its signature citrus and hoppy flavors; and their newest Single Hop Series Galaxy IPA with its hoppy citrus and tropical fruit qualities have each attracted a growing fan base.
Hermitage has also been busy of late in preparing for the upcoming SF Beer Week. Participating in a number of events throughout the week, two certainly stand out.
The first is a special brewmaster beer-and-food pairing dinner in partnership with Scott’s Seafood in Mountain View on Tues., Feb. 12 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m, for which Scott’s Seafood executive chef Ramon Nava has created a special four-course menu for $45 not including taxes and gratuity.
Reservations are required for this event and can be made by calling Scott’s Seafood at (650) 966-8124. As space is limited, this event is sure to sell out.
Here is the menu courtesy of the Hermitage website:
Beer: Maltopia Scotch Ale
Course: Smoked salmon, arugula, red onions, capers, and cherry honey vinaigrette
Beer: Galaxy Single Hop IPA
Course: Butter leaf manouri salad, dry cranberries, Asian pears, with orange Champagne vinaigrette
Beer: Ale of the Imp Imperial IPA
Course: Ahi tuna, coconut curry rice, grilled asparagus, sweet soy glaze
Beer: Ale of the 2Tun Russian Imperial Stout
Course: Molten chocolate cake
The second featured Hermitage event during SF Beer Week is the 4th Annual Meet the Brewers beer festival taking place at the Hermitage Brewing Company facility on Sat., Feb. 16 from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
This event is the premier San Jose beer event because of the presence of most, if not all, of the South Bay brewing companies, including the participation of many of the brewers themselves.
The cost is $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Tickets can be purchased online in advance and costs $35; otherwise the cost is $40 at the door while tickets last. But be warned – last year’s event sold out. For additional information, visit the Hermitage event page.
The following is a list of participating breweries courtesy of the Hermitage website:
Proceeds from Meet the Brewers 2013 will go towards Can Do Multiple Sclerosis, a national non-profit organization that provides innovative lifestyle empowerment programs for people living with Multiple Sclerosis.
It was the Feb. 2011 second annual Meet the Brewers beer festival held at San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company that provided me more than just a memorable beer experience. Truth be told, my wife and I had originally gone mainly for the food trucks, but when in Rome…
I tried a refreshing Tied House Brewery wheat beer which served as a prelude to the Campbell Brewing hefeweizen with its pleasant combination of sweetness and bitterness. My wife, who is from Bavaria, heartily approved.
After talking with the pourers – many of whom were the actual brewers – about their beers, I opted for unfamiliar-to-me beer styles next.
The Uncommon Brewers organic brown ale had a flavor profile of roasted nuts and a slight bitterness. Seabright Brewery’s oatmeal stout poured black and smooth with hints of dark chocolate. Finally, there was the Faultine Brewery porter, a dark beer that smelled and tasted of roasted coffee beans.
The beers were tasty; they also paired well with our Korean tacos and burritos that we got from one of the aforementioned food trucks.
We left relatively early and did not sample any more beers from the other breweries, but thanks in large part to this beer festival, I gained a new hobby – to learn more about beer and the wide range of beer styles while checking out the local beer scene.
We began complementing our already existing wine rituals with beer exploration. I’d go online and learn about solid examples of various beer styles and match that information with the selections at nearby stores that sold craft beer.
I stayed up-to-date with Peter Estaniel’s BetterBeerBlog to see if there was anything new going on in the South Bay.
In April 2011, the first KraftBrew Beer Fest – organized by Naglee Park Garage – took place at the historic San Jose Woman’s Club, and we tried a larger selection of different styles of domestic and international beers.
Some beer styles we enjoyed from the first sip (IPA for my wife), while others we grew to appreciate over time (IPA for me).
Events like the Meet the Brewers beer festival and the KraftBrew Beer Fest not only provided opportunities to discover the wide variety of beer styles, but they also showed that there are plenty of folks in the area interested in good beer.
For the next year-and-a-half, our appreciation for beer and the local beer scene would continue to grow, and for me in particular become a passion as I started blogging and writing about the local beer scene.
Local Craft Beer Boom
As recently as late 2008, William Brand wrote that the South Bay was a craft beer desert, but from our ventures out to local beer spots, stores and events, we learned that Brand’s observation was surely evolving.
Beer enthusiasts no longer had to routinely drive at least 45 minutes to try the latest touted, hard-to-get beer. There were establishments that made and carried great beer right here, from Morgan Hill through San Jose to Palo Alto.
We observed first hand the growing demand for – and distribution of – good beer, a relatively recent development according to a number of longer-term South Bay beer fans. The various, possible reasons for why the South Bay was such a latecomer continue to be discussed (and might perhaps be a topic in a future write-up).
Fortunately, such discussions these days often end on a positive note; many beer drinkers throughout the South Bay are enjoying the current craft beer boom and imagining the potential for the local area.
Craft Beer Movement and the South Bay
“Craft beer” – as defined by the Brewers Association – refers to beer made by a “small, independent, and traditional” brewing company. Such definitions illustrate the contrast between local and regional craft beer brewing companies and the giant, macro brewing companies that still dominate the overall beer market.
But according to recent numbers released by the Brewers Association in March, overall beer volume sales are down while the U.S. craft brewing industry continues to grow in volume and dollar sales. More beer drinkers are trying craft beer and learning about the various aspects that make craft beer more compelling compared to macro beer.
This nationwide growth within the craft beer segment reflects the growing interest and demand for craft beer here locally. A number of recent developments highlight the increasing popularity of craft beer within our region – from the popular and successful beer festivals to the growth of local brewing companies like Hermitage and Strike, as well as a new San Jose brewery that is in the works.
The Bay Brewers Guild, a collective of brewers representing the South Bay and nearby Santa Cruz and Monterey areas, continues to take shape, while the spotlight on the beers made at our local brewpubs – and the brewers who make them – grows bigger and brighter.
More establishments are offering craft beer in the South Bay and taking care to ensure that their staff are knowledgeable enough about beer to be able to make just the right recommendation to both beer enthusiasts and newbies alike.
Restaurant James Randall in Los Gatos has joined California Café (both the Palo Alto and Los Gatos locations) in hosting a growing number of beer-and-food-pairing events.
With craft beer’s growing popularity, it’s no surprise that more folks are interested in homebrewing and joining homebrew clubs. “We receive several inquiries a month from new homebrewers… where even just a year ago inquiries were much more infrequent,” says Derek Wolfgram, president of the homebrew club Silicon Valley Sudzers.
And there is a growing list of craft beer-centric businesses that have just opened or are set to open this year.
In downtown San Jose, the list includes craft beer bars Original Gravity Public House and ISO: Beers, and restaurant Blackbird Tavern.
In Campbell, there is Liquid Bread beer bar. In Mountain View, there are Jane’s Beer Store, South Bay’s first specialty beer store, and Steins Beer Garden + Restaurant.
History and Emergence of the South Bay Beer Scene: Breweries
Even hardcore South Bay beer fans might be surprised to learn that the valley had its share of early breweries, as cited in the 1992 book The Bars of Santa Clara County: A Beer Drinker’s Guide to Silicon Valley co-written by Bay Area beer scribe Jay Brooks and Karen Knezevich.
These breweries produced predominantly German-style beers and included Eagle Brewery (San Jose, 1853), Fredericksburg Brewery (San Jose, 1856), and other San Jose breweries opening between 1875 and 1905, including San Jose Brewery, Louis Krumb’s Brewery, and the St. Claire Brewing Company. After breweries such as these closed, there were no local South Bay breweries until the mid-1980s.
Breweries like Winchester Brewery and Palo Alto Brewing Company would come and go, but not before making their impact.
In 1986, Pete Slosberg launched Pete’s Wicked Ales in Mountain View thanks to Palo Alto Brewing Company and Bob Stoddard, of whom Slosberg refers to as “one of the first, true pioneers” in craft brewing.
Stoddard would later open his eponymous Brewhouse & Eatery in Sunnyvale in 1993 (now FireHouse Grill & Brewery) and in Campbell in 2002 (now Campbell Brewing Company/Sonoma Chicken Coop).
Mountain View’s Tied House Brewery opened in 1988, and later in the same year Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch opened the first Gordon Biersch brewery restaurant in Palo Alto.
The second Gordon Biersch opened in downtown San Jose in 1990, replacing a brewpub that had closed in four months, proving in part that South Bay native Gordon – “Born in San Jose. Grew up in Los Altos,” he shares – had a strong case of South Bay pride. Gordon would go on to open a brewery and bottling facility in San Jose in 1997.
Los Gatos Brewing Company opened in 1991 with their downtown San Jose location opening in 2010.
El Toro Brewing Company started in 1992 with the opening of their Morgan Hill brewpub in 2006.
Additional breweries and restaurants would open, including Sunnyvale’s Faultline Brewing Company in 1994.
“We have breweries here in the South Bay that have been around for a while, and it’s nice to see people appreciating beer more,” states Campbell Brewing’s brewmaster Jim Turturici.
Steve Donohue, currently brewing at Hermitage while working on the initial stages of opening Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company in San Jose, asks that people give South Bay breweries a chance and says, “I think they’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
Craft Beer Bars and More
Moving along the local craft beer landscape, every beer region has its share of go-to hangouts for good beer. Since last year, Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose has become a destination for the South Bay craft beer community. General manager Kevin Olcese has earned a solid reputation for his beer knowledge and passion, for bringing in hard-to-get beers on tap, and for informing customers via Facebook of the latest beer arrivals.
Olcese, however, is quick to give credit to Palo Alto’s Rose & Crown Pub and San Jose’s Wine Affairs – “They’re huge,” he simply says – for helping to pave the way in the beer scene, contributing greatly to the American and micro/craft beer knowledge base among local beer drinkers.
Kasim Syed took over the Rose & Crown in 2006 with an immediate goal to bring better quality beers along with beers that other places didn’t have. His second goal was to get people to try these different beers and get his customers to change their tastes. On a moment’s notice, he would drive to Santa Rosa to pick up a single keg of the latest Russian River Brewing Company offering – all to get more people to try different styles of beer.
As for the growing number of local beer spots, Syed says, “It’s not a competition. It’s about giving people choices; there’s more fun with more choices. These are happy times right now.”
Owner Diane Chang-Laurent remembers opening Wine Affairs in November 2007 with only five Belgian beers in bottles. But the customers, including mostly homebrewers at the beginning, would constantly request various beers from particular breweries. The beer focus really took shape in 2009.
Chang-Laurent says, “All the credit goes to the customers. They pushed me, and I listened.” As for the growing number of beer spots opening up in the South Bay, she says, “The more, the better. Plus, competition is always good.”
In downtown San Jose, Ryan Summers opened Good Karma Vegan Café in 2006 and has worked quietly yet diligently on bringing and maintaining a quality rotating craft beer selection – currently 15 beers on tap – for Good Karma’s loyal following. The new beer-centric establishments will “create a draw for everybody and help us take the customer experience even further as each of us continues to think about how to stand out.”
The craft beer focus began in 2008 for Bobby’s Liquors in Santa Clara thanks to Sukhjeev Singh, better known as Dee to his customers. Among the varied bottled craft beers in stock, Bobby’s offers a well-regarded collection of hard-to-get bottled sour ales.
Look for Dee and his wife to open ISO: Beers in downtown San Jose later this fall, which he says is “a beer bar and tasting lounge that will offer about 2,000 refrigerated, bottled craft beers and feature 50 to 60 craft beers on tap starting out.”
San Jose’s Naglee Park Garage and Jack’s Bar & Lounge, while providing respectable craft beer offerings, are coordinating large-scale South Bay beer events, like the Garage’s upcoming Summer KraftBrew Beer Fest (their third KraftBrew installment), taking place in downtown San Jose on Saturday, July 21. Event goers will get to enjoy a variety of beer styles along with great food and music in a festive atmosphere.
The next South Bay Beerwalk hosted by Jack’s (their third beerwalk) takes place in Campbell on Saturday, August 11, providing the opportunity to check out downtown Campbell while sampling beers from Northern California.
South Bay Craft Beer Scene Going Forward
Having been born and raised in San Jose (and still living here), I have seen various communities spring up over the years, communities bonded by a myriad of cultural facets, like art, music, food, sports and technology. We can now include craft beer; co-owner Dan Phan of Original Gravity Public House notes, “Beer is the universal beverage that has been bringing people together on common ground for thousands of years.”
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.]
The 3rd annual South Bay Meet the Brewers beer festival took place last month during SF Beer Week at Hermitage Brewing Company in San Jose. The festival featured local craft beer from 19 breweries. Among the mostly South Bay breweries were the following:
Under the organizational leadership of Tied House/Hermitage Brewing marketing director Carolyn Hopkins-Vasquez, co-hosting with Peter Estaniel from BetterBeerBlog.com, this brewfest was a huge success, not only evidenced by the fact that it was sold out but also by the great time that was had by those in attendance, including brewers, craft beer enthusiasts, and beer novices.
Many brewers participated in pouring their beers and talking with the guests about their creations. They answered questions and shared some interesting background stories about the beers that they were pouring. Undoubtedly, being able to directly interact with the brewers made the event very special.
The brewing community is a collegial one, and such was the case at this festival, with brewers given a chance to catch up with one another as well as try each other’s latest batches.
For craft beer enthusiasts, this beer festival afforded the opportunity to enjoy a number of different, quality beers, including to name a few: Firehouse Hops on Rye IPA (cask) and One Tun Imperial Stout, Tied House/Hermitage Brewing Hop X and Hoptopia, Faultine Weizen Bock wheat ale, Strike Brewing Blonde, Wit, and Brown, El Toro Brewing IPA, and Los Gatos Brewing Mama Cask Elliot ESB (cask). Having the presence of non-South Bay breweries provided the opportunity to experience beers such as Drake’s Hopocalypse DIPA, Peter B’s Blonde Ale dry hopped with whole cone summit hops (cask), and Uncommon Brewers Siamese Twin Ale.
And for craft beer novices, this event provided a great avenue in which to sample a wide variety of beers and learn of which beer styles and breweries were particularly compelling and worth keeping mental notes.
Attendees were able to enjoy delicious food from half a dozen food trucks, which were parked right outside the brewing facility. Since the weather was nice, many enjoyed spending some time outside in between sampling beer. Another welcome sight was the number of families who attended this excellent event.
Both Carolyn and Peter are central figures in helping to support the San Jose and South Bay craft beer scene. Both recently answered some questions pertaining to their South Bay and craft beer connections, thoughts on the San Jose area craft beer scene, and ongoing efforts with the Meet the Brewer Festival. This article is Part 2 and consists of Peter’s answers below. For Part 1 and Carolyn’s responses, click here.
First, what are your personal and/or professional connection to San Jose and the South Bay?
While I wasn’t born in San Jose, I certainly did all my growing up here. All my major life milestones happened in this city, from going to school to getting married, and now to trying to start my own business. It’s all been San Jose. Plus, the majority of my family is in the area making it difficult to want to leave.
Professionally, I earned my degree at San Jose State University and worked for the 3rd largest IT company in the world for several years. That job was my first, and last, job out of college and I’m looking forward to the next phase in my life.
When and where did your passion for craft beer start?
My passion for craft beer started in my late twenties. I was a late bloomer. I initially started homebrewing because I thought it would be fun and that I could make beers cheaper at home. Well, if you’re trying to replicate one of the macro industrial light lagers, it’s cheaper to just buy it. BUT if you’re trying to replicate some of your favorite craft beers, homebrewing is a viable option.
Sierra Nevada was my first, real introduction to craft beer. One night I found myself sitting in a bar and felt the overriding need to order a bitter beer. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was it and I never looked back. I just kept pushing the bitterness threshold from there, and next thing you know, I’m a “hophead.” Chimay Grand Reserve (blue label) was what really got me into Belgian Beers, and I was always a fan of Gordon Biersch beers as well, even before I realized they were considered “craft.”
Peter, for nearly 5 years now and still going strong, you’ve been an observer of, participant in, and advocate for the San Jose area craft beer scene as evidenced by your BetterBeerBlog. What’s your take on the current craft beer scene in the San Jose area? What’s your sense of the history of the craft beer scene in San Jose and the South Bay up to today? How has it changed over the recent years? Where do you see it going?
The current craft beer scene in the greater Silicon Valley is promising. For a long while, the area had the unfortunate designation of being a craft beer desert. This was unfortunate because there are several craft breweries in the area making very good beers that have not received the credit they deserve. The area still has a long way to go but we’re much further along now than we were when I first started “covering” the craft beer scene 5 years ago.
In the near future, I really see the craft beer scene here reaching a tipping point. The wave of craft beer interest has been slow to swell in the South Bay but I feel it’s nearly ready to crest. The biggest indicator, for me anyway, is the surge of interest in craft beer by local businesses. It used to be the best place for me to find craft beer in San Jose was at my house, but now I can go to places like Wine Affairs, Good Karma and Harry’s Hofbrau for a pint. And while BevMo remains one of the better places to find craft beer in bottles, I’m starting to see local liquor stores carry more craft brands; same can be said about specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods. I hope to add the growing list of good craft beer spots by opening my own craft beer bar this year, sometime in late summer/early fall.
The first Meet the Brewers Festival in 2010 was history making, the first of its kind in the South Bay. How did it come about, and how has it evolved up to this upcoming third Festival?
I wouldn’t necessarily say Meet the Brewers was the first of its kind as there were many beer festivals that came before us that are unfortunately no longer around. But I think Meet the Brewers definitely fills a need for events like this in our area.
As I remember it, Meet the Brewers initially started with me asking Tied House (Carolyn) to see if they wanted to do a beer and food dinner. The beer and food dinner ended up morphing into some sort of event that included bacon in everything. And that event eventually turned into roasting a pig and inviting the local breweries to pour at this festival honoring this roasted pig and other roasted meats. Hence the event’s original name, Meat the Brewers.
The real growth of the event can really be traced to Carolyn’s efforts. It was her brilliant idea to utilize food trucks at a beer festival (we may have been one of the earliest adopters of this) as the “artisanal” nature of some of their cuisine fits right in with the craft sensibilities of our local brewers.
What’s the support/feedback been like for this festival, from the brewers and the attendees?
As far as I know, the response has been fantastic. I tend to poll people as the festival goes on to see how they’re enjoying themselves. Most people don’t know me from squat and think I’m just a volunteer so I feel like I’m getting honest feedback. It’s very Machiavellian of me to do so, I guess, but from that perspective we’ve been well received.
From a brewer standpoint, the festival is really an excuse for them to get together, try each other’s beers, talk shop, get customer feedback about their beers and have fun. Every brewer in the South Bay knows everyone else, for the most part, but because the “South Bay” encompasses such a large area, it’s difficult for brewers to get together en masse. As an unintended consequence the brewers of the South Bay, all the way through Monterey Bay, have decided to for a brewers guild that may be making their debut at Meet the Brewers this year.
Why should folks new to craft beer and/or the South Bay craft beer scene attend this festival?
I think people should attend Meet the Brewers to have a great time! It’s a family friendly atmosphere and there’ll be a little something for everyone. This will really be an opportunity for people to meet the men and women who make the craft beers they enjoy. You’ll find the vast majority of them are affable and looking for honest feedback about the brews they produce.
Just as important, the craft beer community can’t continue to grow unless the communities these breweries reside in come out and support them. It’s a 2-way street: brewers like to see there are people out there who appreciate all the hard work they do and festival attendees can see there is much more variety in the South Bay than they might realize.
Beer festivals are especially great for the casual craft beer fan, or the person just getting into craft beer, to taste a wide variety of beers without committing to a whole pint of something they may or may not like. At Meet the Brewers, attendees can taste a few ounces of beer and make up their own minds if they like it or not. Because the event is unlimited tastings, attendees can always go back and get their fill of their favorite brews.
Plus gourmet food trucks will be there! I’m a big sucker for beer and food pairings. While festival attendees will have to pay for their own food, they have the ability to experiment with what beers go best with the dishes they end up getting.
Anything else to add for now?
That’s it for me.
3rd Annual Meet the Brewers Festival 2012 information