Tag Archives: Meet the Brewers

8th Annual Meet the Brewers Beer Festival at Hermitage Brewing Company

Photo from last year's Meet the Brewers beer fest
Photo from last year’s Meet the Brewers beer fest

This year’s Meet the Brewers beer fest is just around the corner, taking place Saturday, Feb. 18 from 1pm-5pm at Hermitage Brewing Company (1627 South 7th St.).

Now in its 8th year, the beer fest is well run, attracts the greatest number of local breweries to the South Bay and continues to elevate the status of the local beer scene.

I’ve said it before – I believe the Meet the Brewers is the crown jewel of local beer events.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed comparing notes with other attendees and keeping track of which breweries, brewers and beers generated the loudest buzz.

The current list of scheduled breweries indicates that this year’s event will be the biggest one yet:

  • Almanac Beer Co.
  • Bison Brewing
  • Brewery Twenty Five
  • Calicraft
  • Camino Brewing
  • Corralitos Brewing
  • Devil’s Canyon
  • Discretion Brewing
  • Eight Bridges
  • Elkhorn Slough Brewing
  • Faultline
  • FireHouse Grill & Brewery
  • Freewheel Brewing
  • GearTooth Alewerks
  • Golden State Brewery
  • Gordon Biersch
  • Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
  • Hermitage Brewing
  • Highwater Brewing
  • Hop Dogma Brewing Company
  • Loma Brewing Company
  • New Bohemia Brewing Company
  • Palo Alto Brewing
  • Peter B’s Brewpub
  • Rabbit’s Foot/ Red Branch
  • Santa Clara Valley Brewing
  • Seabright Brewery
  • South City Ciderworks
  • Steel Bonnet Brewing
  • Strike Brewing
  • Tied House
  • Two Coast Brewing Company
  • Umunhum Brewing
  • Uncommon Brewers
  • WildCide Hard Cider

Tickets are $45 and available at the Meet the Brewer’s Eventbrite page.

There’ll be good eats available for purchase courtesy of El Burrito Loco , Brother’s Baby BBQ, Sarah’s Latin Taste, SweetDragon Baking Company and Mission Hill Creamery.

About a dozen SJ Made vendors will be on hand to sell their handmade crafts.

For additional info. – and to purchase tickets – check out the event page.

On a last note, credit to the successful growth of Meet the Brewers goes to Carolyn Hopkins-Vasquez, former director of marketing for Hermitage Brewing and Tied House. She recently shared that her family is moving out of the area. She has done much for the local beer scene, and her departure is a big loss for the community. I – along with many others – will miss her (and her lovely family) greatly. Cheers, Carolyn!

~Andy



Tickets to 8th Annual Meet the Brewers Beer Festival Currently Available at Special Early Bird Prices

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Just a quick note that tickets to the 8th annual “Meet the Brewers” beer festival are currently available at the early bird price of $40 until Jan. 1 and go up to $45 afterwards.

The popular event takes place Saturday, Feb. 18 from 1pm-5pm at Hermitage Brewing Company (1627 S. 7th St., San Jose).

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.



7th Annual Meet the Brewers Beer Festival at Hermitage Brewing Company

Photo from Meet the Brewers Beer Festival in San Jose, Feb. 2015
Photo from Meet the Brewers Beer Festival in San Jose, Feb. 2015

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
Bison
Calicraft
Cleophus Quealy
Craft Artisan Ales
Devil’s Canyon
Discretion
Drake’s
Eight Bridges
El Toro
Faultline
FireHouse
Freewheel Brewing
Golden State
Gordon Biersch
Half Moon Bay
Hermitage
Highwater
New Bohemia
Palo Alto Brewing
Peter B’s
Rabbit’s Foot/ Red Branch
Rock Bottom, Campbell
San Jose Cooperative Brewery
Santa Clara Valley Brewing
Seabright
South City Cider
Steel Bonnet
Strike
Three Monkeys
Tied House
Uncommon Brewers
Wildcide

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.

For additional information, and to purchase tickets, visit the Meet the Brewers Eventbrite page.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

San Jose’s Meet the Brewers and The Beerwalk Events Celebrate SF Beer Week 2014

Tied House - co-host of the annual South Bay Meet the Brewers beerfest
Tied House – co-host of the annual South Bay Meet the Brewers beerfest

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 tickets before midnight on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, to save $5 on the $30 tickets. Enter discount code: stockingstuffer.]

As The Beerwalk web page indicates:

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:

  • Clandestine Brewing
  • Calicraft Brewing
  • Discretion Brewing
  • Uncommon Brewers
  • Strike
  • Campbell Brewing
  • Faultline
  • Rabbits Foot Meadery/ Red Branch Cider
  • Los Gatos Brewing Company
  • Santa Clara Valley Brewing
  • The Rare Barrel
  • Peter B’s
  • Seabright Brewing
  • El Toro
  • Hermitage Brewing
  • Tied House

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.”

For updates and more info. about Meet The Brewers please visit www.hermitagebrewing.com, or to purchase tickets please click here.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

Scenes from the 2013 Meet the Brewers Festival at Hermitage Brewing Company

Here are some pics from the 4th annual Meet the Brewers festival that took place this past Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 at San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company.

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Sunnyvale’s Faultline Brewing Company Doppel Bock and Brown Ale.

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Sunnyvale’s Rabbit’s Food Meadery owner Mike Faul and his Red Branch Hard Raspberry Cider and Hard Black Cherry.

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San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company brewmaster Peter Licht.

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Los Gatos Brewing Company brewmaster Kent Wheat and assistant Kyle Wheat.

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Los Gatos Brewing Company Dunkelweizen and Coquettish Blonde.

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Sunnyvale’s FireHouse Grill & Brewery.

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FireHouse Porter and IPA.

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San Jose’s Gordon Biersch Brewery Company brewer Lars (standing directly behind Czech Style Pilsner barrel).

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San Leandro’s High Water Brewing Company brewmaster Steve Altimari (center) and Morgan Hill’s El Toro Brewing Company brewmaster Geno Acevedo (right).

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El Toro Brewing Company Poppy Jasper and Negro.

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The South Bay’s Strike Brewing Company CEO Jenny Lewis and brewmaster Drew Ehrlich.

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Strike Brewing Company Blonde and Stout.

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Campbell’s Rock Bottom Brewery and Restaurant brewmaster Russell Clements (right).

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Rock Bottom Brewery Raccoon Revival and Brown Bear.

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Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company of Belmont.

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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.

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The Bay Brewers Guild president Dan Satterthwaite, brewer at Gordon Biersch Brewing Company and founder of hopefully soon-to-open Cedar Street Brewing Company.

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Bulgogi burrito with Rock Bottom Raccoon Revival.

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Hermitage Brewing Company Special Bitter with Mandarina Bavaria and Simcoe – both on cask.

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Hermitage Brewing Company lead brewer Greg Filippi (right).

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Drake’s Brewing Company of San Leandro and brewer and production manager John Gillooly.

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Santa Cruz’s Uncommon Brewers founder and brewermaster Alec Stefansky (right).

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Uncommon Brewers Golden State Ale.

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Santa Cruz’s Seabright Brewery assistant brewer Matt.

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Seabright Brewery Saison Dumas and Sacrilicious.

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High Water Brewing Campfire Stout.

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High Water Brewing’s Steve Altimari, Drake Brewing Company’s John Martin, and Hermitage Brewing’s Peter Licht.

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Monterey’s Peter B’s Brewpub Chardonnay Stout.

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The folks from San Jose’s Jack’s Bar & Lounge arriving – Charlie Mann (left) and Jordan Trigg (right).

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Alas, time for us to leave.

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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. :)

Always Grateful,

~Andy

Where to Find Strike Brewing Company during SF Beer Week 2013

Strike Brewing Company CEO Jenny Lewis and brewmaster Drew Ehrlich at the recent KraftBrew Holiday Ball beer fest in San Jose
Strike Brewing Company CEO Jenny Lewis and brewmaster Drew Ehrlich at the recent KraftBrew Holiday Ball beer fest in San Jose

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.

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]

SF Beer Week Events in the South Bay

SF Beer Week is hosting numerous events in the South Bay this year
SF Beer Week is hosting numerous events in the South Bay this year

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.

[This post was shared on SanJose.com.]

Hermitage Brewing Company an Active Participant during SF Beer Week 2013

Photo from the 2012 SF Beer Week event Meet the Brewers in San Jose
Photo from the 2012 SF Beer Week event Meet the Brewers in San Jose

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:

COURSE 1
Beer: Maltopia Scotch Ale
Course: Smoked salmon, arugula, red onions, capers, and cherry honey vinaigrette

COURSE 2
Beer: Galaxy Single Hop IPA
Course: Butter leaf manouri salad, dry cranberries, Asian pears, with orange Champagne vinaigrette

COURSE 3
Beer: Ale of the Imp Imperial IPA
Course: Ahi tuna, coconut curry rice, grilled asparagus, sweet soy glaze

COURSE 4
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:

The following is a list of the participating gourmet food trucks:

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.

[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

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 beer issue for Metro Silicon Valley.]



Highlights of the 3rd Annual Meet the Brewers Beer Festival in San Jose

2012 Meet the Brewers Beer Festival in San Jose
2012 Meet the Brewers Beer Festival in San Jose

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:

Banner of participating sponsors, brewing companies, and food trucks
Banner of participating sponsors, brewing companies, and food trucks

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.

Tied House/Hermitage Brewing Director of Marketing Carolyn Hopkins-Vasquez
Tied House/Hermitage Brewing Director of Marketing Carolyn Hopkins-Vasquez
Peter Estaniel (right) of BetterBeerBlog.com
Peter Estaniel (right) of BetterBeerBlog.com

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.

Firehouse Grill & Brewery Brewmaster Steve Donohue
Firehouse Grill & Brewery Brewmaster Steve Donohue
Los Gatos Brewing Brewmaster Kent Wheat
Los Gatos Brewing Brewmaster Kent Wheat
Strike Brewing CEO Jenny Lewis and Brewmaster Drew Ehrlich
Strike Brewing CEO Jenny Lewis and Brewmaster Drew Ehrlich
El Toro Brewing Brewmaster Geno Acevedo
El Toro Brewing Brewmaster Geno Acevedo
Campbell's Rock Bottom Brewer Larry Hoang
Campbell’s Rock Bottom Brewer Larry Hoang

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.

Tied House/Hermitage Brewing Brewmaster Peter Licht (2nd from left) and Brewer Greg Filippi (3rd from left)
Tied House/Hermitage Brewing Brewmaster Peter Licht (2nd from left) and Brewer Greg Filippi (3rd from left)
Tied House/Hermitage Brewing Greg Filippi
Tied House/Hermitage Brewing Greg Filippi
Campbell's Rock Bottom Brewery Brewers Larry Hoang and Russell
Campbell’s Rock Bottom Brewery Brewers Larry Hoang and Russell
Devil's Canyon Brewing Draught Specialist Rudy Kuhn
Devil’s Canyon Brewing Draught Specialist Rudy Kuhn
Firehouse Brewery Assistant Brewer Jason Gutierrez
Firehouse Brewery Assistant Brewer Jason Gutierrez
Tied House Brewmaster Ron Manabe (middle)
Tied House Brewmaster Ron Manabe (middle)
Campbell Brewing Brewmaster Jim Turturici (2nd from right)
Campbell Brewing Brewmaster Jim Turturici (2nd from right)
Hijinks at the San Jose Meet the Brewers Beerfest
Hijinks at the San Jose Meet the Brewers Beerfest
Carolyn Hopkins-Vasquez and California Cafe Executive Chef Mark Pettyjohn
Carolyn Hopkins-Vasquez and California Cafe Executive Chef Mark Pettyjohn
Excellent turnout for the San Jose Meet the Brewers Beerfest
Excellent turnout for the San Jose Meet the Brewers Beerfest
A great day for the sold out San Jose Meet the Brewers Beerfest
A great day for the sold out San Jose Meet the Brewers Beerfest
Gourmet food provided by Moveable Feast food trucks at the San Jose Meet the Brewers Beerfest
Gourmet food provided by Moveable Feast food trucks at the San Jose Meet the Brewers Beerfest
San Jose Meet the Brewers Beer Festival sold out
San Jose Meet the Brewers Beer Festival sold out

[This post was shared on Examiner.com.]