Good Karma Artisan Ales & Cafe in downtown San Jose (37 S. 1st St.) is hosting a special 5-course vegan food-and-beer pairing dinner on Thurs., Dec. 3, 2015 from 5pm-8pm, featuring offerings from well-regarded Russian River Brewing Company.
Carefully crafted vegan dishes will be paired with the following ales – all on tap – from Russian River Brewing: STS Pils (Czech Pilsener), Blind Pig IPA, Pliny the Elder (Double IPA), Temptation (Wild Ale) and Consecration (Wild Ale). While Russian River Brewing IPAs and wild ales continue to be the standards for their respective beer styles among many beer enthusiasts, having these five beers all on tap in the South Bay is a rarity.
Tickets are $55 per person, and reservations can be made via the dinner’s EventBrite page. Payment for the dinner will be collected at the event. Good Karma will be open back to the public at 8pm.
Founded by San Jose native Ryan Summers, Good Karma is arguably the birthplace of the burgeoning craft beer wave in San Jose and for that matter, the South Bay. He recently took the time to answer a few questions regarding the upcoming beer dinner.
How did the idea for this dinner come about?
Natalie and Michael Benz from Russian River Brewing Company had been in town a few months back for business, and they were kind enough to stop by for dinner and a beer. At some point in the conversation, we threw around the idea of hosting a beer pairing and dinner. A few weeks and multiple emails later, the plan was in motion.
Can you please confirm that the five featured RRBC beers will all be on tap?
The lineup is all draught… Pliny the Elder, STS Pils, Blind Pig, Temptation and Consecration. We’re lucky that we get Pliny on the regular in Santa Clara County. Blind Pig hasn’t been down this way in 6 plus years. And STS Pils barely makes it out of the brewery, if at all. Temptation and Consecration – the sour, mixed fermentation barrel-aged beer components for the dinner – are such a treat.
The love, talent and care it takes to produce beers of this caliber is high art to say the least. We are beyond honored, and needless to say excited, to work with this great list of beers.
Can you provide a sneak peek of any of the vegan dish pairings?
There’s a lot to play with when it comes to food and beer. We’re excited to rehydrate Guajillo and California Chilis with Blind Pig for the Chili Colorado with young Jack Fruit. We’ll be incorporating Temptation with an Exotic Mushroom Ceviche… That’s too many spoilers already!
Anything else to add?
I’ve run Good Karma for almost ten years now. The relationships we’ve built, the experiences we’ve shared, the smiles we’ve inspired continue to inspire and us… day in, day out. The beer community continues to be some of the warmest, friendliest bunch of people I’ve ever encountered. Pair that with music, food, thought and reflection… the whole world just makes more sense.
Offerings from Lagunitas Brewing Company can be found at a myriad of locations throughout the South Bay and beyond. But during SF Beer Week, Good Karma Vegan Cafe in downtown San Jose (37 South First Street) will be the hot spot for an epic Lagunitas event entitled “Get High-Westified & SF Fusion 20 Release Party.”
The event title is in reference to Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout (2012) aged in bourbon barrels from High West Distillery and the special SF Beer Week edition of the Lagunitas Fusion Series (made in part by some of the Good Karma crew). The event takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 11 from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
South Bay native and long-time San Jose resident Rudy Kuhn is the Central California Market Manager for Lagunitas and shares the following:
Good Karma is definitely the biggest SFBW event. The tap list is gonna rival the Lagunitas Tap Room. Ryan [Good Karma owner and beer aficionado Ryan Summers] has been cellaring a bunch of these flavors in anticipation for this event. It’ll be a true showcase of the dank and dark sides of Lagunitas… some of our happiest offerings and some of the few darker and barrel-aged beers we’ve made over the past few years. We’ll get funky with some vinyl spinning, too.
The beer lineup includes cellared kegs of 2013 SoCo Sour Stout, 2012 Brown Shugga, and 2013 Hairy Eyeball along with fresh Maximus Double IPA, Sucks, and IPA. Folks can also keep the glassware while supplies last.
A different kind of event takes place on Friday, Feb. 14, 7 p.m. at downtown San Jose’s Café Stritch. Rudy shares:
Taking place at Café Stritch is the spawn of our Beer Circus. We’re bringing some of those freaks down to San Jose for a pre-party and to show the locals a good time. We’ll have two of our recent Fusion beers and party down until The Bang start to jam away the night on the stage.
Rudy is just as happy in discussing the other exciting beer events coming up throughout the South Bay, like the Sweet and Sour Festival also taking place on Friday, Feb. 14 at Good Karma and Original Gravity Public House. Rudy adds, “You can pucker up with some sours at OG and then get some sweet barrel-aged brews across the street at Good Karma.” The Original Gravity event, “Pucker Up! Valentine’s Day Sour Fest 3.0,” takes place from 4 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. while the Good Karma event, “St. Valentine’s Barrel-Aged Sweeties,” takes place from 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Be sure to say hi to Rudy, an exemplary representative of the local beer scene – he’ll be the guy with the big smile, big beard, and the big bundle of positive energy flowing around him.
Founded by San Jose native Ryan Summers, Good Karma Vegan Cafe (37 S. First St.) is arguably the birthplace of the burgeoning craft beer wave in San Jose and for that matter, the South Bay, and they are looking to make quite the splash during SF Beer Week. Good Karma provided the following update on their website earlier today:
The Good Karma Vegan Café will be serving up daily specials and events in celebration of SF Beer Week, which runs from February 8, 2013 – February 17, 2013. Daily specials, from Monday through Friday, include a variety of artisan draft beers that have been paired with a variety of vegan specialty dishes. The restaurant is located at 37 South First Street in San Jose.
“We are excited to participate in the SF Beer Week,” said Ryan Summers, of the Good Karma Vegan Café. “It’s a great chance to bring together craft beer enthusiasts and meet some of the great people that make these beers possible.”
The daily SF Beer week offers at the Good Karma Vegan Café include:
• Monday, February 11, 2013 – Starting at 4:20 p.m., North Coast Takeover, featuring Rasputin, Rasputin XV, Grand Cru, Old Stock Ale, Brother Thelonious and Pranqster. Guests will take part in a “steal the glass” event, and will get to hang out with Josh Charlton from North Coast.
• Tuesday, February 12, 2013 – Starting at 4:20 p.m., Knee Deep / Boulder Brewing Colab Night, featuring Shaken Bake, Rye IPA, Knee Deep Simptra, and Boulder ‘Honey Saison. Come in and meet Jeremy Warren, brewer from Knee Deep, and Boulder representative Andy Rattner.
• Wednesday, February 13, 2013 – Starting at 4:20 p.m., Lagunitas Tap Takeover, featuring So Co Stout, soured on pinot barrels, as well as Sucks, Maximus, Censored, IPA, and Imperial Stout.
• Thursday, February 14, 2013 – Valentine’s Day. Starting at 6:00 p.m., featuring Valentine’s Sugar Crush, barrel-aged big sweeties. This will be paired with house desserts. Valentine’s cover night. Not to be missed, one of the favorite nights of the year. Roll solo or bring a sweetie.
• Friday, February 15, 2013 – Starting at 6:00 p.m., Tap Takeover with Sante Adairius Rustic Ales. They will be serving up the Bay area’s best-kept secret, and will be pouring aged Anais Saison, Berliner Weiss, Nona’s Blend Batch 3, Appreciation, and more. Also serving a spontaneously fermented Kraut with Tim’s Berliner Weiss in the second fermentation. Food specialty dishes include vegan eggplant parmesan, vegan caviar with crème fresh, vegan Ruben, and exotic mushroom ceviche.
“Those who want to taste some great beers, try something new, and eat some great vegan food will want to stop by,” added Summers. “We are aiming to make this beer week like no other.”
More and more craft beer hot spots are opening in downtown San Jose, and a beer crawl is an enjoyable way to visit a number of these destinations that serve better beer. Not only do you get to enjoy some heady brews, but you’ll become better acquainted with a variety of establishments to figure out which ones merit return visits.
For my birthday earlier this fall, my brother and I went on a downtown beer crawl along San Pedro and First streets. We visited four out of the 10 or so beer places that are all located within walking distance from one another.
At around 5:30pm, we lucked out in finding a table with a good view of both TVs at the San Pedro Square Market Bar. Many folks started settling in to watch the 49ers. We ordered food from the neighboring restaurant mere steps away, and a friendly wait staff took our orders selected from among the eight draft and 20 bottled beer options.
Bar manager Brian Rhett, who has worked at the Market Bar for a year, made the rounds and shared some big news: there are plans in the works to open a 100 percent craft-beer bar with a few dozen taps next summer in the open space on the other side of the building where Bellano Coffee (a.k.a. B2) has set up shop.
The variety and the close proximity of the food vendors in the open market, as well as the outside seating area in the Adobe Peralta Plaza, are undoubtedly great draws for the Market Bar.
Though the San Pedro Square Market Bar was cozy, we were eager to continue our beer crawl. Within seconds, we stepped into O’Flaherty’s and found the dining area filled with families and people celebrating the end of the workday. Fortunately, a few spots at the bar opened up.
We checked out the lineup among the 38 beers on tap and placed our orders with the friendly server, who informed us that their biggest sellers were still whiskey and scotch but that more customers were ordering craft beer than before.
General manager Dave Mulvehill told us that their craft beer focus started taking shape back in July with the addition of 16 taps. He has also set up a beer club offering discounts on beers, tastings and free trips to select breweries, as well as monthly beer-related events.
After walking a couple blocks, we arrived at Good Karma. We headed to the back, past the food station, to where the beers are. We were struck by the considerable knowledge of our server, and she answered all our questions about the current beer menu, which consists of 15 draft beers—and in particular about the various sour ales on tap.
A nearby customer with a bright smile let us know that she was a regular and loved Good Karma for its beer selection. Owner Ryan Summers stopped by to ask what beers we were having, and an enthusiastic conversation ensued around our latest and greatest beers tasted.
My brother said that he couldn’t wait to return, as he really enjoyed Good Karma’s lively and down-to-earth vibe. We agreed that Ryan exudes a contagious positivity. Despite being huge sports fans, we didn’t miss having a TV around—the conversations were that enjoyable.
Across from Good Karma was our last stop. Inside, the Original Gravity team was working diligently. Owners Johnny Wang and Dan Phan, along with general manager Moonlynn Tsai, were either in the kitchen or behind the bar.
The beer lineup—25 taps and bottled selections—was impressive. Having had their much-anticipated grand opening celebration in September, business had been holding steady according to Johnny. He confirmed that the folks serving beer at Original Gravity were expected to pass the certified beer-server exam offered by cicerone.org. Rob Monroe, bar manager and event coordinator, shared that his main goal is for customers new to craft beer to take away something positive from their experience.
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.”
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.]