|Maybe the South Bay is no longer the beer desert it once was|
One event I made sure to attend during SF Beer Week was the Hermitage Brewing Beer Dinner at Scott’s Seafood in Mountain View. When I finished the dinner, pushing aside my dessert plate I sat there struggling to figure out just what I should write about it. Writing about beer dinners seems like an almost pointless task to me. I just sort of wing it when it comes to food criticism and since few, if any of my readers attended, and the dinner was over, never to be repeated. The food was good, the Hermitage Beer was definitely good, and my wife and I enjoyed it. What more is there to say?
|Hermitage’s Ale of the 2 Tun Imperial Stout and
Scott’s Seafood’s Molten Lava Cake
That didn’t stop me from thinking. Clearly San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing, the featured brewery of the night is putting out plenty of strong beers on the strong side of the ale spectrum after only three years in existence. The smooth, malty complexity of their Maltopia, the bright tropical flavors of their single hop Galaxy IPA, and their dry, bitter chocolate bomb of 2 Tun Imperial Stout are as good as any beers you’ll find from the Bay Area.
And Hermitage isn’t the only notable brewery to emerge from the South Bay recently. While Hermitage strives to make the big beers, Strike Brewing, barely over a year old has gone in the opposite direction with their excellent Session Series. And of course, in recent years, Steve Donohue won no less than four GABF medals at Sunnyvale’s Firehouse Brewing before leaving late last year to start his own brewery, Santa Clara Valley Brewing which hopefully will come on line before the end of the year.
With these South Bay breweries come a number of great new venues to enjoy craft beer. There are gastropubs Liquid Bread in Campbell and Original Gravity in Downtown San Jose, both less than a year old. In the last three years, California Cafe at both its Palo Alto and Los Gatos locations has established their brewmaster’s dinner series, featuring inspired pairings of food with beer from some of of the finest breweries in California. Harry’s Hofbrau in San Jose, an old school German buffet restaurant is an unlikely place to find a great tap selection and it has been hosting a number special events devoted to craft breweries, a development that’s started there about a year ago. The Yardhouse the opened a couple years ago in San Jose’s swanky Santana Row Mall, and yes, it’s slick and corporate, but you can get some mighty fine beer there. And we even have an honest to goodness independent bottle shop now with Jane’s Beer Store in Downtown Mountain that opened last summer. There’s probably some new place I’m forgetting.
The South Bay has long been consider a weak sister to the nearby craft brewing epicenters of San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and the East Bay, but has anyone noticed this recent acceleration of craft beer culture in the South Bay?
Well maybe. Five years ago, the general buzz amidst beer geekdom was “The South Bay Beer Scene sucks”. None other than the late Bay Area beer writer Bill Brand regretfully declared the South Bay “a beer desert” shortly before he passed away. Then a couple years ago, you could find grudging admissions that a couple of good beers could be found down here.
And today? Maybe it’s just me but you hardly hear anyone complaining about the beer scene in the South Bay anymore. Instead, people are just enjoying it. Isn’t that the way it should be?