Tapping into SJ

Sept. 2016 – Social scene attention turns toward craft beer

There’s no doubt the American craft brew movement is taking off and downtown San Jose is making room for its own expansion in small-scale, local beer.

“Two breweries open a day in America,” said Ryan Summers, owner of Good Karma in the Historic District and an early- adopter of all things craft-beer related. “Beer should take
back its local area. It should serve its people.”

With four new breweries soon joining five existing breweries in the area, downtown San Jose should be well-served. Two of the new breweries will be near SoFA: Uproar Brewing Co.,
439 S. First St., and Camino Brewing, just south of Highway 280. They are part of an ever-growing cadre.

“First Street downtown was already a place to go for good beer with excellent venues like Good Karma, Original Gravity, ISO Beers and independent artisan breweries Santa Clara Valley, Hermitage, Strike and Mission Creek close by,” said Steve Vandewater of Uproar Brewing Co., which opens this fall.

That’s reflective of national trends. In 2015, craft beer made up more than 12 percent of overall beer sales, said Reena Brilliot, business development officer for the city.

In fact, 44 percent of 21-to-27-year-old drinkers have never even tried a Budweiser, she said.

“There’s a natural synergy between craft breweries and vibrant pedestrian environments such as downtown San Jose,” Brilliot said. “More than national labels,
craft breweries depend on the traction of their tasting rooms, and cities have a lot to gain as tap rooms are community-gathering places and a source of pride and local identity.”

San Jose isn’t just growing in breweries, but also in the types of bars and unique services that a thriving local beer
scene supports. Two new businesses highlight this trend:

    • Forager is planned for the SoFA district. It’s a unique concept of tap handles and café rental space in the old South First Billiards, 420 S. First St., that the founder hopes will be a beer hunter’s delight.
    • Also new to downtown is Brew Bike, a concept started in Sacramento. Brew-bike tasters ride through the downtown bar scene on a giant bike that they all help pedal but is steered
      by a designated cyclist.

“We decided to bring the Brew Bike to San Jose because of the bike-friendly atmosphere and the budding craft beer scene,” said owner Chris Ferren-Cirino.
“Downtown San Jose is really becoming a fun, lively place to explore while sharing a few drinks with friends and family.”

The burgeoning scene also includes craft brew tap handles popping up at bars and craft-focused specialty spots like the Market Beer Co. in San Pedro Square, ISO Beers and Original Gravity in the Historic District.

“When I opened, nobody cared about great beer,” Good Karma’s Summers said, remembering how hard it was to get permission to have taps when he brought his vegan restaurant downtown. “I wanted to share a beer that I had become passionate about.”

And, he said, as others have learned, sometimes doing something small – like small batch craft beer – is doing something powerful.

“I love what I do. That’s what it is supposed to be about,” Summers said