I am no brewmaster, but since high school I’ve always enjoyed a well-timed pint here and there. Since recently turning 21, I’ve tried to break outside the bottle and try something other than what the typical frat has to offer (likely the cheapest 12-pack from Safeway).
To accomplish this, I decided to explore the San Jose community and find the local flavor by kicking up my feet at a few microbreweries in the area. These are the 8 breweries I found totally noteworthy.
#SpoonTip: Sign up for a rating or commentary app such as Untappd to keep track of all the unique and interesting beers you like or don’t like and share your adventures with friends.
Conveniently located on the terrace of the Alameda Whole Foods, Mission Creek Brewing is a great place to visit with all your friends. Whole Foods can get really busy, especially around dinner time, so expect a crowd.
The brewpub’s completely open terrace and well-placed heating lamps make it easy to enjoy the fresh air. The bar offers a variety of food, ranging from pork sliders to sushi. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can always just take a quick trip downstairs to the burrito or salad bar.
Beer of Choice: Solely Mosaic American Pale Ale
The beer itself is high quality, but sometimes lacks in variety. There are typically only 2-3 Mission Creek light beers on tap and if you don’t know your beer the rest of the menu could be a little confusing. Besides having their own beers on tap, the bar also has other beers from around the Bay Area. They also offer wine, cider, and mimosas for your light-weight friends.
My favorite part about this brewery is that the terrace looks out onto the Alameda, where the actual Mission Creek used to be. In its own way, Mission Creek Brewery celebrates San Jose’s history by quenching our thirst in the same place that the Native Americans and Spanish settlers did so long ago.
Whether you’re regularly up to bat or simply chewing peanuts in the stands, you can hit a home run here at Strike Brewing. Complete with a ping pong table, pretzels for sale, and a food truck, this sporty tap room makes everyone feel at home.
Beer of Choice: Lucky Bullet Belgian Style Wheat Beer (Seasonal)
The beer itself is flavored perfectly to be unique in taste and to satisfy that game-day hype of wanting to shotgun Coors. The flight had all the classic beer types without an overwhelming number, and they all went down easy. This is the perfect place for a beginner beer drinker.
What I really liked about Strike was the brewery itself, the storage warehouse, and the use of the shipping garage as part of the tap room. The whole atmosphere is very open and reminded me of a giant garage party. It’s the perfect place to go to watch the San Francisco Giants run the bases or the San Jose Sharks carve up the ice.
My favorite part of Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company was the ambiance. Though it was more reminiscent of a coffee shop than a brewery, the low hanging lights, lounge chairs, and a stack of board games made for a relaxing and one-on-one type atmosphere. Although it initially put me off, I found the room to be a much better environment for intimate conversation and bonding with my friends than some of the taprooms I had visited in more rowdy breweries.
Beer of Choice: Imperial Oatmeal Stout iOS (Special Release)
For the more experienced pallet, I whole heartedly recommend Santa Clara Valley Brewing. The beers were flavorful and complex, but not as wide in variety as some of the other breweries. I found that I needed to use my limited knowledge of beer in order to truly appreciate what this tap had to offer.
The beers and brewery pay homage in both name and flavor to the farmlands that used to make up the area before Silicon Valley and the technology boom. That makes this brewery both close to the heart and close to home.
Craving great beer and so much of it that you can’t drive home? Taplands is the place to go. Located right by Franklin Square, just a couple blocks away from the edge of Santa Clara University’s campus is this chill, laid-back brewery with tons of options perfect for the brew king and brew virgin alike.
If you want to munch while you drink, there are snacks, salads, and sandwiches on available on the menu. However if you are looking for a hardy meal, you can always walk around the corner to one of the various restaurants in Franklin Square.
Beer of Choice: Johnny Mac Wry Red Irish Ale
Though Taplands itself only keeps a couple of its own beers on tap, the television menu brings together a great selection that focuses on lesser known, but top-quality, Bay Area beers that are all worth a try.
I found that the bartenders were extremely friendly to the girl drinking alone on a Friday night and offered expert advice about what to try. If you are looking to broaden your horizons, but need a little help, this is a perfect place to start. But don’t leave before checking out the bottle shop. Just behind the barstools, there is a bank of glass doors chilling hard-to-find bottles and craft brews so that you can take the party home with you.
The Firehouse Grill and Brewery is just that: FIREY. This is especially so on a Saturday night when the World Combat League has a kickboxing match on. This brewery is located in downtown Sunnyvale on the Murphy Historic Avenue, placed conveniently next to tons of restaurants, shops and clubs to visit after downing a few there.
Come hungry. The Firehouse Grill serves a full menu of great tasting bar and grill food, including pizza, shrimp, burgers, fries, and tacos. As for the bar options, which is what we are really here to talk about, this brewery offers drinks ranging from cocktails to signature brews.
Beer of Choice: Hefeweizen
I ordered the sampler which included the Hefeweizen, Pale Ale, and current seasonals. The number of beers and large portion sizes were a lot more than I was expecting, so you might want to consider sharing with a friend. Out of the samplers, I recommended the Hefeweizen not only because it was the one I liked the best, but also because it was the most memorable beer. The entire experience was tasty and fun, but the size of the sampler made it difficult to tell what I liked or didn’t like after the first few sips.
Personally, since I am not a big sports fan, I found the classic sports bar feel of a poorly lit room and loud TV announcers to be counter productive to my beer tasting experience. However, if they had the latest Game of Thrones episode on, this would be a different story.
Overall, I had a lot of fun that night with my friends in Sunnyvale, from the shrimp, pizza and beer at Firehouse to the walk around the avenue later. I would definitely go again with a group looking to get “out of town” and have a little adventure.
“Great Food…Great Beer…Great Service” is Faultline Brewery’s motto and they do not fall short. Faultline Brewery presents itself as more of a “going out” type restaurant than a neighborhood brewery. The atmosphere is sophisticated and quiet, but not too fancy, definitely a place where you would want to treat yourself or your friends to something special and fun.
Beer of Choice: Belgian Blonde Light Golden Ale
The beer menu ranged from classic brews that anyone can drink to more bold and unique flavors to keep things interesting. There is a full menu and bar along with numerous food options from nachos to ceviche and even some delectable desserts. Faultline also offers specialty beer “bomb” cocktails that incorporate their brews with other liquors to make unique mixes with flavors such as pumpkin pie and green chile.
The best part of Faultline was its sort of upscale environment. Though this isn’t for everyone or for every occasion, I think that by offering great beer and great food together at a location suitable to take your date, your parents, or even your boss, Faultline sets itself apart as a unique experience from other breweries.
The brewery celebrates everything California from the license plates lining the bar wall to the beautiful wooden sampling glass holders. The Golden State features an open warehouse that shows off all their fancy brewing equipment, a game room completely equipped with a pool table and darts, and an outside sitting area perfect for getting a breath of fresh air.
Beer of Choice: Heritage Honey Ale
Every beer I tasted was fabulous, including the beers I don’t typically like IPAs and Pale Ales. If you are an experienced beer drinker and are trying to train your friends, definitely bring them here. Not only will they get a real education in what high-quality beer is, but you can also enjoy every single one of them yourself.
Although I put the Honey Ale as the “beer of choice,” it’s really a tie between that and the Cold Brew Coffee Stout. If you aren’t a dark beer drinker or are still trying to figure out what you like, you have to try this. Smooth and flavorful, you can finish the glass without even noticing.
Of all the places I visited, I had my overall best experience at Golden State Brewery. It combined everything I loved about all the other breweries into one location. It took me a few minutes to find the place because, similar to Strike Brewing, it was located in a warehouse district. However, once I walked in I felt immediately welcomed and excited.
Be sure to make a trip on a Tuesday night for some great company with the regulars, and even some of the founders.
Part of the Tied House family of breweries, Hermitage Brewing Company brings a flavor of tradition and art to the brewing community. My first impression came from the sitting area outside the warehouse. The tables were actual beer barrels turned on their sides and placed next to the giant conical fermenter, so even when you were sitting outside, the brewery atmosphere went with you.
Beer of Choice: Boysenberry American Sour Ale
When I started to pick out beers for my flight, not only was I met with a concise but diverse beer menu, but with a super knowledgeable and friendly staff. While pouring my samples, the bartender also mixed up a little combination of two different beers for me to try, and later in the evening free samples of one of the aged keg beers were offered to everyone.
When I first walked inside this brewery, I was captured by the authentic heritage-pop-art-style mural on the back wall, which depicted the beer making process. I immediately got the sense of how down-to-earth and artsy this brewery really was, and I was right.
Hermitage Brewing Company is a place I can see going back to week after week to get a taste of their wide variety of award-winning craft brews.
Get out there and explore your city and your palette. Get out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to make new friends. In San Jose, great beer is just around the corner.