What an exciting time to be a craft beer fan in the San Jose area as we get to witness the launch of a new South Bay brewing company.
Upon receiving the last of the paperwork to start brewing in late October, the Strike Brewing Co. team, Jenny Lewis, 27 (Founder and CEO), Drew Ehrlich, 29 (Founder, Brewmaster, and COO), and Ben Lewis, 31 (Founder and Sales and Marketing), wasted no time. After all, the idea and planning started three years prior in Dec. 2008. Brewing commenced late November in San Jose, and the first bottles were on store shelves and on taps throughout San Jose, the South Bay, and the Peninsula in December.
Jenny grew up in Los Altos and Drew came from the Central Valley at the age of 18 to attend Stanford University. According to Jenny, “All three of us keep coming back to the Bay, and it just made sense for us to locate in an area that we know and love.”
Her passion for craft beer took off during college while she was at Rice University watching the growth and popularity of Saint Arnold’s in Texas. Drew has always had a taste for good beer. Once he was introduced to home brewing by Jenny and he learned the process, the passion took over.
Despite their busy schedule, especially with a launch party set for Sat., Jan. 14, 8pm-10pm at the First & Main Sports Lounge in downtown Los Altos, the Strike Brewing team took the time to answer some questions regarding how things were going and their efforts to further connect craft beer with the San Jose area.
With your first beers hitting stores and taps all of three weeks ago, have there been any “striking” moments and/or experiences?
“In short, ‘Of course!’ Every account is different, and it’s been an eye opening experience every time we walk in somewhere new. From finding the right contact, to cleaning lines, there’s tons of stuff we could never have planned for (even with a 30 page business plan!). But it is a very quick learning curve, and it’s been fun the whole time. It is quite the event for the folks at the bar to see a female lug in a 15.5 gallon keg, clean the line and hook it up. One of the most memorable experiences was to see our six packs on the shelf of a store for the first time.”
How has the support and feedback been? What’s been the response from the other South Bay brewers and brewing companies?
“The support and feedback have been phenomenal from all the people we’ve dealt with. Family and friends have been great, and not surprisingly to us, but maybe to others, local brewers and brewing companies have as well. The local beer community is such a tight knit and helpful group, we are extremely grateful to become a part of it.”
You’ve indicated that you want to open your brewery and tasting room likely in Campbell, which shows that the South Bay is important to you. What’s your take on the current craft beer scene in the San Jose area? Do you have a sense of the history of the craft beer scene in San Jose and the South Bay up to today? How has it changed over the recent years? Where do you see it going?
“Craft beer has been slow to evolve in San Jose. We recognized that fact as we built our business plan. There have certainly been the groundbreakers out there ahead of us like The Tied House and Gordon Biersch. But with so many creative, adventurous, and active people, we saw the South Bay as the perfect opportunity. Now, with craft beer growing at roughly 10% annually, our area, with its some’s-good-more’s-better mentality, growth is probably beating the national norm.
Obviously, Strike is banking on the bay area beer drinkers preference for flavorful, well-balanced beers to continue to grow. Our plan to locate near the Los Gatos Creek Trail offers an attractive element for all of the people who use the trail for walking, running, hiking, biking etc. every day. Once we have the brewery open, the intent is to give people a great place to go to see the brewing in action, hang out for an afternoon, and enjoy a variety of beers with groups of friends. We don’t plan on having food in-house, but rather bringing in food trucks on weekends and having a tasting room open during the week.”
Let’s get to the beers. Your current offerings are the first set of your Session Series, in the four styles of Blonde, Wit, Brown, and Porter. Can you provide a sneak peek to your next Session Series set and/or other beer offerings, and any approximate timelines?
“Probably a “sessionable” IPA, maybe an Irish Red, and we’ll release some seasonals next year too. We’ve also got some fun ideas to do a sort of sliding ABV series, where we do another set of the current styles with higher ABV so people can compare and contrast the two. So we’ll definitely put some out there that are higher in ABV. Right now it’s just about raising the capital to open our own location so Drew can be working on new recipes every day.”
Launch Party and Strike Brewing Co. information
Sat., Jan. 14, 8pm-10pm – “Join us on January 14th, 2012 at First & Main Sports Lounge in downtown Los Altos (397 Main Street) for a laid back celebration of the launch of Strike Brewing Co. We will be there with all three beers available (Blonde, Brown, Porter), at a special price for the night.”
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[Note: An earlier version of this post was published on Examiner.com.]