HELP ON TAP: Sommelier and beer lover Jenny Merit of Wine Affairs stands ready to find the right beer for every customer.

It is an especially exciting time for South Bay beer fans as the craft-beer wave continues its ascent with recently opened and soon-to-open craft beer-related establishments. But one business has served as a steady anchor, starting off as a neighborhood wine bar that served locals in a welcoming, low-key setting: San Jose’s Wine Affairs on the Alameda.

Soon after opening, in November 2007, owner and sommelier Diane Chang-Laurent started receiving requests from her customers for various hard-to-get beers. Continual requests, stemming mostly from local homebrewers, pushed Wine Affairs to become one of the first South Bay spots to seek out and carry better beer.

With 12 changing and rotating taps plus 80-100 bottled beers that can be enjoyed onsite or purchased to go, you won’t find any macro beers here. In addition to good beer, Wine Affairs offers a tasty tapas menu and, of course, an extensive wine list.

Sommelier and longtime beer enthusiast Jenny Merit has been the general manager since last year and is responsible for running both the wine and beer operations. She says that increased demand for craft beer has provided better “access to super, ultra-awesome beers for the South Bay.”

For beer-savvy folks, Jenny recommends that they consider joining one of Wine Affair’s three beer clubs, with benefits of monthly or quarterly craft beer selections, free beer tastings, 10 percent off beers to go and first notice for special events.

Some of the current beer club selections include Freigeist Pimock (hefeweizen by Gasthaus-Brauerei Braustelle), Stone 16th Anniversary IPA (double IPA), Schmaltz and Terrapin Reunion Ale ‘12 (American brown ale), The Lost Abbey Red Poppy Ale, HaandBryggeriet Sweet & Sour (sour ale) and Mikkeller Spontankoppi (American wild ale).

For craft beer neophytes, the staff will help in picking out a great beer to try. First-timers might opt for a beer sampler and enjoy a broader tasting experience of different beer styles. To avoid running into large crowds, particularly on beer- and wine-tasting nights (Mondays and Tuesdays, respectively), visiting Wine Affairs earlier in the day or late afternoon is a smart bet.

Wine Affairs
1435 The Alameda, San Jose; 408.977.0111