Inside two steel tanks, murky liquid ferments into what will be the first batch of beer produced at Santa Clara Valley Brewing’s new home, an under-construction warehouse on an industrial stretch of Alma Avenue.

Head brewer Steve Donohue says the IPA- which he describes as golden and light-bodied, with “a slight tropical hoppiness” -should be ready by the time the taproom opens for business later this month.

“I think we’ll call it Coyote Creek IPA,” says brewery CEO Tom Clark, who journals a running list of beer names inspired by local landmarks. “It’ll have all the flavor of an IPA, with a lighter alcohol content.”

After two years producing beer at nearby Hermitage Brewery, Clark and Donahue have finally found a home base. ”The timing is great,” says Clark in the unfinished taproom, a clutter of dust, plywood, drills, nails and the bare bones of a bar. “What it allowed us to do is test the market, refine our product and cultivate a following.”

While contracting production to Hermitage, Santa Clara Valley Brewing released a number of porters, pilsners, IPAs and stouts, limited releases and perennial favorites, like the hop-heavy Electric Tower IPA and the malty New Almaden Red. Clark and Donohue, an award-winning brewer with two decades in the industry, built up notoriety as well as a network of liquor stores, grocers, restaurants and brewpubs to distribute their craft beverages, locally and the state over.

But having a physical space pulls it all together, says Clark, who envisions working with industry colleagues to build up a thriving brewery district in the neighborhood where he just staked a claim. It’s a start: Hermitage, Clandestine and Strike breweries all sit about a quarter-mile away from each other.

“This is an ideal location for breweries,” says Clark, a home brewer for decades before diving into the business full-time. “A light industrial neighborhood close to downtown, close to sports facilities.”

On a tour of the new facility, Donohue walks me through the beer-making process, which starts with a towering grain-filled silo out back. From various types and blends of malted barley, he makes the sugary wort. The antecessor to the facility’s inaugural brew pours through an elaborate network of pipes and tanks. It’s alternately cooked, mixed, hopped and fermented as Donohue’s alchemy transforms water and grain into bubbly booze.

Brewing takes all of a day or two. Fermenting, a few or more weeks. In the final stage of the process, carbon dioxide bubbles out into bright orange buckets of water, giving off the baked-bread smell of flocculent yeast.

“That’s where we’re at with this IPA,”” Donohue says, tapping the fermenting tank to offering me a taste of the not-quite-yet beer, which shoots out a frothy liquid still cloudy with hops and yeast sediment. “Something new for our grand opening.”
Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company, 101 E. Alma Ave., San Jose. Phone: 408.288.5181.