There is little doubt that the South Bay has come into its own as a beer snob’s paradise. Downtown San Jose boasts at least 10 taprooms focused on high-end hoppiness, and even craft cocktail bars can’t ignore the craze: Over the weekend, Haberdasher drew a line stretching around the corner after scoring a keg of Russian River Brewing Company’s much coveted limited release, Pliny the Younger.

Some craft brew establishments serve their own beer on site and partner with food trucks. Others have had success cooking their own food alongside beers from a variety of labels. It is rarer to find a brewery that produces beer and food on site. That’s where Off the Rails, the newest entrant to the Silicon Valley gastropub game, is hoping to separate itself from the pack.

Located in downtown Sunnyvale, it occupies the former location of both Firehouse Grill & Brewery and Stoddard’s Brewhouse & Eatery—111 Murphy Ave. Off the Rails is no mere rebrand, however. The fast-casual brewpub comes with a totally revamped menu, and an impressive and diverse in-house beer selection. They’ve also separated the food ordering area from the bar; this, along with the open, well-lit floor plan, gives Off the Rails an inviting, family-friendly feel.

The menu was developed by Off the Rails’ chef, Israel Zinanda, who comes to Murphy Avenue after a two-year stint at The Basin in Saratoga. It features a curated collection of standard diner fare like burgers, salads, flatbreads and “social plates” for sharing.

The seven on-tap brews are mostly holdovers from the Firehouse’s brewmaster, but their Murphy Wheat Bavarian Hefeweizen and Commuter IPA are the creations of the new Off the Rails brew chief, Michael R. Barker, who served as brewmaster for Firehouse from 2014-15 and then as a consulting brewmaster for Sactown Union Brewery in Sacramento from 2015-18.

Aesthetically, their lineup captures most of the colors of the beer rainbow, from pale gold to dark amber. As a fan of stouts and porters, I was disappointed that their taplist didn’t reach all the way down into the creamy, black depths. However, I was reassured by the friendly barkeep that Off the Rails plans to embrace the dark side this spring.

I was having a hard time deciding which beer I wanted to sample, so I ordered a flight—four beers served in 4-oz. glasses ($13). To soak up the suds, I ordered a beet and goat cheese salad ($12) and a spicy vegetarian flatbread ($10).

I began my flight with the crisp South City Cider. It was sweet and bubbly with subtle apple notes. Next up was the hefeweizen, which was refreshingly smooth and light on the palate—the perfect beer for sipping while watching a ball game.

From there, I worked my way to the IPA, which draws its bold flavor from three different types of hops. It was surprisingly easy to drink given its high alcohol content (7.3 percent). It even impressed my companion—not an IPA fan by any means—who commented on the the beer’s pleasant floral aroma.

My favorite beer by far was the Dub Nation—a dubbel with a striking, dark brown color. Traditionally, Belgian dubbels are heavy and bitter, but I found the Dub Nation to be sweet and almost nutty; it’s the kind of beer that could easily tag along with a steak or decked-out burger.

Speaking of the food, the veggie flatbread and goat cheese salad paired excellently with our flights. The flatbread was crisp and brought plenty of heat with a generous helping of jalapeños. Its spiciness was counterbalanced with a sweetness from the caramelized onions and mango salsa. The gamey and creamy goat cheese struck a pleasant harmony with the sweet and earthy roasted beets for a flavor combo that could only be classified as “adult.”

With an already impressive—and growing—beer selection and a rock-solid food menu, I foresee Off the Rails being one of the top gastropubs in the South Bay for a long time to come.

Off the Rails Brewing Company
111 S. Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale