Posted in Breweries

Off the Rails on the right track

You probably remember the old Firehouse Grill & Brewery in Sunnyvale and noticed that is has been replaced by Off the Rails Brewing Co.

Off the Rails Brewing Co.
The taproom

Let me just say one thing: it’s for the best! The new owner, Saurabh Dwivedi, has a totally new approach and wants his brewery to be a hangout spot for the community. “He bought it from the previous owner and it wasn’t focused on beer,” Michael Barker said. Michael is the head brewer and joined Off the Rails Brewing shortly after it opened in January 2019. “He wants to turn it back into what it was originally.” Before Firehouse became Firehouse, Stoddard’s Brewhouse & Eatery occupied the space and was all about making good brews for the neighborhood. We can’t be mad if someone is trying to bring that back! I’m all for it!

Off the Rails Brewing Co.
Michael Barker, head brewer, with his concoctions

I was there on day 3 and wasn’t too impressed with the beer. I think they were still trying to shake off the old Firehouse way of making beer and running through some inventory. Since then, Michael, who has been in the business for roughly 30 years, has really turned the place around. He has a ton of experience brewing beer all around the country, and it shows. Michael recently left his own brewery (that he co-owned) in Sacramento called Tower Brewing (then Sactown Union Brewery) and set sail to the Bay Area where he grew up. He is happy to be back and is working hard on making sure he has a good core beer menu. The current focus is to establish recipes and decide what should stay and what shouldn’t.

This isn’t, however, preventing Michael, Saurabh or Syndee Nguyen (part owner) to look far into the future. And the future looks bright. They will soon look into canning but are also thinking about opening up a larger production brewery off-site to be able to expand and distribute. Michael said they are even thinking about distributing in Asia as they are able to produce more beer.

Off the Rails Brewing Co.
The brewery…

They are currently working on a 20-barrel system (the original Stoddard’s system) and are on pace to produce about 1,000 barrels in their first year. Michael said they have the capacity to brew about 5,000 barrels a year in this facility and are far for having outgrown it.

Off the Rails only kept three things from the old Firehouse: two beers and the event spaces. They kept Hops on Rye, which won several awards, and One Tun Imperial Stout (OTIS). The entire space has undergone major renovations and the first floor was totally redone. It’s more modern and especially brighter and more inviting. Caroline Latorre-Herning, their event manager and Michael’s wife, said there is still a lot of work to do upstairs. Hey, one thing at a time. You guys are rocking it so far!

Off the Rails Brewing Co.
Michael is working the taproom and checking on the taps

So, what about all those beers we were talking about? Well, I got to try almost if not all the ones on tap at the moment, and there are some very solid brews in the lot. Click on the photo below to see the whole line-up. My faves? Loco Motive Lager (a Mexican-style lager), Long Haul Hefeweizen, Rose Rail (Irish Red Ale) and Commuter IPA. The rest was solid too, but these really stood out for me. To be frank, I would have liked to see a sour and a hazy IPA on the menu. As Michael said, he was classically trained and spent a lot of time making beer very clear. Some of the new trends may be a little bit of an uncharted territory for him. But Michael said they are getting there and are working on two new brews! They are making a kettle göze that will be on tap next month, as well as a collaboration brew with New Bohemia Brewing. This new Imperial Belgian Wit will be available during Santa Clara Valley Beer Week in July. Nice work!

More photos from Off the Rails:

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