What an exciting time for the South Bay! Hapa’s Brewing Company is also opening a second taproom this fall!
When I meet with owners/brewers, I usually ask if they have plans for the future. Hapa’s is in the midst of some pretty cool changes, but first things first… I sat down with Co-owner Derek Tam and got the lowdown on the brewery and how it got started. Ready?
Derek and Head Brewer/Co-owner Brian Edwards met back when they were kids growing up in Los Gatos. Derek then attended college in San Diego and Brian went off to Massachusetts. The two met back in the South Bay in 2007 and started home brewing before starting their careers in finance and tech respectively. By 2012, they had taken over Brian’s mom’s garage and were living with their respective girlfriends-now-wives in San Francisco. “It was time to take the plunge and try to find a spot in the South Bay,” Derek said. Why the South Bay? Derek said this area is comparable to San Diego County in size but that there are much fewer breweries here. It was time to start fixing that. Agreed!
They found their current location in 2016 and moved in in January 2017 with three beers on the menu. If you haven’t visited yet, you should! It’s a pretty cool building. “We liked what they were going to do with the building,” Derek said. “Keep the building old with a meat-packing, industrial vibe to it.” They were off to a good start! They since have brewed around 60 different beers and try to keep between 9 and 12 beers on tap at all times. We’ll talk beer again in a little while… Why Hapa’s? Well, it’s exactly what you think! Brian and Derek are both mixed. Derek is half Chinese half white. Brian is half Japanese half white. Hapa’s also has a third, more silent partner, but that’s just an expression. Pete Burrel is anything but silent; he gives the crew precious advice and tips on best practices and industry standards. Pete used to own Dempsey’s in Petaluma and has tons of experience in the industry.
Let’s get back to the beer for a minute. I had tried their beer at a few beer festivals in the area and visited the brewery once before. They have a solid offering. So who is making all this great stuff? “Brian is the chemist of the partners,” Derek said. “We try to balance it out between what we like to brew and the trends. We try and stay relatively to style and make sure we have a beer for everybody and that people don’t feel intimidated when they come in.” Derek’s favorite Hapa’s brew? Hungry Dog IPA. This West Coast IPA is their flagship beer and has been on the menu since day one. I didn’t get to try it, but it seems to me they must have had time to perfect it. Derek said they started brewing Hungry Dog during their home brewing days. So what did I get to try during my visit? Five very different styles. I tried Seeker of Truth Saison, Ghostly Reflections Hazy IPA, Moody Mongoose Kettle Sour with black currant, Amish Rifle Red Ale and Little Angel Mocha Porter. My favorite? It’s hard to say. They are all so different! I thoroughly enjoyed their red ale and hazy IPA. The one that impressed me the most is probably the kettle sour. You don’t see black currants being used too often in the US. For those of you who follow my blog, you know I recently home brewed a pale ale with black currant liquor. It was interesting to try a kettle sour made with the same fruit. So different!
I couldn’t help but notice the barrels in the brewery and was wondering if they had a barrel-aging program. Derek said they are in the very early stages of barrel aging. They recently welcomed Trey Schaaf to their team. Trey used to work at Rare Barrel and has extensive experience in barrel aging. They are counting on him to help them learn and experiment. I talked to Assistant Brewer Trey for a bit and he said he is very excited to start doing that Hapa’s. He wants to fill the whole brewery with barrels. Ha! On a separate note, he is also working on a lager that should hit the taproom very soon. Cheers! As you know, lagers take time and take up precious space. Hapa’s just expanded their equipment to a 15-barrel system with 6 fermenters and a bright tank. Trey said they had been brewing around 1,000 barrels a year up to this point but are hoping to reach around 3,000 barrels this year. Derek said they distribute about 5% of what they brew and serve about 95% at the taproom.
All right, all right. Time to develop on this new taproom! As I mentioned, they are opening up a taproom in Los Gatos in the fall. “The beer footprint is growing in downtown as opposed to high-end wine places.” They will not be brewing on-site and will keep all brewing operations in San Jose. The new taproom will offer light bites and boast an awesome beer garden. I’m excited to see what they put together for us! Knowing them, I’m expecting a casual atmosphere that’s family-friendly. “Hapa’s is trying to be inclusive to the general makeup,” Derek said. I’d say they’ve been pretty successful at that!
More photos from Hapa’s Brewing: