Food & Wine

The business of beer: Crafty residents launch brewery from Los Altos kitchen

Photo By: Photo by Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier
Photo Photo By Eliza Ridgeway/Town CrierLos Altos resident Jenny Lewis, above right, joined forces with Drew Ehrlich to launch a local craft brewery, Strike Brewing Co. Their first foray focuses on three beers, right.

To see a video of the Strike Brewing Co. beer-makers in action, watch the Town Crier's video of bottling day.

There’s a new taste in town – craft beer, born from years of experimental brewing and inter-brewery schmoozing.

Strike Brewing Co. started as the home-brew hobby of Los Altos resident Jenny Lewis (née Voight). It grew into a family business when she and her husband, Ben, hooked longtime friend Drew Ehrlich as brewmaster-to-be – and after three years of prep, their beers are flowing on tap this month, with a launch party 8-10 p.m. Saturday at First & Main Sports Lounge in Los Altos.

Lewis enrolled in business school to develop a marketing and distribution plan for their beer vision, while Ehrlich worked on recipes. Learning to scale up from a kitchen-based home-brew batch to hundreds of kegs required learning the business of beer from multiple angles.

“She learned about operating a business and dealing with distributors and restaurants. I went the other way and learned about brewing from brewers in the area and talked to as many people in the industry as I could,” Ehrlich said. “Now we’re coming together to put this business together.”

Lewis and Ehrlich found a local resource for microbrew similar to the “incubators” familiar to Silicon Valley high-tech entrepreneurs. Because Strike is still raising capital, contract brewing – producing beer at a shared plant in San Jose – enables Lewis and Ehrlich to put their bottles on the shelves before building the physical infrastructure of a brewery.

The beer is available on tap in Los Altos at First & Main Sports Lounge, in Mountain View at the Tied House (954 Villa St.) and in Palo Alto at the Fish Market (3150 El Camino Real). Two locations in Palo Alto offer bottles for takeout: Driftwood Deli & Market (3450 El Camino Real) and Piazza’s Fine Foods (3922 Middlefield Road).

Strike’s first three beers – a blonde, a brown and a porter – are all “session beers,” moderately low-alcohol brews of approximately 4.5 percent alcohol-by-volume, which don’t pack the boozy punch of barley wines or India pale ales.

The idea of the session beer dates back to European pub culture, when drinks needed to be mild enough to allow for long hours of socializing and sipping, without risking inebriation.

The Strike founders share a background as collegiate athletes and became familiar with beer drinking as a post-workout tradition. They’re hoping to build a brewery with a tasting room located in the middle of local jogging and cycling routes.

“Session-style beer is what we’re launching with, because it really fits the lifestyle we’re going for,” Lewis said. “We want to do a running club and a triathlon club and field days, where people can come, bring their dogs and hang out in the beer garden. There’s no production brewery down here that you can go to and hang out for the day. We plan to have food trucks come in or you can bring a pizza and have a picnic.”

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