Features & Columns
Opens in San Jose
In a maze of near-identical, single-story office complexes and warehouses near the county fairgrounds in San Jose, the light gray building's blocky, utilitarian architecture—so much like that of all the neighbors—claims no decade. An asphalt strip forms a U-shaped driveway around the rectangular building, widening on each long side into a single column of white-lined parking spaces that stretch from the street to the rear of the building.
White Venetian blinds fill the two tall windows flanking the door of the unit stashed at the back of the building. Closed, the blinds block the only view into a space, that, from the outside, betrays no difference from the furniture company or the janitorial services that are among the building's other tenants. The flat, stuccoed cement facade repeats: two windows and a door, a wide, roll-up garage door.
Here at the back of the building, Clandestine Brewery's new taproom disguises itself well.
Offering the sole hint to the location, a sign posted out on the street asks, "Thirsty? Beer this way." For those who might happen upon the location, the place is closed most of the week, except for Friday evenings and Saturdays.
Even technology only helps so much in finding the taproom: given the address, Google Maps does show the way to Clandestine's doorstep, but it's nowhere near the street—on a phone screen, the location appears as a red dot mired in the amorphous beige sea that fills the spaces between the streets. Nonetheless, with its founders all still working at software companies—and in some cases, meeting at work—tech did help build the brewery.
The rollup garage door, which easily accounts for about half of the space's front wall, opens on about half a dozen high wooden tables, surrounded by stools. A dark metal bar with seats for four faces the open garage door. Rustic wooden boards frame a metal plate behind the bar. At the center of the plate, a tidy line of 12 taps draw beers from a dozen kegs kept in the walk-in fridge behind the bar.
Sleuths who carefully follow the sign on weekend nights can join the 30-50 people gathered at any one time in this tiny space, tasting a variety of beers. Anyone who wants to sample one really does have to search out the taproom: for the moment, Clandestine's beers aren't available anywhere else.
The brewery, which just finished its ninth weekend in operation, offers 12 beers on tap at a time, although they've already brewed more than 40 styles, including Scottish ales, Brett IPAs and a milk stout. The young company has no marketing budget yet, and business comes from word-of-mouth and social media.
The brewery's small size allows for a nimble operation, but Clandestine is also able to cover such a broad range of beer in a short time thanks to the diverse abilities of its five founders: Adrian and Christine Kalaveshi, Rob Conticello, Colin Kelly and dWiGhT Mulcahy.