Harry’s Hofbrau is not the first thing that comes up when you think of craft beer. Big chunks of corned beef? Check! Savory cuts of pastrami with flavorful sides? Check! Belgian-style ales? Check! Wait, what?
Harry’s Hofbrau is slowly making the transition from a family-owned, family-friendly restaurant to a family-owned, family-friendly restaurant that serves craft beer. This is a transition that has been several months in the making and it’s all been due to their General Manager Kevin Olcese.
Olcese has prior experience working in the craft beer industry having worked at BJs Brewhouse and the now defunct San Jose Tied House location. His addition to the Hofbrau family appears to be a shot in the arm infusing both passion and youthful energy into the restaurant. Olcese genuinely enjoys craft beer and is balancing bringing in brands that will challenge the Hofbrau’s existing client base without alienating them, as well as welcoming in new customers.
As great as it is to talk about Olcese and the changes he’s made, Mrs. BetterBeerBlog and I made it out to Harry’s Hofbrau because of the Allagash “Chalice” night they were having. The event was to promote the new Allagash Black and White beers that Harry’s Hofbrau are now pouring. Basically, you keep the Allagash chalice your beer was served in, a 16oz size (if you purchased the White) or a smaller 8oz size (if you purchased Black). Harry’s Hofbrau also served the Black in a 16oz size but for a little more money.
Black, Allagash Brewing Company
Black pours out a very dark brown, effectively black in color, with a tan head. The flavor of the beer is on the sweet side, there’s a cola/caramel like character to the ale, a roasted malt component and slight licorice note in the finish. The aroma is similar. Black is medium/medium-high in body with matching carbonation and lightly astringent finish.
White, Allagash Brewing Company
An example of an American witbier, White pours out a cloudy straw/gold color with a white head. The flavor has a soft, wheat malt character with a lemony citrus note, pear-like fruitiness, peppery spice character and low hop flavor and bitterness. The aroma is similar to the flavor but with a floral component.
Tripel, Allagash Brewing Company
We were able to taste Tripel from Allagash on bottle while at Harry’s Hofbrau. The beer has a noticeable peppery spiciness, strong herbal aromas and flavor, and pit fruit character. The hop bitterness is medium/medium-high and seems a little more than I would’ve expected from the style. This was a beer that wasn’t on special that night and hopefully they’ll continue to carry it in their inventory.
Reserve Wheat Ale, Telegraph Brewing Company
Brewed with lemon verbana, Reserve Wheat Ale has a soft, wheat malt flavor with a bright, lemony citrus character, some “barynard” notes and a refreshing lactic sourness in the finish. This beer wasn’t on special this night but we were able to secure a bottle at Harry’s Hofbrau, not sure if it will be a regular in their bottle inventory though.
The Carvery is the restaurant portion of Harry’s Hofbrau. Instead of being seated and waiting for your server to take your order, you place your order at The Carvery based upon what you want: cuts of meat, sides, sandwiches or one of their other specials. They prepare your plate for you right there, you pay for it at the end of the bar and take your meal back to your seat to enjoy. It’s a simple, no nonsense process that works for them.
Mrs. BetterBeerBlog and I ordered the pastrami and corned beef respectively. We received an obscene amount of food that I found to be tasty and well made. Mrs. BetterBeerBlog was very impressed with the value of our dinner and it looks like we’ll be adding Harry’s Hofbrau to our regular restaurant rotation.
This was the first time Mrs. BetterBeerBlog and I have ever been to Harry’s Hofbrau. For whatever reason, the restaurant never seemed to be on our radar. I fully admit to being ignorant of their cuisine but outside of that, they just seemed… old.
Having been established in 1978, Harry’s Hofbrau is old. There is nothing trendy or chic about them. Harry’s Hofbrau is the old standby that our parents would go to, not unlike a Hometown Buffet or local diner.
But I now find myself excited with Harry’s Hofbrau. My excitement stems not just from their craft beer, or from just discovering their stick-to-your-ribs cuisine, but from GM Olcese. Olcese is just the type of person needed to help change the perception of Harry’s Hofbrau. Yes, Harry’s Hofbrau will always be the comfortable, family-owned restaurant serving familiar fare, but they will also be the spot to pick up good, if not great beer. Not because it’s trendy but because it the right thing to do at this time.
So it looks like San Jose has a new spot for craft beer. Swing by and check them out!