Picking the perfect spot to grab a cold beer can be a formidable task. With so many breweries and restaurants with full beer menus in San Jose, the choices are endless. But if you’ve ever felt the options on tap were a bit underwhelming, Clandestine Brewing offers artisanal, small-batch brews to suit even the most adventurous palate. Originally tucked away in the Monterey Avenue manufacturing area—as the secrecy in their name suggests—this co-op of homebrewers is now serving in the SoFA District of San Jose. Rob Conticello, one of the co-owners, shares the brewery’s journey.
How did Clandestine Brewing get started? We have a rather interesting history. We’ve only been open at this San Jose location since November last year, and we had a grand opening in February. Before, from about 2014 to 2015, we ran a brewery that was a much smaller size. It was a great facility, but we ended up outgrowing that space. Everything there was handmade; we built out the whole thing ourselves, pretty much hammered every nail.
We knew we wanted to expand, so we went through an exhaustive search to find the right place. We finally found this place on First Street in San Jose, and it worked out beautifully for us, because there are so many breweries that are a close distance, so very walkable for people. Going through city planning took a lot of time. It actually took us longer to get permits than it took to build. It took us about 18 months, but it was worth it to have this location now.
How did you and the team meet each other? I’ve known co-owners Adrian Kalaveshi and Colin Kelley for a long time—since we started getting into homebrewing together. I’d homebrewed some in college, and they’d had some background in it too. We were all into craft beer, and we decided we could take up brewing just as a hobby. We ended up doing that for almost six years, and through that, met our other partner, Dwight Mulcahy, also a big homebrewer. We actually met through a homebrewing club, and after a while, we decided to take it more seriously and become a mini co-op.
Since we didn’t have a lot of professional experience, we knew we wanted to start small to learn what worked and didn’t work for us. We also learned what our customers liked and what they wanted to drink. For example, IPAs are a craze right now, but we want to have some diversity in our taproom. We didn’t want to become “just an IPA place.” There’s nothing wrong with that. Plenty of breweries are following that model, and people love IPAs. We love IPAs, too! We just want to have something for everyone.
“We finally found this place on First Street in San Jose, and it worked out beautifully for us because there are so many breweries that are a close distance, so very walkable for people.” _Rob Conticello
How does Clandestine work today as a co-op? We have five people that brew—myself, Adrian, Colin, Dwight, and Liz Scandizzo (Colin’s wife). At our old location, we all still had our day jobs, so it was a passion project to keep things going. Today, Adrian and Colin are managing the business full-time and brew during the week, while Dwight, Liz, and I spend a lot of time here on the weekends brewing. We all share the responsibilities of brewing, and it works great. Christine, Adrian’s wife, helps out around here, too.
How do all of you collaborate on a menu? It’s great to have so many brewers. We have ideas that we share and bounce off each other to expand and improve on. Right now, the only beer we’ve had on tap since we’ve opened is our Milky Way Stout, but we have a regular set of other beers that are available maybe 50 percent of the time on the menu. So we’ll have a Kölsch, a Pilsner, a hefeweizen, and always some number of rotating IPAs. We’ve had a lot of people follow us from our old location, and with the number of breweries in this area, I think it’s going to be great for everyone. We’re looking forward to collaborating with other breweries on some beers in the future. We’re still newly opened, but we’d like to begin some sort of partnership in the summer or the fall this year. We’re just getting started.
Downtown San Jose
980 S First Street, Suite B
San Jose, CA 95110
Article originally appeared in Issue 10.3 Perform (Print SOLD OUT)