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Gordon Biersch Night Market

Gordon Biersch Night Market

The pioneering Bay Area brewer’s Thursday night event draws crowds with German-style beer, food trucks, and live entertainment

In San Jose, Thursday nights mean one thing for craft beer lovers: the Gordon Biersch Night Market. Launched in 2017, the outdoor market attracts thirsty crowds each week, May through September, for a mini-festival featuring the pioneering Bay Area brewer’s craft beers, food trucks, local artists and vendors, and live entertainment. The kid- and dog-friendly market, produced in collaboration with local organizations Moveable, San Jose Made, and San Jose Jazz is held at the Gordon Biersch brewery in Japantown.

A rotating fleet of food trucks swings by each week to offer a variety of beer-friendly bites to enjoy at communal picnic tables. You might grab some slow-smoked brisket from Capelo’s Barbecue, nosh on Filipino rice bowls and lumpia from Barya Kitchen, or sample blistered, wood-fired pies from Tlaxiaco’s Pizza. Local makers and merchants are also part of the fun, with vendors such as the modern jewelry purveyor DLT Jewel Company and CBD wellness outfit Malaya Botanicals selling their wares. Along with musicians and bands, the entertainment lineup often includes something you won’t find at most food-and-beer markets: live wrestling matches.

The Night Market stems from a long Gordon Biersch history of showing California beer lovers a good time. The company opened its first brewery-restaurant in Palo Alto in 1988, cofounded by brewer Dan Gordon and restaurateur Dean Biersch. The modern movement toward craft beers—or “microbrews,” as they were called in those days—was just getting started in the United States, and Gordon Biersch was there on the ground floor. The founders’ vision for their business was simple: to open a place where people could gather to drink freshly brewed beer while having a great meal.

Gordon Biersch Night Market, San Jose, California

Gordon Biersch’s combination of craft-made German beer and gourmet pub food—including their legendary garlic fries—proved hugely popular, and the founders quickly expanded the business throughout California and across the country. The brewery’s massive Embarcadero waterfront brewpub in San Francisco, now since closed, introduced many Californians and visitors to their first-ever craft beers in the early 1990s.

Gordon eventually sold a majority stake in the business, which allowed him to realize a long-held dream of designing and building a state-of-the-art Gordon Biersch brewery and bottling facility in San Jose. The 114,000-square-foot space opened at Taylor Street in 1997, and it now runs 24/7 to produce a full lineup of craft beers.

Over the decades, the brewery has remained true to the founders’ love of great German beer, inspired by Gordon’s training at the Technical University of Munich, one of the world’s most renowned brewing schools. The brewery specializes in authentic lagers and ales such as märzen, hefeweisen, and pilsner. All are brewed using thoughtfully chosen ingredients like Hallertauer hops, two-row malted barley, and German yeast from Weihenstephan.

Gordon Biersch honors the 16th-century German Beer Purity Law, which stipulates that only water, barley, yeast, and hops may be used in beer production. The brewery uses strictly natural brewing methods, so instead of adding carbon dioxide for carbonation, for instance, Gordon Biersch traps some of the CO2 created naturally during the fermentation process to produce the beers’ bubbles. Brewers forego commonly used fining agents like tannins and isinglass, and do not use chemicals or additives in the brewing process.

To ensure consistency, the brewery also grows its own yeast and uses a new batch for each brew, rather than harvesting and reusing yeast from the previous tank. This way, the same “mother culture” is used every time.

Gordon Biersch’s current offerings include the Cliff Hanger Märzen, an auburn lager with a malty finish; Full Pressure Unfiltered Pilsner, a delightfully hoppy lager; and a hazy, fruity Hefeweizen.

Craft beer fans can taste fresh pours of the Gordon Biersch lineup at the weekly Night Market events as they were meant to be drunk—with great local food, among beer-loving friends.

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