Finding Beer Nirvana

  • by Heather Cassell
  • Sunday May 3, 2015
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Beer nerds are getting hoppy this summer with the Bay Area's latest craft beer tour, the Bay Area Ale Trail.

Launched in San Jose in November 2014, the once a month beer tour led by founder Kerri Carder-McCoy, is currently focused on San Jose's emerging craft beer scene, but she has her eye on the Bay Area's beer movement.

Since the fall, Kerri, a 35-year old lesbian event-planning and hospitality industry professional in San Francisco, has been taking groups of 10 to 25 people and private tours starting with two guests on an adventure to industrial San Jose to sample the South Bay's craft brews.

She also customizes tours. Recently Kerri guided a private tour for guests to some of Santa Cruz's breweries.

For the Silicon Valley tours, Kerri and her driver picked up guests at San Jose's Diridon Caltrain Station and took them to the city's industrial area where breweries Clandestine, Strike, and Hermitage have set up shop within a mile of each other. The tours include a gourmet lunch and fun facts about the breweries and Bay Area to California brewing history for a chance to win some swag.

"Everybody leaves happy, and not just because they've been drinking," said Erin Carder-McCoy, Kerri's wife, who tags along on the tours. She loves that each tour is creative and unique in spite of going to the same breweries.

"They've all been very different," said Kerri, talking about the tours that have taken on themes such as "The Ugly Holiday Sweater" tour in December.

For Father's Day Weekend, the Bay Area Ale Trail will be all about the dads - gay and straight - as Kerri has a special tour planned for the papas June 20.

Brewing dreams

Sipping a beer on a sandy beach in Thailand at the turn of the New Year in 2013, Kerri began day dreaming with Erin what every vacationer at least once fantasizes about: "How can I quit my job and live here?"

The couple easily came up with an employment solution for Erin, a 40-year old elementary school teacher. But for Kerri, her options were wide but limited. She had no interest in working at a hotel. She had already been there and done that.

Beer in hand and after a little soul-searching, the beer aficionado turned her attention to beer tours, but in Thailand, it's "Chang, Chang, and Chang. That's all they have. There's not a lot of beer," she said.

Since one brewery doesn't make a profitable beer tour and vacation was over, the couple realized they weren't quite ready to quit their day jobs and run off to paradise just yet. They returned home to the San Francisco Bay Area, but a little bit of hops and yeast was brewing within Kerri.

On tap at Hermitage Brewing Company, one of the craft breweries on the Bay Area Ale Trail, in San Jose. photo: Geena Dabadghav

Getting to hoppiness

Soon after, Kerri started blogging about local breweries, reviewing them, and profiling brewmeisters, and checking out beer tours, such as the North Bay Brewery Tours, as a part of her research as she created the Bay Area Ale Trails.

In the process, Kerri discovered that she didn't have to venture far from home (she's a Bay Area native) to create her beer tours. The craft beer movement was spreading around the bay with more than 100 breweries and brew pubs currently operating, with dozens more coming on tap this summer from the North Bay to the South Bay.

One of the untapped areas bustling with breweries is the Peninsula down into the South Bay, particularly in San Jose. This year, two more breweries are opening up in the area: the Santa Clara Valley Brewing Company, launched by veteran Bay Area brewmiester Steve Donohue, and Mission Creek Brewery, Whole Foods' first California craft brewery located at its new store close to Diridon Station. All five breweries are all located within a mile and a half of each other.

Tasting the brew on the Bay Area Ale Trail in San Jose. photo: Geena Dabadghav

Quench that thirst

The couple appreciate that they aren't the only ones who are discovering San Jose's coolness.

Nearly a year after her beach fantasy, Kerri's Silicon Valley beer tour has been a hit among guests, many of whom are local, and had no clue that breweries were being "home-brewed" by South Bay natives in their own back.

"I thought it was great," said Gabe Morales, a 40-something Latino gay man, a San Francisco transplant now living in New York, who was home visiting friends when they went on the tour.

He liked the tour because, "It's not just sitting at a bar and drinking with friends," and it was informative, more than he expected, he said.

More so, the tour gave him a new perspective on the changes happening in the Bay Area.

"To have a tour that is designed to give you an insight into the Bay Area was very, very special to me," said Morales.

Erin agreed.

"I think that people should be willing to jump out of their comfort zone sometimes and check out what is going on in other places in the Bay Area, especially, if they like craft beer. Because there is some really, really delicious craft beer happening in San Jose," she said.

Bay Area Ale Trail t-shirt. photo: Geena Dabadghav

Finding beer nirvana in the Bay Area, Kerri plans to eventually grow her tour company beyond the once-a-month tour and private tours in San Jose. She's looking at eventually venturing into Santa Cruz to up and down the Peninsula to San Francisco and the East Bay as well as cideries and meaderies.

Kerri is also co-launching The Brew Pass, an annual membership to a group of breweries where members show their card to receive perks from free beer, discounts, and more, that should be available within the coming months, she said.

But for now she's happy introducing people to San Jose's craft breweries.

Group and private tours are available on the Bay Area Ale Trail. Tours are $125 per person. For more information, contact Kerri at [email protected] or visit . To learn more about the Brew Pass, visit

Heather Cassell is a travel and entertainment writer for the Bay Area Reporter and other publications. Read more about queer women's travel and entertainment at

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