Since January of 2017, Hapa’s Brewery & Taproom located in the Midtown Mercantile Building has been a hotspot for Willow Glen locals to gather for craft beer and camaraderie. Co-owned by longtime friends and Los Gatos natives, Brian Edwards and Derek Tam, the seed of Hapa’s was planted in 2007 when the pair began experimenting with homebrewing and the dream to own their own brewery was kindled.
In 2012, Brian, who is a Harvard graduate, decided to leave his high-tech job to study the art of beer-making with Peter Burrell, a family friend and owner/head brewer at Dempsey’s. Brian explains, “I spent a long time at a desk looking at a computer, but I realized that I needed to use my hands to make something. Being a brewer is the embodiment of making something.” Derek continued in his investment management position while simultaneously working to put all of the other pieces together to enable the friends to launch their own taproom and brewery.
After looking at over 50 spaces, Brian and Derek signed a lease at the refurbished cannery, enticed by the location’s boutique, socially-conscious maker’s space. “We wanted to find a space that was unique and special,” Derek explains. Less than two years later, Hapa’s opened its doors at 460 Lincoln Avenue and almost instantly, became a local destination with award-winning beers. Brain adds, “It’s cool to be a part of that (revitalization) and see Willow Glen connect to downtown and the Rose Garden. This Midtown neighborhood is becoming a spot to be.”
Hapa’s, named after a colloquial Hawaiian term meaning mixed, which refers the heritage of the owners as well as the process of brewing beer, was awarded Best Beer Flights in the South Bay in July 2017 by BayArea.com. This was on the heels of receiving a gold medal in April 2016 in the Home Brew World Cup of Beer. The brewery serves anywhere from nine to thirteen beers on tap including IPAs, ales, Kolsch, stouts, and standard drafts along with a rotating menu of seasonal brews. The brewery also offers a “crowler,” the new industry standard for takeaway beer. This single-use recyclable container is filled and sealed-on-the-spot, keeping beer fresher longer than the classic growler. “It’s like a big, old-school Foster’s can. It’s nice to know that people can share these with friends—and ultimately share the experience they have when they come here,” says Derek.
Designed for family, friends, and community, kids and dogs are welcome at Hapa’s Brewery & Taproom. There are copious board games, shuffleboard, and corn hole along with events such as a food truck line-up Friday through Sunday, yoga+beer, sporting event watch parties, and live music invite people of all ages to come and stay awhile. Says Derek, “We want to make sure people have a good time.”
In addition to crafting award-winning beer, Hapa’s strives to be eco-friendly, sustainable, and locally-focused. One of the ways they achieve this is by donating their spent grain (which can equate to as much as 85% of a brewery’s by-product) to local farmers, such as Morgan Hill farmer, Allen Renz, who feeds the grain to his cattle.
In March 2019, Brian and Derek applied and received approval from the Los Gatos City Council to bring Hapa’s to Los Gatos. Currently in the permitting and architectural design stage, the second Hapa’s Brewery is slated to open “sometime between July and the end of the year,” according to Derek Tam in an interview with local MOVE radio.
The brewery will be located on South Santa Cruz Avenue behind ACE Rural Supply, near the Tollhouse Hotel. About 16,000 square feet plus a 1,000 square foot outdoor patio, the brewery will be a casual hangout with a local, Los Gatos vibe. “It will be a wine bar with a beer focus,” says Tam. There will be multiple beers on tap including hazy, hoppy IPAs, malts, porter, and local wines and ciders. Unlike its Willow Glen counterpart, the Los Gatos location will offer simple, light bites and possibly a lunch menu. Because of its location and smaller venue, there won’t be live music or the weekend convoy of food trucks. What it will have is great craft beer and a place to unwind and connect with friends. Hapa’s Los Gatos will be open 3pm to 9pm on weekdays and from 11am to 10pm on weekends.