The Biz Beat: Fox Tale Fermentation Project brings unique brews to San Jose
Felipe Bravo and Wendy Neff started out home brewing in their garage. Now they run Fox Tale Fermentation Project in downtown San Jose. Photo by Ethan Gregory Dodge.

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Having spent the past five years homebrewing in their garage, San Jose residents and domestic partners Wendy Neff and Felipe Bravo have approached every beer as a learning opportunity. Adding unorthodox ingredients and changing the brewing process slightly to see how it came out, their passion project quickly outgrew the space.

Now, in an exciting advancement, they have opened Fox Tale Fermentation Project, a restaurant and brewery in downtown San Jose at 30 E. Santa Clara Street, Suite 120.

“It is always about learning and exploring different things. And providing an opportunity for other people to have the same experience,” Neff told San José Spotlight. “Yes, we’re going to have IPAs and pale ales, but we’re also going to have some really unique things that you can dive into and try.”

Felipe Bravo and Wendy Neff brewing together in Fox Tale Fermentation Project. Photo by Ethan Gregory Dodge.

Fermentation and experience

Neff studied holistic nutrition at Bauman College in Berkeley. Soon after, she became the head chef of superfoods at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park where her experiments with fermented foods flourished. At Fox Tale, she hopes to give people an opportunity to explore how to incorporate fermented items into their diets.

“You can take lacto-fermented garlic cloves and use those in exchange for fresh garlic cloves and get an incredibly different flavor experience,” Neff said. “To me, once you start trying things like that, you build that intrigue and you want to try more. That’s what I want for people because that’s how it went for me.”

The counter inside the downtown brewery and restaurant. Photo by Ethan Gregory Dodge.

Alongside their fermented beers, customers will also find fermented foods on the menu such as sauerkraut and fermented vegetables including leeks and carrots.

On top of a decade of homebrewing experience, Bravo has worked for several Bay Area breweries, including Original Pattern in Oakland and Fort Point in San Francisco. But his diligence in perfecting the brewing process also comes from his studies in electrical engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. There, he began a master’s thesis exploring the automation of homebrewing systems. He is currently enrolled in the Master Brewers Certificate Program at UC Davis.

Despite the shop just opening, there have been several opportunities to experience Fox Tale Fermentation Project’s brews. This past December, they released a collaboration beer with another downtown brewery, Camino Brewing Co. Additionally, two downtown bars—ISO Beers and Cash Only—have had Fox Tale beers on tap for weeks now.

“It’s a fun challenge to come up with a product that represents both breweries,” said Kim Pollock, head of production at Camino Brewing. “I was excited to brew something a little more on the experimental side with them. What we came up with was Pomona’s Paradise, a golden stout with persimmons and grains of paradise.”

Rare ingredients also occupy space in their other brews, such as Drink Kultura, a blue corn lager, or Fung Shui, a farmhouse ale with candy cap mushrooms.

Felipe Bravo preparing for a day of brewing at Fox Tale Fermentation Project. Photo by Ethan Gregory Dodge.

Heritage

Both sides of Bravo’s family can trace their San Jose residency back to the 1940s. Bravo himself grew up in Japantown, where his father owned a printing shop and a toy store.

“I learned a lot seeing that growing up,” he told San José Spotlight. “I never knew that I’d be doing this, per se, but it just feels right. It’s pretty cool.”

Neff, who moved to San Jose in 2008, recalls feeling a sense of belonging faster than she expected. She is proud to open her own restaurant here.

“It means everything,” she said. “This is my home. This is where my community is.”

From his point of view, Bravo reflects on how different San Jose is now compared to when he was a child.

“You see how a lot of the city is changing, and what’s surviving, what’s being built and what’s left is generally for people with money. I’m definitely not someone with money, so it’s been pretty difficult to adjust to that,” he said.

It’s an experience that informs Fox Tale’s overall vision of becoming a community space. That vision was at least partially realized last weekend as patrons sat at tables against exposed brick, packing the establishment during its grand opening.

“We’re so focused on making this a business for everybody to try and take some of that back,” said Bravo.

Contact Ethan Gregory Dodge at [email protected], on Twitter at @egd_io or on Signal at (408) 404-5511.

Fox Tale Fermentation Project

Location: 30 E. Santa Clara Street, Suite 120, San Jose, CA

Phone: (408) 216-0158

Hours:

  • Monday, Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday, Thursday: 3-9 p.m.
  • Friday, Saturday: 12-10 p.m.
  • Sunday: 12-8 p.m.

Social Media: Instagram | Facebook

What puts them on the map: Unique brews, fermented food and a centrally located, cozy space

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