Gilroy natives Ryan and Larissa Dickerson always stuck to their plan to open Bitter TapHouse no matter the circumstances.
The only problem was finding the perfect spot.
After an extensive search, they finally secured one but it wasn’t exactly what they were expecting the entire time.
“I started thinking this could be something special, something different,” Ryan Dickerson said.
Dickerson, 35, converted his mother’s former residence at 7797 Monterey St. into a hangout area where thirsty customers can sip on some of the freshest suds in town.
Dickerson’s wife and Gilroy High School sweetheart, Larissa, was all-in from the start. She’s excited to see how far they can sail on this current expedition into the world of beer.
“It’s unreal,” she said. “I feel sometimes it’s like, wait, this is ours?”
The 33-year-old former hairstylist went from doing hair and makeup at weddings to pouring freshly tapped cold brew into a glass.
Larissa was never one to throw back a cold one but now she’s starting to get into the sour beers, which she said is a popular choice amongst women.
“I’m slowly starting to get into it,” she said.
The couple still reside in a loft above the taproom with their two children, Jordan and Cameron, making it easier for them to get to work and stay close to home.
Bitter TapHouse opened in May and blends in with the neighboring homes that still occupy families, which makes this place all that more unique and special.
What was once the dining room is now decorated with various empty craft beer cans that Dickerson taste tested in order to create his menu.
The kitchen—painted white and green—was turned into the bar section and Dickerson’s 6-year-old daughter, Jordan, has a snack stand for patrons looking to purchase munchies.
Dickerson plans to expand into a bigger snack shack in a garage located in the backyard patio area, which is the biggest draw for most visitors.
For now, the taproom has food trucks available on the weekends starting on Friday. Dickerson said one of the goals is having a variety of trucks, bringing in vendors such as Wetzel’s Pretzels and some rooted in the Bay Area including Shrimp’n Ain’t Eazy out of San Jose.
In 2016, Ryan Dickerson came to a fork in the road whether he was going to become a full-time bodybuilder or pursue his passion for beer.
“It was either open up a gym and train athletes for bodybuilding competitions or open up a tap house,” he said.
Of course, he chose the latter and went on a mission to find an ideal spot for his new taproom.
The Dickersons didn’t want to venture off too far and made Morgan Hill the first stop.
However, they couldn’t find anything that fit their needs or vision. Then came the idea of using the current house Ryan’s mother lived in as a place to start their business.
Everything was going smoothly until the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 shut them down for a little more than a year until Santa Clara County lifted most of the restrictions.
“That was a real challenge,” he said. “My wife, staying home from work with the kids and doing all this off of just my income.”
Ryan and Larissa had no outside investors and obtaining a permit with the health department was no easy task, either.
“Everybody thinks ‘I’m going to open up a place next week and I’ll be up in a month,’” Ryan said.
Larissa remembers at one point the process being somewhat traumatizing, especially with new packets and loads of information given to them on a constant basis.
Ryan and Larissa had no previous experience in the restaurant or drink industry, yet they were able to network and consult with local taproom owners to see what works for them.
The menu at Bitter TapHouse features fan favorites and a rotation of beers from breweries throughout California.
Ryan Dickerson said the long-term goal is for one day to brew their own batches of beer.
“I love beer and I want to understand the process more,” he said. “I have a pretty good idea of how it all goes, the theory behind it, but I want to get practical and really dive straight into it.”
Dickerson believes what sets them apart is the unique type of setting and environment they provide. He’s heard customers rave about how Bitter TapHouse is similar to something they’d seen in England or Austin, Texas.
Think of it as a home away from home.
Over the course of the past four years, Ryan and Larissa put in some sort of effort no matter if it was 20 minutes or 10 hours.
Yet, in the midst of it all there were times where it became overwhelming for them and Ryan began to ask himself if this is what he really wanted.
Dickerson said now that all the little steps are combined and seeing the reaction from the community, it’s nice to see the end result becoming a sweet (and bitter) thing.
“The community of Gilroy has shown a lot of support,” he said. “A lot of people come in and say we understand why it took so long [to open]. We see the love and how hard you guys work to bring this vision to fruition.”
Where: 7797 Monterey St., Gilroy
Hours: Wednesday-Thursday, 4-9pm; Friday, 2-9pm; Saturday, 12-9pm; Sunday, 12-8pm