SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — A company that produces a vital component of beer brewing is making a big investment in the Bay Area.

Behind the walls of the non-descript office park, GigaYeast produces enough liquid yeast to make more than 150,000 gallons worth.

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“Right now, we’re servicing about 300 craft breweries and about 30 retail stores that sell yeast to home brewers,” GigaYeast CEO Jim Withee said.

GigaYeast is one of just five companies in the country that produce large quantities of yeast for craft or independent brewers.

“We saw an opportunity,” Uproar Brewery Owner Steve Vandewater said.

Vandewater is in the process of opening a brewery in downtown San Jose, and says it’s a burgeoning industry in the South Bay.

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“It’s the 10th largest city in the United States with over a million people, and it only has five breweries in the city limits. That’s about a quarter of what you would expect for a city of its size,” Vandewater said.

Withee got a PHD from Stanford before diving into the beer business.

Right now, he’s running a skeleton crew – himself, two other scientists and a salesperson. But, he’s planning to expand, and looking to hire people who understand the science and the art of making beer.

“There’s a lot of specialized work for microbiologists – people who can help us with bulk propagation,” Withee said.

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