Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for July, 2005

Beat the Heat With a Summer Wheat

As promised in my column today, here’s my June 8, 2005 column reporting our wheat beer tasting.

By William Brand
Oakland Tribune
Summer is coming and there’s no better time for a wheat beer.
Properly made and in fresh condition, a wheat beer can be light and thirst-quenching, the perfect antidote for a long, hot, wearing summer day.
I love wheats; I like almost every wheat, sometimes I’m stressed when I have to choose one over the other. So, I decided to throw in a twist. I enlisted two tasters who really don’t like wheat beer.
The first, Mike Gacsaly, is a mathematician and homebrewer. The second, Gary Larsen loves to visit brewpubs and write about them. They both like their beer dark and chewy. I set out a selection of a couple of dozen wheat beers of various kinds and took notes. It was an interesting night, indeed.
But first, a little bit about wheat beers.
Wheat beers aren’t really all wheat. What we call a wheat is a beer brewed with a blend of malted barley and malted or unmalted wheat, usually balanced by Hallertau hops, a fine aroma hop with a slightly herbal note.
According to the Encyclopedia of Beer (Henry Holt, New York, 1995) wheat beers were so common in the Middle Ages that most wheat was used for beer, leaving very little for bread. The encyclopedia says the Reinheitsgebot, the Bavarian beer purity code, allowing only hops, barley, water (and yeast) in beer, was passed partly to leave wheat for bread.
That’s not surprising. Beer back then tended to be quite dark and heavy. Using a blend of wheat and malted barley, brewers could produce a frothy beer with a lighter color and an almost herbal, spicy taste.
Here in America wheat beers have been embraced by the craft beer movement . Every brewpub has at least one wheat and bottled wheats can be found in profusion.
For more about wheats, including an explanation of the many German terms for wheat beer – many of which wind up on labels on American wheats without explanation, check out our blog at: To find out more, check out our blog at or
So here we are at my kitchen counter with my two dark beer fans. I served them in flights of two, wheats first, then hefeweizens, then fruit wheats . Here are their favorites:
1. Anchor Summer Beer, Anchor Brewing, San Francisco. This was the hit of the evening. Both Mike and Gary found it straightforward, refreshing without a trace of sourness, something neither likes. Intsteadit was dry from nose to follow. “An excellent beer,” Mike said. Anchor launched this one in 1984. A blend of nearly 60 percent wheat, 40 percent pale malt, it was the first American wheat beer in modern times.
2. Pyramid Hefeweizen, Pyramid, Seattle, Berkeley. Another hit. Both tasters liked the taste. It had a touch of sweetness, but it tasted almost nutty, Mike said. Gary loved the dry, thirst-quenching follow.
3. Sierra Nevada Wheat, Sierra Nevada, Chico. Both our tasters liked the pour, this is a big, golden wheat with a lively, creamy hed, full taste and a dry follow.
4. Pyramid Apricot Ale. This one shocked both tasters. They are not “girly men” and unlikely to seek out a fruit beer under any circumstances. “Not too shabby,” Gary said. “This has some taste (and the apricots don’t hurt it, he said under his breth. “Oh I like this,” Mike said with surprise.
5. Erdinger Weissbrau. This was the one import that fared well. This is a bottle-conditioned, non-pasteurized wheat from Erding near Munich, Bavaria. Both tasters rated it below their American favorites, but found it dry and pleasing and easily superior to the other German wheats I had supplied.
And finally, this has been a cold, wet year and if the weather gods send you a chill lemon of a summer evening, do what I do – no, I don’t make lemonade. I reach for a bottle of Aventinus****. This German ale from G. Schneider & Sohn, Kelheim, Bavaria is a beery contradiction.
It’s a wheat beer, it’s bottle-conditioned, not pasteurized. But it’s the opposite of light. Made with a blend of dark malts, it’s 8 percent ABV, nearly double the alcohol of your average wheat. The mind reels: A heady, chocolate nose, thick, creamy head, tastes like heaven, raisins and ripe fruit, with a tiny, lingering hint of cloves. Comes in a 16-oz. bottle, costs about $3.

Last note: The Berkeley History Center is on an unusual quest: The center plans a “Fermenting Berkeley” exhibit in October. Yes beer, not revolution. They’re looking for memorabilia, photos and information about the production, sales and social aspects of alcohol in Berkeley between 1890 and 1960. For info, call History Center, (510) 848-0181, e-mail: or write Daphne Tooke, Exhibition Curator, Berkeley History Center, P.O. Box 1190, Berkeley, CA 94701.

Posted on Wednesday, July 27th, 2005
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment

Lagunitas Dinner At the Claremont

This one missed my calendar list in the column this past week. It’s a worthwhile event. Check it out, time is short.

Calendar: July must be beer dinner month in the Bay Area. There’s another one coming this Wednesday, July 20 and if you’re only going to one this summer, this would be an excellent choice.
It’s at the Paragon Bar & Cafe at the Claremont Resort & Spa in Oakland.The beer is Lagunitas, Petaluma, CA. Pat Mace of Lagunitas says it’s a three course dinner, each course paired with Lagunitas ales.

Main course, is short ribs braised in Lagunitas Brown Shugga. Cost is $40 per person; reservations, (510) 549-8585. The Paragon is the Claremont’s casual spot; it’s in the front of the hotel with a sweeping view of Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco Bay and San Francisco. An elegant spot indeed for a beer dinner. See you there.

Yes, the Claremont is in Oakland. The border in the Berkeley-Oakland hills meanders. So part of the Claremont’s in Oakland, part’s in Berkleley and the present ownership uses a Berkeley address. I know Berkeley folks think of the Claremont as theirs, and in many ways it is. But truth is, the place is in both Oakland and Berkeley.

If you’re interested, the hotel has a fascinating history page.

Posted on Sunday, July 17th, 2005
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment

Beer Olympics in Golden Gate Park Saturday

More calendar items, fests upcoming:

2005 Beer Olympics, July 16, noon-6 p.m., Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park. Sponsored by Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles. Four events: beer keg tossing, arm wrestling, a three-legged race and beer drinking. $10 admission includes, beer and barbecue . Info.

18th annual Oregon Brewers Festival, July 28-31, Portland. OR. If you like the idea of a beer festival and don’t mind a bit of travel, there’s no better festival in America in my humble opinion than this one. Traditionally, every brewer in Oregon participates, plus invited brewers from California and much of the rest of the known world.
The fest is held at Tom McCall Waterfront Park along the Willammette River in downtown Portland; the best Portland restaurants have booths; there’s non-stop entertainment . It’s easy to leave the festival, stroll downtown streets, shop, and return to the festival. Info.

Great British Beer Festival, London, England, Aug. 2-6. Sponsored by the Campaign for Real Ale, this is the granddaddy of the world-wide real ale movement. It’s my goal to attend next year. Info.

Posted on Thursday, July 14th, 2005
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment

Letters: Alcohol Labels for Consumers

Dear William Brand

I’ve been reading your column in the Oakland Tribune for a few months now. I keep wondering why it is that some brewers list the alcohol content on their label, and some don’t. You also will list the alcohol content of some brews in your column, and not list them for others.
Just curious…

Hi Zoe…I simply forget to post the ABV sometimes. Occasionally, I write about a beer with no posted ABV. I need to be more consistent. About why some print ABV and some do not. For years, posting alcohol content was not allowed by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms. It became legal a few years ago.
Art Resnick, Director of Public and Media Affairs at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in Washington, D.C. said the change simply allowed brewers to list the alcohol content of their beer if they chose.

“Some states have low alcohol beers (According to Brewery Age, six states sell only 3.2 beer — that is, beer that is 3.2 percent alcohol by weight, 4 percent alcohol by volume — Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Utah). Those states require beers to list alcohol content. For comparison, your average Bud contains about 5 percent alcohol by volume.

Dear William: Thanks so much for your reply. I think that posting the alcohol content for each beer would be as good of an idea as it is for wine producers. Your thoughts?

Zoe, I can’t imagine why a brewer would not list alcohol content. It’s an important piece of consumer information. I’m for it. In May, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau asked for comments on proposed `consumer health labeling’ for alcohol containers. Comment deadline was June 28, 2005. But so far, there’s no news.
The bureau request came 18 months after the National Consumers League, the Center for Science in the Public Interest and other groups petitioned the feds to update booze labels.

Among other things, the Alcohol Facts label would disclose:

–Alcohol content and standard servings. Labels would list the number of drinks per container and the amount of alcohol in a standard serving. The label would also state the U.S. Dietary Guidelines’ definition of moderate drinking as no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.

–Calorie information. Labels would list calories per serving so consumers concerned about excess weight or obesity could put alcoholic beverages in the context of their diet.

–Ingredients. Labels would list ingredients so consumers can compare beverages, and so the seven million Americans with food allergies can know if an alcoholic beverage contains milk, eggs, gluten, or other allergens. Currently, sulfites and Yellow Dye No. 5 are the only ingredients that are required to be listed.

In a media statement announcing the petition, George Hacker, director of CSPI’s Alcohol Policies Project, said this:

“It seems silly that a bottle of lemonade has to list
its ingredients, but a bottle of hard lemonade
doesn’t. Our proposed label would let consumers
see exactly what’s in various brands of beers,
wine, and hard liquors.”

Gee would that mean a new beer category: Rice beer. What do you think Anheuser-Busch?

Here’s a link to a biased, but factual report from Join Together, an anti-alcohol coalition, on the government’s current labeling efforts.

Posted on Thursday, July 14th, 2005
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
Leave a comment

Double Daddy IPA Tasting Tonight

Also, Check Out the Breast Fest (Info below)

Got this late note from David Keene at the Toronado in San Francisco:

“Come and celebrate the release of Double Daddy IPA in bottles for the first time from Speakeasy Brewing Wednesday, July 13, 2005 at 6 p.m.

“We will have Double Daddy on draught and in cask form.Also on tap will be a keg of Big Daddy fresh from thebrewery kegged on the 13th. We will be pouring the Maibock, Black Beer,Stout, and Prohibition as well.”

The Toronado is at 547 Haight St. There’s no admission charge.

Here’s another one that fell below my radar until today: Microbreweries Battling Breast Cancer, noon- 5 p.m., this Saturday, July 16, Marin Brewing Co., Larkspur Landing, Corte Madera, CA.

More than 20 local breweries; live music, an outdoor barbecue and a raffle for a Drake Beach Cruiser from Marin Bikes. $20 at the door, advance tickets, $18. Call (415) 461-4677. Benefits the Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic, which serves low income women with cancer.

Brewers call it the “Breast Fest.” An added wrinkle is a special fest beer, being brewing at craft breweries around the bay, based on a recipe from Drake’s Brewing Co., San Leandro. They’re calling it the “Warrior Brew” – a reference to women fighting breast cancer and to the fact that each beer must be made using only Warrior hops. This is a newer, high alpha hop, meaning it’s extremely bitter and not used very often as the only hop in a beer.

Sounds interesting. Be there.

Posted on Tuesday, July 12th, 2005
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment