Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for August, 2005

A Grilling Gala With Bruce Paton, Lucy Saunders


Mark Sept. 9 on your calendar. Bruce Paton, executive chef of the Cathedral Hill Hotel, San Francisco, is planning a grilling session featuring beercook.com chef Lucy Saunders and some of the best Northern California brewers and their beers in an evening of grilled food, good beer and discussions about beer and food. The fun starts at 7 p.m.
Cost is $30 per person. Deadline for reservations is Sept. 1, 2005
Call Bruce Paton, (415) 674-3406 or e-mail bpaton@cathedralhillhotel.com

Brewers and brewreies include,21st Amendment, Bear Republic, Black Diamond, Drakes, Half Moon Bay, Lagunitas, Moonlight, Russian River, Triple Rock

Grill menu will include, Gulf Prawns, Baby Lamb Chops, Heirloom Tomatoes, Kurobuta Pork, Eggplant, Wild Salmon, Mushroom, Angus Beef and Cheese. See you there.

Posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2005
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Drinking Beer in Paradise

LIHUE, KAWAI, HAWAII — As we walked toward the Whalers Brewpub entrance, I peered in a window of the brew plant and I realized there was trouble in paradise: The brew house was a shambles; insulation around pipes was crumbling; there was a pool of water on the far-from-spotless floor.

The copper brew kettle was tarnished and discolored. Well, maybe this is an Hawaiian lambic brewery, I thought.

Wrong. Jennifer DeLaRosa, the only staff person on the premises, late this Sunday afternoon, explained there hadn’t been a brewer at the Whaler’s in a year and a half. They did have Keoki Sunset***, Keoki Gold** and Kona Longboard Lager**, on tap, plus a half-dozen bottled beers. I’d already tried all three and really liked the Sunset, so I ordered it.

She brought me half a glass. “That’s all there is,” she said. Surprisingly, unlike the derelict brew plant, they must keep the beer lines clean; even this little dab was fine, not an off-note.

OK, don’t get me wrong. Whaler’s may not be a brewpub these days; the beer list may be slim, but this place is indeed paradise. It’s located on a promontory, at the edge of Hanapepe Bay. From the long patio, beside the pub, you can see forever out into the Pacific. Look west and it’s all tropical lushness. Coconut palms; bougainvillea bushes, plumeria trees with their wild white flowers and incongruously, the carefully manicured Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club.

Whaler’s is incredibly hard to find. It took us two family fights and directions from a local resident to locate the place. It’s at the back the Kaua’i Marriott. Take the main Marriott entrance off Rice Street and thread your way back, about a half-mile of tourists, golfers and tropical lushness. But it’s worth the journey.
Sunsets here, I’m told, are the best on this side of the island. I believe it; gorgeous view and maybe they’ll have Keoki Sunset back on line.

Jennifer told us the place rocks, especially on holiday weekends and when a cruise ship calls at the harbor below. A three day blast is planned Labor Day Weekend. There’s a DJ from 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. on Mondays and Thursday.

Whaler’s, 3132 Ninini Point Road, Lihue, Kawai, Hawaii
(808) 245-2000, Hours: Open daily, 11 a.m. Closing times vary.

Posted on Monday, August 29th, 2005
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Toronado’s Warrior Hop Fest Wednesday

I’m posting this tonight in haste. If you didn’t make it to the “Breast Fest,” the breast cancer benefit at Marin Brewing in Larkspur, CA a few weeks ago, here’s your chance to taste the special India Pale Ales brewed using only Warrior hops by six Bay Area brewers for that festival.

David Keene, proprietor of the Toronado, 547 Haight St., San Francisco, will have all six beers on tap Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2005, beginning a 6 p.m.

It’s a real challenge. Warrior is a new, high alpha hop, apparently with a decent aroma. But it’s more often used as a bittering hop.

Here’s David’s e-mail:

WARRIOR HOP EXPERIMENT NIGHT, six breweries, five different base malts,one hop.

Six breweries decided to try an experiment. What would happen if each brewery were to use their own malt, yeast and water and set up guidelines to follow but use only one hop? This is the result
of the “WARRIOR HOP EXPERIMENT.”

Guidelines
93% 2-row Malt, 4% Munich Malt, 3% Crystal 45 Malt, 60 IBU’s, Original Gravity: 16.5, finishing gravity: 3.0-3.5, 6.8% alcohol by volume.

Drakes Brewing, San Leandro:
2-Row Malt- Crisp
Crystal Malt- Crisp
Munich Malt- Durst
Yeast- White Labs 001
Original Gravity- 16.3*P (SG 1.063)
Terminal Gravity- 3.5*P (SG 1.014)
Mash Temperature- 152*F
Fermentation Temperature- 65*F

Marin Brewing, Larkspur:
2-Row Malt- Gambrinus
Crystal Malt- Thomas Faucet
Munich Malt- Gambrinus
Yeast- White Labs 002
Original Gravity- 16.5*P (SG 1.066)
Terminal Gravity- 3.5*P (SG 1.014)
Mash Temperature- 154*F
Fermentation Temperature- 67*F

Magnolia Pub & Brewery, San Francisco
2-Row – Thomas Faucet Maris Otter
Crystal Malt- Thomas Faucet
Munich Malt- Weyerman type 1
Yeast- White Labs 002
Original Gravity- 16.3*P (SG 1.065)
Terminal Gravity- 5.2*P (SG 1.021)
Mash Temperature- 150*F
Fermentation Temperature- 65*F

Triple Rock Brewing, Berkeley
2-Row Malt- Crisp
Crystal Malt- Crisp
Munich Malt- Gambrinus
Yeast- White Labs 002
Original Gravity- 16.6*P (SG 1.068)
Terminal Gravity- 3.0*P (SG 1.012)
Mash Temperature- 150*F
Fermentation Temperature- 67*F

21st Amendment Brewery, Restaurant, Bar, San Francisco
2-Row Malt- Rahr
Crystal Malt- Crisp
Munich Malt- Crisp
Yeast- White Labs 001
Original Gravity- 16.5*P (SG 1.065)
Terminal Gravity- 3.3*P (SG 1.011)
Mash Temperature- 158*F
Fermentation Temperature- 72*F

Bison Brewing, Berkeley
2-Row Malt- Briess organic
Crystal Malt- Briess organic C-40
Munich Malt- Briess organic
Yeast- White Labs 001
Original Gravity- 16.3*P (SG 1.063)
Terminal Gravity- 3.5*P (SG 1.014)
Mash Temperature- 154*F
Fermentation Temperature- 68*F

Posted on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2005
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Ommegang, Allagash Beat Belgians

Quick: Which beer do you like better: The legendary Chimay Grande Reserve, produced at a Trappist monastery in Belgium or Ommegang, a Trappist-style beer made in Cooperstown, NY, USA:?
According to Tim Webb, who conducted the tasting for about 70 Belgian beer enthusiasts at the Great British Beer Festival, this past weekend in London, the favorite was Ommegang.

In a second comparison, Allegash White, from Allagash Brewing, Portland, ME, USA tied with Sint Bernardus Wit, from Brouwerij Sint Bernard in Watou, West Flanders, Belgium. Saint Bernardus (in English) is easily one of Belgium’s top wheat beers.

There was a third beer, Italy’s Panil Barriquée from Birra Panil in Torrechiara, near Parma (Italy) was compared with Rodenbach Grand Cru from Brouwerij Rodenbach in Roeselare, West Flanders (Belgium).

According to a posting on a Belgian beer site, Tim, who publishes the authoritative,Good Beer Guide to Belgium, an audience of 70 beer lovers had each paid 10 pounds in addition to their admission tickets, to attend what was billed as a tutored tasting of Belgian ales. What they got instead was a chance to vote on which of four pairings of beers tasted the more authentic and which they preferred as a beer.

This was a repeat of a blind tasting held in Washington D.C.by BURP, a group devoted to Belgian beer. In that one, the superiority of the American beers was striking.
But Belgian fans wondered if the long trek across the Atlantic might have injured the Belgians. So the repeat tasting was organized.

So Webb and CAMRA organized the British tasting, Aug. 5.
“The most amazing result was the comparison of the strong abbey beers. I had agreed with the majority of the audience that one beer was clearly both of superior quality and greater authenticity. The other tasted frankly rather uninspired.

“I will confess that I assumed what had happened was that the beer that crossed the Atlantic had suffered in transit. When I got told that it was the Ommegang that had won hands down over the Trappist beer I did not believe it at first. I thought there must have been a misunderstanding, but the event manager confirmed that the huge majority vote was for the US-made beer,” Webb said in a CAMRA news release.

“I guess it should not have surprised me that much,” Webb said. “After all Ommegang is Belgian owned ( Duvel Moortgat) and created (by importer VanBerg & Dewulf) with the intention of authenticity.

Allagash, of course, is all-American,founded in 1995 by Rod Tod. It was the first brewery in New England devoted to making Belgian-style beers.

Ommegang and its champion wheat-based cousin Hennepin are widely available at stores in the Bay Area with good beer stocks. I’ve seen Allagash Wit at Beverages & More from time to time. Panil is imported by Shelton Bros., which specializes in rare, interesting foreign beers. But I’ve never seen it on the West Coast. A phone call to Shelton was not immediately returned.
((Don’t know where to shop for beer in the Bay Area, drop us an email (whatsontap@sbcglobal.net) and ask for our retail beer list.))

In the CAMRA blind tasting, members of the audience sampled each pair, then were asked: Which beer was the most authentically Belgian in style and which beer would they have been more pleased to have bought.
The results:

Strong Abbey-Style Ales: More authentic Belgian Style, 80-20 percent in favor of Ommegang.
More pleased to have bought: 70-30 percent in favor of Ommegang.

Wheat Beers: More authentic Belgian style:
60-40 in favor of Sint Bernardus
More pleased to have bought: 60-40 in favor of Allagash

Oak-Aged Brown Ales:
More authentic Belgian style: 50-50
More pleased to have bought: 60-40 in favor of Panil.

By the way, the 2005 edition of Tim Webb’s Good Beer Guide to Belgium has just been published. The best way to buy a copy is to purchase it from Tim’s own website www.booksaboutbeer.com. For $29.95 you get a signed copy of the book delivered to your door. Besides, buying directly from Tim helps support his research, which is extensive, authoritative and expensive.
You choice, save a couple of bucks, maybe, and buy from Amazon or support Tim in his work. And, if you care about Belgian beer as I do, Good Beer Guide to Belgium is the best.

Posted on Wednesday, August 10th, 2005
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Best Place for a Good Beer and a Film

If you live in the Eastbay, like films and beer and being social, there’s a must destination for you: It’s the Parkway Theater, 1834 Park Blvd. That’s near Lake Merritt. Info line: 5109-814-2400, office: 510–848-1994.

Saw Batman Begins there Wednesday night with my son, Zach. It’s simply a treasure. No theater chairs; instead there are couches and easy chairs and tables. A full menu, not the best food you ever ate, but OK.

And there is beer — I sipped a pint of Mendocino’s Eye of the Hawk, while we watched Bruce Wayne train as some kind of shadowy ninja. There were more choices, each one excellent: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Sudwerk Hubsch Pils, Stone IPA, Anderson Valley Boont Amber and Newcastle Brown, hmmm not so sure about that one.
Oh yeah, they have wine too. What wine? I dunno. California wine, I guess.

One important note: No children, except for the 6:30 p.m. show on Monday nights. That’s Baby Brigade Night and kids are welcome and free.

My dot.gone, graduate student, single son Zach, says he avoids Monday nights. But Wednesday night is cool: admission is $5 for two people. That’s what we paid, plus $16.50 for a hamburger, a very large slice of cheese pizza, a liter of Coke in a glass and my pint of Hawk.
Plus Batman Begins is easily the best film of the summer. Long live the Dark Knight of Gotham and the Parkway.

More news; the owners, Catherine and Kyle Fischer, are involved in opening a similar establishment the El Cerrito in El Cerrito, CA on San Pablo Avenue near Central Avenue. Check out their website for details.

Posted on Friday, August 5th, 2005
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Hops Enough for All of Us

If hoppy beers are your bag or you think they might be, then there’s no better place to be in America this Saturday, Aug. 6 than at The Bistro, 1001 B St. in downtown Hayward, CA.

The event is the eighth annual India Pale Ale Festival. Festival founder Victor Kralj said over 30 breweries from all over Northern California and many from Southern California have entered their IPAs. Hours are 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.; $15 admission. There also will be live music and barbecue all day. Info: www.the-bistro.com, (510) 886-8525.

Among other great breweries are beers from all three Pizza Port breweries in Carlsbad, San Clemente and Solano Beach, CA. Some great beer is coming out of all three of these unusual, small breweries. Also, for the first time this year, Ballast Point, an award-winning San Diego brewery and Michael and Anne Altman’s
Iron Springs Pub & Brewery in Fairfax.

India Pale Ale is a beer style originated in England in the 18th Century. Beer made from new for the era, pale barley malt, was brewed quite strong, placed in wood casks and placed aboard ships bound for India. By the time it arrived four months later, it was ready to drink — fully fermented, dry and delicious and a world famous style was born.

American versions today are much stronger and a great deal more hoppy than either the original or the modern British IPA. They are, Kralj points out, something not to miss. He’s not kidding. See you there.

Posted on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005
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Best Beer in the World: Rate.Beer Says Yes

Beer by the numbers? Hmmm.

In the art world, painting by numbers is a joke: Even if your aunt’s loving production of Grandma Moses’ best work is a family treasure, it’s still amateurish, a number missed occasionally, the color red substituted for ochre.

But what about RateBeer.com? Anybody can vote for their favorite beer. just long on and vote. No qualifications needed. Then the site crunches the numbers and spews out lists — best beers and breweries in the United States; best beers in Sri Lanka. The mind boggles.

Think about it: Joe Tucker, Ratebeer’s number one guy, says they average 25,000 separate visits a day. Tucker crunches the data _ and produces an amazing set of lists, which have not become famous because of their modesty:

Best beer in the world: According to RateBeer.com it’s Westvleteran Abt 12.
This is truly a great beer. Tim Webb, author of the Good Beer Guide to Belgium (CAMRA Books, 2005) says this:

“One of the world’s great barleywines, a dark, intense vinous brew that should improve for up to 10 years in the cellar.”

Here’s the question: Can the masses on the web _ those among the 25,000 daily visitors to RateBeer.com have such good judgment? And how about the second best beer in the world, according to RateBeer.com: Three Floyds Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout, Three Floyds, Munster, IN.

or number three: Bells Expedition Stout, Kalamazoo Brewing, Kalamazoo, or number four: Kuhnhenn Raspberry Eisbock, Kuhnhenn Brewing, Warren, MI, or number five: AleSmith Speedway Stout, AleSmith Brewing, San Diego, CA.

Joe Tucker makes no excuses. “Mostly what we do, we just open it up to anyone who wants to share their opinion,” he said. “We make some provisions against trolls — people who show up on the site and cause harm. There are a couple of mathematical tricks we do to weed them out.”

Trolls can be ratings written in a deliberately insulting, weird manner, designed to provoke outraged response and overload the site.

Tucker adds that ratings aren’t strictly a numbers game. Beers with fewer ratings can show up in lists early on and the numbers for beers with huge responses in a short time are balanced somewhat.

In theory, it may be possible for a dedicated group of users to rate a beer very highly and push it up in the ratings. But Tucker says that what happens is that people read about the beer on the site, then travel to find it. “Ninety percent of the time the early mystique is destroyed,” he said.

I did this interview on the phone last week — then, when I sat down to write it as promised in my Oakland Tribune beer column , I saw another flaw:

The web has no Audit Bureau of Circulation like newspapers do. How do we know RateBeer.com isn’t doing what some newspaper publishers did before the ABC: They scooped the papers off the press and drove them to a warehouse somewhere, then claimed those copies as paid circulation (allowing them to charge advertisers more). On the web, that might mean cooking the numbers or nudging them toward better beer or worse beer or…?

Tucker hasn’t responded, but I’m sure he will and when he does, I’ll post his reply on this blog.

Skepticism aside, the site’s great fun and because the data’s digital, it gets cut many ways: best beers in California. Best Beers in Sri Lanka. You can also vote and for $12.99, one can become a member and gain access to articles written by expert beer journalists.

Founder Bill Buchanan started RateBeer.com in Atlanta. “It wound up to be too much work for him,” Tucker says. “He handed the reins to me in April, 2000. I was living in Berkeley at the time, but I moved out to Austin (TX).”

He gets help with the data from Josh Oakes, who originally lived in Toronto, Ont. but now lives in British Columbia. “We’re a completely virtual operation,” Tucker says.

Orignally from Southern California, Tucker moved to San Francisco after graduating from the University of California, San Diego. “After college, I bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco, I slept on floors and worked in a coffee shop,” he said.

He got caught up in the dot.com boom and crashed when the boom went bust. He said he’s always liked beer and Northern California. So RateBeer.com was a natural fit.

Joe and his wife and new baby are headed back here from Bush-land next week. Home will be in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco. Two good reasons, Tucker says: the Russian River and Russian River Brewing Co. in Santa Rosa.

Welcome Joe and company.

Top Breweries in California*

1. AleSmith Brewing Company,San Diego
2.Stone Brewing Co., San Marcos
3.Pizza Port (Solana Beach)
4.Bear Republic Brewing Company, Healdsburg
5.Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa
6.Anchor Brewing, San Francisco
7.Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico
8. Pizza Port (Carlsbad)
9. North Coast Brewing Co., Fort Bragg
10.Lagunitas Brewing Co., Petaluma.

Posted on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2005
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