Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for October, 2005

Hops: A Graft Is Not a Hybrid


Hello William Brand:

I just read your article on ‘wet hops’ in the Daily Review. (See article in posting below.) I, too, like a fresh hop taste in my beer and prefer India Pale Ale to most types except a good porter. In fact, my husband home-brews and I grow his hops – right up the side of our house! When I first started growing hops I dried and sealed them in plastic bags, but I thought the hop flavor was too washed out so I started experimenting with preservation methods.

I started vacuum sealing; then freezing them to get the freshest most intense flavor. Now, for the best flavor from my hops, I vacuum seal them fresh and freeze them.

My husband’s beer has consistently won prizes in the top three and ‘best of show’ at the county fairs and (years ago) local competitions since I started growing and preserving his hops!

I also need to point out to you that grafting plants together does not hybridize them. That would only occur if the plants were cross pollinated- their seedlings would be the hybrids. Think of grafting as an ‘organ transplant’ where parts are attached and hybridizing as ‘cross-breeding’.

I am a UC certified Master Gardener and have lots of grafted fruit trees, roses and grape vines and I can assure you that none have taken on the characteristics of any of their grafted parts.

How about an article about nutritional value of “good” beer (it can be high in B vitamins) or the history of beer making an America (women were in charge of brewing for the household)?

PS- I make herbal tea from fresh hops – they contain humulone and lupulone which has sedative properties. Their vines are also easy to weave into decorative baskets.
J. Castro Valley, CA

Hi J. Nutritional value of beer? Good idea; I’ll put it in the hopper er…think about it. I have this great World War II poster on my beer refrigerator. It says “Guinness is good for you.” I know professional brewers who do the same thing with hops: vacuum seal and freeze them.Thanks for correcting my botany, too. It’s a weak area for me.I’ll have to try your husband’s beer some time. wb

Posted on Monday, October 31st, 2005
Under: Uncategorized | 3 Comments »
Leave a comment

The Bistro Wet Hop Festival Beer List

As promised, here’s the listing of beers at Victor Kralj’s Wet Hop Festival.

The Bistro’s West Hop Beer Festival

Saturday, Oct. 15,2005

Alpine Beer Co, Alpine, Whale, 6.5 percent ABV, Cascade, Centennial hops
Ballast Point, San Diego, Schooner, 4.2%, Cascade hops
Bear Republic, Healdsburg, Simply Simcoe 2, 6%, Simcoe hops
Bear Republic, Simply Simcoe 1, 6%, Simcoe hops
Blue Frog, Fairfield, Last Hop Standing, 5.1%, hops unknown.
Belhaven Brewery Co., Dunbar, Scotland, Harvest, 5.5%, hops not stated
Coast Range, Gilroy, Wet Hop, 5.7%, Cascades
Drake’s , San Leandro, Drake’s Harvest, 6%, Simcoe, Cascades
Deschutes, Bend, OR, Hop Trip, 5.5%, Crystal hops
Magnolia, San Francisco, High Time Harvest, 5.5%, Cascades
Moonlight, Windsor, Homegrown Harvest, 5.5%, Cascades
Pizza Port, Solano Beach, Hightide IPA, 7%, Chinook
Pizza Port, Carlsbad, Red Tide Harvest, 7%, Cascades
Pizza Port, San Clemente, Rip Tide IPA, 7%, Chinook
Rogue, Newport, OR, Hop Heaven, 6.1%, Newport hops
Russian River, Santa Rosa, Hop Time Harvest, 6.75%, California Cluster hops
Santa Barbara Brewing, Santa Barbara, Wet Sand IPA, 7%, hops not stated
Siera Nevada, Chico, 20th Street, 6.2%,
Sierra Nevada, Chico, Harvest, 6.6%

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

The Stony Power of Wet Hops

I started to post the list of wet hop beers served at the The Bistro in Hayward, CA last week and I realized that to non-readers of my column, the list made little sense. Sooooo….Here’s the column. The wet hop list follows:

As anyone who has been around both marijuana and hop plants for any length of time no doubt knows, the two plants are closely related. The female plants flowers are quite similar and I’ve been told that it’s possible to graft a hop plant onto marijuana rootstock and create a hybrid.

Unfortunately for the stoners among us, I’m also told the new plant does not produce THC. That’s the compound that turns marijuana into a psychoactive herb, which inflames drug task force members, turning them into caped crusaders, who dump Agent Orange in Jamaica and send armed drug-fighters into backwoods California.

It’s a strange thought train for a beer column, but I swear when I walked into the Wet Hop Festival at the Bistro, 1005 B. St. in downtown Hayward Saturday evening and sampled a half dozen beers made with “wet, ”just-picked, hops, my head spun for a minute and not from the alcohol.

Hops are not psychoactive. But they have an unusual intensity that is quite special. And the Bistro was the place for hops on Saturday. There were 19 wet hop beers and each had a strong, herbal nose. There were the signature, citrus, flowery notes from Cascade hops; the piney notes of Simcoe, the spiciness of Clusters.

Proprietor Victor Kralj said the rules are simple “wet”, that is, just picked, not kiln-dried, hops must be used throughout from first additions in the brew kettle to dry hopping in the fermenter.

Vic said more than 400 attended, ate barbecue, danced to live music and sampled the beers. There was a three-way tie for the People’s Choice Award:

Drake’s Harvest, made with Simcoe and Cascade hops from Drake’s, San Leandro. This was a 6 percent, alcohol by volume, dark copper beer with a huge, creamy head and deep and heady hop aroma. Hops predominated, but there was enough malt to balance the hops, well almost enough.

20th Street from Sierra Nevada, Chico used Sierra Nevada’s signature Cascades and Centennial hops. It was a hop experience from the first hit of the aroma to the last swallow. Like hops? This is the beer: 6.2 percent ABV. About the name, Sierra Nevada’s located at 1073 East 20th St. in Chico.

Hoptime Harvest, Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa. This 6.75 percenter, was made with California Cluster hops, picked by Russian River brewers and friends in its own hop field near Santa Rosa. The result is a dusty gold beer with a hoppy, but delicate nose, with plenty of malt to balance the hops. Another spectacular beer.

I don’t believe any of these will be bottled; they’ll be on tap at the Bistro, 1005 B St., Hayward, until the kegs run dry. The Toronado, 547 Haight St., San Francisco, will also have a supply and proprietor David Keene has set the Toronado Wet Hop Fest for 6 p.m., Nov. 5.

They’re also trend setters. Brewers are interested in what the beer-drinking public thinks. So if you get a chance to sample some, let me know. I’ll pass it on.

I tried several others and truly loved Simply Simcoe 2. a dry-hopped, 6 percent brew from Bear Republic, Healdsburg. Best name and my good beer award goes to Last Hop Standing, a 5 percenter from Blue Frog Grog & Grill in Fairfield.

I also really liked Rip Tide IPA, a big, 7 percenter made with Chinook hops from Pizza Port in San Clemente. If you’re headed south anytime soon, don’t miss the the three Pizza Port brewpubs, in San Clemente, Carlsbad and Solano Beach.

Rocking in downtown Hayward…they closed the barbecue pit at the Bistro before I arrived, so I wandered down B Street to Buffalo Bill’s, 1082 B. St. If you want to see the future of brewpubs, check out Buffalo Bill’s. At 8 p.m. on a Saturday night, there was a waiting line for dinner, families with kids, 20-somethings on dates and a few gray hairs. I saw a lot of Hayward Hefeweizen and Tasmanian Devil being consumed. Tasy’s a luscious, 6.5 percent ale made with Pride of Ringwood hops from Tasmania and Cascades.

But I was beered-out, so I settled for an excellent and large, BLT with a Thomas Kemper root beer on the side and watched the White Sox win one more. — William Brand

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

Wet Hop Fest This Weekend

Here’s a beer calendar reminder: Wet Hop Festival, Saturday, Oct. 15, The Bistro, 1005 B. St., in downtown Hayward. This another annual event concocted by Bistro proprietor Vic Kralj that is becoming famous beyond the Bay Area.

The requirement here is that the beer must be made with hops just off the vine. Fall is hop harvest time and time for wet hop beer. Wet hops are fresh hops that have not been dried. They bring a fresh hop- aroma that is distinctive and coupled with a decent malt bill create fabulous beer.

Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo
with some fresh hops.

Vic says the lineup is still growing, but includes wet hop ales from Sierra Nevada, Chico; Russian River, Santa Rosa; Bear Republic, Healdsburg, Moonlight, Windsor; Magnolia, San Francisc; Drakes, San Leandro, andRogue, Newport, OR, Deschutes, Bend; Laurelwood and Widmer, both Portland, OR. From Southern California, the Pizza Port breweries and Alpine Brewing will bring their beers.

The price is $15 and includes five taster glasses, barbecue, live music, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Info: 510-886-8525 or

If you can’t make the Bistro (and you should, if possible), then Toronado proprietor David Keene plans a wet hop fest on Saturday, Nov. 5, beginning at 11:30 a.m. til closing: Toronado, 547 Haight, San Francisco,

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

Wrapping Up — Finally — The GABF

DENVER — The big beer blast in the mile-high Denver is over for this year and the list of winners in the 69 professionally judged categories includes a lot of very familiar names to Northern California beer lovers.


Black Diamond Brewing, Concord, CA, Wild Rice Ale ****. Hats off to brewer Grant Johnston for this unusual beauty. The GABF category was Specialty Beer and this one is special indeed. My tasting notes from last spring describe it as a dusty gold with an intense, unusual, nutty nose.
Taste is soft and malty with a tangy follow from the English East Kent Goldings hops. Winning gold at the GABF is nothing new for Grant Johnston. He won many a medal in his fledgling professional brewing job at Marin Brewing 16 years ago.
About the beer: Budweiser is made with a large percentage of rice, which delivers a light (almost tasteless) flavor. But But Black Diamond Wild Rice Ale is different. Johnston said it’s made from one-third wild rice, two-thirds barley malt.

Wild rice is actually a grass, not a rice. It’s native to the Great Lakes, but a lot is now grown in the California rice country around Woodland.
Johnston made a connection with Wild Rice Exchange in Woodland. The wide rice is cooked and roasted in Woodland, then used in the beer a short time later. It’s often available in accounts in the East Bay. I called around the Bay Area and found the beer on tap at just one place, The Toronado, 547 Haight St. in San Francisco. Haven’t visited The Toronado. Do so today, it’s the best beer bar San Francisco. And have one for me.

Grant also called and said he does sell five gallon containers of Wild Rice Ale at the brewery. Call 925-357-0120. It’s located at 2470 Bates Ave., Concord.

E.J Phair Brewing, Concord, CA. Gold: E.J. Phair Schwarzbier, Bronze: Shorty’s Revenge Strong Ale.
Brewery/brewpub founder J.J. Phair says Schwarzbier is on tap at the pub, 2151 Salvio St., Concord, CA, 925-691-4253. Shorty’s Revenge is off just now.
J.J. explains the Schwarzbier is about 5.5 percent alcohol by volume. It brewed with a mix of malts, including German carafa malt. My web research shows carafa malt is “made with de-husked barley and adds aroma, color and body, with a milder, smoother flavor than achieved with whole grains.”
It’s a common ingredient in Schwarzbier, which translates from German as “black beer.” But we knew that didn’t we. Haven’t made it out to E.J. Phair’s.
Make the trip. It’s a pleasant place with good food right on Todos Santos Square in downtown Concord.

J. J. Phair holds pitchers of
Schwarzbier,at the GABF last
Saturday after winning a gold
medal for his mellow, black beer.
It’s on tap this week at the pub
in downtown Concord.
Photo by Gregory Daurer,
Copyright 2006

Firestone Walker Brewing
, Paso Robles, CA. Gold: Pale Nectar.This beer, originated by Humboldt Brewing, which was purchased last year by Firestone Walker, won gold in the highly competitive (74 entries) American-Style Pale Ale category. An excellent beer, soft and malty, with a very decent hoppy finish. Widely available in bottles.

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery, Campbell, CA, Gold: Bottoms Up Kolsch. This 4.8 percenter won gold in the German-style Kolsch category. This Rock Bottom’s in the Pruneyard Shopping Center, 1875 S Bascom Ave. in Campbell, 408-377-0707. The beer’s on tap tonight. I rarely visit Rock Bottoms, but I believe I need to drop in. The Rock Bottom in Long Beach also won gold for Rocktoberfest 2 in Vienna-style lagers.

Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa, CA. Vinnie Cilurzo and his intrepid crew won gold again for his esteemed Pliny the Elder**** in the Imperial or Double India Pale Ale category. (Marin Brewing won the bronze. See below). My notes from a few months ago: “Pliny the Elder is an amazing, 8 percent, extremely hoppy ale. It has 100 International Bitterness Units. By comparison, Bud has about 12 IBU. However, there’s so much malt that the beer is well-balanced. It’s awesome stuff.”

Pliny the Elder, born Gaius Plinius Cecilius Secundus, was a Roman scholar and historian, and wrote Natural History, credited as the first encyclopedia, it included a book on wine and beer and famous drinkers.

Sierra Nevada, Chico, CA. Steve Dressler and his brew crew won gold for two famous beers, Sierra Nevada IPA, an excellent, hoppy brew that has been showing up at tastings and festivals around the Bay Area for the last year, and Bigfoot Barleywine-Style Ale, the 10 percent classic that fired enthusiasm for strong beer that has never waned. It’s widely available in bottles after its usual February release. I always try to hold some back to try in later years. Bigfoot’s bottle-conditoned and the fresh yeast bottled with the beer continues to ferment and change the character over time.


Bear Republic, Healdsburg,CA, won a second place silver for their indisputably and justifiably famous Racer 5**** in the American Style-Strong Ale category. This is indeed a California classic, winner of many awards, including a GABF gold in 1999. But finishing with a silver this year in a class with 69 entries is respectable indeed. Racer 5 is widely available in bottles as well as in well-stocked pubs. I even found it on tap at Chow, an excellent, out-of-the-way restaurant in Lafayette in Contra Costa County the other night. At 7 percent ABV, 69 International Bitterness Units, it once was an extreme beer; now, it’s middle of the road. Columbus and Cascade hops with a substantial, malty background. Try this beer tonight.

Bison Brewing, Berkeley, CA, won silver for Organic Chocolate Stout ***. Here are my notes from last November: “Bison Chocolate Stout was created by brewer Scott Meyer in 1996. Present owner Daniel Del Grande added another spin: malts and hops, certified organic by UC Davis. He sold the brewpub. (It’s now an Indian restaurant.) But he still owns the brewery in the rear, where he makes a distinctive line of unusual, organic beers.

“Bison Chocolate Stout is fairly strong — 6 percent alcohol by volume. It’s made with Dutch chocolate powder , twenty pounds are stirred into the mash before the boil. After boiling, the mash is rinsed, but never filtered, so the cocoa powder with its deep chocolate flavor remains, Del Grande says.

“This is excellent beer: Rich chocolate and dark malt nose. The taste keeps the promise of that intense nose: _ as Scott Meyer said way back then: `Obsidian black with gentle carbonation and the finest Dutch cocoa couched in a rich medley of malts, amply hopped.’ ” It’s widely available in bottles in the Bay Area.

Stone Brewing Co., San Marcos, CA, won silver in Other Strong Ales & Lagers for its famous Double Bastard****, a beer that showed brewers everywhere that strong and malty was the route to take. In bottles, everywhere. If you’ve never tried this one, do so tonight.

Sudwerk Privatbrauerei Hubsch, Davis, CA. After a long retreat and reorganization, this pioneering Davis brew-restaurant is back in force. They won two bronzes, for the delicious Sudwerk Marzen,**** one of the best bottled marzens on the West Coast, and Sudwerk Lager in the Munchner-Style-Helles catyegory. Marzen is widely available in bottles. ; the lager’s usually on tap in Davis. Sudwerk, 2001 Second St., 530-756-2739.

Trumer Brauerei, Berkeley, CA. This brewery, which is located in the old Golden Pacific Brewing on 4th Street in west Berkeley, produces just one beer: Trumer Pils***. It’s an exact copy of the Austrian beer of the same name and the brewery is a joint venture of San Antonio-based Gambrinus Co., and Austria’s Privatbrauerei Josef Sigl, an excellent European pilsner, but little known outside the provinces around Salzburg. Lars Larsen, the German-trained, American-born, brewmaster has created a very fine beer. It’s great to see it recognized in his first GABF.

`I wrote about Trumer Berkeley in detail last spring. Unfortunately, the link has expired. If you’re interested, drop us an e-mail: I’ll send it along.
Trumer Pils right now is available only in the San Francisco East Bay.


Marin Brewing Co., Larkspur, CA, . Head brewer Arne Johnson’s known for big malty beers, and Eldridge Grade White Knuckle Double IPA***, is one of those. It won third place bronze in the hot, new Imperial or Double IPA category.

I dropped into Marin Brewing just before the GABF, sat with a couple of homebrewers, who came there especially to try this beer. We all loved it.

Eldridge Grade, by the way, is a very steep, bike trail to the top of nearby Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, north of San Francisco. It’s also the name of a $1,000-plus mountain bike and the name of one damn, good IPA. Marin Brewing, 1809 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur, CA, 415-461-4677.

Schooner’s Grille & Brewery, Antioch, CA. Schooner’s founder Shawn Burns and his crew won a bronze with California Lager in American-Style Amber Lagers, trailing gold medalist Old Scratch from Flying Dog, Denver, and Steam Engine Lager, from Steamworks, Durango, CO. Shawn explains that Cal Lager’s a seasonal. “We just ran out a couple of weeks ago. We were saving some to enter in the California State Fair, but when we tried it, we thought, `Gosh, this is such a great beer, Why not the GABF?,” he said. Why not, indeed.

At the moment, Schooner’s has several excellent brews on tap, including Double IPA, IPA and Honey Lemon Wheat. The Double IPA won a silver last weekend at the Manteca (CA) beerfest; Schooner’s Barleywine, a GABF gold medal winner two years ago; won gold in Manteca. Schooner’s, 4250 Lone Tree Way, Antioch, 925-776-1800.

Posted on Saturday, October 8th, 2005
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment

This GABF Report Has Been Delayed…

Waiting for the Gold at the GABF

DENVER _ It’s almost 1 p.m. Saturday on the final day of the 2005 Great American Beer Festival and the crowds are gathering to see who’s won gold. There will be gold, silver and bronze winners in 69 categories _ 477 brewers have entered 2,385 beers.

Winners have been chosen by professionally accredited beer judges in blind tastings. There are so many subtleties and variables in beer judging that most brewers realize it’s only one award; someone else entirely can win in the next time. But it’s fun to win.

Cruising this fast hall, at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver, I noticed big crowds in front of New Glarus, the Wisconsin maker of Belgian Red, a tart, extremely delicious red ale.

Garrett Oliver, the ebullient brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewing, who makes the world class Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, was pouring his beers to a large crowd. Nearby, the Dogfish Head booth had a crowd. Another pleaser was Rye Pale Ale and Wake and Bake Coffee Oatmeal Stout from Terrapin in Athens, GA.

Earlier, at Wynkoop, the brew-restaurant owned by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, I met two women from Bananas, an Oakland’s child services agency, who were here for another kind of conference. I was pounding away on the posting about Ben Franklin’s beer. They saw my Oakland Tribune press badge and asked what the GABF was. Later I saw them inside the GABF. They had stayed at their conference until its last gasp, then beat it over to the festival.

I walked around with them for a bit, before I rushed off to another event. I left them a bit bleary-eyed. In the space of half an hour or so we sampled, Imperial IPA from Vino’s, Little Rock, AR, Fat Bastard Scotch-Style Ale, a 9.2 percent, 30 IBU beauty frm Silver City, Silverdale, WA. Walking over to the Colorado section, we hit the Avery Brewing, Boulder, CO, booth. In succession we tried a savagely hoppy Avery India Pale Ale***, Avery Saison, a peppery, malty version of the Belgian style, and Beast, a stunning, syrupy 14.1 percent barley wine. It was thick and chewy like a liquer, but lacked a liquer’s cloying sweetness.

We started out for Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, Dexter, MI, but got sidetracked at the New Belgium (Fort Collins, CO) stand for a taste of the unique New Belgium Tripel**, a light gold ale with a fruity nose and a hit of ripe fruit and alcohol. Next we tried Lagunitas PIls***, hops like the Czcech Republic, home of pilsner beer, never dreamed about: crisp, hoppy, but backed up by lots of malt.

Next came, Black Butte Porter*** from Deschutes, Bend, OR. It’s a beauty of a porter: roast grain nose, smooth and malty. End of tasting for that night. Good thing my Oakland folks didn’t have to go back to their convention that night.

Add two more to the 29,000 plus who attended the gigantic, three-day bash. For more info on the GABF and how to get tickets, or better, how to volunteer and get in free next year, go to this link.

Before the awards were announced, I attended Sam Adams annual breakfast at the Palm Restaurant near the convention center. Great food and Jim Koch, the guy behind Boston Brewing Co. and Sam Adams, was pouring small glasses of his stunning, $100 a bottle Utopias*****. It started out as a beer, but has gone far beyond that, different yeasts, fermentable adjuncts. It’s advertised as 55 proof or about 25.6 percent alcohol by volume. More on Utopias later.

We also got to sample Sam Adams Black Lager, a new seasonal headed for stores soon. We were asked to vote on two other fledgling Sam Adams beers, Brown Ale and Bohemian Pilsner. I liked the brown the best, but the concensus of the crowd was the pils was best. We’ll see.
Well, time to post. Prost!.

Post Note: As you can see by the date on this posting, I didn’t post it when I intended to do so. Was sending it to the web via e-mail But SBC Global, the server I used for my beer e-mail blocked it. In fact, every e-mail I tried to send was blocked. Two days later, I learned that SBC had blocked all messages sent by SBC Global customers using other servers (me). Something about“port 25 access”.

I was told it was an anti-spamming move. Hmmmp. Probably the only ones able to send e-mail were the spammers. Like those articles that come encased in tough plastic at big box stores. If you were planning to steal something, you’d no doubt show up with scissors or heaven forbid, a box cutter. The rest of us pay for the item, then spend 20 minutes trying to open the damn thing at home.

Posted on Thursday, October 6th, 2005
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment