Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Letters to the Blog…

By William Brand
Tuesday, March 28th, 2006 at 10:49 pm in Uncategorized.

Shawn on KFOG Friday

Bill: My KFOG appearance has been rescheduled (from Tuesday, March 28) for Friday March 31st at 8 a.m. Thanks for the mention!

Shaun O’Sullivan, 21st Amendment Brewery – Restaurant – Bar
563 2nd Street, San Francisco, CA 94107

KFOG, the classic rocker’s at 104.5 FM San Francisco and 97.7 in San Jose and on the web live

Beer Chef on TV

Bill: The Bay Area brewing scene is going to get a little television exposure on Monday April 3 on CBS. The Beer Chef on TV who knew. The show is called “Eye
on the Bay” and it will come on immediately following the NCAA Final Four
Championship Game so consult your local listings.

Also save the date, April 28, 2006, 6:30 p.m., for “The Old School Library Tasting” an evening of vintage beers from Lagunitas Brewing paired with dinner and commentary. Since most of this beer is no longer available this event will probably sell out fast.
Bruce D. Paton CEC, Executive Chef, The Cathedral Hill Hotel,, Phone:415-674-3406

Bud’s New Wheat Beer

Bill: About Bud’s new seasonal: Spring Heat Spiced Wheat:
To read about the beer, go to my column here.

Dubbel Bock, Double Trouble

Bill: Just for your future reference, I thought I’d pass on a few other corrections.

That column (About Anchor Bock and lastly, Paulaner Salvator) was really great, right up to the last paragraph. Then you almost made me cry with the following:

The best double bock example was long Paulaner Dubbel Bock**, but today, it’s much lighter, more like a copper, Oktoberfest beer

1. Paulaner’s version (the first doppelbock, as I’m sure you know) is called “Salvator,” not “Dubbel Bock” (where did THAT come from?)

2. The word “dubbel” is ONLY applied to certain monastery beers from Belgium (the “dubbel” style), and that is purely a Flemish spelling, which is never applied to a German lager.

3. While you’re correct that Salvator has changed greatly since what it was, even 15 years ago, it is still nothing at all like an Oktoberfest.

Sorry to be a nitpicker, but that one sentence had three errors of fact, which just upset my delicate sensibilities. 😉

Great work on the columns, though!

Cheers, Ed

Bill: What is the truth about Guinness (which has been my favorite for many years — especially Guinness ice cream floats in the summer!)

The newer cannned and sexy bottle “draught” seems to be weaker (more watery, less alcohol) than prior ” imports. The present yellow label and draught can label say “brewed in Ireland,” but the bottle labels say “brewed in New Brunswick Canada.”

I asked a BevMo (Beverages & More, San Francisco Bay Area) manager whether we are actually getting the Ireland product and he replied that he’s only allowed to sell what the distributor delivers so he didn’t really know of any difference.

Has Guinness lightened up their product to compete with American craft beers ? CAN THE AUTHENIC DUBLIN IMPORT BE BOUGHT ANYWHERE? My favorite sports bar is now serving the bottled draught rather than an on tap product! Would an IRISH PUB tap Guinness be something different than the can/bottled product?

Thanks. WS

Hi WS:
Briefly, there are three kinds of Guinness.

The stuff that’s served in bars and comes in the tall cans and stubby bottles, labeled Draught Guinness, is more or less the same.

The cans and bottles have a nitrogen capsule (called a widget in the UK). There’s a pin hole in the widget and when you pop the cap or open the can, the chance in pressure forces nitrogen out of the hole at a rapid rate, churning the beer into a tan froth.

Idea is to give the consumer the same feel and look as the beer from the tap (which is pushed to the tap handle by a Guinness proprietary mix of nitrogen and co2, or sometimes pure nitrogen. Nitrogen churns and creams the beer. If they used CO2 alone, the beer would be unpleasantly gassy.

It used to be 3.5 percent alcohol by volume, but now is 4 percent. It well may come from one of the many Guinness breweries outside of Ireland.

The second is Guinness Extra Stout. Comes in 12 oz. and 22 oz. bottles. It’s 6 percent alcohol by volume and just a beautiful beer. Very different than the pub and pub draught stuff. After this note, I’ve attached my column from last year, which says a lot about this and Irish stouts. (By the way, I send out my columns weekly to an e-mail list. If you’d like to join the list let me know.).

The third stout is Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. This is the best of the lot by far. It’s 7.5 percent ABV and unavailable in the U.S. It’s big in the Caribbean and if you ever wind up in Bermuda or Jamaica or wherever, buy this beer. On the Guinness web site, the company says its the fastest growing beer in their portfolio.

Here’s a tasting note from the Oxford Bottled Beer database, a site I trust:

This is the well-respected export stout from Guinness. It is a rich brown-black colour that doesn’t show any signs of translucency even when held against a light. It has a thick, bubbly, rocky head with an aroma of heavy, treacley malt and cheesy hops. The palate is immediately steamrollered by an aggressive, tooth-tingling bitterness like thick, hopped malt extract, followed by an extremely treacley, smoky malt flavour with a tinge of sweetness. There is a chewy mouthfeel, which combined with the intense bitterness makes it quite a challenge to get through, especially towards the end of a session. Aftertaste is again severely bitter and malty. Clearly, subtlety was not a key consideration in the brewing of this beer. That said, it is a powerful, intense, memorable sledgehammer of a beer, impressive in its own right – a stout with balls.

Finally, here’s a column I wrote on the subject:

Oakland Tribune Beer Column, March 16, 2005: Irish beer.

Stout Is What
It’s All About

By William Brand
I grew up in a fairly ecumenical family of long-time Democrats. So when Jack Kennedy ran for president in 1960, I was shocked when people said he could never be elected president – because he was a Catholic and Irish.

Huh? Were they ever wrong and no wonder. Immigrants from Ireland filled our cities and with creativity, brains and muscle helped make America what it is today.

I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me, but I’ve danced to many a Celtic tune, shed a tear or two listening to a haunting Irish melody and shared more than a few pints of Irish ale.

St. Patrick’s Day is Thursday and there’s no better time to take a look at Irish beer and there’s no better Irish beer style than stout. In an afternoon of tasting, Don Gortemiller, brewer and co-owner of Pacific Coast Brewing in Oakland, and I, sampled all the Irish-made stouts available in Northern California and a random selection of Irish-style stouts made here on the West Coast.

So what is Irish stout? It’s often a low-alcohol beer made with roasted barley and dark malt. It began life as porter, created in 18th century London. The Irish – those in the Irish Republic, not under the English yoke – embraced the style and soon made it their own.

Irish porter was darker, more viscous and intriguing than English porter. While English porter and later English stouts were on the sweet side, Irish stouts were dry and quenching.

Finally – so the story goes – the St. James Gate Brewery in Dublin acquired in 1759 by brewer Arthur Guinness, produced “Guinness Extra Stout Porter.’’ The name `stout’ stuck and the St. James Gate Brewery became famous worldwide. Guinness became so popular in the U.S. in the 1930s, that the brewery cut a deal in 1939 with a Long Island brewer to make Guinness in America, so German U-Boat attacks wouldn’t threaten our supply.

Today, versions of Guinness Stout are brewed at 13 other Guinness breweries around the world and under license in more than 20 countries. But our Guinness comes from Dublin. In the pub, draft Guinness is pushed to the tap from the keg by a mixture of nitrogen and carbon dioxide instead of CO2 alone. The nitro produces the creamy pour that made Guinness Stout famous.

But there’s a downside to this story. Guinness became so popular in Ireland that it literally drown
ed its smaller competitors. By the 1960s, the company dominated Ireland.

The only survivors were Murphy’s and Beamish & Crawford in Cork. Eventually, both were bought by multi-national brewers like Interbrew, eager to tap the stout spigot.

The good news is – there’s been a revival of craft brewing in Ireland and a number of quality, Irish stouts can be sampled – in Ireland.

The only one that’s imported to the U.S. is O’Hara’s Irish Stout****. This is a beautiful beer, bottle conditioned – a bit of fresh yeast is added to each bottle so fermentation continues slowly – dry with a wonderful roast barley nose and a hint of chocolate.

The bad news is that at this time, it’s not being sold in California. But O’Hara’s is one to watch for; it’s so good it’s got make it to the coast.

At our tasting, we sampled three Irish stouts in cans, each with a widget, a plastic cylinder inside. The Guinness cylinder contains beer forced in under pressure; the others use a container filled with nitrogen. Each has a pin hole in it and when you pop the top, the nitro squirts out, churning the beer into a froth.

We added a bottle of Guinness Extra Stout and a sampling of American, Irish-style stouts, Rogue Shakespeare Stout, Mad River Steelhead Extra Stout, Sierra Nevada Stout ands – representing Bay Area brewpub stouts, Pacific Coast Luck O’ the Irish Stout. Remember, just about every brewpub around here will be offering an Irish-style stout this month, so drop into your local soon.

First, the cans in order of finish:

— Beamish Irish Stout***, 4.1 percent ABV, Beamish & Crawford plc, Cork, Ireland, owned by Scottish & Newcastle, London, UK. Best of the cans; a very dark brown beer, pours with a creamy nitro head, striking aroma of roast barley and just maybe a slight lactic note that delivers a definite sourness on the back of the tongue. Very nice pub beer.

— Guinness Pub Draught,***, 4.1 percent ABV, Guinness, Dublin, Ireland. Darkest in color of the three canned stouts, very light, roast barley nose, creamy head, very smooth, well balanced and drinkable with perhaps a proper sour note on the edge.

–Murphy’s Pub Draught Stout **, 4.1 percent ABV, brewed in under license to Heineken Ireland. Slightly lighter color than Beamish, thicker head, smooth, well-balanced taste, but lighter than Beamish.

And now the rest of the crowd, again in order of finish:

–Guinness Extra Stout ****, 6 percent ABV, Guinness, Dublin. A very different beer than Draught. Powerful, thick, tan head rises above an opaque brown body. Foam lacework trails down the glass. Definite sour note in the roast barley aroma, complex taste: roast grain in front, a sour-tartness in the middle, balanced by roast grain and perhaps a hint of bitter hops. Guinness doesn’t say, but expert homebrewers insist that a small percentage of Guinness soured by Brettanomyces (wild yeast) and lactic acid bacteria is added to each batch of bottled Guinness. That would account for that sour edge, which definitely adds another dimension to a very interesting beer.

–Sierra Nevada Stout,**** 5.8 percent ABV, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Chico. We both liked this big, hoppy, tasty stout with its dense head of foam, and slight, roasted barley nose. Don liked the balance of black malt and hops and the huge attack of the finishing hops. I liked the smooth balance and the lingering notes of hop bitterness and roast malt.

–Shakespeare Stout***+, 6 percent ABV, Rogue Brewing, Newport, OR. Don found chocolate, roast grain and espresso coffee notes in the aroma. Tasted like a double espresso with hops and a hit of alcohol. Again, an excellent beer.

–Luck O’ the Irish Stout***, 4.5 percent ABV, Pacific Coast, Oakland. Caramel nose, great balanced taste with hops and more hops in the finish. On tap all month.

–Steelhead Extra Stout**, 5.5 percent ABV, Mad River Brewing, Blue Lake, CA. A big, dark malt beer, lots of roast grain in the nose and in the taste. Definite hop bitterness lasts and lasts. An excellent, hoppy, West Coast-style stout.

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]