Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for May, 2006

The New York Times Reviews a Beer Cafe

Well, the food writer didn’t know an ale from a lager – but this article in today’s New York Times Food Section is a balanced review if Cafe Alsace, a Manhattan cafe that boosts a beer list 110 beers strong, plus a beer sommelier.

The Times also covered the cafe on May 3. Here’s the link. You may have to register at the Times site to get the article. But it’s free.

Posted on Wednesday, May 31st, 2006
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Coming Up: Big Beer Bash in San Mateo

The first annual Bay Area Brew Fest on Saturday, June 10 from noon – 6 p.m. is looking like an official big deal. According to Jeff Moses, of Coast Range, who is handling publicity, more than 70 breweries are lined up – just about every Northern California brewer and a bunch of importers. The list includes Lagunitas, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, North Coast, Pizza Orgasmica
Beach Chalet, Butte Creek, Coast Range, Sudwerk Hubsch, Gordon Biersch, Lost Coast, Rogue, Redhook, Deschutes, Widmere and Kona (Hawaii).

Also, lots of food booths and live music pretty much nonstop.

Information and Advance tickets available at or by calling (650) 574-3247, San Mateo, CA. Tickets, $20 advance, $25 at the gate.
A portion of all event proceeds will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma
Society of California.

Posted on Friday, May 26th, 2006
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Wente winemaker’s dinner

Another not-to-be-missed winemaker’s dinner on June 6. This time, with Karl Wente, the young, fifth-generation winemaker over at Wente who made that Nth Degree stuff that’s doing so well. Karl will be leading the dinner — we’ve heard he’s quite well-versed in vineyard management, so we’re pretty excited. The menu helps too: Starts with a reception at 7 p.m. of ratatouille and spicy rock shrimp. Dinner begins at 7:30 p.m. with chilled melon soup, pan-seared halibut with risotto and a buttermilk vanila bean panna cotta for dessert. Respective wines to be featured include reserve chardonnay, reisling, reserve pinot noir and reserve zinfandel. Tickets are $85 and can be purchased by calling Rachel at 925-952-2639. See you there!

Posted on Friday, May 26th, 2006
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We Live in a Beer Desert

Hey there,
I swung by Luka’s to try the Belgium’s Duchesse de Bourgogne you described, and they had no idea what I was talking about.
:( Richard, Oakland,CA.

Hi Richard.
Well, eat my words. Rick Mitchell, who owns Luka’s ( Luka’s Taproom & Lounge, 2221 Broadway, Oakland CA.) told me they took the Duchess off a couple of weeks ago. The last keg, he said, was just not right. So they’re waiting for a new shipment.

I checked everywhere. The two place that do have it in the San Francisco Bay Area, are the Bistro, 1001 B. Street, Hayward, CA. – (510) 886-8525 – and the Toronado, 547 Haight St. in San Francisco – (415) 863-2276. And that’s all folks.

Sometimes the East Bay feels like a damn beer desert — and we have among the widest selections in America.

Oh yeah, whoever told you they had no idea what you were talking back needs to check with the boss. They’ve had that beer on nearly all the time since they opened. Also, in the bottle, I’ve found it at Whole Foods, Berkeley, and Berkeley Bowl and sometimes, but apparently not right now at Beverages and More.

Live in the Bay Area and don’t have a clue where to find good beer. Email me (whatsontap@sbcglobal) and ask for our 2006 Retail Beer Store List.

Also, I’ve posted my Beer of the Week about the Duchess just below this posting.

Posted on Thursday, May 25th, 2006
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Belgium’s Duchess de Bourgogne

Beer of the Week, May 10, 2006: Duchesse de Bourgogne

By William Brand
Staff Writer
Are you a beer evangelist? I certainly am. When someone tells me they like wine, but “really don’t like beer” – I usually rise to the challenge. Vic Kralj,, who owns The Bistro in Hayward, is the same way.

What follows is a true story.

Vic brought a selection of Belgian beers to a Hayward Chamber of Commerce event featuring Hayward Mayor Roberta Cooper’s charity, Chime-In, which buys musical instrument for Hayward students. The mayor, of course, went for the wine.

“I said, `I basically don’t like beer,” Cooper explains. Then, Vic handed her a glass of Duchesse de Bourgogne and a beer lover was born. “It was just delicious,” she said. “It had flavor. It was a real delight.”

Duchess de Bourgogne**** is our beer of the week. Named for the Duchess of Burgundy, a 15th century champion of the Flemish people, who died at 25 in a fall from a horse while falconing.

The beer is fairly new to California, but it’s showing up on tap handles of places like The Bistro, Luka’s in Oakland and the Toronado in San Francisco, and in stores with well-stocked beer shelves.

Officially, this is a 6.2 percent alcohol by volume Flemish brown ale, made by blending fresh beer with ale aged at least a year in oak barrels that originally held spirits or wine. And when you put beer in wooden barrels and let it ferment, stuff happens.

The Duchesse (pronounced DOO-SHAY) is amazing. There’s a lively head of tan foam, and an unusual aroma. Some tasters compare it to balsamic vinegar. To me the aroma is almost lambic, tart notes picked up from the residue in the barrels. Taste is shocking – a short initial burst of sweetness from the fresh beer, then a lasting tart wall.

It goes on from there, sweet, tart, sweet, tart, in its own beery Iambic pentameter. You may love this beer or loathe it. But you will have an opinion.

It’s made at the Verhaeghe brewery in West Flanders, or as one fan wrote, “Your passion is sharp, sweet, honeyed, sweaty and so deep you can hear the boom of the guns over the fields of Flanders only a heart beat away.”

Well anyway. The fresh brown ale, made with roasted barley malt and spicy hops – the brewers, the fourth generation to operate the 126 year old family brewery – told one American fan that which hops didn’t matter.

I agree. About $3.99, 11.2 oz. bottle. Can’t find this beer? Email or call and ask for our 2006 Retail Beer List.

By the way, Mayor Cooper welcomes contributions to Chime-In: P.O. Box 449, Hayward, CA 94541.

Contact William Brand at or call him: (510) 915-1180.

Posted on Thursday, May 25th, 2006
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A moment with Margrit

I’ll no doubt be thinking and talking about the Judgment of Paris rematch for a long time to come. It was a surreal day, and I was in the company of the world’s great master sommeliers. It was a pretty tense atmosphere, and it made me sad that wine has become such big business that people couldn’t just sit back and enjoy the world’s best spirits. Ironic. Cool moment: I was asked to be an honorary taster in a blind tasting of the young vintage whites and reds from Bordeaux, Burgundy and California. I took my seat and to my surprise, there was Margrit Mondavi on my right and Tony Terlato, owner Sanford Winery, on my left. We swirled and sipped and compared notes, especially on the nose (beautiful jalapeno) of what turned out to be Clos Du Val’s Reserve 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon. At one point, Mrs. Mondavi pulled out a small, old diary that had a sticker on it: 1976. She opened it up to May 25, 1976 and read about her reaction to the original Judgment announcement that fateful day. She, her husband, and their Napa contingency were on a tour of Bordeaux chateaux with Jim Barrett when he got the call. "We were jumping up and down and hugging each other," she told me, looking far away. "But I don’t think it really hit us until much later."

Her story gave me goosebumps and made me think of the cultural signifance of wine and food, and it’s role in shaping the way we view ourselves.

Posted on Thursday, May 25th, 2006
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Hair of the Dog Beer Dinner

There’s still time (but not much) to sign up for Cathedral Hill Hotel Executive Chef Bruce Paton’s beer dinner, featuring the beers of Hair of the Dog Brewing Co., Portland, OR. Cost is $80. Call 415-674-3406 to make a reservation. Here’s the menu:

Dinner with the Brewmaster
Friday May 26, 2006

6:30 PM
Beer Chef’s Hors D’Oeuvre , Beer: Blue Dot Double IPA

First Course
Composed Soup of Summer Squash, Squash Blossoms, Fresh Oregon Bay Shrimp and Extra Virgin Olive Oil Pressed with Tangerine.
Beer: Greg

Second Course
Crepinette of Veal with White Asparagus, Seared Foie Gras, Meyer Lemon Gremolata, Red and Golden Beet Syrups
Beer: Rose

Third Course
Chocolate Indulgence
Beers: Adam and Fred

Posted on Wednesday, May 24th, 2006
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Prize-winning Beer Deserts

I PROMISED TODAY IN MY COLUMN IN The Oakland Tribune, that I would print the recipes from an InBev Beer Dinner last week (May 18, 2006) at Sur la Table in San Francisco from Daniel Joly, the Belgian-born and trained chef, who owns Mirabelle in Beaver Creek, CO. That’s near Vail, if you were wondering.

But truth is – staring at the recipe cards, I realize I went too far. Hell, maybe I lied. Anyway, here’s the deal. There’s no way I’m going to sit here and type these very lengthy, very fancy recipes into this blog. If anyone wants them, email me at: with your snail-mail address and I’ll gladly photocopy them and send ’em along or if you insist, I’ll scan the recipes as jpgs and email them.

Meanwhile, here are two desert recipes that look possible for the ordinary human. Both were stunning. I believe one could skip making the Frangipane and serve the Beer Sorbet with any almond-flavored puff pastry, adding the saute’ed bananas.

Frangipane with Beer Sorbet


2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
4 oz. sugar
3 eggs
4 oz. blanched almond flour
2 oz. pastry cream
4 sheets of puff pastry
1 cup of melted butter
1 banana, cut into small pieces (each was about 2-3 inches long, 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick)
2 oz. brown sugar

Mix the softened butter and the sugar in a paddle mixer. Add each egg, one at a time, add almond powder and pastry cream until smooth. Saute’ the banana with brown sugar and butter. Let cool
Brush each sheet of puff pastry with melted butter, be sure to brush the entire sheet. Spread an equal amount of Frangipane (paste) on each sheet. Add the saute’ed bananas, gently fold the pastry over the mixture and form “Bon-Bon” style.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 3-4 minutes or until golden. Serve with Beer Sorbet.

Beer Sorbet

4 oz. Hoegaarden Wit (or other white beer)
4 oz. Stella Artois (this was an InBev dinner, but substitute any other minimally hopped pils.)
4 oz. Leffe Blonde. (Substitute any decent Belgian abbey beer, although quite honestly the Leffe house yeast imparts a distinct, earthy note.)
3 oz. glucose. (I’m guessing a liquid sugar would work).
11 oz. sugar.
20 oz. milk.


Mix all ingredients together. Churn in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze overnight.

Note from me: I’ve often made sorbet by whisking it with a food whisk, then freezing. It won’t come out as light and airy as it would in an ice cream machine, but it does work. Gonna’ try this one myself. I’ll let you know.

Belgium Chocolate Fondant

10 eggs
6 egg yokes
1 1/2 cups sugar
13 oz. melted chocolate
13 oz. melted butter
6 oz. all-purpose flour
2 Tbs cornstarch


Using a large bowl, whisk together in this order – eggs, egg yokes, sugar, melted chocolate, and butter. Graduatlly whisk in slowly the cornstarch and flour.
Pour batter into 2-inch ramekin,cook in the oven for 3-5 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serve with Hoegaarden (or other white beer).

Posted on Wednesday, May 24th, 2006
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The Lagunitas St. Pat’s Day Pot Bust

Back in the saddle again…Lagunitas Brewing got fined last year and not allowed to sell beer for 20 days after three people were arrested at the Petaluma, CA brewery’s regular Thursday night tasting party for possession of marijuana. This came after an eight week undercover investigation by the California Alcohol Beverage Controld Board.

Two agents repeatedly tried to buy marijuana from people at the tasting. It was offered free, but no one would sell it to them. There’s a lot more to it. You can find the whole story in my Beer of the Week column in today’s (Wednesday, May 24, 2006) Oakland Tribune and other newspapers.

Anyway, the brewery’s new seasonal is Undercover Shut-Down Ale. The funniest part is what founder Tony Magee wrote on the label in very small print:

Front: “We brewed this especially bitter ale in remembrance of the 2005 St. Patrick’s Day Massacre and in celebration of our 20 day suspension back in January of this year.


((Beside Lagunitas Dog)))

Shhh. Be vewry vewry qwuiet. We’re sneakin’ around lookin for grownup taxpaywers dowin tings we don’t appwoove of. Be wery kwiet. Dare awound here somewhere…..Shhhhhh.Be vewry vewery kwiet..

OG Unforgivable
IBU: Unrepentant.


From the day of the first congress at the moment of the passage of the first law , we became weaker. The extra-large B.Franklin said it well that you can tell the strength of a society by the paucity of the pages in its book of laws. Today we are all surrounded by laws – tax law – civil law – criminal law. Statutes and Bills. Laws that make large and small criminals of us all.

And sometimes just doin’ something that you like to do and hurts no one is also criminal, or at least strongly discouraged. Seems we can’t be trusted to live well and safely on our own. On our own we would all probably descend quickly into mayhem, cannibalism and ultimately shoplifting and jaywalking.If only we all could be trusted. It’s good having such wise fathers looking out for us isn’t it. Whatever. 707-769-4495. CHEERS!

Posted on Wednesday, May 24th, 2006
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Faz and pinots quite a hit

Last night’s Pinot & Friends event was exceptional. It was at Faz in Danville, on their outside patio, and not only did you only need one layer – the temp was probably 75 all night – but the pinots featured were all divine.

I’m always intrigued by female winemakers simply because it seems like there aren’t enough of them, and Jean Spear of Sonoma’s Sadler-Wells was not only personable, but makes an incredible pinot noir. Her 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon was amazing too, but then again, so are all 2001 cabs from California. Good year.

Gryphon Wines’ 2003 Pinot Reserve had the punch and flavor of a syrah but in the summery body of a pinot. My friend Jenny and I loved it and weren’t surprised that Wilfred Wong of BevMo! gave it 94 points. And Jenny, ever the Chardonnay hater, said she’d actually drink Gryphon’s 2004 Chardonnay. Probably because it contains no oak and no malolactic acid. 

What I found particularly cool was that Oregon winemakers, including those from Domaine Drouhin, flew in for this event. 

Posted on Thursday, May 18th, 2006
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