Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for July, 2006

Luka’s Taproom 1/2 off wine

Following a trend of a lot of San Francisco restaurants, Luka’s Taproom and Lounge in Oakland is offering their bottles of wine at 50 percent off on Sundays. So, no, you don’t have to order just a glass. Check em out for more info:

Posted on Friday, July 28th, 2006
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An Eloquent Farewell to Rolling Rock

Rolling Rock has never been my favorite beer: tastewise, it’s just another light lager.

But it was a beer with a soul. For 150 years it was produced in a brewery in tiny (Pop. 8,711) Latrobe in Western PA. But it wound up in the hands of InBev, who sold it to Anhueser-Busch. A-B is switching production from Latrobe to its Newark, NJ mega-brewery. From a dollar standpoint, the switch no doubt made perfect sense. But what about Latrobe?

Don Russell, who writes the weekly Joe Sixpack column for the Philadelphia Daily News, talked to Latrobe folks and brewery employees and wrote a great column on Rolling Rock this week. Here’s a taste:

“What’s going to be hard for me,” said Michael Bauer (a 14-year Rolling Rock employee) , “is two years from now, watching the Steelers in the Super Bowl and seeing a Rolling Rock commercial.”

Read the whole column here.

Posted on Wednesday, July 26th, 2006
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Taste Firestone Walker Ruby Tonight

It’s not too late to jump on BART and Muni this afternoon (Wednesday, July 26, 2006 and drop in at the Toronado, 547 Haight St., in San Francisco for a taste of an unusual summer beer from Firestone-Walker, Paso Robles, CA.

Mark Cabrera, Northern California brand manager for Firestone-Walker says this will be Ruby’s only appearance in the Bay Area. The rest will be on tap at the brewery and at accounts on south.

Ruby is one of 10 special beers being made this year by head brewer Matt Brynildson and his crew with the help and using the recipe of Jim Cibak of Three Floyds, Hammond IN., to celebrate Firestone-Walker’s 10th anniversary. The whole range apparently’s going to be blended into a single beer and bottled this fall and released to the public.

Thanks to Mark, I got a chance to sample Ruby the other night at Pacific Coast Brewing, Oakland. No, they don’t have it in stock; Mark brought one of a handful of bottles filled at the brewery.

Ruby***+ is a beautiful beer: shimmering ruby color; very little foam. Toffee nose with a citrusy, hoppy background . Taste is silky, a bit sweet. but with drying hop notes and lots of alcohol in the background. This is truly an after dinner beer, fit for a foggy San Francisco evening.

Here are the notes on the beer from Matt Brynildson: Note the sophisticated, complex hopping.

Product Name: Ruby
Product Style: Summertime Barley Wine / Strong Ale

Malts: 100% English Grown and Malted Maris Otter (boiled for 4 hours to obtain this incredible ruby hue.)

Hops: Summit, Simcoe (pellets) Cascade and Glacier whole leaf (utilized in the lauter tun as a hop back) Summit, Centenial (Dry Hop)

OG: 28P
Color: 24L (Ruby Red)
IBU: 65
ABV: 11%

Product Description: Ruby is a high gravity Barley Wine and is the third beer brewed for our 10th Anniversary, strong ale brewing series. This beer is one of the 10 components that will make up our awesome commemorative beer which will be released in bottle format in late Sept / early Oct.

Ruby is billed as a Summertime Barley Wine. It is the brain child of Jim Cibak who is the Brewmaster of the notorious Three Floyd’s Brewing Company in Hammond Indiana, best known for brewing extreme, hoppy, high gravity beers such as Alpha King, Dreadnaught IPA, and Dark Lord Imperial Stout.

Jim traveled to the Central Coast and brewed this beer with me and the FW crew on May 12, 2006. Jim and I worked together for 4 years at the Chicago based Goose Island Brewing Company and have ever- since dreamed of getting together for a special brew.

A portion of the beer was set aside in 10 year old Bourbon Barrels to be blended into the 10th Anniversary brew… but we couldn’t help but release a small portion of this incredible brew now while it is young and fresh.

The beer was made with a massive 4400# grist bill containing 100% Maris Otter malt. The brew was boiled for 4 hours to obtain the high starting gravity and the beautiful ruby red color.

This warley wine was finished off in the brewhouse with the addition of a very important extra step. After finishing the brew and cleaning the brewhouse, we packed 200 pounds of whole leaf Cascade and Glacier hops into our 50bbl lauter tun. After whirl-pooling the wort, we ran the entire batch back into the hop packed lauter tun, utilizing it as a massive hop back prior to cooling it into the fermentation cellar!!!

You can’t even imagine how good the brewery smelled that day! The result is a beautifully flowery hop aroma and massive, yet balanced hop flavor. This deceptively strong brew is brimming with hop flavor and luscious malt richness. I couldn’t be more proud!

Cheers! Matt Brynildson

Posted on Wednesday, July 26th, 2006
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Tip of the bottle: Oakley Five Reds

Have I mentioned the Oakley Five Reds yet? It’s $5.99 and heavenly. Picked up a bottle last night from Walnut Creek BevMo! and cracked it open with some rotelle tossed with tomatoes, spinach, pinenuts, garlic and olive oil. Oh, it’s a Cline wine btw.

Posted on Tuesday, July 25th, 2006
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Quirky labels

I’m doing a story on the creative labels movement (think Bonny Doon, Fat Bastard, Marilyn Merlot) and would love to hear what your favorite labels are. Does it have a critter on it? Or a clever name Screw Kappa Napa? Are you more apt to try a wine because it has a cool label? Would you buy it again? Post your comments and favorites here or email me at

Posted on Monday, July 24th, 2006
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Chris Isaak at Wente

"Let’s face it. You’re in a vineyard in the middle of the night with a man in a pink suit."

Crooner Chris Isaak’s words pretty much summed up the night. An ’03 Merlot that was too heavy for me on a 90-degree night and an astonishingly crisp ’04 Chardonnay rounded out all that is perfectly gorgeous about a summer concert in Livermore. Stockton’s own Chris Isaak wooed the crowd with his pelvic thrusts and feather-like wails and the food was deelish.

With the exception of the couple in front of our table — why do 50-year-olds need to smother their 25-year-old girlfriends at these functions? — and the staged hootchie dancers (Roy Orbison is rolling in his grave) I think a concert at a winery is just about the most amazing thing you can do for yourself this summer. (I also saw Fiona Apple at Mountain Winery last month) So put down that magnum and spend your money on this instead. It’s a pretty penny. ($71-$215). 

Posted on Friday, July 21st, 2006
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Pink Out! rocked out

So I went to Pink Out! last night — that totally fabu event to celebrate all that is pink and sexy in wine. It totally confirmed that roses are my favorite food wines (I’m more of a Butterfly/Slanted Door girl than a Ruth’s Chris one, so I drink my Big Reds solo, like some people drink protein shakes.)

Anyway, I talked to a few hot young winemakers, including Charles Bieler of Napa’s Three Thieves,, who was there pouring Bieler Pere Et Fils Rose, Charles’ and his dad’s Provence wines). In a pink suit, he was looking very court jester meets Tom Petty in "Don’t Come Around Here No More." Made me wish I wore my pink patent leather heels.

Jeff Morgan, whose Solorosa Late Harvest Rose ($18),, was one of my faves, throws kick-ass parties, complete with just enough camera crews (2, NPR and Bay Area Backroads) and pretty people.

Other must-try (read: unusual) rose:

Croze 2004 Vin D’une Nuit. 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Quite possibly the richest rose I’ve tasted. Even great for my steak friends.

Posted on Tuesday, July 18th, 2006
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Lineup for Summit Hop Fest Wednesday

Here’s the lineup for the Summit Hop Fest Wednesday, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Toronado, 547 Haight St. in San Francisco. No admission charge. All beers made with Summit hops. Brewers coming and the alcohol by volume of the beers they are bringing include:
Bear Republic, Healdsburg, 6.5%
Bison,Berkeley, 6.7%
Drakes, San Leandro, 6.4%
EJ Phair, Concord, 6.7%
Half Moon Bay Brewing, Princeton-by-the-Sea, 6.7%
Iron Springs, Fairfax, 7.1%
Magnolia, San Francisco, 5.9%
Marin, Larkspur, 5.8%
Moylan’s, Novato, 6.5%
Rubicon, Sacramento, 6.5%
Russian River, Santa Rosa, 6.3%
Seabright, Santa Cruz, 5.8%
Thirsty Bear, San Francisco, 6.5%
Triple Rock, Berkeley, 5.6%
Sudwerk, Davis, 6.6%
21st Amendment, San Francisco, 6.5%

Posted on Monday, July 17th, 2006
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Family Winemakers upon us

Family Winemakers is coming up on Aug. 20-21 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. I’ve been two years in a row and it’s fabulous. A chance to sample and rap with the 400 or so small, family-owned and operated boutique wineries in the state. I think I’m going to volunteer this year, as a 3-hour shift gets you free admission to both days and a nifty T-shirt. Join me. Sign up at

Posted on Monday, July 17th, 2006
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The Beer List at a Seaside Cafe in France

Roger Stocker, an English member of the Trappist Beer discussion group posted the photo (see below) of a seaside restaurant in the south of France.

Note the beer list on the big board in the center.

I wonder if we have a seaside restaurant anywhere in California with a selection like this one. Answer is easy: Non.

I’m posting the enlarged, photoshopped beer list below the big photo. Here’s what it says, top to bottom. I’ve included explanations of the less familiar beers on the liste. It’s quite a list:

Pressions bottle 25cl 50cl

Campus (Made by the Belgian brewer Huyghe)
blanche 6 euro 3,30 4,50
ambree’ 6 3,10 6

Abbey, Heineken 33 cl 3,00
Ch’Ti (Great biere de garde from the north of France. Usually in corked, Champagne style bottles. Rarely available in California. If you see it, buy it.)
25 cl 3,00
Leffe – Duvel 4,00
Delirium, Guillotine 4,50
EKU 28, (This is a five star eisbock or ice bock. 11 percent ABV, made by Kulmacher in Kulmbach, Germany.
Kappitel Abt (Het Kappitel Abt is a 10 percent triple from the Van Eecke brewery in Watou, Belgium.
Kasteel (another Belgian, comes in either brune (brown) or blonde, both 11 percent, from Van Honsebrouck. Quite sweet. 5,00
Demon (Biere de Demon is Swiss, 12 percent ABV). 6,00
75 cl (This is another excellent biere de garde made by the St. Sylvestre brewery in the north of France (French Flanders). 8.5 percent ABV. 8,00


Kwak- Maredsous 4,50
Bush (Scaldis in the U.S. The 12 degrees refers to the alcohol by volume 12 percent)
Orval -Divine
Fruit defendu (Forbidden Fruit) is a beer long made by Inbev at Hoegaarten.It’s 9 percent ABV, somewhat sweet, kind of a desert beer with a musty, earthy note. Absolutely delicious. 5,00


Pelfort – Rodenbach 3,00
Chimay Rouge 4,00
Chimay Blue – Stout Leroy
Carolus (Guden Carolus), Delerium Nostrum
Leffe 4,50
Kasteel – Rochefort 8
Guinness – Malheur 5,00
Rochefort 10 6,00

Bieres Triples

Karmelite – Leffe
St.Feuilllien – Chimay 4,50
Westmalle 5,00


St. Louis 37.5 5,50
(Kriek, Frambois, Peche)
(Cherry, Raspberry, Peach)
Floris (Pomme – Fraise)
(Apple, Strawberry – these are but two of many flavored beers made by the Belgian brewer Huyghe) 5,00
Chapeau Mirabelle
(Peach Lambic from De Troch in Belgium. Far from my favorite)
Desperados – Smirnoffs 4,00
(Fischer, the Alsatian brewer, bought the trade name Desperado from Coast Range Brewing in Gilroy, CA. Fischer sells Desperados beer in France. Smirnoff’s refers to a vodka-based alcopop with a touch of lime. Full name: Smirnoffs Black Ice. Smirnoffs is owned by Diageo, the English drinks company that owns Guinness, among others. I found a number of references on the web to Black Ice mixed with Desperados. Gawd.)
Pecheresse (Don’t know what this is) 4,00
Pink Killer 4,00
Hoegaarden (Can’t read the next word) 4,00.

At any rate, what a beer list.
Comments anyone? — William Brand,

Posted on Monday, July 17th, 2006
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