Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for August, 2006

Fifth Floor classes

Took a great class on French wines last night at Fifth Floor in Union Square. It was taught by the restaurant’s sommelier, Emily Wines (I know, it’s kismet) – who packs more into one hour than most teachers get to in two or even three. She’s only 33 and has already helped put Fifth Floor on the map: their list received Wine Spectator’s Grand Wine Award. She confirmed a lot (The Brits discovered champagne, not Dom Perignon) and I learned even more. The soil where some of the world’s best wines come from is complete gravel and rock. The French strain their vines, make them work much harder than we do. Looking forward to more classes. For more info, check out

Posted on Thursday, August 3rd, 2006
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Champion Beer of Britain

If you love English beer as I do, the place to be this week is Earls Court in London for the Great British Beer Festival, held each year by the Campaign for Real Ale It began officially today and runs through Saturday.

Judges – a panel of brewers, beer writers and journalists – today chose Brewers Gold, brewed by Crouch Vale, of Essex, UK as the Champion Beer of Britain. It was an unprecedented decision. The same beer won last year. Find all the results here.

Of course, you’ve got to go to England to taste it. It’s in good company, beers like Fuller’s ESB and Blue Bird Bitter from Coniston Brewery in Cumbria, two that show up on our shores. Fuller’s is in wide supply; Blue Bird’s rare over here.

There’s a bit more hope in the bottle conditioned beer category. The winner, the famous White Shield, now being brewed – can you believe it – by Coors, won gold; Hen’s Tooth from Greene King won silver and Titanic Stout from Titanic Brewing, Titanic Brewery in Burslem in the Potteries, one of England’s oldest breweries.

Hen’s Tooth comes to the U.S. from time to time. White Shield has not. However, there may be hope this very delicious beer may be impported.

In 2000 in a complicated deal, Interbrew (now InBev) bought England’s Bass Brewing, among many other brewing properties. The English government ordered Interbrew to divest Bass, because the deal placed too large a percentage of British brewing in the hands of one company.

Coors (now Molson Coors) wound up with the Bass brewery – founded in 1777 in Burton on Trent. However, InBev still owns Bass Pale Ale, the beer. But Coors has many other English brands – and according to the Campaign for Real Ale – the company is behaving honorably.

Among other things, Molson Coors revived Worthington’s White Shield. It’s now being brewed in limited quantities in the former Bass Museum Brewery, renamed the White Shield Brewery. So talk to your Coors distributor today. Tell ’em about White Shield. Suggest the company import it. Write letters; send cards; email…

Oh yes, in other categories the silver award went to Harveys brewery in Sussex for their Sussex Best Bitter. The Bronze was awarded to Triple fff brewery in Hampshire for Moondance.

The Great British Beer Festival is now open to the Public. We are open on Tuesday 1st August to 10.30pm, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday Noon-10.30pm and Saturday 11.00-7.00pm. Tickets are available on the door and for full details please visit the festival website at

Posted on Tuesday, August 1st, 2006
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Hipster wineries

My upcoming story on zany wine labels (comes out tomorrow, Aug. 3) led me to some hipsters in the industry. We’re talking wine peeps under 30 who are doing their part to change the snobbery scene. Check these out for kick-ass parties, wine in jugs (and it’s hip!) or just overall motorcycle-riding rebellion:

Roshambo (Napa)

Leal Vineyards (San Benito)

Three Thieves (Napa)

Posted on Tuesday, August 1st, 2006
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A Documentary About Beer

If you’re into beer, the History Channel’s repeating an interesting program on the history of brewing tomorrow night, Wednesday, Aug. 2 at 9 p.m. PDT and 9 p.m. EDT.

Here’s a blurb from the History Channel:

“It’s one of the world’s oldest and most beloved beverages–revered by Pharaohs and brewed by America’s Founding Fathers. Today, brewing the bitter elixir is a multi-billion-dollar global industry. Join us for an invigorating look at brewing’s history from prehistoric times to today’s cutting-edge craft breweries, focusing on its gradually evolving technologies and breakthroughs.

“We’ll find the earliest known traces of brewing, which sprang up independently in such far-flung places as ancient Sumeria, China, and Finland; examine the surprising importance that beer held in the daily and ceremonial life of ancient Egypt; and at Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, an adventurous anthropologist and a cutting-edge brewer show us the beer they’ve concocted based on 2,700-year-old DNA found in drinking vessels from the funerary of the legendary King Midas.”

Posted on Tuesday, August 1st, 2006
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