Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Letters: Duvel for Breakfast, Real Ale and Great Cider

By William Brand
Tuesday, September 26th, 2006 at 12:45 pm in Uncategorized.

My Beer of the Week column on Duvel – the Belgian classic – in the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA) and other papers got a real response. I’ve gotten a ton of calls and e-mails from readers, some with stories about Duvel, others asking where they could find the beer.

Even though we live in a beer nirvana, sort of – the supply lines are thin. Even a great beer like Duvel can be hard to find. That’s why I’ve developed a list of stores in the greater Bay Area with excellent beer stocks. Want the list? E-mail us at and ask for our 2006 Retail Beer Store List. Also, I e-mail my weekly column. If you’d like to join the list, drop me an e-mail.

On to the letters:

Beer for Breakfast

Hi Bill,

I love Duvel! I was so excited to see it’s beer of the week. And I have a story:

My boyfriend and I were listening to some satellite radio beer show in which a “beermaster” (that’s what he called himself) claimed that Duvel was a perfect pairing with chorizo and eggs in the morning.

Intrigued, we bought a bottle and brought it up to Clear Lake on vacation. While we didn’t end up having it with chorizo and eggs (instead it was some sort of spicy Mexican-style scramble with bacon and hot salsa) we did enjoy it immensely for breakfast (though we were a little unmotivated for a while after breakfast) Good thing we were on vacation!

I plan to have it at other meals too, but in my mind it will always be the best breakfast beer I’ve ever had.

J., Oakland, CA.

From Duvel to Real Ale to Incredible Cider

Hi,  I’ve been spoiled by England where I studied hotel management in the 60’s and subsequently traveled to 30 countries. Anything to do with food, beer or wine draws my attention and so did Duvel, surely the devil of all beers. And so also hard ciders.

Regrettably local beers somehow do not impress me and I have yet not found hard cider on tap anywhere.

A relative owns a liquor store and he has no idea what I am talking about. I guess demand drives everything.

G., Union City, CA.

Hi G. I too am spoiled by England and I’ve only visited twice. There are some great beers being made in the Bay Area, but they tend to be very local. A good place to find excellent beer is The Bistro on B. Street in Hayward.

There are several West Coast craft brewers who make English-style ales. (That is, with malt not hops as the emphasis.)

Grant Johnston at Black Diamond in Concord. His Black Diamond Pale Ale is very much an English bitter. It’s available on tap around the East Bay.
North Coast Red Seal Ale is an English style beer in bottles that I like. Also, Magnolia in San Francisco, owner-brewer Dave McLean makes a string of Real Ales. It’s at 1398 Haight St.

Cider in the Bay Area’s a sad story indeed. Just the the multi-nationals from the UK and a couple of American perrys made with apple juice and pear extract or something like that.

The one really great America cider in California is made by Tim Bates at his farm in Philo, 18501 Greenwood Road (near Boonville, CA., (707) 895-2333. The place is called The Philo Apple Farm, and he sells it only at a roadside stand. If you’re headed to Mendocino, it’s worth a stop. There’s more to the story, of course.

Tim Bates, wife, Karen and her mother  Sally Schmitt, run a cooking school at the farm. They also have B&B overnight accommodations. Who is Sally Schmitt?

Sally and her husband, Don,  started The French Laundry  in Yountville, arguably the most famous restaurant on the West Coast  – just try to get a reservation.  They built it into a very successful regional restaurant, sold it in 1994 to chef-superstar Thomas Keller , who made it world famous.

The Schmitts and Tim and Karen bought the Apple Farm, which Tim converted to an all-organic operation. Hint: If he has no hard cider, buy the apple juice. It’s the best apple juice you’ll ever drink. The cooking school is also justfiably famous, exquisite setting, expert instruction.

I just tried Tim on the phone, couldn’t reach him. So I e-mailed him. I’ll drop his response into this blog in a while.

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