Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for October, 2006

Dry Creek Valley

I went tasting in the Dry Creek Valley over the weekend. First time. I’d done downtown Healdsburg and Russian River, but this was my first time in Dry Creek. Abundance of jammy Zins, if you’re interested. We hit Unti, Quivira, Preston, Bella, Roshambo, La Crema and Thumbprint. Here are my three standouts:

Preston: Hands down the best overall wines I had that day. Especially the Carignane, Madame Preston (a white blend), and the Viognier. No wine is under $25, but this stuff’s worth it. The whites are organic, and you can taste the difference.

La Crema: Best pinots of the day. Earthy, smooth and nutty. I loved them and they didn’t charge a tasting fee! I seriously heart Sonoma.

Roshambo: Definitely wins for hippest winery, ever. I’ve written about them before and interviewed owner Naomi Brilliant. Everyone there’s got tattoos, there’s really funky art on the walls and the space was made for parties.

Posted on Tuesday, October 31st, 2006
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Two Drake’s Tastings Not to Miss…

Rodger Davis, the ace brewmeister at Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro, CA. is holding a couple of very interesting tastings on Wednesday, Nov. 15 at the Toronado, 547 Haight St., San Francisco, and Thursday, Nov. 16 at Cato’s Ale House, 3891Piedmont Ave. in Oakland.

Both tastings are open to the public and begin at 6 p.m.

The first, at the Toronado is a vertical testing of five different vintages of Jolly Roger, Drake’s very strong Christmas Ale, each very different.

The second. at Cato’s will be three different versions of a brown ale, originally brewed as a homebrew by Alex Smith, the bar manager at Cato’s. More on that in a moment.

Here are Rodger’s notes on the Jolly Roger beers to be tasted at the Toronado:

2003
A Scotch Ale. Based on the early 1800’s way of taxing ales, where more Shillings were charged to higher gravity ales, this would be considered a“120 Shilling” Ale. Big and malty from roasted barley this beer is balanced with only two hop additions of East Kent Golding and then it was fermented at 50*F to keep the ester formation low. 9%ABV 30 IBU’s

2003 Barrel Aged
In the early 1800’s Scottish brewers would transfer their ales to barrels where they would condition for up to two years. Often these beers would sour over time. The 2003 Scotch Ale was placed into a Brandy barrel for 18 months. This version has a slight sourness to it but is quite complex with the many different aromas and flavors. 11% ABV 30 IBU’s

2004
An American style Red Ale. Think of it as a dark IPA. After 2003’s version we found the need to get back into a hoppy style but wanted to keep the beer rather dark to try and confuse some into thinking it was another Scotch ale. Little did they know that it was actually a hoppy beer. Hops: Horizon, Chinook and Centennial. 9.5% ABV 70 IBU’s.

2005a
An Imperial IPA. This is a very big beer. Crystal malt lend a nice ruby red back drop to an onslaught of hops. How many pounds of different kinds of hops can you throw at a beer and still make it somewhat drinkable? It turns out a lot! Hops: Horizon, Simcoe, Cascade and Columbus. 11.5% ABV 80 IBU’s

2005b
An old ale. For our 15th Anniversary we decided to do two different versions, one a hop bomb and for the other , we broke out Roger Lind’s first Jolly Roger recipe from 1990 and re-create it using our own brewing techniques. This is a well balanced ale that is lightly hopped with Galena, East Kent Goldings and Willamette hops.
9.5%ABV 40 IBU’s

2005b Barrel Aged
This is the Old Ale that has been aging in an Apple Brandy barrel for 12 months. The first few months of aging, this beer was dominated by apple aroma and taste, but over time that has taken a backseat to the French oak the barrel is made of. 11%ABV 40 IBU’s

2006
An Imperial IPA. We have discovered that if hops are not used in the Jolly Rodger these days, then people would become enraged. So here we go with another hop bomb. This one steams from a conversation with Pat McIlhenney (owner/brewer of Alpine Brewing) when he mentioned that he used a whopping two pounds of dry hops per barrel in his outstanding Duet beer. Most of our IPA’s were about one pound per barrel! So what the hell, let see what that will do to one of our beers. Thanks for the advice Pat! Hops: Warrior, Simcoe, Summit, and Amarillo. 10% ABV 70 IBU’s.

What’s more…Rodger adds that he’s trying to secure a keg from 1996 or 1997 (brewed by Roger Lind, who founded Drakes) that somebody bought, never tapped and has been storing it in “good” condition. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the next day at Cato’s also at 6 p.m. Here’s what Rodger plans in his own words:

“And if you not too hungover after that we brewed a Brown Ale that was originally brewed as a homebrew by Alex Smith (bar manager at Cato’s) which we will be tapping the 16th. We will have three different forms of it, co2, nitro and a pin (a small firkin) set on the bar. This is not your ordinary Brown ale as it is hoppy as hell. We try to make malt dominated beers but those hops keep jumping into the fermenters……Oh well. Anyway, I hope to see you there..”

I wouldn’t miss either event Rodger.

Posted on Tuesday, October 31st, 2006
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The Grief A Simple, Stupid Typo Can Cause

Ooops. I typo’d the adress of the Toronado in a posting a few days ago about the Toronado’s Wet Hop Fest. …I’ve changed it now. But for the record, it’s 547 Haight St. in San Francisco, NOT 57.

Consider this sad tale:



Bill,

I first heard about the Toronado while reading your blog
at http://www.beernewsletter.com/blog/. So when I saw
that it was having a Wet hop fest I talked my wife on taking
a trip to the city for an evening of beer tasting.

I got the Toronado’s address off your Blog, checked BART’s
web site for the nearest station and saw that the 16th St
at Mission station was the closest one. Only 0.5 to 0.6 miles
away.

Next I printed out a google map of the 16th St to 57 Haight area . With that we hopped on BART at the Dublin/Pleasanton station and we were off. Getting off at 16th, we walked over to the address 57 haight and found 57 Haight.

Only it is not the Toronado. It is a private residence! Ha! now what did I write down the wrong address?
Now we were lost in San Francisco, and to make mattersworse I had a call of nature that was not going away and was only getting more urgent. So back we go towards Mission and Market.

Luckily we spotted a Cafe at the corner. We walked in I headed straight for the rest room and my wife ordered a tea and asked for a phone book. After my ‘rest’ I decided to call 4ll on my cell to get the Toronado’s address.

The phone company puts me through, but with this being a Saturday evening and the wet hop fest going full tilt, the woman answering the phone was hard to hear clearly and she spoke so quickly that I could not make out her super fast reply to my simple request for an address.

I was left with a my mouth gapping open and the tone of a phone that had hung up.

Lucky for me my wife has more patience then me and she continued to look in the phone book. She found the Toronado’s entry! It read Toronado, 547 Haight St. Aha! It is only another 5 blocks, why not walk there now knowing the correct address. Well, it is San Francisco, and we are from the flatlands. Haight is mostly uphill from there ooops.

Still 15 minutes later we found the place and it was packed, which is not hard to do since it is a rather small narrow bar. Still it was fun and I did happen to meet an old friend I used to work with, who I had not seen him in 5 or 6 years. Odd how life deals you such twists.

As to the Beer it was good. I only tried 4 of the hop fest specials, and found that of those I like the Drakes Harvest Ale the best.

The short story is that your reference to the Toronado’s address is wrong. It is located at 547 haight and not 57 as you show on your web/blog site.

Cheers. Peter.

NOTE: I changed it Peter and do I ever owe you a beer. And yes, the Toronado is a special place. The decor is Lower East Side New York City circa 1955. But the beer is somewhere west of heaven. b.

Posted on Sunday, October 29th, 2006
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A Visit to the Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery in Santa Fe N.M.

I’m on a brief trip to Santa Fe, NM this week and of course I’ve checked out the local beer scene.

First visit this trip was to the Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery, which is inside one of the tourist trap developments that have changed the Santa Fe Plaza into well, mostly a tourist trap, selling everything from cheap trinkets to high art. It’s hard to imagine that this was once the center of life in Santa Fe, and the plaza was lined with real stores. There was even a Woolworth’s.

But Santa Fe has grown – estimated population 70,631, up 13.5 percent from the 2000 census – and commerce has moved out into the sprawl.

So I never expect much around the plaza these days. The Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery is always a pleasant surprise. It actually fronts on Water Street, which is a block off the plaza, although you can get there from the plaza by walking through the maze of tourist-oriented shops.

The Water Street location is one of two; the other is out in the sprawl on Cerrillos Road, where as the pub’s website states:“This is where you can put your finger on the pulse of the real Santa Fe, as the natives live it.”

Prices at the plaza location are reasonable (from my San Francisco Bay Area perspective). I ordered New Mexico Green Chile Stew (as they call it these days). It’s a kind of pozole, made with potatoes, chunks of pork and lots of New Mexico green chiles: $7.75. Spicy and good and served with a couple of sopaipillas _ a light fluffy, New Mexico version of fry bread.

Head brewer is Daniel Jaramillo. Blue Corn offers a sampler set of their beers, eight beers in four ounce glasses, $6. Their beers, all ales, were fresh and decent. As one often finds in dry, high, American climates like Santa Fe (elev. 7,300 feet), beer tends toward the light end.

Natually, I find myself gravitating toward the other end. I especially liked Plaza Porter***+, made with roast malts and a touch of smoked malt, which gave it an interesting nose and taste. The smoke made it a perfect beer to pair with spicy green chile stew.

I also like End of the Trail Brown Ale***+, a 5.4 percenter with a light, roast malt nose. High Altitude Pale Ale *** made with Centennial hops, had a true hoppy nose and a dry taste that made me wish for a bit more malt. Still very drinkable beer.

Ditto Road Runner IPA. A 4.0 score for hoppy nose.

Forget what I said about tourist traps. If you’re stuck with a black belt shopper in downtown Santa Fe, NM, get thee to the Blue Corn Cafe & Brewery.

Locations: Downtown: 133 Water St., (505) 984-1800
SOUTHSIDE: 4056 Cerrillos Rd., (505) 438.1800
e-mail: info@bluecorncafe.com

Posted on Saturday, October 28th, 2006
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Great Wine Quotes

I come across these once in a while, and just wanted to share and thereby show how sacred wine is, and how long it’s been around. It’s believed that the first winemaker was a woman, some 5000-7000 years ago, along the Caspian Sea, in Iran. That would make her a Zoroastrian, a religion that predates Islam in that area:

"Go, eat your bread in gladness and drink your wine in joy, for your action was long ago approved by God…Whatever it is in your power to do, do it with all your might…"

– Ecclesiastes

Posted on Thursday, October 26th, 2006
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A Chance to Sample Pizza Port Beers in San Francisco

If you’ve heard about beer from Pizza Port in San Diego County, but never had a chance to try the beer, here’s an opportunity.

Craig Wathen, proprietor of the The City Beer Store, 1168 Folsom St., San  Francisco, (415) 505-1033, is now stocking four Pizza Port beers, Wipeout IPA, Lost and Found Abbey Ale (Belgium Red), Avant Garde (Biere de Garde) and Red Barn Ale (Saison).

City Beer has an unusual liquor license. Two people can buy any bottle and share it at the store for the cost of the bottle. In addition, Thursday, from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., he’ll be pouring Lost and Found, Avanta Garde and Red Barn for $5 for a glass of all three.

As I mentioned in my column today in the Oakland Tribune and other Bay Area newspapers, Ledger’s Liquors, 1399 University Ave., Berkeley, CA., (510) 540-9243.

The reason for this sudden largesse here in Northern California of Tomme Arthur and Pizza Port beers is that Pizza Port bought the old Stone Brewing facility in San Marcos and has begun brewing and bottling beer.

Posted on Wednesday, October 25th, 2006
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Gallo Glory

What did you think of the Gallo-ization of America story in today’s paper? I’ve always been a fan of that Gallo of Sonoma line (that’s a great cab under $10). I was surprised to learn that Red Bicyclette (from France) and Ecco Domani (from Italy) also fall under the Gallo group. The author notes that trying to stretch the Gallo name over wines from $5 to $75 might confuse consumers, but I don’t think so. Levi’s sells jeans at Target for $20 and a higher-end pair in specialty boutiques for $200. GAP tells us to go to Old Navy for affordable clothes and its new store, Forth & Towne, for fancy stuff, right? We can figure it out.

Posted on Wednesday, October 25th, 2006
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The Dogfish Head Beer Dinner

Here’s the menu from Beer Chef Bruce Paton:

THE BEER CHEF
Presents Dinner with the Brewmaster
Friday November 10, 2006
The Cathedral Hill Hotel
Featuring
The Unique Beers of Sam Calagione
Dogfish Head Brewing Co

Reception
6:30 PM
Beer Chef’s Hors D’Oeuvre
60 Minute IPA

Dinner
7:30PM
First Course
Poached Foie Gras with Toasted Five Spice Syrup and California Osetra Caviar
Midas Touch Golden Elixir

Second Course
Duck Pho with Charred Ginger Broth and Parsnip Noodles
90 Minute IPA

Third Course
Red Cooked Angus Short Ribs with Lobster Medallions
World Wide Stout

Fourth Course
Ginger Scented Banana Custard with Citrus Caramel Sauce
Chateau Jiahu

$80 Per Person Inclusive of Tax and Gratuity
Please Make Reservations by November 3, 2006
Bruce D. Paton CEC
Executive Chef
415-674-3406

Posted on Tuesday, October 24th, 2006
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More on the Calendar

More Calendar:
Friday, Nov. 10, Dinner With the Brewmaster, Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Brewing, Milton, Del., Cathedral Hill Hotel, San Francisco. Info: (415) 674-3406 or www.beer-chef.com. $80. This one should be incredible. See you there. Check the item below for the menu.

Saturday, Nov. 11, Noon. First Annual Barrel-Aged Beer Festival, The Bistro, 1001 B St., Hayward (510) 886-8525. Over 50 barrel-aged beers on tap. If you’ve never tried a beer aged in a bourbon or whiskey or wine barrel, this is a great place to start.

Saturday, Nov. 18, 3 – 5 p.m., Russian River Brewing’s Vinnie Cilurzo will be pouring Pliny the Elder**** and Damnation**** and Temptation*** at City Beer Store, 1168 Folsom St., San Francisco, (415) 503-1033. There will be bottles for sale. City Beer has an unusual liquor license. The store has a large stock of beers. Two people can buy a bottle, split it and drink it at the store for the cost of the bottle. You can buy any bottle to take home.

Posted on Tuesday, October 24th, 2006
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A Beer Dinner Not to Miss…

Here’s the menu from Beer Chef Bruce Paton:

THE BEER CHEF
Presents Dinner with the Brewmaster
Friday November 10, 2006
The Cathedral Hill Hotel
Featuring
The Unique Beers of Sam Calagione
Dogfish Head Brewing Co

Reception
6:30 PM
Beer Chef’s Hors D’Oeuvre
60 Minute IPA

Dinner
7:30PM
First Course
Poached Foie Gras with Toasted Five Spice Syrup and California Osetra Caviar
Midas Touch Golden Elixir

Second Course
Duck Pho with Charred Ginger Broth and Parsnip Noodles
90 Minute IPA

Third Course
Red Cooked Angus Short Ribs with Lobster Medallions
World Wide Stout

Fourth Course
Ginger Scented Banana Custard with Citrus Caramel Sauce
Chateau Jiahu

$80 Per Person Inclusive of Tax and Gratuity
Please Make Reservations by November 3, 2006
Bruce D. Paton CEC
Executive Chef
415-674-3406

Posted on Tuesday, October 24th, 2006
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