Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for December, 2006

Hanukah vs. Christmas Beer Tasting Happening NOW

I know this is very late notice, but there’s a pretty neat beer tasting beginning in an hour and a half at the City Beer Store, 1168 Folsom St. in San Francisco, (415) 503-1033.

They’re calling it Hanukah vs. Christmas: The battle royale of beers, but in truth, it’s a tasting of Christmas beers from Shmaltz Brewing– He’brew, Drake’s, Moonlight, Marin Brewing and Drake’s San Leandro. Most of the brewers will be there. It’s a small place and this is an event worth attending. I’m working and cannot, but if you’re free, check it out.

City Beer Store’s an interesting place. You can buy a bottle of beer and split it with someone, then take some home. They have an impressive beer list and tonight, of course, several beers that you’ll only see here. Salud.

Posted on Friday, December 8th, 2006
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Letters: Thomas Hardy’s Ale, Cans, 10 & Noche Buena

My Beer of the Week column Wednesday, Dec. 6, about Thomas Hardy’s Ale brought some comments. Shaun O’Sullivan, co-owner, head brewer at 21st Amendment in San Francisco took exception to this quote in the column:

Here’s the bad news: BevMo’s Amy Gutierrez says the entire chain has about 25 bottles in stock. That’s it. It’s the old American beer desert dilemma: We’ve got cheap, tasteless beer in cans out our ears, but a world-class beer like Thomas Hardy’s Ale is unattainable.”


Cheap. tasteless beer in cans? Well that might true, but it’s changing!! Maybe it should of read:

“…It’s the old American beer desert dilemma: We’ve got cheap, tasteless beer made by big breweries, but a world-class beer like Thomas Hardy’s Ale is unattainable.”

Just my two cents. Thanks for being a supporter.

The Cans are here!
Now selling Watermelon Wheat and 21A IPA in Cans.
Join the Revolution and Take Back the Cans!

Shaun, I thought about you when I wrote that, but the image of crappy beer in cans was irresistible. How goes the can wars? b


It’s not a war….it’s a REVOLUTION and it’s going great. Through our efforts and journalists such as yourself who understand that crappy beer is crappy beer and beer in cans is a container, we can change that “image.”

We’re had a couple of bumps in the road, which is a story unto it self. You can read about our wows at:

But we are lawyering and everything will work out.

Love Firestone 10 and Ledger’s in Berkeley


I have been reading your beer column in the Wednesday edition of the Contra Costa Times and wanted to thank you for the review of the Firestone 10. I was able to track this beer down and ended up buying a six pack of the 22 oz bottles. Excellent and definitely different than anything I have tried in recent memory. I have been drinking microbrews since the early 1990’s and have seen a lot of brewpubs and beers come and go.

Your recent article on the Thomas Hardy barleywine is right on the money. These types of beers are very difficult to find these days and chains like bevmo that used to carry it in large quantities are becoming homogenized and tend to carry the same stuff year after year.

I have started going to Beverages and More less and have been finding great beers at Ledger’s Liquors , 1399 University Avenue in Berkeley. Quite possibly has the most unique collection of belgian and hard to find microbrews for sale in the Bay Area. I highly recommend it and the owner is well versed in beer and very friendly. Apparently he uses upwards of 10-15 different distributors to obtain the beers he sells.

Also if you are looking for hard to find awarding winning domestic microbrews and international beers that can be purchased via the net I suggest going to and hitting on one of their numerous links to on line sale companies. Here you can find and purchase beers from all over the country that have won awards at the great american beer festival and that are simply not available in California. Anyway, just some things you might want to let your readers know when trying to track down popular and limited quantity beers.

I look forward to your next column. Thanks again.

Jeffrey, Oakland

Hi Jeffrey. Yeah. The Firestone Walker 10 was amazing wasn’t it. And yes, I agree with you about Ledger’s. Great store and Ed really cares about beer. By the way I also write a general beer column that runs every other week in the Oakland Tribune and other papers, but not, so far, the CCT. If you like, I’ll add you to my e-mail list. best. b.

Thomas Hardy in Abundance in BC

Hi Bill,
Great piece on TH, even I learned a few things about an old favorite. Did you know TH might be considered the world’s biggest steam beer? At least in the old days they fermented it with a Bavarian lager yeast, but at ale temps.

Fortunately we get loads of it up in WA. And BC Liquor stores carry it for almost half the price of down here in the States. I load up on it and Rodenbach Grand Cru whenever I hit the Great White North. RGC is also about half price, or less.

It’s nice to see you’ll have help from now on in covering
the vast spaces and mass of great breweries in NoCal.

Is the special Firestone Walker brew widely available? I
may have to try to find it in the Sacramento area as I
speed through. Their beer stores leave much to be desired.


Hi Alan. Chances of finding 10 in Sacramento are slim to nil. And I drank the only bottle I got. It’s the beer that went away. b.

Searching for Noche Buena…

William, Enjoyed your article on He’Brew.

I used to buy a Christmas beer called Noche Buena. I think it was made by Dos XX. Do you know if it is still available? Thanks!

Luanne, Danville

Hi Luanne… ahh Noche Buena. I lived in Mexico for a time and it was by far my favorite. Distribution here has gotten spotty. I just searched the BevMo website and it isn’t listed. Haven’t seen it anywhere in a while. However, it may well be available in Mexican markets in the (San Francisco) East Bay. Mi Rancho, in Oakland, and Concord, for instance.

It’s made by Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma owned by a conglomerate called FEMSA. They make Tecate, Carta Blanca (both insipid and tasteless),. Superior, which — if you can get it fresh, which you can’t in the Bay Area — is a clean, all malt pilsner, very decent beer. They also make the horrible Sol, a light beer, and Dos Equis, which has improved in recent years and one of my all-time, beach-drinking favorites Indio (which you can’t get in the U.S. They also make Bohemia, which I used to like, but find pretty pallid these days.

And Noche Buena. I’m going to look for it, but I don’t have great hopes.

best. b.

Posted on Thursday, December 7th, 2006
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Aging beer in bottles…

Hi Bill. I enjoy the column. You have mentioned several beers that that should mature for a year or more. What conditions does the beer need to mature properly?
Charles, Walnut Creek, CA.

Hi Charles. Experts suggest a temperature around 55-50 degrees, although I keep my old beer in a small refrigerator set at around 40. Basically, if the bottle is corked, store it on its side and treat it like wine, turning it once in a while. If it’s capped, it should be stored upright.

Of course, most beers are meant to be drunk fresh. The kind to keep are strong, bottled conditioned beers – a bit of fresh yeast added to each bottle as a preservative, which allows the beer to continue to ferment very slowly – like barleywines and other strong beers of various kinds. But I also keep some unusual, pasteurized beers for a while. For instance, I have a selection of Anchor Our Special Ale going back 6 or 7 years. I find that a bit of age allows the elements of the beer to blend in a harmonious fashion. Hops mellow. Spices that once were strong, lose their bite.

That’s the reason I age Anchor. I don’t like the spices as much as the underlying beer. Finally, here’s a link I found on the web. It’s about wine, but the same information applies to beer.

Oh yes – what beers to age. I have a few favorites;

I’ve got several bottes of Westvleteren Tripel, the Belgian Trappist Ale; some Three Philosophers from Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY, a couple of gold-medal-winning barleywines from Schooner’s Brewery & Grille, in Antioch, CA. and an Edition 2005 and an Edition 2004 from Unibroue in Canada. Also, a few bottles of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale from 2002-2005. Also a Lagunitas Gnarleywine from 2000 and a Brooklyn Brewing Monster from 2000.

Again, the question is: What do you like? Is it strong and sweet and bottle-conditioned? Save a bottle. A lot of people save Alaskan Brewing Smoked Porter, which mellows and ages into something quite amazing. I wrote about a vertical tasting of several vintages of Smoked Porter in October. You can find the posting by clicking on September, go to Sept. 29.

Best. b.

William Brand e-mails his column weekly. To be added to the list, send an e-mail to

Posted on Friday, December 1st, 2006
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