Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Letters: Brew Dates for Old Foghorn, Bigfoot

By William Brand
Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007 at 1:12 pm in Uncategorized.

Hi Bill,

First of all thanks for your writings and information – I really enjoy your blog at and your other postings at

I have two questions I was hoping you had time to answer. What other blogs, websites, etc… can you recommend to stay on top of the Bay Area beer scene?

Do you or have a way of finding out how to determine the brew date of Foghorn, Grandfather, and Bigfoot? I’d like to know the exact brew date of the bottles I am aging to make sure I will truly be able to conduct vertical tastings. (A related question is do you know the release dates for these three barleywines?

Thanks a lot, David

Hi David
…Let’s see…other blogs. I highly recommend Brookston Beer Bulletin . The author, Jay Brooks, has an inside track on craft brewer comings and goings in the Bay Area. He was formerly the associate editor (I think that was his title) of the Celebrator Beer News, the national beer newspaper, based in Hayward, CA., and before that the beer buyer for Beverages and More, the California liquor store supermarket chain.

Don’t forget the Celebrator, itself. It’s published bi-monthly and can be found online here. Also, Northwest Brew News, based in Seattle. I write about Bay Area craft brewing for it.

Also, two sites not specifically covering the Bay Area, but doing a thorough job reporting on craft beer are:, which is is owned and operated by two Boston, Mass. brothers, Jason and Tod Alstrom., which is owned and operated by a Bay Area resident, Joe Tucker, and a partner, who lives in Canada.

Finally, I also love the Oxford Bottled Beer Data Base. This is English. Most of the world’s great beers and some not so great seem to reach them. They rate them and talk about them and it’s possible to post comments.

About the date of those three beers. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot’s the easiest. It comes out in February each year and the year’s on the bottle cap.

Old Foghorn’s brewed occasionally during each year. Fortunately, Anchor has always been very open about dating. Until the Loma Prieta Earthquake in 1989, they used the front label like a clock face, the year and month were notched. But at the time of the quake, they changed the label, ending notching, which, incidentally, was a system used almost since bottling began.

Presently, there’s a code on the back label of each bottle. It’s very simple. The first digit is always a number and it’s the last number of the year the beer was bottled. This year, it will be a 7. The next digit is the letter of the month it’s bottled. This is a bit tricky. Here’s the scheme from the Anchor website:

January: J, February: F, March: M, April: A, May: Y, June: U, July: L, August: G, September: S, October: O, November: N, December: D.

The next one or two digits in the code is/are the date of bottling.

I’m not familiar with Grandfather. Tell me more.

3,000 (Gasp) Bottles of Beer…

Bill, I can’t find Rogue’s Old Crustacean in San Mateo County. BEVMO does not stock. Any suggestions? Also, please send me your 2007 Bay Area retail beer store list.

Thanks, Brad

Hi Brad…here you are. Two likely places on the Peninsula, Draeger’s, Drager’s, 222 East 4th Ave., (650) 685-3700.and Beltramos, Beltramo’s, 1540 El Camino Real, (650) 325-2806. Good hunting. b

Bill, I enjoy your column, and I especially like to try new beers. I also save one of each new bottle, and now have a collection of about 3000 different bottles from the past 25 years. I also home brew, usually IPA, my favorite.

Your column introduced me to Schooners Grille & Brewery in Antioch (CA.) a couple of years ago, and even though it is a long way from home, we stop there often on our way to the Delta. We may have never found it otherwise. Thanks for the recommendation. — Brad

OK Brad. You’re on the list. 3,000 bottles? That may be a record. What kind of beer? Any rare ones/?

Bill: I’m not sure what is rare. Most are microbrews from around the country. When I travel I check local markets and pack bottles in my socks to survive the flight home. I have an Anchor Potrero Commons I purchased at the brewery in 1990 – I think it was brewed to help fund a local park.

I mentioned Schooners in my earlier email, got thirsty, and we drove to Antioch for lunch. Their Barleywine was excellent. — Brad

Wow Brad. Potrero Commons , released in 1990, was, in my humble opinion, one of the best beers Anchor has ever made. it was what the Brits call a one-off. A one time brew, all proceeds went for a park on Potrero Hill. The name came from the name the original Potrero Hill residents, who were Spanards, to the pasture where everyone turned out their horses and livestock. That one beer might actually be worth a lot.

Also, I’m fairly sure it was the original brown ale recipe for Anchor’s Christmas beers.

Yeah, Schooner’s barleywine is excellent. I have a couple of older bottles in my fridge. They’re barrel aged and very nice. Schooner’s is worth a long drive. b

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