Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for January, 2007

A Five Star Beer and Chocolate Dinner

Bruce Paton, the executive chef at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco has been holding beer dinners on an almost monthly basis for several years now. These dinners have often been spectacular.

If you’ve never been to one, there’s no better time than his Beer and Chocolate Dinner. I’m printing Bruce Paton’s entire menu and how to sign up below. The menu, the beer, the chocolate – all of it is eye-popping

Posted on Tuesday, January 9th, 2007
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Anheuser-Busch to Import Budvar Budweiser

In the beer biz…
Anheuser-Busch announced Monday it has signed a deal with Budejovicky Budvar, the maker of the Czech Republic’s Budweiser to import Budvar Budweiser – sold here as `Czechvaræ into the U.S., settling a brand name lawsuit that has gone to court in many countries.
Well, I guess they’ve settled the U.S. portion of the dispute at least.

Anheuser-Busch maintains that it registered the trademark: Budweiser in 1878 and the present Budvar brewery was established in 1895. However, Budvar says it is the latest manisfestation of a brewery on the site that began as a town brewery in the Middle Ages and the beer has long been called Budweiser.

Anyway, in about half of Europe, American Budweiser must be sold as Bud, not Budweiser. In the other half, the American Budweiser prevails. One of the most telling decisions, in my opinion, is in England, where courts have ruled that both Budweisers can be sold.

The English judges may be the wisest, since the two beers are at opposite extremes of the lager world. American Bud* is a light, frothy beer made with a lot of rice and a “kiss” of hops. Czech Bud*** is full-bodied, all barley malt, mouth-filling with a wonderful, long, hoppy follow. Drinking Czech Bud rather than America Bud is a no-brainer for those of us who love full-flavored beer.

Anyway there’s a local angle to this dispute. But it ends badly, a big fish eats little fish and gets eaten by a great big fish.

Kip Buzzone, of Lafayette, CA., a wine importer, fell in love with Budvar Budweiser when he was an exchange student in Europe in the early 1980s and traveled to Prague in what was then Czechoslovakia. He found Czech Budweiser and was blown away. “The beer was fantastic,” he said in an interview a few years ago. “The more I studied the brewery and the more I learned about the problems, the interested I got,” he said.

After graduating from the University of Santa Clara, he went into the wine import business as World of Wine Lt., but – import license in hand – he also tried valiantly to convince Budvar to let him bring their Budweiser to the U.S..

It was a state-owned brewery under Czechoslovakia’s Communist government, so he had no luck. Then, the Soviet system was overturned and a new company director was appointed, a man who formerly was the brewmaster and who had become friends with Kip Bruzzone.

Finally, in 2000, the company signed on with Bruzzone and in 2001 he began importing Budvar Budweiser to the U.S. under the name “Czechvar.” Sales boomed, the Buvar brewery went public and in 2004 the brewery dumped Bruzzone in favor of a much larger importer, with a nationwide network, Distinguished Brands, which also imports Fuller’s beers among many others.

Now Anheuerser-Busch has offed Distinguished, swallowed its pride and will sell Czech Bud in the U.S. It will still be sold as Czechvar, but the deal means A-B’s nationwide distributor network will now have access to Czechvar. That, at least, is good news for beer drinkers. Of course, it gets Anheuser-Busch’s tentacles into Budvar. But who knows, the way the beer market in the U.S. is going, maybe the day is coming when the two Budweisers will be the same: all barley malt, lots of hops.

I’ll drink to that day.

Anybody Watching Redhook’s Stock…

Seattle-based Redhook Ale Company’s long-depressed stock has been moving upward as Anheuser-Busch revealed in an SEC filing that Redhook is in negotiations with Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland, OR. . Anheuser Busch owns 34 percent of Redhook and 40 percent of privately held Widmer.

Redhook (HOOK) was up 6 cents to $5.57 a share Monday, a two-year high for the stock, which traded at $3.11 a year ago. Surviving company, A-B says, would be Redhook.

Do you like Redhook’s beers? I find them fairly uninspiring. But sales are up and the company is one of the 10 largest craft brewers in America.

And Then There’s Thomas Kemper Soda…

Pyramid Breweries sold its money-making soda business last week to a new company, The Kemper Co., Portland, OR., for $3.1 million. Money will help fund Pyramid’s ale-house busines into Texas and the south, CEO Scott Barnum told The Real Beer Page.

Thomas Kemper Brewing Co., Kalama, Wash, founded in 1984, was bought by Pyramid in 1992 and the Thomas Kemper sodas came along. Pyramid will continue to make the sodas for the new company, mostly at its Berkeley, CA. plant.

Posted on Monday, January 8th, 2007
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What Women Drink

Here’s a first. The National Women’s Wine Competition. It’s March 13-15 in Santa Rosa and Ann Noble of U.C. Davis and Margrit Mondavi, both pioneers, will be there. Impressive. But some of my favorite female winemakers are missing from the list. Where’s Michelle Edwards? Helen Turley? And why do the judges and sommeliers have to be women too? The whole wine marketing machine in this country has gotten so out of control. I get the whole millennials thing — I am one, after all — and we do like big, fruit-forward wines with quirky labels. But it doesn’t mean we don’t drink serious stuffy-labeled wines also. It’s just insulting. And the ‘wine for a woman’s palate’ is even more insulting. Get real. I hate chardonnay, a typical ‘female’ wine. Always have. And as sophisticated and dry as they make those roses, I’m still not a major fan. I only like the sparklings. I prefer — and probably always will — heavy red wines. But apparently, I don’t have the chromosomes to prove it. While I like promoting women winemakers and the idea of them having a platform on which to network and advance themselves and each other (no different than JAWS, Journalism and Womens Symposium, of which I’m a past member) I don’t think an all estrogen wine fest is necessary. If anything, I think men should be there to judge the wines. Maybe they’d learn something. After all, aren’t women supposed to have the stronger palate?

Posted on Thursday, January 4th, 2007
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IPA Tasting, New Belgian Lambics at City Beer Store

Have you visited the City Beer Store, 1168 Folsom St. in San Francisco yet? I highly recommend it. Owner Craig Wathen keeps adding interesting new beers, obtainable only in a few select stores with owners or manager like Craig who understand there’s a growing market for great beer in the Bay Area.

There’s a twist. City Beer has an unusual on-and-off-sale liquor license. You can buy any bottle he has at the regular price and share it with a friend or friends right there.

There’s a twist. City Beer has an unusual on-and-off-sale liquor license. You can buy any bottle he has at the regular price and share it with a friend or friends right there.

Tonight (Thursday, Jan. 4, 2007) He’s going to doing an IPA pouring: Acme California IPA, Drakes IPA, and Marin White Knuckle Double IPA light hops to heavy hops. From 5 p.m. until closing, 10 p.m.

New arrivals, Craig adds, include Cantillon Gueze, Kriek, Rose, Iris 2004, Lou Pepe Framboise and Lou Pepe Kriek. These are bone-dry, sour Belgian Lambic beers, which I love, but my are they different.

Also new: Ale Smith IPA and Old Numbskull from Ale Smith, San Diego and Farmhouse Bourbon Barrel-Aged Porter.

Posted on Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007
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1976 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes

What did I drink on New Year’s Eve? People keep asking me. It’s not that interesting. A mix of Spanish Cavas, Alsatian sparklings and California stuff. I can’t remember. Maybe that’s because I keep pretending I was with my friend Michaela, who lived the dream: She had 1976 Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes, the nectar of the gods. A friend of her’s got a hold of the last bottle at K&L and they had it with two kinds of pâté (goose and duck). Then, later, with dessert. She describes it as the most balanced wine she’s ever had. The color was golden honey and it coated her mouth like liquid creme brulee, she said, but not overly sweet or syrupy or alcoholic. The finish went on forever, she said, ending on floral notes. They say the goal is to find the best bottle from your birth year. Well, this Sauternes is mine. I’m so glad I can live vicariously through Michaela’s grateful palate. I hope all those millionaires out there savor it as much as Michaela did.

Posted on Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007
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