Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for October, 2007

A very hoppy time at the Wet Hop Fest


No, it wasn’t raining. It was hoppy. For hop lovers Saturday afternoon at the Bistro, 1001 B St. in Hayward, was a day to remember: 22 beers from craft brewers as far away as San Diego, each made with some combination of fresh hops – hops put in the kettle right out of the field or as close as out of the field as possible.

Vic Kralj, proprietor, says this fest wasn’t professionally judged, although Vic, Tom Dalldorf, publisher of Celebrator Beer News and Dave Hopwood, of Stone Brewing, Escondido, tasted all of them and made a call on which were the hoppiest.

But first – the People’s Choice Award, decided by the approximately 500 people who attended.

First: Lagunitas, Petaluma, Absolutely Wet: 7.8 percent ABV, made with wet Columbus hops in a sock.
Second: Half Moon Bay Brewing, Half Moon Bay, Green Gold: 6.2 percent, made with 100 percent fresh Simcoe hops.

Third: Beach Chalet (San Francisco), Hop Patootie: 5.9 percent ABV, made with 100 percent fresh Lake County hops.

Now what Vic, Tom and Dave thought. The judgement was only on which were the hoppiest beers.

1. Beach Chalet, Patootie.
2. Half Moon Bay, Green Gold.
3. Ballast Point (San Diego) Schooner Wet Hop Ale: 4.5 percent, 100 percent fresh Cascades.

This was a very intelligent crowd, indeed. It was a great place to talk to brewers. Lots of them came.

Personally, I tasted 11 beers. Not a ringer in the lot. Couldn’t argue with the Best of Show. I loved the Half Moon Bay Green Gold. It had “oh my god!” hops from aroma to finish.

Confession time: I do like hops, but in balance. So I really liked Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale. Beautiful copper color, thick foam, heady hoppy nose, but great balance between malt and hops in the mouth: 6.7 percent, fresh Cascades and fresh Centennials for finishing.

Bistro Wet Hop FEst — Christian..Another good one, I thought, was Ballast Point’s Schooner. Beautiful hoppy nose, very nice malt-hop balance.

Can’t omit Brian Hunt’s Moonlight Brewing, Santa Rosa. Homegrown #1, 6 percent, made with 95 percent fresh Cascades, picked just outside the brewery door, was simply splendid. The British, tongue in cheek, have a great word for something with a distinctive nose. They say it has a “snatch”. Well, this baby had a hoppy snatch. Wild indeed.

Butte, Chico, had an organic beer: Fresh Hop Ale, 6.6 percent, Centennial hops. Very nice.

Last note. I have the whole list; it isn’t electronic, but I’ll mail a copy to whoever asks. E-mail your request to with your snail mail address and I’ll send it along.

Captions: Top:

Brian Hunt, Moonlight Brewing with two glasses of one of his three Wet Hop beers. Think it ws No. 1.

Below: Cynthia Kralj, Bistro’s co-owner, serves Triple Rock , Berkeley, head brewer Christian Kazakoff at the Wet Hop festival. Christian brought a firkin of Anniversary Ale. He put fresh Cascade hops in the firkin. Was it a hoppy beer. Yes indeed.

Photos by William Brand

Posted on Monday, October 8th, 2007
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The Almost Sold-Out Great American Beer Fest

GABF 2007 LogoDon’t think craft beer has been discovered by Mr. and Mrs. Average American Beer Drinker? Consider this:

I’m getting ready for my annual trek to the Great American Beer Festival in
Denver, which begins Thursday and runs through Saturday. I have very low clerical skills – or so the U.S. Navy told me many years ago – and I neglected to apply to the GABF for press credentials until this afternoon.

Damn near didn’t get in the door. Cindy Jones, marketing director for the Brewers Association, which sponsors the GABF, said she had issued 150 press credentials and she couldn’t admit Gregory Daurer, a freelance photographer who has taken photos for me the last two years. There were so many requests that only one person per media outlet gets a pass.

So Greg tried to buy tickets and discovered most of the sessions are SOLD OUT. Can you believe it? The Colorado Convention Center is nearly as vast or maybe more vast than Moscone Center in SF. Sell-outs mean tens of thousands of tickets purchased in advance.

So if you’ve decided to take a last-minute trek to this gigantic fest, get your tickets this minute. Do not wait. Demand appears to be relentless.

At this moment, 8:45 p.m. PDT, tickets to the Thursday evening session are only available at The Friday session is sold out. The Saturday afternoon and evening sessions are available only through Tickemaster, although the GABF anticipates a limited number will be sold at the convention center door for the Saturday afternoon session, but not for Saturday night.

Can’t wait to interview some ticket scalpers outside the door; wonder what they’ll be asking?

How big is big? Well, 408 breweries across America from Anheuser-Busch to 7 barrel micros will be pouring 1,884 beers. That’s 230 more than last year.

Even more beer was submitted for judging: 2,832 beers in 75 style categories. Whew.
Check it all out at


Posted on Monday, October 8th, 2007
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Dragon Seal Brut good choice for Asian food

dragon seal

I popped open that bottle of Dragon Seal, the Chinese Brut, over the weekend. Jenny and Vicki were coming over for some Asian grub, and being crazy for California sparklings, I wanted to see what they thought of it.

I still love Cali bubbles too, but I’m coming into Champagne more, craving complexity and fine mousse in my flute.

The 100 percent Chardonnay made everyone happy, I thought. Super light yellow in color, it had enough toast in the nose for me and citrus and honey for them. It was a round wine, especially at only $12.99 (Wine Styles), and had a decent finish.

The French vines are cultivated in China’s Huailai appellation in the Heibei Province of North East China, an area with an 800-year tradition of making wine. Huailai is 80 kilometers northwest of Beijing and close to the Great Wall. The altitude of the vineyards range between 490 meters up to 615 meters above sea level.

Made in the traditional method, the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottles for about eight weeks. It goes through another minimum of nine months in the bottle before disgorging.

Dragon Seal produces 30,000 bottles of this stuff and it’s won everything from the Chardonnay of the World Silver Medal in France in 2005 to the 1999 Challenge International de Vin Bordeaux, where it picked up a bronze medal. Get a bottle. It won’t rock your world but it’s good.

Posted on Monday, October 8th, 2007
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Bye Bye Yeti, G’day GABF

DENVER _ Rushing to catch a plane at Denver’s gigantic airport, I made a 22 oz. mistake. Didn’t get it until I was in the middle of the security gate.

The G.D. Yeti. Yes! I’d hurridly stuffed a bottle of  Great Divide Aged Yeti in my carryon bag. Oops. Don’t try that.

The security officers smiled. Another great beer for lunch, huh. Well, now I have a good reason to return to Denver.
Aloha and yah–hoo pardnuh.

In truth, I’ve got some more GABF stuff to post including a tasting of some very interesting beers from Anheuser-Busch, including an 8 percent cherry beer for the holidays. Stay tuned.

Posted on Saturday, October 6th, 2007
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Grant Burge’s value Shiraz

I had a good value wine last night (around $12). The Grant Burge 2005 Barossa Vines Shiraz from Australia’s Barossa Valley. I opened it up at 7:30 p.m., swirled and took a swig. The nose was closed and it had that faint fizz that some reds have when you first open them. I was annoyed. If I wanted slight fizz I’d drink Vinho Verde.

But I left the cap off and kept checking on it. By 8 p.m. the nose was opening up to reveal some plums and dense fruit cake. By the time Jenny arrived at 8:45 p.m. for some gruyere and girl talk, however, the wine was ready: Dark berries covered in black, fresh ground pepper and a hint of chocolate.

grant burge

It’s a lovely wine and would do well slapped against some lamb kabob or spicy lamb stew. With the nip in the air this early fall morning, I think I just told you what to do with your weekend. Happy Friday.

Posted on Friday, October 5th, 2007
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Petit Sirah blind tasting

On Tuesday night, I attended an illuminating blind tasting of Petit Sirahs with the Vintners Club of Tiburon. It’s always a pleasure tasting with this group. They are a 36-year-old institution with members as diverse as the wines they taste: winemakers, collectors, pharmacologists, you name it. This was monthly tasting #1,467.

I’m going to save the details of the tasting for my next column, which will appear in print on Oct. 17. In it, I’ll examine the notion of being true to varietal and what that means in the context of a blind tasting of super tannic, acidic wines. Your teeth can only handle so much stain. So when you come across a wine that jumps out at you because it doesn’t fit the typical characteristics of the varietal at hand, is it a good wine? We’ll find out. I welcome your comments.

For the time being, here’s what you really want: the results of the Petit Sirah tasting. All but one of the wines were from California. All cost less than $55. Save for three, they are all from the 2004 vintage. The wines appear in order of group ranking. I’ve put my ranking in parenthesis. My #1 was Rosenblum Cellar’s Rockpile Road Vineyard Reserve, tons of purple fruit and flowers:

rosenblum cellars

1. Miner Family Vineyards, Napa Valley, $43.50. (3)
2. David Bruce Winery, Vineyard Designate Series, Shell Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles, $32.64. (7)
3. Clayhouse Estate, Paso Robles, 2005, $26.09. (4)
4. Rosenblum Cellars, Rockpile Road Vineyard Reserve, Sonoma County, $48.94. (1)
5. Silkwood Wines, Stanislau County, $42.41. ((6)
6. DeBortoli Wines, Deen Vat Series, Vat 1, South Eastern Australia, 2005, $14.14. (9)
7. Ravenswood Cellars, Rockpile Road Vineyard Reserve, Sonoma County, $48.94. (10)
8. Concannon, Heritage, Livermore Valley, $54.38. (2)
9. Downing Family Vineyards, Blockhouse Vineyard, 2 Barrel Reserve, Yountville, Napa Valley, $54.38. (5)
10. Foppiano Vineyards, Reserve, 2003 Russian River Valley, $27.19. (8)

Posted on Thursday, October 4th, 2007
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Victor Kralj talks about the Wet Hop Fest this Saturday at The Bistro in Hayward, CA.

OK Folks…here goes an experiment. This is a link to a video shot yesterday by our ace Food Media Editor Jenny Slafkosky of Bistro proprietor Vic Kralj talking about the Wet Hop festival at the Bisro, 1001 B St., Hayward, CA. this Saturday, Oct. 6.
Here’s the link:“>
Link is now working.

Posted on Thursday, October 4th, 2007
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Another beer for people with wheat allergies

There’s another non-gluten beer reaching the West Coast designed for celiacs _ people who are allergic to the gluten protein in wheat, barley and other grains. It’s Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery’s New Grist Barley-Free Beer, made with soghum and rice. In fact, this is the original American gluten-free beer.
Haven’t tried it yet, but I intend to check it out as soon as find a sample. Meanwhile, look for it in your favorite beer store. There’s also a neat Web site:

Posted on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007
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A Desert to Pair With Anderson Valley Brother David

A Desert to Pair With Anderson Valley Brother David

Several people have asked me for the recipe of the Toffee Chocolate Pie that pairs so beautifully with strong dark Belgian or Belgian-style Ales. Thanks to Neil Maquis, chef at the Pleasanton Hotel, Pleasanton, CA, here’s the recipe.

Coffee Toffee Pie

Pie crust
All purpose flour 8 oz
1/8 # cold butter
3 oz brown sugar
5 oz walnuts finely chopped
1 oz bittersweet chocolate grated
2 tbsp water
2 tsp. Vanilla extract

10 oz butter softened
9 oz sugar
2 oz bittersweet chocolate melted
1.5 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tbsp of water
4 large eggs

10 oz whipping cream
1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp water
2 oz powdered sugar
3 tsp. Grated bittersweet chocolate

Pie crust
Cut butter into flour
In a mixer combine flour/butter mixture, brown sugar, walnuts and chocolate mix with paddle for 0ne minute, add water and vanilla. Mix all ingredients no med speed for 2-3 minutes mixture should bind on paddle.
Mix should be crumbly and slightly moist

Transfer pie crust mix to well greased 9” pie pan
With the heel of your hand, firmly press the mixture firmly into the bottom and sides, be sure to build it up to the top of the pan, thickness should be 1/4 inch.

Bake in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes with the fan off, crust is ready when crust bubbles and raises
Texture should be soft
Using the back of a spoon carefully press down to flatten and reshape the crust
Cool crust at room temperature

Filling procedure
In mixer with wire whip, whip butter on high for 5 minutes (butter should be white and creamy)

Place tub of ice under mixing bowl
Gradually add in sugar mix on high for 3 minutes
Cool the melted chocolate and instant coffee and add to the butter/sugar mixture, scrape bowl, add 1/2 the eggs and whip on high for 4 minutes, scrape bowl and add the other 1/2 of the eggs and whip on high for 4 minutes
Spoon into pie shell and refrigerate for at least
4 hours

Topping procedure
In mixer with wire whip, add cream and whip
For one minute on high then add coffee and 2 tsp. Of chocolate whip again slowly adding in sugar.
Whip until stiff peaks form.
Top pie with topping and sprinkle on the last tsp. Of

Pleasanton Hotel

Posted on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007
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Australian Fortified Liqueur Tawny

Fortified Liqueur Tawny

The Sept. 30 page of my Wine Lover’s Calendar, a great gift for any wine enthusiast, was a joyous surprise. It was a good example of wine synchronicity: when you’re thinking about or craving a certain wine (this is often seasonal) and boom — there it is. Being poured by someone in your midst or written about or discussed.

Author Karen McNeil touched on a great alternative to Portuguese Tawny Ports. I spent time under McNeil’s tutelage at the Wine Writers Symposium back in February, and she’s a wealth of information.

Anyway, the luxurious Fortified Liqueur Tawnies, which have been coming out of Australia for over a century, used to be called Port but Australian winemakers have officially changed their name this year to distinguish the wines from their Iberian counterparts.

And they are different. The Australian style is typically made from Grenache or Syrah grapes rather than Portuguese varietals and they’re aged in wood for at least ten, and often 20, years. They’re darker, sweeter and thicker, with a lot of peanut brittle and toffee flavors.

McNeil recommends Penfolds “Grandfather” Fine Old Liqueur Tawny, and so do I. With a sophisticated, slightly dry finish, it’s probably one of the best examples coming out of Australia. I’d recommend sipping it after dinner with a selection of strong cheeses.

Posted on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007
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