Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for December, 2007

Last minute Champagne

If you still need to pick up a few cases for a party tonight — New Year’s Eve, baby — try the NV Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve. Cellared in 2004, it’s got the creamy and yeasty robustness you come to expect from Champagne, but it’s not over the top. Neither is the price. As of late last week, Wine Thieves was selling it for $29.99 (normally $35).

For those who prefer California sparklers, try the NV Scharffenberger. It’s got the typical green apple crispness of sparkling wine and it’s only $15.99 (normally $18) at the Thieves’.

scharffenberger brut

Above all, drink plenty, be safe and don’t go sabering any bottles with a chef’s knife. Unless you’re quite skilled.

Posted on Monday, December 31st, 2007
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A brewer’s library dinner at 21st Amendment in SF

21st Amendment interior 2007

The 21st Amendment on a Christmas holiday Saturday recently.

If you can afford it and you hurry, there’s a bang-up Brewer’s “library” Dinner happening Jan. 11 at 21st Amendment Restaurant & Brewery in San Francisco. Cost is $120 and the dinner’s limited to 20 people, hosted by 21st co-founders Nico Frecia and Shaun O’Sullivan.

What’s a “library dinner” you ask? Beer libraries are stocks of beer from months or even years past that brewers keep for reference, to give them an idea of what how a beer made in the past tasted. In this case the library belongs to Shaun.

“For the past 7 years Shaun has amassed a collection of unique, rare and aged beers from other brewers, visitors and on his travels around the world and it is time to open up the cellar and try these extraordinary beers with great food,” the 21st said in an e-mail.

Dont know what beers there will be, but here’s the menu:

21st Amendment
Brewers Library Dinner

January 11, 2008

6:30 PM

  • Hand Passed Amuse Bouche
  • Sea of Cortez Scallops with Morel Mushrooms and Sauce Americain
  • Roasted Acorn Squash Gnocchi in “sguazet” with White Truffle and Shaved

Reggiano

  • Salad of Haricot Vert with Gratin Galapagos Island Shrimp and Roasted Hop

Vinaigrette

  • Intermezzo
  • Mari e Monti- Roasted Niman Ranch Tenderloin and Maryland Striped Bass with Fine Herb Bernaise Sauce
  • Chocolate Lava Cake with Crème Anglaise and Blood Orange Sauce

The evening begins with a tour of the brewery and ends in the 21st beer garden with cigars, for those who smoke and more beer.

To reserve a place, send an e-mail to reply@21st-amendment.com or call the 21st: 415-369-0900.

Posted on Sunday, December 30th, 2007
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The lowdown on Saucey Sistah’s Ale

Do you believe in a phoenix rising from the ashes? Did you ever hear about Oakland’s Brothers Brewing Co.? Read on.

Brothers Brewing Co.An Oakland homebrewer Ralston Brown, a graduate of the American Berwers Guild when it was in Davis and his brother-in-law Thomas Parker and his friend, Michael LeBlanc, a former Polaroid exec, signed on and invested their savings in the company launched Brothers Brewing on the usual shoestring in 1998. Their first beer, recipe by Ralston, Brothers Honey-Brewed Amber Ale *** (my rating in 1999), contract brewed by Alec Moss at the late and still-lamented Golden Pacific Brewing in Berkeley, was a moderate hit.

It was the only African-American-owned brewery in America.

Two years down the road, they produced a lager: Brothers Golden Classic Lager, at Golden Pacific and tried to expand to urban places (guess, that’s code for heavily black neighborhoods) across the country.

They discovered that it’s impossible to beat mega-giants like Coors, Miller and Anheuser-Busch at that game; they’ve got urban black America locked up tight, a fact that still pisses me off. Don’t believe me? Check out those new Miller High Life ads. They’re not pitching to Walnut Creek (Out of state? It’s a mostly non-black San Francisco suburb.

Anyway, Brothers Brewing quietly closed their tent and folded. About the same time Golden Pacific also closed, another fact that still hurts. Capitalism’s a cruel uncaring bitch.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that Everett & Jones Barbeque, the large restaurant in Jack London Square, was a major account. Yep. You got it.

“We hated to see them fold,” co-owner John Jernegan says. “We wanted Ralston to come to work for us and brew beer here,” he adds. “But Ralston had other plans.” Besides being an excellent brewer, he never quit his day job.

So Saucey Sistah was born. It’s contract brewed; he won’t say by whom. But I’ve figured that one out and I won’t tell. Jernegan says they offered Alec Moss a job too. He bounced around a bit and is now happily brewing away at Half Moon Bay Brewing on the San Mateo Coast.

One more point about Saucey Sistah. The sexy woman on the label’s John Jernegan’s wife, Dorothy King Jernegan. Her mom, the late Dorothy Everett Sr., founded the Everett & Jones barbeque business on 92nd Avenue in East Oakland in 1973. There are several Everett & Jones Barbeques, two in Oakland, one in Alameda and one in Berkeley, each owned by a family member or members.

The Everett girls – there were eight – called themselves the “Saucey Sistahs”, her husband explains. Great name for some sexy young ladies, great name for a beer here in Oak Town too.

The E&J in Jack London Square’s the only one with a restaurant and the only one that serves beer. “I keep telling everybody to add beer and sell Saucey Sistah,” John Jernegan says. Everett & Jones is at 126 Broadway, between 2nd Street and West Embarcadero. See ya’ there tomorrow night.

Addendum. This place is becoming famous as an after-game hangout for us diehard Raiders fans. There’s even a post-game show. Food’s excellent. The boast endorsements from Whoopi Goldberg, John Madden, Jami Fox and yes – Pete Slosberg, late of Pete’s Wicked Ale.

Posted on Friday, December 28th, 2007
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The world’s northern-most brewpub: Nordkapp Bryggerie

OK, who would spend the Christmas holidays journeying to the end of outer hell, also known as the northernmost brewpub in the world?

Not me. Raised in the bleak, windy hell of Western Nebraska, I eschew winter big time. California sun for me.

.snowflakes

But Don Russell, the longtime Philadelphia (PA.) Daily News sports writer who writes the paper’s weekly Joe Sixpack column, is a different breed of cat. He literally treked to the end of the earth this month to Honningsvag, Norway to share a beer with Hans Magne Olsen, a fisherman-turned brewer at Nordkapp Bryggerie, the world’s northernmost brewpub.

“Located in this Arctic fishing village 1,311 miles from the North Pole, it is literally the last place on earth to drink a fresh, hand-crafted beer,” Don writes. No kidding. Read on…

“Twenty-four hours of darkness, of course, is a way of life. The locals joke that sunset is four o’clock on Nov. 22, and sunrise is sometime in late January…READ MORE.

Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
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2005 Peter Lehman Seven Surveys

lehmann

This is a lovely, soft blend of Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre from some of the oldest vines in the world.

The early settlers came to Australia’s Barossa Valley with vine cuttings from James
Busby’s collection gathered during his trip to France and Spain in 1831. Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvédre were some of the very first red grape varieties planted and these low yielding, old dry grown bush vines survive today.

In the glass, the wine is cherry red and medium bodied. The nose is full of currants and raspberries and the flavor reminds me of herb-dusted dark berries. It’s a very well balanced wine and the initial blow of alcohol, though not particularly high at 14.5%, disappears with a little breathing.

If I made lamb, I’d serve this with a roasted version covered in herbs. But since I don’t I had it with Zachary’s pizza. Those herb-marinated tomatoes loved the wine. Get it online at Peter Lehman Wines for $16.

Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
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Garagistes of Champagne

I think one of the reasons the sparkling wine market is exploding across the world — we’re talking the U.S., Spain, Argentina, Germany, Austria, England and French regions outside of Champagne — is because the commercial potential of Champagne is maxed out to a certain extent. Where they can go is uncertain and leaves a hole for other sparkling producers to create an elegant yet accessible product.

So in my mind it’s the garagistes of Champagne who are continuing the region’s tradition. I am a huge proponent of underground boutique Champagne producers, those like Jacques Lassaigne in the Troyes/Montgueux region, who keep it small and true and have the time to churn out expressions of both time and place.

Lassaigne’s NV “Les Vignes De Montgueux” Blanc de Blanc has the most gorgeous nose of ginger and a texture that is equivalent to cashmere. It’s achieved by an extended “prise de mousse,” something the bigger houses have little time for. What’s more, instead of being reverse crafted in the cellar for that signature Champagne style (as many of the top commercial Champagnes are), this wine is precise and true to its vintage. As it should be.

I know someone so devoted to these emerging artists of Champagne that he hopes to start importing more here sometime in the new year. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, ask your merchant to keep you posted on allocations. They are rare and hard to come by but worth tracking down.

Posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2007
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A search for Saucey Sistah…

Everett & Jones Saucey Sistah AleHave you seen this beer? It’s obviously a beer brewed just for Everett & Jones, the barbeque emporium. Saw this sign in the window of the E&J in Jack London Square on Christmas Day. Snapped a photo with my cel phone.

They’re still closed for the holiday. Open tomorrow at 11 a.m. If you’ve tried it, let us know. Post a comment here.

Posted on Wednesday, December 26th, 2007
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Trappist Beer forever: Pub opens in Oakland, restaurant-bar in San Francisco

La Trappe SFHooray for Belgium. As readers of this blog know, the Trappist Beer Cafe & Specialty Beer Bar, is open now at
460 8th St. in downtown Oakland. It’s like being in Belgium, thick printed “beer” menu, tiny, crowded. Specials on a chalk board. Love it.

Now the Bay Area has a second Trappist spot – La Trappe, 800 Greenwich St., in San Francisco’s North Beach. 415-440-8727, opened last Friday. The owners, There are 15 Belgian and Belgian-style beers on tap, including La Chouffe, Maredsous10, the big, strong tripel from Moortgaat, the maker of Duvel. And yes, there’s Duvel in the bottle and many other bottled Belgians.

Partners John Lawton and Mike Azzilini said they also have a full-service restaurant, offering, Belgian specialities. Headed over there Thursday p.m. Will let you know how it goes. Visited it already? Post a comment here and let us know what to expect.

Posted on Wednesday, December 26th, 2007
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Jo Pithon Chenin Blanc

I went to a great dinner party over the weekend. It was at Shirley and Wouter’s place in Hayes Valley. They belong to my wine club, the Wine Groupies, and Shirley’s guest- blogged in Corkheads a few times. She’s got a killer palate and is a wealth of information.

I arrived with a raw-milk brie I picked up at that little international market on the corner of 7th and Washington in downtown Oakland and my go-to crowd pleaser, Taltarni Brut Tache, which I’ve written about before. It’s an Australian sparkling rose and even I wasn’t prepared for how well its crisp acidity and fruit would cut through the decadent and pungent double cream.

But I was there for the Jo Pithon Savenniere. And to hang with Shirley, Wouter and their fab friends, Rachel and Joey, of course! Last year, my buddy Ian wrapped up the viticulture program at Cal Poly and headed to an internship with the biodynamic winery in the Anjou region of the southern Loire Valley. So I’d heard a lot about Jo Pithon and his hypnotically botrytised Chenin Blancs. I was anxious to try the wine.

Shirley and Wouter made baked salmon and gorgeous organic cauliflower that was brimming with buttery flavors. We all expected the Chenin to show at least some grapefruit and cream but it was all clove and spice. The color was of dark clover honey, the nose was sweet (probably the botrytis) but the wine was bone dry. Very lovely and unusual. Get your hands on some Jo Pithon wines at K&L in San Francisco.

Posted on Monday, December 24th, 2007
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CSAA offers free tows to tipsy drivers tonight and New Year’s Ev

Tow Truck cartoonThe key phrase here is “tipsy tow.” It’s a service the California State Auto Association has been offering to all callers, not just AAA members, since 2005.

if you’re feeling under the influence and still need to get home, call the tipsy tow number: 800-222-4357 (AAA-Help). The service is in effect from 6 p.m. this evening (Dec. 24, 2007) until 6 a.m. Christmas Day and again from 6 p.m. New Year’s Eve until 6 a.m. New Year’s Day.

You don’t have to be a Triple A member, CSAA adds, just tipsy. Also bartenders, party hosts with reeling guests, restaurant mangers can call. The tow truck driver will take you and your vehicle and others to the same destination — depends on how much room there is in the truck for extra riders.

The tow’s free from your location to any point within five miles, but not to another bar or party, CSAA says.

This comes straight from a CSAA press release:

“Despite the decline in alcohol-related crashes in the last 10 years, alcohol is still a factor in more than 16,000 vehicle crash deaths each year in the United States. Drunk-driving crashes also account for about 60 percent of highway deaths of young people age 16 to 24 each year. It takes only one or two drinks to impair vision, steering, braking, judgment and reaction time.”

Posted on Monday, December 24th, 2007
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