Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for December, 2007

Planning on drinking and driving? You’re a damn fool

Bay Area DUI campaign heats up

Planning on drinking, then driving home? Remember: A cab ride home’s a lot cheaper than a driving under the influence arrest. Read this from Bay Cities News Service:

Provisional numbers from Bay Area law enforcement agencies patrolling the roadways indicate that while the number of arrests for the AVOID Anti-DUI holiday enforcement season has increased, the number of fatalities is lower than during the 2006 enforcement period.
Between 12:01 a.m. Dec. 14 and midnight Dec. 22 authorities from 125 Bay Area law enforcement agencies have arrested 1,508 individuals for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. There have been two drug or alcohol related traffic deaths during that period, according to officials.
In 2006 seven people died in collisions attributed to an impaired driver during the 20-day enforcement period, which will run through Jan. 1.
The AVOID Anti-DUI campaign was started in 1973 in California to bring law enforcement agencies together in to county and region-wide clusters to crack down on the number of people driving under the influence, according to the Web site.
Updated information and statistics can be found on the
organization’s Web site at

The complete dui charts showing how many drinks equal a DUI, based on weight and sex, can be found here.

Posted on Sunday, December 23rd, 2007
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Christmas Cheer: Biker Santas flood Pacific Coast Brewing

Thirsty Santas

Don Gortemiller of Pacific Coast Brewing in Oakland called this photo: Thirsty Santas. It happened this past Saturday at Pacific Coast. The place was flooded by folks in Santa suits.

Haven’t reach Don, but I believe it’s an annual Christmas ride by an East Bay motorcycle club. Comments anyone?

Posted on Friday, December 21st, 2007
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Absinthe is already annoying

Ok, is it just me or is the influx of absinthe cocktails bugging you too? I’ve seen them everywhere, from Absinthe Brasserie in SF to the Fireside Lounge in Alameda. I get that one of the main US producers of the stuff is right here in the East Bay, so that’s a proud note for us, I guess. It just seems like a watered-down spirit that the masses are going to go to town on.

Oh dear…you don’t think…you don’t think they’d make absinthe mojitos do you? Shoot me. Before you do that, tell me your thoughts on absinthe and if you’ve tried some good cocktails around town. Also read Barbara Hernandez’s informative story, which ran yesterday.

Posted on Friday, December 21st, 2007
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Teague’s $1,000 wine challenge

I felt validated and quite overjoyed, actually, to read Lettie Teague’s “Wine Matters” column this month in Food & Wine. The raven-haired columnist was given $1,000 to spend on whatever wines she wanted, and she was obsessing, much like I would.

Blow it all on one bottle of Bryant? Or 500 of Chuck? Invest in a few mixed cases of  red and white Burgundies, or support some Champagne garagistes?

What would YOU do?

After all, most of us don’t spend that kind of money on wine. My insurance doesn’t cover glasses AND contacts. And how am I supposed to stay on the gray trend this fall without the right boots? Like Teague (did I mention validated?), I usually spend between $15 and $30 for a bottle of wine. I go into the $40s for small production Pinot and Syrah. Maybe more for bubbly. But that’s it.

Minus the Chuck and Petrus, I’d probably stick to what I listed above and throw in a bottle of a heavenly Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Had Teague not spent the majority of her money on a special dinner with two wine friends, this is what her list would’ve looked like:

2004 Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet Marquis de Laguiche ($85, white Burgundy); 2003 Clos Saint Jean Deus Ex Machina ($90, Chateauneuf-du-Pape); 2001 Trimbach Clos Ste. Hune ($150, grand cru Riesling); 2001 Sandrone Cannubi Boschis ($135, Barolo)’ Billecart-Salmon Nonvintage Brut Rosé ($150, Champagne).

But she got to try some exquisite wines at that dinner, including the 1989 La Mission Haut-Brion and the 1989 Haut-Brion — probably $1,000 each.

In the spirit of Teague’s column, I’d love to hear what wines you’d buy with $1,000. Post them here or email me!

Posted on Thursday, December 20th, 2007
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The Same Old Same Old: Link to SF Pub Crawl Slide Show Doesn’t Work

Mr. Brandt,

Read your pub crawl SF article with interest. However I could not find the online slideshow at . Do you have its URL.



Hi Dick…Techology. Curses. Here’s the proper link:

Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2007
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Sparklings & Stickies at Wine Thieves

So I’ve probably suggested enough Champagne and sparkling wines on this blog to fill a small country, but since I’m not huge on sweet wines, I thought you could get your fill at Wine Thieves’ 6th annual Sparklings & Stickies party on Dec. 27. It’s from 7 to 9 p.m. in the downstairs Cellar of their Lafayette store at 3401 Mt. Diablo Blvd.

Rod and the boys are swell about helping people find under-the-radar wines at ridiculously low prices. I think I first discovered Gruet New Mexico bubbly there, as well as Sigura Vidas Cava.  I’m sure they’re on it with stickies too, from Sauternes to Port.

You can always default to my Cline Late Harvest Mourvedre or Meyer Family Port — two sweet wines I do admittedly enjoy —  but I’m sure the Thieves can hook you up with so many more options at prices that are less than these wines.

The event costs $20 per person. Be sure to register via their Web site by Dec. 26. This thing fills  up every year.

Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2007
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Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay

The girls and I had our Chrismukkah gift exchange last night with delicious takeout from North Berkeley’s Gregoire: gorgeous seared white tuna, scallop kabobs and potato puffs with aioli dipping sauce.

A bevy of wines could stand up to this menu but Farnoosh is big on Chardonnay and had the hardest day at work, so I opened up a 2005 Gundlach Bundschu Chardonnay Rhinefarm Vineyards ($25).

I served it uber cold to mask any oak but found that even when it warmed up a bit, a bolt of acidity balanced the round and creamy mouthfeel. The wine had a lovely finish, and reminded me of pineapple creme brulee. Only 30 percent of this wine undergoes malolactic fermentation, so it’s not over the top.

My friend Michael loves elegant yet full flavored Chardonnay — not oaky, mind you. Michael, if you’re reading, pick up this wine.

Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2007
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Pub crawl: The slide show and the What’s On Tap column

KQED pub crawl underway
OK, here’s the link to our pub crawl slide show.

And here’s today’s (Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007) column:


Pub crawl is a wild ride from ballpark to ocean

The great KQED San Francisco Pub Crawl went off flawlessly last Saturday. My hat’s off (if I had a hat) to everyone involved. Everything was donated, leaving me in awe at how much everyone did to make the crawl a success.

The crawl was a top-seller in KQED’s online auction. The winning bidders, three couples from the South Bay, who sold their software company a while back, are into adventures, especially adventures involving beer. We did have an adventure.

Charlie Lundquist, proprietor of Mr. Toad’s Tours a San Francisco tour company, provided the wheels, and what wheels they were: a zero-emissions, propane-powered reconstruction of a 1918 Packard touring car, wood panel sides, roll-down windows. It’s a show-stopper.

We started with lunch and beer at 21st Amendment, in the shadow of AT&T Park. They rolled out the red carpet, sampler sets of all their beers — including South Park Blonde — then beers of their choice, plus a tour of 21st Amendment’s brewery by co-founder and head brewer Shaun O’Sullivan. A great deal of excellent food and fine beer started the crawl out in fine form.

From there, we toodled (with Mr. Toad, you toodle) over to Toronado. This beer pub, founded two decades ago by David Keene, is a revered place in the beer world; it’s easily one of America’s top five beer bars.

They opened the taps, and our tour-winners discovered the raw but delicious power of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder: 8 percent alcohol, 100 IBU (Bud’s 13 IBU). One tour member discovered she loved Lindemans Kriek, the Belgian Lambic, fermented with black cherries.

Then, in a suitably merry mood, we rolled up Haight to the Alembic Bar. It’s a spare, ’50s-style lounge that specializes in distilled spirits and mixology. It’s owned by Dave McLean, proprietor of Magnolia Pub & Brewery down the street, so the Alembic also features a stunning selection of Belgian beer and Magnolia’s beers.

McLean and manager Dean James set up a pairing — Dave’s own Belgian-style Tripel against the classic Westmalle Tripel, made at the Belgian Trappist monastery. Both are strong: 8 percent alcohol. Each beer was served in its own glass, Belgian-style. Our group left totally impressed.

Next stop was Beach Chalet, at the western end of Golden Gate Park. We got there just in time for sunset. There was no green flash, but Beach Chalet had reserved us a table overlooking Ocean Beach; they even printed a special menu, spread out a large assortment of desserts and many a sampler set.

I figured we’d done a big-enough crawl; we’d been on the road across San Francisco for five hours. But I had a fallback: City Beer, the unique on-and-off-sale store was having a taste-off — He’brew’s Hanukkah beer against an assortment of Christmas beers.

The store/pub is tiny, and it was jammed. Proprietor Craig Wathen promised to get us in, but our still-merry crew realized they’d had enough crawl for one day.

If you want to duplicate the tour, I’ve posted links below..

By the way…Here’s the rest of the column.

In the spirit

Last-minute Christmas ideas … OK, it’s down to the wire now. You’ve bought presents, but what about you? Is there more than a seat at an empty bar? Here are three suggestions:

BEER OF THE WEEK: Samichlaus (***1/2), Schloss-Eggenberg, Vorchdorf, Austria. For years, Samichlaus, brewed on St. Nicholas Day, Dec. 6, bottled 10 months later and released on Dec. 6, was the strongest beer in the world: 14 percent ABV.

It’s since been passed by beers like Sam Adams Utopias. First brewed in 1979, the Swiss brewer was taken over by another brewery. But last year, the Austrian brewery got the recipe and made 2007 Samichlaus, which has just been released.

This is sweet like a cordial, with a brilliant, dark copper, powerful nose. A huge hit of warming alcohol balances the sweetness nicely.

BOOKS. There are two, both champs. Eyewitness Companions: Beer“(DK, $20). Editor-in-chief Michael Jackson, who died in August, enlisted the help of a crew of beer experts to tour the world and bring back an update on great beers. Written by Jackson, it’s a great armchair read, even if you never leave the Bay Area.

Also, The Best of American Beer & Food: Pairing & Cooking With Craft Beer, (Brewers Publications, $22.95), by Lucy Saunders. Saunders is a beer writer and a chef. She toured America collecting recipes. Wide-ranging, it covers pairing beer with food, particularly cheese. A must for a serious cook who likes beer.
Saludos, and may your holiday be merry.

Reach William Brand at or call 510-915-1180 and ask for his Retail Beer Store List or Good Pub List.

Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2007
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The Great KQED San Francisco Pub Crawl

KQED MonsterI wrote about the Great KQED San Francisco Pub Crawl this morning in my column. Also did a slide show, which you can find here.

A bit of background. KQED, the public radio-tv station in San Francisco asked me to put together a pub crawl. The crawl was sold on KQED’s online auction. Three Silicon Valley couples were the winning bidders.

We did the crawl on Dec. 8.

Here are the stops we made on the crawl

21st Amendment. 563 2nd St., S.F. 415-369-0900;

Toronado. 547 Haight St., S.F. 415-863-2276;

Alembic. 1725 Haight St., S.F. 415-666-0822;

Beach Chalet. 1000 Great Highway, S.F. 415-386-8439;

City Beer. 1168 Folsom St., S.F. 415-503-1033;
For an audio slide show of our pub crawl, go to

Posted on Wednesday, December 19th, 2007
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A few last-minute Christmas gift ideas related to beer, of course

Pere NOelGift ideas? Here’s what I found in a walk-through of a large Beverages and More store in Walnut Creek, CA.

Unibroue Gift Pack, $16.99: Two bottles each Maudite, a dark 8 percenter, La Fin Du Monde, 9 percent. Plus 1 bottle Ephemere, a 5.5 percent wheat ale; 1 bottle Trois Pistoles, 9 percent; 1 bottle Don De Dieu, 9 percent and 1 bottle Blanche De Chambly, 5 percent wit or white ale.

Don’t want to give that much beer? My recommendation, one 750 ml bottle of Unibroue Terrible, 10.5 percent, $7.99 or Unibroue 16, 10 percent, $9. Both come in elegant silk-screened bottles.

Half Yard of Ale Glass, made by Libbey, $14.99, holds 23 oz., comes with a wooden holder. This is the little brother of the Yard Glass, which I haven’t been able to find this year. Still an unusual present.

Christmas in Belgium Gift Pack, $19.99, includes 12 oz. or 11.2 oz. bottles of Pere Noel, Zinnebir X-mas, Serafijn Christmas Angel, Winterkininkske, and Kerstmutske. This most unusual gift pack comes from Shelton Brothers, Belchertown, MA. The only one I’ve tried is Pere Noel, which Tim Webb in his authoritative Good Beer Guide to Belgium describes as a “heavily sedimented, dark, bitter ale.” He gives it ***1/2 and I agree. Basically, anything fromt the Shelton Brothers is sure to be unusual and very drinkable.

Duvel Gift Pack, $15.99. Comes with four 11.2 oz. bottles of Duvel and the specially designed tuilip shaped Duvel glass. Highly reocommended.

Anheuser-Busch Michbelob Celebrate Christmas Pack; two 24 oz. bottles of Celebrate Chocolate and Celebrate Cherry, plus a glass. $24.99. Yes, it’s from A-B, but believe me these two are excellent. Both are 8.5 percent and all barley, no rice. There’s also a Budweiser Brewmaster’s Reserve, $21.99, big bottle and two glasses. For Bud lovers only.

Posted on Monday, December 17th, 2007
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