Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for January, 2008

Strong beer month coming up in San Francisco, kickoff at Toronado Jan. 31

21st Amendment, Magnolia Strong Beer List

If you like higher altitude beer. That is, beer with a real kick. The place to be this month is in San Francisco at 21st Amendment Restaurant & Brewery, 563 Second St. and Magnolia Pub and Brewery, 1398 Haight St.

Shaun O’Sullivan at 21st and Dave McLean at Magnolia have each brewed six strong beers, ranging from 8.5 percent (Hendrik’s Russian Imperial Expresso Stout 8.5 percent at the 21st, and Double Clutch Doppelweizen at Magnolia) to 10.5 percent – Lower De Boom Barley Wine ’08 at the 21st and 11.2 percent – Old Thunderpussy Barleywine at Magnolia.

The deal is, have a glass of each of the 12 beers at the two pubs between Feb. 1 and the end of the month and you get a commemorative glass.

This is a gimmick to draw people in during February, a historically slow beer month. But in the world of good beer, that’s old school thinking. We love our pubs and we visit all the time, winter and summer, don’t we. Well, I do.

What Shaun and Dave have done is to use the occasion to make some helliciuously delicious strong beers.

Shaun and Dave will be at the Toronado, 547 Haight St. in San Francisco Thursday night (Jan. 31, 2008) at 6 p.m. to kick off their anti-low-gravity month. Toronado proprietor David Keene says each will bring one of their strong beers.

They’re also bringing a special beer, a blend of two of their beers, Davis says.

Be there or be square and I’ll see ya’ there.

Posted on Monday, January 28th, 2008
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Think you drink too much? Take this test

beer-mug.jpgAre you concerned that you’re drinking too much, that it’s getting in your way, messing up how you live your life?
Wall Street Journal columnist Melinda Beck, who writes the weekly Health Journal column, last week wrote about problem drinking and while you have to be a subscriber to read the article, the author included a link to alcoholscreening.org, a self-test devised by Join Together, which is a project of the Boston University School of Public Health.

In a follow-up column this week, Beck prints this e-mail:

“The link to AlcoholScreening.org [that was published on WSJ.com] generated more than 8,000 completed screens. In the past, people who have screened themselves on AlcoholScreening.org have done so because they are concerned about their drinking. The people who came to the site as a result of your link seemed to have come for the same reason. We thought you might be interested in the results over the past couple of days:

The average age of people completing the screen was 36.

62% were male/38% female.

84% have binged (five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women on one occasion) in the past year.

9% received “Green Light” results, meaning that their drinking was in safe limits.

26% received a “Yellow Light.” While their screening results did not point to probable dependence, they had binged in the past year or they exceeded the recommended amounts for weekly consumption.

65% received a “Red Light, which means that their screening pointed to possible alcohol dependence.

All of these results are similar to the data we regularly collect.

Sincerely, Susan Aromaa, and Communications Manager, Join Together

You can take the test yourself. I did and discovered that although I occasionally have too much to drink, I’m within limits considered safe. Check it out. Follow this link.

Posted on Saturday, January 26th, 2008
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Port Brewing Older Viscoscity available at Ledger’s in Berkeley

Just got an update from Ed and Susan Ledger at Ledger’s Liquors, 1399 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-540-9243.

They’ve just received a stock of Port Brewing’s Older Viscoscity and Judgment Day, plus a restock of most of the rest of the intriguing beers created by wizard brewer Tomme Arthur.

I don’t even know what Older Viscoscity is, guess it’s longer-aged Old Viscoscity, which in my opinion’s a real stunner. You can read about here.

Ledger’s is one of the bright spots in our local beer world, along with City Beer in San Francisco and Monument Wine & Spirits in Concord (CA.) and Jackson’s in Lafayette, (CA.). Yes, there are others. Interested? Post a request here or email me at whatsontap@sbcglobal.net and ask for our 2008 Bay Area Retail Beer Store List.

Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2008
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Heineken buys Scottish & Newcastle – Do we care?

Newcastle Brown Ale bottle capI don’t think it means a damn thing to us. A big English brewing chain has been devoured by a couple of bigger monoliths, just like that corporation gobbled lots of smaller breweries in years past.

But, if you haven’t already heard it or read about it, here’s the news: Mega-brewers Heineken and Carlsberg have ended a bidding war and paid $15.3 billion for UK brewer Scottish & Newcastle, makes of Newcastle Brown Ale, McEwan’s and Strongbow cider among about 50 other brands.

Here’s the story in the word’s of England’s Campaign For Real Ale beer writer and author Roger Protz:

“Scottish & Newcastle, the only remaining British-owned national brewer, has fallen to a takeover bid worth £7.8bn from a consortium of Carlsberg and Heineken.

“What is the future for the S&N breweries in Britain? The Danes and the Dutch said at the outset of their bid that they would breakup S&N’s British operation, so the future is bleak for breweries in Gateshead, Manchester, Reading and Tadcaster. The fact that Carlsberg, which has long experience of the British beer market, has opted to run S&N’s French Kronenbourg operation, does not augur well for the British breweries. They will be run by Heineken, which has never brewed in Britain. Its beer was brewed under contract by Whitbread and now all Heineken sold in Britain is imported from the Netherlands… READ MORE FROM ROGER’S EXCELLENT BLOG HERE…”

Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2008
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Virginia ban on sangria

Happy Friday, folks. As we venture out to our happy hours or head home to crack open that bottle of 2005 Pinot, please take a moment to think of your fallen Virginia brothers and sisters, who can’t even parktake in a little spiked fruit punch.

The state has made headlines for enforcing an archaic law banning the serving of sangria, along with other restrictions on alcohol consumption. Here’s an excerpt from a blog by Brandon Arnold, a scholar at the Cato Institute:

Virginia’s ban on sangria and certain other mixed drinks is a relic of Prohibition that is out of line with today’s culture. While this particular law may be unique to Virginia, the U.S. is riddled with ridiculous state liquor laws that impose restrictions on the size of beer bottles, the number of ounces of spirits of a particular beverage, and the percentage of alcohol in beer; just to name a few. As was the case with the most draconian anti-alcohol restriction, Prohibition, these attempts at reducing alcohol consumption are misguided and often counterproductive. State governments should get out of the nanny business and allow responsible adults to enjoy the alcoholic beverage of their choosing.”

I have one word for you. Utah.

Good night, and good luck. Read more at the Cato Institute’s blog site.

Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2008
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Loving “A Wine Miscellany”

A Wine Miscellany

I’m having a hoot of a time reading Graham Harding’s “A Wine Miscellany: A Jaunt Through the Whimsical World of Wine” (Clarkson Potter; $16.95). Harding is chairman of the Oxford Wine Club and holds the diploma of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust.

He’s also a fantastically witty Brit. The book’s short, punchy wine dork factoids are arranged to lead naturally into one another. You’ll learn about the birthplace of wine (China or Persia, depending on what you consider wine); heaven’s wine guy (the early St. Vincent, apparently) and the world’s largest wine list (belongs to a steakhouse in Florida, natch)

Compact and thus perfect for BART or to tuck into your bag for a coffee-shop Sunday, I recommend the book for enthusiasts and experts alike.

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2008
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Test your beer IQ with this Pike Brewing quiz

Want to take a quiz about beer? The place is “Pike University.” It’s a 100 question pop quiz on the Pike Brewing Company Web site.

It’s easy, fun and kind of difficult. I got an 87 out of 100. Damn. And I thought I was so smart about beer. I have a bone to pick with a couple of the questions, which I’ll discuss in a few days.

Check out the quiz here.

Posted on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008
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The Trappist in Oakland is rocking: Ask these reporters

Trappist chalk board

The Trappist chalk board: a bevy of beery beauties. Photo: Michael Condie

Two night Bay Area News Group night life reporters wrote stories about The Trappist & Specialty Beer bar in downtown Oakland this past week.

Angela Woodhall’s story on The Trappist ran last Friday in the Oakland Tribune:

New pub taps beer lovers’ kudos

OAKLAND — If you want to hit THE hottest spot in Oaktown, get over to The Trappist on 8th Street.
I dropped by the other week to check out the pub that specializes in Belgian beer to find out what all the buzz is about.

The Old Oakland pub run by a beer-loving duo by the name of Aaron Porter and Chuck Stilphen has been packed since it opened Dec. 7.

Say goodbye to the halcyon days of easy parking.

“I give this place a rave review. Super, super fun,” said Elizabeth Fischer, who visited The Trappist for a second time Jan. 11…READ MORE. (Requires no-cost sign up.)

The Contra Costa Time’s wine and night life writer Jessica Yardegaran wrote about the Trappist two days earlier:

Thanks to Trappist, hoppy days are here again
Contra Costa Times
Article Launched: 01/17/2008 03:00:18 AM PST

What happens when you plant wine drinkers in a Belgian beer bar? A whole lot of sniffing.
On Sunday night, Jenny, Marke and I hit the Trappist, an homage to all that is good and true and serious about artisan brewing. Of the world’s Trappist monasteries, half a dozen or so (mostly in Belgium) produce beer, and they are revered among beer drinkers around the world.

The tiny pub is another notch in Old Oakland’s big hipster belt; a promise that it won’t be long before the neighborhood is the East Bay’s answer to urban chic. I already buy raw-milk brie and designer denim there.

What’s left?. READ MORE...(Requires free signup).

Posted on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008
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More gushing over Siduri

siduri pinot noir

Aaron and I braved what will likely go down as the worst California storm of our lives to taste and hang at Siduri on Jan. 4, and it was well worth it. If you read my piece today on Ryan Zepaltas, you’ll understand why. There will be plenty more Sonoma love where that came from. Stay tuned here and read my column every other Wednesday in Food & Wine.

On to Siduri. As you probably know, Adam and Dianna Lee get their Pinot Noir grapes from the best vineyard sites in Oregon and California. They vinify each barrel separately down to lot, clone and yeast, honing in on the true reflection of the place the grapes were grown, and the potential vibrancy of the fruit.

They make so many fine Pinot Noirs (26 at last count, I believe) but it’s easy to tell them apart because they all taste so different. It’s the full spectrum of the Pinot Noir rainbow. :) Copious notes help too, and the fact that I often run through special bottles in my head right before I fall asleep at night (I’m serious).

The following are my koo-koo-for-Coco-Puffs Siduri standouts. I also tried and fell in love with wines from their secondary label, Novy Family Wines, when I was there. They are technically a value brand but still show off the Lees’ mad skills with Syrah, Chardonnay, Nebbiolo and Zinfandel, among others. On to Siduri:

2005 Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir: Light and delicate but with good acidity and structure. I got cherry cola, mushrooms and cacao from this wine. Gorgeous.

2005 Rosella’s Vineyards Pinot Noir. From the famed vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands comes this pomegranate and forest floor darling. Totally different style from the above wine.

2005 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: A great example of New World Pinot Noir that’s not dosed on ‘roids. It’s quite spicy with a lot of red berry flavors. I’d totally have this with a Moroccan or Indian inspired burger.

Novy Family Wines:

2005 Gary’s Vineyard Syrah: Another Santa Lucia Highlands wine covered in rich, dark blackberries, leather, and a white pepper finish that goes on and on.

2005 “Oley” Dessert Wine: I rarely go for sweet wines but hope to include this half-bottle one in an upcoming cover story on stickies for its fresh citrus flavors and round, apple pie a la mode quality. It’s also got a sweet story: it’s named after Grandma Novy.

2005 Nebbiolo Stolpman Vineyard: It was a real treat to sample this “play wine” of the Lees. The Santa Ynez vineyard tamed the finicky grapes used for Barolo and Barbaresco and produced this gorgeous, spice-flecked, raspberry filled wine. What a rarity to drink quality Nebbiolo from California!

Posted on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008
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The march of beer in cans reaches Fuller’s London Porter

Fuller’s London Porter is joining the can brigade. It’s going to be sold in large, 16.9 oz. cans in four-packs beginning next month, the importer Distinguished Brands says.

A number of European brewers now send their beer our way in cans. My favorite is St. Bernardus Abt 12, the strong abbey beer from Belgium. It comes in a tall can and did a great deal to convince me that just because a beer’s in a can it needn’t be lager swill.

Then along came Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues in Lyons, CO. This was far from swill. A few months later, Shaun O’Sullivan at 21st Amendment Restaurant & Brewery in San Francisco bought a small craft beer canning kit and began canning 21st Amendment’s dynamite IPA and their Watermelon Wheat. (An aside; You can try canned 21st IPA right now. Six, 12 oz. cans for $9.95, at the pub: 562 2nd St. in San Francisco. One sixer to a customer right now.)

Whew Shaun’s canned IPA convinced me. No more canned swill speeches from me. So let’s welcome Fuller’s.

An added twist, looks like Fuller’s is going to be canned with nitrogen. The idea is to protect the beer’s supple Fuggles finish, Distinguished Brands Jeff Coleman says. Don’t know if its a widget like the one in canned Guinness. It’s a tiny plastic cylinder with a pinhole. It’s filled with nitrogen, then when you pull the tab on the can, the nitrogen whooshes out, churning the beer into a creamy froth, just as if it was served from a keg pushed by nitrogen.

I’ll have to check. Anyway, Fuller’s porter is 5.4 percent ABV, a blend of brown, crystal and chocolate malts. Finish hops are English Fuggles. A very nice beer indeed, pasteurized in a can, in a bottle or best of all on cask in a Fuller’s pub in Greater London.

Posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
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