Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for January, 2008

The big fight over the “fact labels” for alcohol beverages

Here’s the news. The government is about to close a comment period on a proposal to list ingredients on alcohol beverage labels, but controversy continues. Should alcohol labels have little charts like those on food containers? Opinions vary – to put it mildly, brewers, distillers, health groups, even former surgeon general C. Everett Koop has weighed in.

As people in New Orleans know only too well, the federal government moves with glacial speed. But the proposal to put health information on beer and other alcohol labels makes the Bush Administration’s response to Katrina seem faster than a speeding bullet.

In 1972, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Washington-based consumer advocacy group, asked the government to include ingredient labels on alcoholic beverage containers.

In 2003, the group petitioned the government again, suggesting an ingredient list, alcohol content and the definition of moderate drinking: one drink per day for women; two for men.

Last year the federal Alcohol and Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau proposed a series of label changes and invited comments. According to Cindy Skrzycki in this morning’s Washington Post, the new regulations would require listing carbohydrates, protein and fat in alcoholic beverages just like food labels. It also would require alcohol content.Pina Colada

The comment period, which has drawn over 100 comments and heated controversy, ends on Sunday (Jan. 27, 2008). But this dispute’s just beginning. The Center for Science in the Public Interest wonders why an alcohol label should list protein and carbs as if the drink was food.

“There might be some nutritional value in a Mudslide (Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua and chocolate syrup) or a Pina Colada (light rum, coconut cream, crushed pineapple),” CSPI’s Jeff Cronin said. “What people want to see is calories, so they can measure and moderate their drinking. They’d also like to see ingredients, so they know what they’re drinking,” Cronin said.

This is a shouting match that’s far from over. Cronin predicts it may well spill over into the next presidential administration.

Here in California, we’re lucky. Nearly all craft brewers list alcohol content and ingredients. But many states actually ban displaying alcohol content on the label. Well, I’m gonna shove this one into the “oh, whatever,” category. If this is an issue that turns you on, read the Washington Post article. Also beer author Greg Kitsock wrote an excellent piece on the subject last summer. NOTE: Washington Post requires a no-cost sign up.

And the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines have a lot to say about alcohol. Including this:

The majority of American adults consume alcohol. Those who do so should drink alcoholic beverages in moderation. Moderation is defined as the consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.

Twelve fluid ounces of regular beer, 5 fluid ounces of wine, or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits count as one drink for purposes of explaining moderation. This definition of moderation is not intended as an average over several days but rather as the amount consumed on any single day.

Posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
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8th Open That Bottle Night

Ever hold on to that special bottle of wine only to never open it? You wait for the right occasion, surely an anniversary or job promotion, but it never arrives.

And your lips never touch that nectar.

That’s why Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher invented Open That Bottle Night eight years ago, to give people permission to pop the cork on that special something. On the last Saturday of February, thousands of people around the world open special bottles and make memories.

I recently opened something I considered special: a 1999 J. Schram. A had a special guest in town and we were having dinner at Slanted Door with my best friend (who I always try to have around when I’m opening a special bottle) and her husband. It was a Thursday night. I can still taste the notes of pear tart. I’ll have to figure out what my bottle will be for OTBN 8.

I’d like to hear your Open That Bottle Night stories. If you’ve celebrated the holiday in the past or plan to this year, let me know! Either post your comments here or email me at

Posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
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Comments on finding a good beer pub in San Jose…

The comments function on this blog is acting hinky. I know it will be fixed soon. But a number of people have posted beer pub suggestions on my other blog:

Here’s what’s been posted there so far:

7 Responses to “Emails: Finding a good beer pub in San Jose”
sawall Says:
January 20th, 2008 at 7:39 pm e
The cask conditioned ales at Trials are pretty good – Dragon Slayer IPA, Monk’s Brown, and a third which I forget. They have the English pub vibe down pat.

My two favorite places for beer in the area are Firehouse (which you mention) and Faultline, another microbrewery in Sunnyvale. Faultline is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t. I particularly enjoyed their cask conditioned IPA on my last visit there. The fish is good, too.

If you like German beer, check out Teske’s Germania (right next door to Trials) and Hardy’s Bavaria on Evelyn in Sunnyvale, right about where Murphy Ave intersects it (i.e., real close to Firehouse).

admin Says:
January 20th, 2008 at 9:03 pm e
Thanks for the input. Pill put the German spots on muy list and check them out. There are a few around the Bay Area, but other than Schroder’s in San Francisco, they’re not well-publicized.

Damn, of course Faultline. I simply forgot them. They’re a South Bay pioneer place. wb

Brian Says:
January 21st, 2008 at 9:24 am e
Although I’m living in San Diego now, I grew up in the south bay and figured I should speak up. Mission Ale House is nothing spectacular, mostly a college hangout on weekend and evenings. I’d rather walk down the street to Britannia Arms, they have a fair selection on draft including Anchor Steam.

Trials is a nice quiet pub with a great selection of beers that aren’t generally available anywhere else in the south bay.

Faultline is great, but the food is a little pricey. There’s always Rock Bottom or BJ’s if you don’t mind the commercial brewpub atmosphere.

I’ve been meaning to make it to Firehouse on Murphy Street, but haven’t had the time when I visit yet (I work for The Firehouse Brewing Company of San Diego, no relation).

Steve Says:
January 21st, 2008 at 1:15 pm e
Hey Brian-

Next time you’re up this way, please come on by FireHouse and I’ll buy you a beer or two.

That goes for you too, Bill.


admin Says:
January 21st, 2008 at 1:21 pm e
You’ve got a deal Steve. See ya’ soon. wb

Will travel 4 beer Says:
January 22nd, 2008 at 10:46 am e
Forget about the aforementioned pubs. I have been through all of the pubs in the San Jose area and they lag when it comes to ale selection. I’m surprised no one mentioned BJ’s pizza near Highway 87 and Blossom Hill Road. They carry an excellent list of Belgium’s and their own micros are quite good. I travel to Oakland or San Francisco when I want real beer – I love La Trappe and The Trappist.
An update on Mission Ale House: they pulled most of their taps and are now left with less than half of their original selection; Trials Pub is a comfy little pub complete with leather reading chairs by the front window. Their cask conditioned ales come from the Marina brewer: English Ales. Right next door to Trials though is a fantastic German restaurant called Teske’s, they are the only bar I know that carries Aktien dopplebock – fantastic!

admin Says:
January 22nd, 2008 at 11:00 am e
Great info. Guess if you were stuck in San Jose, Mission Alehouse might be ok, but not great, huh.
The BJ’s pizza chain’s unusual. I should list them. There’s one in Woodland Hills in Southern California that’s really excellent. They’ve won a few prizes. They also supply the beer for the BJs in Maui. Sometimes it’s on the edge of sour when it arrives in Maui, but it;s still excellent, especially their amber. It’s called something Red. I don’t mind a lactic edge sometimes.
I digress, but if you go to Maui, don’t miss Maui Brewing. It’s in a nondescript shopping center. But don’t be fooled Their food and beer are excellent. They have, among others, a coconut porter that’s dynamite. Adn they sell it in cans! william brand

Posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
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Schramsberg drama continues

I’m saddened by the continued lawsuit John Davies has brought on his mother Jamie Davies, who owns the pioneering sparkling house Schramsberg, in addition to being trustee of her late husband’s will.

Aren’t your two offshore multimillion-dollar hedge funds enough?

I’m also a little irked by the Chronicle’s tabloid-esque A-1 story “Bitter Harvest” (cue “Dynasty” score) January 18 on the family’s woes. While the coverage is thorough and well-reported, I doubt 72-year-old Jamie Davies needed the world to know she suffers from acute Parkinson’s Disease, and that she takes anti-depressants, sedatives and tranquilizers.

It’s another example of how some overly glamorize Napa Valley, turning vintners into soap opera stars. This is one of the most starched and well-respected families in the Val. That said, I guess I shouldn’t go off too much. I’ll go see “Bottle Shock.” I’m just saying.

A brief recap: The original suit was filed in August by middle son John Davies, who lives in Moscow. John claims his mother is not mentally fit to do her job as trustee and violates the trust by favoring her younger son, Hugh, who is president of Schramsberg, over John and eldest son Bill, who lives in the Valley, and minority shareholders. John wants his share of the Schrammy pie.

In November, a judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to prove that Jamie Davies was not fit to be trustee, and that as trustee, she does not have to answer to her sons. But John Davies is not giving up and appealing the decision in the state’s First District Court of Appeal. He certainly has the money to.

Thoughts? Send them my way.

Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2008
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Bonny Doon’s honest labels

Bonny Doon

Leave it to Randall Grahm. His cork funeral is no much for what the eclectic winemaker has done this time. He’s put his money where his biodynamics are, making Santa Cruz-based Bonny Doon the first producer in the U.S. to list the ingredients of its wines on the back label.

It’s crazy, and I love it.

The initial wines with the new labels—the 2007 Ca’ del Solo Vineyard Albariño and Muscat, both from the Monterey County AVA—will be released next month. The Albariño will list biodynamic grapes and sulfur dioxide as the ingredients, and will also indicate that indigenous yeasts, organic yeast hulls and bentonite were used in the winemaking process.

Since going biodynamic in 2004, Grahm has spoken passionately about clean, green winemaking that’s low on additives. A marketing and trendsetting savant of sorts, I bet his move will encourage fellow winemakers to do the same.

Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2008
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Emails: Looking for a good beer pub in San Jose

Allagash beer glassHi William, Just curious, is there a good beer pub in the san jose area……….Doug

Wow. What a great question Doug. The only places I’m familiar with are brewpubs, Tied House, 65 N San Pedro Street, San Jose, CA 95113, 408-295-2739. It’s in downtown San Jose and Firehouse Grill & Brewery, 111 South Murphy Ave in Sunnyvale, 408.773.9500. This used to be Stoddard’s Brewery.

In San Jose, here are two I have in my 2008 Good Pub List

Mission Ale House, 97 East Santa Clara St., San Jose, CA 95113, 408-292-4058. I’ve never been to this place, but it comes highly recommended. In downtown, not far from San Jose State, large stock of craft beer.

Trials Pub, 265 North 1st St., San Jose, CA 95113, 408-947-0497. This is another place I haven’t visited, but people tell me it’s got a large stock of British beers, many taps including a cask ale or two, usually. Beer list on the web leans heavily toward conglomerate beer: InBev, Scottish & Newcastle, Guinness. Critics point out it’s very small and in a crappy area. Food is straight from the UK bangers & all.

Last month, I did a pub crawl for KQED, which six people from Silicon Valley won in an online auction. They suggested a few places down their way, which I haven’t visited yet. but… hey… one of the six had these on his Blackberry.

Morgan Hill Tobacco, 408-776-7667. They sell cigars, but they have a decent stock of beer, these people said. They all like Ayinger Weissbrau and the place stocks it.

Another was: St. John’s Bar & Grille , in Sunnyvale, 510 Lawrence Expressway, 408-738-8515. I called them; they have an all right stock on tap: the Gordon Biersch beers, Coors Blue Moon, Sam Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, Sierra Nevada, etc. Not spectacular but ok, seems to me.

OK Doug and readers of this blog. here’s your mission if you care to accept it: When you find a good beer pub around San Jose, let me know. I’ll post it on my blog and put it in my pub list. Best. wb.

Posted on Saturday, January 19th, 2008
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Free food and free beer Friday nights at Linden Street Brewing in Oakland

Linden Street Brewing crowd

This was the crowd Friday afternoon at Linden Street Brewing, left – right, Larry Chu, Boon S., Calvin Clark, Dave Sungarian, Sannon Allison, Cindy Regnier and Nick Zigelbaum. They all work in the neighborhood and make this a regular late Friday destination. Photo: William Brand

Talk about a deal. Adam Lamoreaux, who is just launching his Linden Street Brewing, a craft brewery at 95 Linden St., a few blocks north of Jack London Square in Oakland, has a bash every Friday afternoon.

Beginning at 4 p.m., he starts pouring beer and an hour or so later as a crowd gathers, he fires up an outside barbecue and begins cooking links. Hot links, beer and conversation, not too shabby way to end the week.

The beer is Urban People’s Common Lager, a 5 percent, Anchor Steam-type beer that he intends to make Oakland’s trademark beer. He bouth Daniel Del Grande’s Bison Brewery brewplant and is installing it in a historic old warehouse with a view of a Port of Oakland shipping container facility. Just a little bit away are those giant cranes that were the models for the giant Imperial Walkers in the Star War series.

The beer’s excellent; this is Adam’s second batch. It’s not quite so hoppy wit h an excellent malt presence. The color of dusky gold, it’s got some zip. Right now, as he finishes installing his fermenters, he’s got two customers, the new Trapppist & Speciality Beer Bar, 460 8th St., a place that’s a runaway hit and serves his beer in a Belgian-style chalice.

The other spot’s the Fireside Lounge at 1453 Webster Street in Alameda’s West End.

I’m gonna make Linden Street a regular Friday afternoon stop from now on.

Posted on Friday, January 18th, 2008
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ZAP is here

The bustle at ZAP

Alright all you Zinheads, Wednesday marks the arrival of the biggest public tasting I’m aware of, and it happens to be centered around Zinfandel, that fun, over-the-top scoundrel of a wine.

The 17th Annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers Festival will take place Jan. 23-26 at various locations and events in San Francisco. The best thing to do is go to ZAP’s web site for more information.

If you can only make one event, go to the public tasting at Fort Mason on Saturday Jan. 26, when about 300 Zinfandel producers will be pouring their new releases (let’s hope they come armed with decanters). Twenty-nine of those wineries are new this year.

My favorite thing about Zin is the foods I get to eat with it: hearty, often meaty, smoky and spicy dishes like BBQ shredded pork sandwiches, duck sausage, meatloaf and pizza. Certainly a far cry from my usual heirloom tomato salads and Gruner Veltiners.

A Zin pairing

If you’re the same, definitely hit the dine-around Good Eats event on Thursday night Jan. 24. Producers team up with area restaurants to showcase these excellent food and wine marriages. It will be more intimate and way less chaotic than the public tasting. People really go wild over California’s heritage grape.

Tickets are not available at the door so be sure to score them online at You can also call 877-772-2542. Have fun and may your teeth be suitably stained. 

Posted on Friday, January 18th, 2008
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Cleansing my palate at the Trappist

Cleansing the palate at Trappist

Those of you who read today’s Night Writer can probably guess what a wine drinker’s doing at a beer bar. Most of us who work with wine drink plenty of beer — it’s actually a winemaker’s secret weapon during harvest.

For me, Belgian beers in particular cleanse the palate with their often crisp, citrus flavors. It’s the only thing I crave — besides Champagne or sparkling wine — after a long day of tasting or judging wine.

And the Trappist raises the bar on places to drink the stuff. I felt at home. Much like a specialized wine bar, they focus on hand-crafted finds from artisan breweries. I relished the tasting notes and other ceremonials when it came to serving the beer as well. Temperature and glasses are of the utmost importance to showcase the very best of these brews.

Go for the sampler — the small glasses in front of me in the photo above — and be wowed. The Trappist opened in Old Oakland last month. You can find all the information on their web site. Follow the link above.

Posted on Thursday, January 17th, 2008
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Deschutes The Abyss coming to City Beer, Fantome to Berkeley

I’ve written a lot about beer events recently, including the goodbye/hello party tonight at 7 p.m. (Jan. 16, 2008) at Schooner’s Grille & Brewery in Antioch – the place has been sold. But for those of us who are into good beer, beer stores are worthy of mention as well.

Got info from two today: City Beer, 1168 Folsom St. in San Francisco, 415-503-1033 and Ledger’s Liquors,1399 University Ave. in Berkeley, 510-540-9243.

Craig Wathen at City Beer says he’ll have The Abyss, the barrel-aged imperial stout from Deschutes, Bend, OR. on tap Thursday (Jan. 17) beginning at 5 p.m. and, most important, he’ll have bottles for sale as well.

Here’s what Deschutes says about the beer:

“This exceptionally popular imperial stout, aged in French oak, pinot noir, and bourbon barrels since March, has immense depth with its rich and complex flavors. True to its name, subtle notes of coffee, chocolate, molasses and licorice pull you in deeper and deeper. Cherry bark and vanilla bean added during the dry-hopping process are the proverbial “cherry on top”! “

I haven’t tried it either, but this is a beer that tasters at rate at 100. Hmmm. Gotta try this stuff.

Ed Ledger at Ledger’s Liquors, meanwhile, says he’s been promised cases of The Abyss, but not until next week.

However, he’s just got in a complete line of Fantome, the Belgian new wave brewery, including the rarely seen La Dalmatienne regular Fantome****, a beer I dearly love.

He also have a complete stock of Russian River beers, the sour, the sweet and they all sell out rapidly, he says. He constantly hears from fans on the East Coast looking for Russian River beers, he says.

Ed also passes on gossip about Russian River’s new brewery now being built about a mile from the brewpub in Santa Rosa. First bottled beer, he hears, may be Blind Pig IPA, the original beer from owner Vinnie Cilurzo’s first micro in his native Temecula, CA. Personally, I’m praying for Pliny the Elder in bottles. Gotta ask Vinnie when I see him next.

Also, Ed adds, he has a stock of the Michelob Gift Packs from Anheuser-Busch. Each pack contains a 24 oz. bottle of Michelob Chocolate and Michelob Cherry, plus a commemorative glass. The packs sold for $24.95.

Ed intends to knock the price down to at least $18.99. At that price, it might be worth buying. I think I will. Both beers are excellent and will last for a year or two.

Posted on Wednesday, January 16th, 2008
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