Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for February, 2008

Last-minute note: Anderson Valley Pint Night tonight at Pete’s Brass Rail in Danville

This is literally last-minute. Ed Chainey, Northern California rep for Anderson Valley Brewing is hosting a pint night right now at Pete’s Brass Rail & Carwash, 201 Hartz Ave., Danville, CA. (925) 820-8281.

On tap: Anderson Valley Imperial IPA, Brother David’s Tripel Belgian-Style Ale, Anderson Valley ESB and Pollecko Gold.

It will be going on for a few more hours. If you’ve never been to Pete’s, what better time than an Anderson Valley Pint Night. This is a pub where the owners, bar staff and the patrons care about beer. They’ve got a great selection. Wish I was there, but I can’t make it. Enjoy.

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment

A new restaurant in Pleasanton with a great beer list opens today

Eddie Papa’s inside viewEddie Papa’s logo

OK, I’m not exactly a model suburanite and when I go to Pleasanton for dinner, outside of a couple of places, I don’t expect to find much in the way of beer, except maybe Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada, which have (thankfully) become ubiquitous in the San Francisco Bay Area. So how about this: Saturday night, trying out a brand new restaurant, Eddie Papa’s American Hangout, 4889 Hopyard Road in Pleasanton and I was able to order a glass of Firestone Walker Union Jack on tap. Whew. This beer is the new 8 percent, 70 IBU India Pale Ale from Firestone Walker. I’m writing about it in my column this Wednesday. What a beer to have on tap.

Besides Union Jack, they had Anchor Steam, Pabst Blue Ribbon and EJ Phair American Wheat on tap. In bottles, there’s a long list, including Ommegang Hennepin, Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout, Mendocino Red Tail Ale, Trumer Pils, Deschutes Mirror Pond Ale, Bear Republic Racer 5, Moylan’s Hopsickle, New Belgium 1554 Black Ale, Laguinitas Censored and Black Diamond Blonde Ale.

Eddit Papa’s Katz familyThe only light beer is Sam Adams Light.

The restaurant is near the entrance to the gigantic Hacienda Business Park. It was last some kind of chain seafood restaurant that went belly-up. The two partners are Neil Marquis, formerly the chef at the Pleasanton Hotel, and Edward Westmoreland. Their idea is a restaurant with a reasonably priced menu featuring many American classics like Southern Fried Chicken, $13; Fisherman’s Wharf Crab Bisque, $8.50 for a bowl; Classic Wedge, $8, enree size, $11, Wisconsin Sausage Platter, $13, and New York Delmonico Steak, $26, to list a few.

It’s a spacious, airy place, hanging paper lanterns, white table cloths, utterly un-chain-like, except for the view of a parking lot — drapes to come, I’m guessing.

Full disclosure here. Neil and Edward asked me (along with many others, I’m sure) for input on the beer list. So some of the beers on the list are my suggestions and no doubt others as well. My wife and I were their guests along with at least 100 other people for a “staff training” night on Saturday.

Eddie Papa’s Firestone Walker Union JackThe restaurant opens today.

My favorite line of the night, an older guy, Norman Daniels, of Pleasanton, sitting near us, ordered Bud Light. Told they didn’t have it, he settled for Union Jack. So I walked over and asked him how it was. He liked it, he said with a smile. He was also shocked when I told him it was 8 percent, much stronger (and tastier) than a 5 percent Bud Light.

Trying to get a photo for the blog, I found a nice looking family at a corner table. They were drinking wine, well, the adults were. Talking to them, I found out why. They were drinking their own wine. Michael Katz makes wine commercially in Pleasanton with grapes from the Livermore Valley. Michael and his wife, Alicia, were drinking their own Cabernet. They’re excused.

About the beer. Frankly, the restaurant biz is tough and competitive and my only connection was as a dishwasher in several restaurants and as a frycook in one (Hamburger Haven, Virginia Beach, VA.) when I was a kid. Other restaurant people have asked me for input on beer, but I’ve rarely seen my suggestions followed. What the hell, Bud Light sells, doesn’t it. But Neil had been doing beer dinners at the Pleasanton Hotel for a couple of years and he likes and cares about beer, obviously.

The food was excellent. I ordered the Southern Fried Chicken (my mom’s from Texas), which came with a Deep South and a Bay Area twist: Boneless chicken breast, breaded, deep-fried, covered in gravy (That’s Deep South, not West Texas). Done perfectly, although boneless chicken was a bit shocking to me. It was Petaluma free range chicken and came with Neil’s trademark mashed potatoes, which I, unfortuantely know, are literally infused with butter. Damn good.

My wife, a Chicago native, ordered the Wedge, a large wedge of “iceberg lettuce with apple wood bacon, dried cherries, toasted almonds, slivered red onions, Maytag Blue crumbles and San Francisco’s Green Goddess dressing.” She also raved about the original softdrinks, which included her childhood favor, Green River. They also had Bubble Up and Orange Crush.

Photos: Top, interior view of the new restaurant. Middle, The Katz Famil, Mitchel and Alicia Katz with sons Scott, Jackson and Wesley. Michael makes wine commercially in Pleasanton with grapes from the Livermore Valley, naturally. Below: My glass of Firestone Walker Union Jack, fresh from the tap.

Posted on Monday, February 25th, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment

Letters, E-Mails: Looking for Kolsh in the USA

Steamworks BrewingHi Bill, I read your column regularly in the Argus, and thanks for all the great recommendations. I spent the weekend with my in-laws, who live in Durango, CO. My brother-in-law brought me a couple bottles of Steamworks Kolsch, which I’ve enjoyed while in Colorado.

This probably isn’t the best time of year to be chasing locally-brewed (or at least available), but I’ve finished off my stash of Anderson Valley Winter Solstice ale and am looking for something new.
I searched the blog and didn’t find any kolsch listed. Do you know of any good locally brewed (or at least available) kolsch? I hear the Mammoth Brewing Co. makes a good one but am not sure where to get it locally (East Bay, but I’m willing to drive). Thanks Greg

Hi Greg…. well, the best place for Kolsch is in Cologne or within 50 miles of there. No comparison between what American craft brewers make and the real thing. The combination of ancient yeasts, the particular water and recipes make it special. However,. there are a few quite drinkable around, although they tend to be summer beers here. Pyramid makes Curve Ball in late spring and summer; if you can find it now, it’ll probably be fairly old.

Drake’s San Leandro makes Drake’s Blonde Ale in the Kolsch style. I like it; it’s got a nice malty taste with a crisp hop finish. Believe it or not, Beverages and More usually stocks it. The head brewer, Josh Miner, also has just created an Imperial Kolsch. Won’t be bottled, but it’s going to make its way into pubs around here. Loved that one.

Another I’ve tried that I like is Flying Dog Tire Bite. But again, it’s usually around in the summer. People tell me Victory (Downingtown, PA) makes a nice Kolsch, but I’ve never tried it or seen it around here

Dave McLean at Magnolia’s on Haight in S.F. makes Kalifornia Kolsch, a hoppy, American version. Again, probably not on tap these days. b

Hi Bill, Well, if I can make it to Köln just to try the beer, I certainly will. :) I’ve had a couple bottles of the ‘real’ stuff imported from Germany, but it’s hard to find.

Thanks for the recommendations on the local ones. I actually travel several times a year to central Pennsylvania on business, so maybe next time I’m there (especially if it’s closer to summer), I’ll try to find the Victory one (if I succeed — and remember — I’ll bring one back for you). Greg

I’m counting on that one Greg. b

Know of a good Kolsch-style ale? Let us know. Post a comment here. wb

Posted on Sunday, February 24th, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment

2008 Premiere auction results

Ok, everyone.  Here are the top bidders and top lots from yesterday’s trade auction at Premiere Napa Valley, which feature a total of 191 lots from more than 200 wineries. Remember, the reason these 5-, 10-, or 20-case lots of wine go for so much is because they are one of a kind, made especially for this event.

Despite the poor economy, people still believe in Napa futures, I guess.

The Premiere auction brought in $2.2 million for the Napa Valley Vintners, the non profit trade association that promotes and protects the Napa Valley Appellation, and drew a sold-out crowd of 600 from the wine trade, business and media.

Here goes:

Top Lots

Lot #62 Shafer Vineyards

Lot # 15 Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Lot # 1 Silver Oak Cellars

Lot # 121 Switchback Ridge & Robert Foley Vineyards
Lot # 175 BOND

Lot # 52 Rubicon Estate

Lot #7 Lewis Cellars

Lot # 164 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Lot # 13 Amuse Bouche Winery

Lot # 168 Beringer Vineyards

Lot # 194 Hourglass
Lot # 19 Saintsbury
Lot 87 Cliff Lede Vineyards

Top 10 Bidders

1. Gary’s Wine & Marketplace, Madison, NJ
2. Bounty Hunter, Napa, CA
3. The Wine House, Los Angeles, CA
4. Willow Park Wine & Spirits, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
5. Nakagawa Wine Company, Ltd., Tokyo, Japan
6. Ultimate Distributors, Atlanta, GA
7. Hi-Time Cellars, Costa Mesa, CA
8. Capitol Cellars, Roseville, CA
9. Kensington Riverside Inn, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
10.Central Liquor Co., Oklahoma City, OK

Posted on Sunday, February 24th, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment

Finalists in the 2008 Toronado Barleywine fest

Toronado Barlewine fest glassThe computer meltdown recover continues…Just unearthed Russ Wigglesworth’s spreadsheet on the finalists at the 15th annual Toronado Barleywine fest. Russ was the fest coordinator and did herculean work, There were 50 barleywines entered; it took four panels of judges many hours in three tasting rounds.

I have the spreadsheet in PDF format, If anywould would like a copy, drop me an e-mail at or post the request here. Bad news: Toronado says there are no barleywines left. You can see my tasting notes on the winners, here.

Toronado BW Fest 2008 FINAL RESULTS List

Entry Toronado No.

Firestone Walker , Acabus Blend, 50 Third

Stone, Old Guardian 2006 18 Second

Lagunitas Gnarlywine 2006 5 First


Cucapa Barley Wine 6 (Cerveceria de Baja California Mexicali, Mexico)

Triple Rock, Odyssey Ale 2006
Berkeley, CA 25

Real Ale Brewing 28
Sissyphus Barleywine
Blanco, Tx.

Sierra Nevada 49
Bourbon Bigfoot
Chico, CA

Posted on Sunday, February 24th, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment

Premiere Napa Valley highlights

Greetings, post-Premiere. What a weekend. High rollers and high parties. Big wines and big money. My palate is puckered.

For those who don’t know: In its 12th year, Premiere is the biggest annual fundraiser for the Napa Valley Vintners, consisting of mid-winter barrel tastings, a vintage prospective tasting of the top 12 Cabernet-based wines in the Valley, and an auction of 191 lots for the trade that takes place Saturday at the Culinary Institute of America.

 It started on Friday with fabulous open houses at the wineries. At these events, you get to taste rare or yet to be released wines, and samples of what will be offered up for auction the following day. You have to understand: these blends, estate wines or otherwise rare juice is made especially for the Premiere auction. Lots go for thousands of dollars, understandably. They are one of a kinds.

Earlier in the day, I’d attended a few of the appellation open houses — St. Helena, Stag’s Leap — and was looking for differences. I was disappointed when I didn’t find much nuance when it came to Cabernet (except for Rutherford; I love that dust).  So, suffice it to say I was looking for something different when it came to sampling the auction lots. My stand-outs:

Tres Sabores: Winemaker Julie Johnson offered up her Fifth Anniversary Cuvee Rutherford, an organic blend of Cabernet, Zinfandel and Petit Sirah so soft and lush and sophisticated it’s hard to believe it contained the latter two grapes. It was the best of barrel from her caves, and you could taste it. Release is Feb. 2009.

ZD Wines: Petit Abacus, their non vintage red table wine. This is 15 vintages of ZD reserve Cabernet married with two vintages of Petit Verdot. It not only contains every reserve Cab the winery has ever produced (1992-2007), but also two vintages of Petit Verdot (2006-2007) for a blend of age and youth that I have never seen before. I believe they’re the only ones to do it. The wine will be released this November.

von Strasser Winery: Talk about different. Rudy von Strasser debuted his pioneering efforts with a Diamond Mountain District Gruner Veltliner. Yes, I said Gruner. In California. It had all the mineral and green notes and acidity you’ve come to know and love from Austria but with a tinge of fruit that can only be Cali. This is the first commercial release and he’s hoping to get 25 cases out of it for the next vintage. Release date is this September but it’s almost all spoken for (wine club and mailing list).

Other memorable moments: At a Blackbird Vineyards lunch, I got to taste Arriviste, a 2007 dry rose and a first non red for the Pomerol-inspired producer. It’s going to be a huge success when it debuts, I think, and expand that winery’s repertoire beyond silky, sensational Merlot blends. I understand it will cost around $20. Watch for it.

Toga party

Still other memorable moments: a toga party with corndogs and fries at Reynolds Family Winery. Another fun one was walking around in the hay in my patent-leather heels at Taylor’s Refresher, to celebrate the release of 815, owner Joel Gott’s value Cabernet. I was gulping down his 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, quite possibly the most refreshing and most welcome lime and melon palate cleanser.  Man can not live on Napa Cabernet.

815 hats

Taylor's Refresher party

If you want details on the highest bidders at auction, stay tuned. I’ll blog once I’ve got the results.

Premiere auction

Posted on Sunday, February 24th, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | 2 Comments »
Leave a comment

A modern sea voyage to India from England for an English IPA

Pete Brown, beer bloggerOne thing about recovering from a computer meltdown, I’ve found items I’d buried and never seen. One of these was Pete Brown’s Beer Blog

He’s English, was a high-powered advertising type who, I gather, discovered real beer, and became a beer writer. His blog is tres intéressant.

Last year, he took an 18,000 mile sea voyage to Argentina then to India, much of it aboard a sailboat. He took along a freshly brewed jeroboam of India Pale Ale (101.6 ounces). It’s how India Pale Ale originated, brewed strong so it could survive the sea voyage from Burton on Trent in England to the English Indian colony. So how did the beer turn out? In a word – Wow! Find out all about it here.

Photo: Pete Brown

Posted on Sunday, February 24th, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment

Update: Celebrator Beer News 20th: A fest with amazing beer

Just back from computer hell – logic board failure on my Macbook (Go with Apple, they replaced it in 48 hours) – which is why this post is so late. Anyway… I made it to the Celebrator Beer News 20th Anniversary bash at the Oakland Convention Center in downtown Oakland, CA. late Sunday (Feb. 17, 2008).

First a tiny bit of negativity. The crowd was large, but the hall was way too large; the food was way too scarce, even though Celebrator Publisher Tom Dalldorf told me he had to spend a lot of money of the food, so much that he was praying he’d break even. Part of the deal was he had to use the Convention Center’s food services. He wanted badly to have the fest in Oakland in a place close to BART and the Convention Center fit the bill.

The positive far outweighed those tiny problems. The music, a New Orleans-style Zydeco band, was rockin’. They were great.

The beer – from more than 35 breweries aound Northern California and Oregon – was also rockin’. I believe it’s the best selection of beer I’ve ever seen at an event in the Bay Area or one of the best. It was fabulous.

Wander through the hall with me…I started out with Reunion 2008. This is a beer commissioned by Alan Shapiro of SBS Imports and Pete Slosberg, the creator of Pete’s Wicked Ale to honor their friend Virginia MacLean, who died from multiple myeloma last summer. Virginia and Alan were among the first employees at Pete’s Wicked Ale in the late 1980s. All the proceeds from Reunion 2008: A Beer for Hope go to the Myeloma & Bone Cancer Research Institute. This is the second Reunion beer, last year’s raised $93,000.

Reunion 2008 is a 6.5 percent red ale, made with barley and rye and spiced with caraway seeds. I wrote about it this week in the San Jose Mercury-News. You can find it here.

From Reunion, I went over to Joshua Charleton, of Pacific Libations. He was pouring Duvel _ the primo Belgian ale _ and Rodenbach Grand Cru, a great Belgian sour brown (or red) ale which has finally reached the Bay Area after an absence of many years. A fine beer, ineeded. Sharp, sour nose, a bit of malt sweetness in the mouth and an overwhelming, but delicious sourness, balanced just enough by the malt.

Next I waited in the longest line at the fest, where Vinnie Cilurzo was pouring two Russian River beers, his famous Pliny the Elder and a new one: Russian River Rejection. It apparently will never see bottles or distribution outside the pub in Santa Rosa. A black beauty, indeed: Very dark brown, 6.1 percent ABV, 24 IBU (International Bitterness Units — Bud 13 IBU, Pliny 100 IBU).

Vinnie said he used Weyermann Carafa Special Chocolate Malt, which is malted barley that has been dehusked. Weyermann, the German malting company removes the tough and bitter outer covering before the malt is kilned. Dark malt kilned with the husks on produces bitterness in beer. Delicious, smooth, almost silky taste with enough of a dark malt taste to provide a great finish.

Next – I told you this was a great fest – was Deschutes Abyss. Yes, Deschutes came all the way from Bend, OR to tap a keg of their dark, barrel-aged, blended beer. Yes, there was a line. Not a long one and a beer worth the wait. Where to buy Abyss? I’m not sure if there’s any place left. The amount of Abyss allocated for the Bay Area was tiny. Can’t find it? Post a request here or email me at and ask for our 2008 Northern California Retail Beer Store List.

From Abyss, I drifted to the next stand to Devil Canyon, the Belmont (San Francisco peniunsula) craft brewery. They were featuring a couple of beers and Full Boar Scotch Cheese, which they made with their very malty, Full Boar Scotch Ale. Excellent cheese. Find out more here.

Next, came Eel River Brewing, America’s first certified organic brewery, opened in 1996 by Ted and Margaret Vivatson in Fortuna, CA., way up north on the Eel River. They were pouring several beers including Eel River Doppel Bock, a stunning 12 percent lager, produced by the Vivatson’s 22 -year-old son, Matthew. A very American beer, dark German malt nose, but a hoppy, American finish and a warming hit from the alcohol. Dare I say an American beauty.

Next stop: Sierra Nevada. They were pouring Ruthless Hefeweizen, cloudy lemon color, dray with a slightly sour finish. Also, Wood Aged Sierra Nevada Stout. Damn fine, aged in bourbon barrels: Nose of oak and vanilla, a bit of sweetness in the initial taste fading into a dry finish with a big bite of bourbon at the end. I’d buy this beer in a heartbeat.

Finally, we repaired to the Anchor booth, where Bob Brewer was dispensing Liberty Ale and Old Foghorn Barley wine. I was hanging out with Gail Williams and Steve Shapiro, the San Francisco couple who created, a neat site that tells you how to reach every pub worth visiting via BART and bus.

They let me in on an Anchor secret: Ask for Anchor House Blend. It’s a half and half blend of Liberty Ale and Old Foghorn. Wow! The sweetness of Old Foghorn with the hops of Liberty providing a serious edge. Great drink. Loved it.

End of night. Let’s do it again Tom. Great fest and the hell with the food.

Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | 1 Comment »
Leave a comment

Hurry. They’re tapping the Sam Adams Longshot Double IPA at EJ Phair tonight

Damn I missed it! Gotta go back to paper calendars. Mike McDole and the folks from Sam Adams have a cask of his Double IPA that won the Boston Beer Co. Longshot contest tonight at E.J. Phair Alehouse, 2151 Salvio St., Concord, CA

Well, hell, I’m going. See you there.

The story quickly: The recipe by homebrewer Mike won the contest, using a recipe based on Pliny the Elder from Russian River. But because of the hop shortage Sam Adams couldn’t find enough American hops to make the beer this year. It will be made next year.

What’s being tapped tonight is the remains of the test batch.

Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment

Craft beer sales soared again in 2007

For those of you who care about the business of beer – and that definitely includes me – according to Stan Hieronymus, a beer author and craft beer insider, who writes the Appellationbeer blog, a marketing expert who follows craft beer sales for the Brewers Association told brewers in a closed-circuit teleconference today that sales of craft beer in 2007 boomed.

According to Stan, Dan Wadell of Information Resource Inc., “Craft” beer dollar sales were up 16.7% in 2007, following a 17.9% increase in 2006.

In the last two weeks of 2007 (Christmas/New Year’s holiday sales) “craft” sales were up 15.8%, versus just a 3.1% increase for imports.”

Of course, we know that. We see the long lines of craft beers on supermarket shelves and the shrinking BudMillerCoors et al section. I read the blog late and didn’t think it was a big enough deal to call Julia Herz, the association’s ace media person at home. The association will have official volume sales figures, based on reports from brewers, shortly, But great news, nevertheless.

Let’s see, what does this do? Move the craft beer segment of the total American beer market up to somewhere around 4 percent. Viewed from that perspective, we’re still a drop in the bucket, but a mighty drop are we.

Of course, if one adds beers like Coors Blue Moon to the number, the prcentage grows a bit. According to Stan, Wadell said Blue Moon sales climbed 55 percent in 2007. That would put Blue Moon somewhere close to a million barrels, which would put it right behind number one craft beer, Sam Adams and number two Sierra Nevada. Food for thought.

Posted on Thursday, February 21st, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
Leave a comment