Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for July, 2008

First ever San Francisco winemakers tasting

If you’re in the Hayes Valley hood this Sunday, you should stop by Arlequin Wine Merchant. They’re hosting the first ever tasting of resident San Francisco winemakers. There are five, including the Pinot painter Bryan Harrington, who as far as I know is still part of East Bay Vintners, which incidentally, has their annual Urban Wine Experience on August 9. But more on that in a future post.

Ones to watch for me in SF are Ed Kurtzman of August West Wines. I first tasted his wines last fall in the back room at Siduri in Santa Rosa. He wowed me with his Rosella’s Vineyard bottlings of Syrah and Pinot Noir. Gorgeous fruit with little man-handling, at least to me.

Also, Andrew Vingiello of AP Vin. Talk about little manipulation and lovely forest floor flavors. He sources fruit from Rosella’s too, in addition to Gary’s Vineyard, also on the eastern side of the the Santa Luica Highlands. Gary’s Vineyard is known for its cool ocean breezes and fog from the Salinas Valley — pretty much ideal conditions for high quality Pinot.

All these wineries have uber small production, so I really suggest you buy a $25 advanced online ticket and taste for yourself. Click on the link to see the other wineries that will be pouring. Ten years from now, you’ll be saying you were then when…

Posted on Thursday, July 24th, 2008
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The Great KQED Belgian Beer pub crawl video

Here’s the video of our pub crawl last Saturday (July 12, 2008) shot by our ace videographer Jane Tyska: Belgian Beer pub crawl

Posted on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008
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The KQED Belgian beer tour: The beers we drank

(Left to right clockwise) Paul DePas, of Orinda, Joe Houk, of South San Francisco, Alembic server Angela Hart, beer blogger William Brand, Steve White, of Pacifica, Roger Wong, of Walnut Creek, Bob Niehuser, of South San Francisco and Keith Anvick, of San Carlos, (not pictured) toast at the Alembic on Haight Street on Saturday, July 12, 2008, in San Francisco. Niehuser’s wife won a bid on KQED for a Belgian beer pub crawl and gave it to her husband for his birthday. (Jane Tyska/The Oakland Tribune)

In my beer column today in the Oakland Tribune/Contra Costa Times and the other Bay Area Media News Group papers, I wrote about the KQED Belgian Beer Pub Crawl that I conducted last Saturday. The crawl was sold as a fund-raiser on the KQED online auction.

A South San Francisco viewer was the successful bidder and gave it to her husband for a birthday present. I took the birthday boy and five of his friends on a merry pub crawl starting at The Trappist in Oakland, then via Mr. Toad’s Tours, a trek across San Francisco… the Toronado, the Alembic, Monk’s Kettle and La Trappe San Francisco. The pub proprietors at each stop donated the beer. Mr. Toad’s Tours donated a driver and a 1918 Packard Touring Car. And believe me this is just a tiny sampling of the wares available at these fine pubs. Drop in, hoist a glass and say thanks for their generous donation to KQED. (By the way, I e-mail my weekly column, if you’d like to join the list, send an e-mail to:

Here’s a chronicle of the beers we drank:

The Trappist:

De Glazen Toren Saison D’Erpes-Mer re-creates of a beer style once popular all across Belgium. Before refrigeration, saisons, French for “season,” were the last beers brewed in spring before it was too warm to make beer. They were fairly high in alcohol, often served to farmhands at the end of a day in the fields.

De Glazen Toren means the glass tower in Flemish. The founders, a lawyer and a mathematician, began as homebrewers, then chucked their careers to enroll in a three-year brewing course in Ghent. They opened their brewery in Erpe-Mere in 2004, and have since made waves with a string of striking beers. Saison was their first.

It’s a beautiful beer: 8.5 prcent, pale gold with a spicy nose. Taste is initially slighty sweet with delicious malt complexity and a long, dry finish with a most interesting rising, mild sourness. It’s unusual; worth a desperate hunt to find it.

Caracole Nostradamus****, Brasserie la Caracole, Namur, Belgium. This is a knock-your-socks-off strong brown ale: nose of dark malt and spicy yeast. A beautiful beer.

Allagash White Ale****, Allagash, Portland, ME. 750 ml, corked bottle, 5.9 percent alcohol by volume, about $9.

WITS OR WHITE BEERS, a frothy, spicy style of wheat beer, have been around for years. The style, like many copied these days by craft beermakers, originated in Belgium centuries ago and was revived in the 1960s by Pierre Celis, who has become a legend in the beer business. His original wit, Hoegaarden, is brewed by giant InBev. Allagash White ****, Allagash Brewing, Portland, Maine. I knew it would be good; I’ve consistently heard great things about it.

Allagash White is the first beer Allagash founder Rob Tod released commercially. That was in 1995. He has gone on to specialize in his own, occasionally exotic, excellent Belgian-style strong and sour ales. This is an absolutely excellent wit. It’s a proper cloudy gold color with a hit of spicy orange in the nose. The head is huge and long-lasting, caused I guess, by the proportion of malted and unmalted wheat in the beer. It forms valleys and peaks and trails of lacework down the side of the glass.

Allagash brewer Dee Dee Germain says the beer is a pale malted barley-wheat blend. The use of unmalted raw wheat in the mix gives the beer a distinct flavor. All that wheat also contributes to the unusual towering head. Hops are traditional German and a spicy Czech Saaz.


Chimay Bleue***, Abbaye de Notre Dame de Scourmont, Belgium. The Chimay Trappist Monastery is one of six in the world that brew and sell beer commercially in Belgium. Sometimes known as Chimay Grand Reserve, this rich, ruby-colored, 9 percent alcohol beauty comes in a large 25 ounce, corked bottle.

If the storekeeper tells you the beer is old, don’t worry. It will age and change like fine wine. Wipe off the dust and pour carefully.

A one to two year old Chimay Blue is elegant and smooth. A five-year-old Chimay Blue picks up the taste of a fine port. , 25-ounce bottle, about $6.

The Alembic

Duvel*****, Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat, Breendonkdorp, Belgium. Duvel Moortgat of Breendonk, Belgium — says that when someone in the brewery first sipped the beer, he exclaimed, “This is a devil of a beer.”

When Duvel was conceived in the mid-1920s, most ales were dark or copper-colored. Duvel was made with pale malts, which produce a soft, golden elixir. But it was then and still is a very strong ale, 8.5 percent alcohol by volume. But Duvel doesn’t taste strong at all, and that’s the devil of it. Enjoy it, but don’t quaff it.

This is a sophisticated beer: Bottled in a corked, Champagne-style bottle with a high carbonation, the pour is extremely lively. In truth, there’s no other beer quite like it. It should be served in the proper glass, a curved, tulip-shaped glass that condenses and gathers the foam, sending a rich aroma of malt and hops and yeast, hints of pears, perhaps apples and oranges, to the nose.

Taste is crisp, with a bit of orange or citrus tang fading into a spicy follow with a lingering taste of malt. It’s no wonder this is a world classic. Duvel is brewed in a warm fermentation, using a yeast that, according to the Campaign for Real Ale and beer expert Michael Jackson, was harvested from a bottle of McEwan’s Scotch Ale imported into Belgium after World War I. Hops are spicy Saaz and Styrian Goldings.

The warm (room temperature) fermentation, CAMRA says, is followed by a cold (near freezing) fermentation, then refermentation in the bottle — a bit of fresh yeast is added to each bottle in the ancient manner of preservation, so fermentation continues for a time in the bottle.

This adds to the carbonation and as the beer ages, makes it drier, less fruity with muted spice. Personally, I like my Duvel fairly fresh, and these days most of the Duvel on shelves of good beer stores is fresh.

Reinaert Primitief****, Proef, Lochristi, Belgium. This is one of a range of beers from Proef imported by Shelton Bros., Belchertown, MA. Each has different hopping, whichis shown on the label. If you’re looking for the beer in stores, look for Reinaert Wild Ale, which is similar and also made by Proef. The importer,  Alan Shapiro of Seattle-based SBS Imports, sells this 7.5 percent modern classic, made in an ancient manner. It’s fermented with regular ale yeast and with brettanomyces wild yeast. It has a bit of a “horse-collar,” barnyard nose. The taste is very accessible, a bit sour, but refreshing.

Shapiro said a couple of years ago, he commissioned Proef to brew a house Belgian fruit beer for Brouwer’s Cafe the Seattle specialty beer establishment. “We did three different blends, but they didn’t care for them. Just then, the people who run the Michael Jackson Rare Beer Club called and said they had a gap in their monthly schedule, did I have a beer they could use.” Jackson, the British beer critic, who died last year, loved them.

Jackson, in his dry, sharp English manner, had this to say about “cultivated wild yeast” used in Reinaert Wild Ale:

“To put it in animal terms, a dog is a real domestic animal (like a regular ale yeast). A cat plays at being a domestic animal, when it suits the cat, but you can’t make the cat fetch the Sunday newspaper from the store. Semi-wild yeasts are like cats.” Long live cats.

Monk’s Kettle

Brother David’s Tripel Abbey-Style Ale**** , Anderson Valley Brewing Co., Boonville, CA. David Keene, proprietor of the Toronado is the inspiration for this Belgian-style, 10 percent ABV beer and its dusky companion, Brother David’s Double. Since the intitial batches, Anderson Valley has refined brewing techniques and made the tripel a real treat, no rough spots at all.

The brewery’s own tasting notes sum it up very well:

A bright dry aroma tops off this deeply complex Belgian-style beer that has over tones of malt, fruit, and freshly mown fields. The intensity of the higher alcohol is rounded out by the deep richness of the malt and the light hop flavors. Light and pale in color, a nice malt backbone holds up the highlights of spicy hops intermingled with yeast esters and aromas. The triple (or “tripel” as the Belgian’s call it) is a medium-bodied strong Belgian-style beer, with just a touch of mild malt sweetness and a dry finish on the palate.

The comparatively light body of this beer is achieved by substantial additions of candy sugar in the kettle and medium-high carbonation level. The hopping has been kept low, with the use of classic European hop varieties to give just a hint of spiciness.

Stone 11th Anniversary Black India Pale Ale, 8.7 percent ABV ***1/2, Stone Brewing, Escondido, CA. This beer is a study in complexity. Released in September, 2007 this beer has mellowed with age and will still taste great years from now. It’s a dark brown beer, but lively, with a big head of lasting tan foam, surprising hoppy nose. There’s some sweetness, but the overall taste is dry with notes of vanilla and roast malt. Those hops – we’re talking aroma, not bitterness, last and last. A wonderful beer.

Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout***, 9.2 percent ABV is a beautiful beer, inky black with a big rising head of foam and as the name implies, a fairly incredible nose: chocolate, roast malt, licorice. The taste is mildly sweet with lots of roast grain and chocolate which lasted into a long finish with warming alcohol lingering on the tongue. Bitter chocolate from Chuao Chocolatier, a small San Diego County company, was added to the beer, post fermentation, I guess.

Here’s the problem with the beer, in my opinion: It’s very young. This is a big beer with lots of elements, roast grain, oatmeal, chocolate, high alcohol. It needs time for its many elements to blend and mellow into a harmonious whole. It’s unfiltered and non-pastuerized, so it definitely will age. Should be a great beer about the time of Stone’s 13th anniversary. My advice, and what I’m going to do: Buy two bottles Monday. Drink one in six months; the other next summer.

La Trappe San Francisco

Eric’s Sour Peach Ale****1/2, New Belgium, Fort Collins, CO. These notes come from New Belgium and I totally concur.

Eric’s Ale is part of New Belgiums “Lips of Faith” program. Select beer bars are participating. Each beer is an experimental beer made at New Belgium in small batches.

This Peche, or Peach beer, started as an ale aged in 130 hl wooden vessels called Foedres for three years. It was then transferred and real peaches were added. A second Strong Golden Ale was brewed and blended back into the sour ale. Subtle peach, tropical fruit and tart aromas in the nose, plus some vanilla and oak. The flavor is a balance of sweet and sour. A drinkable and refreshing sour beer hybrid.

Goudon Carolus Tripel****, Brouwerij Het Anker, Mechelen, Belgium, This 9 percent beer is a head trip: intoxicating, mild spicy nose, dry finish with warming alcohol. The beer, says Tim Webb in his authoritative Good Beer Guide to Belgium (CAMRA Books, 2005) was named after a coin from the reign of Emperor Charles V.

Posted on Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008
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French company buys Chateau Montelena

Just in time for the release of “Bottle Shock,” the story of the landmark Judgment of Paris tasting where an American winery, Napa’s Chateau Montelena, defeated the French first time, Montelena is about to be acquired by none other than a French company. It all comes full circle doesn’t it?

Earlier today, Michel Reybier, owner of Chateau Cos d’Estournel, the grand cru classé of Saint-Estèphe, announced that he is in discussion with Chateau Montelena’s founder, Jim Barrett (played by Bill Pullman in the movie which opens Aug. 6), to acquire the Napa Valley winery, pending red tape and paper work.

The Barrett family acquired Chateau Montelena in 1972 and transformed the estate into what those in the wine industry call an American first growth. “This is a perfect fit – a dream marriage,” said Jim Barrett in an official statement. “We could not have asked for a finer team to carry on this legacy.”

Jim’s son, Bo, will continue to make the wine. I’ll be writing about “Bottle Shock” and interviewing the cast for my column on Aug. 6, so look out for it. It’s quite an ending to a film I already found to be a bit flabby.

Posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
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Judge with me at Taste of Terroir

This Thursday, July 24 is my favorite night of the year in Livermore. It’s the annual Taste of Terroir, the Valley’s ultimate evening of food and wine. I’m still day dreaming about that 2005 Mitchell Katz Syrah with Wild Boar Sliders on Sweet Potato Brioche with Syrah-Sour Cherry Ketchup.

Good thing I’m judging this year.

At Taste of Terroir, sixteen local chefs and winemakers team up to create what I’ve found to be some of the most consistently innovative yet approachable pairings of the year. You can cast your vote too for the People’s Choice Award then come visit with me wherever they hide the judges so we can compare notes. We’ll be presenting awards for Most Innovative Pairing, Judges’ Best, and Best Use of Local Ingredients.

The awards will be announced at 8:15 p.m. and the event runs from 5 to 9 p.m. at The Palm Event Center, 1184 Vineyard Avenue, Pleasanton. Cost is $75 a person and it’s nearly sold out, so get your tickets here and see a list of participating wineries and restaurants here.

By the way, if you have a sweet tooth, I guarantee the dessert selection alone will rock your world. I recall a grand dessert room cloaked in red velvet and filled with chocolate dipped strawberries, cookies, truffles and brownies as far as the eye can see. Women were wrapping things in napkins and stuffing them in their purses. When those maxed out, they used their husbands’ pockets. Too bad my boyfriend will be out of town. See you there!

Posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
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A night with Bruce Paton, Beer Repubic and barrel aged beer

Had a beery good time (couldn’t resist that one) Friday night (July 11, 2008) at Beer Chef Bruce Paton’s dinner featuring the beers of Bear Republic at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco.

I pulled two factoids out of the two evenings.

1. Visit a craft brewery almost anywhere here on the West Coast and you’re likely to find beer aging in barrels somewhere. Brewers (and many of us who just drink beer) are fascinated with the effects of aging beer in barrels and blending barrel-aged beers.

2. Bay Area residents of all ages, but especially those under-40 are absolutely fascinated with interesting beer, Belgian, English, American. Doesn’t matter. And all of us are becoming increasingly sophisticated. All of us dearly love Racer 5****1/2, the hoppy, but substantially malty India Pale Ale from Beer Republic.

As always, Bruce Paton’s beer dinner was special. The desert was a real highlight: Poached Honey Crisp Farms White Nectarine with whipped mascarpone and blueberry compote. Wild indeed.

And the beer? Bear Republic Wild Horse Quadruple aged in a Cognac barrel. Richard Norgrove, the homebrewer who founded Bear Republic in Healdsburg in Sonoma County, CA in 1995, explains the beer began as a strong Belgian-style triple two years ago, it was brewed in a small, seven barrel brewplant he purchased from the defunct Healdsburg Brewing Co. years ago.

It’s installed at Bear Republic’s big new brewery in Cloverdale, where Richard’s using it to brew experimental beers. Eventually, some will be released under the Wild Horse label.

Richard said he placed some of the beer in a 93 gallon, 100-year-old Cognac barrel; some in a whiskey barrel, some in a wine barrel and some in a stainless steel fermenter. He added Mexican cone sugar (piloncillo) to each batch to give the yeast some more fermentables.

Bruce Paton tasted samples of all four and chose the Cognac-aged beer, he said.

The taste? It was a lovely light tan color with a huge Cognac and cidery nose. The taste was dry with lots of warming alcohol. Really, a beer Cognac. It reminded me strongly of J.W. Lees Vintage Harvest Ale, a beer from Manchester, England, aged in Calvados (apple brandy barrels). I give this puppy ***1/2 stars. Would love to have some in my beer fridge to try again tonight.

How do you follow a beer like Wild Horse Qaudrupel? Well Arnie Johnson, Marin Brewing’s head brewer brought one with him to the dinner: Starbrew Wheatwine, aged a year in Chardonnay barrels, fermented with Brettanomyces wild yeast and lactobacillus and pediococcus bacteria. supplied by Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa.

Arnie adds the Chardonnay barrels are rather unusual. They had held a Chardonnay for 15 years; immediately after they were emptied, he poured in the Starbrew, a delicious 10 percent ABV wheat beer. Over time the wild yeast and bacteria boosted the alcohol to 12 percent, Arnie says.

Again, a wild, wild taste, closer to a brandy than a beer, quite dry with a rush of warming alcohol in the finish. Damned interesting. Another experiment that may or may not wind up bottled. If it is, Arnie, put me down for a couple.

And furthermore…. Bruce Paton’s next ber dinner is Sept. 19, featuring the beers of Moylan’s, Marin Brewing’s companion brewpub in Novato. The menu will be paired with the exquisite beers from head brewer Denise Jones. Reservations at

Photos: Top, part of the crowd of 60 diners at the Bruce Paton Bear Republic Dinner.

Right: Richard Norgrove addressed the crowd.

Why is there no photo of Quadruipel or Arnie Johnson’s Barrel-aged Starbrew? Answer: Both beers were preceded by two glasses of Bear Republic Extra Pale Ale, two glasses of Bear Belgian Wit, a delcious wit with a lemon nose and crisp. sweet finish, paired with a sale of fresh gulf prawns with avocado, banana salsa and mango chipotle sauce,. folled by two glasses of Racer 5 IPA paired with chicken, artichokes heirloom tomatoes and fingerling potatoes.

Then, there was the vicious Bear Republic Black Mamba: mild malt aroma, a dry taste of black malt with an underlying sweetness and a hoppy finish, paired with lamb cutlets, mac n’ cheese and cacao nib beurre rouge. Damn. Well I did get a photo of Black Mamba, a draft only beer, served at the Bear Republic pub in Healdsburg.

Posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
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A sad saga of stale beer

I don’t like to rag on reputable businesses, but as we move further into a world where we’ve learned to expect quality beer, it can be really depressing to lay out a few bucks for a number of unusual beers in a box, get the beer home and find out most of it is old, outdated or whatever.

Consider this note from Tom:

I am writing in regards to the Great American Microbrews sampler packs that Cost Plus sells. I always thought the sampler was a good idea, but had not bought it until last month. I bought two at the Walnut Creek Cost Plus to share with some friends over July 4th. I was presently surprised by the selection of quality beers in the sampler, and looked forward to trying some of them.

I have educated my friends and family about beer over the years, and one of our guests showed me the January 2008 “best by” date on his beer. I went through the other beers and those that had code dates were generally Nov 2007 – Jan 2008, although I did find a Full Sail Limited Edition June 2007 and a Pyramid Kolsch July 2007. Very embarrassing to have your guests point out beer so far out of code.

I sent Cost Plus an e-mail advising them of my disappointment, and directly questioning whether they were using the sampler as a way of getting rid of their old six-pack beer. They have a bit of a reputation in the beer industry for not moving product quickly.

A day or two later I received a “concerned” reply that they were going to immediately contact the store’s general manager to ensure customers have future positive experience. Well, the problem was they never asked me what store or even what city the purchased took place in, so it was obviously a generic reply. I thought I would ask whether you have any experience with the Cost Plus
sampler packs?

Cost Plus should really note the sample packs are a “clearance” vehicle if that is truly the case, and I stated that in my e-mail to them. Certainly the brewers represented in the sample packs would not be pleased to have many consumers first experience with their brands being out of code product. I hope our postings prevent other consumers from having the same experience. Tom

Yes, I had the same experience last year. Bought a pig in a poke, so to speak. Got a lot of stale beer. My suggestion to Cost-Plus and other stores that retail beer. If it’s old and outdated beer, state that it is and mark it down drastically. I sometimes go into the 99 Cent store on University Avenue in Berkeley looking for bargains. Most of the beer the sell is outdated, I expect that and am willing sometimes to risk a few bucks, especially when it’s strong beer, hoping that I get a bargain. I sometimes do. But when I don’t, I’m not surprised. I knew what I was getting into.

Anyone else with an opinion? Post it here or shoot me an e-mail at

Posted on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
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Where to find the organic beers from Uncommon Brewers, Santa Cruz

If you’re looking for Uncommon Brewers organic beers, Siamese Twin, spiced, 8.5 percent, Belgian-style double and Golden State Ale, the 6.5 percent Belgian-style golden ale, made by Uncommon Brewers, 303 Potrero St. in Santa Cruz, here’s the scoop from co-founder Alec Stafansky:

  • The Golden State Ale can be found at The Bistro (if not on tap, it will be soon) in Hayward, the 515 Kitchen and Cocktail Lounge in Santa Cruz, and Mondo: An American Beer Garden in Sonoma.
  • The Twin is on tap at the 515, the Sonoma Wine Exchange (Another great place to visit, lots of fantastic craft beer on the shelves.), and should be back at The Trappist in Oakland as soon as Aaron Porter places his next order.

Thanks Alec.

Posted on Monday, July 21st, 2008
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Oddbits…New Firehose Brewpub in East Palo Alto, Canned beer update, 21st Amendment, Uncommon Brewers

It’s official: Firehouse Brewing is adding a second location in East Palo Alto. Russ, one of our regular posters spotted the burgeoning pub across from Ikea. Firehouse manager Edward Tamez confirms it. He said opening is scheduled for October, the third anniversary of Firehouse Grill & Brewery, 111 S. Murphy Ave. in Sunnyvale.

It’s in the Ikea East Palo Alto Shopping Center. Tamez said it’s a brewpub. But there will be no beer brewed on premises. Instead, it will be brewed at Firehouse, Sunnyvale. That’s hardly bad news. Brewer Steve Donohue does a great job. He has three regulars always on tap in Sunnyvale ad a rotating list of specials; I’ve had a few of them, includng an excellent high octane IPA and an Imperial Stout. Really liked both.

Quote of the day: A recent study found the average American walks about 900 miles per year. Another study found Americans drink, on average, 22 gallons of beer a year. That means, on average, Americans get about 41 miles to the gallon. Kind of makes you proud to be an American….

Moving on…Ed Ledger, Ledger’s Liquor, 1399 University Ave., reports he just got in a new shipment of Pizza Port beers; Monument Wine & Spirits Concord and City Beer also have an excellent stock.

Events: The inaugural “canning out” (that catchy phrase comes from a poster to this blog) of the new 21st Amendment beers in cans, Live Free or Die! IPA and Hell or High Watermelon Wheat, begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 22 at the Toronado, 547 Haight St. A poster to this blog spoted the cans already on sale at a BevMo in San Francisco…

Speaking of canned craft beer – Skot Colacicco, co-founder with Alec Stefansky, of Uncommon Brewers, a brand new Belgian-style, craft brewery at 303 Potrero St. in Santa Cruz have canned their first beer and it’s most unusual: Siamese Twin Ale. It’s an 8.5 percent, Belgian-style double, spiced with lemon grass and Kefir lime. It’s “can conditioned.” That is, a bit of priming sugar’s added to each can so the beer will continue a slow, secondary fermentation. I tried it, found it surprisingly dry with a spicy edge. Their second beer, which will be canned sometime within the next year or so, is Golden State Ale. Loved this one, 6.5 percent, with toasted poppy seeds. Alec says Siamese Twins should be at New Leaf Markets in Felton and Bould Creek next week and other New Leaf stores later on. There are several around Santa Cruz.

The beer’s also going to pubs in the Santa Cruz area in unique KeyKegs, made by an industrial consortium in the Netherlands. They’re 30 liter, recyclable, but not reusable plastic kegs becoming popular in Europe for wine. Uncommon Brewers, which is certified 100 percent organic by CCOF, the Santa Cruz-based organic certification organization, likes the idea of disposable, but recyclable kegs. They’re much cheaper than standard kegs and aren’t subject to theft like regular kegs.

  • MORE EVENTS: This comes from Jeannie at Northwest Brewing News… Tonigh in Portland, check out Fred Eckhardt’s Annual Beer and Cheese Tasting at Rogue Ales Public House in Portland, OR. There will be 10 microbrews and 10 cheeses. More information is available at:
  • July 23rd Oregon Brewers Dinner & Pairing at Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. This annual barbeque is to kick off the festival weekend: Reservations are required. More information is available at
  • July 24-27 is the 21st Annual Oregon Brewers Festival at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. This is a great festival and will feature beers from all over the northwest as well as other parts of the country. More information is available at:

Photo: Alec Stefansky with a disposable, but recyclable Euro KeyKeg.

Posted on Monday, July 21st, 2008
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Where Pliny the Elder in bottles can be found today

Attention Pliny the Elder in bottles shoppers…Just got off the phone with Vinnie Cilurzo, the brewing genius behind Russian River’s Pliny the Elder. Here’s a rough list of where bottled Pliny can be bought – and Vinnie explains that things are just getting in shape and distribution is growing slowly. Right now, no Pliny in the South Bay and none on the San Francisco Peninsula unless a Whole Foods Market stocks it.

  • East Bay: Beer, Beer & More Beer, 975 Detroit Ave., Concord, 925-671-4958
    Bobby G.’s Pizzeria, 2072 University Ave., Berkeley,510-665-8866. Owner Robert Gaustad has ordered the beer to sell at his pizzeria. Hasn’t received it so far.
    Ledger’s Liquors, 1399 University Ave., Berkeley, 510-540-9243
    Monument Wine & Spirits, 2250 Monument, Concord, 925-682-1514.
  • San Francisco: City Beer, 1168 Folsom St., San Francisco, 415-503-1033.
    Coit Liquors, 585 Columbus Ave., San Franisco, 415-986-4036
  • North Bay: Bottle Barn, 3331 A Industrial Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-528-1161
    Oliver’s, three locations:
    546 East Cotati Ave, Cotati, 707-795-9501,
    560 Montecito Center, Santa Rosa, 707-537-7123
    461 Stony Point Road, Santa Rosa,707-284-3530
    Pacific Market, 1465 Town and Country Drive, Santa Rosa, 707-546-3663.
    Wine Exchange of Sonoma, 452 First Street East, 800-938-1794. There’s also a Wine Exchange in Windsor, north of Santa Rosa, 9600 Bell Road, 707-836-8534.

Vinnie says that so far the beer’s not in either the South Bay or the San Francisco Peninsula except for Whole Foods Markets. Pliny and its companion IPA, Blind Pig, are in a number of Whole Foods, in Marin and Sonoma counties; in San Francisco and possibly in other Whole Foods. I just checked Oakland, the beer guy was not at work at the guy who answered said “Pliny WHAT? He did check, but couldn’t find it.

Why Pliny can’t be found in Beverages and More and other large chain stores: The answer, Vinnie says, is they can’t guarantee refrigerated storage. “BevMo approached me to take Pliny and Blind Pig. We decided not to to sell the beer in places that don’t have cold storage for consumers.

“Having refrigerated back-room storage is better. But if the consumer is pulling the beer from a warm shelf, we’re not selling to that store. This isn’t specific to BevMo, it just happened that they approached us,” he says.

Why refrigeration? Vinnie thinks it’s time for beers like Pliny and Blind Pig to be treated with the respect they should have. “Hops deteriorate very quickly and the flavor profile of beers like Pliny and Blind Pig diminish very, very fast. So we’re trying to do everything we can to keep the beer refrigerated as much as possible before it gets to the consumer.”

Cool temperatures, retard spoilage, slow aging of beers.

Posted on Monday, July 21st, 2008
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