Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for August, 2008

The Slow Food expo at Fort Mason in San Francisco – Tasting the beer

Photos: Left, customers at the Draught Beer section. David Hopwood, of Stone, behind the bar.

Right: Transcontinental Ale

Left, below: A bottle of Jolly Pumpkin La Roja leaves a trail of thick foam.

Bottom: Little Opal, a prizewinning mild from Firestone Walker.

I hate writing reports about festivals that are over or – in the case of this one, the Slow Food Nation Taste Pavilions expo at Fort Mason in San Francisco this Labor Day weekend, a fest that is sold out.

So I’m going to keep this short, a sort of for-the-record report, helpful mostly to those among us lucky enough to have tickets. If you do have a chance for a ticket, grab it. It’s a fun event and the beer alone is worth the ticket price.

I spent my first hour at the cask section and the two brewers handling cask, Arnie Johnson, Marin Brewing’s head brewer, and Magnolia head brewer Ben Spencer fielded questons like, “Do you have any pilsners” and “I’d really like a hefeweizen” and “do you have any really sparkling beers?”

They patiently explained over and over that real ale is non-filtered and unpasteurized, so a slow secondary fermentation continues in the keg or cask.  People were fascinated and appreciative.

Best beers of the night. The star ratings are mine: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Saturday, August 30th, 2008
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It’s Labor Day Weekend, cops are out in force…

A holiday warning. If you’re gonna’ hit a pub or do some drinking this weekend, watch out – Bay Area police departments are mounting a major effort to catch you.

The California Highway Patrol says they’ll have 80 percent of their officers on the road this weekend. Police departments from El Cerrito to the South Bay will have surprise sobriety checkpoints.

Over and out.

From the CHP….


* (.01% – .04%) May be DUI: Anyone, after one drink during a two-hour period – and people weighing 170 pounds or more, after two drinks.
* (.05% – .07%) Likely DUI: People weighing less than 170 pounds, after two drinks – people weighing 150 pounds or more, after three drinks – and people weighing 190 pounds or more, after four drinks.
* (.08% – UP) Definitely DUI: People weighing less than 150 pounds, after three drinks – people weighing less than 190 pounds, after four drinks – and anyone, after five drinks.

Posted on Saturday, August 30th, 2008
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Inside the Slow Food Nation expo – The Beer Pavilion

5:30 p.m. Slow Food Nation expo, Fort Mason, San Francisco.

OK, I’m in. One thing about arriving early, one avoids the hassle and crowds. This is truly a big deal.  For beer lovers the best thing of all is the beer tent – well, it’s sort of a pavilion. It’s a gauzy canvas that goes up to a peak.

There are a few standup tables line up inside rows of straw bales. In the tent there is truly lots of beer.  Keg on the left, cask straight ahead and bottles on the right.  If you’re coming, whatever night you’re coming, be early.  Also, the Taste Pavilions, beer, wine, cheese etc. are along San Francisco Bay wedged in between the Fort Mason Buildings.
Up above on the meadow, there’s going to be music; they’ve set up a stage and there are all sorts of vendors in small tents.
The music is different than the Taste Pavilions. Check out the info on Slow Food’s Web site.

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008
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Late addition — Stone will have lots of beers at the Slow Food Beer Taste Pavilion

Whoops. Stone Brewing will have a number of beers at the Slow Food expo this weekend. My list was incomplete.

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008
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The many beers being served this weekend at the Slow Food Nation expo beer pavilion

I’m about to jump onto BART and make my way to Fort Mason in San Francisco for the preview expo tonight of the Fast Food Nation Taste Pavilions and especially, the Beer Pavilion.

David Hopwood, of Stone Brewing, spent the day Thursday at the beer pavilion helping the guy in charge, Dave McLean, of Magnolia Gastropub, San Francisco, and many other volunteers set up the pavilion.

The asterisk beside a beer in the list means it’s on cask.  In other words, real ale, unfiltered, non-pasteurized:

21st Ammendment
Brew Free or Die
Hell or HIgh Watermelon Wheat
Diesel Smoked Imperial Porter
Transcontinental IPA*

BackStreet Brewing
Calm Azul

Ballast point
Wazoo Wheat

Beach Chalet
California Kind*

Bear republic
Racer 5
Crazy ivan
Big Bear Stout

Coronado Brewing
Mermaid red
Saison By the Sea


Eel River
Organic Blond
Organic Porter

EJ Phair
Retrofit IPA

Gordon Biersch

Green Flash
Le Freak

Half Moon Bay
Bootleggers Brown*
English IPA
English Pale

Old Gnarley Wine
Aged Brown Sugga (2006)
Sonoma Farmhouse Ale
Zappa Tribute
Hop Stoopid

Lost Coast
Downtown Brown
Scotch Ale
Raspberry Wheat

Priving Ground IPA*
In With The New IPA*
Sara’s Ruby Mild
Blue Bell Bitter
Prescription Pale

Star Brew*
San Quentin Breakout Stout*
Tiburon Blonde


Death and Taxes

North Coast
Old Rasputin
Brother Thelonious
Le Merle
Scrimshaw Pilsner

Port/ Lost Abbey
Judgement Day
10 Commandments

Rock Bottom
Silicon Valley Saison
Brown Bear Stout

Rubicon IPA

Russian River
Happy Hop
Pliney The Elder

San Diego Brewing Co
Dubbel Fantasy*
Summer Love

Oatmeal Stout

Sierra Nevada
Super Seven
Anniversary IPA

Thirsty Bear
Brown Bear*
Polar Bear Pils
Valencia Wheat
Howard Street IPA

Trumer Pils

Smoked Porter


The Reverend
Hog Heaven

Dogfish Head
Palo Santo Marron
Midas Touch

Red’s Rye PA
Dirty Bastard

Goose Island
Bourbon County Stout

Jolly Pumpkin
La Roja
Weizen Bam
Calabaza Blanca

Strong Ale

New Belgium
Erics Ale

Three Philosophers

Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Chocolate Stout
Juniper Pale Ale

Saison de Fish

Triple Rock
Tree Frog Ale
Black Rock Porter
Monkey Head Arboreal Ale*

*= Casks

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008
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A slow food beer dinner in San Francsico and a dessert and beer to remember

There’s a big weekend ahead in the food world in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The occasion’s the first-ever-in -America Slow Food expo, extravaganza. There were dinners all over the Bay Area last night,  featuring the ideals of the slow food movement: food lovingly prepared, using local sources for all the hopefully organic ingredients.

Naturally, I chose the beer dinner: Beer Chef Bruce Paton’s dinner at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco, featuring Stone Brewing’s beer and using locally sourced ingredients as Bruce always does in his dinners. The dinners have gotten increasingly sophisticated over the years,  a mix of simple dishes and culinary expertise. You can see the menu here.

The turnout was small, about 50 people. Bruce explained that because Stone Brewing founder Greg Koch will be involved in the Slow Food expo at Fort Mason on Friday they had to schedule it on Thursday.  Too bad. It was an excellent evening and Greg – looking more like a San Diego surfer dude than a brewery owner, short-cut, blond hair, great tan, long Guayabera-style black shirt – provided a running commentary about the beer.

  • Stone Pale Ale (paired with hors d’oeuvres like this one in the photo at right – tomato soup in slim cocktail glasses with tiny cornbread cheese sandwiches.  Greg talked a bit about the history of Stone Brewing. Stone Pale Ale was their first beer and remains one of their best-sellers. It’s a beer I rarely try because I’m always chasing Stone’s latest uber-beer.

Pale Ale’s excellent, a tawny copper, malty nose, good mouthfeel and an American-style hoppy finish. It’s a modest, drinkable beer.
Greg said Stone has three flagship beers, the Pale Ale, Stone IPA and Arrogant Bastard. All three are neck-to-neck in sales, he said.

  • First course, scallops and Dungeness crab, caviar (yes, local, farm-raised) and watermelon gazpacho was paired with one of my favorite, new Stone beers – Stone Epic Ale 08.08.08. This is a Belgian -style golden ale, 8.5 percent. It’s the seventh in an annual series of Stone, strong, bottle-conditioned beers meant to drink now or age. The first came out in February, 2002: 020202.

I asked Greg how this most excellent beer could improve in 10 years. “We”’ have to wait and see,” he said. No way; I’m drinking it now (and maybe putting one bottle away.

  • Second course, Berkshire pork tenderloin and Bellwether Farms Pepato Cheese Ravioli in an ancho chile sauce was paired with Stone Ruination IPA.  Berkshire is a breed of hogs that is ancient, at least 300 years old and about right for a slow food dinner, Bruce said.

Again, an excellent pairing. Greg Koch called it a “San Diego IPA.” He said  Russian River Brewing maestro Vinnie Cilurzo turned San Diego on its ear more than a decade ago when he released Blind Pig IPA from his first brewery, Blind Pig in Temecula.

Stone IPA recalls Blind Pig, he said.  “It was our First Anniversary beer. The next year, we produced the same beer with double the hops. Our third anniversary beer had three times the hops and was 6.5 percent,” he said.

Stone’s fourth anniversary beer had even more hops, Greg said, and was 8.5 percent.  “Stone Ruination IPA is a hybrid of our third and fourth year beers,” he said.  “We gave its name because of the ruinous effect it has on your palate.”

  • The best pairing of the night was Stone 12th Anniversaru Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout paired with the dessert: Scharrffen Berger Chocolate Pudding Cake with creme Anglaise and a compote of Honey Crisp Farms Mariposa Plums.  The plums were served in tiny cubes and a spoon of plums, a bit of sauce and morsel of cake paired with the dark, chocolate beer. Wowee!  Very nice indeed.  Gotta try this beer with chocolate.

On to the Slow Food Expo…

Posted on Friday, August 29th, 2008
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Slow Dough at Fast Food Nation’s expo in San Francisco – what it costs

Slowly, the light dawns  on the Slow Food Nation Taste Pavilions, which will be open Friday night, then Saturday-Monday (Tickers are sold out). For those fortunate enough to have tickets, here’s how the “Slow Dough” system works and what it costs (and costs)….

Those of you attending the Taste Pavilions will receive a Slow Dough
card once you turn in your ticket. Slow Dough are the currency of the
Taste Pavilions – they can be “spent” throughout the Pavilions on
tastes of food and drink. Given the limited quantities and the rarity
of many of the products featured, Slow Food Nation developed Slow
Dough to minimize waste and assist our producers and partner in
accurately preparing sufficient quantities of food and drink for the
Pavilions. Slow Dough are printed cards that is used to “purchase”
tastes within the Taste Pavilions. When you enter Pavilions with your
ticket, you get 20 Dough. Every taste costs either one or two Dough,
and your Dough card is enough to taste something from each and every
Taste Pavilions. Once you’ve used your first dough card, you can
purchase additional Dough with cash, check or a credit card at two
sales points at the Pavilions. Extra Dough cards have five Dough each
on them and cost $10. When you purchase extra Dough, you will need to
show your spent Dough card as proof of purchase.

Posted on Thursday, August 28th, 2008
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“The Wine Trials” provides good finds

So, now that I’m a little obsessed with this trixter, Robin Goldstein, I decided to pick up his latest book, “The Wine Trials” ($14.95, It’s a guide to 100 wines under $15 that outscored $50 to $150 counterparts.

Among the Trader Joe’s usual suspects (Bogle, House Wine, Parducci, Rosemount, any Vinho Verde), Goldstein and his team of brown-bagging blind tasters uncovered a few gems for me. I was particularly interested in discovering Old World buys, since I know the New World value market pretty darn well. Good thing Goldstein ranks the wines in categories like “light, Old World reds under $15″ and “heavy Old World whites under $15.” It’s and easy and quick way to find exactly what you’re looking for in taste and price.

So find I did: Spain’s 2006 Campo Viejo Rioja Crianza ($9), which ranked #2 of 39 for Old World Reds under $15 is totally old school, super earthy and takes you away to rustic cobblestone streets. The blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo pairs beautifully with lamb and duck.

Another eye opener: The 2006 Cave de Lugny Macon-Villages ($11) ranked #2 of 15 for heavy Old World Whites under $15 and it’s a steal given its elegance. It’s steely and complex (the opposite of overly oaked California Chardonnay) and reminds us what the grape is like — acidic, citrusy, flowery — when it’s not masked in imitation vanilla.

Posted on Thursday, August 28th, 2008
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What’s in my beer refrigerator

So William, can we get a rundown of all those beers in your fridge?  I see some Liberty Ale, Anderson valley 20, and some Rogue bottle I can’t identify.  What else is in there? Mario….

Well, it’s just the door of my beer fridge in the garage. Here’s what’s there…It’s a random assortment…

Lagunitas B2K  Barley Wine, Brooklyn Brewing Monster 2000, Assorted Anchor Our Special Ale, 1995-2007 with a couple of years missing
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot , 2002, 04, 05
Anchor Earthquake Beer,1989 with the upside down label,  released after the Loma Prieta earthquake
Drake’s Anniversary Lager, 2004
Black Lightning Porter, Lightning Brewing, San Diego
Rogue MOM Hefe
Schuter’s Red Star Lager, 1992, Berlin
Hofbrau Haus Original (Munich)
Anderson Valley Inperial IPA
Michelob Celebrate Cherry, 2007
Duinen Double (Belgium)
Drouin Poire (Pear Cider, France)
Schooner’s (Antioch, CA) barrel-aged Barleywine, 04, 06
Alaskan Smoked Porter, 05,06, 07
Lagunitas Lumpy Gravy
Scaldis, Brasserie Dubuisson, Belgium
Sam Adams Triple Bock
Russian River Damnation,  Temptation
Speedway Stout, Alesmith, San Diego
Gordon Biersch  Dunkelweizen
Siamese Twins Ale, Uncommon Brewers, Santa Cruz
21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat and Brew Free or Die! IPA,

That’s what’s in the door. All – rightly or wrongly – stored upright.

Temperature inside, by the way, was 45 degrees. No idea about the humidity.

Posted on Thursday, August 28th, 2008
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Letters & E-mails: Is it OK to “re-chill” beer?

William – I have a couple questions, if you could give me some advice.

Say I go down to Costco and I pick up one of the Sam Adams Variety boxes. I think it’s a whole case worth of beer. I know that ideally I shouldn’t store my beer in the fridge too long with all the light in there and all. I dont really drink a whole case of beer every week so would it be best to just leave it in the box in my pantry or something. Maybe I could throw a couple in the fridge in the morning before I leave for work so they’re nice and cold when I get home in the afternoon. Is this OK? or should I get them into cold as soon as possible and keep them there? How would they stay fresh longest? Should I just stick to six packs to keep ’em freshest?

Also. if I had a cooler full of beers for a Sunday BBQ or something, and at the end of the night, or the next morning I should say, these beers became warm after the ice melts, is it ok to throw ’em in the fridge? Is it ok to “re-chill” beer after it’s gone warm for a day? Or when it warms up after being ice cold, has something happened to it that would affect the taste?  – Jesse.

Great questions, Jesse. Yes, it’s OK to “re-chill” beer.   Beer is a bit like bread, It can take a little bit of heat.  But sustained exposure to high temperatures will kill beer fast.  Light lagers,  your  BudMillerCoors and their watery light buddies are very delicate and die rapidly.  They really can’t take high heat or sustained, bright light.  That’s why the big beer company distributors change out their light lager stocks in retail outlets fairly rapidly.

Bigger beers, those with high alcohol and especially those that are bottle conditioned can take more punishment.  But basically, all beer should be stored in  a cool, dark, dry place until it’s time to drink.

There’s nothing wrong with storing beer in a refrigerator. Personally, I always store my beer in a refrigerator, which I keep at about 40 degrees, in other words, not ice cold.  The trouble with storing beer un-refrigerated, even in a relatively cool place,  is that  here in California it gets really hot most days in the late afternoon. Unless you live in the fog belt or keep your house air conditioning set on “chill”, I think a refrigerator’s the best way to go.

About light. It’s true that light kills beer, but we’re talking about continued exposure to direct sunlight or  to constant artificial light on a store shelf.  Unless you open the fridge constantly, the beer remains in relatively dark conditions.

Also, my rule is, if it’s corked, I store it on its side so the beer in the bottle will keep the cork moist. If it’s capped, I store it upright, so beer sloshing against the crown cap won’t loosen it or somehow allow oxygen to seep in.  (Photo: My beer fridge.

This is an open forum. Comments anyone?

Posted on Thursday, August 28th, 2008
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