Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for September, 2008

Oddbits: ‘Punkin’ beer from Dogfish comes to San Francisco, Chocolate stout from Ommegang, Jolly Pumpkin at City Beer…

Oddbits and diverse happenings...I’ve been working my butt off on other projects for the last two days and for the first time in months haven’t posted anything new…well lots of catching up to do….

New spies and posters to this blog tell me that Dogfish Head has a new beer headed to San Francisco,  Marin, Sonoma and parts of the peninsula as far south as San Jose, but sadly not to the East Bay. It’s Punkin Ale and the two people I’ve talked to who have tried it said they love it.  One guy admits  the he, like me, hates pumpkin ales. “I liked it,” he said.

DBI  Brands, the San Francisco distributor, said it’s already at City Beer, 1168 Folsom St. in San Francisco,  and soon will be in four-packs  at the Whole Foods and Beverages & More stores in San Francisco.  A poster to the blog found it at  a Whole Foods in San Jose… Dogfish Head says this about the beer:

A full-bodied brown ale with smooth hints of pumpkin and brown sugar. Perfect to warm-up with, as the season cools. 7% abv, 24 ibu
Tasting Notes: Malty, pumpkin, caramel, brown sugar.
Food Pairing recommendations: Turkey, roasted duck, lamb, stuffing, dessert dumplings.

While we’re mentioning City Beer…This comes from proprietors Craig and Beth Wathen:

Riddle me this…what does a bottleshop do when they desire a beer previously unavailable in keg format outside of a festival? In our case, we buy a keg shell, employ one family member with a penchant for adventure, and start a traveling keg program.  Our story begins…….
I began my life like so many other keg shells, in a warehouse destined for a brewery somewhere in the vast United States.  One day, a small bottleshop in San Francisco picked me out of the masses, tattooed their name on my shell, and sent me on a journey.  I arrived shiny and new in Valparaiso, Indiana where I rode in a car bound for the Jolly Pumpkin Brewery in Michigan.  My driver, a woman with a love for the open road, delivered me straight away to the good folk of Jolly Pumpkin.
Filled with fine craft beer I traveled to my importer.  My horizon expanded as I was then shipped off to my distributor in Northern California, finally arriving “home” at City Beer Store.  I’m tapped and ready to taste.  I would simply love if you would stop in to say “hello”.
The best part of my new life is I will now be a part of a City Beer Store program, “The Roaming Keg”. I’ll roam around from town to town filled along the way with speciality beer previously unavailable.  Available now to you, because I was adopted by a good beer loving family.
The first Jolly on tap is the Calabaza Blanca.

My  comment…if you’ve never tried Jolly Pumpkin beers, you’re in for a treat.

Also coming our way soon…from Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, NY: 2008 Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence stout.  First person to see it in Northern California give me a shout or post something here… This was a wonderful beer and lasted about two hours around Thanksgiving in the Bay Area last year.

Found this accolade to Amarillo and Casacade hops from “Hokie Brewer”  on

As you land on my tongue with your friend Amarillo helping out, it’s a cascade of flavor. You are so friggin tasty. I mean, they should have named you deluge, because you’re just BURSTING with delicious citrusy yet mellow and awesome. mmmmmmm… I love you cascade. I’m so glad you’re in my pale ale

Events: Sunday, Sept. 21, 4 – 6 p.m., The Jug Shop, a fine wine store in San Francisco at 1590 Pacifica Ave. is hosting a tasting of the complete line up of Unibroue beers. Cost is $10 per person. There will be a brewery rep on hand to explain the complexity of these Chamby, Quebec craft beers, which will include Blanche de Chamblywhite ale, Chambly Noire black ale, Maudite amber-red ale, Don de Dieu triple wheat ale,  La Fin Du Monde strong triple-ale, Trois Pistoles dark ale, Ephemere- white ale brewed with apple must, Terrible, a strong dark brown ale, and their vintage 17th Anniversary.

Traveling on… I’d love to be on the Maryland shore on Saturday, the Zymurnauts, a homebrew club and  the Chesapeake Bay Branch of the Society for the Preservation of Beer from the Wood are holding their 2008 Crab Feast from noon – 6 p.m. at Goddard Space Flight Center. For $35 you can eat all the steamed  (Chesapeake Bay soft shell crabs) and cask ale you can consume. Tickets much be purchased online by 6 p.m. EDT (3 p.m. PDT) today at  What? You’re in Maryland right now, holy cow. Get those tickets dawg.  There are few things I relish about my four long years in Uncle Sam’s Navy, but eating clams and oysters from Chesapeake Bay was one of the highlights and with a cask conditioned ale to wash ’em down. Whew.

Live outside California and want to sample Russian River’s barrel-aged beers. You can order them now through Matt Maples at Liquid Solutions in Tigard, OR. Not cheap, but good things rarely are.  If you live in California, Russian River has a mail order service.

Posted on Thursday, September 18th, 2008
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Read Kevin Hogan’s blog

Ever wonder what wine pairs with piquillo peppers? Or what the other name for Aragonez is? (It’s Tempranillo!)

I’ve long looked to Kevin Hogan’s newsletter to answer these and other Iberian wine themed questions. Hogan is the wine buyer for The Spanish Table in Berkeley. One of the area’s foremost experts on all things Iberian, Kevin has put his precious weekly newsletters online and added a Spanish Table blog. So now we can bug him all day long. Even better, you can search for previous newsletters that go back a year.

In each newsletter, he offers a delicious often easy mid week recipe and a list of affordable wines from Spain, Argentina, Chile and  Portugal that are all available at The Spanish Table. He may also introduce you to something fabulous that will change your life, like Vinho Verde or Basque apple cider.

Posted on Thursday, September 18th, 2008
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Single malt tasting with master distiller

Master Distiller Emeritus Evan Cattanach is coming to Jackson’s Wine & Spirits in Lafayette for a tasting of single malt whiskies at 7 p.m. on Oct. 8. If you love whiskey as much as I love wine, this is a not-to-miss event. Jackson’s is pulling no punches on this event, which will feature 25-year Talisker, among other rare whiskies.

A bit about Cattanach: He’s spent more than 40 years managing single malt distilleries, including working in four of Scotland’s six whiskey-producing regions. He’s a world authority on the stuff, and retired in 1993. So now he travels the world spreading the love.

I’m told some amazing single malts will be poured at this event, including Caol IIa Special Edition, Clynelish 14yr, Cragganmore 1992 Distiller’s Edition, John Walker Blue King George Edition and Oban 18 yr. Seating is limited. Cost is $50 and includes food. Call Jackson’s at 925-284-4100 or stop by to get your ticket before they’re gone.

Posted on Wednesday, September 17th, 2008
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Oddbits: Beer Wholesalers feel crunch, huddle at Toronado

Oddbits…Want to scope out the craft beer sales situation? The place to be a fly on the wall is at the Toronado, 547 Haight St. tonight beginning at 6 p.m. The Toronado hosts the National Beer  Wholesalers Association, which is meeting in San Francisco this week.

There’s been a lot of gloom and doom at the convention so far. “It’s a mess out there,” says Jack Joyce, founder of Rogue, the pioneering Newport, OR. craft brewer. “The Anheuser-Busch, Coors/Miller alliances? Let’s just say this has been a well-attended session.” (Photo: Sam Calagione at the Great American Beer Festival last year. Photo by Gregory Daurer/Denver

Wholesalers, (AKA beer distributors) are worried about rising costs and the weak economy affecting “high end” beer sales. But craft brewers don’t necessarily agree.  Best quote so far comes from reporting by  Harry Schuhmacher in the Beer Business Daily,  (link requires a paid subscription to read the story) as reported by Jack Curtin in Liquid Diet, The Blog: Schuhmacher’s quoting Dogfish Head co-founder Sam Calagione:

“We’re not big believers in big ad spending…we let the beer sell itself. That’s why we have 28 styles of beer….. It’s just me and five sales people….For 20 bucks you can walk into any liquor store and buy one or maybe two six packs of the best beer….. High end beer is a more affordable connoisseurship than wine.”

I’ll drink to that Sam.

Mr. Schuhmacher also quotes Crown Imports’ Bill Hackett, who  pointed out that “retailers are focused on more than volume…..why on earth would you put 30 packs in position A. I realize there’s a place for 30-packs in the market, but put it out back behind the dumpster where it’s hard to find….make the consumer work for it.

What he meant, I guess, is push the good (and somewhat expensive beer) and put those stacks of crappy beer in back. Bargain hunters will always find them.

Stumbling ahead...I wasn’t even close when I said yesterday that Evan Rail, author of the Good Beer Guide to Prague, Czech  Republic was from the UK.  Good gawd, he’s one of us “left  coasters:”

Hey William, Many thanks for posting the note about GBGPrague now being available in the States (on I appreciate the mention.

But I should correct my bio: I’m not a Brit by any means — I’m a Californian, originally from Fresno, and I even used to live in SF. (Which is why the mention in your column means so much.) Though I’ve been in Europe for 9 years now, it was the beer culture in California that really set me out on this path: I cut my teeth on Anchor’s Liberty Ale and the annual Christmas Ales, and first learned about quality lagers at the Sudwerk brewpub in Davis.

New beers…Sam Adams is doing its Imperial Pilsner again. This is a big lager, 8 percent plus, stuffed with Hallertau hops…Loved the first one. Last year’s was just OK. Hoping for dynamite this year.

More events….The Toronado’s also hosting Eylysian Brewing tomorrow night, Wednesday, Sept. 17, at 6 p.m.  The Seattle breery’s excellent beers are headed to the Bay
Area next month; this is an advance tasting. See you there and read about them here….

Posted on Tuesday, September 16th, 2008
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Oddbits – Fat Tire in cans here, 21st Amendment IPA, Watermelon Wheat in cans, Rogue Yellow Snow in big cans

Oddbits...New Belgium Fat Tire in cans? Tim White our ace Hayward correspondent reports that he actually saw a can of Fat Tire at the Bistro in downtown Hayward. Prioprietor Vic Kralj told him New Belgium’s distributor said canned Fat Tire would be on sale in the Bay Area in a week or two… New Belgium began canning Fat Tire, their best-seller (and far from my favorite New Belgium beer) this summer…Meanwhile, at 21st Amendment in San Francisco, Shaun O’Sullivan says their canned Brew Free Or Die! IPA is really selling. You can buy this champion beer at Beverages & More stores in the Bay Area…

They’re also selling Hell or High Watermelon Wheat in cans.  But the real kick is to walk into 21st and see the way they serve the beer. It comes in a pilsner glass with a wedge of watermelon, sort of a wry takeoff on Widmer’s Hefeweizen and the lemon wedge.  What’s really funny was a burly guy in black sitting across from me slurping his Watermelon Wheat with the watermelon wedge.  I looked over and then he removed the wedge. What the hell, it’s a very good wheat beer. I’ll drink it with the wedge too.

Back to Hayward for a moment…the launch date for Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale is  Sept. 30, 5:30 p.m. This is the brewpub’s version. The natinally distributed, bottled version’s made under contract by Pyramid. Meanwhile,  Tim White says Buffalo Bill’s has put its Christmas Blueberry Stout on tap. They brewed a batch to enter at the Great American Beer Festival next month, so they’re gonna’ sell the rest at the pub.

And back to the canned beer beat…Rogue is going to ship their Yellow Snow IPA this year in five liter cans.  Here’s Rogue:

Yellow Snow is Rogue’s tribute to winter sports everywhere—downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross country, ice hockey, ice fishing, snowmobiling, and even curling.

And oh yes,  dedicated, I guess to what guys do out there in the snow when nature calls…

Gotta’ love Rogue for their honesty as well as their sense of humor.. They always provide complete specs on their beers. Here’s what they say about Yellow Snow:

Yellow Snow IPA is created from 6 Ingredients: Two-Row Pale, Cara Foam & Melanoiden Malts; Amarillo Hops; Free Range Coastal Waters; Top Fermenting Pacman Yeast. Pale golden in color with a hoppy fruity aroma. Big hop flavor up front complimented by medium body and hoppyness mid-pallet. It finishes with a characteristic, lingering bitterness.
Yellow Snow IPA measures 15º PLATO, 70 IBU, 76 AA, 14º L.

Posted on Monday, September 15th, 2008
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2004 J. Davies Diamond Mountain Cabernet

I cracked open this puppy for my boyfriend’s 35th birthday over the weekend. Fortunately for us but unfortunately for the wine,  we dined at Osha Thai in San Francisco. So the heat and spice of the food, mostly curries, made this soft, well-structured and luxuriously smooth wine taste dank and metallic.

I should’ve known better.

Anyhoo, I saved some to enjoy after dinner and vegan ice cream cake, and boy, was it rockin’. The 2004 vintage is sold out and the current 2005 is going for $75 direct to consumer only. I’m glad I saved a few ounces. I got a lot of dusty mineral flavors, which are all too rare in Napa Cabernets, on the finish. The entry was all zesty red fruits, from cranberry to currant. It was so gorgeous, I’m holding on to my 2005 for at least five years.

Yup, the big 4-0.

In closing, this is my pricey wine recommendation of the week. A birthday or anniversary. Job promotion. Whatever it may be, rock it with this beauty. In the deceptive world of prestige wine pricing, this one’s actually worth it.

Posted on Monday, September 15th, 2008
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Obbbits: Glacier water beer, Westvleteran Tripel in Belgium $10 a bottle


Brewboard member with a chunk of glacier ice.

Brewing beer with water from a glacier? Sounds pretty wild here in dry old California, but homebrewers are doing it. Consider this post on the Brewboard.

I’ve talked about making beer from Glacier Ice before, but this time I am really doing it. This may be my last summer in AK. This thread may take a few weeks to complete, due to the need to gather enough ice. How much is enough? How much is too much? These are the questions I have been thinking about.
Glacier Ice is esentially minerial free rain/snow that may be up to 5,000 years old or so. I know my yeast need trace minerals to be happy, so 100% Glacier Ice beer is not advised. The water I use to brew comes from the same Icefield (Harding) but has passed through rock and picked up some salts along the way. I am thinking 75% Glacier Ice. I will add CaCl or CaS04 to increase calcium of course to get my mash in the right range.

There are lots of posts on the guy’s plans.Check out this link.


I didn’t make it the Beerunch on Saturday in San Francisco Saturday, but beeandnosh did and took some great beery photos…

October 2 – 5 – 9th Annual Oktoberfest by the Bay, Fort Mason, San Francisco.  This won’t be an event to find great new beers.  But the beer served, Spaten Oktoberfest**1/2 is the same beer served at the Spaten tent in Munich. Spaten will also be pouring Spaten Premium Lager** and Spaten Doppelbock***1/2, a very nice, strong German beer. This is the largest Oktoberfest in California, the publicist says. There’ll be German food, music and some peculiarly California things like the “chicken dance.
Tickets $25 – $35, $5 for ages 13-17, and children 12 & under free.  For More info: or  888-746-7522.

The high cost of beer… Do you know the story of Wesvleteren Tripel? A couple of years ago named it “the best beer in the world.: The media, me included (sadly), rushed in.  The monks at Sint Sixtus, the Trappist Abbey where  Westvleteran is brewed declined to up production, So the beer became very scarce. People who didn’t know the world’s greatest beer from Bud Light are competing with people who love the beer.

Currently, it can only be purchased at the abbey and only occasionally. Well Stan Hieronymus, who writes the Brew Like A Monk blog and the book by the same name, is in Belgium and finally found the beer for sale in one store. Price: 6.95 Euros for one  11.2 oz. bottle. How much? $9.78, if you could somehow get the bank exchange rate. Figure $10 a bottle.

Hint: You don’t have to wait outside the abbey in Belgium to taste the beer; something similar is waiting for you at your local good beer store: St. Bernardus Abt 12.  For years, the  St. Bernardus brewery made the beer for the  Westvleteren abbey. Abt 12 is very similar to “the best beer in the world.” Fortunately, it has escaped the notice of

And furthermore…There’s good news this week for Czech beer lovers in the U.S. who may be headed eventually to the Czech Republic: Good Beer Guide Prague and the Czech Republic is finally available from in the U.S. It’s written by Evan Rail, a Brit, who lives in Prague and writes the Prague Monitor blog.


Will, You mention hops a lot in your column. I am looking at growing some hops for home use and was wondering if you can suggest a few hop varieties that you think might make a great beer.  Thanks, Michael.

Hi Michael. Great minds think alike. I’ve been considering doing the same thing. I’m no expert either, but the Bay Area was a big hop-growing area a century ago, especially out in Pleasanton and up in Sonoma County.  I’m not sure about San Francisco or Berkeley-Oakland.  As I understand it, almost any kind of hops will do well and homebrewers are growing them all across the country.

Your best bet might be to call a local homebrew shop or check out one of  the many homebrew clubs. Two I’m familiar with are DOZE in Concord  (CA.) and the Draught Board in Oakland/San Leandro.

DOZE:  Diablo Order of Zymiracle Enthusiasts (DOZE)
995 Detroit Ave Unit D
Concord, CA  94518
Phone: 925 671-4958

Draught Board:

Draught Board Homebrew Club
c/o Lisa Gros Pres.
Oakland, CA  94602-3538

Slogging onward… St. Pauli Girl is an OK, but far from great German lager, but there are a couple of bright spots. 1. St. Pauli Girl NA, which is an excellent non-alcoholic beer, and the St. Pauli Girl, herself, always an er-buxom lass. Now you can help decide next year’s St. Pauli Girl. Online voting starts Sept. 15 and ends Nov. 10 with the winner announced in January.  Those are the four finalists above. Three are from California, one from Solvakia. Vote here:

Posted on Monday, September 15th, 2008
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Beer of the Week: Elysian Dragonstooth Stout

Note: This column appeared in the Contra Costa Times/OaklandTribune on Sept. 3, 2008.

What’s on Tap:  Beer of the Week

Dragonstooth Stout – A blast of licorice

By William Brand
Oakland Tribune
AN UNUSUAL cooperative agreement between one of America’s smallest but most highly regarded breweries and America’s third-largest craft brewery is going to widen the Bay Area’s already generous stock of great beer.

The deal is between relatively tiny Elysian Brewing of Seattle and New Belgium, Fort Collins, Colo.
New Belgium will begin brewing its most excellent special beers, such as Eric’s Sour Peach Ale**** in Seattle for distribution in the Pacific Northwest. READ THE REST OF THE POST…

Posted on Monday, September 15th, 2008
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Oh my how did I mss this one?  Fortunately, Northwest Brewing News did not.  It’s today:

Today, Sept. 13, 2008 Beer in the Plaza, 3-7 pm. Downtown Healdsburg, CA. Soroptomist International Fund Raiser. 30+ breweries, food, music and silent auction. Admission is $20 which includes a souvenir glass and 3 tasting tickets. Additional tastes are one dollar and can be bought at the event.

Posted on Saturday, September 13th, 2008
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Oddbits: New brewpub in Sonoma, Events, beerunch, Brews on the Bay, Toronado Lagunitas, Elysian nights and more

Oddbits...The Bay Area has a new brewpub. It’s Sonoma Springs Brewing Company.  It’s slated to  open it’s doors at 750 West Napa Street, Sonoma (707-202-8295) in mid-September. The co-founder and brewer is Tim Goeppinger. They plan to supply area pubs and bottle in a limited fashion.

Tim’s big interest is German-style lagers and ales. I tried his Dunkelweiss a couple of months ago and loved it. He really caught the style. Here’s a note from Tim:

We will begin by showing the public why we are the New Bavaria Brewery with a lineup of 4-5 Bavarian style wheat ales:
New Bavaria Hefewiess, Dunkelwiess,and Roggenbier.  Also soon to follow will be the “Henry the Lion” Wheat Wine and its second runnings to be dubbed “Lorelei” Helle Weiss.

Onward...think South  Shore Tahoe’s a beer dessert? Brian Bothen who writes the bothenbeerblog says check out  Bar 24 inside Bill’s Casino, (It’s next door to Harrah’s and part of the Harrah group – Bill  is Bill Harrah). There are 24 beers on tap, Brian says including many Stone, Deschutes and Alaskan beers.


  • Beerunch…MateVeza & The Flavor Architects,  Saturday Sept. 13, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 pm., Beerunch, Bambuddha Lounge, 601 Eddy St., San Francisco: Beers:  Mateveza Yerba Mate Ale, Kona Coffee Porter,  Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout,  Marin Bluebeery Ale,  He’brew Lenny’s Bittersweet Rye IPA, North Coast Pranqster Belgian Golden Ale,  Anderson Valley Brother David’s Double… all expertly paired with traditional brunch dishes. $35. Benefit for the Pachamama Alliance, a group trying to save tropical rainforests. Tickets:
  • 5th annual Brews on the Bay, Saturday,  Sept. 13, Sunday, Sept. 14, noon- 4:30 p.m. Aboard the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, Pier 45, San Francisco. Sponsored by the San Francisco Brewer’s Guild. $40 advance, $50 at the gate. This is a great fest, featuring the best beers from all of San Francisco’s many craft brewers. If you’ve never walked the decks of this restored World War II Liberty Ship and hoisted a glass or two, here’s your chance. See you there.

Two events at the Toronado next week welcoming the National Beer Wholesalers Association to San Francisco for their 71st annual convention

  • Lagunitas Brewing Night Tuesday, September 16, 2008, 6 p.m. til closing. Lagunitas IPA, Pilsner, and Hop Stoopid, plus a new recipe Pale Ale and a cask conditioned Red Ale  and 2006 Knarlywine, 2006 Undercover Shutdown, 2007 Cappuccino Stout. Wait there’s more: a Saison aged in Pinot barrels.
  • Elysian Brewing Night, Wednesday, September 17, 2008, 6 p.m. til closing.The Wise ESBm The Immortal IPA, Bete, Blanche Tripel, Dragontooth Stout, Loser Pale Ale, Night Owl Pumpkin Ale, Avatar Jasmine IPA,  All these Elysian beers are coming to California next month. This is an advance taste. The head brewer, co-founder of Seattle-based Elysian, Dick Cantwell, is one of craft brewing’s legends. Many of his beers have won medals consistently at the GABF. Finally, getting his beers in the Bay Area is great.  I wrote a column last week about Elysian and tasted their beers. Will post the column later this weekend.

Last note: Does anyone know where Shail can find a bottle of Sam Adams Utopias? E-mail me and I’ll pass it on:

Hey William, Although this may be a futile attempt, i was hoping you could help me. I’m helping organize a friend’s bachelor party in Vegas. The friend and I are both total beer geeks and we are also well aware that Vegas is devoid of decent craft brews (with a few minor exceptions). I suggested to the others also on the trip that we purchase a bottle of 2007 Utopias as a surprise. The problem is, I can’t find it anywhere. I spoke to Craig at CBS and Ed at Ledger’s, and both were sold out and could not think of any place to purchase the bottle (except for eBay, etc). I would like to avoid paying a ridiculous markup for the beer. Do you know of any places in the Bay Area that currently sells Utopias? Any direction would be greatly appreciated.

But wait, there’s more…

  • Factoid 1. Bud Light is no longer the best-selling beer in the world. Snow, a light lager sold mostly in China, made by a brewery partly owned by Molson/Coors has edged out ole Bud Little, the Wall Street Journal says.

They’re at 545 Mission Street in San Francisco. Here’s their beer list. OK, but far, far from impressive. I could name 20 better spots, easily. Don’t believe me? Email me and ask for our Best Pubs in the Bay Area list.

Posted on Friday, September 12th, 2008
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