Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for November, 2008

A cheese and Belgian beer tasting at EJ Phair Alehouse, Concord, CA

The crowd at EJ Phair’s Ale House Belgian beer, cheese tasting.

I don’t think I’d been in a bar on Thanksgiving  eve  since my single days. But the promise  of a Belgian beer and cheese tasting at EJ Phair Alehouse brought me out.

Wow! This very sweet pub on Todos Santos Square in downtown Concord was jumping.  Since J.J. Phair opened the pub in 2005,  replacing  an endless line of cookie cutter chain eateries, it’s become the place in this part of Contra Costa County to find good beer. The  Diablo Order of Zymiracle Enthusiasts, a big Coco homebrew club meets here and I often find club members almost any time I drop by.

Wednesday night, I found Mike McDole, with his adult sons, sampling the beer. Mike won the Sam Adams Longshot Contest last year and his double IPA, a takeoff on Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, will be distributed nationwide this winter, Read about it here.

EJ Phair, the craft brewery, is located in a warehouse at 975  Detroit Ave. about a mile away, so the beer at the pub’s always well-stocked with fresh beer. They also have a long list of guest beers on tap and have just added Belgians, as well.

The “beer du jour” this month is Barrel-Aged Shorty’s Revenge, a 7.75 percent English-style amber ale.  J.J. said the regular Shorty’s  was aged four months in a Heaven Hill bourbon barrel. When they tasted it, they realized there was too much wood, too much bourbon in the beer. So they began tasting it with different amounts of regular Shorty’s added.

They wound up with a 50/50 blend and that’s what’s being served at the pub this month.  It has a mild bourbon nose. The tasted is dry with just a faint bit of sweetness with vanilla and bourbon in the finish. It’s an excellent wood-aged beer and worth a trip to Concord to try it.

At the pub, they’ve created a small, semi-private dining room behind the back bar, where they hold beer dinners and Wednesday night, the cheese and beer pairing.  The price was $20 and the little dining room was full. EJ Phair chef Brian Hampton chose the cheese, J.J. picked the beer.

Cheese left-right from top: Piave Vecchio, Italy; Morbier, France; Chimay, Belgium; Wensleydale, England. Beer, left - right: Grimbergen Blonde, Afligem Dubbel, Chimay Grand Reserve, Duchesse de Bourgogne.

Cheese left-right: Piave Vecchio, Italy; Morbier, France; Chimay, Belgium; Wensleydale, England. Beer, left - right: Grimbergen Blonde, Afligem Dubbel, Chimay Grand Reserve, Duchesse de Bourgogne.

The first pairing was Grimbergen Blonde** from Brasserie d’l'Union and Piave Vecchio, an Italian cow”s milk cheese with with mild, herbal sweetness. The beer, a so-so blonde disappeared in this excellent cheese.

Next was Affligem Dubbel*** from Affligem and Morbier, a semi-soft, French cow’s milk cheese.  This was an excellent pairing. The beer tasted sweet; the cheese was soft and tart. The tartness of the cheese and the sweetness of the dark dubbel made it a taste delight,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morbier_(cheese)

The third pairing, Chimay Blue*** from the Trappist brewery and Chimay Grand Cru cheese, also from the monastery. It’s a perfect pairing. The beer is malty with a sharp finish and the cheese, a soft, yellow cheese, simply melts in the mouth.  I would love to try Chimay cheese with the  brewery’s new keg-conditioned Cinq Cents. The cheese, by the way, can be found at any good cheese store in the Bay Area. Check out my list here.

The final pairing matched the stunning Duchesse de Bourgogne**** from Brouwerij Verhaeghe and a tangy cheddar cheese from Wensleydale, in Hawes, Yorkshire, England.

It was an interesting pairing. Tasted one after the other, the cheese seemed almost tart and the usually way-sour Duchesse tasted mellow, with only a slight sourness. I’ll try this one again.

Posted on Sunday, November 30th, 2008
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UPDATE: Trappist, Oakland Christmas beer tasting – No reservations, pay at the door

Here are the details from the first holiday beer tasting at The Trappist, 460 8th St., in downtown Oakland. The sessions will be from 6 p.m. – 12 a.m., both Friday and Saturday, Dec. 5 and Dec. 6.

  • The Trappist 2008 Kerstbier fest:,  $25, five 4 oz. tastes with Commemorative glass (while they last) additional tastes may be purchased for $4 each. $20 when we run out of commemorative glasses. (Note from me, William Brand; They ran out of Chimay glasses at that tasting last week in two hours.

Here’s the beer list:

  • Main Bar,  Draft:, St Bernardus Christmas Ale; Gulden Carolus Noel, St. Feuillien Cuvee de Noel, , Nice Chouffe, De Glazen Toren Winter Scotch Ale, Val Dieu Grand Cru, ** Gift of the magi*** don’t know if this will show up
  • Bottles: Fantome d’hiver,  Mikkeller Santa’s Little Helper, Kerstmutske Christmas Nightcap, Bink Winter King
  • Santa’s Little hell hole (back room, yes way in the back) Draft: Brouwerij De Smedt Affligem Noel, Brouwerij Huyghe Delirium Noel, De Struise Brouwers Tsjeeses
  • Bottles: Fantome Noel, Smisje Kerst, St. Feuillien Cuvee de Noel 2007

Recommendations: My all-time fave this year is anything from De Glazen Toren. Val Dieu and Gulden Carolus Noel should be spectacular. Fantome is always wildly interesting. Haven’t tasted Kerstmutske, which is brewed by De Proef, but it was chosen the number two imported beer in a blind tasting of 60 Christmas beers last week in Baltimore.  Rob Casper of the Baltimore Sun says: “This is a dark, rich brew with licorice flavor. It is a good brew to sip by the fire.”

Moving on…De Struisse Bouwers were proclaimed the best brewers in the world by Ratebeer (which incidentally is back on line after being badly hacked.) It’s true that Affligem is owned by giant Heineken, but Affligem Noel is consistently excellent.

As you’ll see in the comment below, there are no reservations. Just pay at the door.


Posted on Friday, November 28th, 2008
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Thanksgiving leftovers with Skalli Pinot Noir

robert skalli pinot noir 2006

It wouldn’t be the Friday after Thanksgiving if I wasn’t sitting at my computer inhaling microwaved leftover turkey with all the trimmings.

And I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t washing it down with a leftover wine.

On Wednesday night, Joel and I opened a bottle of Robert Skalli 2006 Pinot Noir to enjoy with some goat cheese stuffed portobello mushrooms. I re-corked the bottle and we spent all day Thursday out noshing at friends’ houses and sneaking home their leftovers.

So today, naturally, I opened the two-day old wine to test its anti oxidation powers. Not bad. It’s an intense, full-bodied extracted Pinot to begin with — dark red with a blue tint and blueberry and black cherry flavors. Not much earth. Its acidity stood up nicely to the meyer-lemon cranberry sauce topping my turkey slices and the heavy fruit worked with the prune-and-raisin tinged yams. Thanks for those again, Yudi.  

Skalli’s estate vineyard is on Corsica, an island in the South of France (yes, Napoleon’s birth place). The climate is much like California’s (Mediterranean) so the grapes benefit from a long growing season and the terraced vineyard is nestled on a sloping hill. If you don’t believe Pinot Noir from France can be big in style, check this wine out.

Posted on Friday, November 28th, 2008
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What beer did you did drink on Thanksgiving? I went Belgian, sort of

So what did you drink with your Thanksgiving turkey?

My plan was to pull out a bottle of 2006 Barleywine from Schooner’s in Antioch, CA.  But while plowing through my beer fridge, I found a bottle of  Stone Cali-Belgique and a bottle of Ename Tripel Belgian Ale, so I  abandoned my vision of rich and sweet and grabbed them.

The Stone Cali-Belgigique IPA paired nicely with our brined turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, brown ale-laced stuffing and a sweet-sour cranberry dish my wife’s family has been making for a couple of generations.

It’s 6.9 percent, 77 IBUs; the malt grist and hopping is fairly identical to Stone’s IPA.  Hops, according to Stone, are Magnum and Centennials and it was dry-hopped with piney, citrusy Chinooks.

But it was fermented with a Belgian yeast strain, so the beer is utterly different. It’s a pale golden color and drinking it along with the turkey and cranberries, it seemed to have a tiny bit of sweetness and a quite tart finish. A lovely beer indeed and it worked well for Thanksgiving.

Our daughter’s friend, Dave, was unimpressed, so I cracked open the Ename Tripel, a strong, 8.5 percent abbey ale from the Roman brewery in Mater, East Flanders, Belgium. It’s a family-owned brewery that traces ownership back 14 generations to 1545.

The beer’s an unfiltered, pale golden color with a spicy nose. Taste, following the Cali-Beligique,  was somewhat sweet, a typically  very drinkable abbey ale. It paired just

Roman Ename Tripel looks enticing in this shot taken by a blogger at http://flandersandback.blogspot.com

Roman Ename Tripel looks enticing in this shot taken by a blogger at http://flandersandback.blogspot.com

about perfectly with Thanksgiving.

I know; I know. I should have gone all-American with the beer.  I had good intentions

including the barleywine and Palo Santo Marron from Dogfish Head… But those Belgian and Belgianesque beers are so enticing…

So what did anyone else drink with Thanksgiving? Comments welcome. Let’s talk.

Posted on Friday, November 28th, 2008
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Oddbits: Turducken tonight at Magnolia in San Francisco, Lots of Noche Buena in Tijuana

Oddbits: Yes…still more food. Had to post this…a Twitter note from Magnolia Pub, 1398 Haight St. in San Francisco…They’re serving Turducken tonight. The deal is a three course dinner, each course paired with a beer. Butternut Squash Soup, Turducken with giblet gravy and Brioche stuffing and the third course, Pomegranate Sorbet. Called Magnolia, they’re not sure about their pairings, but for sure their Winter Warmer’s on the menu. Cost is $33. No reservations required. Info: 415-864-7468.

WHAT? You ask is Turducken. it’s a chicken, stuffed inside a duck, stuffed inside a turkey. Here’s Wickipedia’s explanation:

  • A Turducken is a dish consisting of a partially de-boned turkey stuffed with a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed with a small de-boned chicken. The thoracic cavity of the chicken and the rest of the gaps are filled with, at the very least, a highly seasoned breadcrumb mixture or sausage meat, although some versions have a different stuffing for each bird.

Better, here’s a video from a true turducken champion: John Madden, the sportscaster.

Onward, but only briefly… a poster to this blog says Noche Buena, the primo, dark Christmas beer from Mexico is widely available in Tijuana. Sounds tempting, but the recent drug stuff there scares the hell out of me and when we lived in Mex

Noche Buena, a great Mexican beer.

ico, I used to come up to TJ a lot…

Noche Buena, a great Mexican beer.

Noche Buena can be found anywhere in TJ ($130 pesos a 12 pack) at OXXO, Kalimax, Costco, Soriana, etc.

(Pesos today are trading at about 8 cents U.S. each.)

The comment brought back visions of Mexico to me…
When I lived in Mexico it was always my favorite beer. Let’s see what were my faves?
1. Noche Buena. 2. Negro Modelo Oscuro. 3. tie between Bohemia and absolutely fresh Superior. We also drank a lot of Pacifico when we lived in Mazatlan, because they delivered it to your door and the deposit on the bottles was more than the cost of the beer.
Of course, if I lived there now, I’d strictly drink beer from the brewpub there and the craft beer that comes in from Mexico DF and Monterey. Happy T-day all.

Posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
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A brown ale stuffing for that Thanksgiving turkey

Beer cookbook author Lucy Saunders at the Great American Beer Festival.

Yes, this is going to be a food day on the blog. Why not? Thanksgiving is dead ahead. Here’s an unusual and delicious stuffing for the turkey. It’s a family recipe from Lucy Saunders, the chef-beer cookbook author, whose latest book is The Best of American Beer & Food: Pairing & Cooking With Craft Beer, Brewers Publications, Boulder, CO, 2007. Another of Lucy’s cookbooks that I use a lot is Grilling With Beer: Bastes, BBQ Sauces, Mops, Marinades & More, Made With Craft Beer, F&B Communications, 2006.

And by brown ale, she doesn’r mean Newcastle Brown. Try something local, wherever you live. Here in the Bay Area there are many. One popular one is Downtown Brown from Lost Coast, Eureka,

Brown Ale and Apple Stuffing

A sweet and savory stuffing with rich flavors of browned butter, brown ale and caramelized apples, best baked in its own casserole dish.

3 tablespoons butter

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

3 tablespoons minced onion

1/2 cup diced celery

1 cup peeled and diced apples

1 teaspoon dried sage

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper

1 cup brown ale

5 to 6 cups dry stuffing crumbs

1/3 cup toasted and chopped walnuts, optional

  • Melt butter in a large stock pot and simmer until lightly browned. Add garlic, onion, celery and apple and stir well to coat. Cover pot and cook over low heat 5 minutes.
  • Uncover pot, stir in sage, salt, pepper and brown ale. Simmer 2 minutes or until ale is steaming hot. Add 5 cups stuffing mix. Stir well, and check consistency. If too moist, add remaining bread crumbs.
  • Scrape stuffing mixture into well-greased casserole dish, and sprinkle with walnuts, if desired. Heat in 350F oven until top is lightly browned. Serve with turkey or ham.

Photo: Beer cookbook author Lucy Saunders at the Great American Beer Festival.

Posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
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Recipes for the holidays: Chocolate Stout Mousse, Pears in Cider

THE holidays are descending on us with warp speed. The economy sucks, my 401k is becoming a 201k or worse. I’m afraid to look.  So, as we gear up for the season, I thought I’d add a little cheer into the mix.

Here are two of my favorite holiday dessert recipes using my two favorite alcoholic beverages: beer and cider.

The desserts — pears poached in apple cider and chocolate stout mousse — can be made in minutes. And the poached pears are stunning.

It’s important to use a proper fermented cider – the kind with alcohol – to poach the pears. That means don’t use apple juice even if the label says “cider.” Apple juice is too sweet.

My current favorites are Two Rivers Cider,  and Ace Pear Cider, both made here in Northern California, and Aspall Dry English Draft Cider, a delicious import. Both are available in stores with good stocks of beer. But any fairly dry apple cider will do.

Don’t worry about the alcohol; it boils away, leaving the taste of a fine cider infused into the flesh of the pears. Take a bite of the succulent, moist poached pear. Follow it with a spoonful of rich, vanilla ice cream. Heaven.

Chocolate stout mousse sounds awful, but, in fact, dark chocolate and a powerful stout marry perfectly. The recipe — which I found long ago on a beer chat group on CompuServe (yes, that long ago) — originally specified Guinness Stout. It’s an excellent choice, but in recent years we’ve made it either with Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout from Anderson Valley Brewing or Old Rasputin Imperial Stout from North Coast Brewing. Any decent stout will do. But don’t overdo it. (And many thanks to Jenny Slafkosky for figuring out the calories and fat content.)

POACHED PEARS IN APPLE CIDER

4 D’Anjou or other firm winter pears

3 cinnamon sticks

1/2 cup dried, sweetened cranberries

Approximately 3 cups of cider

  • Peel pears. Slice off a thin layer from the bottom of each pear so the pears will stand upright. Place pears in a saucepan large enough to keep upright pears from crowding.
  • Add cider until pears are about one-third to one-half covered. Add cinnamon sticks and dried cranberries.
  • Cover pot and bring cider to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until pears are easily pierced with a fork.
  • Serve pears upright with French vanilla ice cream. Serves 4.

Per Serving: 213 Calories; 1g Fat; 1g Protein; 55g Carbohydrate; 10g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 8mg Sodium.

CHOCOLATE STOUT MOUSSE

3/4 pound high-quality dark chocolate, chopped

11/2 ounces unflavored gelatin

2 ounces stout

1 pint heavy cream

3 large eggs

13/4 ounces (dry measure) sugar

1 ounce hot coffee (we’ve been using Peet’s Espresso Roast)

  • Melt chocolate in double boiler set over simmering water, stirring occasionally.
  • Bloom gelatin by stirring it into the stout. Set aside.
  • In a mixer, whip heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. Scrape into a bowl and place in refrigerator.
  • Using the mixer, whip eggs until frothy, add sugar and beat until sugar is dissolved.
  • Dissolve the gelatin and stout mixture in the coffee.
  • Add chocolate and gelatin-stout mixture to the eggs, mixing until well-blended. Fold in whipped cream and let it set for two to four hours in refrigerator.
  • Serve topped with chocolate shavings and a glass of North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout or other favorite stout. Serves 4-6.

Per Serving: 639 Calories; 49g Fat; 8g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 202mg Cholesterol; 82mg Sodium.

Posted on Wednesday, November 26th, 2008
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Oddbits: Anheuser-Busch InBev stock tanks, beer, cheese on NPR, Brew-It-Up’s holiday deal, checkpoints? Right or Wrong?

Pssst. Wanna’ buy some InBev stock cheap? According to today’s New York Times, InBev’s having a fire sale. To help pay for their $52 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch, the new company Anheuser-Busch InBev, is selling $8 billion in stock, offering it to present share holders, the NYT says, at “a stunning 69 percent discount…”.   That, the Time says, is in addition to the 60 percent that InBev share value has fallen since August.

On to happier things…
There’s an interesting interview on Wisconsin National Public Radio today on pairing beer and cheese that includes Lucy Saunders, author of The Best of American Beer and Food.  This note comes from Lucy:

  • It’s been a good week for beer and cheese on the air. Jim Packard of Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison hosted a live, on-air beer and cheese tasting today, with Sara Hill of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and Randy Sprecher in the studio — I phoned in from Milwaukee.  You can listen to the segment here by clicking on the date of the show, 11/25/08. You can find the recipe Lucy mentions – Wisconsin Farmstead Gruyere Fritters – by following this link.

Scouting for Christmas or holiday gifts… Brew It Up!, which I believe is the last surviving brew-your-own store in Northern California has quite the deal; For $49, two people can join a group brewing session at Brew-It-Up. During the session, several styles of beer are brewed and the two of you wind up with a mixed case of homebrew and you’ve learned how to do it.  Brew It Up is located neaer the capitol at 801 14th St.. Call 916-441-3000 or email info@brewitup.com. The place includes a very nice restaurant and, because they brew their own, a prodigious supply of beer on tap. Email info@brewitup.com or call 916-441-3000

Just got this from the American Beverage Institute, which is a national association of restaurants. Don’t know if I agree.  In my many years as a reporter I’ve seen far too many alcohol related accidents. But…

American Beverage Institute Says Police Should Focus on Roving Patrols This Thanksgiving; Checkpoints Ineffective and Target the Wrong People

WASHINGTON – Today the American Beverage Institute (ABI) urged law enforcement agencies in California to forego sobriety checkpoints this holiday season. Roadblocks have been proven ineffective and will fail to target the real drunk driving problem in California.

The ABI advocated in favor of roving patrols which are more effective than checkpoints.

“By holding sobriety checkpoints, California safety officials are ignoring the root cause of today’s drunk driving problem—hard core alcohol abusers,” said ABI Managing Director Sarah Longwell.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that the average BAC of a drunk driver in a fatal car crash is 0.18% — more than twice the legal limit. Additionally, a NHTSA administrator has said that today’s problem is “by far and away” made up of “those who have alcohol use disorders.” Former Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) president Katherine Prescott has made similar statements, saying that the drunk driving problem has been reduced to “a hard core of alcoholics who do not respond to public appeal.”

Yet sobriety checkpoints fail to target this dangerous population and instead will inconvenience all driving adults.

In addition to being ineffective, sobriety checkpoints target moderate, responsible drinkers and are ineffective (often catching 0 drunk drivers, while costing taxpayers over $10,000). Instead of roadblocks, California should employ roving patrols, in which police roam the streets and highways looking for erratic drivers.

These roving patrols – also known as saturation patrols – are up to 10 times more successful than checkpoints. Moreover, roving patrols can catch speeders, distracted and aggressive drivers, in addition to drunks.

“Because they are highly visible by design and publicized in advance, roadblocks are all too easily avoided by the chronic alcohol abusers who comprise the core of today’s drunk driving problem,” Longwell continued. “That leaves adults who enjoyed a beer while watching a bowl game or a glass of wine with Thanksgiving dinner to be harassed at checkpoints.”

Comments anyone?

Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
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Economy makes wine consumers seek value

So how is this disastrous economy impacting wine? Well, according to recent numbers, we’re still buying the stuff, but not surprisingly, we want less cru-class Bordeauxs and more offbeat value-priced varietals.

Specifically, according to Tim Fish’s piece in this month’s Wine Spectator, sales of cremant Champagne are up 70 percent and Costco is experiencing double digit increases in the $8.99 to $13.99 range and a moderate increase in the $15 to $20 range (my favorite price point). I imagine whites from South America (like Torrontes) and Spain (Albarino) are flying off shelves, too.

Posted on Tuesday, November 25th, 2008
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Oddbits: Tasting Coastal Fog Holiday Ale, Holiday Beer tastings ahead at The Trappist, Pacific Coast, New Belgium’s green status report

The beer report: Just tasted Coastal Fog Holiday Ale. This is a one-off for the Beverages and More chain, brewed at Beermann’s, xx using a formula created by Peter Licht, longtime brewer at Coast Range in Gilroy. If memory serves me, this one’s quite similar to a longtime Scotch Ale from Coast Range (which went bankrupt last year).

I give it THREE STARS – . It’s a medium copper color with a malty, toffee, caramel nose. It’s got decent malt presence, perhaps not as malty as a traditional Scotch ale. It’s dry hopped and has a dry, spicy finish, again a bit of a departure from the style. Very drinkable and at $14.99 for a 12-pack, it’s a bargain.

Add to the Events calendar: Here’s one not to miss, Saturday, Dec.6, 2 p.m. The Trappist, 460 8th St., Oakland, marks the pub’s first anniversary with: (Insert drum roll here) with tastings of beers from all seven Trappist, including Wesvleteren Tripel (I’m guessing – proprietors Chuck and Aaron brought some back from a recent trip to Belgium). Details to follow.  The Trappist also will have two  Christmas beer tastings on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6. $25. Reserve a place by e-mailing the Trappist : brotherchuck@thetrappist.com  or  brotheraaron@thetrappist.com.

Also: Don’t forget Pacific Coast Brewing’s 20th annual Tasting of Holiday Beer, Saturday, Dec. 13, noon-4 p.m. $50. Reservations: 510-936-2739. Pacific Coast’s at 906 Washington St. in downtown Oakland.

Moving on into a brave, new, green world…New Belgium’s “environmental report:. I don’t know why I can’t get buzzed about this, but I’m not. It’s maybe a little too precious for my Berkeley-jaded eyes. But you’ve got to give praise where praise is due and New Belgium Brewing gets a tip of my hat for something totally unusual. New Belgium CEO Kim Jordan and the company “sustainability director” Jenn Orgolini have just released a 20-page “sustainability report”. outlining the ecological impact of New Belgium’s production etc. on the planet.

It is kind of fascinating. For instance, they examined the ecological cost of a sixer of Fat Tire and discovered:

  • Our raw and packaging materials, including their transportation to the brewery, constitute 48% of the six-pack’s overall footprint.
  • The brewer makes up a sliver of the total: 5%. Downstream impacts make up 47% of the total, and retail is 60% of downstream.
  • Ninety-three percent of retail’s contribution to Fat Tire’s footprint is attributed to the energy for in-store refrigeration.

Holy cow. Maybe we should learn to love warm beer? You can read the report here.

Moving onto firmer ground…Steve Donohue, brewer at Firehouse, 111 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale,  just sent me the label for his OTIS Imperial Stout, barrel-aged three months in an oak barrel. The label still needs fed approval. Steve hopes to bottle the beer for sale in early January.  It won honorable mention at the Bistro’s West Coast Barrel Aged Beer Festival.

Thanks to the label, we now know what OTIS stands for: One Tun Imperial Stout.  OK, that’s an acronym I can relate to.

Onward and backwards into the depths of time…If beer history’s your bag, you ought to be reading the Zythophile blog written by English beer historian Martyn Cornel, whose most recent book is The History of a Pint.  Currently, Martyn’s examining the origins of India Pale Ale; he’s combed through all the original sources he can find and among other things he’s discovered that the story that Inida Pale Ale was brewed strong and hoppy to survive the four month voyage to India from the UK is just that – a story.  In fact, Martyn says, UK merchants shipped every kind of beer to the Indian colonies, porter and even “small” (low alcohol) beer.

The term “India Pale Ale” came late in the day, he adds. Mostly beer shipped to India other than porter was described only as “pale ale.”   Fascinating stuff. Read the whole series of posts here.

Ahh Guinness Foreign Extra Stout… 8 percent, tasty with a long dry, roast malt finish. It was the first Guinness I ever drank: It was (and is) sold all over the Caribbean and we drank it from St. Thomas to Kingston when I was in the Navy. I got home and the Guinness here wasn’t the same at all.

For a time back in the 1980s, I could find Foreign Extra Stout, along with plantains and little  “macho” bananas, at a Carribbean-Central American grocery store on Fruitvale in Oakland.  Guess they brought it in with the bananas. But then it vanished. It’s still not sold in the U.S., and as the craft beer revolution grew, I forgot about it.

Then earlier today, someone on a Beer Advocate chat board posted this photo of a bottle of Guinness Special Extra Stout he bought in Belgium  and the memory rushed back.  Special Extra sounds exactly like Foreign Extra.  It is one fine beer. Wonder why Guinness doesn’t sell it in the U.S. Oh well…

Looking for a gift for Christmas or the holidays? Riedel, the German maker of exquisite glassware is offering free shipping. So I checked their Web site, looking for some of those tall, stunning pils glasses I’ve seen in advertisements. The only thing I could find was this: Ouverture Beer-Water-Ice. 4/$48.  Hmmm. Guess I’ll wait.

Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008
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