Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Oddbits: Tasting Coastal Fog Holiday Ale, Holiday Beer tastings ahead at The Trappist, Pacific Coast, New Belgium’s green status report

By William Brand
Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 3:55 pm in Uncategorized.

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 :  or

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.

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  • Chaz

    I was in Dublin in March and took the popular Guinness tour. I couldn’t wait until it was over so I could go to the taproom to try the Foreign Extra Stout. It makes regular Guinness seem like water in comparison, such a tasty and intensely flavored brew. You would think with the amount of people looking for more and more flavorful beer it’d find a good market in the USA and actually might help boost their regular Guinness sales.

  • William Brand

    Back in March I interviewed Fergal Murray, who is Guinness Brewmaster — he was on a U.S. tour. Here’s what he told me about Foreign Extra Stout:

    About Foreign Extra Stout. This extremely dry, tasty, 8 percent bottled beer is an entirely different product than Draft Guinness. Murray said Foreign Extra Stout is the fastest growing Guinness brand. It’s sold in all of Africa, the West Indies, the Caribbean and Asia. He said he has no idea why it’s not sold in the U.S. “It;s very big in Africa and as a global brand.”

    That was his answer: He has no idea why they don’t sell it in the U.S.

  • Mario (Brewed For Thought)

    William, same glasses without the brand name are at Cost Plus, $4 each.

  • William Brand

    I’ll have to check that one out Mario.

  • discdude


    Speaking of labels, what about brewery names? Are there rules/regulations on that? There is Firehouse Brewery in Sunnyvale, Firehouse Brewing Company in San Diego, and Firehouse Brewing Company in South Dakota.

    I seem to recall that when Dreyer’s went east, they had to change the name to Edy’s because they were encroaching on Breyer’s territory. These brewery names seem even more confusing.

  • William Brand

    Well, discdue, it appears that each name is slightly different and except for us beer geeks that brands never conflict. I used the wrong link a couple of weeks ago and got quickly corrected. But you know, it’s a good question.

    By the way, my plan is to to take a Caltrain beer crawl next week. I know I can reach Burlingame Station and Firehouse. Wonder if there are any other brewpubs or good pubs close to a Caltrain stop.

  • Robert Stewart

    “Special Extra sounds exactly like Foreign Extra.”

    The label actually says Special Export, not Special Extra. Regardless, Wikipedia suggests you are on the right track:

    “Foreign Extra Stout and Special Export Stout, with abv over 7%, are perhaps closest to the original in character”


    “Guinness Special Export Stout, sold in Belgium and The Netherlands—8% abv;”

  • The Duke Of Dunkel

    William–I believe the Beer By Bart website includes beers by Caltrain. But you’ve got Tied House near the Mt View (Castro) stop; Rose & Crown near the downtown Palo Alto stop (also Gordon-Biersch). Prince of Wales in San Mateo used to be a good spot when Jack Curry owned it..I was there a few months ago and it seems to me they still had some good choices. And City Pub near the Redwood City station has some OK stuff on tap (nothing that’ll blow your mind but you can Grab a Lagunitas, for instance).

  • William Brand

    Thanks Duke. My gawd. You could do an all-day pub crawl couldn’t you and do it on one ticket. You can buy a ticket at San Bruno for San Jose, then get off and on as you please on the same ticket. Not a bad idea. Thanks for the info.

  • Steve D

    Hey Bill-

    If you do the Train pub crawl next week, please give me a heads up so I can be sure to be at the brewery.