Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for November, 2008

Find your Thanksgiving wine at Pleasant Hill Wine Merchants

Wines with Turkey

My story on Thanksgiving wines comes out on Nov. 26 in Food & Wine. If you haven’t yet purchased your wine for the big meal and are looking to taste before you buy, stop by Pleasant Hill Wine Merchants from 5 to 8 p.m. The $7 tasting fee will be waived if you buy a bottle of the recommended wines.

Victoria and the gang will be tasting a variety of white wines, Pinot Noir (Zepaltas, Patz& Hall, Miner Family) and Port. Plus they have their usual deep discounts on two great turkey wines from Sonoma County’s Alcina Cellars. At only $20 (almost 50 percent off the winery price) a bottle, here’s a taste from the wine merchant:

Alcina Cellars 2006 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

“Grown on the southernmost edge of Russian River Valley AVA, the fruit displays its RRV family tree, although on the dark red berry side, darker than their Sonoma Coast bottlings. Nose of dark cherry, strawberry, sassafras and black tea shows its RRV parentage. Palate follows with red cherry, cola and black tea. The wine displays very good balance with nice acidity and plush tannins. 729 cases produced. (last year the 2005 vintage got 90 pts Wine Spectator!)

Alcina Cellars 2006 Syrah, Bennett Valley, Connell Vineyard

Grown on Southwest edge of Bennett Valley AVA border, the vineyard is in the path of the Petaluma Gap winds and thus cooler and later ripening than most local vineyards. Syrah Noir and 877 clones. The wine shows its cold climate pedigree with restrained aromatics of garrigue and dark fruits that gain and expand with air contact. The palate shows a lot of complexity and plenty of dark fruits that are balanced by silky mid palate and long finish

Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008
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Events: Crab and beer at Hopmonk, beer, chocolate at EJ Phair

EVENTS: Oh my, would I ever like to go to this one: It’s tomorrow night: Tuesday, Nov. 25, 6:30 p.m. Hopmonk Tavern, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. Here’s the word from Dean Biersch, who created this very splendid pub:

  • Join us this Tuesday, November 25th, for a fresh, seasonal take on a Northern California Classic Combo – fresh Dungeness Crab and fresh craft beer. We’ll pair five select beers – starting with the classic Anchor Liberty – with fresh crab – corn on the cob and steamed artichokes.  Following the feed we’ll hear from Brian Yeager – – his brand new book Red, White and Brew tells the story of American beer Dinner starts 6:30 p.m. $45 per person. Reservations: 707-829-7300.

6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 26 .E.J. Phair Belgium Beer and Cheese Tasting, E.J. Phair Brewery & Alehouse, Todos Santos Square, Concord. Proprietor J.J. Phair’s hosting the eent. Chef Brian Hampton is doing the pairings. $20, Limited to 20 people, so make a reservation for this Thanksgiving eve event now. Call Becky at 925-691-4253. Also, mark your calendars, they’re planning a chocolate and beer event Dec. 17.

Monday, Dec. 1, 5 p.m. Repeal Prohibition Keg Tap of “Beerly Legal Lager,” 21st Amendment Brewery, 563 2nd St., San Francisco. Brewed specifically for the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the 21st Amendment, which repealed prohibition in America. Admission free. Info: 415-369-0900

Wednesday, Dec. 3,  6 p.m. The Sweet and Bitter, Beer & Chocolate tasting,  hosted by Sheana Davis, Epicurean Connection, Rogue Ales Public House, 673 Union St., San Francisco, $40 for Rogue Nation members, $45 others. (Go to to become a member. It’s free.)  Doors open at 6 p.m.,  tasting from 6:30-8:30.  Reservations: 415-362-7880, e-mail:

Wednesday, Dec. 3, 6 p.m. Repeal Prohibition dinner, 21st Amendment Brewery, Rare seasonal beers, guest brewers and a five-course meal. $75. Reservations  415-369-0900

Friday, Dec. 5, 4 p.m. Repeal Prohibition Parade (aka We Want Beer! March)

  • Parade begins at Justin Herman Plaza (1 Market Street)  with a full marching band and a coterie of revelers in 1930’s garb. Parade ends at 21st Amendment Brewery with a Repeal Prohibition celebration featuring a three-piece jazz band, special menu items, and a password-only speakeasy. Password retrieval instructions will be twittered on Dec. 1. Admission is free: 415-369-0900  Note: We’re offering a $100 birthday bounty for people turning 21 or 75 on December 5, 2008.

Posted on Monday, November 24th, 2008
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A cheese and beer pairing class at The Cheese School of San Francisco

I love cheese and I love beer and sometimes, when I taste the right cheese and the right beer together, the pairing can be magical. Someone who knows this well is Sheana Davis, a chef and proprietor of The Epicurean Connection in Sonoma.

She’s been bringing great cheese and beer together since Lagunitas asked her to do a beer and cheese pairing at their Petaluma brewery a decade ago. I attended her first cheese and pairing at Rogue Public House, 673 Union St., in San Francisco three years ago. Since then, I’ve been a big fan.

So when she invited me to sit on a “Locavore” Cheese and Beer pairing class at  The Cheese School of San Francisco last week, I jumped at the chance.  Like craft beer,  cheese made by adventuresome, craft cheesemakers has become a big deal.  Consider The Cheese School. It’s unique and its classes are popular. Forty people paid $65 each for the two hour evening session.

It was a delightful evening. The best thing was that every beer and every cheese was local; it’s possible to duplicate most of the pairings with a visit to a good cheese shop and a decent beer store.

(The cheese plate: Clockwise from top.  Delice de la Vallee (in tub), Andante Pianoforte, Bellwether Farms San Andreas, La Clarine Farm Sierra Mountain Tommee, Matos St. George, Redwood Hill Farm Gravenstein Gold, Vella Cheese Mezzo Secco, Cowgirl  Creamery Red Hawk.)

The beers: 21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat, Lagunitas Lucky 13, Magnolia DeepElum Dubbel, Marin San Quentin Breakout Stout.

Watermelon Wheat’s widely available at BevMo stores; Lucky 13 was a late summer beer, but can still be found. Breakout Stout’s bottled and also can be found with a hunt in and around Marin,  San Francisco and the East Bay. And while Magnolia’s beer is sold only at the pub and may be gone by the time you read this, almost any dark, chewy, Belgian or Belgian-style dubbel can be substituted. Same for Lagunitas Lucky 13. Their Censored will do, so will other great ambers like Mendocino Red Tail Ale.

We started out with cans of 21st Amendment Watermelon Wheat. an increasingly famous wheat beer brewed with real watermelon for a refreshing fruity taste. Sheana paired it with Delice de la Vallee, a creamy blend of pasteurized goat and cow’s milk cheese. This is her first cheese and she’s still waiting approval from the USDA. It will be made in Chico with milk from Sonoma County. Can’t buy it yet,

Second course was Pianoforte, a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Andante Dairy, Petaluma. It was paired with Lagunitas Lucky 13, the Petaluma brewery’s late summer beer, which marked their 13th anniversary. It’s a  big, 7.8 percent, amber ale, malty in the Lagunitas tradition. It paired beautifully. The cheese was very delicate and creamy and Sheana compared it to a French camembert. The cheese emphasized Lucky 13’s hop bitterness and the spice in the beer’s yeast, two aspects of the beer that drinking it alone aren’t apparent.

I also  tried Lucky 13 with the next cheese, San Andreas, a raw sheep’s milk cheese from Bellwether Farms on the Sonoma Coast.  The cheese was dry and tart and so good, I’ve put the cheese on my list to try the pairing again. They simply melded in the mouth: the cheese is slightly dry and it brought out the malt in the beer and the bitter, hoppy finish. Because the cheese isn’t pasteurized, it retains the fresh character of the milk.

Sheana’s  next cheese was  Tomato Basil Torte, a pasteurized goat’s milk cheese from Harley Farms, Pescadero. The cheese, which comes in tiny, three-ounce rounds, is topped by sun-dried tomatoes and basil. It also worked well with Lucky 13 and really brought out the sweetness of the beer.

The next cheese,  Sierra Mountain Tomme, a raw goat’s milk cheese from La Clarine Farm, Somerset,  in the Sierra, also worked well with Lucky 13 and with the next beer, Deep Elem Dubbel from Magnolia Pub, 1398 Haight St., San Francisco.  Confession time: I’m somewhat allergic to goat cheese. So my taste perceptions are off.  However, I found the cheese somewhat dry with a faint sweetness that nicely offset the beer.  Deep Elem’s a dark copper  with a wild nose and tasted of yeast and fermentation esters, tart, hoppy finish.  Sheana brought growlers of the beer obtained hours earlier from Magnolia head brewer Ben Spencer.

The final group of four cheeses were paired with Deep Elum and Marin’s San Quentin Breakout Stout: The cheeses:

  • Matos St. George, a raw, Portugese-style  raw cow’s milk cheese from Matos  Cheese Factory, 3669 Llano Road, Santa Rosa, CA 95407 (707) 584-5283 (No Web site), , a raw goat’s milk cheese from Redwood Hill Farm, Sebastopol; Mezzo Secco, a raw cow’s milk cheese from Vella Cheese Co., Sonoma, and Red Hawk, a pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes

Breakout Stout’s  a great, very creamy stout with a dry finish that I particularly like. It was fascinating to taste the beer with the sweeter cow’s milk cheeses, which brought out the roast malt and hop bitterness in the beer. The goat’s milk cheese emphasized the sweetness of the malt.

I’ve learned something: Sweet milk cheeses bring out beer bitterness and roasted grains in darker beers. Fairly tart cheeses do the opposite. They bring out sweetness, even in a fairly dry beer.

Sheana Davis, meanwhile, has three more beer and cheese tastings planned at The Cheese School. In January, there’ll be a pairing of bloomy rind cheeses and Belgian ales; next comes aged beers and washed rind cheese, followed by beer and cheeses of the Pacific Northwest.  For info, sign up for the Cheese School e-mail list here.

AND FURTHERMORE: Sheana had a few recommendations for people interested in cheese:

  • American Cheese Society is a reservoir of info abut American cheese.
  • Cheese Shops:  San Francisco Peninsula: Cheese Please, 211 12th Avenue, San Mateo. San Francisco: Cheese Plus, 201 Polk St, at Pacific. Rainbow Grocery, 1745 Folsom St., Say Cheese, 856 Cole St. Also, Farmer’s Market, Ferry Plaza Building, Saturday mornings. East Bay: Pasta Shop,  5655 College Ave. in Market Hall, Rockridge District, Oakland. Also at 1786 4th St., Berkeley.  The Cheese Board, 1504 Shattuck  Ave., Berkeley.
  • Marin Organic: An association of Marin County organic producers. Farm tours, information about organic producers in Marin.
  • Sonoma County Farm Trails will mail a map of farms, cheese makers, wineries and other farm-related places to visit. Just one brewery is listed: Russian River in Santa Rosa.
  • Notes on milk production from Sheana: A sheep gives one quart of milk a day; a goat, gives one gallon and a cow from seven – 24 gallons depending on the cow. It takes one gallon of milk to produce one pound of cheese.

Photos: Middle: Serving Deep Elum. Below: Deep Elum.

Posted on Sunday, November 23rd, 2008
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A proper toast for the new year: The oldest beer I own

Food for thought for the rest of the weekend: What are you going to drink as a toast to the new (and hopefully) a damn sight better year than 2008?

It’s going to be a momentous year, I think. So my plan is to dig out the oldest beer I own: a 1987 Thomas Hardy’s Ale and open it along with the 2008, which is coming our way next month. I was saving it for my daughter Amanda’s 21st birthday – she was born that year. But somehow that toast slipped away in a profusion of family events. So what better time to open the bottle than the eve of a new era in America.

How about you? Any New Year’s Eve plans involving beer?  Any suggestions for the rest of us? Post a comment here; let’s talk.

Posted on Saturday, November 22nd, 2008
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Dale’s Pale Ale, Ten Fiddy arrives at Healthy Spirits, San Francisco

Following up on one of our poster’s tip, I just got off the phone with Rami Varqawi, proprietor of Healthy Spirits, 2299 15th St. (at Castro Street), San Francisco, CA, 415-255-0610.  It’s true: He has a good stock of Oskar Blues beers in cans: Dale’s Pale Ale, Gordon, Old Chub and Ten Fiddy, a 10 percent Imperial Stout.

He said prices range from $8.99 for a Dale’s sixer to $10.99 for Ten Fidy.
If you’re  anywhere close to Healthy Spirits, this place is worth a visit. Readers tell me parking is horrible, but their beer stock is impressive and they often get rare beers, which sell out fast.

Among new arrivals, Rami says, is Stone Russian Imperial Stout in 12 ounce bottles; Stone Double Bastard in three liter bottles. He has Firestone Walker 12 and a shipment of  the new Deschutes Abyss Imperial Stout. “We’re approaching 600 to 650 beers,” he adds, “and we’re shooting for 1,000 by the end of the year.

Marty Jones, of Oskar Blues, meanwhile, said they have distribution deal in process with Beverages & More. Some Sacramento-area BevMos have their beer, Marty says.

Posted on Friday, November 21st, 2008
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Chimay night at The Trappist drew a big, happy crowd

A fraction of the crowd Thursday night on Chimay Night at The Trappist.

Made it to Chimay Night at The Trappist in downtown Oakland last night (Nov. 20, 2008). Wow.  The place was jammed.  The event marked the 25th year that Chimay has been imported into the U.S. The deal was:

  • Buy a bottle of Chimay “Blue” Grande Réserve (9 percent), 750ml and two collector glasses, $22.
  • Buy a glass of Chimay “Bleue” Grande Réserve 33cl and one collector glass, $10. “Refills” $8.
  • Buy a glass of Chimay “Triple” Cinq Cents, (8 percent) 25cl Draft and one collector Glass $9. “Refills” $6.
  • Buy a bottle of Chimay Rouge (7 percent) 750ml and two collector glasses for $19.

By the time I got there about 7 p.m. they were down to Cinq Cents and no souvenir glasses. Trappist co-owner Aaron Porter said the turnout overwhelmed them. “We had bought 100 glasses and they’re all gone,” he said.

Beer geeks who were filling stools in the tiny pub were amazed.  As many readers of this blog know, Chimay, the second largest (after  Westmalle) of the six Belgian Trappist monasteries that brew beer, has fallen from favor in geekdom as production has soared.

The late English beer critic Michael Jackson noted that the beers have lost compexity. Tim Webb, author of Good Beer Guide to Belgium wonders if there have been shortcuts as volume increased. “Chimay is exactly the sort of brewery the Guide would love to support in all its works,” he said. “It pains us to score these beers so low. We will be the first to rejoice if and when they improve.”

The beers may not be the spicy, chewy beers of a yesteryear, but they still carry the standard of Belgian Trappist beer; they’re widely known and here in the U.S., fairly easy to find.  The Bay Area public, at least, is fascinated with Belgian beer and when a pub with a fab reputation like The Trappist holds an event like this,  featuring a name that is well known people come in droves. They did last night and there were all kinds of people, men and women in nearly equal numbers: the 20-somethings; the young professionals; the old guys like me.

I talked to a couple from Alamo, who came with their 21-year-old son. They’re all three homebrewers and obviously fascinated with the Belgian beer. I also talked to a regular, who moved here from Washington DC and works for Pixar and looked up my blog on his iPhone while we talked. Like I said, the gamut.

So what did I order?  Cinq Cents, of course. The draft version is fairly new; it’s keg conditoned: Fresh yeast is added to each keg so a slow, secondary fermentation continues in the keg. It is, in other words living beer.  I hadn’t tried it in a year or two and damn, I really liked the beer. Complex? Nope. It was a light copper color with a beautiful nose of malt and sugar. The taste was smooth and drinkable, a bit of malt, with a wonderful spicy finish. Loved the beer and I’m going to order another glass soon. I give it ***1/2. Far from a classic, but a lovely, spicy beer.

Next came a sample glass of Big Sky Imperial Stout, 8.75 percent, aged in a bourbon barrel: sweet, oak-vanilla nose. Warming finish. Big Sky Brewing, Missoula, MT. (they make Moose Drool)  only made 66 cases and it’s not coming to the Bay Area. Oh well.

I finished the night with a glass of Allagash Curieux (curious – in French) and finally learned how to pronounce it from Ken Gross, Regional Beer Supervisor for Wine Warehouse. It’s  KUR – ee-oh (rhymes with Cheerio).  Love this beer: It;s about 10 percent, a light golden color, aged eight weeks in Jim Beam whisky barrels and bottle conditioned, it has a delectable, soft malty taste with just a bit of sweetness and a wild, spicy finish, a touch of bourbon and tropical notes. I give it ****. A 750 ml. bottle costs about $16 and it’s worth it.

Photos: Daryn Kenny with two glasses of Chimay.

Below: My glass of Cinq Cents.

Posted on Friday, November 21st, 2008
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A Pliny ode wins The Trappist haiku contest

Sometimes, life and e-mail and assignment deadlines bog me down. Right now, as I’m writing my account of Chimay night last night at The Trappist Beer Cafe in downtown Oakland, I discovered the winner of the Trappist’s Haiku about your favorite beer contest.

He is Justin Horner.  His winner:

Plynee or Plin-ee?
Matters not; see the red dot:
Jesus is on tap

Amen to that one. Brilliant.   Justin wins a bottle of Westvleteren Tripel.  No, don’t go to BevMo looking for this one. Much of the Bay Area’s supply is at the Trappist and it’s being held in reserve co-owners Aaron Porter and Chuck Stilphen say, for great things ahead.

Oh yes, for casual readers of this blog: Pliny is the 8 percent, double India Pale Ale made by Russian River, Santa Rosa.   And the Trappist Chimay night report’s coming in about 45 minutes.

Posted on Friday, November 21st, 2008
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Jesse Friedman, who writes the most excellent Beer and Nosh blog,  notes that Google has put the Life Magazine photo archive going back to the 1860s on line.  The whole, vast complex of digital images is searchable, so Jesse did a search for beer.  I was fascinated and did the same thing.

Sodden thought: (To steal a cliche  — sodden thought — from the late, great San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen): A search for beer on the Life archive is a study in light lager. Went through most of 10 screens of images. Found just three non-light beer images, Guinness in a Irish pub; low alcohol beer being drunk by a child in Europe in the 1940s and one from 1949 of a bartender putting two beers on the bar: a light beer and a “dark.” Probably colored with caramel, I’ll bet. What a sad saga of crappy American beer.

Here are three images…

Sammy’s Bowery Follies

Indigent patron w. glass of beer sitting at table at Sammy’s Bowery Follies,, Location:    New York, NY, US, Date taken: 1944, Photographer:    Alfred Eisenstaedt

The bartender giving the waitress two glasses of beer, one dark and one light.
Location:    Milwaukee, WI, US
Date taken:    July 1949
Photographer:    Frank Scherschel

Beer Drinking
Date taken:    July 07, 1949
Photographer:    Frank Scherschel

Onward and upward….out of light lager land…Beer coming here and not coming here.  Here’s an update on Thomas Hardy’s Ale. Pat Saxon of Phoenix Imports says the 2008 Thomas Hardy’s is going out to wholesalers across the country now. In a perfect world, the timing would mean it will be in stores by Christmas.  Fat chance of that. My best guess: In stores by sometime in January.  You know distributors gotta push their light lager, make the cash registers ring. Who cares about a classic English beer that sells for five times the cost of a can of Bud.   What can we do?  Ask our favorite retailers to get the beer; they’ll talk to distributors and draw their attention away from the swill for a moment and maybe bring out the beer…

There’s news from Alaskan Brewing (Juno): They’re bottling Baltic Porter. I’m a BIG fan of Alaskan Smoke Porter so I asked Alaskan if we’re going to see the beer here in the Bay Area. The answer: Unfortunatey no. But here’s some other news from Anchorage;

  • Hello William, Being that this is the first time we have ever bottled the Baltic Porter, we did a relatively limited release distributed in Alaska, Washington and Oregon. It is available in 22 oz. bottles at Liquid Solutions, but not as far south as the Bay Area this year.
  • However, while last year we only distributed Alaskan Barley Wine in AK, WA & OR, this year we are releasing Alaskan Barley Wine in all 10 of the states where Alaskan beer is sold. You can expect to Alaskan Barley Wine in the Bay area around January 1st. Cheers! Ashley Johnston, Alaskan Brewing.

Pliny’s a hot seller at Whole Foods… Benjamin Eksouzian, the beer buyer for 26 Whole Foods Markets from Fresno to Sonoma, Sacramento to Reno, says Russian River Pliny the Elder is flying off the shelves. In the third week of October it was one of the top 10 beers for all 26 Whole Foods stores in the region.

Live within striking distance of Escondido, Erick Gordon, who manages the store at Stone’s brewery restaurant, 1999 Citracado Parkway,Escondido CA, says that starting Friday, the store (and I guess the restaurant as well) will be stocking Jolly Pumpkin Nøgne-Ø / Stone Special Holiday Ale. Also,  Alesmith/ Mikkeller/ Stone Belgian Style Triple Ale (12oz), Stone Cali-Belgique IPA (22oz), Sawyer’s Triple (22oz), Stone 11th Anniversary Ale  2008 Stone Imperial Russian Stout (12 oz) , 2008 Double Bastard Ale (22oz), 2008 Double Bastard Ale 3 Liters.

An excellent beer store in Livrmore: Posters to this blog are telling me about Perry’s, 1522 Railroad Ave. in Livermore., (925- 443-0550. Talked to the owner, Harpreet Singh yesterday and I too am impressed.  Here’s a note from a poster to the blog:

  • Just got back from Perry’s and wanted to say they have a HUGE selection of beer. I was very impressed and I think it competes easily with Ledger’s in Berkeley.  Lots of Belgians, 6 or 7 Lost Abbey’s, a few Russian Rivers, Jolly Pumpkin, Dogfish Head, etc.  Well worth checking out if you are anywhere near Livermore. — Aaron.

Catching up on my e-mail. A regular poster to this blog, Scott B.,  told me about The Jug Shop, 1567 Pacific Ave., San Francisco, 94109, 415-885-2922. They have regular beer tastings for a small fee. Scott, last month, attended a Deschutes tastings. Here’s what they had

Hey Bill, Beers offered:  Hop Trip, Jubelale, Black Butte Porter, Obsidian Stout, the Dissident, Mirror Pond, and Green Lakes Organic.  No Inversion IPA.  The tasting cost $10.

  • Black Butte Porter:  Despite being Deschutes most popular beer (along with Mirror Pond), I’ve only had this once or twice before.  I forgot how smooth this beer is.  Not too heavy with the coffee taste and has a nice, subtle hop finish.
  • The Dissident:  This was the only beer offered on tap.  The Jug Shop said it was the last keg in existence.  I had the chance to have this on tap a few months ago at City Beer, and it was better than I remembered.  Sour but not over the top.  Huge cherry flavor.  Very complex but it’s very easy to drink a few glasses of these.  And at 9% ABV, you probably can’t drink many more.
  • Jubelale:  Drank this one right after a glass of the Dissident and it just seemed a little boring.  Most likely because I just had a glass of the Dissident though.  This is Deschutes annual winter warmer and I look forward to trying this one again this season.
  • Hop Trip:  My second favorite of the tasting (1st was the Dissident).  Also one of my favorite from the wet hop fest at Toronado (Magnolia, Lagunitas my other favorites).  A very hoppy pale ale with a malt backbone to balance it out (or tries to balance it out I should say).
  • Obsidian Stout:  I’m more of a fan of Russian Imperial Stouts, so I was really surprised with how much flavor this had with only 6% ABV.  Not that you need to have a high alcohol content to taste good, but it really didn’t taste like any other stout I’ve had.  It had a really nice chocolate taste along with a hop flavor that I associate with more of a Russian Imperial Stout.

Thanks to the Jug Shop for putting on the tasting.  The beer guy from the store (I think his name is Eric) was extremely nice and very knowledgeable about the beers.  Actually, he was more knowledgeable than the Deschutes rep. Cheers, Scott

Posted on Thursday, November 20th, 2008
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Chimay night at The Trappist, Oakland, Cheese, Beer pairing at EJ Phair, Concord

EVENTS: 6-10 p.m. Thursday, Trappist Beer Cafe, 460 8th St. in downtown Oakland will mark the 25th anniversary of the date that Chimay Trappist Ales were first imported into the U.S. Chimay, one of six Trappist monasteries in Belgium, has been brewing beer for 146 years. Buy a glass of Chimay Blue Grande Reserve for $10 and get a collector glass. There are also deals for bottles and for Chimay Cinq Cents. See you there.

6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008. E.J. Phair Belgium Beer and Cheese Tasting, E.J. Phair Brewery & Alehouse, Todos Santos Square, Concord. Proprietor J.J. Phair’s hosting the eent. Chef Brian Hampton is doing the pairings. $20, Limited to 20 people, so make a reservation for this Thanksgiving eve event now. Call Becky at 925-691-4253. Also, mark your calendars, they’re planning a chocolate and beer event Dec. 17.

NEW BEERS: Magnolia Pub, 1398 Haight St., San Francisco, is pulling out one of their barrel-aged beers today and putting it on tap. It’s Delilah Jones Rye, aged in Sazerac rye whisky barrel.  Sounds sweet, I mean tasty. The whisky, by the way, is made in New Orleans, aged 18 years on wood.

FINAL NOTE... In my column today, I promised a post on a beer and cheese tasting last week in San Francisco. I’m runnning late.Will post it later today.

Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
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Fair trade wines

Anyone tried the Fair Trade Certified wines available at Target and Whole Foods? They’re only about $9.99 and buying them benefits the growers in Chile, South Africa and Argentina. There’s talk of a sparkling wine coming out in time for New Year’s Eve, so we can toast and do some good.

Apparently, these wines are the first sold in America that are officially Fair Trade Certified according to international (FLO) standards. They’re already doing well in Europe. The Fair Trade Certified label guarantees that vineyard workers will be paid fair wages, they will use sustainable agriculture practices, and premiums from sales of the wine will go toward education, child care, or anti-crime programs in their wine growing communities.

I had a friend working harvest in Stellenbosch and the stories he would tell about treatment of the native farm workers sent chills up my spine. So wrong.

The Fair Trade Certified guarantee is made by TransFair USA, an Oakland non-profit. So we have a local reason to uncork too. You numbers folks might be interested to know that In 2007, U.S. sales of Fair Trade Certified product surpassed $1 billion for the first time, according to estimates from TransFair USA and the Fairtrade Labelling Organization. These sales have helped TransFair USA deliver more than $100 million in additional revenue to farmers throughout the world in just over eight years.

Here are some of the labels to look for. They have a black and white Fair Trade logo and should be in stores this month:

Live-A-Little – South Africa’s Stellar Organics
Wandering Grape – Sourced from grapes in Argentina and South Africa.
Neu Direction – Argentina’s Bodega Furlotti Winery and the Viña de la Solidaridad Co-op

Posted on Wednesday, November 19th, 2008
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