Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Oddbits: An Aussie kiss, new beer here, Ballast Point Sea Monster, Sprecher IPA2…

By William Brand
Friday, December 19th, 2008 at 12:12 pm in Uncategorized.

Thanks to Stephen D’Arcy, the Campaign for Real Ale’s man in Brussels, Belgium for this Australian video….

Some new beers for Christmas…

Ballast Point, the San Diego brewer, has begun shipping beer to Beverages & More stores and other good beer spots in the Bay Area.Ballast Point beers are regulars at  fests at the Bistro in Hayward and the Toronado in San Francisco,  So it’s great to see them up here.

The list includes Sea Monster Imperial Stout, a 10 percent monster. Quite tasty: an inky black color with a big, lasting head of thick, tan foam, leaving lacework trailing down the glass.  The taste is fetching: multi-level, roast malt and ripe fruit in front, chocolate and figs in the follow. THREE STARS PLUS.

Also, Black Marlin Porter, Wahoo Wheat and  Big Eye India Pale Ale.  Haven’t tried them,  but I definitely will.

Also new to the Bay Area, a few beers from Sprecher, Glendale, WI.  I’ve tried Sprecher beers over a few years during family visits in Chicago. I’ve never been overwhelmed.  However, the first Sprecher beer I cracked the other night was total dynamite.

It’s Sprecher IPA2 Double India Pale Ale. It’s 8.4 percent, an unfiltered copper color with a lasting, creamy head and a nose of apricots, orange marmelade and maybe grapefruit — ahh those West Coast hops. Brewers no longer live in isolated enclaves do they. There’s a medium full mouth-feel with a rush of fruit and jam fading into a dry finish with a bit of warming alcohol. Damn nice. IPA2 could holds its own at the Bistro’s Double IPA fest next year. THREE/FOUR STARS.

And finally, Black Diamond, Concord, CA has released their Winter Ale. It’s 7.2 percent, fermented with a Belgian yeast. Taste is quite dry with a spicy background. THREE STARS.

Stumbling onward into the world of bureaucrats and beer kings and non-profits.  The National Association of  State Attorney Generals announced in San Fracisco this week that they cut a deal with MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev. The brewers have agreed to discontinue caffeinated alcoholic drinks.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Washington-based non-profit that brought the lawsuit which started the process, salutes the decision.

  • “It was a bad idea that never should have gotten as far as it did—adding caffeine to sweetened, high-alcohol-content malt beverages and marketing them to young people via word-of-mouth and infantile web sites.  Marketing caffeinated beer demonstrated a disturbing lack of restraint on the part of major companies like MillerCoors, and it put millions of young Americans in harms way.  That’s why we sued the company in September,” CSPI said.

To view this video, go here.

On to happier things… While drinking beer at Barclay’s in Oakland a few years ago, Chris Nelson and his wife, Merideth Canham-Nelson had an idea: Travel the world, visit great beer festivals and beer-loving countries and shoot video and publish it on the Web.

Now in 2008, they’ve done it:  A year in beer – The Czech Budweiser, 2007 Oregon Brewers Fest, Beer Beyond Denver, Dublin (Ireland), Germany (two episodes) Alaska, Ireland, Great British Beer Festival, Oktoberfest in Munich, the Great American Beer Festibval and San Diego.  The last episode: Belgium and The Netherlands is in the works.

For background, go here.  To watch the videos, go to

Also on the beer video front, If you’re a total beer newbie. That is, you like the stuff, but know almost nothing, Check out beertaptv/TasteBuds.  It’s a simple plot: Two guys who love beer, Erik Boles and Dusty Frazier do a weekly beer tasting video. Their explanations are coherent, their choice of beers respectable.  In the latest episode: Barleywine, they taste Rogue Old Crustacean and Avery Hog Heaven. Check ’em out.

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  • EastBayBeerGeek

    You need to try ANY Ballast Point beers. Everything they make is amazing. I haven’t had one I didn’t like. And, Like many other San Diego Breweries, they have SAN DIEGO ONLY brews. I visited their brewery in San Diego and can tell you they have a slew of great beers completely unavailable in the bay area. Their Sculpin IPA is uncanny, and available in 22oz. and draft in San Diego. If you get a chance, try it. Barclay’s in Rockridge has Ballast Point Yellow Tail Pale Ale on right now. If you can, go. this is a real treat.

    FYI: Ballast Point also owns Home Brew Mart in San Diego.

    Some of the best beer in San Diego, hands down. And that says alot considering the close proximity to Stone, Port Brewing, Alpine etc.

  • William Brand

    Well, what a coincidence, I;m headed to Barclay’s tonight. Will try iut. I’ve tried their beers at the IPA and Double IPA fests at the Bistro. I have plans to spend some time in San Diego this sporing, I’ll definitely visit.

    One more qustion. In your opinion, what’s their best beer?

  • jeff

    I concur that most of the Ballast point beers are above average and in my opinion the Sculpin IPA is hands down their best product. Never seen it on tap up here though. If you can get your hands on Alesmith beers from down in San Diego those are also excellent and their barrel aged Speedway Stout is phenomenal.

    As far as Barclays goes I was there last night. Unfortunately there was nothing really special on tap with the exception of the 2008 Jolly Roger and the Valley Brewing Imperial Stout. I thought the Jolly Roger was better despite the fact I am huge imperial stout fan. The stout was not meaty or hearty enough for my personal tastes.

  • Mike

    I just had the Big Eye IPA and thought it was another outstanding SD IPA. The Dorado Double IPA is great, but currently it is only available at their tap room. Hopefully they will bottle it again. I picked up a Sea Monster at Moument a few days ago but haven’t cracked it.

  • William Brand

    I love Speedway Stout and have two big bottles in my fridge, one of which I plan to open around New Year’s. But it’s made by Alesmith, not Ballast Point.

  • William Brand

    With Monster, you;’re in fro a treat.

  • Anonymous

    Ooh… their best? That’s tough. I’m a HopHead so Sculpin is easily my favorite. The Yellow Tail is a rarity on draft and if you are at Barclays, you’ve gotta get it. One of my all time favorite pales. Let me know what you think…

  • jeff


    Yep I know the speedway stout is from Alesmith. I have a couple bottles as well in my “beer cellar.” I was just letting others know that there are other good hard to find beers from San Diego area that are brewed at Alesmith as opposed to Ballast point. The Yulesmith from Alesmith is also top notch. Never had the yellow tail from Ballast point so I will need to pick one up soon.

  • Chris

    My favorite Ballast Point beer was the Gueze they were pouring at the Brewers Guild fest.

    And thanks for the plug again. Hopefully, the Belgium episode will be up between xmas and New Years.

  • William Brand

    No problem, Chris, let me know when you have the Belgium segment up. Gueze from Ballast Point. Sounds delicious.

  • Mike

    Where in the Bay Area can you get the Sprecher?

  • William Brand

    I believe at Ldeter’s Liquors in Berkeley and Monument Liquors in Concord. But let me check for sure. I’ll post the info later.