Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Emails…storing beer, drinking beer at the right temperature, finding Firestone Walker 12 in Los Angeles, finding good beer in Silicon Valley

By William Brand
Saturday, December 20th, 2008 at 6:51 pm in Uncategorized.

E-mails…that have come in to my blog email address this week –

William, In your findings/discoveries…what is your preferred way to store beer?  With the exception of the live beers (such as Pliny and Blind Pig) that should be refrigerated…have you found a good way to store beers?  My purpose is to do flights in the future (Alaskan Smoked Porters, Abyss, etc…).  I’ve been told as long as they are kept u right, in a cool dark place they should be fine.

Do you have other feelings on the issue? Thanks! Bob

Bob — What I do is refrigerate all my beer, but I keep the fridge fairly warm, about 40 – 45 degrees. If a bottle is corked. i put it on its side; if capped, i keep it upright.

However, a lot of brewers believe all beer should be stored upright. They reason that bottle conditioned beers contain yeast and if you store them on their sides the yeast sediment settles on the side of the bottle instead of the bottom. So when you open the bottle, the chunks of (not great tasting yeast, get mixed back in. That makes sense to me, but I haven’t done anything about it,  yet.

Serving beer ice cold is a deadly sin, unless it’s August and Bud

Bill – At what temperature should I serve my last flask of Old Crustacean Barley wine Style Ale? Also — how long will this keep in cool storage? Reed.

Well Reed..  it shouldn’t be served ice cold. Let it sit for a few minutes to take the chill off. At least that’s what I usually do. A little bit of warming (not a lot) brings out the malt, which of course you want in a barley wine.)

A flask? You mean it’s in a growler?  If you keep it refrigerated and sealed, it will last a while, but oxygen kills beer. Old Crusty’s pretty strong, so it will last, but it kind of gets flatter as the oxygen does its dirty work. If your growler is one of those plastic cubitainers, then squeeze the sides to get as much air out as you can. Sounds delicious.

Bill— Thanks! – My growler is a 750ml black ceramic bottle with a metal bottle cap on top – stored in a cool dark cabinet — So is “cool” but not “cold” your recommendation for most of the strong alcoholic beers you feature in your weekly “what’s on tap” article? – If not, you might mention your recommended serving temp for those us trying to catch up with you beer aficionados – R

Yes. Chilling is for light lagers on hot summer days. With beers that have a decent amount of malt, you want to be able to taste the malt. And the worst thing of all to do is try to drink a double or triple, uber-hoppy IPA ice cold. All you get is hops and to appreciate beers like Pliny the Elder, you need to be able to taste the malt; malt gives even the hoppiest beers balance.

Finding Firestone Walker 12X in LA

Hello William, I was lucky enough to taste the Firestone “XII” ale last week – and I would like to buy some.  I read your review on line, mentioning the 2008 Northern California Retail Beer Store List – but I live in the Los Angeles area.  Is there a retail beer store list for my area that you are aware of? B.G.

Hi there… I have no idea, but I’ve consulted a freiend Jay Sheveck, who is the author of The Beer Guppy’s Guide to Southern California.” The book includes a list of good beer retailers. Here’s what Jay recommends:

Hi William, That’s going to be a tough one…  I know of two retail places that had the magic elixir as of two weeks ago: Red Carpet Liquor in Glendale and Wades Wines in Agoura Hills.

Perhaps Vendome Liquor in Toluca Lakemay have it, but I’m speculating. I’ll pay them a visit tomorrow, because I am looking for a bottle as well. 😉  Actually, Stuffed Sandwich in San Gabriel would most definitely have it, (maybe even on tap, if Sam has his way)..Cheers, Jay  (You can buy the Beer Guppy guide at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, $9.95. It’s a great guide to the LA basin.

Help needed: Why is Silicon Valley such a damned beer desert?

Hi, I really like the article in Wednesday’s Merc. I am writing to you because most of the time these wonderful articles about beers (or wines) to try are just that…articles to read. Finding such gems, well, I have basically given up after years of disappointment.

You would think that people at BevMo would be glued to your article, contact their distributors and order this beer to be in stock…yeh, right. I’ve been to BevMo looking for the elusive brews in previous articles and most recently one of my cooking magazines, with no luck at all. So, if you have some idea as to where to score some the beers in your article, I would love to have that information. RC

William — For what it’s worth, San Jose has less of a foodie culture  than the rest of the Bay Area, and I think the dearth of beer options, as compared to the rest of the Bay Area, is an extension of that There are a few good options here and there.  The Los Gatos Brewing Company has a good hefeweisen, but not much else.  I like BJ’s Brewhouse in the Oakridge Mall in San Jose, and it’s a 15 minute walk from my place.  It’s good place, but not really a great place. I don’t know what the discussion might lead to, but would be interested what others have to say. Derrick

Hi Derrick and RC...yeah, the South Bay is indeed a dismal place for beer. I’ve never understood. It’s such an affluent, sophisticated place. I realize I need to spend some more time in San Jose and visit some of these places.  If you find a great store from this list, please let me know and I’ll update it.  That’s how the list developed. It’s the product of lots of input from people who like good beer. OK blog people, I’m looking for input here. Is there a secret great beer store somewhere in the South Bay/Silicon Valley? Let us know. Comments are very welcome.  If for no other reason, than I’m gonna print them and send them to the beer retailers association.

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  • Patrick Rue


    One of the problems with the South Bay is a lack of craft beer distributors. Many craft breweries don’t have distribution in the South Bay. BevMo remains one of the decent places to get beer because they can transfer beer between stores where distribution is decent. I agree that the crowd is sophisticated and would embrace craft beer if given the option.

    Patrick Rue
    The Bruery

  • William Brand

    You should know Patrick. Don’t think your beer is available anywhere in the South Bay, is it. For that matter, do you bottle your beer? And where can we find it anywhere in the Bay Area?

    About the South Bay I know one big distributor in the South Bay, who has lots of craft beer brands. He says his sales people have a hard time convincing their customers to take craft beer. All they want is the fast movers — bud and company.

  • Thomas

    I think the lack of good beer may also be a function of the land prices, who wants to start a brewery when the investment cost for property is so high, I think this is why New York City and DC have lacked a decent number of breweries as well.

  • Will

    The Bruery does bottle some of their beers and you can find it at City Beer.

  • David

    I think the best beer bar in San Jose is Wine Affairs, . It is a wine bar, but they have a good beer list (Green Flash West Coast IPA, Dogfish Head).

  • Mario (Brewed For Thought)


    For those new to fine beers, I find this chart extremely useful:

    It provides some food pairing ideas, recommended serving temperatures and recommended glassware. Hope it helps, Reed.

  • William Brand

    Hey David…Wine Affairs look like a winner. On their Web site, they list their beers and it’s impressive. Will have to check it out and put it in my column in the Merc.

    Partial beer list:From Light to Heavy
    Full Sail Session Lager, OR $3.00
    Shiner Bock, Dark Lager, TX $3.00
    Mythos, Lager, Greek $3.50
    Trumer Pils, Berkeley CA $3.00
    Birra Moretti, Italy $4.00
    Paulaner Premium Pils, Germany $4.50
    Leinenkugl Sunset Wheat, WI $3.25
    Erdinger Weissbier, Germany $6.00
    Blue Moon, White Belgian Style Ale, Canada $3.25
    Unibroue Blanche De Chambly, White Belgium, Canada $5.50
    Erdinger Dunkel Weizen, Germany (500ml) $8.50
    Dogfish Head Midas Touch, Delaware $7.00
    Abita, TurboDog, LA $4.00
    Humboldt Hemp Ale, Arcata CA $3.50
    FireStone Double Barrel Ale, Paso Robles, CA $3.50
    Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale, OR $3.00
    He’Brew Genesis, NY $3.50
    MacTarnahan’s Amber Ale, OR $3.50
    Cucapa Obscura, Mexico $4.00
    Lagunitas IPA, Petaluma, CA $3.25
    Green Flash West Coast IPA, San Diego CA $4.50
    Dogfish Head 90 minute imperial IPA, Delaware $5.75
    McAuslan Stout, Montreal, Canada $6.00
    Green Flash Barley Wine, San Diego CA (750ml) $11.50
    Allagash Black, Portland, ME (750ml) $19.99
    Meantime London Porter, Greenwich, England (750ml) $18.99
    Chimay Grande Reserve Blue, Belgium (330ml) $9.50
    Chimay Grande Reserve Blue, Belgium (750ml) $18.99
    St. Bernardus ABT 12, Belgium $9.00
    St. Peter’s Cream Stout, England (500ml) $9.50
    Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron, Delaware

    Hint to visitors. Do not pay $18.50 for a bottle of Chimay Grand Reserve, order the Chimay draft instead.

  • Mike

    A spot that may be worth checking out is Pizza Antica in Santana Row in San Jose. While I have never been to this location, the one in Mill Valley has some good bottles including Pliny, Duvel, Delirium Tremens, Fin Du Munde and has Trumer Pils and Firestone DB Ale on tap.

  • William Brand

    Ahh…didn’t realize they had an outlet in San Jose. There’s one in San Ramon that has an excellent beer list. Will check out the Santana Row one asap.

    About land prices. That explains a lack of breweries, but what about decent pubs?

  • Patrick Rue

    Hi William–

    Sorry for the late reply. We just started distributing through Morris in San Francisco, Marin, Solano, Napa and Sonoma counties about two weeks ago. City Beer is our first account so they should be well stocked with our beers. Most of our beer ends up in bottles.

    We’re looking for distribution to cover the Bay Area, but the South Bay seems to have the least amount of options. We’re looking for the type of distributor that has shown they can handle a small, niche brand and hand sell it to establishments where it would do well. We’ve found one distributor that may be able to do this, and I’m usually able to find two or three in most markets. Oh well, need to get beer to my alma mater Santa Clara somehow!

    The Bruery

  • William Brand

    If you can get your beer to Santa Clara, you’ll be going where no craft brewer has gone before. Good luck!

  • easong

    Thanks for the tip about WineAffairs. As any beer-loving Sharks fan knows, you sure can’t get an interesting beer inside the tank. Nor even on San Pedro Square, the heart of the pre-game nightlife. Nor at the Britannia Arms. Which all adds up to a stop at the Firehouse in Sunnyvale before heading to SJ.

    But lo! WineAffairs appears to be within walking distance of The Tank…

    I’ll be Green Flashing there next time.

  • Derrick

    Thanks for the Wine Affairs link. I’ll have to check it out. They’re going to build a large Whole Foods on Almaden and Blossom Hill Road (50,000 square feet, scaled down from the original 70,000) that hopefully will be completed next year (rumor has it it might not be comleted until 2010) so it will be interesting what you can get there.

    I can really recommend them as beer destinations, but I am plesently surprised what I find in a couple of supermarkets and unassuming liquor stores in San Jose. Seems like someone is making money on craft beer, and you think a enterprising distributor / brewery could further capitalize on that.

  • William Brand

    The picture about San Jose that is beginning to emerge is that there are too few distributors. So it’s hard for relatively tiny breweries to get decent representation in the South Bay.

  • William Brand

    OK and if the place turns out to be bum, or if it’s great or whatever, let us know.

  • Travis

    Whole Foods is always a great place to start for finding elusive brews. The one over in Los Altos has a great selection and the guy who orders everything is incredibly knowledgeable and willing to track down stuff he doesn’t carry. Just a bit north up in Fremont there is a liquor store across the street from BevMo that carries some obscure brews that even BevMo doesn’t have. Most notably, Russian River.

  • The Duke Of Dunkel

    Travis, I assume you’re speaking of Ernie’s. Padlock on the door and no sign of life for at least a couple of weeks now. But in Fremont, Mission Liquors (Mission & Las Palmas) has a similar selection, including RR.

  • William Brand

    Wow Duke,…thanks for the update. Mission Liquors, huh? If they have Russian River they’re worth my Rtail Beer list.

  • brewnot

    I have on more than one occasion sung the beer related praises of Faultline Brewing in Sunnyvale. (Beer = very good, selection = excellent, staff = excellent, food = meh)

    I stopped by today to see what was up.

    Everything brew-wise was up to par except the bar had an inexcusable number of insects flying around. (in late in December?!?!) These things were every where. Flying in my face, behind the bar, flying around the taps.

    I was getting a case of the creepy-crawlies.

    It got so bad before I took a sip, I examined my glass to see if anything had flown into my beer.

    I do not like BUGweiser beer. (thanks to the daughter for that one)

    It is a shame. This place is so close. They have a great brewing attitude. A brewer who seems to know his stuff. Food menus can be fixed and I go for the beer anyway. Now this. How can I trust this place?


  • William Brand

    Bugweiser eeehh. I’ve heard they’ve gone through something of a renaissance. I’ll have to go in and check it out. I really like Firehose in Sunnyvale. The brewer, Steve Donahue does good work. He has to do four regulars, the pale ale, the stout etc. But his specials can be dynamite.

    I also really like Los Gatos Brewing and of course, El Toro. I heard from a freind that there’s a new brewer at Tied House in downtown San Jose who is doing good things.

  • The Duke Of Dunkel

    I too have dealt with the gnats at the Faultline when sitting at the bar. That’s not really new, but it does seem a little out of season right now. I do enjoy their beer selection though. Underrated as far as I’m concerned.

  • brewnot

    Duke Of Dunkel

    Did you try the Dunkelwiezen at Faultline?

    Props to them for having it on the menu. I thought it was a good beer, faithful to the style.

    Then I remembered I am not a fan of German style wheat beers. Do not know why ordered it in the first place. The guy behind the bar let change it for something else.

    Beer and staff – great, gnats – yuck. Insects in a food serving establishment! And this is an old problem?

  • Lynette

    Don’t forget El Toro Brewing Company down in Morgan Hill. It’s really south bay, but the brewery is a great place to hang out and have a beer in the warmer months. And with their brewpub a few miles away that’s open now, you can get great beer with some decent pub food.

  • The Duke of Dunkel

    Brewnot: It’s been months (lots of them) since I’ve been to Faultline. I did try something dark and German last time–and I enjoyed it greatly–but I’ve forgotten what it was. Don’t think it was a Dunkelwiezen, though, as it’s not a style I would normally gravitate to. (my alias isn’t an indication of style preference; it’s a nod to Bob Newhart and bad punnery.)

  • William Brand

    I wish Faultline all the best. I’m most familiar with the brewpub they had in Walnut Creek. Food was fairly fancy and expensive and the beer failed to impress me. When Pyramid bought the lease, they simplified the food and introduced a rotation of locally-made beers and seasonals and the place took off.

    I’ve begun to hear good things about the original Faultline. Good news, I hope.

  • William Brand

    About El Toro in Morgan Hill. If I lived down that way, I’d be a regular. The owner-brewer Geno Acevedo is one of the busiest brewers in America. He turns out an outstanding array of beer.I’m always amazed and impressed.