Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for June, 2009

Weekend Update 6.12

It’s a quiet weekend, beer-wise, I’m sorry to say. Unless you’ll be in the South Bay Friday night, you’ll have to wait until next week for some beer infused fun.

THIS WEEKEND

Friday, June 12

This is a good trend, the COOF, an organic certifier and advocate for organic farming methods (they fund research for farmers), is sponsoring a the CCOF Inaugural Pruneyard Organic Beer and Wine Tasting. The Pruneyard is an outdoor shopping center in Campbell down in Silicon Valley. There will be at least four all-organic breweries along with some organic wineries, too. “Tickets are $20 for 10 tastes or $15 for 5 tastes, which includes a commemorative wine glass. Proceeds from the event will help fund CCOF’s nonprofit education, advocacy and outreach programs. For more information and to buy tickets online visit the CCOF website.

IN THE COMING WEEKS

Wednesday, June 17

From 7:00 p.m. until 11:00, Oakland’s new Linden Street Brewery will host the 4th annual anniversary party for The Brewing Network , the Bay Area’s own beer radio and podcast. There will be BBQ for purchase, as well as both commercial and homebrewed beer available. (Marin, Drakes, 21st Amendment, Triple Rock, Stone, Lagunitas, Linden Street and more). Just buy the commemorative BNA4 glass gets, which gets you in and served. There will be live music throughout the evening. And perhaps most importantly, it will be the official release of Linden Street’s flagship beer, so come down and show your support for Oakland’s newest brewery.

Thursday, June 18

Downtown Hayward Street Party including beer specials at The Bistro, which the Chamber of Commerce describes as one of “the biggest parties of the summer in downtown Hayward! Merchants, community and civic organizations, bands, food vendors, as well as classic, antique and hot rod cars line B Street from Foothill to Mission Boulevard from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. The Chamber features a beer, wine and soda garden where folks can have frosty cold refreshments while listening to hot music.”

Thursday, June 18-Saturday June 20

If you want to hone your homebrewing skills or learn what all the fuss is about, the American Homebrewers Association is coming to town, and will be hosting its annual National Homebrewers Conference in downtown Oakland. The Marriott City Center will be the place to be for “Sippin’ On the Dock of the Bay.”

A's Beer Festival 2009

Saturday, June 27

The 13th annual A’s Beer Festival will take place during a game against the Colorado Rockies, with the BeerFest from 4:05 p.m. to 6:05 p.m. For those two hours, enjoy over 30 different breweries, live music from Wonderbread 5, and other festivities at the Oakland Coliseum. The Oakland A’s Beer Fest will take place in the East Side Club. Tickets will be $10, which includes a special acrylic souvenir beer mugs and and 2 tastings, with additional tastings available for purchase. “Mugs and tasting sales end at 5:30 p.m., last pour is at 6:00 p.m. Admission is free with a game ticket.”

Saturday, June 27-Sunday June 28

If you ever needed or wanted an excuse to visit Reno, Nev., this is probably the best reason I know of. The Eldorado Hotel & Casino will again be hosting the 14th annual Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews and Blues Festival. With world-class blues musicians, tasty barbecue and great beer, what more do you want? Oh, and you can gamble, too, if you like that sort of thing.

ON THE HORIZON

July 10: The Rate Beer Invitational beer dinner by the Beer Chef, Bruce Paton, at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco.

July 20: The Beer Chef, Bruce Paton, will host a beer dinner featuring the beers of Lagunitas Brewing and The Chefs Association of the Pacific Coast at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco.

July 31-August 2: The 14th annual Mammoth Festival of Beers & Beerapalooza. It’s a bit of a trek to Mammoth Lakes, but worth it.

August 8: The 12th annual Bistro IPA Festival at The Bistro in Hayward.

August 28: Brewfest at the California State Fair in Sacramento.

If you know of an upcoming beer event, please let me know about it so I can share it here. Let me know at BrooksOnBeer@gmail.com.

Posted on Thursday, June 11th, 2009
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Three Bay Area chefs on Top Chef tomorrow

Tune in to Bravo Wednesday June 10 when Michael Chiarello of Bottega in Yountville, Elizabeth Falkner of  Orson in San Francisco, and Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys in San Francisco compete on “Top Chef Masters” at 10 p.m. PST.

Top Chef Masters” pits 24 world-renowned chefs against each other to see how well they fare in the format of “Top Chef.” In each episode, money will be at stake for the chefs, with the winners of eliminations being awarded cash donations for their charities.

To make it even more fun, “Top Chef Masters” will feature guest judges Neil Patrick Harris, Zooey Deschanel and “Lost” writers and executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof.

herbert keller

Woohoo. Represent, Nor Cal.

Posted on Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
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Oakland’s Beer Scene Gets National Attention

Today is the second Tuesday of June and that means we dive once more into the mind of Tom Dalldorf, the publisher of the Celebrator Beer News, the nationally distributed “brewspaper” that’s headquarted in Hayward.

Tom Dalldorf

Celebrating Beer with Tom Dalldorf

Oakland’s Beer Scene Gets National Attention

The National Homebrewers Association meeting takes place in Oakland June 18–20 at the Oakland Convention Center/Marriott Hotel. Oakland has been a part of the burgeoning bay area beer scene for over 20 years. The Celebrator Beer News was in its second year of existence the last time the AHA met in Oakland. Among the huge crown of homebrewers from all over the country were professional brewers and a few of the nation’s beer journalists including the late Michael Jackson who was fascinated by the quality of the local beers and the extraordinary efforts on the part of some of the homebrewers as well.

I thought about that event twenty years ago last Saturday afternoon sitting in the warm sun by the window at The Trappist Belgian beer bar around the corner from the convention site. I considered how much the beer scene had changed since the Beer Hunter was in Oakland for that event. He enjoyed the fledgling Pacific Coast Brewery on Washington just a few doors down from the Convention Center and the wonderful pub food they managed to squeeze out of its tiny kitchen. The Pacific Coast beers were already well known as the best example of extract brewing in the country and its brewmaster, Don Gortemiller, was sought after as a speaker an expert on the subject.

I considered how different the beer scene is today and wondered what Michael would have made of it. Oakland now has a new microbrewery in its formative stages, Linden Street, and a well-established alehouse scene including Barclay’s, Ben & Nick’s, Cato’s, Luka’s Taproom and the nearly two year-old The Trappist pub with its rich, warm dark wood paneling and extensive exotic bottle collection. I think Michael would have loved the effort put into the place by The Trappist owners and staff to recreate the passion and atmosphere found in many of the beer pubs of Belgium.

If you’ve yet to discover the beery treasures in Oakland, do it before the AHA gets to town. Every beer destination will be packed during the short time the national group will be in residence. But we “locals” can and should appreciate these places on a regular basis. There’s no beer place like home.

Posted on Tuesday, June 9th, 2009
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The Monterey Beer Fest

My family and I drove down to Monterey for the weekend. We took the kids to the beach and, of course, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. But the real reason we were in town was to attend the Monterey Beer Fest at the fairgrounds.

Monterey Beer Fest

The weather was very cooperative and the June gloom was nowhere in sight, instead the skies filled with a brilliant blue and feathery white fluffy clouds. A warm sun with a cool breeze kept the day at a Goldilocks temperature most of the day.

Monterey Beer Fest

The fest quickly filled the fairgrounds, exceeding the estimated 4,000. Beers from 100 different breweries from around the world were poured and the background was filled with the music of three different cover bands, who channeled the music of Weezer, The Police and Tom Petty.

The Deschutes Trailer

The Deschutes Beer Trailer that’s been visiting locations throughout the Bay Area was on hand to pour beer.

The Brewing Network

The festival was hosted by Chris Nelson and Merideth Canham-Nelson, who write online at thebeergeek.com. Also on hand was Justin Crossley (far right) with his Brewing Network who broadcast live throughout the festival. Here they”re interviewing Chris and Meredith (far left). You can also listen to the broadcast from Saturday as a podcast.

The Johnsons

By far, the best story of the festival was the wedding reception of newlyweds Mitch and Melissa Johnson. They had originally planned on attending the festival but mixed up their dates so both the fest and their wedding fell on the same day. Undaunted, they bought festival tickets for everybody attending the wedding and held their reception right there with 5,000 of their best friends. Now that’s just got to be the beginning of a great life together!

It really was a beautiful day and a great way to spend it there at the fairgrounds. While crowded in the middle where the beer was located, there was plenty of room to spread out around the fringes. The music was never too loud. There was plenty of food available from local food booths. My two kids had a ball with two friends also there with their parents, running around the grass and exploring each others’ toys. Fun for the whole family.

Posted on Monday, June 8th, 2009
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Weekend Update 6.5

Two big fests coming up this weekend, both north and south. Either one would make for a terrific Saturday afternoon tasting beer.

THIS WEEKEND

Saturday, June 6

The emphasis on food along with beer makes the Beerfest at Santa Rosa one of the best fests around. Beerfest is a festive microbrew and food tasting extravaganza with more than 35 of Northern California’s best microbreweries and a matching number of exceptional gourmet food purveyors. Your ticket includes all food and beverage tasting and a souvenir glass! Music provided by the THE THUGZ (Cosmic Americana style music) while you enjoy wonderful brews and outstanding food. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door.

Santa Rosa Beerfest

Also taking place on D-Day is the Monterey Beer Festival, on the opposite side of the Bay Area. The festival will take place at the Monterey Fairgrounds from 12:30 to 5:00 p.m. According to their website, it will include “the greatest assortment of Beer ever assembled on the Central Coast. Sample varied styles of Ales, Lagers & Ciders from over seventy breweries with hundreds of beers to taste. On hand will be the best of beer from around the world, including America, Belgium, Germany, England, France, Australia, Thailand, Italy, Asia, Ireland, Jamaica & California.” This year it will be hosted by Chris Nelson and Merideth Canham-Nelson, who write online at The Beer Geek. They’ll also be hosting several other events throughout the week leading up to the festival. In addition, this year’s theme will feature Tribute Bands including WEEZER (Little Bitches), STING & THE POLICE (Stung) and TOM PETTY (Petty Theft). Tickets are $30 and may be purchased online.

Sunday, June 7

Sunday morning beginning at 11:30 a.m. and running until at least 4:00 p.m., Peg returns to the Toronado for a Belgian Inspired Beer Dinner. The brunch will be five courses paired with American-made, Belgian-inspired beers, including Russian River Toronado 20th Anniversary, Lost Abbey Cable Car, and beers from Cascade Brewery, New Belgium, Allagash, Green Flash, Ommegang, and more. Tickets are $95, and are available at the bar at 547 Haight Street in an Francisco.

IN THE COMING WEEKS

Tuesday, June 9

The third Meet the Brewer event at Rogue Ales Public House in San Francisco, on June 9th will feature Derek Smith from Black Diamond Brewery in Walnut Creek.

Friday, June 12

This is a good trend, the COOF, an organic certifier and advocate for organic farming methods (they fund research for farmers), is sponsoring a the CCOF Inaugural Pruneyard Organic Beer and Wine Tasting. The Pruneyard is an outdoor shopping center in Campbell down in Silicon Valley. There will be at least four all-organic breweries along with some organic wineries, too. “Tickets are $20 for 10 tastes or $15 for 5 tastes, which includes a commemorative wine glass. Proceeds from the event will help fund CCOF’s nonprofit education, advocacy and outreach programs. For more information and to buy tickets online visit the CCOF website.

Thursday, June 18

Downtown Hayward Street Party including beer specials at The Bistro, which the Chamber of Commerce describes as one of “the biggest parties of the summer in downtown Hayward! Merchants, community and civic organizations, bands, food vendors, as well as classic, antique and hot rod cars line B Street from Foothill to Mission Boulevard from 5:30 to 8:30 pm. The Chamber features a beer, wine and soda garden where folks can have frosty cold refreshments while listening to hot music.”

Thursday, June 18-Saturday June 20

If you want to hone your homebrewing skills or learn what all the fuss is about, the American Homebrewers Association is coming to town, and will be hosting its annual National Homebrewers Conference in downtown Oakland. The Marriott City Center will be the place to be for “Sippin’ On the Dock of the Bay.”

A's Beer Festival 2009

Saturday, June 27

The 13th annual A’s Beer Festival will take place during a game against the Colorado Rockies, with the BeerFest from 4:05 p.m. to 6:05 p.m. For those two hours, enjoy over 30 different breweries, live music from Wonderbread 5, and other festivities at the Oakland Coliseum. The Oakland A’s Beer Fest will take place in the East Side Club. Tickets will be $10, which includes a special acrylic souvenir beer mugs and and 2 tastings, with additional tastings available for purchase. “Mugs and tasting sales end at 5:30 p.m., last pour is at 6:00 p.m. Admission is free with a game ticket.”

Saturday, June 27-Sunday June 28

If you ever needed or wanted an excuse to visit Reno, Nev., this is probably the best reason I know of. The Eldorado Hotel & Casino will again be hosting the 14th annual Great Eldorado BBQ, Brews and Blues Festival. With world-class blues musicians, tasty barbecue and great beer, what more do you want? Oh, and you can gamble, too, if you like that sort of thing.

ON THE HORIZON

July 10: The Rate Beer Invitational beer dinner by the Beer Chef, Bruce Paton, at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco.

July 20: The Beer Chef, Bruce Paton, will host a beer dinner featuring the beers of Lagunitas Brewing and The Chefs Association of the Pacific Coast at the Cathedral Hill Hotel in San Francisco.

July 31-August 2: The 14th annual Mammoth Festival of Beers & Beerapalooza. It’s a bit of a trek to Mammoth Lakes, but worth it.

August 8: The 12th annual Bistro IPA Festival at The Bistro in Hayward.

August 28: Brewfest at the California State Fair in Sacramento.

If you know of an upcoming beer event, please let me know about it so I can share it here. Let me know at BrooksOnBeer@gmail.com.

Posted on Thursday, June 4th, 2009
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Twitter Taste Live with Clos La Chance

Clos La Chance, a San Martin winery with a large portfolio of gorgeous bottlings from their 150-acre estate, is hosting a live tasting on Twitter this Friday, June 5 from 5 to 7 p.m. I wonder if their delightful Pinot Noirs will be in the mix.

I know the following new releases will be inlcuded in the tasting for sure. So grab a few and tweet your thoughts: 2008 Glittering-Throated Emerald Chardonnay, 2006 Crimson-Topaz Meritage and 2006 Ruby-Throated Cabernet Sauvignon.

Here are the people to follow:

@ClosLaChance -Melanie Gameng (Direct Sales and Marketing Manager)
@ClosLaChance1 -Bill Murphy (CEO/ Co-Founder)
@Winer_cmd -Cheryl Durzy (VP Sales and Marketing)
@DomtheSomm -Dominic Tufo (Director of Hospitality/ Estate Sommelier)
@ClosLabRat -Erica OBrien (Assistant Winemaker)
@JasonRobideaux -Jason Robideaux (Assistant Winemaker)

The winery estimates 250 wine enthusiasts will be blogging their thoughts. Join in! If you’re in the San Martin area, stop by the winery, as they’ll have a DJ and snacks from 4 to 7 p.m.

Posted on Thursday, June 4th, 2009
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What Happened To the Friday Tastings at Drake’s?

A Bottoms Up reader sent me a question (thanks Mark) about whether or not Drake’s Brewery in San Leandro (behind the WalMart) was planning to once more host the Friday open house and tastings from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. that they used to. I thought I’d share that information so everybody knows.

Drake's Logo

In case you didn’t know, several months ago Drake’s Brewery was purchased by Triple Rock, the Berkeley brewpub. I spoke to co-owner John Martin this morning and he told me they’ve been busy integrating the two businesses together and making beer. But they are planning on starting up the Friday tastings again shortly, hopefully as soon as the beginning of July. As soon as I hear they’re a go again, I’ll add them to the calendar so you know, too.

Also, if you tried to reach the Drake’s Brewery and heard a disconnect notice, here’s the new phone number: 510.568.BREW (2739).

Posted on Thursday, June 4th, 2009
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Inelegant Inedit

Apparently when Ferran Adrià does something new, the food world pays attention. He’s considered one of the world’s great chefs and cooks at el Bulli, his restaurant in Girona, which is in the Catalonia region of Spain. In 2004, he was listed in Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. So he’s no doubt a superstar in the restaurant biz.

Adrià recently lent his expertise to beer-making and worked with Spanish brewery Grupo Damm in Barcelona to help create INEDIT, a beer specifically designed as a food beer. Damm is best known for their flagship Estrella Damm, a decent, if unexceptional, example of a European lager, somewhat similar to Heineken or Stella Artois. So if you were going to pair up with a brewery to make a food beer, whatever that even means, there might be better choices, breweries that already understand the balancing of flavors between beer and food, for example.

Cooking, it should be pointed out, does not automatically make one an expert on beer any more than it makes a brewer an expert chef. The press release claims that designing the beer took 1 1/2 years and “400 trial iterations between the master brewers of Estrella Damm,” Adrià, his retaurant partner Juli Soler, and two of the sommeliers from el Bulli. If you know anything about brewing and how long the average batch takes, if might cause you to wonder how it was possible to brew 400 batches in such a short period of time.

At the Damm website, the reason given for why they wanted to make this beer is explained.

Inedit is the first beer specifically created to accompany food. It is born from the conviction that a beer that could be paired with the utmost respect to the best cuisine was necessary. That is its aim and its virtue, and that is what makes Inedit different, special and unique.

A fine sentiment, except that most craft beer along with many of the fine beers brewed in Belgium, Germany, England and others have already been brewed with food in mind. It’s just part and parcel of any good artisanal beer that its very design, its particular ingredients, and the process by which it was brewed all assures it will be an excellent compliment or contrast with just the right food. Many chefs who have been working with beer for years, such as our own Bruce Paton, the beer chef, already know this to be true and have made a living out of discovering those perfect pairings.

But the press releases really trips over itself:

Developed for gastronomy, INEDIT is an alternative to wine for pairing with all dishes — from informal to more exquisite, sophisticated types of food. INEDIT is a unique coupage of barley malt and wheat with spices which provide an intense and complex aroma. It aims to complement food once thought to be a challenge in terms of culinary pairings, including salads, vinegar-based sauces, bitter notes such as asparagus and artichokes, fatty and oily fish, and citrus.

With its delicate carbonation, INEDIT adapts to acidic, sweet and sour flavors. Its appearance is slightly cloudy, and INEDIT has a yeasty sensation with sweet spices, causing a creamy and fresh texture, delicate carbonic long aftertaste, and pleasant memory. The rich and highly adaptable bouquet offers a unique personality with a smooth, yet complex taste.

Unlike most beers, INEDIT is bottled in a 750 ml black wine bottle and is intended for sharing. INEDIT is to be served in a white wine glass, filled halfway and chilled in a cooler.

All well and good, except that how is it possible every beer aficionado knows something, something they take for granted even, that Adrià and his crew do not; which is that beer is, and has always been, a wonderful match with challenging foods.

The very idea of there being an all-purpose beer “for pairing with all dishes” suggests they don’t really understand beer’s complexities at all. No chef worth his salt would ever suggest there’s one wine that might go with any dish, but beer has for so long suffered in the shadows, and many chefs, sadly, think that beer is just one thing: the mass-produced adjunct swill that people guzzle at sporting events.

That they’ve missed the boat is again made obvious by the statement that “[u]nlike most beers, INEDIT is bottled in a 750 ml black wine bottle and is intended for sharing.” There are many, many beers that are bottled in a 750 ml size, not to mention the 22 oz. bomber, which has been around for decades. Both are, and always have been, for sharing.

Then there’s the serving suggestions, that it “be served in a white wine glass, filled halfway and chilled in a cooler.” I’m okay with the white wine glass — sort of — but Belgians and others have specifying particular glassware for their beer for a century or longer. I feel confident that there’s a beer glass that could work, too. But chilling it in a cooler? I don’t even understand that. Is that done with white wine? Is the wine put in the glass and then both are placed in a cooler to chill? Or do they mean that the glass should be chilled in a cooler first, a milder version of a frosted glass? Either way it’s a bad idea, something you should never do to your beer. It probably wouldn’t hurt it the way a frosted glass has the potential to harm beer, but it’s a road we shouldn’t even start traveling down.

But let’s forget all the hype and just talk about the beer itself. After all, that’s really what’s most important. Not surprisingly, Inedit does not live up to the hype. How could it? It’s not that it’s bad, it’s really not, but it’s hardly exceptional in a field in which there are literally countless examples of better beers to pair with food, perhaps hundreds of them being brewed right now just in the Bay Area. Try Arne Johnson’s Point Reyes Porter (from Marin Brewing) with a fine Mexican mole, for example. Absolute heaven. Or Vinnie Cilurzo’s Salvation (from Russian River Brewing) with the Chili Chocolate Mousse featured by Bruce Paton yesterday in his Food & Beer piece. Another slice of heaven. But let’s get back to Inedit.

Inedit’s nose is surprisingly subtle with few spices coming through. As it warms, some of them do start to appear, though still they remain underneath. The sweetness is what comes through on the nose. It’s slightly cloudy like a witbier, though apparently it’s a blend of a lager (most likely something similar to Estrella Damm) and, they claim, a German-style weissbier. There’s no hint of cloves or banana in the nose, suggesting instead that a weissbier yeast has not been used. It has been brewed with orange peel, coriander and licorice. Orange peel and coriander are common ingredients in a Belgian-style wit or white beer, though not a Bavarian-style weissbier. It is unfiltered and is 4.5% a.b.v.

INEDIT

The mouthfeel is a little thin though the flavors do exhibit some creaminess. Again it’s sweet flavors that dominate the palate, with what spices that do come through being very subtle and remaining in the background throughout. The lager blend seems to contribute a nice clean character, and the finish is quick and similarly clean, dropping off almost immediately. It’s not a bad beer, though there’s no real synergy to the blend, as if it can’t make up its mind what it wants to be. It could work fine with a light salad or some other light fare, but I don’t think it would stand up to heavier flavors very well. At around $9.99, it’s not a bad deal, just don’t expect to be wowed.

I noticed a curious thing though about how this beer’s been received in the two weeks since it was first opened to great fanfare at chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Barber’s another big time chef, and this year he was picked by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people, and it was none other than Ferran Adrià who wrote about Barber for Time. People who’ve reviewed this beer seem to be split down the middle along some telling lines. Beer reviewers seem to consider it, as I do, as average at best. But many food writers, presumably because anything Adrià does is newsworthy, wrote uncritically about it, accepting what was in the press release and passing it along verbatim without question. I’ll let you decide what conclusions to draw from that.

In the New York Times, food writer Florence Fabricant gushes that it “behaves like a wine,” which personally I take as an insult, though I know she doesn’t mean it that way. I suspect Fabricant and other food and wine writers will continue to not quite know what to make of this beer, simply because they don’t seem to really understand it. Fabricant continues by saying later in the short review that Inedit “undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle, like Champagne.” Except that its secondary fermentation, in the beer world, is called bottle conditioning, and is a common practice that’s at least as old as the similar method in champagne-making. There was no need to resort to wine in trying to describe what was going on in the beer.

When she interviewed Adrià last week about the beer she got this gem. “The idea was to make a beer to drink with food, from a wineglass.” The problem, as I see it, with statements like that and Fabricant’s suggestion that the beer is “behaving” like a wine is that, simply put, it isn’t, it can’t, and we shouldn’t even want it to: it’s beer. The only thing about it that makes it appear in any way wine-like is their lack of experience with beer and their apparent refusal to learn anything about it, preferring to fall back on laughingly uneducated wine comparisons. Beer is already the equal of wine in terms of complexity and sophistication, and has been for some time. Sure, there are simple beers, the most popular ones made by the big breweries, for example. But there are also box wines, table wines and Blue Nun, too. That chefs and food writers have no trouble distinguishing between fine wine and the more pedestrian varieties should prepare them to view beer in the same way, yet so few do. Don’t get me wrong, I love wine, too. But it’s just made from one thing: grapes. Beer is made from four primary ingredients (barley, hops, water and yeast). Add to that other grains (like wheat or rye) and other fruit, herbs and spices, then take it and age in a barrel. There are virtually endless combinations of these ingredients and processes that all but guarantee that the complexity that can be realized by a great beer far exceeds most, if not all, wine. These great, complex, sophisticated beers are fantastic with food, and have been for a long time. Pick up Garret Oliver’s “The Brewmaster’s Table,” Stephen Beaumont’s “beer bistro cookbook” or Lucy Saunders’ “Beer & Food, Pairing & Cooking with Craft Beer” at your local bookstore. These authors, and many others, have been writing about the pleasures of beer and food for years and years. It’s frustrating that beer has to continue to claw and fight for the respect it deserves.

Things are starting to change — slowly — and some chefs are beginning to discover that beer often pairs better with many different dishes; heavy meat dishes, cheese, and other spicy foods, to name a few. A majority of culinary schools do teach their students about wine but still ignore beer entirely. To me, that says a lot about the root of the problem. Despite decades of effort by hundreds and hundreds of small breweries to elevate the quality and status of craft beer, many still refuse to afford it the respect it’s due. That’s a shame really. They’re missing out on a lot of pleasure.

Inedit, unfortunately, will not prove to be the answer. The name, Inedit, means “novel, new or original” in French. Too bad it’s not really any of those things.

Posted on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009
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Tickets on sale for Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

Just a quick note to say tickets are officially on sale for the 2009 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend held at venues throughout Sonoma County Sept. 4 to 6.

This is a HUGE food and wine weekend benefiting local charities. You can meet hundreds of artisan growers and vintners and taste the treats of dozens of chefs.

The event coincides with Taste of Sonoma and the 17th Annual Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction. And yes, it is, conveniently, Labor Day weekend.

Individual event tickets for winemaker and grower-hosted dinners are available as well. Visit Sonoma Wine Country Weekend for tickets and more information.

Posted on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
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Pairing Food With Beer

Today we kick off the last of the new monthly features by a variety of well-known beer personalities around the Bay Area. The first Tuesday of each month we’ll feature the thoughts of Bruce Paton, better known as the Beer Chef. Bruce has been putting together exquisite beer dinners for well over a decade, long before most chefs even discovered how well beer and food can be together. These days Paton is the Executive Chef at the Cathedral Hill Hotel on Van Ness in San Francisco, where several times a year he hosts beer dinners featuring beers from around the world and down the street.

Bruce Paton, the Beer Chef

Food & Beer with Bruce Paton

I have the benefit of living in the San Francisco Bay Area which is where American Craft Brewing got its start as well as being a hot bed of brewing creativity for many years. Some of the most amazing brewers in this country have made their homes here and they constantly continue to innovate while at the same time adhering to brewing traditions. San Francisco has also long been a center of culinary arts and professional chefs follow a similar path of creativity and innovation based on traditional methods. Fourteen years ago I was the Chef in a Restaurant with thirty beers on tap (the proverbial kid in the candy store) and we did a food and beer pairing dinner, one thing led to another and now I am The Beer Chef. Pairing food with beer can be loads of fun and to get good at it you have to drink lots of beer and eat lots of food. I know it sounds pretty rough but with a certain level of determination I know you can do it as well.

The general rules are very few because all peoples tastes are a little different. Cut, contrast and complement known as the three C’s are the basis of any food and beverage pairing. The basic idea is that you want to create more enjoyment for your taste buds by combining the two. Cut is simply palate cleansing when you eat something that clings to your taste buds be it chili pepper, chocolate or fat. You want a beverage that will wash away the flavor so you can enjoy the next bite of your meal as well as the previous one. An India Pale Ale is a perfect foil for a spicy Asian or Hispanic dishes as well as a slice of prime rib or a well marbled steak. The classic example on contrast is the briny flavor of oysters on the half shell with the roasted malt flavors of a Dry Stout. Complement is my favorite where the flavor of the food is accentuated by the beer and vice-versa. An Oatmeal Stout paired with a chocolate dessert will enhance both the beer and the food.

Some of my favorite pairings from the past have been with brewers in this area. Watermelon Wheat Beer from the 21ST Amendment’s Shaun O’Sullivan paired with a Smoked Salmon Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Cucumber Gelee and Scallion Crème Fraiche. Moylan’s Hopsicle (Double IPA) from James Costa paired with Kurobuta Pork, Hawaiian Butterfish and Sweet Potato Flan. Russian River’s Pliny the Elder (Double IPA) from Vinnie Cilurzo with Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Salvation Ale (Belgian Style Strong Dark Ale) also from Russian River with Ancho Chili Chocolate Mousse and Duck Tetrazzinni with Anchor Porter.

Chili Chocolate Mousse
Chili Chocolate Mousse paired with Russian River Salvation.

DINING WITH BEER

Dining with beer can be as simple or as grandiose as you would like it to be. Craft beer comes in a multitude of styles with each style having several variations. There is a beer to go with whatever you enjoy eating.

If you are already in the habit of enjoying wine with your dinner you have a good head start. Basic beer styles are can be broken down in the same manner that wine is. You have Lagers and some Belgian Style Ales that are similar to white wines, Ales that are similar to red wines and Barleywines and other stronger styles that are similar to port wine. Glassware is important in the enjoyment of quality craft beer and your wine glasses will stand in just fine for most of traditional beer glasses. Craft beer even at the highest cost level is much less expensive than wine.

COOKING WITH BEER

With the moniker of The Beer Chef that I have adopted and trademarked your initial thought might be that my forte is cooking with beer. While I have dabbled in this practice throughout the last fourteen years of my career it has never been my main focus. The goal of my work has been to lift the pairing of beer with food to the level that wine and food enjoy while at the same time making more people aware of the vast myriad of choices of beer that is available. Even in this day and age when there are upwards of fourteen hundred craft breweries in the United States producing close to seven million barrels (a barrel is thirty one gallons) of beer annually, the fact is there are still a lot of people who think beer is tasteless lager style beer best served ice cold. Consequently I meet people all the time who say, “I don’t drink beer” for the reason that they haven’t gotten past the mass-produced product that they think of as beer. However that is another story entirely let us get back to cooking.

Beer has been in the kitchen for hundreds of years and in modern times even more so. When cooking with beer there are a few basic principles to remember. One of the more popular styles on the West Coast for consumption is India Pale Ale (IPA). West Coast IPAs are usually highly hopped with a clean crisp refreshing slightly bitter finish. However your favorite drinking beer may not be your favorite in the kitchen. Highly hopped beers do not do well in situations where there is a long cooking time or a reduction because when you concentrate bitterness you get a painful experience. Early in my career I made and ice cream with Sierra Nevada’s Classic Barleywine Bigfoot. While this beer has a sweet finish due to an abundance of malt is also has a very forward hop profile. I reduced the beer to syrup with intention of combining it with a flavorful ice cream batter. When I tasted the upshot the bitterness snapped my head around. The second time around I added sugar to the reduction and the outcome was delicious.

Beer is great in marinades and brines where you are looking to tenderize and/or add flavor. I like to use Porters and Stouts for these endeavors because of the roasted flavors the beer imparts on the end product. However I‘ve had great success marinating eggplant with Russian River Damnation Belgian Style Ale and grilling it on the barbecue. Whether you want to cook with it or just drink it the first thing to do is go out and try some new beers and go from there.

Cheers from Bruce

Cheers,

The Beer Chef

Posted on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
Under: On Beer | No Comments »
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