Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for November, 2009

Free glass of wine at Dosa in SF

Dosa in SF

This week is the anniversary of both locations of the South Indian restauarant, Dosa, in San Francisco. I highly recommend the Dahi Vada, if you’ve never had it. It’s an India chaat that will blow your mind.

Anyway, Dosa on Fillmore Street opened one year ago. Dosa on Valencia Street has been open for three years. To celebrate, the owners are offering a free glass of wine from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 with your purchase of a starter or entree. Choose from one of the following:

Rose of Pinot Noir, Raboso Lamberti – Calmasino, Italy  NV
Prosecco – Isabella Veneto, Italy  NV
Andrew Lane Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. (This is an East Bay Vintner!)
Grenache, Syrah Domaine de la  Guicharde – Cotes du Rhone, France 2006 (This is my pick).

Posted on Monday, November 30th, 2009
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Charting Beer Statistics

My friend and colleague Rick Lyke has the good fortune to have a son-in-law who’s a graphic designer and really, really good at creating graphs or infographics, which is essentially a chart that tell a story. For the second year in a row, Rick has persuaded his son-in-law, Mike Wirth, to create an awesome infographic of various GABF medal statistics for his Lyke2Drink blog. I’ve parsed some of the most interesting mini-charts within the infographic and displayed them below. Enjoy.

These charts show the number of breweries by state and the total number by type or size of brewery.

This is a chart of states with the most per capita breweries vs. the states that have won the most cumulative medals since they began awarding medals through 2008.

This is a chart of the breweries that have won the most cumulative medals since they began awarding medals through 2008.

This is a chart of the individual beers that have won the most cumulative medals since they began awarding medals through 2008.

Lastly, here is a detail of the west coast and the medals won by breweries in California, Oregon and Washington.

This is the entire infographic, show smaller of course, but click here to see it full size or see it at Mike Wirth’s website or with Rick Lyke’s original analysis.

Posted on Monday, November 30th, 2009
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BeerCook’s Cherry Cranbeery Sauce

My good friend, Lucy Saunders, is known as the “Beer Cook,” and has written several cookbooks about preparing food with beer. She loves in Wisconsin and so I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like. Today she shared the recipe below and I thought it would make a great addition to your Thanksgiving meal.

Lucy Saunders

BeerCook’s Cherry Cranbeery Sauce

Adapted from a recipe by Lisa Morrison, Portland, OR, the original Beer Goddess who has a cookbook of her own being released soon (other recipes of hers are profiled on


  • 8 ounces cherry ale*
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries, washed and picked over
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons minced candied ginger (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cherry jam
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

Mix all ingredients in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil. Stir well, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until cranberries start to pop and sauce thickens. Remove from heat and let cool. Remove cinnamon stick before serving. Makes 3 cups sauce.

* Some possible choices for a cherry ale:

  • Lindemans Kriek Lambic
  • Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat
  • Widmer Bros. Cherry Oak Dopplebock

Any cherry ale or other Kriek Lambic will work, the three above are just suggestions that should be available locally. Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy.

Posted on Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
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Beer Lover’s Britain

Planning a trip to the United Kingdom anytime soon? Looking for a nice overview of the beer scene in Great Britain? 2001 British Beer Writer of the Year Jeff Evans has a comprehensive and affordable solution. He’s written Beer Lover’s Britain and it’s available at his Inside Beer online store as a pdf e-book for less than $10.

At a little more than 100 pages, it’s packed with information about British beer, how best to enjoy it and where to find the best beers that England, Scotland, Wales and even Northern Ireland have to offer.


From the press release:

The first e-book in the series is Beer Lover’s Britain, a comprehensive guide to enjoying beer in the United Kingdom, written by award-winning British beer writer Jeff Evans. With the UK pound trading low against most foreign currencies, including the US, Canadian and Australian dollars, there’s never been a better time for beer fans to check out what the British Isles have to offer, especially with this new publication to guide them through.

British pubs are often spoken of as ‘the envy of the world’, with their historic charm and embracing conviviality, and Beer Lover’s Britain reveals how to make the most of them with tips on everything from which type of pub will suit you best to how to order a pint. Essential information on pub food, games, gardens, opening hours, children’s facilities and entertainments is also provided, along with recommendations for the very best pubs to visit around the UK.

The British brewing industry – father of such beer styles as pale ale, IPA, stout, porter and barley wine – is explored in just enough detail for visitors to understand the context of what they are drinking, with recommendations provided for beers and breweries to seek out as they travel around the country.

What is real ale? Where can I find it? Should my beer be warm? Have I been overcharged? What can I eat? Where should I stay? These are just some of the important questions Beer Lover’s Britain answers in more than 100 packed pages.

According to author Jeff Evans, travellers are often baffled and a little intimidated when they first encounter British beer and the British pub.

‘The British pub is quite unlike many pubs and bars found elsewhere in the world and visitors can be more than a little confused if they don’t know the procedures and etiquette’, he explained. ‘Beer Lover’s Britain aims to demystify the pub and the British beer scene for travellers from other countries by offering sound advice and handy hints to smooth the course of their travels and boost their enjoyment of British beer.’

It also makes a good gift for the tech-savvy beer lover.

Posted on Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
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2005 Stonestreet Alexander Valley Cab Sauv

It’s not often that you’ll catch me drinking a California cabernet sauvignon with chicken and biryani rice on a week night. They’re usually too big for the foods I like to eat. But Indian spices do help.


Last week, I opened a bottle of  2005 Stonestreet Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It showed a bit of its age. It was a bit smoother and softer than most Cali cabs, and I’m wondering if the block selection had something to do with its elegance and balance.

The grapes are grown on the western side of the Mayacamas Mountains. The mid-elevation block (700-1,100 ft) lends a floral and spicy aroma in addition to a fleshy, raspberry characteristic, while the higher blocks (1,200-2,400 ft) provide the wine’s firm backbone. It retails for $42.

Posted on Monday, November 23rd, 2009
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Weekend Update 11.20


November 1-30

All November, the BRU/SFO Project will be going on at both 21st Amendment Brewery & Restaurant and Magnolia Pub & Brewery.


What is it? “It’s an excursion of Belgian-style and Belgian-influenced beers, six from each brewery. Grab a boarding pass and take a trip to Belgium via Magnolia and the 21st Amendment. The first three beers at each brewery hit the taps on Monday, 11/2 and then both breweries will release a new beer every Monday for the rest of the month. Try all 12 and get the special commemorative glass.”

The beers will be released throughout the month by the following schedule:

21st Amendment

  1. Via – Belgian Single 11/2
  2. St. Martin’s Abbey 11/2
  3. Noir de Blanc– Chocolate Wit 11/2
  4. Brew Libre! Ou Mourir – Belgian IPA 11/9
  5. Monk’s Blood – Belgian Dark Strong 11/16
  6. Baby Horse – Quadruple 11/23


  1. Deep Ellum Dubbel 11/2
  2. Tweezer Tripel 11/2
  3. Gris-Gris – Belgian Grisette 11/2
  4. Gordo – Pumpkin Wit 11/9
  5. Destiny Unblonde – Belgian Pale 11/16
  6. Paint it Black – Belgian Dark 11/23


Nothing known, sadly.


Saturday, November 28

On Saturday, the Trappist will have a special evening of Real Slow Smoked BBQ. You can pair their awesome BBQ with some of the many Holiday Beers they’re carrying, including Blaugies Special Winter, Bink Winter King, Thiriez Bier de Noel, Fantome Noel, St. Feuillien Cuvee de Noel, Anker Gouden Carolus Noel and St. Bernardus Christmas Ale.

Wednesday, December 2

The Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol will host a beer dinner featuring the beers of Dogfish Head beer dinner.

Saturday, December 5

Stop by Oakland’s Trappist from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. for the Oakland Firefighters Random Acts Toy Drive Kick off! Bring in an unwrapped toy to donate and receive a token good for a ½ price beer. The Oakland Fire Department will be on hand and possibly even giving fire truck rides.


December 11-12: The Trappist will be holding a KerstBier Festival, which will feature over 20 Belgian and American holiday beers. The $25.00 admission includes a commemorative glass along with five 5 oz. beers of your choice.

December 12: From Noon to 4:00 p.m., Pacific Coast Brewing in downtown Oakland will host their 21st annual Holiday Beer Tasting.

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

Posted on Friday, November 20th, 2009
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A bit on Sarah Valor of Oakland’s Commis restaurant

For my story on female sommeliers this week, I gleaned much from Sarah Valor, the maitre’d, sommelier and front-of-the-house manager at Oakland’s Commis. Unfortunately, my notes didn’t make it into the story, so I’m devoting this blog post to that interview.

Commis recently received its first Michelin star – they were in during the restaurant’s first week of business, I’m told – and after talking with Valor, 28, it’s easy to see how quickly Commis has garnered the reputation it has. They opened in June.

A little on Valor: She started her food business career during school at UC Berkeley, where she studied rhetoric.  In 2001, she picked up jobs to help pay the bills and fell in love with wine and how it related to her interests in art, history, and languages. She was in. 

She worked at Lalime and Albany’s Fonda, where she learned the ropes in spirits and wine and their relationship with foood.  Like the rest of us, she became a sponge. As assistant to the wine buyer at Oliveto in 2004. she tasted as much as she could and picked wine brains galore. She had and still has no formal education in wine, but rather absorbed everything she could, reading and listening and tasting.

She says she sees wine as a shadow to Commis chef James Syhabout’s food. Her wine program is about finding wines that dance around the food but not interrupt it. 

For her, being a good sommelier is “about how much confidence you come to the table with.” Since she wears so many hats, there’s been more than one time where someone thought she was “a wonderful receptionist.” But the customer’s mistake isn’t worth Valor asserting her role to the customer, she says. 

“Ultimately it’s about the whole experience. You read every table. Some have an interest in being adventurous. But no matter what, we’re guiding, not selling.”

Posted on Friday, November 20th, 2009
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A Good Start For First Bay Area Holiday Festival

Last Sunday, Beverages & more hosted the first holiday beer fest in the Bay Area. Dubbed the BevMo Holiday Beerfest, it was organized by local beer festival promoter Jeff Moses, who also does the Monterey Beer Festival, among others. It was held at the Herbst Pavilion at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

Inside the Pavilion before the fest began

It was a good space and they wisely used only a portion of the hall so it wasn’t too large inside. I’ve long thought San Francisco needs a holiday beer festival, Pacific Coast Brewing’s holiday tasting notwithstanding. Winter and Christmas beers are some of my favorite seasonals because brewers tend to really be creative with them. Plus, I like spice beer more than most.

Samuel Adams' cool bottle tree

I’d guess only about one-third of the beers there were in fact winter seasonals or holiday beers, but still, it was a good start. Unlike many festivals, beer from abroad was also served, which allowed a greater range of beers to be available. I think this could, over time, develop into a great annual festival, especially if the focus on holiday beers increases. Organizer Jeff Moses only had a few weeks to put this year’s festival together, so I expect next year’s to be even grander (no pressure, Jeff). Naturally, I couldn’t try everything there, but of what I did have, here are a few stand-outs:

  • Anchor Christmas Ale 2009: The last few years have not seen the roller coaster flavor changes of the late 1990s, more’s the pity. But it’s as solid as ever and still one of my all-time favorite holiday beers and one of my go-to beers for Thanksgiving.
  • Anderson Valley Winter Solstice: For years, this beer has been too vanilla-forward for my tastes, but this year they’ve got the balance just right, with just a delicious hint of the vanilla.
  • Ayinger Weizen Bock: A great mix of wheat character and the dark, malt strength of a bock.
  • Grand Teton Pursuit of Hoppiness Double Red Ale: A terrific big, hoppy beer; one of two great double reds at the festival.
  • Lhasa Beer: A clean pilsner brewed in Tibet. Despite the politics surrounding the beer, it tastes pretty decent.
  • Mad River John Barleycorn Barleywine Style Ale: Another beer that continues to improve. The last few years, this beer has been fantastic, and this year’s edition is no exception.
  • Ninkasi Believer Double Red: Not yet in the Bay Area, but soon, I’m told. Keep an eye out for this, and their entire line. If you love hoppy beers, Eugene, Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewery will quickly become one of your favorites. Brewmaster Jamie Floyd has a deft hand with big, hoppy beers. The Double Red is a terrific hop monster with great balance.
  • Okocim Polish Porter: I haven’t tasted this porter in a few years, and it’s even better than I remember. A really nice example.
  • Uncommon Brewers Rubidus Red Ale: A beer brewed with mushrooms that nicely captures the savory flavors of Candy Cap mushrooms balanced by the addition of maple sugar.

Posted on Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
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Wine syrup and leftover wine

So I made a yummy chicken dish the other night using a few ounces of an Italian wine syrup. You can find them at most specialty grocery stores (mine, Vino Cotto, in full disclosure, was sent to me by the manufacturer, Montillo Italian Foods).

Vino Cotto

It’s just cooked sweet wine, and more than 2 pounds of grapes go into one 8 ounce bottle.  It has no alcoholic content and has a richer fruitier (think plummy-raisin) flavor than maple syrup.

I sprinkled salt and pepper on my chicken then sauteed it in olive oil and drizzled the syrup on it towards the end, letting it thicken and bubble before serving. The chicken was moist and not too sweet. Check it out for $15.95 at Vino Cotto’s web site.

Or, better yet, try this Real Simple recipe by fab friend Jenny sent me to make your own wine syrups from leftover whites or reds.

Posted on Tuesday, November 17th, 2009
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Bistro Barrel Aged Fest Serves Over 70 Beers

Today in Hayward, California, the Bistro held their 4th annual Barrel Aged Beer Fest, serving a record number of beers for any festival they’ve thrown, with over 70 beers. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for drinking extreme beers and there were some wonderful examples there. While I wasn’t able to try them all, here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order:

  • Bear Republic Blackberry Grizz: Slightly sour nose but the tart blackberries really come through wonderfully to pair with rich malt.
  • Lagunitas Crusin’ with Ruben & the Bretts on Cherries: An oh-so-smooth imperial stout finished off with cherries the final three months. Chocolately with tart cherry flavors. Just delicious.
  • Marin Old Dipsea Barleywine Arne Johnson’s barleywine tasting as good as ever.
  • Fifty Fifty Imperial Eclipse Stout 2008 on Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel: One of the best imperial stouts I’ve tasted on a long time, the barrel flavors are pitch perfect.
  • Avery Voltron: A blend of five different barrel aged beers, so good they probably could defend the universe like its cartoon namesake, Voltron.
  • Black Diamond Imperial Porter: This may be brewer Derrick Smith’s best beer to date. Brewed with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans, the nose is all milk chocolate. With complex spicy flavors that mix well with the overall chocolateyness (not a real word) of the flavor profile, this is a terrific beer for sipping by a warming fire. It reminds so much of hot chocolate for adults, that now I’m curious if you could mull it like Unibroue’s Quelque Chose.
  • Sierra Nevada Scotch on Scotch: Sierra Nevada continues to impress with their range of different experimental and special beers. This Scotch “wee heavy” was aged in a Glengoyne Scotch barrel to give it amazing complexity. A true sipping beer.
  • Moylan’s Wet Hopsickle 2009: A fresh hop beer aged in a Chardonnay barrel. The oak and Chardonnay notes work really nicely with the strong hop character to create some very unique flavors.
  • Russian River Consecration: One of my favorites of the newer Russian River beers, though Supplication was tasting pretty good, too.
  • Valley Brewing Bourbon Barrel Old Inventory Barley Wine: Steve’s award-winning barley wine, still tasting great.

Craig Cauwels, from Schooner's, with Vic Krajl
Craig Cauwels, from Schooner’s, with Vic Krajl, co-owner of the Bistro.

Posted on Saturday, November 14th, 2009
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