Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for May, 2010

Around The World In 80 Beers

This kind of fun. A world travel website, Pure Travel, has created a world map with a representative beer label for each country. Apparently there are 80 different labels represented. You can see inset maps at Pure Travel and there’s also a much larger map where you can see greater detail. How many can you identify?


Posted on Saturday, May 29th, 2010
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New York Times Features Bay Area Beer Stores

Today’s New York Times has a great little article extolling the virtues of beer tasting bars, beer stores with tasting licenses allowing them to have limited taps and sample customers on the beers they carry. The story, Tastings With Craft Beers, features two Bay Area beer stores, Beer Revolution in Oakland, and City Beer Store in San Francisco, both terrific, relatively new, additions to the Bay Area beer scene. City Beer Store opened in 2006, while the Beer Revolution began this past February, during SF Beer Week.

If you haven’t been to either, now would be a good time to go. City Beer Store was founded by Craig Wathen, who formerly was with Pete’s Wicked Ales, and his wife Beth. They’ve created a cozy space on Folsom packed with over 300 beers, many of them hard-to-find elsewhere, and also managed to make the space comfortable and inviting.

Oakland’s Beer Revolution was started this year by Rebecca Boyles and Fraggle (a.k.a. Mark Martone — I didn’t even know Fraggle’s real name until just now!). I featured the pair in a long article I did on “Beer Geeks” for beer Advocate magazine several years ago. For them, this is a passion realized, a dream made real. In a larger space than their city doppelganger, Beer Revolution has a dozen taps and many, many bottles for sale. Both stores are constantly doing small, intimate in-store tastings and events.

The other three stores mentioned are all in Oregon, including the iconic Belmont Station in Portland. Only a few years ago, stores like these were a rarity, but their presence has been growing by leaps and bounds lately, and that’s great news for beer lovers.

Posted on Thursday, May 27th, 2010
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2006 Sterling Albert Winery Syrah Mt. Diablo

I grilled up some lamb steaks last night with a rub I made on the fly: Cumin, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and oregano (I was out of mint). I mixed in some oil, made a paste, and slathered it on those grass-fed New Zealand steaks.

Syrah was a natural pairing. But not just any syrah. The 2006 Sterling Albert Syrah, made from grapes grown on Mt. Diablo’s Mangini/Albert Vineyard in Contra Costa County, was ideal because it showed the savory, herbal (I definitely detected some oregano) and smoky elements that California syrahs with a touch of age tend to exhibit.

The deep purple color is misleading. This is a complex wine, but it’s not huge and brimming with alcohol. Still, just to make sure it wouldn’t dominate my lamb steaks, I uncorked the bottle half an hour before we were planning on eating, so the wine had a chance to mellow out. I think it will only get better in the next few days. It’s got soft tannins, balanced fruit, and a surprisingly long finish.

The wine is still available for $24 (a steal if you ask me) on the winery’s web site.

Posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
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Giants To Host Inaugural Beer Festival Saturday

This Saturday, May 29, the San Francisco Giants, along with the San Francisco Brewers Guild, will host the first beer festival at the ballpark. All seven guild member breweries will be pouring their beer, including Beach Chalet, 21st Amendment, Thirsty Bear, Social Kitchen Brewery, Magnolia Pub, Speakeasy & Gordon Biersch. The ticket price is $20.00, which includes the ticket to the Brewfest and the Game plus a 5 oz. tasting glass to taste all the beers. The Brewfest starts at 3:00 pm and goes until 6:00 pm and then its game time. Tickets can be purchased at the Giant’s website.


Posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2010
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Beer Consumption By Nation

Here’s another interesting graph showing the per capita consumption of beer for a dozen counties by showing beer glasses filled to a height representative of their levels of drinking.


Beer Consumption By Nation

Here’s the 12 countries with the number representing bottles per person per week.

  1. Czech Republic 8.5
  2. Ireland 7.1
  3. Germany 6.3
  4. Australia 6.0
  5. United Kingdom 5.4
  6. United States 4.4
  7. Canada 3.7
  8. South Africa 3.2
  9. Mexico 2.8
  10. Japan 2.8
  11. Brazil 2.6
  12. China 1.2

You can see the original graphic, much larger, at Snippets.

Posted on Friday, May 21st, 2010
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Spring Beer Tasting This Saturday At Pacific Coast

This Saturday at Pacific Coast Brewing in downtown Oakland, the annual Spring Beer Tasting will be held. The all-inclusive price is $50, and you’ll need to pick up tickets in advance, but it will be worth it.


Here’s what you can expect:

The Beers


  1. Firehouse Maibock: Maibocks are light-colored bocks. The sweet malty character should come through in the aroma and flavor. A lightly toasted and/or bready malt character is often evident. Roast or heavy toast/caramel malt character should be absent. Body is medium to full. Hop bitterness should be low, while noble-type hop aroma and flavor may be at low to medium levels. Bitterness increases with gravity. Fruity esters may be perceived at low levels. 6-8% ABV, 20-38 IBU
  2. Ayinger Celebrator Dopplebock: Originally brewed at a monastery in northern Italy, “double bock” was quickly introduced by Bavarian brewers to compete with bock. Doppelbock names end with the suffix “-ator.” Celebrator Doppelbock is a rich, classic Bavarian specialty lager traditionally consumed as a celebration beer. This “double bock” is a profoundly dark beer, full-bodied and velvety from half a year’s aging. Despite its richness, it has a faintly smoky dryness in the finish. A rich, dark elixir with cascading layers of malt complexity balanced by elegant hops. Notes of toffee, caramel, elegant dark-malt roastiness, and pure malt. Pinpoint conditioning and semi-dry finish. IBU: 24 ABV: 6.7%


  1. PCB Imperial Red: Dry, malty and hoppy with a smooth finish. Brewed with dark malts and dry hopped with Horizon hops, this flavorful ale is very food friendly. 50 IBU 7.3% ABV
  2. Stone Vertical Epic: The Stone 09.09.09 Vertical Epic Ale is a bit of departure from the last two Stone Vertical Epic Ale editions, which were golden in color. The newest one can best be described as a Belgian style Imperial Porter. The beer is deep brown, with intense roasted character provided by chocolate malt.
  3. Dogfish Head Burton Baton: Burton Baton is a blend of an English-style Old Ale and an Imperial IPA. After fermenting the separate beers in stainless tanks, the two are transferred and blended together in one large oak tank. Burton Baton sits on the wood for about a month. When enjoying the Burton Baton, you’ll find an awesome blend of the citrus notes from Northwestern hops melding with woody, vanilla notes from the oak. The wood also tends to mellow the 10% of the beer – so tread cautiously!
  4. Sierra Anchor 30th Anniversary Fritz & Ken’s Ale: Fritz Maytag, owner of San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Company, is regarded as the founding father of the craft brewing movement. Fritz agreed to guest brew this very special ale with Sierra Nevada in honor of their 30th anniversary. As a nod to the dark ales and stouts that seduced both Fritz and Ken in the early years, Sierra Nevada brings you this pioneering stout, a rich and roasted ale, perfect for aging, and worthy of your finest snifter. 9.5% ABV
  5. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2004: The award-winning barleywine boasts a dense, fruity bouquet, an intense flavor palate and a deep reddish-brown color. Its big maltiness is superbly balanced by a wonderfully bittersweet hoppiness. 9.6 ABV, 90 IBU

Barrel Aged

  1. Drake’s Tripod: Over the top Imperial Stout Aged in Wine barrels. 1/3 was aged in Port barrels, 1/3 was aged in Port barrels with cherries added, and the last third was aged in a Pinot barrel. We will soon see what 2 years of aging does to this big beer.
  2. Lost Abbey Angel’s Share: Angel’s Share is a barrel aged burgundy colored ale infused with copious amounts of dark caramel malt to emphasize the vanilla and oak flavors found in freshly emptied bourbon or brandy barrels. Each batch spends no less than 12 months aging in the oak. This beer is brewed for sinners and saints alike. 12.5 ABV
  3. Speakeasy Scarface Stout: Speakeasy Ales and Lagers is happy to introduce Scarface Imperial Stout. A complicated brew – behind its fiercely black exterior is a mélange of subtly different roasted malt flavors that add nuance and depth to a style of beer that is too often heavy and one dimensional. To add a bit of roundness to the flavor we diverted about 20% of the brew into our Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, one of which we topped up with cacao nibs from our friends at local San Francisco organic chocolate makers, TCHO, for a period of oak-aging before blending it back into the primary batch. This is a special beer that reveals a little something different about itself every sip. Malts: American 2-row, Belgian Dark Caramel, French Coffee Malt, Chilean Black Malt and English Roasted Barley Hops: Columbus, 10.5% ABV, 70 IBU
  4. North Coast Old Rasputin 12: For the past few years, barrel-aged Old Rasputin has been released in such limited quantities that it has been available only at the brewery retail shop. NCBC produced enough Old Rasputin XII to put into broader distribution. It is amazing stuff. Aging in oak whiskey barrels adds a level of complexity that amplifies the espresso/chocolate notes in the flavor profile and takes this unique beer to new heights. 11.2% ABV

Imperial IPA

  1. Avery Maharaja 2009: Maharaja is derived from the sanskrit words mahat, – “great” and rajan – “king”. Much like its namesake, this imperial IPA is regal, intense and mighty. With hops and malts as his servants, he rules both with a heavy hand. The Maharaja flaunts his authority over a deranged amount of hops: tangy, vibrant and pungent along with an insane amount of malted barley – fashioning a dark amber hue and exquisite malt essence. 10.2% ABV, 102 IBU
  2. Port Brewing Anniversary Ale: A massively hopped strong pale ale brewed to celebrate Avery’s anniversary each year. Anniversary Ale is light gold to pale orange in color and offers a potent aroma of fresh pine and citrus with some warming alcohols present. The taste is a thick, chewy hop presence only barely contained by balancing malts. The finish is pure hop expression with a moderate warming alcohol sensation. 10% ABV
  3. Russian River Pliny the Younger: Pliny the Younger was Pliny the Elder’s nephew, in the case of this beer, the “Younger” is a triple IPA. Pliny the Younger is hopped three times more than our standard IPA, and is dry hopped four different times. 11.0% ABV, GOBS of BUs.

Food Menu

  • Crab Cakes with Red Pepper Cream Sauce
  • Jambalaya
  • Pizza with Brie, Pear & Caramelized Onion
  • Prime Rib with Scalloped Potatoes
  • Smoked Salmon Wrap with Cucumber, Red Onions, Capers and Cream Cheese
  • Antipasti with German Sausages
  • Cheese Board
  • Lamb Curry over Rice
  • Cheese Cake

Posted on Thursday, May 20th, 2010
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2008 August Briggs “Dijon Clones” Pinot Noir

August Briggs 2008 Pinot Noir

Before we were engaged, my husband and I had one of our most fantastic dates at Trattoria La Siciliana in Berkeley. It was one of those nights – cue cheesy music of girl retelling story – where you talk so many hours you shut the place down.

It was midweek, and the Italian waiter was grunting his disapproval as he piled chairs on table tops.

Anyway, during the winter months, I always keep cases of wine in my car’s trunk – a reality when you live in an urban area and run out of places to store wine. So I ran to my car and pulled out a bottle of red, something from California and far too big to enjoy even with the restaurant’s saucy, Sicilian fare.

Last night, after almost two years, we found ourselves in the same neighborhood. And just like we did on that early date, I ran to my car and grabbed this beautiful, unfined and unfiltered August Briggs pinot noir (about $40).Talk about sense of place.

This wine is made from grapes grown on the Green Island Vineyard located on the south end of Napa Valley. The biggest reason I like this pinot is because it isn’t suffocated by new oak – I know the 2007 was aged in mostly two and three year old French oak barrels – so it’s like the Briggs made this wine in the same style: Ripe with dusty fruit and soft, vanilla spices.

We enjoyed it with a fresh pappardelle loaded with pork meatballs in a spicy, basil flecked tomato sauce. It was a superb pairing, and we talked just as long as we did on that original date.

Posted on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
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Vote San Francisco Bay Area As BeerCity USA

For the second year in a row, Charlie Papazian, president and founder of the Brewers Association, is hosting a poll during American Craft Beer Week to determine BeerCity USA. Last year the winner was a tie between Portland, Oregon and Asheville, North Carolina. Both are great beer towns to be sure, but I think the Bay Area can do better this year. We started off strong, but apparently there was some funny business going on with the voting — one of the vagaries of living in Silicon Valley, I suppose — and we ended up in fourth place. To make it easier to vote this year, just choose below and click on the “vote” button. Obviously, vote for your favorite city, but it goes without saying that I would encourage you to choose “San Francisco/Oakland – Bay Area, CA.”

Posted on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
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American Craft Beer Week

The “Mother of All Beer Week’s” begins today — American Craft Beer Week — which runs May 17-23.


From the press release:

Beer lovers, craft brewers, homebrewers, beer distributors, retailers, and even U.S. Congress are all making special plans for the annual American Craft Beer Week taking place across the country May 17-23. The “Mother of All Beer Weeks, ” organized by the Brewers Association, celebrates small and independent craft brewers and highlights all that America loves about craft beer. In 2006, the week became the largest national effort focusing on American craft brewers and remains so today.

“American Craft Beer Week has become a cherished tradition, making this annual celebration a great chance to toast craft brewers and to celebrate the advanced beer culture here in the United States,” stated Julia Herz, a spokesperson for the Brewers Association.

There events going all all over the state of California. Just choose “California” from the drop-down menu.


Posted on Monday, May 17th, 2010
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Not all New Zealand sauvignon blanc tastes the same

Kim Crawford 2009 Sauvignon Blanc

Recently, I attended a tasting of 25 California sauvignon blancs. A bottle from New Zealand’s Marlborough accidently made it in the bunch. And it stood out immediately: Crisp with intense grapefruit quality and acidity. After all, it just takes a whif to recognize that intense gooseberry, right?

Not always. Have you ever done a sub region comparison of Marlborough sauvignon blancs? They can be different, depending on vintage and sub region. There are four in Marlborough: Upper Wairau, Lower Wairau, Blind River, and Awatere.

I think I’ve mostly stuck with Lower Wairau, a warmer, wetter area with fine alluvial soils and a stony under layer. There, wineries yield more concentrated berries with tropical and gooseberry characteristics. If you’ve had most vintages of the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, particularly the 2009, you know what I mean.

So I tried the 2009 Drylands Sauvignon Blanc, which sources its fruit from the Upper Wairau where the influence of the Wairau River and Cloudy Bay creates a slow and even ripening. Think grassy and full of citrus. Not loads different than the Kim Crawford, but if you’re looking for variations in prominent aromas and flavors, they’re there.

Lastly, I opened up a 2009 Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc. Easily the most sophisticated and complex among the three, the Nobilo includes grapes from all four sub regions. Blind River vineyards are known for their free-draining gravel soils that limit vigor and yields. I got a lot of pineapple and even minerality on this one – to the point that I think it could be aged for a few years.

See, they’re not all the same.

Posted on Friday, May 14th, 2010
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