Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for June, 2010

Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione to Star in Discovery Channel TV Show

It was announced today that Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware, will be starring, along with Patrick McGovern from the University of Pennsylvania, in a new series on the Discovery Channel this fall. The show will be called BREWED.

Below is a portion of the press release.

Beer is the drink of the masses. If you look into a glass of beer you can see the past, present and future of mankind. Cicero lauded it, Genghis Khan fought for it and now Discovery Channel celebrates it with a world premiere series, BREWED, exploring the culture, history and variety of beer.

Meet Sam Calagione: maverick entrepreneur, family man and owner of Dogfish Head Brewery in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. As an ambassador to the world of craft beer, Sam travels the world to experience what every culture brings to its own special brew.

In BREWED, Sam shows viewers the other side of the bottle, sharing the stories of beer sub-cultures as well as exploring life inside The Dogfish Head Brewery. BREWED goes behind the scenes at Dogfish Head as Sam’s merry band of creative brewmasters concoct new taste varieties.

“BREWED taps more than just kegs and barrels, it unlocks a fascinating history of beer making, showcasing the ingenuity and passion behind our love affair with those alluring suds and how it played a role in building civilizations,” said Clark Bunting, President and General Manager of Discovery Channel.

Running a successful business also requires inspiration, so BREWED hits the road for the ultimate beer tasting road trip. Along with archeologist and beer expert Pat McGovern, Sam sets out to recreate “ancient ales” that have been discovered at sites around the world from Egypt to Peru. He travels to Rome to research old world Italian beers as inspiration for a new site in New York with Mario Batali. A visit to New Zealand introduces the idea of making the “first tomato based beer.” And back home, Sam is tasked to come up with a commemorative beer called “Bitches Brew” to celebrate the 40th anniversary release of Miles Davis’ famous recording.

“Beer has always been my passion. It is so much more than what you see in the glass. I’m excited to share the diligence, daring and creativity that we pour into our work,” said Calagione.

The show is being produced by Zero Point Zero Production, the company responsible for Anthony Bourdain No Reservations and Diary of a Foodie. I like the fact that Pat McGovern is involved. His book, Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages, is fascinating and he has a very interesting take on the history of beer. It’s certainly great to see beer finally getting a high profile television show.

Sam Calagione in the back room of the Toronado for an event in 2008.

Posted on Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
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Zymurgy Poll Picks Best Beers in America

Zymurgy magazine, which is published by the American Homebrewers Association for its members, today released the results of their latest poll, asking their readers to “readers to send us a list of their 20 favorite beers. The only rule [was] that the beer [had] to be commercially available somewhere in the United States. A record number of votes were cast this year, with 1,192 different beers from 450 breweries represented in the poll.” So while the name of the poll is 2010 Zymurgy Best Beers In America, the list does include a few imported beers that are sold in the U.S.

For the second year in a row, Russian River’s Pliny the Elder took the top spot.


2010 Zymurgy Best Beers In America Poll

  1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
  2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
  3. Stone Arrogant Bastard
  4. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
  5. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  6. Stone IPA
  7. Tie for 7th
    • Bear Republic Racer 5
    • Guinness
    • Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine
    • Sierra Nevada Celebration
  8. Stone Ruination
  9. Tie for 12th
    • North Coast Old Rasputin
    • Sierra Nevada Torpedo
    • Rahr Winter Warmer
    • Rahr Ugly Pug
    • Rahr Iron Thistle
  10. Tie for 17th
    • Oskar Blues Ten Fidy
    • New Glarus Belgian Red
    • Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
    • Duvel
  11. Tie for 21st
    • Lagunitas IPA
    • Samuel Adams Boston Lager
    • Rahr Storm Cloud
    • Saison Dupont
  12. Tie for 25th
    • Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
    • Rahr Bucking Bock
    • Ommegang Three Philosophers

That’s the top 25, but the top 50 can bee seen at Zymurgy’s press release.

They also picked the top 25 favorite breweries, of which Rahr & Sons Brewing Co. of Fort Worth, Texas was number one and they “tabulated which breweries had the most brands in the voting. That honor went to Boston Beer Co. with 22 of its Samuel Adams brews getting votes. Dogfish Head was close behind with 20 brands.” You can also see the full list of Beer Portfolios and Favorite Breweries at the American Homebrewers Association website.

Posted on Monday, June 28th, 2010
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Wine 4 thru who knows! WBC live blogging continues

2009 Mollydooker The Velvet Glove. Reasonably priced at $180 and scored as high as 99 points by Robert Parker, this is a pinnacle Shiraz. It’s a sexy powerhouse of velvety chocolate covered raspberries plus coffee and tar. Man, 15.5% alc!

2007 Trio Vintners Riot Red Table Wine. Yakima/Columbia blend o’ sangio, syrah, mourvedre w/ sniff of sweat? Decent balance. Good name. $18. Small production – 840 cases. Hope to expand to 1000.

Ponzi Cellars 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir: Bit of sulfur dioxide. Tough to get around but beneath the fizz I sense notes of earth and cranberries. Sustainable. $35.

Stoller 2007 JV Pinot Noir. $25 Oregon pinot noir under screw cap. Merde! Jory Dundee soils. In. Love. Two year bottle age explains complexity. Well done, Dan Friedman!

2008 Stepping Stone Napa Valley Cabernet Franc. Acidity is a flavor and tannin is a feeling, says winemaker Craig Camp. Yes! This wine’s tannins hit you at the last minute – but they still hit you. Herbal and floral aromas and flavors$30.

Long Shadows Sequel 2007 Columbia Valley Syrah. Big gulp o sex. Aussie syrah w/ Wash fruit and French boss. Frackin’ smooth. Awesome.

Solena Estate 2008 Pinot Noir Hyland. True beaut. Jory minerals. Too high alc for Oregon pinot but fairly well integrated. Young. $50.  1971 vines. Old by Oregon standards. @solenaestate.

2007 Concannon Conservancy Petit Sirah. Livermore! Prune and molasses nose. Big tannins. Tastes like black plums. Lots o’ history here. $15.

Posted on Saturday, June 26th, 2010
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Wine Bloggers Conference Live Wine Blogging: Reds

Here we are, day two of the Wine Bloggers Conference at the Marcus Whitman Hotel in downtown Walla Walla, Washington. This wine region is home to 150 wineries and we’re about to start the live wine blogging session for the red wines.

First up: 2008 Don Sebastiani & Sons The Crusher Petit Sirah. Almost creamy on the palate, it’s so viscous. I get toffee like flavors behind the smashed blackberries and blueberries. Surprisingly smooth tannins and “only” 13.5% alcohol. Well done. $12.

Wine 2: 2008 Desert Wind Ruah. Means “wind” in Hebrew. Soft, chewy cherry pie and cinnamon blend of merlot, cab sauv, cab franc. @desertwindwine. $20.

Wine 3: Duck Pond Cellars 2008 Red Blend. Silky suede dark fruit. Smooth tannins. Wahluke Slope. Hottest part of Columbia Valley but doesn’t feel like dragon breathe alcohol.@duckpondcellars. $15

Posted on Saturday, June 26th, 2010
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Live Wine Blogging white wines continued!

Wine 9: Desert Wind 2009 Viognier. From Washington’s Wahluke Slope. Aromas of honeysuckle with lemon and lime flavors. Pale straw. $15? Worth it.

Wine 10: 2009 Poet’s Leap Riesling. Omigod, this is it. This is the white wine for me. Not the strongest aroma, but they get lacy gorgeous acidity and truth in flavor by picking the grapes at around 20 brix. Impressive. $20.

Wine 11: 2009 Big House White Octavin. Light gold, honeysuckle aroma, lychee flavors, fab acidity. $22 for 3 liters. Great value. #WBC10.

Wine 12: 2008 Maryhill Winery Viognier. Stainless steel fermented with a touch of oak. Peaches and cream with good acidity for a viognier (which are typically flabby. $12.

Posted on Friday, June 25th, 2010
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Wine Bloggers Conference Live Tasting Continued!

Did I mention that the indication that we need to continue to the next wine (or date, heehee) is a cowbell? Bring it.

Wine 4: L’Ecole No. 41 2008 Semillon. From one of Walla Walla’s oldest family wineries comes this wine, which Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker have both called America’s best Semillon. What do I think? Aromas and flavors of melon, stone and mineral. Almost a creamy finish w/out oak. $15? Yes please!

Wine 5: Parducci 2008 Sustainable White. In 2007, Whole Foods asked Parducci, a sustainable winery in Mendocino, to make a white wine for them. This is the result, now available everywhere. A blend of chenin blanc, muscat cannelli, sauvignon blanc and viognier, it has aromas of white flowers, excellent acid and white peach flavors. Love. $10.99!!

Wine 6: 2009 Pithy Little Wine Co Sangiovese Rose. From a small San Luis Obispo garagiste producer comes this rose with aromas of strawberries and whipped cream, watermelon flavors, and a touch of woody heat (though that could be that the wine is not chilled). If it was chilled I would drink it with everything, everyday. $22?

Wine 7: Ortman Family Wines 2007 Chardonnay. Edna Valley, caramel apples, unctuous, and passion fruit aromas/flavors. Too much oak for me. $24.

Posted on Friday, June 25th, 2010
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Live Wine Blogging at WBC 2010: White Wines

So, here’s the deal, folks. I’m at the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference and they’re having us speed date with wines, kind of. We’re seated at tables of 8 and wineries come over and pour a white wine for us (tomorrow is reds).

We have five minutes -five – to evaluate the wine and write our impressions in a stream of consciousness format. You can also follow me taste through these wines via Twitter @swirlgirl_jy.

Wine 1: Molly Dooker The Violinist 2009 Verdelho. Citrus notes with a bit much oak. Could use a little more acidity. $25? Too high for me.

Wine 2: 2008 House Wine. Blend led by Chardonnay. Light gold, floral aroma (thanks to Muscat) caramelized stone fruits. $13? Yes.

Wine 3: Dry Creek Vineyards 2009 Dry Chenin Blanc. Light straw, pineapple aromas, guava flavors, good acid. Not complex, worth $12. WBC#10

Posted on Friday, June 25th, 2010
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Nine New Belgians

In my column two weeks ago, Betsey’s Belgians, I highlighted Waterloo Beverages and the new beers they’re bringing in from Belgium. Since these beers are so good and I think deserve a chance to catch on with customers, I wanted to highlight each one of them a bit more and let you know where they can be found, at least so far.


Abbaye de St Amand

Brewery: Brunehaut Brewery
Beer: Belgian Strong Pale Ale
A.B.V. 7%
Package: 330 ml bottle-conditioned
Organic: no
Notes: the Abbaye de Sint Amand, a bottle-conditioned strong blonde ale spiced with Juniper berries. The Juniper is subtle and gives just a hint of the berry’s distinctive flavors and has a great dry finish.


Arend Tripel

Brewery: Brouwerij De Ryck
Beer: Belgian Tripel
A.B.V. 8%
Package: 330 ml bottle-conditioned
Organic: no
Notes: The Arend Tripel from the Brouwerij de Ryck, is a favorite of local brewer Brian Hunt, who owns Moonlight Brewing in Santa Rosa. Hunt tells me, in fact, that he asked Hensley to bring in the beer, as he waxes poetically about the brewery. De Ryck “is a third-generation family brewery, and makes some of the finest beers in the world, with a brilliancy and passion you don’t often see.” After a visit to the brewery, he’d become friends with Anne De Ryck, one of Belgium’s few women brewers. “I don’t think a man can make that beer. Her beers have a grace that I haven’t found in others. We can’t make it, but we can appreciate it.” And it is a beautiful beer, soft and subtle, with some delicate flavors. It may simply be the best tripel you’ve never heard of.



Brewery: Oud Beersel; brewed at Brouwerij Huyghe
Beer: Belgian Tripel
A.B.V. 9.5%
Package: 330 ml bottle
Organic: no
Notes: The brewery’s only non-lambic beer, Bersalis, a tripel they created to help finance the operations of the museum brewery where they make their lambics. It uses wheat, as well as malt, to soften it and includes some spices to give it great citrus and spicy notes. It has a nice dry finish, and you’d never guess it’s 9.5% a.b.v.



Brewery: De Proef [website currently offline]
Beer: Belgian Pale Ale
A.B.V. 7.5%
Package: 330 ml bottle-conditioned
Organic: yes
Notes: Gagaleer is a blonde brewed with sweet gale (a.k.a. bog myrtle) a traditional spice used in gruits that pre-date the use of hops in beer, though it’s used primarily here as a spice. The beer also uses local barley and Belgian hops. The beer is honey sweet and the finish is candy sweet, balanced by the bitterness of the sweet gale and hops.


Ichtegems Grand Cru

Brewery: Brouwerij Strubbe
Beer: Flanders Red Ale
A.B.V. 6.5%
Package: 330 ml bottle
Organic: no
Notes: The Ichtegems Grand Cru, from the De Strubbe Brewery, is a Flemish red ale aged in oak barrels. It has a malty nose and flavors, with just a touch of sourness, a creamy mouthfeel and a sweet finish.



Brewery: De Proef [website currently offline]
Beer: Belgian Strong Pale Ale
A.B.V. 8%
Package: 750 ml bottle-conditioned, cork & cage
Organic: yes
Notes: This beer is brewed with unrefined cane sugar giving it a ruddy complexion along with organic hops — Challenger, Goldings & Fuggles — from Poperinge, organic malt and there’s also organic garlic used in the brewing process. The garlic provides mostly body and mouthfeel, though it is evident in the aroma.


Leireken Wild Berries

Brewery: Brouwerij Strubbe
Beer: Fruit Lambic
A.B.V. 8%
Package: 750 ml bottle-conditioned, cork & cage
Organic: yes
Notes: Leireken Wild Berries is a bottle-conditioned fruit beer made with the juice of pomegranates, cherries and strawberries, along with the pulp from blueberries, raspberries and the red elderberry, all organic and unfiltered. Surprisingly, the beer is more tart than sweet, and is refreshingly light and zesty. According to their website it’s “is based on Leireken White Spelt, an organic beer brewed from spelt. Spelt is a hardy ancient type of wheat that grows well in nutritionally poor soil. Its slow maturation process allows the plant to absorb a maximum of minerals from the soil. The 12th century medieval abbess Hildegard von Bingen, later Saint Hildegard, endorsed spelt, calling it “the healing grain.” (She’s actually quoted as saying, “It is rich and nourishing and milder than other grains. It produces a strong body and healthy blood to those who eat it and it makes the spirit of man light and cheerful”).”


Oude Geuze Vieille

Brewery: Oud Beersel
Beer: Gueuze
A.B.V. 6%
Package: 750 ml bottle
Organic: no
Notes: The Oud Beersel brewery is a working museum just like Cantillon in Brussels. According to their website, “Oud Beersel Oude Geuze is one of nature’s miracles. Oude Geuze is a blend of lambic from different years. One year old lambic is still readily fermentable. Two year old and three year old lambic main contribution is to the taste. Blending the lambic produces a sparkling beer that is made in accordance with time-honored traditions. Oud Beersel Oude Geuze notable hop and fruit character is much appreciated.”


Oude Kriek Vieille

Brewery: Oud Beersel
Beer: Fruit Lambic
A.B.V. 6.5%
Package: 750 ml bottle
Organic: no
Notes: Oud Beersel’s website describes Oude Kriek as “an artisanal product, made from real cherries and Oud Beersel Lambic from old barrels. Once the cherries have been added to the Lambic, they are slowly absorbed into the Lambic, which develops a fruity character and a red colour.
Oud Beersel Oude Kriek is unique of its type in that it contains around 400 grams of cherries per litre of Oude Kriek. Oud Beersel Oude Kriek has no added sugar and contains no artificial flavourings or preservatives.” It’s only bottled once a year, and what’s available now was bottled last fall.

The beers are just rolling out to retailers and restaurants around the Bay Area. So far, you can find some or all of them at the following locations:

  • Beer Revolution
  • Bi Rite Market
  • Church Key
  • City Beer Store
  • Eastside West (Restaurant on Fillmore)
  • Healthy Spirits
  • Heaven’s Dog Restaurant
  • Jardiniare Restaurant
  • The Jug Shop
  • Lunardi’s Supermarkets
  • Monk’s Kettle
  • New Star-El
  • Noeteca Restaurant
  • Pi Bar
  • Shotwell
  • The Slanted Door Restaurant (Ferry Building)
  • Swirl
  • Toronado
  • The Village Market (Ferry Building)
  • Whole Foods (Haight Fillmore)

Posted on Saturday, June 19th, 2010
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Award Winning Beers at the California State Fair

Although the California State Fair itself doesn’t until July 14, but on Monday, the results of this year’s California State Fair competition for “Commercial Craft Beer” were released. As usual, the winners are listed confusingly by county, with no overall list. Why they do this is beyond me. Also, the commercial competition is judged using the 23 BJCP categories, plus three for mead and two for hard cider.

At any rate, the top honors went to:

  • Best of Show: Sudwerk Marzen
  • Best of Show 1st Honorable Mention: Triple Rock IPAX
  • Best of Show 2nd Honorable Mention: Lightning Brewery Elemental Pilsner
  • Best of Show 3rd Honorable Mention: Fox Barrel Mulled Cider
  • Best of Show 4th Honorable Mention: Sudwerk Dunkelweizen

And the “1st Gold” Awards in each category were as follows:

  • 1A,B. Lite American Lager & Standard American Lager: Michelob Ultra
  • 1C. Premium American Lager: Michelob
  • 1D,E. Helles & Export: San Pedro Longshoreman Lager
  • 2A. German Pilsner: Lightning Brewery Elemental Pilsner
  • 2B,C. Bohemian & Classic American Pilsner: Sierra Nevada Summerfest
  • 4. Dark Lager: Sudwerk Marzen
  • 5A. Maibock/Helles Bock: San Pedro Welke Bock
  • 5C,D. Doppelbock & Eisbock: Lodi Eisbock
  • 6A,C: Cream Ale & Kolsch: River City Kolsch
  • 6B. Blonde Ale: Eel River California Blonde
  • 6D. American Wheat or Rye: Santa Cruz Ale Works Hefeweizen
  • 7. Amber Hybrid Beer: Jack’s Gridiron Amber
  • 8A,B. Bitter Ordinary/Special/Best: Faultline Pale Ale
  • 8C. Extra Special/Strong Bitter (English Pale Ale): Anderson Valley Boont Extra Special Beer
  • 9A,B,C. Scottish Ale: Devil’s Canyon Full Boar Scotch Ale
  • 9D. Irish Red Ale: Taps Irish Red
  • 10A. American Pale Ale: Auburn Alehouse American River Pale Ale
  • 10B. American Amber Ale: Mad River Jamaica Red Ale
  • 10C. American Brown Ale: Omaha Jack’s Up Town Rancho Brown
  • 11. English Brown Ale: Tied House Ironwood Dark
  • 12A. Brown Porter: Mammoth Lakes Double Nut Brown
  • 12B,C. Robust & Baltic Porter: Uncommon Brewers Baltic Porter
  • 13A,D,E. Dry, American & Foreign Stouts: Mad River Steelhead Extra Stout
  • 13B,C. Sweet & Oatmeal Stout: Etna Brewing Grubstake Oatmeal Stout
  • 13F. Russian Imperial Stout: Fifty-Fifty Brewing Totality Imperial Stout
  • 14A. Engllish IPA: Eel River Organic IPA
  • 14B. American IPA: Triple Rock IPAX
  • 14C. Imperial IPA: Moylan’s Hopsickle Imperial XXX IPA
  • 15A. Weizen: Sierra Nevada Kellerwiess
  • 15B,C. Dunkleweizen & Weizenbock: Sudwerk Dunkelweizen
  • 16A,C. Witbier & Saison: The Brewhouse Baseball Saison
  • 16B,D,E. Belgian Pale Ale, Biere de Garde & Belgian Specialty Ale: River City Cap City Pale Ale
  • 17. Sour Ale: Valley Brew “Bill Brand-Bic”
  • 18A. Belgian Blonde Ale: Uncommon Brewers Siamese Twin Ale
  • 18B. Belgian Dubbel: Anderson Valley Brother David’s Double Abbey Style Ale
  • 18C. Belgian Tripel: Main Street Bishops Tipple Trippel
  • 19A. Old Ale: Lightning Brewery Old Tempest Ale
  • 19B. English Barleywine: Schooner’s Old Diablo Barleywine
  • 19C. American Barleywine: The Brewhouse Big Johnson Barley Wine
  • 20. Fruit Beer: Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat
  • 21. Spice, Herb Vegetable & Winter Beers: Marin Hoppy Holidaze
  • 22C. Wood-Aged Beer: Mayfield Iconoclast Nocturna
  • 23. Specialty Beer: Drake’s Impinoir Stout
  • 27. Apple Cider: Crispin Cider Crispin Light
  • 28. Specialty Cider: Fox Barrel Mulled Cider


Posted on Thursday, June 17th, 2010
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How To Identify a Rookie Beer Drinker

When you’ve been in the beer world as long as I have, you hear a lot of crazy complaints from people who are new to drinking craft beer or simply haven’t figured out what they’re doing yet. This is even more acute for bartenders, who deal with these complaints daily. Today, L.A. Weekly tackles five of the most common ones in an article entitled L.A. Beer Experts Mythbust 5 Complaints of Amateur Beer Drinkers. The five they highlight are:

  1. There’s too much head on the beer.
  2. This glass isn’t frosted.
  3. Why such a small pour for higher alcohol content beer? What a ripoff.
  4. What’s up with this girly tulip glass?
  5. This beer isn’t cold enough.

Then three L.A. area beer experts, Larry Caldwell (GM at Father’s Office), Christina Perozzi (co-author of The Naked Pint and co-executive editor of, and Ryan Sweeney, owner of The Surly Goat and Verdugo Bar, each tackle why these complaints are so wrong. Take a look for yourself.

The frosted glass is one that really bothers me personally. Ask me first, but don’t ruin my beer. At an area restaurant that will remain nameless, I was once brought a bottle of Chimay with a frosted glass. When I inquired if I could perhaps have an unfrosted glass, the waitress replied they didn’t have any. I had to ask if she could maybe run some warm water over it so it wouldn’t ruin the beer. Naturally, I was the bad guy and though she did it, she wasn’t at all happy about it. She didn’t want to know why I was so fussy, all that mattered is that I had inconvenienced her.

The other one, though not mentioned, is the lemon wedge that’s often served with a hefeweizen. I really wish bars and restaurants would serve it on the side, not already in the glass, or at least ask first if I want it. Once the fruit is in the beer, it can’t be undone and I personally don’t need or want the extra flavor component it brings. I like the flavor of wheat beer just fine without it, thank you very much.

Posted on Thursday, June 17th, 2010
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