Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for April, 2011

Cypress Grove Offers Additional Prize for Best Beer & Goast Cheese Pairing

The good folks at Cypress Grove, makers of Humboldt Fog goat cheese, were tickled pink over the Great Beer & Cheese-Off. They’ve offered a really nice additional prize for the best beer pairing using their Humboldt Fog. So in addition to the book, Maureen Ogle’s book “Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer,” whoever posts here the best goat cheese and beer pairing will also receive directly from Cypress Grove, a Cypress Grove Chevre insulated tote filled with a selection of their cheeses, including Midnight Moon, Truffle Tremor, Purple Haze and Herbs de Humboldt, valued at $100. How awesome is that? It looks like I’ll be doing the cheese and beer tasting next Wednesday, so if you want to participate in the Great Beer & Cheese-Off, you have until the end of the day on Tuesday, May 3, to post a comment with your pick for the best beer and cheese pairing using the three cheeses (or their equivalent) listed in my last post.


Posted on Friday, April 29th, 2011
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Brew Your Own Beer TV Debuts Tonight

B.Y.O.B. TV — Brew Your Own Beer TV — the new television show that will air on local KOFY Channel 20 debuts this evening at 10:30 p.m. KOFY TV20 / Cable13 will be airing the half-hour B.Y.O.B. TV this Saturday, April 23 at 10:30 p.m. If you miss its debut, it will also air on Saturdays at 1:00 a.m. and Sundays, starting April 24th, at 9:30 p.m. On Sunday, the re-runs will air during their “local’s only” programming block. You can catch it three ways: on TV Channel 20, Comcast Cable 13 and Comcast Cable HD 713.

B.Y.O.B. TV will be hosted by Justin Crossley and Jason Petros of The Brewing Network, the #1 on-line radio network dedicated to the art of beer making. The show follows 8 teams, each consisting of 3 eager home brewers as they’re challenged in various stages of the beer brewing process in hopes to escape weekly elimination. The final brewer left standing will win the ultimate prize, a trip to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery in the Czech Republic and become the B.Y.O.B. TV Brewing Champion.


“We want the average consumer to be able to watch this show, enjoy it from an entertaining perspective and gain an appreciation and knowledge for some of the best craft brews in the marketplace”, said Crossley, “at the same time we hope the show will encourage others to tackle the art of home brewing on their own.”

Various craft and import beers from around the region and the world are participating in the show to place emphasis on their commitment towards the innovation and brewing science behind beer making; partners include Pilsner Urquell, Lagunitas, Blue Moon, Grolsh and Blake Brewing. Additional breweries, brew masters and beer and food connoisseurs are participating as well.

While there’s no actual brewing in episode one, we do get to meet the teams and learn how the process will work. But don’t change the channel just yet, things will definitely start to pick up in episode two when the teams do their first batches of beer and things will just keep going from there. Should be fun.

Below is the trailer for the show:

Posted on Saturday, April 23rd, 2011
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The Great Beer & Cheese-Off

Below is a modified version of my regular column that ran in today’s newspaper. I’m posting it here too as home base to participate in what I’m calling the The Great Beer & Cheese-Off. Read the instruction on how to play along and then post your own results here for a chance to win a prize.

Everyone knows about wine and cheese pairings, but the affinity between beer and fromage always has been something of a secret — until now. A growing number of culinary experts are starting to recognize what we beer geeks always have known all along. Beer and cheese — especially artisanal cheese — is a match made in heaven. Both beer and cheese balance “sweetness and acidity with fruitiness and fermentation flavors,” says brewer Garrett Oliver in his book “The Brewmaster’s Table” (Ecco, 2005). They’re both traditional, fermented, farmhouse products, whose roots lie in the grasses that ultimately flavor the final product. So it’s hardly surprising to discover that some monastery breweries, such as Chimay, make both beer and cheese.

But finding just the right combination is key and that’s a project I’ve been working on. I’ve chosen three artisanal cheeses for a panel of colleagues to pair with the perfect beers. Why not taste right along with us? I have some prizes for the best beer pairing for each of the three cheeses listed below, and I’ve offered a few tips to get you started.

The Artisanal Cheeses

1. Maytag Blue


This is one my favorite blues, and not just because it’s owned by the Maytag family, who until recently owned Anchor Brewery. The Maytag Dairy Farm was founded in Iowa by Fritz Maytag’s father in 1941, making it one of the first artisanal cheese companies in America. One of my favorite ways to use Maytag Blue is to crumble some on top of a bowl of chili, something I tried at an Anchor event where both were being served. It’s a terrific combination.

To get you started, Stephen Beaumont and Brian Morin, in their “beerbistro cookbook,” suggest barley wine or even imperial stout for blue cheese. In the “Brewmaster’s Table,” author Garret Oliver doesn’t mention blue cheese, but does suggest Barley Wines with Stilton, which is a specific type of blue cheese.

2. Widmer 1-Year Aged Cheddar


I wanted to make sure I included at least one Wisconsin cheese and Widmer’s Cheese Cellars makes some great golden orange cheddars. Even the one-year old aged cheddar is very full-flavored. Widmer’s website described it as having “rich, nutty flavor [that] becomes increasingly sharp with age. Smooth, firm texture becomes more granular and crumbly with age.”

For milder cheddars, Beaumont and Morin suggest brown ales or pale ales, and for older, sharper cheddars, IPAs or strong abbey ales. Likewise, in the “Brewmaster’s Table,” Oliver suggests India Pale Ales with cheddar cheese.

NOTE: Since writing this, I’ve learned that Whole Foods no longer carries Widmer Cellars cheeses, so this one may be harder to find than I originally thought.

3. Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog


Humboldt Fog is a goat cheese from Cypress Grove Chevre in California. It’s described on their website as a “soft, surface ripened cheese. The texture is creamy and luscious with a subtle tangy flavor. Each handcrafted wheel features a ribbon of edible vegetable ash along its center and a coating of ash under its exterior to give it a distinctive, cake-like appearance.”

In the Brewmaster’s Table, Oliver suggests “a spicy Belgian beer with residual sweetness,” and specifically Ommegang’s Hennepin. Beaumont and Morin recommend Belgian-style wheat beer or doppelbocks for goat cheese generally.

The Challenge

Pick a cheese or try all three, then think about your favorite beers and which might taste good with them. Invite a few friends over and taste each cheese with a few beers. Then pick the one that works best. (Be sure to choose beers that are readily available; no homebrew or draft-only beers, please.)

Post a comment here any time before May 1 (deadline updated: end of the day, Tuesday May 3), and tell us which beer you think pairs best with each cheese — and most important, why you think it works so well. What flavors does the beer bring out in the cheese, or vice versa? What makes the pairing more than the sum of its parts? What did you learn about the pairing, or about beer and cheese together more generally?

Based on your descriptions of which beer worked best, I’ll choose a winner for each of the three cheeses. Each winner will receive a copy of my friend Maureen Ogle’s book “Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer” (Harvest Books, 2007). It’s a great read about the history of American beer from the industrial revolution to present-day craft brewers.

The following week, I’ll be hosting another tasting with a number of local brewers and beer writers and I’ll include your winning beers in our tasting, too. Look for the results of the Great Beer & Cheese-Off Challenge — and recommendations for perfect beer and cheese pairings — right here in mid-May.

So pick up these three cheeses, or three similar ones, along with some craft or good imported beer and get tasting.

Posted on Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
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Celebrate Women In Brewing This Saturday At Rubicon

For several years now, Rubicon Brewing in Sacramento has hosted an event celebrating women in brewing. This year’s Women in Brewing Main Event will take place this Saturday, April 16 all day long. Rubicon is located at 2004 Capitol Avenue in Sacramento.

From the press release:

Join us for our annual celebration of women in the craft brew industry! We’ve got some fantastic beers in store for y’all, including special brews from Sierra Nevada, Lost Coast, Auburn Alehouse, Stone, Santa Cruz Mountain, Blue Frog, Moylan’s, and more! So, stop in, have a pint, and chat with some amazing Women Brewsters. And above all … the event benefits a great organization, W.E.A.V.E.!


Posted on Tuesday, April 12th, 2011
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Today is the Birthday of Gambrinus, The King of Beer

Today is the traditional birthday of Gambrinus, sometimes called King Gambrinus, considered to be the patron saint of beer, brewing and/or Belgian beer. Not an “official” saint, at least not in the catholic church, but a legendary figure. Regardless, join me in drinking a toast to King Gambrinus today. He’s also considered to be the King of Beer and throughout Belgium they will be celebrating the legendary Gambrinus.


Here’s the overview at Wikipedia:

Gambrinus is a legendary king of Flanders, and an unofficial patron saint of beer or beer brewing. Gambrinus is variously depicted as a European king, as an English knight of the Middle Ages, or (less commonly) as a plump old man. Gambrinus’ birthday is purported to be April 11.

The origin of the character is most widely believed to be John the Fearless (1371–1419), who some also believe to be the inventor of hopped malt beer. However, other sources report that one of the cup-bearers in the court of Charlemagne (742–814) was also called Gambrinus. In 1543, the German poet Burkart Waldis wrote of Gambrinus, explaining that Gambrinus learned the art of brewing from Isis, the ancient Egyptian goddess of motherhood and fertility.

It is also possible that the original Gambrinus was Duke John I of Brabant (1254-1298), who was called Jan Primus.

Other possible Latin etymologies of the name include cambarus (cellarer) and ganeae birrinus (one who drinks in a tavern). Plzeňský Prazdroj, brewer of the Gambrinus lager, endorses the explanation that the name is a corruption of Jan Primus (John the First), referring to John I, Duke of Brabant. Alternatively, Gambrinus may be a corruption of the name Gambrivius. Although less likely, Gambrinus might also derive from camba, a word from the Celtic language family that refers to a brewer’s pan.


The beer website Froth N Hops has the fullest account of the story of King Gambrinus in one place, though it’s unclear what the source material is. Hopefully, he won’t mind my re-printing it here.

King Gambrinus, known as “the patron saint of beer,” has long been a universal symbol of beer and brewing. Particularly during the late nineteenth century, the image of Gambrinus was used by countless brewers to promote their products and remind consumers of the rich heritage of beer-making. Many breweries were even adorned with life-size statues of the King.

But who was Gambrinus? It is Gambrinus who brought beer to earth, and here is the legend of how this came to pass, and how he came to be King: Gambrinus was a poor apprentice in glass-making, hailing from a little town in the Flandres called Fresne sur l’Escaut. With his wonderful pink cheeks, blonde hair and blonde beard, he was the most beautiful boy in the town and had great romantic success with the town girls.

But Gambrinus had secretly fallen in love with the beautiful daughter of his master, Flandrine. In those times, glass makers were noble from birth, and taught their art only to their sons. Flandrine, as proud as she was pretty, wanted to marry a master glass maker like her father, grandfather, and great grandfather. Gambrinus, as an apprentice, would only prepare the glass for his master, who then skillfully puffed it into decorative sheets.

At last, Gambrinus gathered the courage to reveal his feelings to Flandrine. But Flandrine, offended that such a lowly apprentice sought her affection, refused so strongly that Gambrinus left Fresne, and vowed never to return to glass-working again so that he might forget about Flandrine forever.

So Gambrinus wandered from town to town playing his violin and writing poetry to sing along while he played. Gambrinus, who was very clever and a quick-learner, soon gained a reputation as one of the best violinists in the region. He was constantly called on in towns far and wide to liven up weddings, birthdays, and other parties.

When the people of Fresne heard of the fame Gambrinus had achieved, they could barely believe it. They were so proud of their Gambrinus that they invited him back to Fresne and threw a town-wide celebration in his honor. Gambrinus, flattered by the thought of a celebration in his honor, accepted the towns invitation and returned to Fresne. When he arrived in Fresne and began playing his violin, the delighted townspeople began to sing and dance and cheer.

But soon after Gambrinus had started playing, he noticed Flandrine in the crowd. Overcome by nervousness, Gambrinus began to tremble. He trembled so much and played his violin so horribly that the townspeople began to kick him and shout at him.

The townspeople all blamed Gambrinus for the commotion, since it was his poor playing that upset everyone. Gambrinus soon found himself arrested by the town officials and spent a full month in jail for the trouble he caused in the street and the noisy disturbance he had caused in the night. When Gambrinus was released from jail, he decided the only way he could ever make himself forget about Flandrine was to kill himself. He decided to hang himself, and headed out into the forest to set up a noose and platform. Gambrinus slid the noose over his neck, but just when he was about to step off the platform, he saw before him the devil himself. As is his custom, the devil proposed a deal to Gambrinus: if his power was not strong enough to make Flandrine love Gambrinus, the devil would oblige Gambrinus to forget Flandrine forever. This in exchange for Gambrinus’ soul in 30 years time. Gambrinus accepted the deal, and agreed to the devil’s terms.

As soon as Gambrinus returned to town, he noticed an intense desire to gamble on games. Indeed, the devil meant to turn Gambrinus’ love for Flandrine into a passion for betting. Gambrinus bet on everything he could, not caring whether he won or not. But win he did, and soon Gambrinus found himself the owner of a small fortune. Although gambling had nearly eclipsed any thought of Flandrine, Gambrinus suddenly had an idea. Because he was as rich as a prince, perhaps Flandrine would agree to marry him as a noble. Gambrinus approached Flandrine for the second time and expressed his feelings to her. But Flandrine’s rejection was as swift and as ruthless as the first time: Gambrinus wasn’t a noble; he was born a boy, and would remain a boy for life.

King on a BarrelGambrinus, returned to the forest to see the devil and ask him what went wrong; after all, Gambrinus still had not forgotton Flandrine, nor had Flandrine been made to fall in love with Gambrinus. Suddenly, before Gambrinus’ eyes appeared a large field with long lines of poles on which green plants began to grow. Soon the poles were covered by these green, perfumed plants. “These,” explained the devil, “are hops.” Just as quickly, two buildings burst forth from the ground. “The first building is a hophouse,” said the devil, “and the second one is a brewery. Come, and I will teach you how to make beer, Flandres’ wine. Beer will help you to forget Flandrine.”

Gambrinus learned how to make beer (not without tasting it every now and again) and found it delicious. Gambrinus soon felt like singing and dancing and playing his violin. But he remembered that the last time he had played violin he had been arrested, and his violin destroyed. Gambrinus asked the devil how he might seek revenge against the townspeople of Fresne who kicked him, sent him to jail, and broke his violin. The devil gave Gambrinus a new instrument that no one could resist, and taught Gambrinus how to play it. The devil explained that this instrument was called the chimes. The devil gave Gambrinus some seeds and the chimes and sent Gambrinus back to Fresne.

Once he arrived home, Gambrinus planted the precious seeds given to him by Belzebuth, and practiced making beer and playing chimes. One morning, Gambrinus set up tables, chairs, barrels, and chimes on the main town square and invited all the townspeople to join him to sample his new drink called beer. The townspeople tasted the beer, which was a brown lager. At first the people complained: “It is too bitter,” “It is too stong.” The people soon began laughing at Gambrinus and his stupid drink. Then Gambrinus began to play the irresistable chimes. The people all began dancing and could not stop. All the dancing made the people thirsty, which encouraged them to drink more beer. After an hour or so, the tired and woozy townspeople pleaded with Gambrinus to stop playing chimes. But Gambrinus kept playing for hours and hours. Gambrinus was satisfied that he had gotten his revenge on those who had wronged him.

But after time the townspeople began to appreciate the beer. They begged Gambrinus to make more and called beer the best drink they ever had. Word of Gambrinus’ drink spread far and wide and crossed over all frontiers. People from other towns soon begged Gambrinus to bring beer to their towns. Everywhere Gambrinus went, he brewed beer and played the chimes. So impressed were the nobles of the region that the Dukes, Counts, and Lords offered Gambrinus the title “King of Flandres.” Gambrinus accepted the position of king, but said he preferred the title “King of the Beer.” From thence on, Gambrinus was known as “The Brewer King.”

When Flandrine realized that Gambrinus would never come to her again, she came to talk to him. Gambrinus, however, more than a little inebriated, couldn’t recognize Flandrine, and just offered her something to drink; indeed, Gambrinus had forgotten about Flandrine.

Gambrinus lived happily with his subjects for many years, until finally the devil returned. “Thiry years have passed since we made our deal,” said the devil. “Now you must follow me.” But when the devil turned around, Gambrinus began playing the chimes, and the devil began to dance. The devil begged Gambrinus to stop playing, but Gambrinus continued, and the devil could not stop dancing. Finally, the devil agreed to break his deal with Gambrinus, releasing Gambrinus from his end of the deal.

King Gambrinus lived happily for another half century playing chimes and making beer. When Gambrinus finally died, his body disappeared, and in its place appeared a barrel of beer. This is why Gambrinus has no tombstone, and why no one knows of the resting place of The Brewer King.


Posted on Monday, April 11th, 2011
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Bay Area Craft Beer Festival Tomorrow in Martinez

There’s another beer festival this weekend, too. The 2nd annual Bay Area Craft Beer Festival will take place from 1:00-5:00 p.m. — or from 12:00 for VIP admission — at the Cannery District at the Martinez Waterfront Park, located at 333 Ferry St. in Downtown Martinez.


Tickets are $45 at the door ($55 for VIP admission) and there will be thirty plus brewers pouring their beer. Three bands will perform throughout the afternoon and food is available for purchase, too. Full details can be found on the festival’s website.


Posted on Friday, April 8th, 2011
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Toronado Belgian Beer Lunch This Sunday

I just learned that there are a few seats left for the annual Toronado Belgian Beer Lunch taking place this Sunday, April 10. For the third year — or is that fourth? — the food is being done by Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef. If you love Belgian beer, good food and especially pairing the two, you don’t want to miss this. And if you’ve never been to one of Sean Paxton’s gastronomic extravaganzas, you’re in for something special. Tickets are $150 each, which might sound steep until you consider that this is a twelve-course meal that includes 20 Belgian beers! Lunch begins at 11:30 and is expected to last until at least 4:30. You read that right, it’s a five-hour lunch. Call the Toronado to reserve your seat as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed. Payment can be in cash or check (I believe on the day of the event) but best check that when you make your reservations. See you there!

2011 Toronado Belgian Beer Lunch Menu

Toronado owner Dave Keene with the Homebrew Chef, Sean Paxton, at an earlier Belgian Beer Lunch.

Pre-Lunch Reception:

Beer served: Van Steenberge Ertveld’s Wit

First Course

Belgian Sushi: Wit-flavored brioche infused with foie gras, roasted eel, Poperings Hommel Bier duck egg green aioli, pea shoots

Paired with DuPont Avril

Second Course

Charcuturie Platter: Duck rillettes braised in Russian River Consecration with a Supplication gelee, duck pistachio apricot infused with Sanctification terrine, pork/duck liver and Orval beer pâté, cornichons, heirloom radishes, house-made Goulden Carolus Noel mustard, currant & Consecration compote, and served with local The Bejkr breads

Paired with Chimay Grand Reserve 3 Liter and Duvel Triple Hop

Third Course

DuPont Avec Les Bons Voeux Poached Sole: On a bed of leek and turnip purée, topped with a lobster crawfish mussel Tripel Karmeliet waterzooi sauce

Paired with De Dolle Arabier and Moinette Blond

Fourth Course

Goat Butter Poached Sea Scallop: Smoked in Mort Subite lambic barrel staves, De Ranke Guldenburg demi glaze, celery root purée infused with Affligem Noel, fennel pollen

Paired with Petrus Aged Pale

Fifth Course

Seared Duck Breast with Sour Cherry Sauce: Sonoma County duck breasts cooked sous vide with shallots, thyme, with a dried sour cherries Hannsen Oude Kriek sauce on a bed of black barley simmer in Delirium Noel and TCHO cocoa nibs

Paired with Bocker Cuvee De Jacobins and Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek

Sixth Course

Medium Rare Short Ribs: Cooked sous vide for 48 hours in Rochefort 8, caramelized shallots and thyme, served on a bed of Flemish-style mashed potatoes, with a fig, date Petrus Oud Bruin gravy

Paired with Echt Kriekenbier and Rochefort 10

Seventh Course

Crepenette: Westmalle Dubbel infused Spring Sonoma lamb, mixed with creamed leeks, wrapped in caul fat topped with a sirop de Liége (pears, date simmered in a Chimay Red ale syrup) and Belgian endive salad

Paired with Rodenbach Grand Cru 2008 keg

Eighth Course

Foie Gras: Lobes of foie gras poached in Boon Kriek, made into truffles and coated in Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus gelee, garnished with hibiscus sea salt

Paired with Malheur Brut Reserve 2006

Ninth Course

French Lentil Salad: Lentils simmered in Fantôme Saison, curry-scented green cauliflower, ‘wit’ candied cashews, mâche greens and toasted hemp seeds tossed in a Straus yogurt bergamot orange Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René dressing

Paired with Oud Beersal Oude Geueze Vieille

Tenth Course

Assorted Belgian Cheeses: Grevenbroecker, Wavreumont, “St. Maure,” Charmoix, Meikaas, and Kriek Washed Fromage served with pomegranate Supplication honey, The Bejkr Biologlque bread, hazelnut fig crackers, dried fruit, honey blood orange peel candied pistachios

Paired with Liefmans Cuvee Brut and Orval

Eleventh Course

Crêpe: Boon Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait beer curd, Hanssens Oudbeitje rhubarb jam, Westmalle Tripel chamomile syrup wrapped in a Sara Buckwheat Ale crepe

Paired with De Struise T’sjeeses

Twelfth Course

Chocolate Pot de Crème Deconstructed Pie: Speculoos cookie crust, Belgian dark chocolate infused custard, Chantilly cream

Paired with De Struise Pannepot 2007, Scaldis Noel 1998 Magnums and De Struise Black Albert 2009

The Homebrew Chef cooking with nitrogen behind the Toronado bar.

Posted on Thursday, April 7th, 2011
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Triple Rock Firkin Fest This Saturday

Triple Rock Brewery‘s annual Firkin Fest is taking place this Saturday — April 9, 2011 — beginning at 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $20 and include a commemorative glass and your first four tastes. Additional samples are $5 each.


Posted on Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
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