Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for August, 2011

Sierra Nevada’s Crystal Wheat Expands Into Northern California

One of Sierra Nevada Brewing’s lesser know beers was a crystal wheat beer they made in their earlier days. It sold well, but eventually other brands out-shined it and it was discontinued. But then something odd happened. The local market in their hometown of Chico kept requesting the beer, so much so that they starting brewing it again just to satisfy demand in and around Chico.

They renamed the Crystal Wheat Old Chico, in honor of an brewery of the same name that operated in Chico from 1865 to 1899. They even started bottling it, distributing in grocery stores and other retailers just in their local area. The chain stores did so well selling the re-branded Old Chico beer that they began asking to carry in more of their stores.


So the demand for Old Chico Crystal Wheat caused Sierra Nevada to reconsider and they sent it to distributors throughout Northern California and now you can find it in grocery stores all over the Bay Area. A true success story based on public demand.


Crystal Wheat is a light, refreshing beer made with a portion of wheat. It’s similar to a hefeweizen, but isn’t cloudy. In Germany, such beers are often referred to as kristalweizen or kristallweizen to distinguish them from a hefeweizen, which means “with yeast,” and is supposed to be hazy because it still has the yeast swimming in the beer. A crystal wheat, as you may have guessed, is crystal clear because it’s been filtered and the yeast is not still in the bottle. As a result, many of the flavors are muted, but the lighter wheat malt malt keeps it clean and refreshing. Kristalweizens are usually effervescent with a dry mouthfeel, too.

Posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011
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Origins of Lager Yeast Found in South America?

Recently, a group of eight scientists posited a theory that a newly discovered yeast strain, dubbed Saccharomyces eubayanus, may have hitched a ride from Patagonia, in South America, to Europe where it got busy with local yeasts there — notably Saccharomyces cerevisiae — to form the yeast we know today as lager yeast, or Saccharomyces pastorianus (a.k.a. Saccharomyces carlsbergensis).

The academic paper, to be published in the August edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (or PNAS), goes by the rather dry title, Microbe domestication and the identification of the wild genetic stock of lager-brewing yeast. The Abstract summarizes the paper:

Domestication of plants and animals promoted humanity’s transition from nomadic to sedentary lifestyles, demographic expansion, and the emergence of civilizations. In contrast to the well-documented successes of crop and livestock breeding, processes of microbe domestication remain obscure, despite the importance of microbes to the production of food, beverages, and biofuels. Lager-beer, first brewed in the 15th century, employs an allotetraploid hybrid yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus (syn. Saccharomyces carlsbergensis), a domesticated species created by the fusion of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae ale-yeast with an unknown cryotolerant Saccharomyces species. We report the isolation of that species and designate it Saccharomyces eubayanus sp. nov. because of its resemblance to Saccharomyces bayanus (a complex hybrid of S. eubayanus, Saccharomyces uvarum, and S. cerevisiae found only in the brewing environment). Individuals from populations of S. eubayanus and its sister species, S. uvarum, exist in apparent sympatry in Nothofagus (Southern beech) forests in Patagonia, but are isolated genetically through intrinsic postzygotic barriers, and ecologically through host-preference. The draft genome sequence of S. eubayanus is 99.5% identical to the non-S. cerevisiae portion of the S. pastorianus genome sequence and suggests specific changes in sugar and sulfite metabolism that were crucial for domestication in the lager-brewing environment. This study shows that combining microbial ecology with comparative genomics facilitates the discovery and preservation of wild genetic stocks of domesticated microbes to trace their history, identify genetic changes, and suggest paths to further industrial improvement.

Mainstream media, picking up the story, has sensationalized it, looking for the human angle. For example the L.A. Times compared the discovery to finding the evolutionary missing link, titling their piece Scientists find lager beer’s missing link — in Patagonia. Essentially, they detail the scientists’ five-year quest to answer the question of where lager yeast originated, and how it came to be. The answer, according to the new paper, is a newly found strain of yeast discovered in the forests of Argentina’s Patagonia region. The wild yeast was named Saccharomyces eubayanus, and it was found living on beech trees.

According to the Times’ report:

Their best bet is that centuries ago, S. eubayanus somehow found its way to Europe and hybridized with the domestic yeast used to brew ale, creating an organism that can ferment at the lower temperatures used to make lager.

Geneticists have known since the 1980s that the yeast brewers use to make lager, S. pastorianus, was a hybrid of two yeast species: S. cerevisiae — used to make ales, wine and bread — and some other, unidentified organism.

Then one of the eight, Diego Libkind, a professor at the Institute for Biodiversity and Environment Research in Bariloche, Argentina, discovered sugar-rich galls on southern beech trees in Patagonia. Yeast were drawn to the galls like a moth to a flame, and had been used by native populations to make a fermented beverage. The yeast in the galls was sent to the University of Colorado, who analyzed the genome, finding that it was 99.5% identical to lager yeast. They named the new yeast Saccharomyces eubayanus, presumably because of its similarity to Saccharomyces bayanus, a yeast commonly used to make cider and wine. Said Stanford geneticist Gavin Sherlock, quoted in the L.A. Times: “The DNA evidence is strong.”


Naturally, Sherlock, and many others have been wondering how Saccharomyces eubayanus hitched a ride to Bavaria at a time when there was no known contact between the two parts of the world, separated by an ocean and some 8,000 miles. The article also states that “Lager was invented in the 1400s,” though my memory is that European brewers were using lager yeast well before that, and it was the lagering process was developed in the 1400s, but perhaps I’m not remembering that correctly.


In an interesting development surrounding this debate, U. Penn biomolecular archeologist, Patrick McGovern (author of Uncorking the Past), weighed in with his thoughts at the MSNBC article about this story, Beer mystery solved! Yeast ID’d. Here’s what McGovern had to say, as summarized by author John Roach:

Assuming the genetics work is correct, he said he is “troubled by how this newly discovered wild yeast strain made it into Bavaria in the 1500s.”

For one, he noted, Germans, and especially Bavarians, were not involved in the European exploration of Patagonia at the time. So, if the yeast somehow hitched a ride back to Europe via trade with the English, Spanish, and Portuguese, how did it get to Bavaria?

“Perhaps, some Patagonian beech was used to make a wine barrel that was then transported to Bavaria and subsequently inoculated a batch of beer there?” he asked. “Seems unlikely.”

He said a more likely scenario is that galls in the oak forests of southern Germany also harbored S. eubayanus, at least until it was out competed by the more ubiquitous S. cerevisiae.

“If true, then the use of European oak in making beer barrels and especially processing vats, which could harbor the yeast, might better explain the Bavarian ‘discovery’ of lager in the 1500s,” he said.

Nevertheless, he added, history and archaeology are full of surprises.

“Nowhere is this more true than of the seemingly miraculous process of fermentation and the key role of alcohol in human culture and life itself on this planet,” he said.

“This article has begun to unravel the complicated heritage and life history of the fermentation yeasts, and will hopefully stimulate more research to see whether the Patagonian hypothesis proves correct.”

Diplomatically put, because as everyone admits, the find in South America may not be the exclusive area where Saccharomyces eubayanus lives, just the first place it’s been found. The human history portion of this story doesn’t seem to quite fit at this point, but it’s certainly a compelling story and it will be interesting to see how it continues to develop.


Posted on Thursday, August 25th, 2011
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Beer Bottle Dominoes

At least a dozen people have e-mailed me the link to this video, so I bow to the will of the people and share it with the remaining couple of people who may not yet have seen it. It’s a simple idea, using beer bottles (and some liquor bottles, too) in place of dominoes, but is fairly well executed. Enjoy.

Beer Bottle Dominoes

Posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
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Pop Culture Canned

Here’s another fun design project by Minnesota illustrator David Schwen. It’s a poster depicting nine beer cans representing characters from across varying pop cultures. The identity of some of the cans are fairly obvious while others were inscrutably unknown to me, presumably because I’ve become more old curmudgeon and less with-it-hipster. I can say with certainty I knew 6 of 9 — itself a pop reference — or one-third of them right off the bat. Two more I figured out, more or less, and the remaining one I never got, though now that I know it, it makes sense. Think you know them all? Leave a comment identifying all nine.

You can even buy a print of the poster in five different sizes at Society 6.

Posted on Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
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Brews On the Bay 2011 Date Announced

The date for the 8th annual Brews on the Bay, the San Francisco Brewers Guild’s beer festival on the Liberty Ship S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien anchored at Pier 45 in San Francisco has been announced. It will take place this year on Saturday, September 10.

From the press release:

This September 10th marks the 8th time in as many years that the San Francisco Brewers Guild has gathered together to celebrate the great beer brewed in this city. Brews on the Bay takes place in the world’s most beautiful setting for a beer festival: on the San Francisco Bay on the deck of the S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien. The festival offers attendees unparalleled views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the lands beyond. The ship, one of the last remaining Liberty Ships, is an historical landmark of the World War II-era Merchant Marine. The festival is a fundraiser for the National Liberty Ship Memorial.

The festival will showcase the creativity and talent of San Francisco’s breweries. More than fifty beers will be poured, all brewed in San Francisco, including special releases. Attendees will enjoy beers ranging from traditional, classic beer styles to cask-conditioned, barrel-aged, sour, and imperial craft styles. Brewmasters and Cicerones will be in attendance to discuss the beers. Admission to the festival includes unlimited 8-oz. beer pours, access to the historic ship and its crew, and live music. Several food trucks will be on-site selling innovative, sustainable food. The festival runs from noon to 5 PM. Ticket price for this one-day-only event is $45; tickets are available by advance online sales only through

Posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2011
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Do Beer Glasses Matter?

Scientific American posted an interesting article this morning entitled Does Your Beer Glass Matter?. Part of their “Anthropology in Practice” section, in it author Krystal D’Costa takes a look at the beer glass through history from early man up to the recent new glass designed by the Boston Beer Co. for their Samuel Adams Lager.


Posted on Monday, August 22nd, 2011
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End of summer Bay Area wine events

Instead of another trip to Napa or Sonoma, wind down the summer with one of these off-the-radar wine events. They have a lot to offer, including oysters and zinfandel.

17th Annual Bodega Seafood, Art, & Wine Festival: Aug. 27-28. This is northern California’s largest seafood feast, which, by default, could make it the area’s largest sparkling wine feast too.

Like the way I think? Then check it out. Thirty wineries. A dozen microbreweries. And 15 restaurants. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $12 in advance. Location is Watts Ranch, 16855 Bodega Hwy, Bodega. For more information, visit the festival’s Web site.

30th Livermore Harvest Wine Celebration: Sept. 4-5. Thirty two wineries will open their doors or assemble to indulge you in their region’s juice. This is one of the only wine festivals I’m aware of that offers bus transportation (Sunday only) on three different routes. See wineries for Monday activities. Noon to 5 p.m. daily. Ticket prices vary. Several locations around the Livermore Valley. For more information, visit the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association.

Posted on Wednesday, August 17th, 2011
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Fruit Beer by Type of Fruit

If you read my most recent column in the newspaper, Fruit in Beer, it was about all of the different kinds of fruit that brewers are putting in their beer. Below is a list of beers made with at least twenty-six different fruits. It’s not intended to be a shopping list. Unfortunately, many of the beers are not available in California and some are not even imported to the U.S. But it does show just how creative brewers around the world are being with the use of different ingredients to make their beer. See how many you can find.



    Floris Pommes
    Hopworks Sour Apple Pie
    Lindemans Apple
    Unibroue Ephemere (Apple)



    Cantillon Fou ‘Foune
    Cascade Apricot Ale
    Chapeau Apricot Lambic
    Dogfish Head Aprihop
    Ithaca Apricot Wheat
    Odell Friek
    Pyramid Audacious Apricot Ale
    Russian River Compunction (brewed with Pluots, an apricot/plum hybrid)
    Sea Dog Apricot Wheat Ale



    Chapeau Banana Lambic
    Mongozo Fair Trade Banana Beer
    Wells Banana Bread Beer


Black Currant

    Cassis De Hill
    Ephemere (Cassis)
    Hair of the Dog Rose Cassis
    Kuhnhenn Extraneous Ale
    Lindemans Cassis
    Mort-Subite Cassis
    Saint-Louis Cassis
    Storm Insane 12 Year Black Current Lambic
    Timmermans Cassis-Lambic



    Almanac Beer Blackberry Ale
    BluCreek Wild Blueberry Ale
    Long Trail Blackberry Wheat Beer
    Samuel Adams Blackberry Witbier
    Upland Blackberry Lambic



    Blue Point Blueberry Ale
    Caulier Bon Secours Myrtille
    Marin Blueberry Ale
    Sea Dog Plue Paw Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale
    Upland Blueberry Lambic



    Belle-Vue Kriek
    Belle-Vue Kriek Extra
    Bell’s Cherry Stout
    Boon Kriek
    Boon Kriek Mariage Parfait
    Bruery Kriek
    Brussels Kriek
    Cantillon Kriek 100% Lambic
    Cantillon Kriek Lou Pepe
    De Cam Kriek
    De Neve Kriek
    De Ranke Kriek
    De Troch Kriek
    Drie Fonteinen Kriek
    Floris Kriek
    Girardin Kriek
    Hanssens Oude Kriek
    Jacobins Kriek
    Kriek De Hill
    Lakefront Rosie
    Liefmans Kriek
    Lindemans Kriek
    Mikkeller Cherry Alive
    Mort-Subite Kriek
    New Belgium Lips Of Faith Transatlantique Kriek
    New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red
    O’Fallon Cherry Chocolate Beer
    Saint-Louis Kriek
    Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat
    Samuel Smith Organic Cherry Fruit Ale
    Sprecher Kriek Lambic
    Strubbe Kriekenbier
    Ter Dolen Kriek
    Timmermans Kriek
    Timmermans Tradition Kriek
    Unibroue Quelque Chose
    Upland Cherry Lambic
    Vieux Bruxelles Kriek Lambic



    Bethlehem Brew Works Imperial Cranberry Lambic
    Harpoon Grateful Harvest Cranberry Ale
    New Glarus Unplugged Cranbic Ale
    Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic



    Kona Coffee Macadamia Coconut Porter Aged in Bourbon Barrels
    Kona Coconut Beer
    Maui CoCoNut Porter
    Mongozo Coconut Beer



    St. Peter’s Elderberry Beer
    Williams Brothers Ebulum Elderberry Black Ale



    Cantillon Saint-Lamvinus
    Cantillon Vigneronne
    Concord Grape Ale
    Samuel Adams Longshot Grape Pale Ale



    Binding Grapefruit Hefeweizen
    Brasserie de Silly Pink Killer
    Groslch 2.5 Pink Grapefruit
    St. Peter’s Grapefruit Beer
    Sun King Grapefruit Jungle
    TripHop Grapefruit IPA
    Whistler Brewing Paradise Valley Grapefruit Ale



    Rogue Juniper Pale Ale
    Sierra Nevada Juniper Black Ale



    Chapeau Lemon Lambic
    Magic Hat Hocus Pocus
    Stiegl Radler Lemon Beer
    Zipfer Lemon Beer



    Bud Light Lime
    Labatt Blue Light Lime
    Lakeport Brewing Brava Lime
    Miller Chill
    Shorts Key Lime Pie
    Uncommon Brewers Siamese Twin Ale (uses only the kaffir lime leaf, but it’s local and yummy, so I kept it on the list)
    Viking Lime Twist



    Floris Mango
    Laughing Buddha Mango Weizen
    Laurelwood Mango Mint Pale Ale
    St. John’s Brewers Tropical Mango Ale



    Ale Industries Orange Kush
    Buckbean Orange Blossom Ale
    Buffalo Bill Orange Blossom Cream Ale
    Craftsman Orange Grove Ale
    Dogfish Head Blood Orange Hefeweizen
    Papago Orange Blossom Wheat Beer

    White beers generally use orange peel (along with coriander)



    Bar Harbor Peach Ale
    Chapeau Pêche Lambic
    Dogfish Head Festina Peche
    Grumpy Troll Grumpy Peach
    Lindemans Pêcheresse
    Marin Stinson Beach Peach
    Mort-Subite Pêche
    Odell Avant Peche
    O’Fallon Wheach
    Saint-Louis Pêche
    Timmermans Pêche-Lambic



    Fullsteam Sparkling Pear Saison
    Hopper’s Pear Lambic
    Idaho Brewing Pear
    Kopparberg Pear Beer
    Malvern Hills Black Pear



    Blue Diamond Pineapple Beer
    Chapeau Pineapple Lambic
    Maui Brewing Manna Wheat



    Bethlehem Brew Works Mirabella (Plum Lambic)
    Brussels Perzik
    Chapeau Mirabelle Lambic
    J.W. Lee’s Plum Pudding
    Russian River Compunction (brewed with Pluots, an apricot/plum hybrid)
    Short’s Plum Rye Bock
    Three Boys Wild Plum Ale
    Watch City Jack Horner’s Plum Wit



    Fort Collins Brewing Major Tom’s Pomegranate Wheat
    He’Brew Origin Pomegranate Ale
    Moylan’s Pomegranate Wheat
    Peak Organic Brewing Pomegranate Wheat Ale
    Saranac Pomegranate Wheat



    Abita Purple Haze
    Alaskan Raspberry Wheat
    Belle-Vue Framboise
    Boon Framboise
    Brussels Framboos
    Cantillon Rosé de Gambrinus
    De Neve Framboise
    Floris Framboises
    Framboise De Hill
    Great Divide Wild Raspberry Ale
    Harpoon UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen
    Jacobins Framboise
    Liefmans Framboise
    Lindemans Framboise
    Marin Raspberry Trail Ale
    Mort-Subite Framboise
    New Belgium Frambozen Raspberry Brown Ale
    New Glarus Raspberry Tart
    Rose des Remparts
    Saint-Louis Framboise
    Samuel Smith Organic Raspberry Fruit Beer
    Six Rivers Raspberry Lambic
    Southern Tier Raspberry Wheat Ale
    Timmermans Framboise-Lambic
    Upland Raspberry Lambic
    Wittekerke Rosé



    Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager
    BridgePort Brewing Stumptown Tart
    Floris Fraises
    Liefmans Fruitesse
    Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry Fruit Ale
    Upland Strawberry Lambic



    Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat
    Kuhnhenn Play in the Hay
    Potosi Tangerine IPA



    21st Amendment Hell of High Watermelon Wheat
    Blue Hills Watermelon Wheat
    Roy Pitz Brewing Lovitz Lager
    Salem Beer Works Watermelon Ale



    Floris Passion
    Grisette Fruits des Bois
    Upland Kiwi Lambic
    Upland Persimmon Lambic

P.S. This is list is not intended to be complete, either. If you know of a fruit beer you think should be on this list — especially one brewed or sold locally — please leave a comment and I’ll add it.

Posted on Tuesday, August 9th, 2011
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Bistro IPA Festival Winners 2011

Family commitments kept me from attending this year’s Bistro IPA Festival, but owner Vic Kralj was kind enough to send me the list of the winners. Craig Cauwels’ IPA, from Schooner’s in Antioch, California, was chosen best in show at the 14th annual IPA Festival yesterday at the Bistro in Hayward, California. The full list of winners is below.

Posted on Sunday, August 7th, 2011
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Baseball Bat Beer

ESPN had an interesting little item yesterday by Jim Caple entitled Pitcher Finds Good Use For Mariners’ Bats. The story concerns Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Chris Ray. In addition to pitching for the Mariners, Ray is also an avid homebrewer and has plans to open his own brewery, along with his brother Phillip, in Virginia. They’ve even picked out the name, COTU Brewing, which stands for “Center of the Universe.”

In Caple’s story, Ray is making beer using a dozen baseball bats, made of maple, for a charity beer he brewed at the nearby Fremont Brewing in Seattle. In the article, Ray is quoted about his beer.

“I’m not sure if it adds a ton of flavor, but it ties it into baseball and gives it a unique twist,” Ray said. “It might add a little bit of flavor, but maple is a hard wood — that’s why they use it for bats — so there’s not a whole lot of absorbing going on. There are a lot of beers that age on oak chips and toasted oak chips, so we just thought if it added a little flavor, great. If not, it’s a nice story.”

The beer, dubbed Homefront IPA, is a charity beer to honor American soldiers and debuted at Safeco Field this past weekend and will also be available in 22 oz. bottles beginning this week. Proceeds from sales of Homefront IPA will go to Operation Homefront, an “organization that provides emergency financial assistance to the families of military personnel.”


NBC Sports also had the story back in June about when the beer was first brewed. But the best account comes from Kendall Jones who writes a firsthand account of the brew day for his Washington Beer Blog in a post entitled A Relief Pitcher of Beer.

Chris Ray pulling out spent grain (photo by Kendall Jones).

After the beer was brewed, the beer was then aged on Louisville Sluggers donated by the bat company. According to Jones:

The maple bats will be used to lend some extra character to the beer. They will be added to the conditioning tanks. Some of bats will be left whole and pristine, others cut into smaller pieces to help enhance the flavor imparted on the beer. Once the beer is ready, the whole bats will be removed, dried, and autographed by Chris’ teammates. The bats will then be auctioned off to raise money for Operation Homefront.


Posted on Thursday, August 4th, 2011
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