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Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

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MillerCoors Looking To Hire Bay Area Beer Ambassador

Apparently had a recent job posting for an “Import & Craft Trade Brewer” position in the Bay Area advertised by MillerCoors. Actually, the person hired will work for 10th & Blake, which is their craft and import division. The company is looking for “a beer ambassador and homebrewing coach in the western U.S. [to] Teach sales teams and consult on new beer recipes.” They want someone who “knows all things beer.” Could that be you? Check out this video from Bloomberg all about the job.

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2012
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Aging Beer

If you read my most recent newspaper column on building a beer cellar, below is one of my earlier columns from 2010 about what beers work well for aging. Once you’ve built your beer cellar, here are some tips for choosing beers to fill up your new cellar.


Ninety-nine percent of the world’s beer is brewed to be enjoyed as soon as possible after it’s bottled, canned or kegged. There’s no doubt that fresh beer is best … but then there’s that remaining one percent that proves the exception to the rule. Nobody’s sure exactly sure how many beers are ripe for aging, but most experts agree there aren’t very many.
But it begs the question; if most beers are best fresh, why age beer at all? Like vintage wines and spirits, beers that have been stored properly for a period of time mature into amazingly complex beverages with taste profiles that cannot be achieved any other way. Older beer becomes drier, more vinous and less sweet. It also develops rounder, less sharp or harsh flavors, becoming refined, even elegant.

Cellar Beers

As a general rule, ales work best, and beers over 8% a.b.v. are especially good candidates for aging. The stronger the beer, the longer it can be aged without becoming undrinkable and losing all its positive flavor components. The exception to that rule is sour beers. Many lower alcohol sour beers, like lambics, benefit greatly from aging. Also, unpasteurized and bottle-conditioned beers, which still have live yeast in them, will continue to improve with age. Malty beer likewise tends to hold up better than hoppy beers, which seems counter-intuitive since hops were originally added to beer as a preservative. But while hops will keep a beer fresher than without them, they do start to break down and lose their bite after a few short months.

Some of the most ideal beer styles for aging include Belgian-style dubbels (can be aged 1-3 years), tripels (1-4 years), Belgian strong dark ales (2-10 years), Imperial styles (roughly 1-6 years), barley wines and imperial stouts (2-20 years) and the extremely strong ales, like Samuel Adams Utopias (up to 100 years). Also, many barrel-aged beers, spicy beers and winter ales can be aged.

How to Store and Age Beer

Heat and light are the enemies of beer, so the place you store your beer should be cool and dark. Perhaps more importantly, it should not be subject to temperature fluctuations but maintain a constant 55 degrees, plus or minus five degrees. That’s why a cellar is better than a refrigerator. Cooler will work, too, but never warmer. For every additional ten degrees, beer will spoil twice as fast. Unlike wine, bottles should be stored upright to reduce the surface area of oxygen and slow oxidation.

Tasting Vertically

Perhaps the best, and certainly the most fun, reason to age beer is to do a vertical tasting to see first hand what time does to beer. Many big beers do a new version each year and vintage date the label or crown. Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot Barleywine Style Ale, for example, uses a different crown (or bottle cap) with the year clearly printed on them. That allows you to buy a six-pack each year, and put a few away for aging. In a few short years, you can have a world class vertical tasting, opening the newest first and the oldest last.
In the end, thirst is probably the biggest hurdle to aging beer. That’s why I also recommend putting your cellar out of sight, if possible. That will keep you from opening all your bottles too soon. Having a beer cellar really is an endeavor where patience truly is its own reward.

Posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
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Toronado Belgian Beer Dinner This Sunday, No Fooling

I just learned that one of my favorite beer events of the year still has a few seats left. The annual Toronado Belgian Beer Dinner — really a luncheon — or I like to call it, a Blunch, is this Sunday, April 1, and that’s no joke. The food for this always amazing beer dinner is done by Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef, and he’s paired the twelve courses — yes, you read that right, 12 courses! — with 21 different Belgian and Belgian-inspired beers throughout the meal. The Blunch begins at 11:30 a.m. and is expected to be over around 4:30. I’ve printed the menu below to whet your appetite. As I said, there are still a few open spots left. The dinner costs $150 per person and tickets can be purchased at the bar between now and Sunday. See you there.

Toronado Belgian Beer Beer Dinner

Pre-Dinner Reception Brew: Dupont Avril

First Course

Cream of Caramelized Belgian Endive Soup
White Belgian endive coated in Belgian soft sugar and caramelized, Foret Saison, yukon gold potatoes, splash of organic cream

Paired with: St. Louis Gueuze

Second Course

Charcuturie Platter
Liberty duck rillettes infused with Itchegem’s Flemish Red, house-made headcheese cooked in Russian River Temptation Batch 3, duck heart rabbit liver Affligem Noel pâté, herbs de Provence cornichons, house-made Nieuw Ligt Grand Cru ‘03 & date mustard, dried fruit Gouden Carolus Noël compote, red beet juice & Oud Beersel Geuze Vielle pickled cauliflower, served with local ‘The Bejkr’ breads

Paired with: Boon Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait 2003 and Rochefort 6 2007

Third Course

Water Buffalo Butter Poached Sea Scallop
Smoked in Mort Subite lambic barrel staves, De Dolle Oerbier duck demi glaze, turnip purée infused with Gouden Carolus Carolus D’Or 2006, sprinkled with black truffle salt

Paired with: De Dolle Stille Nacht Special Reserva 2005

Fourth Course

Monkfish, crawfish and lobster meat mixed with purple potatoes, baby fennel, leeks, lobster mushrooms, shallots and simmered in a Westmalle Tripel shellfish stock with a sweet cream

Paired with: Delirium Tremens and Tripel Karmeliet

Fifth Course

Lapin a lá Gueuze
Local rabbit braised in Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze with shallots, thyme, bay leaves, served with a candied kumquat baby carrots, caramelized pearl onion gueuze sauce

Paired with: Russian River Temptation Batch 4 3L and Dupont Avec les Bons Voeux 2009

Sixth Course

Duck Braised in Sour Cherry Sauce
Sonoma county duck legs cooked sous vide with a dried and sour cherries Boon Kriek sauce
on a bed of beluga lentils simmered in Goudenband

Paired with: Cantillon Oude Kriek 2008 and Rodenbach Vintage 2008

Seventh Course

Carbonnade of Lamb Cheek
Westmalle Dubbel stewed lamb cheeks with leeks, caramelized onions, prunes, dried figs, thyme, bay leaves and a Mort Subite Kriek red currant sauce

Paired with: De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva 2002 and Maredsous Brune

Eighth Course

PB & Foie Gras
Cantillon Saint Lamvinus foie gras mousse, on a hazelnut fig cracker, tart cherry gastrique, garnished with vanilla bean sea salt

Paired with: Malheur Brut Michael Jackson Brut 2006

Ninth Course

Beyond Greens
curry-scented cauliflower, quinoa cooked in Fantôme La Dalmatienne, mâche greens, golden raisins rehydrated in Moinette Blonde and toasted hemp seeds
and toasted almonds with a Drie Fonteinen Doesjel Lambic Paneer cheese tossed in a goat yoghurt Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze dressing

Paired with: Duvel

Tenth Course

Assorted Belgian Cheeses, including Grevenbroecker, Meikaas Boerenkaas, Kriek Washed Fromage, Charmoix, Wavreumont, and Le Saint-Servais
With Saucerful of Secrets wort honey, The Bejkr Biologlque bread, Oude Gueuze Tilquin injected dried apricots, Cantillon Rosé De Gambrinus beer jelly and assorted crackers and breads

Paired with: Bockor Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge and Orval

Eleventh Course

Strawberries & Cream
organic strawberries and lemon thyme macerated in Hanssens Oudbeitje Lambic 2006 with a homemade Advocaat, Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René 2006 sabayon, almond crumble

Paired with: Russian River Damnation 23 Batch 46

Twelfth Course

Liège Style Waffle
Speculoos flavored yeast waffle made with Chimay Red, Belgian pearl sugar, drizzled with a St. Bernardus Special Edition Abt 12. quad chocolate sauce

Paired with: De Struise Black Albert 2009, De Struise Pannepot 2007 and Rochefort Trappistes 10

Posted on Friday, March 30th, 2012
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Anchor Plaza to Debut at AT&T Park

Today was media day at AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play. It’s not the kind of event I’m normally invited to, but this year is a little different. Debuting this season at the Giants’ stadium is Anchor Plaza, a new area behind the giant scoreboard where fans can find beer from Anchor Brewing, among other related goodies.

An Anchor beer stand sits in the center of Anchor Plaza.

Which is known as Anchor Taproom.

There’s plenty of seating in Anchor Plaza.

And the entire Anchor Plaza is also ringed with related food and beverage vendors.

Anchor co-owner Keith Greggor behind the taps at the Anchor Taproom. Sadly, no beer was flowing today.

The sign overlooking Anchor Plaza.

Which is located out of sight, behind the scoreboard. It looks like it could be a great place to get away from the crowds for a spell, and enjoy an Anchor Steam Beer. There are large screen televisions back there so you won’t miss the game while you sip your beer.

Posted on Thursday, March 29th, 2012
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New Albion Vintage Beer Tasting

Today I had a great experience that’s been a few months in the making. Last October, one of my newspaper columns was about the 35th anniversary of the date in 1976 when New Albion Brewery, the first modern microbrewery built from scratch, was incorporated by Jack McAuliffe. A homebrewer and beer collector in San Jose, Ed Davis, read my piece in the San Jose Mercury News and contacted me with an intriguing proposal. He had some full bottles of New Albion beer — Ale, Porter and Stout — and did I know anyone who might be interested in them? Obviously, I knew at least one person — me! — and I suggested that it might be fun to open them with Don Barkley, who would been involved in their creation, since he had been the assistant brewer there. Finding a day we were all available took some time, but today Ed and I traveled to Napa to Napa Smith Brewery and met with Don Barkley, who’s now the brewmaster there. But in addition to working at New Albion, Don also founded Mendocino Brewing during his illustrious career, before building and running the new Napa brewery.

Ed told me he’d bought the beers originally at Beltramo’s around 1979 and they’ve been stored in his garage ever since. While they were stored at a slightly higher than cellar temperature, the temperature was relatively consistent and they hadn’t been moved in all that time.

Ed brought one bottle each of Stout, Ale and Porter.

Don Barkley, me and Ed Davis each with a 1979 bottle of New Albion beer, that Ed was kind enough to donate to the cause.

Each of the three beers and their bottles.

Click on this link to see a video of our tasting of these beers on YouTube.

After the tasting, Don, Napa Smith lead brewer Michael Payne, me and Ed.

In addition to the New ALbion beers, Ed also brought a few additional treats, too.

A bottle of DeBakker Porter. DeBakker was a short-lived brewery (1980-82, I believe) that was located in my hometown of Novato, California and was started by a fireman, Tom DeBakker, who had been a homebrewer for about a decade before he opened the brewery.

Ed also brought a run of old Anchor Christmas Ale, 1978, 1980 through 1985, 1991 and 1996.

What a great way to spend a Friday afternoon! I wish all my Fridays could be as enjoyable. The DeBakker porter also held up quite well, it still had a fair amount of carbonation with chocolate notes. The Anchor beers were a mixed bag, some were still terrific, others were past their prime though none were strictly speaking undrinkable. Some of the spicier ones were still showing those spices, though a few of the earlier ones were oxidized, at least a little. The real surprise, of course, was how well the New Albion beers had held up after 33 years. They were bottle-conditioned, which probably helped, but still I expected them to be in worse shape than they were. I think we all though that, but we were pleasantly surprised. I could stand to be surprised like that more often. Thanks, Ed, for being able to not open those beers for over thirty years and for sharing them with us today. It was like opening and tasting a piece of history.

Posted on Friday, March 23rd, 2012
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Beer Saved the World

Here’s an interesting infographic on beer — both history and factoids — created by Online Bachelor Degree Programs, presumably to drive traffic. But as I’m a sucker for infographics, I’ll happily fall for it. At least they listed their sources at the end. Enjoy!


To see it full size, go to Online Bachelor Degree Programs.

Posted on Friday, March 23rd, 2012
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Anchor Video On History Of California Lager

Anchor Brewing today posted a new video about the history of California Lager, and their new Zymaster series which attempts to recreate the beer brewed by Boca Brewing in the 1870s. You can read more about that history on their blog, too, in Part 1 and Part 2.

Posted on Monday, March 19th, 2012
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San Francisco Gordon Biersch To Move

The picturesque location on San Francisco’s Embarcadero of the former HillS Brothers Coffee building is home to the third Gordon Biersch brewpub, which opened originally in 1992. According to Inside Scoop SF, as of the end of April, that will no longer be the case. (And thanks to Pete S. for sending me the link.) Apparently the twenty-year lease expires April 28, and the landlord and Gordon Biersch have been unable to reach an agreement. Gordon Biersch is currently scouting for a new location nearby. So you’ve got a little over six weeks if you want to pay the brewpub one last visit.

Posted on Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
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Three Ring Circus Brewer’s Dinner & Sideshow This Wednesday

Home-Brew-Chef speakeasy Ninkasi-white shmaltz
Wow, check out the Three Ring Circus Brewer’s Dinner & Sideshow happening this Wednesday night. To me, this sounds like the most off-the-hook, amazing, one-of-a-kind beer dinner since … well, since the last one Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef, did. If this isn’t on your SF Beer Week itinerary, it really should be, at least in my opinion. I admit a certain bias; Sean is a friend, but honestly I’ve enjoyed every single beer dinner he’s ever done. And they just keep getting better because Sean — who I like to call “The Mad Alchemist” — is always challenging himself to do more and more amazing things with beer and food.

So instead of taking your valentine out on the 14th, or buying them some chocolates, why not treat them to something truly amazing, the Three Ring Circus Brewer’s Dinner & Sideshow. Tickets are $120 each, which might sound steep until you consider that this is a nine-course meal that includes a dozen amazing beers, 6 live circus acts, live music, an emcee and a terrific setting: the historic Elks Lodge in San Francisco. Also, the three breweries will be pouring a new beer that all three, plus Sean, collaborated on called Three Ring Circus Ale just for this event. It’s described as “an anything-but-traditional nut brown ale brewed with dulce de leche, popped corn and peanuts that pays homage to the spirit of the circus.”

Tickes can be purchased online at Eventbrite. The poster for event is here and below that is the menu. Check it out. See you there!


Three Ring Circus Beer Dinner Menu

Pre-Dinner Reception Nibbles: Gourmet Popcorn

Bacon fat popped organic popcorn seasoned with tomato powder, roasted garlic, hop salt and smoked in bourbon barrel wood

Black Truffle Oil Scented Popcorn with cooked in vegetable oil with roasted garlic salt flakes

Thyme Infused duck fat popcorn with Sonoma Vella Dry Jack shavings, green peppercorns

First Course: The Mermaid

Lobster and prawn mousse infused with Ninkasi Believer Double Red Ale, wrapped around petrale sole filets, Speak Easy White Lightning Ale “Tide Sauce”, Ninkasi Little One Beer Foam, Speak Easy Prohibition Ale quinoa “sand”

Paired with Ninkasi Sterling Pils

Second Course: The Drumstick

Willie Bird Smoked Turkey legs rillettes layered with He’Brew Genesis 15:15, shallots, dried figs and thyme, Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk cheese, malt pickled heirloom pumpkin, assorted crackers, breads and spiced nuts

Paired with Speak Easy Massacre Black Wheat Wine and Coney Island Geektoberfest

Third Course: The Sword Swallower

“Haute” Dogs infused with 4-H style Lamb, Speak Easy Scarface Imperial Stout, caramelized onions and rosemary Ninkasi Renewale Porter Beer mustard, fennel carrot slaw, sweet roll

Paired with He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA

Fourth Course: Hopped Cotton Candy

Centennial hop scented sugar, wrapped around a cube of Sonoma foie gras terrine mixed with He’Brew Genesis

Paired with Speakeasy Big Daddy IPA

Fifth Course: Slider

Ground elk and duck heart patty, rendered dry aged beef fat, Brioche bun, house made He’Brew Genesis 15:15 beer ketchup, baby arugula, Speak Easy Payback Porter braised red onions

Paired with Ninkasi Conventionale (2010 Imperial Stout), Speakeasy Scarface Imperial Stout and He’Brew Genesis 15:15

Sixth Course: Churro

Point Reyes Blue cheese mixed into a Speak Easy Double Daddy savory churro, roasted garlic powder

Paired with Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

Seventh Course: Three Ring Circus

Roasted red, gold and white baby beets, Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog crumbles, carbonated citrus segments, malt candied hazelnuts, micro greens drizzled with a Three Ring Circus Collaboration vinaigrette

Paired with Speakeasy Prohibition Ale

Eighth Course: Funnel Cake

He’Brew Bittersweet Lenny’s RIPA infused batter with bergamot zest, Three Ring Circus Wort Honey Drizzle, Malted Powdered Sugar Dust, Ninkasi Sleigh’r Beer Caramel

Paired with Coney Island Albino Python

Ninth Course: The Non-Fried Non-Twinkie Cupcake

Ninkasi Conventionale Imperial Stout Chocolate Cake, filled with a He’brew Jewbelation 15 mousse filling, Speak Easy Prohibition Frosting, THCO Cocoa Nibs, Caramel Malt

Paired with Speakeasy, Ninkasi, Shmaltz, Home Brew Chef Collaboration beer: Three Ring Circus

HBC Logo 1.2

Posted on Sunday, February 12th, 2012
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The American Beer Revival

I love infographics, a marriage of data and graphic illustration that shows information in a beautiful and understandable way. So I was thrilled when I got an e-mail this morning from a new Silicon Valley start-up,, whose mission is just that, to create and help others create cool visual charts, infographics and videos.

One of their latest works is The American Beer Revival, created by Nate Whitson. Here’s how they describe it:

Over the last hundred or so years, the brewing industry in the United States has changed dramatically. From the saloon era through consolidation to today’s flourishing craft beer culture, it’s been quite a ride. Take a look at how the small brewer is making quite a comeback after nearly a half century of decline.

But better yet, just watch. Head over to to see The American Beer Revival.

Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2012
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