Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

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First keg of New Albion Ale headed to Toronado and other pubs in San Francisco Friday

Here’s a bit of a news flash. If you can’t make it to the Bistro Saturday for the Double IPA fest and tapping of a keg of the new New Albion Ale. (See my post below.), Don Barkley, the guy who brewed it back in the 1970s and again this year is bringing a keg to the Toronado , 547 Haight St., San Francisco, on Friday. This news comes from Toronado GM Steve Bruce:

  • I just wanted to let you know that Don is coming to the Toronado on Friday for a “High Noon” first tapping of the New Albion Ale, he’s going to tell some stories, sign some Celebrators, and continue on a pub crawl around the city, tapping the beer at all of the locations that were fortunate enough to get some, finishing at the Anchor Kickoff event that evening.  Magnolia is working out the details of the pub crawl and will probably send out a newsflash about it later today.

My comment:  Don Barkley ways it’s “just a pale ale.: I say: Hot damn. Go SF Beer Week.

Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
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The search for Pliny the Younger

The search for Russian River Pliny the Younger, the 2009 edition is intensifying. Shared a pint of Double Bastard with a friend tonight at Pacific Coast Brewing,  906 Washington St. in Oakland.  He came there with an empty growler, searching for Pliny the Younger; hadn’t arrived yet.

He went to The Trappist, 460 89th  St., same story: keg not tapped, on to Cato’s Ale House,  3891 Piedmont Ave., same story. Then, I got home and had an e-mail; note from Robert Gaustad,  proprietor of Bobby G’s Pizzeria, 2072 University Ave. in Berkeley. He just put a keg on tap tonight.

Sigh. And so it goes.  One thing’s certain; they’ll have it on tap Saturday at the Bistro’s Double IPA Fest: doors open at 11 a.m.

Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2009
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Changes ahead for this blog, the tekkies are busy, busy, busy..

Hi all…The technical folks are making some changes to this blog. For now, it’s impossible to post comments. However, if you have a comment, e-mail me your comment  at  and I’ll post ’em. wb

Posted on Thursday, January 8th, 2009
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Petrus Aged Pale: A modern classic in an ancient style


A sour ‘eau de barnyard,’ anyone?

Sour beers were a traditional drink in the Lowlands from the Middle Ages until the end of the industrial era, when the style died, drowned in a wave of Coca-Cola and fizzy lagers.

THERE WASN’T EVEN ELBOW ROOM the other night at The Trappist Belgian & Specialty Beer Bar in downtown Oakland. When I finally made it to the bar in this long, narrow, very Belgian-looking pub, I realized that – in a nod to a blue-collar beer-drinking tradition that’s rapidly dying, even in Belgium – I had to order a sour beer.

These are beers steeped in history: ales long-aged in ancient oak barrels, sometimes served straight — dry and mouth-puckeringly sour, more often blended with fresh, young beer for a tantalizing sweet-sour taste. They were a traditional drink in the Lowlands from the Middle Ages until the Industrial Revolution died in a wave of Coca-Cola and fizzy hog-wallow lagers.

Trappist proprietors Chuck Stilphen and Aaron Porter have an excellent selection of these increasingly rare brown ales from Flanders – the provinces between Antwerp and the North Sea. I chose a bottle of Petrus Aged Pale (****). It’s a 7.3 percent ale, made by Bavik, a large, family-owned brewery.  Global Beer Network, the importer, says it’s not blended. What you get in the bottle is a pale barley-malt beer, aged two years in large oak casks first used for white wine and Calvados, the apple brandy.


Posted on Thursday, January 8th, 2009
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Yikes! Cork’d got hacked

If you try to go to the free wine networking Web site Cork’d this morning, you’ll see that it’s been hacked. Last we checked Cork’d has nothing to do with the porn site that momentarily took its place. Techcrunch reported the story this morning, but there’s already less cause for alarm.

gary vaynerchuk

Owner and Wine 2.0 funny man Gary Vaynerchuk, who acquired Cork’d in May of 2007, is on it and has replaced what appears to be a malicious hacking attempt with a temporary message saying Cork’d is busying watching Wine Library TV.

Gary also blasted a Twitter asking if anyone has a good Rails coder and about eight hours of time to spare. He will reimburse you kindly. Calling all geeks – can someone please bring the Rails Thunder? If you click on the Techcrunch link or on Gary’s own site, you can also hear his plans for Cork’d.

Posted on Thursday, January 8th, 2009
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The New York Times reviews barrel-aged beers; we did that too

Barrel-aged beer fest glass at the Bistro, Hayward.

I was right, the Erik Asimov review of barrel-aged beers that appeared on line this past weekend, was part of an article that appeared in today’s New York Times.  A tasting panel reviewed 25 beers, but they never said which beers. However, it was an excellent article and their winner sounds like a very tasty beer.

You can read the story here and you can read my comments on the winners here.  I wrote about Petrus Aged Pale, which is a favorite of mine last year; I’m going to post my review in a minute.

The best thing about the Times Web presentation is this intertactive page. Click on  a label, you can hear audio comments from members of the tasting panel. Very sweet. Check it out. I’ve been working on something similar, but haven’t acted on it. I’ll do so now…

Also, barrel-aged beers are old news here. Vic and Cynthia Kralj have been running their West Coast Barrel-Aged Beer Fest each fall for several years. Read a report on the one this past fall here.

Posted on Wednesday, January 7th, 2009
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Like those PBR cans? This contest is for you

A winner from last year's PBR contest.

A winner from last year

Do  you drink Pabst Blue Ribbon? Here’s a chance to win some cash so you can drink more of this popular, light lager….Enter the  Pabst Blue Ribbon’s third annual “PB-Arts Contest”  Here’s the word from the Pabst publicist:

  • The contest is to create unique works of art inspired by the historic (PBRP can.  Works will be accepted in four categories — photography, painting, sculpture and poetry (new this year). PBR will select one grand prize winner and one runner-up in each category.  As in past years, the winning artwork will be honored and displayed in cities across the United States in various ways — wallscapes, alternative weeklies, building projections, newspaper racks, bus benches, store displays and other visual outlets.
  • Grand prize winners will receive $1,893, symbolic to the year 1893 when PBR won their famous blue ribbon, and a one-year supply of the inspiring brew.  The runners-up in each category will receive exactly one tird of the Grand Prize:  $631 in cash and a four-month supply of Pabst.  In addition, PBR will showcase the winning artwork throughout the U.S.

Interested?  Find out all about the contest here. Deadline is Jan. 31, 2009.

Posted on Wednesday, January 7th, 2009
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Mystery Chianti


One of my readers had a fantastic Chianti at Caffe Delle Stelle in Walnut Creek and hasn’t been able to locate a bottle since. Can someone help? It’s called Colle Vecchi Chianti. Internet searches didn’t turn up much for him. Thanks.

Posted on Wednesday, January 7th, 2009
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OK Falstaff fans: has reprinted a Falstaff history

Here’s a blast from the distant past:, a Web site that specializes in books about beer is offering a reprint of The Falstaff Story by Alvin Griesedeick. It was written in 1951 and I believe it was a vanity book, commissioned by Falstaff. did the reprint and they’re selling for $22.48., plus shipping. Order it here.

Here’s a link to a fan site .  I used to love this beer and  I wrote about Falstaff earlier this year; it’s the first brewery I ever visited when I was a kid in Omaha. I recall they had a “water” fountain connected to a beer line. Since I wasn’t of legal drinking age, I surreptitiously took a few sips. Read my Falstaff report here.

Posted on Wednesday, January 7th, 2009
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Oddbits: Obama Inaugural Ale from Ommegang, Thomas Hardy coming here? Maybe, a drive-by beer club, Consumer Reports tackles lime beer

And New beer here…well, almost here…Brewery Ommegang, the Cooperstown, NY brewery, owned by Duvel

The feds said uh-oh to the Ommegang label honoring our next president. Thanks to Don Russell/Beer Radar for the jpg.

The feds said uh-oh to the Ommegang label honoring our next president. Thanks to Don Russell/Beer Radar for the jpg.

Moortgat. the Belgian brewer, is releasing a special beer marking the inauguration Jan. 20 of President Baack Obama.  Ommegang’s Larry Bennett says they wanted to call it: Obamagang, but the feds nixed that name. So Inaguration Ale 2009 was born. Don’t hold your breath, unless you’re somewhere east with a growler, you’re out of luck. Here’s Larry:

  • It will be known legally as Inauguration Ale 2009, but the tap handles will be more…um…direct. The style lies between a porter and stout, with a bit of Kriek and a touch of chocolate blended in. It will be on draft only, beginning with the inauguration – in limited areas including DC, NYC, Syracuse, Philly, Chicago and Boston. We will donate a percentage of sales to charities in the respective cities where the beer is sold, and we’ve asked our distributors to match our donations and pick the local charities. (Also please note that the beer is not an endorsement of Obama.)

Oh sure.

By the way, I guess Denver Mayor and Wynkoop founder John Hickenlooper didn’t consult the feds when Wynkoop created Obamanator for the Great American Beer Fest last fall.  Excellent beer.

More beers coming up from Ommegang (and just maybe coming here to the Bay Area):

  • Ommegang Biere de Mars    January – March   6.5% ABV   750 ml bottle only  Belgian-style amber with Brettanomyces in the secondary fermentation, and also dry-hopped, making Biere de Mars amber ale with a bit of extra zing, extra tartness, and a touch of farmhouse funk.
  • Ommegang Rouge Flemish Red Ale   April – June   5.5% ABV   Draft only Authentic Flemish Sour Red Ale. Brewed with our Belgian partner Bockor Brewery and imported: spontaneously fermented, and n refermented and aged  18 months in French oak casks. It’s an unblended “Grand Cru- style” Flemish Sour Red Ale.
  • Ommegeddon Funkhouse Ale   June – August   8% ABV   750 ML bottle only.  An 8% ABV Belgian-style ale with a wild twist – a dose of Brettanomyces yeast and a blast of dry hopping. It’s a strong blonde ale with a sharp citrus flavor. This will be the fourth official brewing of the beer and we expect it to continue to evolve.
  • Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence   September – November   7%    Draft and 750 ML bottle Since the 2007 – 10th Anniversary Edition – of Chocolate Indulgence Stout. We feel that the just-released 2008 batch has been honed to sublime levels of chocolaty / malty / decadent goodness – and that the 2009 brew will break some other new ground.
  • Ommegang Christmas/Noel/Winter Beer   November – December. It’s never too early to start thinking of next Christmas. The final name, ABV and packaging are under wraps for now, but the beer will – probably – fit somewhere in the range of a high-gravity Belgian-style winter warmer, with an Ommegang twist. (Feel free to send ideas, recommendations and samples of Noel beers you love. We promise to use for educational purposes only.)

Also in the maybe, almost coming here category: My spies tell me there’s a good chance that a supply of the 2008 Thomas Hardy’s Ale may be headed or way.  The beer has been unavailable here since a peninsula distributor went out of business two years ago. Anyway, an entrepreneur is talking with Phoenix Imports and a deal may be in the offing. Stay tuned.

And in the yes, it’s coming here category.. Steve Dresler at Sierra Nevada says their new beer, Torpedo Extra IPA, the first one to join the year-round bottled list at Sierra Nevada in a decade was bottled today; we should expect it in the Bay Area by the end of the month, Steve says. This is from the brewry’s press release:

  • Torpedo celebrates the brewery’s dedication to 100% whole-cone hops all the way through the brewing process. The name itself comes from a device called the “hop torpedo” that was conceived, designed and developed at the brewery. The result is a revolutionary method of dry-hopping that harnesses the vital hop oils and resins that lead to an unusually flavorful and aromatic beer featuring the full, nuanced range of spicy complexity that hops have to offer. Designed with a mixture of hop varietals, each with their own unique character, Torpedo Extra IPA has layers of flavors ranging from citrus, herbs, black pepper and pine, with delicate hints of tropical fruit.
  • Torpedo is an assertive American IPA deep reddish-gold in color, with a smooth and bready malt presence and over-the-top hop aromas. The beer has a solid bitterness and a massive hop flavor, yet remains easy drinking with a pleasant dry finish.

And yes, you may have tried it at the Bistro IPA fest or at pubs around the Bay Area for the last year or two. More coming from Sierra Nevada: They’ve made a keg-only, one-off:A 7.3 percent, imperial smoked porter. It’s made with a large percentage of Wyermann’s hardwood smoked malt, chocolate and black patent malts, and it’s due to make surprise appearances at good pubs around the Bay Area. Can’t wait to taste this one…

Moving on ..Healthy Spirits, the cubbyhole San Francisco beer store at 2299 15th St. at Castro in San Francisco, a place jammed with good beer,  has a unique twist on the usual Beer of the Month club.  It’s a drive-by club. That is, once a month, you drop into the store and pick up a Beer of the Month selection, saving the considerable cost of shipping the beer.

Proprietor Rami Barqawi  selects four beers each month, sends out an e-mail or calls subscribers, who drive by and pick up their beer.  Cost runs between $25 – $40 for the package, Rami says. “We provide tasting notes, history of the beer and lots of information about what you’re drinking,” he adds. The focus is on excellent, hard-to-find beer.

Selections last month: .Lost Abbey Gift of the Magi,  Santa’s Little Helper, Port Brewing, Nogne-O Peculiar Yule, Nogne, a Norweigian brewery, Pannepot 2007, De Sruise, Belgium.   Drive-by beer club; love the concept

Slogging along to the bitter end...Consumer Reports tackled the big brewers’ curiously flavored lime beers and light beers this month.  This paragraph sums up the category:

Bud Light Lime vs. Miller Chill

  • They are based on the Mexican chelada—beer served with lime and salt. Our testers’ first impression was that the citrusy flavor in Miller Chill tasted like tangerine, quite strong and candylike, and the lime flavor in Bud was more like lime juice. A few more tries and the two beers seemed more similar. Tasters thought they were refreshing and inoffensive but not much like beer. None of the tasters noted any salt taste.

Amen. But hint to Consumer Reports: Real beer tasters don’t spit out the beer, although in the case of this light swill spitting might be in order.  Read the review here.

Posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
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