Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

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A survey: Long posts with several items or lots of short posts?

Online survey: A lot of blogs, maybe trying to drive up  traffic,  post short squibs, one-after-the-other.  I go more for longer posts, many with several items in a single post.

Question. What do you think?  Comments welcome.

Posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
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The Dow of wine

Last month, I wrote a column in Food & Wine about how the downward economy is affecting wine sales. What I learned and reported was that sales in the value brand category had doubled in the past few months while says of wines such as Champagne and those Cabernet Sauvignons over $50 had dropped.

But this recent Economix blog post from the New York Times reports that the amount of value wine people are buying is so high, they are probably spending the same amount of money they would for the pricey stuff, but getting a lot more for it.

Make sense? What I’m saying is it could be a case of “The Wine Trials” Effect. That, in bust times, people in decent financial circumstances (middle-market consumers) don’t necessary tighten their belts, they just seek more value for their money. It’s akin to that ah-ha moment when you take your chances at a fabulous whole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurant as opposed to the latest Asian-fusion club. Exit. Walk away. Scratch head. Pat self on back.

"The Wine Trials" by Robin Goldstein

The NYT post goes on to discuss the position of high-rolling oenophiles. Poor things are being forced to turn to Live-Ex and other fine wine exchanges to flip their bottled babies.

Posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2009
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Oddbits: New beer from Sierra Nevada, Barack drinks an ESB, New York Times barrel-aged beer tasting

For the first time in two decades, Sierra Nevada is coming out with a new, year-round beer Torpedo Extra IPA. It’s 7.4 percent,, IBUs in the high 70’s to 80’s. Thanks to Mario at Brewed for Thought for the news.  Then I checked, which reported the news last momth.  The beer is due out in mid-January.  It’s made with a device Sierra Nevada invented called the “torpedo”. It extracts essential hop oils and leaves the bitterness behind,  Sounds delicious.

Barack Obama hoists a glass of ESB at Bethlehem Beer Works in Pennsylvania during the campaign.

Barack Obama hoists a glass of ESB at Bethlehem Beer Works in Pennsylvania during the campaign.

Jack Curtin who writes the Philadelphia-based Liquid Diet blog posted this photo taken last summer showing now President-elect Barack Obama hoisting a glass of Bethlehem Brew Works ESB; that’s co-owner Nancy Peg Fegley at the right.  The enthusiasm still hasn’t worn off. Jack says Bethlehem is hosting a “black tie optional” inauguration party on Jan. 20. Read about it here…

It’s a new year and it’s time for calendars.  For the beer-infused, there’s no better calendar than Charlie Papazian’s 2009 – 365 Bottles of Beer Page-A-Day-Calendar.  It starts with Young’s Winter Warmer for Jan. 1.  Not a bad way to start 2009. You can buy it at Barnes & Noble for $5.39. or at Amazon for $7.99. Haven’t looked at it myself yet, but Charlie’s credentials are the best: He’s the founder of the Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers  Association and the author of best-selling homebrew books.

Ah, the strange ways of the Web, setting the newspaper world upside down. Apparently, Eric Asimov did a barrel-aged beer tasting for the New York Times Food Section this Wednesday, Jan. 7.  The article is now on line, but the list of 25 barrel-aged beers is not.

Winner was Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien. The beer’s made by Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes (BFM) in Jura, Switzerland. It’s imported by B. United International and has a suggested retail price of $35. Runner-up was Pozharnik Espresso Russian Imperial Stout from Pennichuck Brewing, Milford, NH. Third was  Petrus Aged Pale, Bavik Brewing, Belgium, fourth, La Roja Amber Ale from Jolly Pumpkin, Dexter, Michigan, (The link to Petrus Aged Pale takes you to my review. Scroll down past Orval to read it. Love the beer.) Here’s the NYT on the winner:

  • The Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien, which was our No. 1 beer, was in fact aged in barrels that had previously been used for rum, grappa, Burgundy, cabernet sauvignon and other wines. None of these flavors were evident in the beer, or perhaps they were so well integrated that they could not be detected.

Posted on Monday, January 5th, 2009
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Events: Is SF Beer Week gonna’ be bigger than Phily Beer Week? We’re trying

Events: January is a quiet month for beer events here in the San Francisco Bay Area. But in February, watch out – it’s the Bay Area uncorked:

It’s SF Beer Week and it begins Friday night, Feb. 6 at  Anchor Brewing, 1706 Mariposa St. in San Frnacisco, where they’ll tap a special keg to launch the week’s myriad events.  Haven’t talked to Anchor yet, but rumors are, it’s going to be a barrel-aged Anchor beer. At this point the tapping is invitation only. More on that later.

The barrel tapping copies the beginning each fall of Oktoberfest in Munich and not very coincidentally the tapping of a barrel of beer in Philadelphia last March., launching Philadelphia Beer Week.

We’ve had “Beerapalooza” each February for several years. It was  the creation of Tom Dalldorf, publisher of the Celebrator Beer News.  It was bookended by the Bistro’s Double IPA fest at the beginning, the Toronado’s Barleywine Fest and the Celebrator’s annual party at the end. Pretty neat, huh?

Well we thought so. Then, those upstarts in Philly had to come up with Philadelphia Beer Week and call their town the “America’s best beer-drinking city.”  Talk about audacity.

Truth is, after a visit there this summer, I am impressed and I didn’t even make it out to Victory Brewing in Downingtown, PA, a place that ranks high on my list of celestial breweries.

But I digress.  Beer folks here in the Bay Area, me included, were uhh , well we were pissed about being upstaged by an East Coast city, a place famous until recently for Ben Franklin, the Constitution, yellow lager and the “Rocky” statue.  And hell, it turns out that Ben Franklin was drinking good beer at a time when the major product here in California was cow hides.

Well, Philadelphia, we will not be upstaged. Check out SF Beer Week –- and yes, the name sucks. It should be – and actually is – San Francisco Bay Area Beer Week. Our week is 10 days long ending Sunday, Feb. 16.  There are more events than I can count, events everywhere – Santa Cruz  (Uncommon Brewers at the Red Room) to  Petaluma (Lagunitas hosts a circus) On the Web site, events are nicely divided into bay regions:  East Bay, North Bay, South Bay and uhh oh yes, San Francisco. The fun begins Saturday,  Feb. 7, 2009 at the Bistro, 1001 B St. in downtown Hayward. It’s the ninth annual Double IPA Fest and fest founders and Bistro proprietors Vic and Cynthia Kralj promise a doozy:

  • Over 60 Beers on tap. Admission $25,. Professional Judging with awards ceremony @ 5p.m. Official SF Beer Week public kickoff. The city of Hayward has stepped up to the plate and has let us close the entire Main street adjacent to the Bistro for this momentous occasion. We are putting up a large stage with live music all day.

There are lots more events at the Bistro, but SF Beer Week is a movable feast and just about every good pub and brewery in the Bay Area is in the act.  There’s even a bicycle pub crawl in San Francisco. It all ends the weekend of Feb. 14-16.  Bruce Paton’s Beer and Chocolate Dinner at the Cathedral Hill Hotel, San Francisco on Friday night, Feb. 14. The 15th annual Barleywine Fest on Saturday at the Toronado and the Celebrator Bay Area Beer Celebration on Sunday, Feb. 16.

I cannot wait. Bottom line: Competition between cities is kind of fun, but the best news is that craft beer is everywhere in America and the winners are us  – craft beer drinkers.

Posted on Monday, January 5th, 2009
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Beer of the Week: Dogfish Head 90-Minute Imperial IPA

What’s on Tap:

Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA Leads the Pack

By William Brand
MediaNews Group

DO YOU REMEMBER THE 1980s? I do and one of the weirdest things that happened in the beer world was the absolute craziness on the East Coast about Coors. People had to have it. It was hot. But regular Coors was just an ordinary light lager, so the Coors craze didn’t last.

Fast-forwarding more years than I care to think about, there’s a new craze and it’s here on the West Coast. The buzzword brewery is Dogfish Head. The difference between then and now is that the beers of this Delaware brewery are just about the exact opposite of light lager. I’d call them stunning.

But Sam Calagione, who founded Dogfish Head in 1995 and named it after a peninsula in Maine where he spent summers as a kid, describes them as “extreme beers, off-centered beers for off-centered people.” And finally, after years of anticipation, Dogfish has arrived in the Bay Area. Extreme? Calagione’s not kidding. Consider our Beer of the Week: Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial India Pale Ale ***½. It’s 9 percent alcohol by volume and 90 International Bitterness Units. READ THE REST OF THIS POST…

Posted on Saturday, January 3rd, 2009
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Firestone Walker Little Opal mild at the Slow Food Expo in San Francisco last August

Oddbits… Best beers of 2008. It’s impossible to name them all. Another blogger asked me for my top five. Here’s what is sent him, it’s strictly a West Coast list.

1. Pliny the Elder (Russian River)
2. Le Merle (North Coast)
3. Green Flash West Coast IPA
4. A four-way  tie: Firestone Walker 12, Stone 12th Anniversary Oatmeal Bitter Chocolate Stout., Deschutes The Abyss, Deschutes The Dissident
5. Little Opal, a not-bottled-so-far mild from Firestone Walker.

He wanted it trimmed to five, so I did, but it’s unfair. Even this list is unfair…hate lists. What would you trim/add to this list? Comments welcome. Let’s build a real list.

Events: Bruce Paton has posted his menu and is taking reservations for his Jan. 23 beer dinner featuring the beer of North Coast Brewing. It’s indeed a great menu:

Dinner with the Brewmaster, Friday Jan. 23, 2009
The Cathedral Hill Hotel, San Francisco, CA.
Featuring the Unique Beers of North Coast Brewing Co

  • Reception, 6:30 p.m. Beer Chef’s Hors D’Oeuvre Selection, Red Seal Ale and Pranqster Golden Ale
  • Dinner, 7:30 p.m. First Course Salad of Peppercress, Peeky Toe Crab. Humboldt Fog Goat Cheese and Satsuma Mandarins Le Merle Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale
  • Second Course Coffee Crusted Duck Leg Confit with Caramelized Fennel and Four Cheese Ravioli, Beer: Brother Thelonius Belgian Style Abbey Ale
  • Third Course Molten Chocolate Cake with Old Stock Ice Cream and Smoked Paprika Sabayon,  Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout

$70 per Person Inclusive of Tax and Gratuity
Please Make Reservations by Jan 15, 2009 at

Here’s a squib of news, Raleigh’s, a popular campus pub with an outside beer garden at 2438 Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley has closed, apparently for a month. There’s a state Alcohol Beverage Control sign in the window.  Rumors are they’re closed for serving beer to minors.

However, a staffer at the state ABC office in Oakland said their is no closure order in effect. “We have a pending complaint,” the staffer said  and would say no more.

They’re not answering their phone; the doors are locked. Raleighs for the last 10 years has  been a hangout for UC Berkeley students; they’ve always had a good, if not great beer list.

Shopping for good beer in Southern California? A blog reader has this suggestion:

  • Recently somebody asked you on your blog about good places to find Firestone 12 in  SoCalo and I wanted to inform you of a place out in Glendora (20 minutes from Pasdena on the 210) with an impressive beer selection called Lone Hill Liquor, 1828 E Route 66, Glendora, CA, 626-963-0611.
  • While they stock all the San Diego breweries (Port/Lost Abbey, all the Stone,  Alesmith) as well as the Bruery’s full lineup (and Russian River in so cal!) what is so incredible is that they also manage to get hold of various Midwest and East Coast brews  including Three Floyds. Whenever I go to visit my parents in San Dimas I pick up whatever I can’t find up here.  They also seem to take very good care of their beers.

My comment: Three Lords? Oh my, I’m on my way!

New beers coming here: Claus from Dogfish Head sent me this note:

  • William, Dogfish Head Chicory Stout is coming to the Bay Area next week so by the week of the 12th it will be in the market. We are only sending 120 cases and 12 ½ barrels. San Fran is getting most of it but a few may work their way to East Bay market. Cheers.

Here’s the info on the beer from Dogfish:

  • A dark beer made with a touch of roasted chicory, organic Mexican coffee, St. John’s Wort, and licorice root. Brewed with whole-leaf Cascade and Fuggles hops, the grains include pale, roasted & oatmeal., 5.2% abv, 22 ibu

Posted on Friday, January 2nd, 2009
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ZAP arrives at Fort Mason Jan. 28-31

Alright all you Zinfandel fiends. The annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Festival is scheduled for Jan. 28-31 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. You best get your tickets now for all that luscious jammy goodness.

As you know, it is recognized as the biggest event in the world showcasing a single varietal: 10,000 people and 275 wineries will descend on Fort Mason that weekend, and it always sells out.  I’m not much of a Zin girl so you probably won’t see me there. But I recommend skipping the Grand Zinfandel Tasting on Saturday Jan. 31 and instead indulging in the Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing on the evening of Thursday Jan. 29.


About 60 restaurants and wineries are paired off to come up with carefully executed food and wine pairings sure to bring out the zin in you. After all ,the reason Zinfandel is truly California’s heritage grape is because it can do wonders when slapped against braised and barbecued meats.

All I have to say is that Zin specialist Carol Shelton and Lark Creek Cafe have got me dreaming about their Braised Pork Shoulder with Butternut Squash and Cipollini Onion Ragout. Nuff said.

The only downer is the price ($125 for non ZAP members). I’d imagine that’s a problem for most people right now. If so, go with the Grand Tasting for $59.

Happing Zinning!

Posted on Friday, January 2nd, 2009
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Drinking and driving: The way we live sucks

My post yesterday about how much alcohol it takes to be legally under the influence in California (and other states where you are intoxicated if you blow  a 0.08), brought an interesting comment:

  • what can you say/do…we live in a polce state…seat belt laws…helmet laws…cell phone laws..the list is long..luckily i have a designated most of the time..

My comment: I  know we seem to be deluged with rules and it sucks —  well, it certainly messes with my lifestyle.

However, looking at it from the other side — I know this is a big :”yes but” — but in my early days,  I was a crime reporter at a small newspaper in rural Nebraska and I also took crime scene and accident photos for the local district attorney and sheriff’s office. During those four years I got to see the effects of alcohol on driving first-hand.  It was — well, it was sobering. So I understand the push toward lower alcohol limits.

The American problem – our problem – is the way we live sucks. I mean we’re totally auto-oriented. Most of us live in places where mass transit doesn’t exist or is sucky.

For instance, I live three miles from the closest BART station; there’s only bus service 9-5 weekdays and it’s five blocks to the damn bus stop.  So I drive, usually to BART. Coming home, I don’t get back in the car ’til I’m certain I’m sober.  It’s a hell of a way to live.

In fact, it changes where I go. I hate visiting friends where we’re going to drink good beer, but the only way to get there is driving. I envy my friends who live in San Francisco, Oakland and other cities, where a trip to the pub is a short walk.

For the rest of us, the whole system is loaded against us. We love good beer, but the laws are tough and cops are relentless.  What to do? Drinking at homne is one solution, but nothing beats the warmth and friendship of a good pub. It’s a dilemma, isn’t it.   One thing we need is better transit. Comments anyone?

Posted on Thursday, January 1st, 2009
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The drudge post: California’s DUI law is damn tough

I feel like the New Year’s drudge, but California driving under the influence laws are so stringent, I’ve got to say something.  This excerpt comes from my week column which ran today.

  • Final note: If you live in the Bay Area and plan a night of partying tonight, be warned. California law is tough: “It is unlawful for any person who has 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in his or her blood to drive a vehicle.” Weigh 160? Drink one 5 percent beer, you’ll have to wait an hour to be legally sober. My advice: Check to find out how to reach the pub of your choice easily, by public transit.

This brought a call from a reader on the peninsula, who says he got curious about how little or how much beer it takes to become legally intoxicated, so he bought a good breathalizer and started experimenting.

  • “I weigh 175 pounds and an am 5-11,” he said. He drank one Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and waited an hour. He blew a still-legal 0.04.  Later, he tried again, this time drinking two SNPAs.  Bingo. He was way over the limit and, he said, totally shocked.

Next, I got an e-mail from a longtime reader, Paul, who works in our court system. He gives would-be drinking-driving drunks this info:

  • I have been working in Misdemeanor Courts the past month doing many DUI cases. Serious bummer…best to spend the extra to drink good stuff and be safe, and not pay an Atty later (and unless you are destitute, Public Def charges money thru the Dept of Rev.)
  • More bad news for DUIs…even if you are on a bike the Penalty Assesment beginning at midnight tonight for any infraction, misdomeanor or feloney is raised to 280 percent…which makes a $100 fine well over $400 with all the additional charges and fees.

So I asked, did he mean on a bicycle or a motorcycle? A human-powered bicycle, he said. And you can even be arrested on a DUI for riding a horse under the influence.  It’s all disturbing, maybe not as serious as if you were driving a car, he adds.

One hint: Designated driver. Second hint: Check out for mass transit routes to your favorite pub. Hint three. The hell with it: Figure on paying for a cab and leave the wheels at home.

Have a happy and safe New Year.  b

Posted on Wednesday, December 31st, 2008
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Oddbits: Tasting aged Anderson Valley Imperial IPA, New Year’s Eve dinner at Monk’s Kettle,

I paid attention to one of this blog’s posters who said Anderson Valley is planning a new edition of its 20th anniversary Imperial IPA,. so the other night I poured my last bottle. It has been in my beer fridge for about 10 months and was brewed in late fall, 2007, I believe.

Damn, it was a mind blower. The kind of beer that made California craft beer famous. Rich malt aroma, full mouth feels and hops to die for in the fallow. Excellent beer, the best from Anderson Valley in a long time.

Moving along..there’s a three-hour, New Year’s Eve Blowout dinner tomorrow night at Monk’s Kettle, 3141 16th St. in the MIssion in San Francisco, $95. Call 415-865-9523. Here’s the menu, prepared by Chef Kevin Kroger. Dinner starts at 9 p.m., ends with Brut Noir toast at midnight.

1st Course: Portobello Mushroom Soup, featuring Malheur 10°, Gruyere Crostini, Truffle Oil. Beer pairing: Malheur 10° – Belgian Tripel (10.0% ABV)

2nd Course: Parmesan Risotto Crusted Loch Duart Salmon, Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce featuring Malheur Brut, Sauteed Broccolini Beer pairing: Malheur Brut – Bière de Champagne (11.0% ABV)

3rd Course: Malheur 12° Brined Pork Tenderloin, Cheddar Scallion Potato Cake, Caramelized Parsnips and Brussel Sprouts, Chanterelle Mushroom Veloute featuring Malheur 12°. Beer pairing: Malheur 12° – Belgian Quadrupel (12.0% ABV)

4th Course: Chocolate Fondant Cake featuring Malheur Brut Noir with Crème Anglaise. Beer pairing: Malheur Brut Noir (Black Chocolate) – Bière de Champagne (12.0% ABV).

Moving along… if you live down in Southern California, Stone, 1999 Citracado Parkway, Escondido, is going to open its tanks tomorrow, Dec. 31, 2008 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. for growler fills. Tanks that will be available, Company Store Supervisor Erick Gordon says, are:

    — 2008 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine, 2008 Stone Imperial Russian Stout, Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic Ale, 2008 Double Bastard Ale, Sawyer’s Triple (100% or Sawyer’s Triple fills goes to charity!),
    — Stone Supercalibelgolistic Ale, Stone Cali-Belgique IPA

    If you got a chance to try Schneider and Brooklyner Hopfen Weiss****, the 8.2 percent,85 IBU collaboration between Brookyn Brewing brewmaster Garrett Oliver and  Schneider (Germany) brewmaster Hans-Peter Drexler, here’s some good news. Ed Chainey who represents Schneider in the Bay Area says they’ve brewed another batch and we can expect to see it in the Bay Area around March, 2009. Now that is something to put on your calendar. It’s a phenomenal beer.

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Parting shot…I got this video the other day from New Belgium in Fort Collins, CO. showing them adding new conditioning tanks at the brewery. In the video, the suckers look f-ng huge. So Iasked. They are indeed huge: New Belgium says each is 46 feet high and hold 2,220 hectoliters (1,874.4 barrels). They’ve been placed on a building 60 feet high.

Posted on Tuesday, December 30th, 2008
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