Posts Tagged ‘anchor steam’

Secret Ingredient for Great Wine

January 7, 2011

I don’t know who first coined the phrase, but they were right when they said it takes good beer to make great wine.

It’s no secret that a cold beer really quenches your thirst after a long day working in the vineyard or the winery, or as a follow-up to a long day of wine tasting.

There are a lot of choices for beer drinkers in wine country. In Sonoma County, my favorite spot to grab a pint is the Bear Republic Brewing Company, located right off the square in downtown Healdsburg.

Bear Republic Brewing Company

There are more than two dozen different styles of beer brewed by Bear Republic, which is expanding its capacity with a much bigger production facility in Cloverdale.

Here’s a full list of Bear Republic brews.

Not all beers are available all the time, but one beer that’s always on the list is my favorite — an extremely hoppy IPA-styled brew called Racer 5. The “5” is best served on draft, but it’s also available in bottles at many Bay Area retail outlets (~$8/six-pack).

Racer 5 won a gold medal at the 2009 Great American Beer Festival in the American-Style Strong Pale Ale category and Bear Republic was selected as the best small brewing company of the year at the same event in 2006.

Bear Republic serves lunch and dinner with a pretty good pub menu that ranges from burgers and fries to salads, ribs and beer-friendly fare. On a sunny day, grab a seat on the patio and drink up!

East Bay Beer

We’ve got our own wine country, right here in the East Bay, which is home to more than a dozen urban wineries. (Check the East Bay Vintners Alliance website for a full list of nearby wineries.) The East Bay is also home to a host of brewpubs, craft brewers and some commercial-size breweries.

Pyramid DPA

My favorite East Bay stop for good beer, brewed at the source, is the Pyramid Alehouse in Berkeley (901 Gilman Street, about halfway between I-80 and San Pablo).

This is a sprawling facility with your typical pub-grub menu and a full slate of different styled beers. Check out the free tour schedule for a behind-the-scene look at the brewing process. There are also Pyramid Alehouses in Walnut Creek and Sacramento. The original alehouse is in Portland, where Pyramid got its start in 1984.

I’ve enjoyed several different Pyramid brews, but my favorite (by far) is the Draft Pale Ale (DPA). Available only on draft, this mildly hoppy brew is copper-colored with a thick, foamy head, the kind of foam you like to see on a properly poured glass of Guinness Stout. The head is created by the use of nitrogen and carbon dioxide which are used to propel the beer from the keg to the spout to the glass.

More East Bay Brews

The East Bay has a rich supply of drinking establishments that feature interesting beers. A stellar selection of Belgian-style ales is The Trappist’s claim to fame in Oakland. Cato’s Ale House, another Oakland hangout on Piedmont Avenue, has a great beer list and pretty good pub grub, too.

Germany by the Bay

I have enjoyed the very good pilsener style beer brewed in the German style in Berkeley by Trumer Brauerei. This is a crisp, summer-time pour that’s available at most grocery and liquor stores around the Bay. The Trumer brewhouse, located at 1404 Fourth Street, is literally just around the corner from Pyramid!

Linden Street

There’s a new brewery in Oakland, called Linden Street, which is making a “steam style” beer patterned after the original SF steam beer made famous by the granddaddy of craft brewers, Anchor Brewing on Potrero Hill. I haven’t sampled Linden Street’s products nor visited its production facility, located at 95 Linden Street. This is a beer-making facility only, with no tasting room and no set schedule of tours, which are available by appointment. I’d love to know what you think about this place, so please leave a message with your comments.

For a more complete list of beer-centric bars, brewpubs and small breweries, check the SF Brew Pub Club website.

Coming Up — San Francisco Beer Week

Hundreds of craft and specialty beers — from lagers and pilseners to red, brown and black ales, stouts, fruit beers and barleywine — will be poured around town in the annual San Francisco Beer Week  that runs Feb. 11-20 at various locations in the city. Check the SFBW website for updates on the full event schedule.



Wine Country Values

May 6, 2010

There are values galore across wine country and they come in an array of different shapes, sizes and attitudes.

Prices are down across the board in just about every wine category. Bargains are everywhere, but I haven’t seen anything  quite as appealing as a special offer from wine, beer and spirts giant Diaego that includes discounts of greater than 50 percent on most of its labels. Some of the top brands include Chalone Vineyards, Rosenblum Cellars and Sterling Vineyards.

The only hitch — the deals are only good through Friday (May 7). To register, click this link and use “Patricia Danby” as the referring employee. Let me know what you find.

Wine of the Week: Vivacious Virginia Viognier

I’m a reluctant fan of viognier, an alternative to chardonnay that has made some inroads in California from its origins in France. I like the unexpected, but never expected to like a viognier from Virginia. Most California versions I’ve tried are lightweights, so I wasn’t expecting much when I pulled the cork on my first East Coast viognier.

It turns out Virginia makes some decent wines, and the 2006 viognier from Cardinal Point Vineyard in Afton, Va., is an exceptionally good one. I got the Cardinal Point bottle as a gift and now I’m looking for more!

This viognier has the body of a moderate-weight Napa chardonnay with a taste of Bosc pears combined with the tartness of a New Zealand sauvignon blanc covered by a nose of sweet grapefruit — a hot three-way combination that matched up well at dinner with salmon simmered in olive oil and finished with some of the wine. The 2006 retails for $24, but the newest release (2008) is available from the winery for $18.

The only catch —  state law does not allow direct sales by Virginia wineries to California!

Service as a Value

Some values have little to do with cost and much more to do with availability. I’m a member of a half dozen wine clubs, mostly because it gives me access to small lots of wine that are generally not available to the public. Most clubs provide discounts to members, who commit to purchasing some minimum amount of wines on a periodic basis.

One of my club memberships is at Lucas Winery, an award-winning Lodi zinfandel specialist whose wines are tightly allocated. I get opportunities to purchase the mainline wines, which are great, but it’s also nice to be offered special small production wines that are not sold through normal retail channels. If you haven’t checked out your favorite winery’s club selection, now’s a good time to take a look at what’s available.

The Value of Suds

An era, it seems, has passed right before my eyes.

Anchor Steam brewery was one of the first big names in the microbrewery world. Fritz Maytag bought the company in 1965 and saved it from bankruptcy. The 20-something appliance company heir (his family also owned Maytag blue cheese) turned the  beer business into a success. Anchor became an example that hundreds of microbrewers  have emulated over the years in a nationwide trend toward smaller production, higher quality brewing.

Fritz Maytag

Anchor’s unexpected sale (terms were not disclosed) was announced last month. The new owners (Griffin Group) got the brewery and also acquired Maytag’s Anchor Distilling, which makes Junípero gin and Old Potrero Whiskey. Maytag, now 72, held onto another liquid asset, his York Creek Vineyards in Napa.

I met Maytag in an interview for one of the first stories I wrote after moving to San Francisco in the early 1980s. I was struck by his plan to grow better, not bigger, and improve quality while preserving an icon in the brewing world. Maybe it’s time to go back for another interview, this time about the wine business.