Summertime Beers You Need to Try

Beer selections from PlumpJack Wine & Spirits in Noe Valley

Beer selections from PlumpJack Wine & Spirits in Noe Valley

Summer, the ideal season to crack open a cold beer and enjoy the sunshine. Beer is tailor made for this time of year, a time full of festivals and parties. From pilsners to lagers to summer ales and saisons the flavor possibilities are endless. Allow me to show you some of my personal favorite beers to enjoy during the summer season.

Stone Brewing Company: Delicious IPA
Stone Delicious IPA is an intensely citrusy, bitter beer that caters to today’s modern hop heavy tastes. This beer pours a beautiful golden hue with a light body. Sporting a slight spiciness this beer is a great beer to enjoy at a BBQ. Lemondrop and El Dorado hops bring magnificent lemon candy like flavor to the palate. Stone Delicious IPA is a perfect pairing with pulled pork or a spice rubbed pork loin.

Stillwater Artisanal Ales: Cellar Door
White sage graces this beer in both taste and aroma, which is then joined by a wonderfully pleasant taste of tangerine and valencia oranges. This beer finishes dry and crisp making it perfect for a hot summer day.

Modern Times: Fortunate Islands
Characteristically this beer shares a lot of similarities of an uber hoppy IPA and an easy drinking wheat beer, a large dose of Citra and Amarillo hops give this beer a huge rush of tropical hop aromas; fresh mango, tangerine and passion fruit tones will take you back to that tropical vacation. You will feel as if you are back on the beach sipping a cold glass of sunshine.

Prairie Artisan Ales: Funky Gold Amarillo
Funky Gold Amarillo is a dry hopped sour ale which is a blend of Prairies sour golden ale and a whole bunch of fresh Amarillo hops. The result is a beer that is a mix of tropical fruit and pure prairie funk. Peachy notes are swallowed by big orange citrusy tones, notes of white wine can be found in both the flavor and aroma. This beer is perfect to enjoy as the sun starts to set and the colors of the sky turn bright and colorful.

Baird Beer: Temple Garden Yuzu Ale
This beer pours a hazy amber peachy color, a delicate aroma of orange and tangerine play with your senses. The flavor is similar to candied citrus making this beer an excellent pairing for fish tacos on the beach, ceviche, or a bright summer citrus salad. The yuzu fruit adds a lemon cream aroma and flavor to the beer making it perfect for a warm summer day.

- Joshua Thinnes
General Manager and Wine & Spirits Buyer, Noe Valley Location

Love beer or need to send a fellow beer lover a gift? Then order PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Three Cheers for Beer in a Bucket gift basket. This perfectly curated gift comes with three kinds of beer, plus delicious snack pairings.

Scotch Whisky Club Tasting Notes: 2015

Alexander Murray & Co Ltd ‘Highland Park’ 13yr
Distilled in 2000 at Highland Park Distillery, Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland
Bottled by Alexander Murray & Co Ltd at cask strength 56.1 % abv

Summer is in finally here, and we have the second quarter Scotch Whisky Club Tasting Notes for you! We’re excited to be featuring another new broker bottler to the Scotch Club, Alexander Murray & Co Ltd. While they specialize in custom label bottlings for individual customers and businesses like Trader Joes and Costco (Kirkland), they also bottle their single malts under their own name. We tasted nearly 30 expressions and this was one of our favorites. It didn’t hurt that it was one of few that were bottled at cask strength! Highland Park is a favorite of many regular scotch drinkers (myself included). The last time we featured an expression from Highland Park was in our inaugural release of the Scotch Club in 2007. While most of the core expressions of Highland Park are matured in sherry casks, this one was matured entirely in bourbon casks, making it daytime appropriate and summer approved.

 Sláinte,
Joshua Thinnes

The island of Orkney is simply a magical place. Definitely not British, not really Scottish, as it was a Norse settlement for more than 700 years until it was assumed by Scotland through a marriage. Civilization has occupied this land since 8000 BC. Orkney, along with all the other Hebridean islands including Islay remained loyal to Norway until the 13th century. In 1262 Angus Mor, the Lord of Islay, fighting alongside the Vikings lost control to Scotland in the Battle of Largs. Scotland needed the land for strategic naval positioning fighting off the Danish as they settled on lease terms with Norway. Later in the mid-1400s, after years of unpaid rent to Norway’s King Christian I, Scotland’s debt was forgiven in exchange for the marriage of Scotland’s King James III to Christian’s daughter. The next 300 years solidified a Scottish Norwegian alliance that resisted countless attempts at Danish overrule to no avail. Though Orkney had officially become part of Scotland, most Orcadian people never considered themselves Scottish, and the islands have truly a distinct feel.

Kirkwall, Scotland

                            Kirkwall, Scotland

Highland Park distillery was established in 1798 by Magnus Eunson. The famous 18th century rogue smuggler set up shop on the former site of an illicit still that had been in operation for decades before. Ironically, in the basement of a church where he was a preacher that once stood on the site. It was known as ‘High Park’ for its location on a hill above the town of Kirkwall. In one telling story, it is said that Magnus got word of an imminent inspection by the local exisemen John Robertson, looking for evidence of whisky smuggling. He quickly assembled some of the parishioners and moved all the barrels of whisky from the cellar into the church, where they put coffin lids over the barrels, and draped them with white funerary shroud. When the taxmen arrived, the mass launched into a roar of loud and soulful mourning. One of the parishioners mumbled to the visitors “smallpox”, and just like that, Robertson bailed without completing his search. Eunson was finally arrested in 1813, and as irony would have it, the distillery was sold to the same tax excisemen John Robertson, who promptly turned it legit and began legal distillation. Highland Park distillery has been in continuous operation ever since. Today Highland Park along with sister distillery Macallan is owned by the Edrington Group. And both are renowned amongst collectors and drinkers alike as one of the best, most well-rounded drams.

Highland Park also boasts the title of northernmost distillery in Scotland. The distillery’s location in the Orkney Islands provides a setting that encompasses the very best of all of Scotland’s distilling regions. The Orkneys are now considered a part of the Highlands, and its whiskies share many of the traits of the more familiar highland distilleries, like aromas of heather, wildflowers and honey. The barley for their whisky is malted and then slowly kilned dry over a period of 5-7 days using peat smoke, imparting a slight smoky quality to the whisky, although this peatiness is not nearly as strong as malts from Islay. They are one of the few distilleries peating their own barley, up to 20% nowadays. The island location also exposes the whisky aging in cask, to strong breezes and storms coming off of the North Sea, imparting a slight saltiness on the whisky as it matures. Whisky at Highland Park is aged predominately in used Sherry casks, which imparts a vinous, fruity quality to the malt, as well as a touch of sweetness (although this particular bottle saw no Sherry cask).

The Highland Park that you hold in your hands was not bottled by the Highland Park, but by independent spirits bottler Alexander Murray & Co. As we’ve discussed before, prior to the last quarter of a century or so, almost no Single Malt Scotch was bottled with the intention to be consumed straight. Nearly every cask of whisky was sold to the blending houses, who, according to their house style, would blend dozens of different single malts, along with more neutrally flavored grain whisky, to achieve their house style. Frequently these blends will contain in excess of 50-60 different whiskies, each used sparingly to lend a bit of their character to the final product. Starting in the mid-1800’s, specialized wine & spirits brokers, and even a few licensed grocers began purchasing casks that they thought were especially distinctive. These merchants would bring the whole casks to their shops, and display them on site. Their customers would come in, frequently bringing their own flasks, bottles, or other containers, and buy their whisky by the liter, tapped straight from the barrel. When the bottling of whisky became cheaper and more commonplace, these merchants switched over to selling their whiskies by the bottle, so that they could market their products to a larger audience than just their local customers.

After distillation, the ‘new make’ spirit was filled to what is known as a refill American hogshead: a barrel of specific size (a hogshead is 66 US gallons, or 250 liters) that was previously used to age Bourbon whiskey in the United States. According to law, bourbon must be aged in brand-new, heavily charred casks. After bourbon is bottled, there are a lot of used barrels left over that are of no further use to the Bourbon distiller. Most are sold to Scotch distilleries, as the more neutral qualities of used wood are great for the milder, subtler Scotch whiskies made of malted barley. This type of barrel will slowly lend its color to the aging Scotch, without imparting any overt oaky flavors. This whisky is lightly peated, providing just a hint of smoke on the nose and palate. The nose expresses an unmistakable Highland Park quality of orange, honey and heather that is further developed on the palate. Flavors of spiced orange, burnt orange peel and heather linger on the finish. Every sip conjures aromas of zested orange and memories of summertime flowers while aromas of salty seaside air permeate. At cask strength the finish is spicy but with the addition of a dash of water the flavors really open up and develop. I’ve also noticed that as I drink the bottle past the shoulder mark the whisky continues to open up and develop. This whisky is a perfect summertime sipper – light enough to sip in the sunshine while still being expressive and full of character. If it gets hot out, try it with splash of chilled soda water with an orange twist. Enjoy!

PJWine&Spirits

Italian Wine Club Tasting Notes: June 2015

We hope you enjoy the June Italian Wine Club tasting notes, courtesy of Elio Longobardi of PlumpJack Wine & Spirits. In the northwestern corner of Italy nest a tiny jewel of region. Tucked above Piemonte, surrounded by the Gratian Alps in the north, where it shares a border with France and Switzerland. The Monte Bianco, or Mont Blanc, towers over the valleys’ region at 4,810 meters (15,781ft) making this mountain the highest peak in Europe and the 17th in world. Valle d’Aosta is more renowned for their naturalistic beauty, striking alpine range, bringing thousands of rock climbers, alpine skiers and avid excursionists into the region. Beautiful castles dot the valleys, 72 in the main valley alone, built between the II and the XVI centuries. The castles are one of the principal attractions for tourists. The wine is a pleasant and unexpected surprise, as it is hard to imagine this place suitable for growing vines, but Valle d’Aosta produces some very fascinating and unique wines. Get your hiking boots on, and let’s start to climb up to reach the wine region at the top of the world.

 Elio Longobardi, Italian Wine Specialist
PlumpJack Wine & Spirits – Noe Valley

Valle d’Aosta a.k.a. Vallée d’Aoste, was originally a big glacier, when the glacier receded it left a wide valley furrowed by the river Dora Baltea that cut across the region for 100km (62mi). This mountain territory, 3268 km2 (1261 square miles), with a population of 126.000 inhabitants, makes the small and less populate region of Italy. Aosta is the capitol and also the only province, and has been populated since the 4th century B.C. by Celt tribes until the Romans annexed it 25 B.C. Always in constant commercial contact with their neighbors, France, across the Alps made the Valdostani a bilingual ethnic group where French is spoken equally if not more than Italian. The Fascists forbide the use of French language in the schools and in the press, and for this reason Valle d’Aosta was not a fertile ground for Mussolini and his ideology. The opposition to the dictatorship was strong. In 1948 the region acquires the Autonomist Regional Status that grants the right of self-government, though still part of Italy. Nowadays we have a total of five regions in Italy that benefit of the same legislative powers; beside Valle d’Aosta also Trentino-Alto-Adige, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, Sicilia and Sardegna are elevated to this status.
DSC_0180

Who would have thought you could plant vineyards at 4,000 feet and make wine too? The geography is alpine, high peaks, and temperatures below zero most of the year would discourage any sane vintner. Not the Valdostani. They terraced the steep slopes with walls of rocks and bricks to contain the scars terrain formed by glacier alluvial soil of rock moraine and sand. The vines did the rest of the job, digging deep in search of nutriments they also helped to keep the soil from getting loose and prone to slide downhill. Working the land in this condition requires giving up the support of mechanization and industrial technologies, all the job in the vineyards is up to the farmer’s arms and legs. The terrain often reaches inclines up to 30% requiring you to be more of a climber than farmer. Many call this ‘Viticultura Eroica’, which can be accurately translated as ‘Extreme Viticulture’.

Valle d’Aosta produces 0.1% of the total Italian wine production, making of about 1 million bottles on an area apt to cultivation of 1290 acres. What makes those wines more alluring is their unique peculiarity. We’ve already talked about the many grape varieties of each Italian region, here are even more. Grapes that are limited only to this specific area and you wont find them elsewhere. White grapes: Prie’ Blanc, Malvoisie, Petit Arvine. Red grapes: Cornalin, Mayolet, Petit Rouge, Premetta, Vien de Nus and Fumin. There also other important grape such as Nebbiolo from near by Piemonte, here called Picotendro. Gamay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay are cultivated as well. 

Aosta Valley, Italy

Aosta Valley, Italy

Pavese Ermes, Blanc de Morgex et de la Salle, Vallée d’Aoste 2002 D.O.P.
Ermes Pavese is a youthful grower in the commune of La Ruine just outside of the town of Morgex in the high Alps, just minutes from the summit of Mont Blanc.  Pavese works with the native grape known as Prié Blanc. This is the old varietal of the region was first mentioned in documents dated in 1691. The name probably refers to the wine’s use in Sunday Mass by priests (priest, in French). Starting with barely two hectares of vineyards, situated at about 1200 meters (~4000feet) a.s.l., Ermes has gradually expanded his holdings in this high altitude zone. He now produces three versions of Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle. Besides the bottle that we’ve selected, Ermes makes a version barrel aged and a dessert wine. Basically an ice-wine, the grapes are harvested in December when temperatures are between 17 and 14 Fahrenheit. Because these vineyards are so isolated, Pavese has been able to work with the original, pre-phylloxera rootstock since that parasite never infiltrated this area, because of the high elevation and sandy soil, when it came sweeping through Europe at the end of 1800. To understand the difficulties and the hard labor required in making wine here, you must understand that in order to plant vines the farmers have to remove all the rocks that cover the terrain until they get to the soil. Removing them manually, one by one. This labor of love produces wines that are the pure expression of this terroir. Nervy, crispy and racy with minerality that speaks of glacier and moraine rocks.

Pavese Ermes

Pavese Ermes

Pavese Blanc de Morgex fruit is harvested between the end of September beginning of October. All the clusters are softly pressed, vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks and then filtered and bottled. This wine in the glass has a bright clear yellow straw color with golden reflections. Aromas are clean, the palate loaded with fresh acidity with a whisper er of aromatic herbs such as thyme and chamomile, floral notes of hawthorn, white fruit tones, pear Williams and yellow plums. The finish is long with accents of white pepper notes. Perfect as aperitif, it also works great with fish and white meat dishes as well with semi-firm aged cheeses.

La Cantina di Cuneaz Nadir, Badebec, Rosso-Vallée d’Aoste 2012 DOP
Nadir Cuneaz is a young and enthusiastic wine maker, driven by a passion for his land, he puts all his energy into the vineyards owned by his family for over a century. The Cuneaz family has a mere 0.5 hectares near the town of Gressan, in the southern part of the region, reflecting a local mix of grape varieties, some of which were planted over 100 years ago. All the work in the vineyards is rigorously maintained and manually done by hand. The harvest usually happens at the end of October to allow plenty of time for the fruit to reach maturation. The grapes harvested earlier are left to dry for a couple of weeks until they achieve the right sugar concentration and then combine together for the vinification. The wine spends then one year in barrels in the cellar, which also serves as one of the rooms in their home.

The wine we’ve selected is composed of 90% Petit Rouge with small amounts of Fumin and Vien de Nus. The wine hints at the passito element, with rich, ripe fruit. Open the bottle, pour a glass and let the olfactory sensations bring reminders of mountain fruits and herbs. There are dark, sweet notes of blackberry, complimented by alpine flowers that reflect the position of the vineyards. The rich, balsamic notes of stone ripe fruits envelopes the palate with a soft, warm alcoholic accent well supported by a fresh and sapid structure. The name of this wine ‘Badabec’, comes from the mythical monster that is said to roam the forests above Gressan and occasionally feast on misbehaving children in the village! The perfect match for this wine is the Soupetta di Cogne (see recipe below).

Soupettas di Cogne (Cogne’s soup)
This dish, as all the Valdostana traditional cuisine are made with the few ingredients available in those remote valleys in the past when long winters made impossible any contact and exchange with the regions around. You may not think this recipe as a summer one but after a long day of hiking in the high elevation I can ensure you’ll be very hungry and something like this will put you in the right mood.

Ingredients (serves 4):
500 g fontina* cheese cut in ¼ inch slices
200 g butter
500 g rice
2 and 1/2 cup beef broth
1 kg stale rye bread
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
Salt

1. Cut the bread in ½ inch slices and fried in 100 g of butter until the bread has a nice golden color.
2. In another pan, with 50 g of butter cook the rice as you do risotto, adding slowly 2 cups of beef broth and a pinch of salt. Cook on medium-high heat until the rice is almost done, 15-20 minutes.
3. Using a baking pan, start with strata of bread, then rice and top with slices of fontina. Repeat the process until all the bread, rice and cheese is used finishing the last top with fontina.
4. Pour now over the half-cup of remaining broth, melted butter and the nutmeg.
5. Bake in the oven at 375F for 4 minutes and serve warm.

* Fontina is the most famous regional cheese. It get its name from the pasture area called Font.

Cocktail Club Tasting Notes: June 2015

Bloody mary

PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s cocktail club tasting notes, featuring Seven Stills and McVicker Pickles. June marks the beginning of summer. With longer days, abundant sunshine and a bounty of fresh produce it doesn’t get much better than summer. Summer also means the arrival of fresh tomatoes into the markets, and we can’t think of a more useful way to celebrate than with Bloody Marys! The products featured this month are made by local San Francisco producers, Seven Stills and McVicker Pickles and contain everything you need to create an instantly delicious Bloody Mary.

Cheers!
PlumpJack Wine & Spirits

Image from @sevenstills via instagram

Seven Stills was officially founded by Tim Obert and Clint Potter in January of 2013.  It began as a conversation over drinks at Dobbs Ferry in early 2012. Clint had explained the process of distillation and how whiskey is traditionally made from a low quality beer.  Tim, an avid homebrewer thought, “Why don’t we buy a still and see what happens if we distill my homebrews?” They spent the next year creating over 30 different whiskeys before realizing the results were too incredible to squander. They decided to start a company specializing in whiskeys made from craft beers.

They chose to name their brand Seven Stills, after the seven hills of San Francisco. In order to get up and running they launched a vodka line, produced on Treasure Island at Treasure Island Distillery. The vodka provides an easy canvas for mixing and sipping alike. Ever since they launched their vodka line we’ve talked about a feature with Bloody Marys in the cocktail club, so we’re excited for this release. The packaging you see here is brand new, this batch bottling hot off the press (still).

Born and raised in Kansas, Kelly McVicker learned all about pickling and canning from her grandmothers, Margarett and Harriet. When she moved to San Francisco she brought her family tradition with her, and soon found herself haggling over boxes of cucumbers at the farmers market. In 2012, Kelly launched McVicker Pickles, after winning first place in three categories at the 2012 Eat Real Festival in Oakland. Kelly launched McVicker Pickles to bring her love for canning and pickling to the masses, creating updated versions of her family classics. She also teaches pickling classes at Workshop in San Francisco.

Canning Classes with McVicker Pickler

After taking a pickling class at Workshop late last year, we got inspired to collaborate with Kelly and feature her pickles as accompaniments to a Bloody Mary themed cocktail club selection. When we approached her about the pickles, Kelly mentioned that she, along with friend Gillian Fitzgerald (of Virgil’s Sea Room) could create a shelf stable Bloody Mix come tomato season. This Bloody Mary mix has evolved over time with lots of experimentation and tinkering. Super accessible, the mix is a little bit spicy, a little bit briny. After McVicker unloaded 20-30 jars at the Maker Faire in San Mateo a couple weeks ago, Proud Mary Mix was officially born.

Champagne Club Tasting Notes: June 2015

Champgane Blog Post Banner

PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s Champagne club tasting notes for the June. Summer is almost upon us and that means it’s the perfect time to pop bottles of bubbles. Then again, when is not the perfect time to pop bottles of bubbles?! This month we’re excited to feature a duo of Blanc de Blancs champagnes, one from a brand new hot off the press producer and the other from a old school family grower. As the days get longer, we hope you enjoy your start to the summer in good health and spirit.

A Votre Santé, Joshua Thinnes & Your Friends at PlumpJack Wine & Spirits

Champagne Guy Charlemagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2009
Champagne Tendil & Lombardi Blanc de Blancs

In a region that has survived two World Wars and resisted the countless attempts of foreign occupation over time, Champagne is hardly considered new or modern. Even the methods (méthode champenoise) are referred to as classique. But low and behold the new wave of Champagne houses is starting to form. Releasing their first cuvée just four years ago in 2011 meant that Laurent Tendil and Stéphane Lombardi would be realizing a childhood dream come true. Born in culinary super world of French gastronomy, Lyon, France, the two began life as friends, playing rugby and practicing judo. After completing their studies, both set out for careers in the food and wine world. Roughly fifteen years later the two rekindled the fantasy of starting their own Champagne label and left their successful careers to pursue their dream.

They began working with a young up and coming vine grower in the region and started blending their own cuvées. In May of 2011 the first Tendil & Lombardi cuvées were bottled. It was rough going at first, especially considering they chose to begin operations at the peak of the worst recession in modern times. But passion and persistence prevailed, and after just three years their wines are available in 14 different countries across the world.

The grapes used in the Tendil & Lombardi champagnes come from the Côte des Bars region, with most coming from vineyards in Aube. To ensure highest quality, all of the wines are produced from only the first pressing of grapes, called the first run juice. The non-vintage cuvées spend at least 24 months aging on the lees before disgorgement, then settling in bottle for another three to six months more.

Your Champagne Tendil & Lombardi Blanc de Blancs pours a pale yellow hue into the glass with lively effervescence. Aromas of fresh melon, pear and orange citrus varieties burst from the glass, supported by a subtle chalky backbone of minerality. The wine is juicy and fresh fruit driven, developing deeper flavors of poached fruits as it warms up in the glass. It is a great apéritif champagne and goes quite well with the sunshine. Fire up the grill in the afternoon, pop the bottle, and serve with grilled summer vegetables and grilled mango and pineapple… You’ll thank us later.

In the heart of the Côte des Blanc sits the tiny village of Le Mesnil sur Oger, considered by some to be heart of the best champagne in the world. It is home to famous producers like Champagne Salon and Delamotte alongside neighbors of smaller family run operations. Here you will find a small Champagne house, Guy Charlemagne. Guy’s son Philippe, a buzzing mile a minute talker, is the fifth generation descendant of father to son winegrowers in Le Mesnil since 1892.

A true grower bottler with RM sta­tus, the house only harvests and vinifies grapes grown from their 15 hectares (37 acres) of vines situated throughout the Côte des Blanc. The majority of the vineyards are located in the Grand Cru villages of Le Mesnil sur Oger and Oger, along with plots in Mancy, Cuis, Glannes and Sézanne, which are used for their non-vintage cuvées. The majority of their vines, 87% or so produce Chardonnay, with the remaining 13% producing Pinot Noir.

The Grand Crus vineyards from the Côte des Blancs used in Charlemagne’s wines average 42 years in age and have an east/southeast exposure. Planted on limestone rich soil, the limestone and chalk are slightly porous, which provides a slow but constant water supply to the vines. The slow and steady flow of water creates a Chardonnay with finesse and elegance while being laced with min­erality. Only the best single vineyards are selected for these cuvées (such as Chétillon, Coullemets, Vaucherots, Mont-Joly and Aillerand du Midi). The blending of small parcels allows Charlemagne to obtain champagnes with expressive characteristics and personality.

Harvesting of the grapes is carried out entirely by hand and usually takes place in September. After being freshly cut, the grapes are carefully pressed in one of the two traditional presses. Afterwards, fermentation is a slow gradual process in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats. After 100% malolactic fermentation, the different wines are blended together marrying different qualities for a balanced wine that is greater than the sum of its parts. Secondary fermentation and aging takes place in dark chalk cellars beneath the winery before riddling and disgorgement. Less than 130,000 bottles of champagne are produced a year, with 70% being exported abroad and 30% remaining in France.

The Guy Charlemagne Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs 2009 pours a beautiful straw yellow color into the glass creating a consistent stream of fine and persistent bubbles. The nose is complex, hinting at notes of dried fruit like California golden raisins and figs mixed with suggestions of candied fruit like oranges and pineapple. This wine really changes as it opens up, developing a more complex savory profile of hazelnuts, soft newly sheened leather and blond tobacco. The finish is long and luxurious with a persistency that oozes class and sophistication. Yet this is an uncomplicated, simply delicious wine. It makes an excellent pairing with a selection of French cheeses from creamy to aged. It will find harmony in a preparation of seafood paella, or perhaps even sing lead in a combination of date night popcorn and a movie.

BOM Club Tasting Notes: June 2015

 BOM Blog Post Banner            PlumpJack Wine & Spirits brings you this month’s beer club tasting notes for June. We’re shining a spotlight on the updating of established craft beers. Meet Lagunitas CitruSinensis Pale Ale (a variation of New Dogtown Pale Ale) and Green Flash’s new West Coast IPA. Based on brands that have been brewed for a combined 32 years, these veteran breweries are recalibrating to the ever-shifting, ever-growing craft beer market. It’s fascinating and instructive to witness these beers rebrand and experiment in today’s craft beer scene.

            Cheers!
Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone

            Tony Magee, the founder of Lagunitas Brewing Company, likes to quote a professor from the design school he attended in the 1980s: “A product is frozen information.” A product like a single beer is a snapshot within the larger continuum of beer, and breweries use their beer brands to continually broadcast the same information over and over again because the beers’ messages are valuable to the brewery and (they hope) to the consumer. But as some craft beer brands are going on 30-35 years old (and grandaddy Anchor Steam is at 50), these breweries are confronted with the need to keep their information, message, and commentary resonant. Some breweries are now altering core brands to freeze the information into a new snapshot.

Craft beer is booming right now all over the United States. New breweries are opening at an amazing clip of more than one per day, and the craft beer’s share of the American beer market is in double digits. The growth is led by brewers new and old — with both new neighborhood upstarts and established regional brewers building second and third breweries, sometimes in the same town, sometimes across the country (including Lagunitas), and some (like Green Flash) partnering with breweries in Europe. The challenge for established breweries is to keep their core brands perpetually trusted and enjoyed by a market that’s faced with new breweries and new brands at every turn. There are a hundred approaches to this challenge (or opportunity) and no single recipe for surefire success. But a couple recent beers from Lagunitas and Green Flash offer a couple strategies. For Magee, it’s an opportunity to check back in with craft beer’s “community and passion element,” he believes, “because that is the engine behind it . . . that replaces imagery and artifice.”

CitruSinensis Pale Ale Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, California, USA 7.9% ABV 

Keeping up with the consumer clamor for new one-off beers, in 2015 Lagunitas is brewing and promoting its “One Hitter Series” of beers. Brewed once, sold once, and get ‘em while they’re hot, cause when they’re gone, they’re gone. For June, their One Hitter is “CitruSinensis” Pale Ale, what the brewery calls “a wheatier version of our New Dogtown Pale Ale,” spiked with with blood orange juice. First brewed in 1994, Dogtown Pale Ale struggled to compete with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and so Magee put all his chips into brewing an IPA at a time before IPA was a proven seller. Dogtown Pale Ale has been a core brand that’s played second fiddle to Lagunitas IPA ever since. The brewery rewrote the recipe about 5 years ago, re-releasing it as New Dogtown and infusing it with more dry hops, creating a incredibly delicious pale ale that, nonetheless, still lags in category sales behind stalwarts like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Deschutes Mirror Pond. In the interim, Lagunitas has opened a new brewery in Chicago and has just announced plans to open a third brewery in Los Angeles County, and Magee has kept his incredibly successful IPA’s recipe and message consistent, leaving room to experiment with (New) Dogtown Pale Ale.

The current experiment is a new riff on several craft beer successes, proving that there’s never too much of a good thing. Citrus sinensis is the biological name of the common, sweet orange, including blood orange cultivars. The brewery juiced a Sicilian variety of blood orange known as sanguinello, evaporated the juice’s water content so as not to water down the beer, and added it to a batch of New Dogtown. The ale yeast fermented the juice’s sugars, upping the beer’s ABV to 7.9%. Of course, the blood orange aromatics dovetail beautifully with the hops’ already citrusy, grapefruit aromas, but the pleasant surprise for me is how much the juice’s citric acid contributes to lightening this big beer’s palate, recalling the soft tartness of a gose and making a zesty, refreshing American craft beer version of a German Radler (German bicyclists’ classic post-ride mix of beer and lemonade). The “wheatier” part of the recipe is a move borrowed from Lagunitas’s successful wheaty IPA, Lil’ Sumpin Sumpin — the wheat adds a dash of refreshing acidity and a bready backbone to the beer. Magee is, among other things, craft beer’s visionary and hippie Bard, and to borrow one of his own quotes: “The soul in the brand’s initial incarnation has moved on to other realms.”

CitruSinensis pours a slightly hazy, light orange color, capped by a head of white foam. (Some yeasty, orangey goodness has settled at bottom of the bottle — be sure to pour it all!) Jumping from the glass are aromas of intense orange, with hints of raspberry and marionberry (from the blood orange), along with fresh pine, hempseed, and cannabis from the hops, and a whisper of toasty malt. A sip reveals a tart, bitter-sweet ale with layers of orange and resiny bitterness. The mouthfeel is smooth and wheaty, while the OJ adds a refreshing, lip-smacking kick. Citrusy aromas of American hops are the soul of an American IPA, and CitruSinensis is an exploration of these aromas writ large, but instead of amplifying them with brazen additions of hop flowers, it’s a study in citrus from the genuine article, and it’s some of the best blood orange I’ve tasted. Pair this beer with salty, savory, crispy foods that could use a spritz of citrus — fried calamari with lemon aioli, steamed artichoke with ranch, or grilled swiss cheese sandwich with garlicky, sautéed kale.

West Coast IPA Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego, California, USA 8.1% ABV

Green Flash’s portfolio of beers is an ode to IPA. Other than their double stout, their ultra hoppy red ale, and an occasional one-off, you’re hard-pressed to find a beer without IPA on the label, from session IPA all the way up to Triple IPA. (They did just open up Cellar 3, a facility dedicated to barrel aging and blending, so we’re sure to see some new creations bubble up from there in the future.) The brewery first brewed West Coast IPA in 2004 and trademarked the name in 2010. They called the beer an IPA, but with its 95 bitterness units balanced by 7.3% ABV, this was an ascerbically epic IPA/DIPA hybrid masquerading as an IPA. Green Flash has made its name by brewing beers that break a style’s upper limits, even calling its 30th Street Pale “an IPA on any other street.” (It’s dedicated to the main drag that connects the city’s beer-focused North and South Park neighborhoods.) It seems that 2014 brought a spirit of recalibration to Green Flash, and West Coast IPA is labeled a double India pale ale, now officially out of the double IPA closet. The new label for 30th St. Pale Ale upgrades it to an IPA (at 45 IBUs and 6.0% ABV, it’s close to the marks for Lagunitas IPA), while the new Soul Style IPA splits the difference at 75 IBUs and 6.5% ABV.

There’s more to a beer than numbers, and there’s even more to the perception of bitterness than IBUs. Brewmaster Chuck Silva has beefed up West Coast IPA a bit with more alcohol, from 7.3% to the current 8.1%, courtesy of about 10% more malt. He introduced a fifth hop into the recipe, adding Citra to the line-up of Simcoe, Columbus, Centennial, and Cascade, creating an even more robust cocktail of hops. You can ignore the language on the label that lists the hops’ roles as convenient and tidy. The language on the label isn’t insincere, it’s just necessarily oversimplified. The fact is all five of these hops share cross-over aromas of citrus, pine, and flowers, and any of them can be pungent if you boil them long enough. The aromas of each hop are different in different applications: Simcoe are undoubtedly tropical, as are Citra, and Centennials usually smell to me like white flowers, but with a steely, metallic edge. Columbus are prized for their grapefruity, piney, resinous quality, but they often bring garlicky, oniony hints, too, which Silva, a master of hops, deftly avoids.

West Coast IPA, the double India pale ale, pours a rich copper color beneath a lasting white head. The bouquet shows what this beer is all about: heady aromas of pine, orange blossom, grapefruit, pineapple, melon, mint, and cannabis, with just a whiff of malty bread crumbs. Drinking it brings a tide of bitterness that’s only partially tempered by the lush fruity flavors. Visions of pink grapefruit Jelly Bellies and candied orange peel duke it out with masochistic nibbles of pine cone and lemongrass soap. Malts provide slight almondy, bread crust flavors, while providing the backbone to deliver a fountain of hops. This beer is more than just an overly exuberant hop bomb, and the subtlety of its malt lends the beer the cleanness and leanness of a San-Diego-style IPA, while its towering hoppiness shows some elegance by avoiding hops’ less appealing garlicky, oniony, and leafy vegetal flavors. This double IPA pulls no punches, focusing on the task at hand: delivering tons of citrusy hop bitterness. For food pairing, go for rich foods that can handle a lot of aromatics (herbs, spices, citrus, etc.). Chinese orange chicken, duck tacos, scallop ceviche, hominy-studded posole, or Moroccan tagine would all be great. For dessert, make an orange-creamsicle-inspired beer float by adding scoop of vanilla ice cream to a glass of this beer (trust me — it’s dirty, wrong, and delicious).

PJWine&Spirits

Father’s Day Gifts that Will Prompt High Fives

No more boring ties, bbq tools or golf balls, here are five gifts that will put a smile on dad’s face. He’s your go to guy, someone you can always count on to have your back. This Fathers Day PlumpJack can help you show Dad you care, because your dad deserves something awesome.

1. Whisky, Wine & Beer, OH My!
Choose from so many great PlumpJack Wine & Spirits clubs, like our American Whisky Club, Gin Club, or Beer Club.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
VIEW CLUBS

2. Fly Fishing in Tahoe
Spoil dad with something relaxing and outdoorsy. Book the Fly Fishing Package at PlumpJack Squaw Valley Inn that includes private casting lessons and guided fishing on private, stocked ponds with famed fly fisherman, Matt Heron. Plus welcome snacks and wine in your guest room.
BOOK THIS PACKAGE

3. Forego Brunch and Opt for Cocktails
Spend a night sipping manly cocktails, at one of San Francisco’s Hottest New Bars in mid-market.
VIEW MENU

4. Gift Kits with a Kick
Choose from a number of great Cocktail Kit choices, including some classics like the Manhattan, Old Fashioned or a Sazerac.
ORDER A KIT

5. Burger & Wine: A Perfect Pairing
Indulge in two balboa burgers with the suggested toppings of blue cheese, bacon, and sauteed mushrooms, perfectly paired with a bottle of 2012 Adaptation Petite Sirah for $100.00
BALBOA CAFE SF

6. PlumpJack Gift Baskets
Gift baskets don’t have to be a drag to receive, PlumpJack Wine & Spirits has gift baskets that will be sure to please Dad. From the Build a Better Bar Basket to the Three Cheers for Beer in a Bucket, our hand crafted baskets are loaded up with premium items.
PURCHASE ONE 

Behind the Drink: The Negroni

                                           Florence, Italy

While the origin of the Negroni varies by many accounts, the most popular story goes like this. In 1919 Count Camillo Negroni, a frequent patron at Caffe Giacosa in Florence asked the bartender to strengthen his favorite drink ‘The Americano’ by adding gin instead of soda water. The bartender obliged, garnishing the new drink with an orange peel.
The results spoke for themselves, and after the soaring popularity of the drink, the Negroni family founded a distillery in Treviso. Producing a ready-made version of the drink calling it ‘Antico Negroni’.

For this classic cocktail, balance is the key to success. Conceived of equal portions of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, it dances the line perfectly between bitter and sweet. Presentations vary, but it is usually served ‘up’ in a cocktail or coupe glass and garnished with a orange rind. Stirring the drink will lead to a more spirit forward drink, preserving the texture and body of the cocktail. While shaking will tone down the booziness, creating a leaner and lighter drink.

The Negroni Variations Cocktail Kit from PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Noe Valley

The Negroni Variations Cocktail Kit from PlumpJack Wine & Spirits Noe Valley

Many variations of the cocktail exist, the most popular being a ‘Boulevardier’, where the gin is subbed for bourbon. The Negroni Bianco, is a contemporary version, with a perfect bittersweet balance with every sip. In this variation, the Campari is subbed with another light colored bitter liqueur like Salers or Suze. And the sweet vermouth (usually dark in color) is substituted with a sweet vermouth clear in color like Dolin Blanc.

Creating your own variation on the drink is much easier than you would think. The key is to remember this drink is based on a balance of one part sweet, one part bitter and one part spirit. Order one of PlumpJack Wine & Spirits ‘Negroni Variations’ cocktail kits you’ll be able to make the classic Negroni, Boulevardier and the Old Pal at home.

Here is a slight variation of the classic Negroni cocktail. Ransom old tom gin is a corn/malted barley based spirit, fortified with gin botanicals and then barrel aged. Think whiskey crossed with a gin. This cocktail perfectly straddles the line between a Boulevardier and a classic Negroni cocktail.

1.5 oz Ransom Old Tom Gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz Alessio Vermouth Torino

Stir all ingredients over ice. Strain into rocks glass with a sphered ice cube. Garnish with flamed orange peel.

Joshua Thinnes, General Manager and Wine & Spirits Buyer, Noe Valley Location

Conversations with Hilary: Justin Tuck

This edition of Conversations with Hilary highlights my friend and NFL defensive lineman Justin Tuck, formerly of the New York Giants, now with the Oakland Raiders. While millions of viewers see Justin suited up on Sundays, I know him as a champion of philanthropy. Justin and his wife Lauran, recently announced a $250,000 donation to the literacy initiative, “The Read Zone,” in an effort to help raise awareness and provide low-income kids with books and dedicated reading programs. His donation is the first grant to the initiative started by the 50 Fund, which is a legacy fund of the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. In his own words Justin says, “You don’t get many chances at this kind of Super Bowl platform often.” He is a true hero who takes advantage of the opportunities he is given to make a real impact on people’s lives.

16th Annual PlumpJack/ LINK Golf Classic

Justin’s generosity is far reaching and includes our annual PlumpJack/LINK Golf Classic, in support of Breast Cancer research and Education benefiting CPIC.org. His participation since arriving to the bay Area has helped us raise over $500,000 in the past two years alone! I am deeply grateful and honored to call Justin and Lauran my friends. Enjoy!

1. What do you believe to be your greatest accomplishment?
Outside of being and husband and father I would say graduating from Notre Dame

2. Do you have a prized possession?
I really don’t have anything that I couldn’t part ways with so no

3. What qualities do you think others love about you?
Hardworking and honesty

4. If you could do anything other than what you currently do, what would it be?
I love cars and the outdoors. So probably something that allowed me to work with one or both

5. What do you like most about what you do for a living/career?
Football provides the opportunity to visit a lot of different places and meet different people – I think that is unique in this profession

6. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Pray

7. What’s your favorite thing to do on a Friday night?
Watch a movie with the wife after the kids go to bed

Justin at the PlumpJack/LINK Golf Classic

8. What were you passionate about in your younger years growing up?
The outdoors and sports

9. What are you passionate about now?
My family, the outdoors, and sports lol

10. What’s your favorite season and why?
The fall, I love the coloring of the leaves and the milder weather

11. If you were stuck on a deserted island, what three items would you want to have with you?
My cell phone, fire starter, and some water

12. If you were a cocktail or a drink what would it be?
Johnny Walker Blue neat

13. What’s the #1 most played song on your iPod?
In The Air Tonight – Phil Collins

14. If you could have lunch with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Jesus, Martin Luther King and Muhammad Ali

15. If your life was made into a movie, what would it be called?
I Just Want to Play

16. Do you have any regrets?
None, everything that’s happened to me, good or bad I take as a blessing

17. Define freedom?
Being okay with whatever life throws your way

18. What are your personal core values?
Always find a way to make the people around you better

 

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Festival Fashion: BottleRock Napa Valley

Year three of BottleRock Napa Valley kicks off this weekend, which makes for the perfect excuse to rock cut off shorts, kimono’s, slouchy tanks, all with your favorite beer or wine in hand. We’ve picked our favorite pieces of the moment for some festival approved fashion to get you through the weekend (and the warm days) in style.

bottlerockFINAL

S U N G L A S S E S // Oliver People West

K I M O N O // Fifteen Twenty

T A N K // Red 23

S H O R T S // Hudson

J E W E L R Y // Gorjana

S A N D A L S // Tory Burch