Last Minute Father’s Day Gift Guide

You’re the reason your dad drinks, so you might as well get him what he wants for Father’s Day.

fathers day



There’s even more Japanese influence in the American bar scene now than there was among the Impressionists, so try starting with one of these new, fantastic (yet affordable enough to not make him ask why you are still living in his basement rent-free) bottles of whiskey from the Land of the Rising Sun.

Kikori: named after the Japanese legend of the woodsman (how’s that for a manly dad gift?), Kikori is actually a rice-based spirit, aged in oak for 3+ years like traditional whiskies, and is extremely easy-drinking. A number of cocktail recipes I’ve seen are swapping it out for tequila and even vodka, so he can look tough without upsetting his delicate palate.

Suntory Toki: breaking with tradition, Suntory’s chief blender crafted Toki based not on the usual Yamazaki malts, but focused on their Hakushu single malt with a hearty dose of Chita grain whiskey. It’s additionally unconventional for featuring the boldly flavored grain whiskey, which is usually more of a filler in Japanese blends, so this makes a nice gift for you father, a trailblazer in his day, or perhaps among the other members of his homeowner association.

Hibiki Harmony: a master blend of more than ten different whiskies – perhaps the mellow flavor, warm color, enchanting faceted bottle and overtly calming name will finally get your old man chill out about the Mets.


I don’t know what kind of wine your dad likes to drink; he’s picky. You’re tired of hearing him complain that he never wants to open a bottle of wine anymore, now that he’s the only one drinking it, and since your second-quarter bonus check just came in, check out a Coravin. The impressive nature of the gift will make up for the fact that on Sunday you’ll be handing him a printout of the shipping details.


Yeah, how about you take your dad out for a beer? You never stop by any more and when you do, the kids are always running roughshod over you both, so just take a couple hours and bring him to his favorite pub for a couple of cold ones. He’d like that.

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Beer Salt

The most fascinating new product at this year’s Winter Fancy Food Show (at least from the drinking persective), is apparently a quarter-century old, but I hadn’t heard of it until a December.


I was planning another peaceful New Year’s eve in Manhattan at Death and Company, when a friend called to suggest that I drop everything and fly to West Texas to see a minor country music legend play a show at a tiny honky tonk bar in a little town, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, so how could I say no? The show was excellent, and despite the obscurity, David Byrne showed up around 11:00. But I digress.


Every convenience store, liquor store, grocery store and fireworks stand across Texas had a display of Beer Salt, petite plastic shakers in the shape of a long-neck filled with flavored salt.  It was even saw it on several bars in Austin and Houston.


My first response was revulsion, then two thoughts crossed my mind. First, my father used to put salt in his Bud Light, but I never knew if this was entirely for flavor or if it was just to execute his favorite magic trick. Second, we put salt on the rims of margaritas, and even closer, on micheladas. For any purist who has been scoffing from the start of the paragraph, contain yourself, because I would wager that when it comes to food, you salt just about everything.  It’s a flavor enhancer, and our bodies crave it, so we are biologically predisposed to enjoy it.


I wouldn’t use this with a dark, full-bodied craft beer, but with any brew you might have sucked down at a keg party, it works quite nicely. Beyond that, all three flavors are great for sprinkling on an avocado.


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Hermetus Bottle Opener & Resealer

Update: sign up for the email newsletter to get a $7 off coupon, bringing the cost under a buck (+$5 shipping).

For  crooked bar owners, roofy dosers and those who just can’t drink a whole beer in one sitting, there is now the Hermetus Bottle Opener & Resealer. This churchkey can also be used to hermetically reseal your beer.

 If nothing else, it would make the Strange Brew scam easier to execute (valid only in Canada)

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Small Batch Brewing Book

I used to brew my own beer back in the 90s, and despite excellent results, I’ve never drank a ton of beer at home, so a 5-gallon batch left me with an excess of malty goodness, the urge to sing “99 bottles of beer on the wall,” and very little space in my apartment or fridge. I would wait a month or more between brews because I still had so much beer on hand, and eventually, it became a pain and not so much fun.


I can’t believe it took until 2011 for someone to simplify the process, and I am a little ashamed that I didn’t think of it, but a local SF couple just released Beer Craft , the book of homebrewing in one-gallon batches.

This makes me want to brew again! I just got my copy and am reveling in the concise content and quirky design. They run through the history and the how-to with great infographics (even more impressive… and accurate than my napkin illustration), they profile craft brewers and there’s even a section on designing your own labels.

The one strategy I would add to this mini-compendium is alternate bottling.  I recall the nuisance of saving up non-screw-top beer bottles, and having to buy a bottle-capper to clamp down single-use caps on 50 bottles.  Even 10 bottles for a gallon is a hassle in my book, but 750ml bottles from sparkling wine or Belgian beer are ideal, because 5 x 750ml = .99 gallons. You can buy plastic champagne corks and cages at a brew supply store, which are all reusable and require no special gizmo to seal them up!

Here’s a recipe courtesy of the Authors, William Bostwick and Jessi Rymill:


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Beer Pairing

Wine was a four-letter word Sunday morning, which I spent at the SFChefs.Food.Wine beer pairing boot camp with Beer Chef Bruce Paton and City Beer Store owner Craig Wathen.  I would have liked a few hard and fast rules, but there doesn’t seem to be a simple formula for matching food with beer.


The gist was that beer can be paired as a contrasting flavor, a complimentary flavor, or as a palate cleanser.  Even the beer chef said he doesn’t actually pair his appetizers with beer, but rather puts out a lot of really great apps knowing that a lighter beer compliments just about anything.  My favorite pairing of the day was Temptation from the Russian River Brewing Company, with a lemony bite that was gangbusters with ginger-scallion shrimp cocktail.

Ultimately, you need to consider all facets of the beer (sweetness, bitterness, additional flavors, alcohol content, carbonation) and of the food (flavor, richness, sweetness, acidity, heat, texture) when pairing.

Here are my beer-pairing guidelines, a combination of personal experience and tips picked up in the seminar:

  1. Light to Dark: over the course of a meal, beers should progress from lightest in color and flavor, to darker, heavier, higher in alcohol and more bitter.
  2. Match intensity: pair stronger flavored food with stronger flavored beer and subtler food with subtler beer.
  3. Red or White? White meats (poultry, fish, pork) match best with sweeter, maltier beers, while red meat pairs best with richer, more fruit-forward ales, and most anything off the grill rocks with a smokey porter or stout, unless it’s spicy, and then a crisp lager will cut the heat.
  4. Home brewery advantage: ethnic food often pairs best with its regional beers, brewed to suit the local cuisine.
  5. Sweet and Sour: When matching sweet or sour flavors, choose a beer slightly sweeter or sourer than the food.
  6. Barley wine goes well with just about any flavorful foods.  Keep a few bottles on hand at all times.
  7. At the end: Porter, stout and barley wine pair particularly well with desserts and end of meal cheese courses.
  8. Large bottles, small glasses: If you are going to serve multiple courses paired with brews, diners won’t want a full 12-ounces with every course, so put out smaller glasses and pass around a bigger bottle.  Like Belgians, many craft beers are available in 750 ml bottles (just over 25 ounces).  It’s always good to keep a variety of larger bottles on hand.  They are easier to store than six packs and make it possible to have a variety, and thus “the perfect beer” on hand when needed.
  9. Not too cold: remove beer from refrigerator 15-30 minutes before serving.  If it’s super cold, you won’t be able to get the full effect, because beer is most flavorful at 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit.

My admin just informed me that Miller Light pairs nicely with everything from cookies to caviar, but if you want a second opinion, download the Brewers Association pairing chart (.pdf) by clicking below.

Dowload the Brewers Association beer and food pairing chart

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