James' Booze Buyers Guide

Take one down, pass it around . . . 98 bottles of beer on the wall . . . 98 bottles of beer . . . 98 bottles of beer . . . take one down . . .

James (CA emeritus '00) was our local connoisseur of liquid refreshment. Here, he offers the following reviews of the best places to buy alcohol in the Stanford area. "Where you are going to buy your booze will depend on how far you want to go and what you want to buy. Listed below are some of the main places I have found useful. I take no responsibility for the accuracy of the information."

Beltramo's Wines and Spirits:1540 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 325-2806. An excellent selection of wines. Generally caters to the upper end of the wine of scale, but don't be intimidated.

Beverages and More: 423 San Antonio Road, 949-1826. Beverages has the widest range of beer, wine, and spirits of any of the places on this list and is well worth a look from anyone interested in buying unusual beers. They also do kegs and half-kegs. In my experience, it has slightly more variety than Ernie's for kegs, but at slightly greater cost.

Ernie's Liquors: 3870 El Camino Real, 493-4743. If you are looking at buying a keg at some stage you will probably want to consider Ernie's. They offer a pretty good selection on kegs, at pretty good prices. They also deliver kegs if you order in advance, although at least a couple of my friends have been stung when they didn't show up on time. We now go and pick our kegs up. Although they have been better recently, Ernie's is notorious for providing sub-standard taps, so check them when you get your keg. Ernie's also has a pretty good selection of domestic and imported wines, but the prices seem high.

Fermentation Frenzy:991 N. San Antonio Rd, Los Altos, 949-2739. Your first stop if you feel the desire to brew your own booze. Has supplies for both beer and wine making. The staff are very knowledgeable, but also very relaxed, so you want to make sure you are not in a hurry.

JJ&F Market: Corner El Camino and College Ave, 857-0901. You do not want use JJ&F if you are buying any significant amount of booze. It is over-priced, with a small selection. It also tends to close early (around 8 p.m. on weekdays). Its redeeming feature is that it is walking distance from Rains Houses.

Safeway:525 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 324-8630. Chances are you are going to end up buying some booze with your food. Safeway offers a pretty good selection of beer, wine, and spirits. The problem is that you have to be on the look out for specials, since they can have wide variation in prices of beer (one brand I buy fluctuates from $4 to $8.50 per dozen in the course of the month). The wine selection is pretty good, but the prices are not as good as Trader Joe's.

Trader Joe's: 720 Menlo Ave., Menlo Park, 323-2134. To know the Trader is to love the Trader. In addition to a good food selection, the Trader does very well on beer and wine. The selection of wine is excellent in both range of price and variety between imports and domestics. The only criticism I have of their wine selection is that there are not enough Californian wines that aren't Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon, but that may be a criticism of Californian wine in general.

On beer, the Trader has an excellent selection of imported beers. The only problem is that it is dependent on what arrived in the last shipment i.e., you never know what you will (or won't) find. Still, you have to love a place that has been known to stock two types of New Zealand beer, neither of which is Steinlager.