B.C. Beer Blog

The who, what, where, when, why, and how of B.C. craft beer

Posts Tagged ‘Kokanee

Tightening the Beer Belt?

with 10 comments

A refreshing Storm Hurricane IPA on a sunny day.

A refreshing Storm Hurricane IPA on a sunny day.

Pacific Western Brewing’s Cariboo “Genuine Draft” is flying off the shelves, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun. It’s because the lager is the cheapest six pack in the province. Given the likelihood that it doesn’t taste much different from BC’s top-selling diluted beer brands — Corona, Canadian, Kokanee, Budweiser, Coors, etc. — this isn’t much of a surprise. Why spend $10.75 on a six pack of Canadian when you can get Cariboo for $7.54? Do you really think paying $11.95 for a six pack of Corona means it’s that much better? Does spending an extra $4.00 for imported swill make one cool? When a six pack of locally-brewed Central City Red Racer Pale Ale costs $10.75, definitely not!

Unlike wine, beer is not so expensive that you have to make sacrifices, unless you drink lots of it. In that case, it doesn’t hurt to reconsider your drinking choices or drinking style, for that matter. If you drink a lot of mass-market light lager, maybe the reason is that its lack of flavour is not satisfying, so you keep drinking and drinking until you’re full or drunk. Try drinking an undiluted, unadulterated, unfiltered, unpasteurized craft beer instead. You might find that you are satisfied with drinking less. So in paying a bit more for a more flavourful beer, ironically, you may actually spend less on your overall consumption.

Picking up a growler from your local brewpub may be another option to save some money and, more importantly, the environment. You’ll have to buy the 2L bottle first. After that, just bring it back for a refill and pay the price of a couple of pints, but get 700ml more beer! Central City Brewing in Surrey, for example, normally charges $10 for a refill, but it’s just $8.50 on Sundays. This is cheaper than a six pack of Molson Canadian, but it produces less waste, doesn’t require recycling, and uses a lot less energy over the life of the container. It’s also the freshest beer you will ever get.

Taking this to a bigger scale, you may also be able to get 8.5L party pigs or 20L & 50L kegs from your local craft brewery or brewpub if you’re having a barbecue or throwing a party. It’s got the same advantages of a growler, only you spread the benefits to more people.

In Vancouver, an additional opportunity to reduce your beer expenses is by joining CAMRA Vancouver. Members receive a 10% discount at the Alibi Room, Brewery Creek, Firefly, Viti, and the Wolf & Hound.

Then there’s a more involved way to shrink your beer budget: home brewing. Pseudo-home brewing is using a brew-on-premises (BOP) shop, especially the kind where you don’t have much direct involvement in the actual brewing beyond choosing the style of beer you want and pitching the yeast. To actually get involved in brewing from start to finish, the easiest and cheapest way to get rolling is with a beer kit. Depending on how well-equipped your kitchen is, you may not have to get a lot of extra equipment. You certainly don’t need any fancy gear to brew good beer, nor really a lot of space if it’s just for your own consumption. It’s not that hard to brew beer; it just takes time. The challenge, however, is in making a great beer. Fortunately, there’s lots of help available in the form of books, videos, homebrewer groups, and your local hombrew supply store. Some home brewers I know still go to pubs and buy packaged beer from stores. Others swear by doing it yourself and bask in the savings.

Another option for the beer drinker is to look at some other expenses to see if you can reduce them instead of having to sacrifice enjoying a quality beer. Coffee is one item that most people will be able to reduce the cost of by simply making it themselves. If you typically buy two cups of coffee every day from a coffee shop, assuming you pay $1.50 per cup for drip coffee, that works out to $1,095.00 per year ($1,569.50 for a small Starbucks Americano, $1,825.00 for a medium). On the other hand, if you buy 1/2 a pound of fresh-roasted coffee from your local roaster every week for $8.00 and make it at home and/or at work, it will cost $416.00 and taste better. You save $679.00 (and a lot of waste if you can’t be bothered to use a travel mug when buying from a coffee shop).

While the economy may be forcing you to tighten your belt, you don’t have to go so far as to drink swill to afford drinking beer. It may just mean taking a different approach.

2009 Tarnished Plate Awards

with one comment

Love them or loathe them, the Georgia Straight‘s Golden Plate Awards are out. Either way, it would be foolish to ignore them. Consider them a gauge of The Straight‘s readers’ preferences. If, as a business, you are targeting that demographic, then the awards will give you an indication of how successful your efforts have been to date. From the perspective of CAMRA Vancouver, it tells us how much more work we still need to do.

On the beer front, this is an opportunity to measure progress since the Best of Vancouver 2008 awards. Although there were fewer categories offered than the Golden Plates, my accompanying article in that edition covered more ground. I was hoping, at least, it made a few people curious to try something other than what they’re constantly being bombarded with in advertisements. The results are mixed, but I see some progress being made.

In terms of beer, readers are clearly influenced by advertising. The Local Microbrew category certainly limits the choices (thankfully, there were no daft awards, such as Molson Canadian), but all the beers chosen are actually brewed in Kelowna. The Granville Island beers that are brewed in Vancouver are only their Limited Releases. The majority of people still need to discover R&B and Storm, it seems. Sorry, folks, per a previous post, Steamworks is not a microbrewery; they are a brewpub. Outside of this category, only one craft brewer made the cut — Phillips, which just reinforces what I said in my last post about the need for craft brewers to collaborate.

In the categories of B.C. Beer (brewed outside Vancouver) and Canadian Beer (not B.C.), people have a reading comprehension problem since a number of choices were breweries, not actual beers. I find the import category to be the most disappointing of all. Given all the beers available at the establishments chosen in the Imported Beer Selection category, you would think there would be more of a mixture of choices other than mass-market lager and mass-market Guinness. There is a much greater diversity available here that people are completely missing out on. A visit to Brewery Creek, Firefly, Libations, or Viti would quickly put that to rest.

On the pub front, I see more progress. All the pubs are actual pubs; all the brewpubs are pubs that brew beer for consumption on their own premises (Granville Island Tap House not being a pub). The majority of the chosen pubs also have good beer. I’m heartened by the fact that The Straight‘s readers do not equate ‘best’ with the Granville guzzling galleries. On the food side, I don’t think enough people have eaten at the Alibi Room. Their commitment to local and seasonal is deserving of attention. Chef Greg Armstrong formerly worked at Habit Lounge, so he’s no slouch.

Finally, I’m curious about the inclusion of Fogg N’ Suds. Are people voting for them based on reputation? Their beer selection today is nowhere near that of their halcyon days in the mid-eighties. For B.C. beer, no one in the entire province beats the Alibi Room for the quality of their selection — there is simply no crap on tap. For imported beer, I think Fogg N’ Suds has been succeeded by Six Acres, the Irish Heather, and Stella’s. I wouldn’t call Chambar‘s selection the best from a comprehensive point of view, but it is very good from the perspective of matching their beer with their food, which no one else in Vancouver has done. I’d like to see them replace their gueuze, though, with Oud Beersel. If we can get anyone to import Cantillon, its inclusion would be essential.

Finally, here are the beer results from the Best Drinks section of the 2009 Golden Plate Awards:

Local Microbrewery
1. Granville Island Brewing
2. R & B Brewing
3. Steamworks Brewing Company

Local Microbrew
1. Granville Island Lions Winter Ale
2. Granville Island English Bay Pale Ale
3. Granville Island Lager

B.C. Beer (brewed outside Vancouver)
1. Kokanee
2. Okanagan Spring
3. Phillips Brewing

Canadian Beer (not B.C.)
1. Sleeman
2. Alexander Keith’s
3. (tie) Molson Canadian
3. (tie) Moosehead

Imported Beer
1. Stella Artois
2. (tie) Corona
2. (tie) Guinness
3. Heineken

Best Pub
1. The Irish Heather
2. Yaletown Brewing Company
3. Steamworks

Brewpub
1. Yaletown Brewing Company
2. Steamworks
3. Dix BBQ & Brewery

Pub Food
1. The Irish Heather
2. Yaletown Brewing Company
3. Kingston Taphouse & Grille

B.C. Beer Selection
1. Fogg N’ Suds
2. Alibi Room
3. The Whip Restaurant Gallery

Imported Beer Selection
1. Stella’s Tap & Tapas Bar
2. Fogg N’ Suds
3. Chambar Belgian Restaurant

On the Brews Traveller Map?

with one comment

Granville Island Brewing sponsored the Culinary Tourism Society BC Conference.

Granville Island Brewing was one of the sponsors of the Culinary Tourism Society BC Conference.

I recently attended a culinary tourism conference at The Sutton Place Hotel put on by the Culinary Tourism Society BC. This is one of the fastest growing segments in global tourism, but BC is still a ways off from achieving its full potential. A lack of budget, co-operation, and co-ordination is holding us back.

This is also true when it comes to BC craft beer and the tourist. What are the chances that a visitor will only drink Canadian, Keith’s, Kokanee, Sleeman, or even Bud their whole time here? Given that these are amongst the top ten selling beer brands in the province, chances are great. Even beer aficionados have trouble finding convenient, comprehensive, up-to-date information. I just received an e-mail today from someone in Honolulu, asking what BC beers I would recommend his colleague bring back from a visit to Vancouver in the next few days. I have also gotten e-mails from CAMRA UK members looking for Real Ale.

It shouldn’t be this hard. While many individual craft brewers don’t have a lot of money for marketing, never mind the time to implement promotional activities, the word still has to get out somehow. It is harder to do this on an individual basis with a limited budget. This is why American craft brewers formed associations and guilds, pooling their resources by collaborating, not competing against each other. In BC, we’re still working on this primary step.

Meanwhile, the World Police & Fire Games are coming this year and the Olympics in 2010. Have the craft brewers organized the means to make the participants and spectators aware of their beer? What about a BC craft beer mixed pack that visitors can buy as a souvenir or as a gift for their beer-loving friends back home? Have the brewpubs and craft beer-friendly establishments come up with a handy reference that tourists can easily carry with them?

Sporting events, holidays, and festivals, however, are fleeting events. Erik Wolf, President and CEO of the International Culinary Tourism Association, one of the conference speakers, reiterated the importance of collaboration when faced with limited funds. He also emphasized the point of turning locals into ambassadors. Early adopters, if they enthusiastically embrace a product, will evangelize it for free. If craft brewers more closely involved their closest followers in product testing, events, etc., their promotional reach would extend much further and be more readily accepted, coming from friends or family members. In Washington and Oregon, the brewers guilds actually have their supporters organized — WABL, SNOB.

To be on the brews traveller map, B.C. doesn’t necessarily need to do anything that costs a lot of money. What money we do have, should be invested in those channels that are the most cost-effective, have the greatest reach, and achieve sustained exposure for locals and visitors.

Super Bowl Super Duds

with 9 comments

A Province article on February 1 explained how their sports department attempted to discover “the best refreshing brew to enjoy” while watching the Super Bowl. Naturally, given the sports orientation of the exercise, this year’s “ultimate Super Sud” was to be determined by a “knockout-style bracket.” The contenders? BC’s eight top-selling beer brands and eight “lesser-known but still tasty” ones. The tasting panel was comprised of six males and one female. (Do we detect a bias?) For the results, read on and weep.

The provincial top eight sellers are:
1. Corona
2. Molson Canadian
3. Kokanee
4. Budweiser
5. Coors
6. Stella Artois
7. Miller Genuine Draft
8. Alexander Keith’s

Notice that seven of the eight are mass-market lagers. All eight are heavily advertised — ergo, the power of media in brainwashing the public. Many would call these everyday beers for the working man, but think of what really is the working man’s brew. Is it beer’s equivalent of Wonder Bread, a product mass-produced by a large corporation to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to maximize profits? These contenders strike me as the equivalent of trying to find the tastiest meal by comparing McDonald’s with Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway, KFC, Panago, Tim Horton’s, and Denny’s. Because the food can be had fast and cheap, notwithstanding the ultimate high price paid, people are persuaded they are, somehow, good.

The remaining eight were:
9. Sleeman’s  (sic) Honey Brown
10. Carlsberg
11. Grolsch
12. Innis and (sic) Gunn
13. Bowen Island Pale
14. Phoenix
15. St. Ambroise
16. Yanjing

“Phoenix” is actually Phillips Phoenix Gold Lager. St. Ambroise could be any one of eight beers produced by Montreal’s MacAuslan Brewing; in this case, it happens to be their Apricot Wheat Ale.

In the first round, the match-up was between Corona & Yanjing, Canadian & St. Ambroise, Kokanee & Phoenix Gold, Budweiser & Bowen Island, Coors versus Innis & Gunn, Stella & Grolsch, MGD & Carlsberg, and Keith’s & Sleeman. Going on to the next round were Yanjing, Canadian, Kokanee, Budweiser, Innis & Gunn, Grolsch, MGD, and Sleeman. Except for the I&G, all the remaining contenders are lagers.

In the Province article’s commentary, there were some interesting remarks. Corona was characterized as “bland” and “distinctly unimpressive.” So why is it the top-selling beer in BC? If you are what you eat/drink, what would that say about the people here? Of course, being the top-seller doesn’t necessarily mean that the majority of people here buy it. Those that like it may guzzle it a lot, but the rest of us may be justly satisfied with drinking less and drinking well.

Naturally, the St. Ambroise was deemed a girly beer (“This isn’t a Super Bowl beer…”), so the female panelist was rapidly slapped down. But Innis & Gunn proved Kevlar to the Silver Bullet, keeping her in the game as it was her clear favourite. Kokanee trumped Phoenix Gold because it’s “a good, standard, hoser beer.” That clearly deserves a replay. Budweiser dominated Bowen Island, but all of the latter’s tasters were polished off. Sound like the game was rigged? Next to Grolsch, Stella was exposed as “swill,” “rancid and awful.” Better beer does tend to do that. The Sleeman Honey Brown was mischaracterized as an ale. I guess the panel didn’t think a lager could have such flavour.

I was a Kokanee whore. Now I’m changing my ways.
- Rose Weir, The Whip Restaurant & Gallery

The second round pitted Sleeman against Yanjing, Canadian vs. MGD, Kokanee & Grolsch, and Budweiser vs. Innis & Gunn. Given the trend so far, one might expect Sleeman, Grolsch, and Innis & Gunn to get knocked out. Not so. Going on to the semi-finals were Sleeman, MGD, Kokanee, and Budweiser. Comically, Grolsch was characterized as a “Dutch ‘Budweiser.’” Nevertheless, the competition started getting serious. A former CFL player on the panel was reduced to cursing when Bud advanced.

Now at this point, even when you’re drinking swill, the beer can start going to your head. The panel’s choice of sustenance to keep moving the ball forward? Pizza and chips — two of America’s favourite food groups.

With the carbo loading out of the way, the taste of victory was in the mouths of the remaining competitors. Down to the five yard line? MGD and Sleeman! Who’s going to kick the winning field goal? The five times cold filtered contradiction (hint: draft means it isn’t in a bottle) or the beer of colour that’s actually a lager? Potential spoiler: the writer notes that Sleeman comes in clear bottles and “some have said that the taste can be affected by the exposure to light.” However, the panel didn’t seem to think so. I imagine it’s because their bottles weren’t light struck (thus, it’s conclusive this is a myth!). Ever wondered why beer bottles are mostly brown?

Despite the handicap, Sleeman Honey Brown is voted the Super Sud. Why? “…having slogged through so many lighter-tasting beers, they all began to taste the same. But not Sleeman’s.” Wow! A sports-centric group tiring of beer monoculture? We may be starting to get somewhere. But given the glacial rate of progress, I’m not quite prepared to hold my breath. Calling beer “suds” doesn’t indicate to me an appreciable degree of respect for the beverage. Would you catch a writer referring to wine as “plonk?” Only if it were meant to indicate derision.

The first problem with this competition is that the goal was to pick a single beer to imbibe for a whole eight hours. Why do you have to drink just one for the entire duration? What a bore! The other problem was the selection chosen to begin with. Twelve lagers out of 16 evaluated? That’s a distinct stylistic bias. The rabble have yet to discover bocks, porters, dubbels, tripels, quadrupels, saisons, lambics, alts, barley wine, bitters, milds, IPAs, Scotch ale, bière de garde, Rauchbier, Roggenbier, Koelsch, wood-aged ales, red ales, brown ales, Trappist ales, spiced ales, Russian Imperial stout, sahti, Berliner Weisse, Australian sparkling ale, etc. It’s kind of like the Titanic hitting an iceberg: the extent of what exists is not visible from what is merely in the surface.

I’m always puzzled by the strong association of light lager with American football, as epitomized by the Super Bowl beer commercials. If football is such a macho sport, then why do jocks think it is très cool to drink such wimpy, characterless beer? Something more fitting would be a chewy IPA or stout. When faced with the latter, however, the sport nuts are scared of the dark and want the light turned on. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate their image.

In the meantime, stay tuned for periodic beer evaluations from the Thinking Drinkers tasting panel. They will be more even-handed evaluations with an even split between male and female participants. For inspiration, my “first-down” this evening is going to be one of the last bottles of R&B’s Hop Goblin’, which will be replaced with a new brand: same IPA, different name. We can thank the litigious limeys at Wychwood for that.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,515 other followers