B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘tripel

Super Bowl Super Duds

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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.

Central City Turns Five

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Surrey’s Central City Brewing celebrated its fifth anniversary on Saturday. Brewmaster, Gary Lohin, opened up the brewery to those wanting a tour. And because touring makes one thirsty, he set up a special beverage station with the following cellared ales:

  • Belgian Tripel – brewed December 06, 9.0% alc/vol
  • Smoked Porter – brewed October 07, 8.5% alc/vol
  • Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine – brewed October 07, 10.5% alc/vol
  • Imperial IPA – brewed June 08, 8.5% alc/vol
  • Red Racer Winter Ale brewed September 08, 7.5% alc/vol

Needless to say, the beverage station proved to be the most popular part of the tour. If you happened to miss the celebration, you’ll have to wait another five years before you can sample a comparable selection of cellared Central City ales. If we’re lucky, Gary may even brew a special beer for the occasion —a Red Racer 10-Speed, perhaps?

Gathered in the brewery for a special cellared ales tasting.
Gathered in the brewery for a special cellared ales tasting.

Another thing worth celebrating is the new chef. Executive Chef, Carl Sawatsky, came to Central City from the Bacchus Bistro at Domaine de Chaberton winery in Langley. He has brought a sensibility for matching food & drink that was also showcased this day with a five-course tasting menu:

❧ Beet Salad with goat cheese, pecans, frisée, and Raspberry Wheat Ale gastrique
Red Racer White Ale (aka Wally’s Wheat)

❧ Onion Cheddar Beer Soup
Iceberg Copper Bock

❧ AAA House Aged Striploin with mushy peas potatoes and red wine demi glaze
Boomers Red Ale

❧ IPA Braised Pork Belly with cabbage and crispy potatoes
Empire IPA

❧ Spiced Beer Cake à la mode with toffee sauce and stout truffle
Steelhead Oatmeal Stout

AAA House Aged Striploin with mushy peas potatoes and red wine demi glaze, accompanied by a Boomers Red Ale.

One could choose the courses individually or order all five for $40.00, including a 5oz taster of beer with each — very good value for the quality of the food and beer. Carl and Gary are eventually hoping to have a new tasting menu every month. Given how good this was, they should be encouraged at every opportunity to do so. Not enough brewpubs do this, which in my opinion is a major shortcoming. Brewer and chef should be working hand in glove, creating a synergy that exceeds what they can accomplish individually.

In case you didn’t know it Central City lager, pale ale, and wit are available in cans in both government and private liquor stores. The Empire IPA will be the next beer released in cans.

New Brewery Ferments in Victoria

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Third-hand brewing system originally from Flying Monkey Brewery in Olathe, Kansas.

Third-hand brewing system originally from Flying Monkey Brewery in Olathe, Kansas.

Just when you thought Victoria had enough breweries, another one is about to float in on the capital’s wave of craft brewing success. Driftwood Brewery is a new venture of Kevin Hearsum and Jason Meyer, formerly of Lighthouse Brewing. Meyer, Driftwood’s brewmaster, is a BJCP certified beer judge, past President of the Edmonton Homebrewers’ Guild, and Alley Kat’s first employee.

Driftwood will be a production micro-brewery producing draught largely for bars and restaurants in the Victoria area, along with 650ml bottles in select private liquor stores. Some seasonal releases will only be available in bottles. (I think we can persuade Driftwood to send some of their beer over the pond to Vancouver, knowing Nigel Springthorpe at the Alibi Room will want to stop by on his regular trips to the Island.)

What makes Driftwood different? According to Meyer, “We plan on providing an eclectic mix of high quality brews with a continuously changing selection and a decidedly Belgian slant. Expect to see everything from styles familiar to Northwest beer lovers (we love our “C” hops as much as anyone) to wild and brettanomyces-fermented, wood-aged, sour mash, and other adventures in flavour.”

Driftwood brewmaster, Jason Meyer, stands in front of his vented mash tun.

Driftwood brewmaster, Jason Meyer, stands in front of his vented mash tun.

This is welcome news for B.C. We won’t have to import Belgian-style beer from Quebec, the U.S., or Europe to get our fix. There is a building interest in Belgians with many brewpubs and micro-breweries releasing fruit beers, dubbels, tripels, and Wits, Granville Island being just the latest with their limited release Belgian Wit now available. James Walton, brewmaster of Vancouver’s Storm Brewing, has been the most experimental with his phenomenal fruit lambics that were ahead of their time for sufficient acceptance by the local market — unfortunate because he is no longer making them. Spinnaker’s Rob Monk released a saison at the beginning of this year that tasted more like an abbey ale due to the predominant presence of bubble gum in the flavour profile. Nevertheless, I hope he continues to work on this versatile style.

Driftwood is currently under construction; they just received their brewing equipment this week. If you are interested in following their progress, you can track it through their Facebook page. And while Hearsum and Meyer have already made dozens of experimental brews in their pilot brewery, they don’t expect to be in production until the fall. Their goal is to produce 2,000 hectolitres in the first year and 5,000-7,000 hectolitres within five years.

Although they intend on exhibiting at the GCBF, Meyer doesn’t think they will have any beer to offer. Nevertheless, I”m sure they’ll be happy if you stopped by for a chat.

Driftwood Brewery
450 Hillside Avenue, Unit 102
Victoria, BC  V8T 1Y7
Tel: (250) 381-BREW (2739)
Fax: (250) 384-2333

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