Caskival: The Coming Beer Culture
Beer festivals in B.C. are typically male-dominated affairs that are tightly regulated by the Liquor Distribution Branch because of the assumed association between beer and bad behaviour (one that is not assumed to be with wine if you have ever dealt with the LDB in setting up an event). If the festival is more about raising money than the appreciation of good beer, you can bet that the quality of the experience will inevitably decline (e.g. Vancouver’s Autumn Brewmasters Festival). The GCBF, on the other hand, is a good example of a well-run, civilized event that, as a result, attracts a mixed clientele interested in the opportunity to taste many different beers, rather than an excuse to get drunk (a number who don’t get it still try, though).
At Saturday’s Summer Caskival (#5), I witnessed an interesting change at Dix from the previous affairs. There were more women in attendance.
I find this to be a noteworthy situation because it signals to me some positive developments:
- more women are discovering different styles of beer, beers they actually enjoy
- Caskival is a cultured enough event to make it worthwhile for women to attend
- the males are sufficiently well-mannered that women feel comfortable
We are starting to see the movement away from a drinking culture. More people are taking the time to contemplate and enjoy the creativity and skill of the brewers, socializing with similarly-motivated people, and enjoying food with their drink. I think beer has been on the decline as more Canadians choose wine because macro-brewers don’t fulfill this demand while micro-brewers don’t have the financial clout to reach a broad audience to inform them the option is available. Instead, the change is happening at the grass roots level through events like Caskival and word of mouth. I regularly come across people who are surprised by the quality of the beer and the ready availability of it if they know where to look. So many people say, “I never knew!”
For those that did and turned up “for the love of the bung,” there was a fine showing of creative casks this year. Fruit figured in half of them, including a medium-dry 5% ABV apple cider from Storm Brewing, kräusened with pear juice, that had aged nicely since last October. Whistler Brewhouse’s Dave Woodward provided a Belgian-style Mother Pucker Sour Cherry Wheat that was well-balanced, not cloyingly sweet, and had a taste of almonds (from the pits) in the finish. Dix’s Derrick Franche brought out the citrus with a Key Lime Yuzu Hefeweizen — no need for lemon or lime; it’s already in there.
There were classic casks, like Mission Springs Fat Guy Oatmeal Stout, a Simcoe dry-hopped Red Devil Pale Ale from R & B, and Crannög Three Finger Ale — a traditionally-made porter known as an “entire butt.” A special treat was Iain Hill’s Flemish Oud Bruin, which is developing much more character and depth as the months go by. I’m looking forward to when he releases it at Yaletown Brewing in the fall.
On the experimental side, the most unusual and ambitious was from Dave Varga at Taylor’s Crossing. Dave normally likes to brew to style and does a very good job of it. You would, therefore, expect him to be a conservative brewer; not when it comes to making a small batch for hardcore beer aficionados. How about a Masala Pale Ale? If you don’t like a full-on Indian curry, you wouldn’t have liked this beer; some poured it out. I do. Truth be told, however, I was skeptical. Cumin, coriander, fennel, star anise, cardamon, chillies, cinnamon, curry leaves, and palm sugar in beer? Yes! And amazingly good. It would be right at home served at Vij’s.
Tariq Khan of BigRidge in Surrey supplied a Chipotle Cream Ale. Chili beers mess with your head when you first try them. Like La Casa Gelato’s Spicy Mango ice cream, it is both hot and cool at the same time. How much heat you feel depends on your tolerance for chili. If you like spicy food, more of the smoky flavour from the chipotle will come out and some sweetness from the malt, a nice pairing with the barbecue at Dix. Otherwise, you will have mostly experienced the burn.
Dix usually tries to have food specials for each Caskival. This time there was an incredible Pork Loin Katsu Sandwich and Chef Zai’s very own Kimchi Smoked Striploin Beef Jerky with a yuzu honey glaze.
Caskival wrapped up with Derrick Franche announcing the brewers’ and drinkers’ choice awards. For the brewers, it was Iain Hill’s Oud Bruin. For the drinkers, it was Dave Woodward’s 7% ABV, 60 IBU, Whistler Brewhouse IPA, made with Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, and Horizon hops and Chico yeast. That said, I think we were all winners.
For more pictures of the event, check out my friend Raj’s Urban Mixer blog.