B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘ale

A Beer Style of Our Own

with 15 comments

British Columbia coastline north of Vancouver.Some places are known for distinctive beer styles. In fact, some styles are even named after the places where they evolved, e.g. Bock (Einbeck), Kölsch (Köln), Pilsner (Plzeň), Vienna Lager. In BC, the craft beer renaissance is reaching ever greater heights. However, is there anything that we can point to as being distinctly BC? When people think of beer and British Columbia, is there anything that differentiates us from our neighbours? The rest of Canada? Not as such.

There is still a lot of experimenting going on in BC as more and more people join the excitement that is craft beer. For a BC style to be adopted, it would require the co-operation of our craft brewers and the support of the drinking public to succeed. As we’ve seen with the Cascadia Dark Ale debacle, the former is already a messy thing. In fact, it might make more sense getting the public behind such an idea. Because if there is an obvious market, what brewer would pass up such an opportunity?

Read the rest of this entry »

Why Vancouver Craft Beer Week?

with 9 comments

Vancouver Craft Beer Week logoVancouver has experienced varying degrees of success with its beer festivals, but hasn’t found its groove to the degree that Victoria has with the Great Canadian Beer Festival or even Penticton with the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale. Having heard this topic brought up on a number of occasions over the past couple of years and the inevitable lamentations that followed, I was determined to do something about it.

The main challenge with putting on an event similar to the aforementioned, though, is the money required to stage it. It seems that those with the passion don’t have the money and those with the money either don’t have the passion or don’t have the confidence in you pulling it off if you haven’t already proven yourself. If passion for craft beer and money were hand-in-hand in Vancouver, then we wouldn’t be in this Catch-22 predicament.

Nevertheless, staging a large event on a single day without a reputation from a positive track record is a risky venture. There is a lot riding on just a few hours. The GCBF and OFOA got to where they are today by lots of hard work, building them up over more than a decade from smaller beginnings. Would we really have to wait that long before Vancouver finally has itself a beer festival worthy of its status as the largest metropolis in Western Canada? Could we wait that long?

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

New Stout from Cannery

with one comment

New maple stout from Pentictons Cannery Brewery.

Penticton’s Cannery Brewing has released a new beer, a 5.5% maple stout. It is smooth and sweet with the maple in balance—not overpowering the base beer. This is Cannery’s first seasonal beer, so it will only be available for a limited time. They intend to release two seasonals per year, following this up with another in the spring.

Most beer with added maple syrup is, naturally, brewed close to the source in eastern Canada and New England. Here in B.C. there is Granville Island Kitsilano Maple Cream Ale and Phillips Draught Dodger Maple Cream Ale, which has since had the maple dropped and warranted a renaming to Slipstream Cream Ale.

Dark beers—such as bocks, brown ales, porters, and stouts—are the preferred styles to add maple syrup to, but some have tried lager and wheat beer, the success of which I cannot personally attest to.

I can see this beer going well with the heartier fare one hankers for during colder weather. A baked, maple-glazed ham just might do the trick or beef ribs with maple barbecue sauce. Stout and bay scallops also pair well which can be emphasized with a stout glaze and some maple-smoked bacon.

Sweet stouts are always a winner with dessert—tarte au sirop d’erable, maple cheesecake, maple pecan pie, maple chocolate cake, or even maple walnut ice cream. This should give you plenty of scope for sampling Cannery’s Maple Stout over the winter.

Granville Island Drops Two Limited Releases

leave a comment »

Many of you may be unaware that Granville Island Brewing makes all of its regular beers in Kelowna. Only the Limited Release beers are brewed on Granville Island by Vern Lambourne. Many of us look forward to a change in season in anticipation of the next GIB Limited Release. Those of you expecting their Merry Monks Doppelbock and Scotch Ale, however, should not get their hopes up. They are being discontinued.

This year it was decided to introduce some new Limited Release beers, meaning some would have to be retired. The first new introductions were a witbier and a Belgian-style blonde ale. The wit turned out particularly well; Lambourne was also happy with it, therefore, we should see it again next year. He wasn’t as happy, however, with the blonde. The yeast didn’t meet his expectations, so its release was immediately halted. We may see a new attempt next year using a different yeast.

The latest seasonal is their regular Oktoberfest Märzen, which will be available until early November. That will be followed by a Trappist-style ale which will replace the Merry Monks. (Personally, I wish they would replace that horrible Winter Ale, but it is a very popular seller.) Cask versions of this will be available at The Whip and the Dix Xmas Xtreme Caskival on December 6. I hope someone else does a Doppelbock, but it takes time, so it may be too late.

In January, Lambourne will have a porter to replace their Scotch Ale. He hasn’t decided the specifics of the recipe just yet, but it will likely be a traditional version without smoke or spice.

Written by BCbrews

October 15, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Mission Springs Batch 400 Ale

with one comment

Brewmaster Timmy Brown has made his 400th batch of beer at Mission Springs Brewing. To commemorate the milestone, he has made a unique ale. Using his IPA malt profile, he’s added anise, jasmine, and liquorice root for a special, one-of-a-kind ale. It will be served at the brewpub on September 11 at 4:30pm:

Mission Springs Brewing
7160 Oliver Street
Mission, B.C.
Tel: (604)

Written by BCbrews

September 10, 2008 at 9:56 am

Cold Beer Not a Virtue

with 2 comments

I was looking at a guide to Vancouver pubs and lounges last night and noticed it was peppered with references to cold beer, as if that were somehow a virtue. Unfortunately, that is a misguided holdover from the B.C.’s Dark Ages when you could only get macro lager. I remember my father putting ceramic mugs in his freezer during the summer and inviting his friends over for “the coldest beer in town” at the end of the day. He was proud.

Sorry, Dad, but the beer isn’t necessarily good just because it’s cold. When a beer is too cold, it actually masks the taste, which is what purveyors of macro lager want so your judgment of what you are drinking is impaired. Thus, it goes down as easy as water — the easier for you to tolerate drinking more.

To get the best measure of a beer, it should be consumed at a temperature appropriate to its style. That doesn’t mean that English-style ales should be served “warm” at room temperature. Room temperature is 21°C/70°F, which is too warm; you should drink them between 12-14°C/54-57°F.

Unfortunately, pubs in B.C. almost universally serve ales too cold, thereby robbing you of much of their flavour. For them to serve chilled ale in chilled glasses is a gross disservice. If you order a beer that should be served at cellar temperature and see a bartender reaching into a fridge for a glass, politely ask them for an unchilled glass. The ale will undoubtedly still be too cold out of the tap, but it will warm to the proper temperature faster with a little hand-holding.

Rate Beer has a good reference to beer serving temperatures for various styles that I recommend you peruse. If you aren’t currently cognisant of proper serving temperature, your beer-drinking experience should noticeably improve as a result. Perhaps with time, publicans will be persuaded not only to serve beer at the proper temperature but also in the proper glass. I’ll leave the latter for another post.

Written by BCbrews

September 3, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Posted in beer, culture

Tagged with , , , , ,

Irish Heather Reborn

leave a comment »

I popped into the new Irish Heather on Friday to check out their new digs as the final touches were being rendered. I was very impressed with the clean lines of the interior which gave it a sense of modernity, while the brick and dark wood lent a warm, historic feel a la Gastown. (See Andrew Morrison’s video on urban diner.)

Most newsworthy for this column, however, is that they are the first establishment in Vancouver to offer cask ale daily. Red Devil Pale Ale, dry-hopped with Centennial, is being served from a traditional beer engine that R & B will be supplying continuously. I joined R & B’s Barry Benson, Rick Dellow, and Aly Tomlin in savouring the first pulled pints.

There’s no current plan to offer other styles of beer. However, customer demand could influence this — e.g. if enough people ask for cask-conditioned Auld Nick in winter, we may just get it. It’s also nice to see a couple of B.C. craft taps in addition to the Kronenbourg, Strongbow, and Irish imports — Howe Sound Rail Ale and Phillips Phoenix Gold.

Competition in the neighbourhood also seems to be having some effect. The Alibi Room, Six Acres, and Boneta have quality beer lists. Consequently, the Irish Heather’s bottle list has substantially improved:

Lager: Czechvar, Okanagan Spring 1516, Paddock Wood Czech Mate, Rogue Kell’s Irish Lager

Wheat: Mill Street Wit, Pyramid Apricot, Pyramid Crystal, Rogue Morimoto Soba

Ales: Fish Tale Organic Amber, Mill St. Tankhouse Ale, Newcastle Brown, Pike Kilt Lifter, Pike Naughty Nellie, Rogue Juniper, Sleeman Honey Brown, Tin Whistle Killer Bee

Bitters & IPA: Brooklyn IPA, Pyramid Thunderhead IPA, Rogue Brutal Bitter

Dark Beer & Stouts: Fish Tale Poseidon Imperial Stout, Paddock Wood Black Cat, Rogue Shakespeare Stout

Bottle Fermented: Brooklyn 1, Unibroue Ephemère

All beer can be ordered in the Irish Heather, Salt, and the Salty Tongue. As there is something for all tastes, hopefully it will encourage more people to try beer with their food. How successful they are will depend on whether or not the servers will take the time to educate the neophytes.

I’m looking forward to going back and trying the new menu. My only hesitation is in the execution of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. My experience at the last St. Paddy’s in their old location was of glacial service and substandard food. I think this will only improve if there is an adequate ratio of staff to guests — either limit the number of patrons or have more staff on.

Howe Sound Crosses the Line

with 2 comments

Howe Sound Brewing has been aggressively expanding their bottled beer sales and succeeding. To accommodate the growth, they recently added more fermenters to the brewery for a total capacity of 10 hectolitres.

It’s hard to miss Howe Sound’s distinctive 1L bottles with the Grolsch-style swing tops. Owner Dave Fenn said by using a larger bottle, he wants to compete with wine by having beer on the table with food and people.

Time will tell if they succeed, but they aren’t waiting around to find out. After months of label design and jumping through the regulatory hoops, Howe Sound beer will be sold in the United States this fall. Haggen supermarkets will begin selling it in Washington in September. An Arizona distributor will handle placement in various retail outlets in that state.

In addition to expanding their market, Howe Sound will also be experimenting with new beer styles. At the Great Canadian Beer Festival, they will debut a double IPA (Total Eclipse of the Hop) and an Imperial Stout (Pothole Filler). Depending on the feedback, they may decide to add these to their product portfolio. If you don’t mind being a Guinea pig, be sure to stop by their booth at any of the beer festivals they attend to see if they have anything experimental.

Finally, November 1 is the release date for this year’s Father John’s Christmas Ale. You should buy a minimum of two, saving at least one to lay down in a cool, dark place for some character building.

Written by BCbrews

August 20, 2008 at 1:40 pm

Crannóg Ales Holds Hundred-Foot Feast

leave a comment »

Crannóg Ales and Stellar Seeds are hosting a Hundred-Foot Feast on Sunday, August 24. This year’s Feast is a five-course extravaganza of Crannóg’s farm-raised food — from pork and lamb to honeycomb, heritage tomatoes, and garlic — served under their cherry trees. The chefs this year are Ed Walker from Thompson Rivers University Culinary Programme and Rob Sengotta of Shuswap Chefs. Each course is paired with a fresh ale from Crannóg, including some special cask-conditioned ales made only for this event.

Date: August 24 @ 5:00pm until dark
Cost: $75, inclusive of taxes & gratuity
Tickets: sold out in 3 days last year; reserve immediately by calling (250) 675-6847
Crannóg Ales
706 Elson Road
Sorrento, B.C.

Written by BCbrews

August 19, 2008 at 2:17 pm