B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Amarillo

Brewing Up a Biz: Brew-U

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HOW EXCITING!  Here I am, essentially doing my first “remote” blog (or is that technically an “on location”?)!  I’m currently in Chicago, about half way through the “Start Your Own Brewery” course at the Siebel Institute.  I had my third blog installment virtually complete, about to start talking about my past brewing education decisions, but I figured that could handle being back-burnered a bit, favouring instead to discuss being on the road for the biz.

This is my second trip here to Siebel, and I’m finding (as I did on previous Concise Brewing Tech course — more on that next week) the education both inspiring and extremely applicable. With the likes of Ray Daniels, Randy Mosher, and John Moffatt as presenters, I can’t complain about the lack of relevance to the industry. These guys helped define the craft brewing industry.

On a tangent note, I am, at this moment, being inspired by the top half of a 650ml Imperial Gemini Blended Unfiltered Ale by the Southern Tier Brewing Company of Lakewood, New York.  The reason I bought this particular bottle (aside from the reflective green background and space man on the bottle)?  The degree of detailed information provided on the label!  10.5abv.  22° Plato.  Malted white wheat.  Cara-pils malt.  Red wheat.  Kettle hops:  Columbus, Chinook, and Cascade. Aroma hops: Amarillo. Hop back: Styrian Golding. Dry hops: Amarillo, Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, and Columbus.  Virtually the temp and and time of boil is all that is missing!  In my opinion, this shows an attention to detail that respects the consumer.  I appreciate that.

As a Canadian, it almost chokes me to say this, but the US in general (and these days, Chicago specifically) really has it all over us when it comes to beer.  Go ahead, start typing up your hate mail now.  I can take it.  The quality here is outstanding, not to mention the creativity (in both brewing style and marketing). The selection is out of this world (not just the space man on the bottle; that reference was purely coincidental).  Not to take anything away from some of the amazing breweries we have up north (several Quebecois, BC, and Ontario breweries are coming to mind). But a trip through the aisles of any number of specialty “warehouses” (community liquour stores are more like a “Home Depot of spirits and brews” down here) is enough to silence any die-hard objectors of this view. There is swill and there is quality, but there certainly is choice. And that, in my opinion, is a driving element of the craft segment. It’s what scares the pants off of the macros.

The nice thing is it’s a collaborative business. As a relatively new micro owner/presenter stated today in class, “I’m not competing against the micro across town. I’m competing against  _____-________” (insert favourite conglomerate macro name here).  And I really believe that this outlook transits the border.  Great beer, techniques, and appreciation don’t need a passport.  I don’t feel a “north and south” or an “us vs. them” division (as in hockey, which, incidentally, we will always win hands down) in regards to craft brewing.  It’s simply an upper-case “US.”

Okay, enough touchy-feely.  The bottom half of the pint of Gemini is calling my name…

~ Rod Daigle, Triple Island Brewing Company

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Forthcoming Innovation from Taylor’s Crossing

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Dave Varga, brewer at the Mark James Group’s North Vancouver brewpub, Taylor’s Crossing (formerly Avalon Brewing), is an interesting brewer. On the one hand, he’s a perfectionist in his aim to brew to style. On the other hand, he can go completely off-tangent — last year brewing a cask-conditioned mole stout; this year, coming up with a masala pale ale cask (yes, a curry beer!). His forthcoming beers are a combination of the two approaches.

Varga’s next seasonal will be an English Summer Ale (English Golden Ale).  Made with Maris Otter Pale malt, some wheat, and a bit of Crystal for colour, the bittering hops were Target and the finishing and dry hops were Amarillo. This will be available as “Alchemy” at booth 31 at the GCBF, but it may be called something else when it goes on tap at Taylor’s Crossing after the Hefeweizen runs out early this month.

Due to the persistence of the hop shortage for TC, the focus on most of their remaining seasonals will be on either unique flavours produced from yeast or from different adjuncts. For example, Varga will attempt a fruit beer for this year’s winter seasonal, calling it “Harvest Ale.”   He is contemplating using apples, but hasn’t decided on whether to use a Belgian yeast strain or his house ale strain.

Normally, Taylor’s Crossing Firkin Fridays mean patrons get to sample a cask-conditioned ale on the first Friday of each month. In October, there will be two casks — a Summer Ale dry-hopped with Hallertau & Saaz and a special Red Truck Lager for Oktoberfest. The latter is an interesting innovation since it is difficult to make a palatable lager in a cask. Varga got the inspiration to try this at this year’s Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego. He used ale yeast to recarbonate the beer and added a generous amount of Hallertau and Saaz hops for dry-hopping. By the time it is tapped,it will have lagered for nearly three months.

Needless to say, I’ve got some North Vancouver visits planned. Hopefully, Sailor Hagar’s will have Thor’s Hammer the Elder on tap at the same time as TC’s Harvest Ale. That will be a wobbly day!

Caskival: The Coming Beer Culture

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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).

Rae, Andy, and Lauren enjoying the cask ale offerings at Dix Summer Caskival.

Rae, Andy, and Lauren enjoying the cask ale offerings at Dix Summer Caskival.

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:

  1. more women are discovering different styles of beer, beers they actually enjoy
  2. Caskival is a cultured enough event to make it worthwhile for women to attend
  3. 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.