B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘barleywine

Spinnakers Hosts First Cask Festival

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Speaking of culinary tourism, Spinnakers hosted their inaugural cask festival on March 14 from noon to 5:00pm. As they’ve been tapping a different cask every weekday since December, it was only a matter of time before they would have a festival. I got word that the planning was underway when two of their employees attended the X-mas X-treme Caskival at Dix on December 6 to take notes.

The timing of Spinnakers’ cask festival was somewhat unfortunate in that it coincided with Just Here for the Beer’s Wine & Beer Festival at the Plaza 500 Hotel in Vancouver. Forced to make a choice, I selected Real Ale and an excuse to get out of town. Even with a high chance of rain, a day spent indoors imbibing cask-conditioned ale from some of BC’s top breweries, in the company of brewers and the craft beer cognoscenti, is time well spent.

The event was held upstairs in Spinnakers’ pub, which meant a limited number of tickets were available. Demand seems to have greatly exceeded supply as they sold out rapidly. Perhaps for the next one they will consider a larger venue. However, I doubt they will close off the downstairs dining room as I’m sure they make a lot more money from regular diners than drinkers.

Nineteen beers were featured, so there was adequate space to stage the casks around the room. The lineup was:

Some of the brewers who contributed to the cask festival.

In comparison to the more freestyle nature seen at Dix Caskivals, these beers were fairly indicative of their respective styles. A little bit of experimentation was seen with Canoe’s stout, Granville Island’s Ginger Beer, Spinnakers’ Black Velvet, and Swans’ porter, but nothing as eccentric as Dave Varga’s Masala Pale Ale or Tariq Khan’s Chipotle Cream Ale that they brewed for Caskival. Canoe Habit Espresso Stout is a collaboration with a Victoria coffee roaster. I like both beverages; even better together! Granville Island Ginger Beer appeals to all those ginger lovers with plenty of Hawaiian ginger to spice things up — great food pairing beer. Spinnakers’ Black Velvet was a blend of Irish stout and sparkling white wine. This was my first taste of the fest and I found it tasty, light, and refreshing — somewhat reminiscent of Unibroue Chambly Noire. Swans Pod Porter was conditioned with organic Madagascar vanilla pods, giving it a nicely enhanced vanilla flavour that is a major contrast to Granville Island’s over-the-top, cloying Winter Ale. Lovers of the latter should compare the two in a side-by-side tasting.

Spinnakers Katie Zimmerman announces end of their inaugural cask festival.

Spinnakers Katie Zimmerman announces end of their inaugural cask festival.

Although Phillips did not bring a cask, they did do something out of the ordinary that I found most welcome, despite some people’s grumblings — they served their draught IPA through two randalls, one containing Cascade hops, the other Centennial. Basically, they were dry-hopping the IPA even more on the fly. Delicious!

This was the first opportunity I had to try the mysterious Lighthouse Riptide Pale Ale. It’s their first new beer in three years and I must say that it’s about time! Offering seasonal beers is a basic practice for improving marketing: at the very least, you have more to say to the public to get their attention. Naturally, I was curious to find out more about the Riptide — how is it different from all the other pale ales out there; what malt or hops did they use, etc. Unfortunately, they won’t tell me anything beyond their generic marketese: ‘choicest imported malts, mated with a unique hop blend…’ Doesn’t everyone say that? Actually, no. If you look at the festival programme, virtually all of the other brewers talk about the specific ingredients they used for their beer. No big trade secret. Without specific measurements and knowing the particular brewing techniques, it is highly unlikely a brewer will be able to exactly match another’s beer. There are too many variables. I find the secrecy rather silly. Riptide doesn’t have a je ne sais quoi that makes it truly unique. It’s just another pale ale aiming for broad drinkability.

Five hours of drinking means that you need to have something to eat. Spinnakers is a good place to be hungry. I ordered their pulled pork nachos and Highland Beef Burger. There was no need for dinner after! Nevertheless, as a lagniappe, complimentary handmade white chocolate saison truffles were served to sweeten the day’s experience.
I always find these festivals come to a reluctant end. There’s never enough time to talk in a lot of detail to all of the brewers and your craft beer comrades and still be able to taste all of the beers. Fortunately, if you wanted to stay around, Spinnakers honoured purchased tasting tickets and you could order pints of any of the remaining casks. I had a ferry to catch, so I made a hasty departure with my travelling companions, Spinnakers Barley Wine and India Pale Ale malt vinegars for souvenirs.

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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.

Instead of Cheap Wine, Drink Great Beer

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Anthony Gismondi writes in Saturday’s Vancouver Sun that in these times, it pays to become a more savvy wine drinker. What he means by that is not so much being more knowledgeable about wine itself, but looking for the best-valued wines rather than resorting to buying cheap wine to save money. Of course, you may have to drink less to stay within your shrunken budget.

Fortunately, drinking great beer presents few such restrictions and takes far less effort. How much money will you have to spend trying to find a wine in that crapshoot $10-$20 price range before you find something better than so-so or worse? Will that wine be just as good next year? Find a single bottle of beer in that price range, and you can be confident that the majority will be good to excellent. Most BC craft beer, on the other hand, is less than $5.00 per 650ml bottle. So for every bottle of wine you drink, you can try at least three different kinds of beer, if not more.

Would switching over to drinking more beer represent much of a sacrifice for wine drinkers? If you are sticking strictly to BC products, there certainly aren’t as many craft beers as there are wines. The BC wine industry has more money and government support than our brewers. Consequently, there are more of them. However, as you will glean from my earlier postings, there is no loss when it comes to food pairing. In fact, I would argue that given the flavour palette available with beer, there is a gain. Beer shines where pairings for wine are “tricky:” chocolate, oysters, sharp cheeses, and spicy foods.

Another thing that you will discover when you apply a connoisseur’s approach (kindly refrain from holding your nose up in the air) to beer is its seasonality — certain beer styles are suited to certain seasons. Jurgen Gothe, wine writer for the Georgia Straight , however, doesn’t seem to recognize that. His ‘Drink of the Week’ for December 30 was Tiger lager from Singapore. (Personally, I’m not too keen on drinking a generic macro lager from the other side of the world, especially after shoveling snow off the sidewalk. If I went to a Singaporean restaurant here, it would probably be the best choice available only because the proprietor likely knows nothing about beer except to stock what will sell and make the most money. In Singapore, though, you would be cheating yourself out of having a great beer if you kept only to Tiger.)

I’m not saying that you can’t drink a lager outside of summer; you can. But there are Bocks, Doppelbocks, and Eisbocks for this time of year that are more appropriate lagers than a Helles, Pils, or Vienna, both in terms of how they make us feel and in going with the hearty foods we eat to give us comfort. Barley wines, imperial stouts, old ales, Scotch ales, and Christmas/winter spiced beer often evolved from nature’s cycle. You wouldn’t normally drink these in summer. (With respect to wine, I can only think of young wines, like Beaujolais Nouveau, and mulled wine that are consumed during a particular time of year.) Therefore, in adopting the seasonality of beer, we become more in sync with Earth’s natural rhythm.

So to all wine drinkers, worry not. Find comfort in beer. And if your portfolio has taken a dive, seek shelter in a Bailout Bitter.

Driftwood Delivers Draught

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Driftwood Brewery’s first kegs are out the door. Driftwood Ale is now available on draught at Colwood’s Cross Roads Bar & Grill, the KnockanBack Grill, and Smugglers Cove in Saanich. Both Farmhand Ale and Driftwood Ale are flowing at Victoria’s Flying Beagle Pub. White Bark Wit should be available in Victoria-area pubs this week.

While Driftwood will mostly be supplying Vancouver Island, the Alibi Room and The Whip in Vancouver will carry their draught in the Lower Mainland. We may see their bottled product, such as an upcoming barleywine, in private beer & wine stores.