B.C. Beer Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Baron

GCBF Recap

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A place to get out of the sun, talk about the best finds, and recharge before the next sample (Photo © 2008 Rick Green).

A place to get out of the sun, talk about the best finds, and recharge before the next sample (Photo © 2008 Rick Green).

This year’s GCBF was blessed with perfect weather. Not surprisingly, both days were completely sold out. I booked early and enjoyed the comfort of Spinnakers for accommodations. After all that imbibing, there’s a lot to be said for having breakfast and a newspaper brought to you each morning. Alternatively, sitting on their deck for brunch with a view is also hard to beat.

This year was noteworthy for the presence of a number of American breweries whose Vancouver agents, AFIC EXIM and Beerthirst, have successfully negotiated B.C.’s bureaucratic hurdles to sell product here—Anderson Valley, Brooklyn, Deschutes, Gordon Biersch, Lost Coast, North Coast, Pyramid, and Rogue. While this may spur competition and innovation with local brewers, the preferred outcome would be to expand the market for craft beer.

A hallmark of the festival is sampling beer from brewers who don’t even sell here. They come to show their support, enjoy the atmosphere, and experience the Victoria beer scene. We can always count on a visit from our neighbors in Alberta (Wild Rose, WildWood) and Washington (Anacortes, Baron, Boundary Bay, Peaks, Silver City). It’s interesting to see if anyone comes from further afield. This year the ‘brews traveler’ award goes to Bushwakker of Regina and Paddock Wood from Saskatoon.

Dix brewer Derrick Franche, Christina Willis, Brewery Creek manager Gerry Erith, Adam and Gillian Gile (Photo © 2008 Rick Green).

Left to right: Dix brewer Derrick Franche, Christina Willis, Brewery Creek manager Gerry Erith, Adam and Gillian Gile (Photo © 2008 Rick Green).

The GCBF may also provide limited seasonal beers, special one-offs, or even test beers. This may be your only chance to ever try them.

Central City showcased an intense Maris Otter Imperial IPA and Gary Lohin’s latest iteration of Thor’s Hammer barley wine. Expect the latter to be enjoyed for years to come as Lohin plans to have vintage releases. Sailor Hagar’s is still pouring his Thor’s Hammer from 10 years ago. It has aged beautifully, although they may be serving the last keg of it this December.

Crannóg offered casks of Bansidhe Organic Fruit Ale—a base of Munich and Pale malts with a different combination of cherries, crabapples, currants, plums, and Saskatoon berries from their farm in each firkin. If you enjoy fruit beers, you would have wanted to go back to Crannóg’s booth for more than one Bansidhe; every cask was a whole new ballgame. Like Cannery’s Blackberry Porter, it was very popular and sold out early.

Howe Sound may add an imperial IPA and an imperial stout to their regular product line. The GCBF was the public’s first opportunity to sample their Total Eclipse of the Hop and Pothole Filler. Owner, Dave Fenn, said the reaction was very positive. Hopefully, then, we can expect to see them coming out in bottles this year. However, given their high octane, you won’t be drinking a 1 litre bottle by yourself.

The Vancouver cask ale scene was well-represented by a Mark James Group booth under the banner of Yaletown Brewing. Dix brought a cask of their signature Northwest IPA, Taylor’s Crossing offered an English golden ale that will be on draught at the brewpub, Yaletown had their lambic-inspired Framboise made with several bacterial and yeast cultures, and Whistler Brewhouse proffered their Heart of Darkness imperial stout aged on bourbon-soaked oak. Those who attended the Surrey Summer Cask Festival at Central City will not have forgotten the latter, which was voted the best of show.

The organizers should be praised for putting on a quality festival. People were festive without being rowdy, there were decent food options, and musical entertainment ensured a positive atmosphere. For more photos of the GCBF, see my  Beer Festivals set at Flickr.

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Upcoming GCBF Highlights

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If you’re going to the GCBF and haven’t perused the brewers list on their Web site, you may want to make your way over there to plan ahead for what you definitely don’t want to miss out on.

For myself, I’m not interested so much in the exhibitors with bottles aka import agents and large producers. You can buy these in a liquor store. My first priority is breweries whose products I can’t get here. Of those, cask ale tops the list as they may be a one-off or at least of a regular style they brew but of unique character.

Non-B.C. breweries I’m looking forward to sample are Baron, Boundary Bay, Peaks, Silver City, Wild Rose, and Wildwood. Bushwakker from Regina, SK, is one coming the furthest to represent themselves and another I’ll be thoroughly evaluating. Paddock Wood from Saskatoon will be there too, but their products are available in Vancouver and they have exhibited only bottled product in the past.

Specific beers on my to do list: Anacortes IPA, Baron über-Weisse, Boundary Bay Imperial Oatmeal Stout & Scotch Ale, Peaks Dungeness Spit IPA, Pike IPA, Silver City Indianola Pale Ale & Imperial Stout, and Wild Rose Port-infused Oatmeal Stout

My second priority is B.C. brewers with a cask, a seasonal, or something new, followed by breweries whose beer I’ve never tried — Barley Mill Brewpub from Penticton and Hells Gate in Delta (I suspect this is the new Mark Anthony brewery).

B.C. beers I’m excited to try: Central City Imperial IPA; Crannóg Bansidhe, Bogtrotter Brown, Insurrection Pale Ale, and Pooka Cherry Ale; Howe Sound Pothole Filler & Total Eclipse of the Hop; Longwood Imperial Stout, IPA, Märzenbier; Nelson Paddywack; Spinnakers Hefeweizen; Steamworks Great Pumpkin Ale & Grand Espresso Stout (conditioning since last winter); Swans Scotch Ale; Tree Hophead; and at the Yaletown booth, Alchemy, Dix IPA, and Whistler Brewhouse Heart of Darkness.

Central City Thor’s Hammer is another standout. Brewer Gary Lohin used to make this when at Sailor Hagar’s. Sailor Hagar’s still have some of it from ten years ago and had a keg on draft last December — incredible! Word is they have one left, so keep an eye out for it later this year. In the meantime, you can try Thor’s Hammer the Younger in Victoria. If you’ve had Thor’s Hammer the Elder, you will recognize the progeny. Hopefully, Gary will put some away in a cool, dark corner and sit on it for a few years. Otherwise, bottle it so we can do so.

We’ve been expecting a Dead Frog cask in Vancouver from Tony Dewald (formerly of Dix) for a while, but he did not participate in the Surrey Summer Cask Festival, nor Caskival 5 at Dix — much of whose success is because of him. Now it looks like he’ll have a cask of their Nut Brown, so I’m anxious to sample it.

Dave Woodward’s Heart of Darkness from Whistler Brewhouse won best beer at the Central City’s Surrey Summer Cask Festival. An Imperial Stout aged on bourbon-soaked oak, it is a delightful mouthful that ought to be a staple Après-ski winter warmer in the Village.

If you stop by the Crannóg booth, one sample you should try to get Brian make up for you is a blend of 1/3 Pooka Cherry and 2/3 Back Hand of God. It makes a wonderful cherry stout.

On a final note, don’t overlook the wonderful cider from Merridale. Their cask Cyser is a must. It’s very popular, though, so I would recommend sampling it early. It also makes sense to do it before the big-flavoured, high gravity ales so you can fully appreciate it.