B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Best of Vancouver

2009 Tarnished Plate Awards

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Love them or loathe them, the Georgia Straight‘s Golden Plate Awards are out. Either way, it would be foolish to ignore them. Consider them a gauge of The Straight‘s readers’ preferences. If, as a business, you are targeting that demographic, then the awards will give you an indication of how successful your efforts have been to date. From the perspective of CAMRA Vancouver, it tells us how much more work we still need to do.

On the beer front, this is an opportunity to measure progress since the Best of Vancouver 2008 awards. Although there were fewer categories offered than the Golden Plates, my accompanying article in that edition covered more ground. I was hoping, at least, it made a few people curious to try something other than what they’re constantly being bombarded with in advertisements. The results are mixed, but I see some progress being made.

In terms of beer, readers are clearly influenced by advertising. The Local Microbrew category certainly limits the choices (thankfully, there were no daft awards, such as Molson Canadian), but all the beers chosen are actually brewed in Kelowna. The Granville Island beers that are brewed in Vancouver are only their Limited Releases. The majority of people still need to discover R&B and Storm, it seems. Sorry, folks, per a previous post, Steamworks is not a microbrewery; they are a brewpub. Outside of this category, only one craft brewer made the cut — Phillips, which just reinforces what I said in my last post about the need for craft brewers to collaborate.

In the categories of B.C. Beer (brewed outside Vancouver) and Canadian Beer (not B.C.), people have a reading comprehension problem since a number of choices were breweries, not actual beers. I find the import category to be the most disappointing of all. Given all the beers available at the establishments chosen in the Imported Beer Selection category, you would think there would be more of a mixture of choices other than mass-market lager and mass-market Guinness. There is a much greater diversity available here that people are completely missing out on. A visit to Brewery Creek, Firefly, Libations, or Viti would quickly put that to rest.

On the pub front, I see more progress. All the pubs are actual pubs; all the brewpubs are pubs that brew beer for consumption on their own premises (Granville Island Tap House not being a pub). The majority of the chosen pubs also have good beer. I’m heartened by the fact that The Straight‘s readers do not equate ‘best’ with the Granville guzzling galleries. On the food side, I don’t think enough people have eaten at the Alibi Room. Their commitment to local and seasonal is deserving of attention. Chef Greg Armstrong formerly worked at Habit Lounge, so he’s no slouch.

Finally, I’m curious about the inclusion of Fogg N’ Suds. Are people voting for them based on reputation? Their beer selection today is nowhere near that of their halcyon days in the mid-eighties. For B.C. beer, no one in the entire province beats the Alibi Room for the quality of their selection — there is simply no crap on tap. For imported beer, I think Fogg N’ Suds has been succeeded by Six Acres, the Irish Heather, and Stella’s. I wouldn’t call Chambar‘s selection the best from a comprehensive point of view, but it is very good from the perspective of matching their beer with their food, which no one else in Vancouver has done. I’d like to see them replace their gueuze, though, with Oud Beersel. If we can get anyone to import Cantillon, its inclusion would be essential.

Finally, here are the beer results from the Best Drinks section of the 2009 Golden Plate Awards:

Local Microbrewery
1. Granville Island Brewing
2. R & B Brewing
3. Steamworks Brewing Company

Local Microbrew
1. Granville Island Lions Winter Ale
2. Granville Island English Bay Pale Ale
3. Granville Island Lager

B.C. Beer (brewed outside Vancouver)
1. Kokanee
2. Okanagan Spring
3. Phillips Brewing

Canadian Beer (not B.C.)
1. Sleeman
2. Alexander Keith’s
3. (tie) Molson Canadian
3. (tie) Moosehead

Imported Beer
1. Stella Artois
2. (tie) Corona
2. (tie) Guinness
3. Heineken

Best Pub
1. The Irish Heather
2. Yaletown Brewing Company
3. Steamworks

Brewpub
1. Yaletown Brewing Company
2. Steamworks
3. Dix BBQ & Brewery

Pub Food
1. The Irish Heather
2. Yaletown Brewing Company
3. Kingston Taphouse & Grille

B.C. Beer Selection
1. Fogg N’ Suds
2. Alibi Room
3. The Whip Restaurant Gallery

Imported Beer Selection
1. Stella’s Tap & Tapas Bar
2. Fogg N’ Suds
3. Chambar Belgian Restaurant

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The Straight Readers’ Best Vancouver Beer

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I’m always interested to see when readers of The Georgia Straight weigh in on what they consider to be the best of xyz. It serves as a useful gauge in terms of current popular taste and understanding.

In terms of beer, their Best of Vancouver 2008 includes three beer-related categories—B.C. Beer, Brew Pub, and Local Microbrewery. The winners for each category are, respectively, Granville Island Brewing, Yaletown Brewing Company, and Granville Island Brewing.

The listings under B.C. Beer were somewhat confusing as it refers to beer in the singular. Perhaps there were a variety of different answers that were synthesized into a general ‘Granville Island Brewing’ and ‘Okanagan Spring Brewery.’ The best answer, though, which the editors listed under the heading, was, “I can’t just pick one!” If you read my article, you’ll see why, if you don’t already know. Given the winners in the other two categories, it was disappointing to see that second place went to a mass-market lager.

For the final two categories, the listing of Granville Island Brewing is a bit problematic because it is neither a brewpub, nor a microbrewery. GIB is not a pub or restaurant that brews beer on its own premises and sells 25% or more of its beer on site. The Tap Room is strictly that, a brewery tap, and shouldn’t be confused with a brewpub.

GIB’s annual production is 60,000 hetcolitres when, according to the US Brewers Association, a microbrewery is a “brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels (17,600 hectoliters) of beer per year.” In fact, GIB is a regional craft brewery. It also isn’t a local brewery, per se, because most of its production is in Kelowna. The only beer that is produced locally on Granville Island is its Limited Release beers (aka seasonals) brewed by Vern Lambourne. These are packaged only in 650ml bottles.

In the City of Vancouver, there are only two microbreweries—R & B and Storm. In Metro Vancouver, there are three, with the addition of Russell Brewing. Russell is on the verge of becoming a regional brewery as its current capacity is 16,000 hectolitres. However, their status, like Granville Island, may also be somewhat ambiguous because of their merger with Fort Garry Brewing of Winnipeg. Excess production capacity at Fort Garry is being used to fulfill Russell’s contract for BC Place Stadium. Therefore, actual production of Russell-branded product may, at some point, exceed 17,600 hectolitres, if it hasn’t already.

I hope The Georgia Straight readers will renew their search for Vancouver’s best beer. I look forward to seeing who the winners are next year.