B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘bitter

Craft Beer Culinary Tour Highlights Gastown

leave a comment »

Rogue Wetbar beer samples & food pairings.

Whenever I plan to visit a new city, if it isn’t in Saudi Arabia, I’m checking out the local craft beer scene online ahead of time  to ensure I enjoy some of the local flavour. I know I’m not alone in that regard because If you visit Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, you’ll notice each has a section set up for the brews traveller. And with the rapid growth of craft brewing in North America, beer tourism is also on the rise.

Beer festivals, like the Great Canadian Beer Festival in Victoria and the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale in Pentiction, are obvious tourism boosts to those cities. Penticton, however, isn’t known as a beer town. Victoria, on the other hand, is well-regarded in craft beer drinker circles for its high per capita number of breweries, pubs, and brewpubs. The fact that I don’t see much of Victoria outside of those when I visit is a testament to the quality experience our provincial capital offers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

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.

B.C. Recognized at Canadian Brewing Awards

leave a comment »

B.C. brewers won 14 out of a possible 63 awards at this year’s 6th Annual Canadian Brewing Awards in Toronto. A panel of 14 certified beer judges evaluated 239 beers from 50 breweries entered in 21 style categories. The following B.C. beers were winners:

Gold

  • Lighthouse Lager, Lighthouse Brewing (North American Style Premium Lager)
  • Tessier’s Witbier, Buckerfield’s Brewery—Swans (Wheat Beer Belgian Style)
  • Hefeweizen, Tree Brewing (Wheat Beer German Style)
  • Longboat Chocolate Porter, Phillips Brewing (Fruit and Vegetable)

Silver

  • Rocky Mountain Genuine Lager, Fernie Brewing (European Style Lager—Pilsner)
  • Belgian Wit, Granville Island Brewing (Wheat Beer Belgian Style)
  • Sungod Wheat Ale, R & B Brewing (Wheat Beer North American Style)
  • Hop Head IPA, Tree Brewing (India Pale Ale)
  • Appleton Brown Ale, Buckerfield’s Brewery—Swans (Brown Ale)

Bronze

  • Whistler Weissbier, Whistler Brewing (Wheat Beer German Style)
  • Surley Blonde, Phillips Brewing (Belgian Style Ale)
  • Swans ESB, Buckerfield’s Brewery—Swans (English Style Pale Ale Bitter)
  • Amnesiac IPA, Phillips Brewing (India Pale Ale)
  • First Trax Brown Ale, Fernie Brewing (Brown Ale)

Congratulations to the winners in their quest for excellence. Be sure to sample all of the above.

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.