B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Canadian

A Beer Style of Our Own

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British Columbia coastline north of Vancouver.Some places are known for distinctive beer styles. In fact, some styles are even named after the places where they evolved, e.g. Bock (Einbeck), Kölsch (Köln), Pilsner (Plzeň), Vienna Lager. In BC, the craft beer renaissance is reaching ever greater heights. However, is there anything that we can point to as being distinctly BC? When people think of beer and British Columbia, is there anything that differentiates us from our neighbours? The rest of Canada? Not as such.

There is still a lot of experimenting going on in BC as more and more people join the excitement that is craft beer. For a BC style to be adopted, it would require the co-operation of our craft brewers and the support of the drinking public to succeed. As we’ve seen with the Cascadia Dark Ale debacle, the former is already a messy thing. In fact, it might make more sense getting the public behind such an idea. Because if there is an obvious market, what brewer would pass up such an opportunity?

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Why Grapes are Being Freed While Hops Remain Shackled

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by WanderingPaddy

Over the past month, BC wine consumers and the BC wine industry have had several reasons to pop champagne corks in celebration of changes to both federal and provincial laws which have benefited both groups. First Bill C-311, a Private Member’s Bill introduced into the House of Commons by Okanagan-Coquihalla MP, Dan Albas, prompted an amendment to the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act (IILA) of 1928. Federal law now allows wine, and wine only, to transported or shipped across provincial borders by consumers. Spirits and beer are still illegal to ship or transport across provincial boundaries, as they have been since the introduction of the IILA.

Next, the provincial Liberals got in on the act by allowing consumers to buy direct from Canadian wineries. As an added bonus, they do not have to pay the BC Liquor Distribution Branch’s (LDB) 123% mark-up! Even though the feds now allow cross-border wine shipments, it is the provincial governments that ultimately have control over what alcohol gets imported into their jurisdictions. So this move was critical to give Bill C-311 some meaning. Again, these allowances were made for wine only, leaving laws unchanged in regards to spirits and beer.

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Tightening the Beer Belt?

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A refreshing Storm Hurricane IPA on a sunny day.

A refreshing Storm Hurricane IPA on a sunny day.

Pacific Western Brewing’s Cariboo “Genuine Draft” is flying off the shelves, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun. It’s because the lager is the cheapest six pack in the province. Given the likelihood that it doesn’t taste much different from BC’s top-selling diluted beer brands — Corona, Canadian, Kokanee, Budweiser, Coors, etc. — this isn’t much of a surprise. Why spend $10.75 on a six pack of Canadian when you can get Cariboo for $7.54? Do you really think paying $11.95 for a six pack of Corona means it’s that much better? Does spending an extra $4.00 for imported swill make one cool? When a six pack of locally-brewed Central City Red Racer Pale Ale costs $10.75, definitely not!

Unlike wine, beer is not so expensive that you have to make sacrifices, unless you drink lots of it. In that case, it doesn’t hurt to reconsider your drinking choices or drinking style, for that matter. If you drink a lot of mass-market light lager, maybe the reason is that its lack of flavour is not satisfying, so you keep drinking and drinking until you’re full or drunk. Try drinking an undiluted, unadulterated, unfiltered, unpasteurized craft beer instead. You might find that you are satisfied with drinking less. So in paying a bit more for a more flavourful beer, ironically, you may actually spend less on your overall consumption.

Picking up a growler from your local brewpub may be another option to save some money and, more importantly, the environment. You’ll have to buy the 2L bottle first. After that, just bring it back for a refill and pay the price of a couple of pints, but get 700ml more beer! Central City Brewing in Surrey, for example, normally charges $10 for a refill, but it’s just $8.50 on Sundays. This is cheaper than a six pack of Molson Canadian, but it produces less waste, doesn’t require recycling, and uses a lot less energy over the life of the container. It’s also the freshest beer you will ever get.

Taking this to a bigger scale, you may also be able to get 8.5L party pigs or 20L & 50L kegs from your local craft brewery or brewpub if you’re having a barbecue or throwing a party. It’s got the same advantages of a growler, only you spread the benefits to more people.

In Vancouver, an additional opportunity to reduce your beer expenses is by joining CAMRA Vancouver. Members receive a 10% discount at the Alibi Room, Brewery Creek, Firefly, Viti, and the Wolf & Hound.

Then there’s a more involved way to shrink your beer budget: home brewing. Pseudo-home brewing is using a brew-on-premises (BOP) shop, especially the kind where you don’t have much direct involvement in the actual brewing beyond choosing the style of beer you want and pitching the yeast. To actually get involved in brewing from start to finish, the easiest and cheapest way to get rolling is with a beer kit. Depending on how well-equipped your kitchen is, you may not have to get a lot of extra equipment. You certainly don’t need any fancy gear to brew good beer, nor really a lot of space if it’s just for your own consumption. It’s not that hard to brew beer; it just takes time. The challenge, however, is in making a great beer. Fortunately, there’s lots of help available in the form of books, videos, homebrewer groups, and your local hombrew supply store. Some home brewers I know still go to pubs and buy packaged beer from stores. Others swear by doing it yourself and bask in the savings.

Another option for the beer drinker is to look at some other expenses to see if you can reduce them instead of having to sacrifice enjoying a quality beer. Coffee is one item that most people will be able to reduce the cost of by simply making it themselves. If you typically buy two cups of coffee every day from a coffee shop, assuming you pay $1.50 per cup for drip coffee, that works out to $1,095.00 per year ($1,569.50 for a small Starbucks Americano, $1,825.00 for a medium). On the other hand, if you buy 1/2 a pound of fresh-roasted coffee from your local roaster every week for $8.00 and make it at home and/or at work, it will cost $416.00 and taste better. You save $679.00 (and a lot of waste if you can’t be bothered to use a travel mug when buying from a coffee shop).

While the economy may be forcing you to tighten your belt, you don’t have to go so far as to drink swill to afford drinking beer. It may just mean taking a different approach.

On the Brews Traveller Map?

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Granville Island Brewing sponsored the Culinary Tourism Society BC Conference.

Granville Island Brewing was one of the sponsors of the Culinary Tourism Society BC Conference.

I recently attended a culinary tourism conference at The Sutton Place Hotel put on by the Culinary Tourism Society BC. This is one of the fastest growing segments in global tourism, but BC is still a ways off from achieving its full potential. A lack of budget, co-operation, and co-ordination is holding us back.

This is also true when it comes to BC craft beer and the tourist. What are the chances that a visitor will only drink Canadian, Keith’s, Kokanee, Sleeman, or even Bud their whole time here? Given that these are amongst the top ten selling beer brands in the province, chances are great. Even beer aficionados have trouble finding convenient, comprehensive, up-to-date information. I just received an e-mail today from someone in Honolulu, asking what BC beers I would recommend his colleague bring back from a visit to Vancouver in the next few days. I have also gotten e-mails from CAMRA UK members looking for Real Ale.

It shouldn’t be this hard. While many individual craft brewers don’t have a lot of money for marketing, never mind the time to implement promotional activities, the word still has to get out somehow. It is harder to do this on an individual basis with a limited budget. This is why American craft brewers formed associations and guilds, pooling their resources by collaborating, not competing against each other. In BC, we’re still working on this primary step.

Meanwhile, the World Police & Fire Games are coming this year and the Olympics in 2010. Have the craft brewers organized the means to make the participants and spectators aware of their beer? What about a BC craft beer mixed pack that visitors can buy as a souvenir or as a gift for their beer-loving friends back home? Have the brewpubs and craft beer-friendly establishments come up with a handy reference that tourists can easily carry with them?

Sporting events, holidays, and festivals, however, are fleeting events. Erik Wolf, President and CEO of the International Culinary Tourism Association, one of the conference speakers, reiterated the importance of collaboration when faced with limited funds. He also emphasized the point of turning locals into ambassadors. Early adopters, if they enthusiastically embrace a product, will evangelize it for free. If craft brewers more closely involved their closest followers in product testing, events, etc., their promotional reach would extend much further and be more readily accepted, coming from friends or family members. In Washington and Oregon, the brewers guilds actually have their supporters organized — WABL, SNOB.

To be on the brews traveller map, B.C. doesn’t necessarily need to do anything that costs a lot of money. What money we do have, should be invested in those channels that are the most cost-effective, have the greatest reach, and achieve sustained exposure for locals and visitors.

November is Moustache Month

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Actually, it’s prostate cancer awareness month and Phillips is supporting research by donating fifty cents from the sale of each six pack of Blue Buck to the Vancouver Island Prostate Cancer Foundation. Special packs of Blue Back have a fake moustache inside.

Prostate cancer is the leading form of cancer afflicting Canadian men. Some 24,700 are diagnosed with it each year. Of those, 4,300 will die of the disease.

In addition to drinking Blue Buck, you can raise money for prostate cancer research by joining the Republic of Movember, growing a moustache, and taking pledges from your family and friends.

Lions to Launch Beer of Champions

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BC Lions LagerRussell Brewing, in partnership with the BC Lions, is launching BC Lions Lager on September 4. Although Granville Island Brewing has had their Whitecaps IPA since 2006, this is actually the first time that a Canadian professional sports team has developed a proprietary beer brand.

12-packs of cans will be selling in government and private liquor stores for a recommended price of $19.34. To really be set for the game, however, you’ll need to get your very own beer launching fridge to avoid those pesky trips to the kitchen for a refill.

My prediction? For the Leos to win the Grey Cup, they’ll need to bring out a secret weapon — some IPA!

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.

2008 Canada Cup of Beer Awards

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Just Here for the Beer, organizers of Vancouver’s Canada Cup of Beer, have just released the 2008 Canada Cup of Beer Awards based on voting by the festival’s attendees. They are:

Favourite Canadian Lager
Dead Frog Lager – Dead Frog Brewery, Aldergrove, B.C.
Honourable Mention: Rebel – Tree Brewing Company, Red Truck Lager – Red Truck Beer Company

Favourite Canadian Ale 
Cutthroat Pale Ale – Tree Brewing Company, Kelowna, B.C.
Honourable Mention: Dead Frog Pale Ale – Dead Frog Brewing, Hophead – Tree Brewing Company 

Favourite Import Lager 
Efes Pilsener – Efes Beverage Group, Turkey
Honourable Mention: Estrella Damm Lager – Spain, Holsten – Germany 

Favourite Import Ale 
Liberty Ale – Anchor Brewing Company, San Francisco
Honourable Mention: Efes Dark – Turkey, Duvel – Belgium 

Best Booth Display 
Rickard’s – Vancouver, B.C. 
Honourable Mention: Red Truck Beer Company, Tree Brewing Company

Favourite Summer Cask Ale
Granville Island Raspberry – Granville Island Brewing
Honourable Mention: Dix IPA – Dix BBQ & Brewing, Red Devil Pale Ale – R & B Brewing

Favourite Beer Name
Thirsty Beaver Amber Ale – Tree Brewing Company
Honourable Mention: DUDE Beer – Pacific Western Brewing, Dead Frog – Dead Frog Brewing

Friendliest Servers
Red Truck Beer Company – North Vancouver, B.C.
Honourable Mention: Rickard’s – Vancouver, Tree Brewing Company – Kelowna

Favourite Microbrew Beer
Howe Sound Brewing – Squamish, B.C.
Honourable Mention: Tree Brewing Company – Kelowna, Dockside Brewing Company – Vancouver, Dead Frog Brewing – Aldergrove

Favourite Booth 
Campaign For Real Ale Vancouver – Vancouver, B.C.
Honourable Mention: Tree Brewing Company, Dead Frog Brewing, Efes – Sebucom International

Noteworthy for this year’s CCoB was the featuring of cask ale. Given that CAMRA was voted Favourite Booth of the festival, the fact that they served four firkins of local cask ale (BigRidge Clover Ale, Dix IPA, R & B dry-hopped Red Devil Pale Ale, Taylor’s Crossing Irish Honey Ale) means that more mainstream Vancouver beer drinkers are coming to appreciate the qualities of live, unfiltered, unpasteurized beer.

Where to find B.C. cask ale (see B.C. Beer Blog Map at top right margin):
BigRidge Brewing
15133 – 56th Avenue, Surrey
 – last Friday of each month at 5:00pm

Central City Brewing
13450 – 102nd Avenue, Surrey
 – Surrey Summer Cask Festival in July

Dix BBQ & Brewing
871 Beatty Street, Vancouver
 – every Thursday at 5:00pm; Summer Caskival in August, Winter Caskival in December

Great Canadian Beer Festival
Royal Athletic Park, Victoria
 – first Friday & Saturday after Labour Day (September 5 & 6, 2008)

Taylor’s Crossing
1035 Marine Drive, North Vancouver
 – first Friday of each month at 5:00pm

The Whip Restaurant & Gallery
209 East 6th Avenue, Vancouver
 – every Sunday at 4:00pm

The Wolf & Hound
3617 West Broadway, Vancouver
 – last Wednesday of each month at 6:00pm