B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Granville Island Brewing

Winter Games ≠ Winter Beer

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“Our time to shine.”

“Showcase Vancouver to the world.”

These are just two of the pithy slogans Olympics boosters have come up with to get us to embrace an event whose overall benefit to Vancouver and the province are rather dubious. What does the general public have to endure in order to ensure official sponsors get unimpeded access to assault us with their advertising? That IOC’s reputation is not impugned by those opposed to its methods or who question its goals? Plenty.

Some argue that this is acceptable, given how we’re all going to do well by the Games. That’s a rather facile way of looking at it. Ask yourself if some will benefit disproportionately to others? By how much? Ask yourself if all this money were invested in some other fashion, would it result in greater good for the whole? Is this the beginning of a slippery slope where respect for our fundamental freedoms becomes optional?

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Moving Mountains

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Sometimes, changing a culture feels like trying to move a mountain. You put all your strength into it and it doesn’t budge. Of course, being that lone wacko on the fringe is like battling windmills with a toothbrush, you can easily be dismissed. Having acquaintances with earth moving equipment, though, begins to lessen the odds.

Fun at the Fest-of-Ale

Modelling beerwear at the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale, Penticton - April 4, 2009.

In BC’s craft beer scene, we witnessed a slight tremor in the mountain in 2009. Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub inaugurated their first cask ale festival on March 14, which quickly sold out. They followed with another fest on November 21. Both days of Penticton’s Okanagan Fest-of-Ale on April 3 & 4 were completely subscribed. Summer Caskival at Dix Barbecue and Brewery in Vancouver garnered a full house. The Great Canadian Beer Festival always sees full attendance on both days. CAMRA Vancouver’s Oktoberfest celebration at the Granville Island Tap Room sold out. X-mas X-treme at Dix on December 5 had to close its doors less than two hours into the event because of reaching capacity. Now we find that the third annual Feast of Five Firkins at Vancouver’s The Whip Restaurant & Gallery sold out in a day!

This can be a bit of a problem for CAMRA members and their circle who have supported many of these events from the beginning. Venues are at capacity when you visit, or events are sold out with even a day’s delay. What’s a poor beer aficionado to do? Well, it indicates an expansion of capacity is necessary. Events may have to grow or become more frequent. More establishments will have to be persuaded to part with their slavish 10 taps of crap and begin offering a rotating selection from other parts of the beer spectrum. Pioneers have to venture out to tame the frontier, bringing living colour to the glasses of macro-lagerdom.

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Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder Chowdown

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Boundary Bay Smoked Salmon Chowder Having been very impressed with the Granville Island Brewing / Pacific Institute of Culinary ArtsWinter Ales and Fare” cooking competition, I’m pleased to announce another food and beer contest comes right on its heels.

On Wednesday, November 25, the Vancouver Aquarium‘s Ocean Wise program is hosting their 2nd annual Seafood Chowder Chowdown in conjunction with the Craft Brewers Association. The following ten Ocean Wise chef finalists will battle it out to be the BC Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder Champion 2009: Chef Wesley Young (C Restaurant), Chef Josh Wolfe (COAST  Restaurant), Chef Matt and Andrew Christie (Go Fish), Chef Chris Whittaker (O’Doul’s Restaurant), Chef Sarai De Zela Pardo (Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts), Chef Jasen Gauthier (Provence Marinaside), Chef Michael Carter (The Refinery), Chef Randy Jones (Whistler Blackcomb), Chef Myke Shaw (Vancouver Aquarium Catering & Events), Chef Nobu Ochi (Zen Japanese Restaurant).

Granville Island Brewing, Phillips Brewing, R&B Brewing, Tree Brewing, and Whistler Brewing will each be partnered with two of the chefs to come up with beer pairings for their chowder. These, along with the ten chowders and other beers from the breweries’ portfolios, will be available for guests to sample in the extraordinary setting of the Aquarium at night. At $35 per ticket, this is a phenomenal value.

You get to choose the People’s Choice Award, while five esteemed judges—Chef David Hawksworth, Jamie Maw, Chester Carey, Guy Dean, Kim Stockburn—will determine this year’s champion. Chef Quang Dang of C Restaurant was last year’s 2008 Sustainable Seafood Chowder Champion.

As wine is often an ingredient in chowder, I’m looking forward to seeing what the chefs will come up with in respect to beer. The Smoked Salmon Chowder pictured here is made by Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro in Bellingham. It paired wonderfully with Buy tickets!their Chinook IPA, an annual special release beer that’s sold to raise funds for the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association.

The Seafood Chowder Chowdown serves as a good model for other cooking competitions that also lend themselves very well to pairing with beer. Two that I can think of right off the top of my head are the Canadian Festival Of Barbecue And Chili at Eat! Vancouver and the Gastown Blues & Chili Fest. An IPA and curry cookoff would also be brilliant.

2nd Annual BC Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder ChowDown
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 @ 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Vancouver Aquarium, Stanley Park
Tickets: $35 / person

Granville Island Gourmands

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Lions Winter Ale Short Rib

In BC, we’re slowly seeing a growing understanding of the role beer can play beyond the swill of choice for frat parties and sports bars. No longer are brewmasters dinners confined to just brewpubs and beer geeks. There are an increasing number of restaurants teaming up with their local brewery to offer something that Belgians have known for a long time.

Given the great success vintners have had at marketing and educating the public about wine and food pairing, it may take some time for the brewers to catch up. But if the wine-obsessed Italians can come around to the idea of pairing food with beer, we eventually will too.

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Granville Island Winter Ale Cooking Competition

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Granville Island Brewing and Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts are holding their 1st annual “Winter Ales and Fare – Granville Island Brewing and Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts Winter Ale Cooking Competition” on Tuesday, November 3, at Granville Island.

Teams consisting of one culinary and one baking & pastry advanced student, will work together to create one entrée and one dessert item using Granville Island Brewing’s Lions Winter Ale. Competitors will have 45 minutes to race around the Granville Island Public Market to gather core ingredients for their dishes. One more hour will be allowed for cooking, prep, and mise en place, another 15 minutes to bring all the necessary elements to the GIB Tap Room for final plating before the judges.

Students’ final creations will be judged on a points system incorporating criteria such as creativity of menu and use of the beer, best representation of beer flavor, and aesthetic presentation of plating.

WHAT: Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts students go head to head, crafting mouthwatering meal and pastry creations using GIB’s Lions Winter Ale.

DATE: Tuesday November 3, 2009

TIME:
2:00pm – cooking @ PICA, Granville Island
1505 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver BC

4:00pm – tasting and judging @ GIB Tap Room, Granville Island
1441 Cartwright Street, Vancouver BC

Granville Island Brewing Logo Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts Logo

About Granville Island Brewing (GIB)
Established is 1984, Granville Island Brewing (GIB) is Canada’s first microbrewery offering a variety of award-winning beers which are brewed and sold here in BC . GIB is dedicated to handcrafting only the finest premium beers that are 100 per cent all-natural and brewed in small batches to provide consumers with the ultimate tasting experience.  In celebration of their West Coast heritage GIB names each beer after iconic Vancouver locations that embody the local lifestyle. From the original Island Lager and English Bay Pale Ale, to Cypress Honey Lager, and now their latest innovation; Brockton IPA, GIB continues to produce a diverse portfolio of beers inspired by life on the West Coast.

About Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (PICA)
Located at the entrance to Granville Island in Vancouver, British Columbia, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts offers two diploma-granting professional programs in the Culinary Arts and the Baking & Pastry Arts. Additionally, this culinary centre offers programs for the casual home-chef and industry professionals including intensive wine studies, restaurant operations management and hospitality entrepreneurship.  The onsite restaurant, Bistro-101, and bakeshop at Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts were founded to create a ‘real-world’ training experience for the school’s professional Culinary and Baking & Pastry Arts students. Open to the public five days a week for a la carte dining and available for private events, weddings and catering functions, Bistro-101 at Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts gives guests both a fine-dining experience and a glimpse at the world’s future great Chef’s in training.

Creemore Springs Buying Granville Island

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Creemore Springs BreweryIt was announced yesterday that Creemore Springs Brewery (a Molson Coors Canada subsidiary) intends to acquire Granville Island Brewing from Andrew Peller Limited. No changes in Granville Island’s operations are currently anticipated. According to the press release, Creemore’s primary reason for buying Granville Island is to offer a broader portfolio across more markets in Canada. This offers the potential for both to become national brands.

Craft beer aficionados are concerned about what role Molson Coors may play in this. However, according to Ontario beer writer, Greg Clow, “Molson has taken a very hands-off approach to Creemore, similar to the way that Sleeman basically left Unibroue alone. The beer is still brewed in the same place on the same equipment by the same people.”

Granville Island BrewingThere is some irony in this deal. The raison d’être of craft brewing in British Columbia—begun by the likes of Horseshoe Bay Brewing, Spinnakers, Granville Island, and Vancouver Island Brewery—was to offer more choice to British Columbians than the Big Three, whose mass-produced lager dominated the market to such an extent that it was synonymous with “beer.”

What role did Molson, one of the aformentioned triumvirate, play in this? How hands-off will they remain? Won’t it be better for Granville Island to be owned by brewers, rather than winemakers?

The best-case scenario is that Molson Coors will remain behind the scenes and merely provide Creemore Springs/Granville Island with the financial means to expand craft beer consumption across Canada. This allows them to profit from beer’s fastest growing market segment without generating nearly as much controversy and suspicion from beer aficionados that creating faux craft beer brands and fictitious breweries has done.

Should Molson Coors decide to become more involved in the day-to-day brewing with Creemore Springs/Granville Island beers suffering as a result, they will just be further examples of craft beer compromised by the corporate mentality. The customer base will shift with the more quality conscious moving to, perhaps Phillips or Tree; they will be replaced by industrial lager drinkers who have discovered their taste buds and want to move towards something more interesting.

However, one thing is certain. Regardless of what happens, craft beer in B.C. is here to stay. With three new microbreweries starting up in the last year, there is no shortage of those wanting to offer us a better brew. Seeing what is happening in the U.S., there is ample room for growth in Canada.

For the original Creemore Springs/Granville Island press release, see Canadian Beer News. You can also join the discussion on this deal at The Vancouver Sun, The Globe and Mail, and the CBC.

B.C. Beer Chicago Bound

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Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson made a friendly wager two weeks ago with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley over which city’s team would win the NHL playoffs. Each mayor put up a selection of local products they would give the other if their team lost. With the Canucks losing 5-7 to the Blackhawks in Game 6 in Chicago on Tuesday, Mayor Daley is the lucky winner.

Mayor Gregor Robertson packs up the booty for Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley.

Mayor Gregor Robertson packs up the booty for Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley.

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Beer Festival in Wine Country

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Patrick Cumisky serving up some Central City Red Racer IPA.

You may be surprised to learn that it takes a lot of good beer to make a fine wine. That might explain why Penticton’s Cannery Brewing sells more beer in Naramata than all of Alberta and why Silverado Brewing operates a burgeoning brewpub on the grounds of a winery in Napa. It may also explain why the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale in Penticton has no problem still selling out in its fourteenth year.

This year was the first time I attended the OFOA. I had heard the festival was starting to get on the rowdy side in recent years (from the perspective of older beer geeks like myself). My suspicions were aroused when a half-dozen twenty-something males in the lineup in front of me started whooping and hollering even before the venue doors had opened! They were not already drunk. I guess the OFOA must be their biggest event of the year — combine drinking and two-dimensional food (pizza) with skirt-chasing and brawling et voilà, Christmas in April.

How about some Paddock Wood London Porter?

How about some Paddock Wood London Porter from Saskatoon?

I expected, therefore, to see plenty of young bucks drinking themselves into alcohol-induced belligerency, rather than taking the time to learn about and appreciate the beer. However, festival organizers seemed to have taken note of the downward trend and made some changes. Tickets were reduced by 1,000 for each of the festival’s two days, the cost was increased, and sales were strictly limited to before the event. It was also suggested that the music, for the most part, was chosen to coax a more mellow mood than feed the fire. These measures and vigilant security seemed to effectively keep a lid on things. A number of vendors expressed to me a resulting improvement.

On the tasting side, the majority of the festival was devoted to craft beer. There were 17 microbreweries directly represented, including four Washington breweries; two importers poured five beers from four foreign craft breweries; two mass-market beers squeaked in over the bar; and a smattering of alcopops and a macro-cider were there for the females who think they don’t like beer and will continue to think so until their menfolk graduate from drinking macro lager as their everyday beer.

Crannog brewmaster, Brian MacIsaac, accepts the Peoples Choice Award for his Back Hand of God Stout.

Crannog brewmaster, Brian MacIsaac, accepts the People's Choice Award for his Back Hand of God Stout.

Molson Canadian managed to weasel in a pseudo presence at the Boston Pizza booth, unofficial sponsor of unhealthy eating and, by extension, unhealthy drinking. Nevertheless, the food offering was actually better than the Washington Cask Beer Festival. The Barking Parrot took it for best value in my books. (How can you beat a cheeseburger for $1.00?) The Kettle Valley Station Pub offered a decent Louisiana Chicken Burger for $2.00. However, the best eating was easily from Salty’s Beach House — Thai Mini Meatballs, Scallops Remoulade, and fresh-shucked oysters. How civilized! The majority of festivalgoers seemed to agree too as Salty’s won the award for best food.

While there were seven hours on Saturday to make your way through the 60-odd beers worth trying; between drinking, chatting with brewers & fellow CAMRA members, eating, and taking in some of the entertainment, I didn’t manage tasting them all. Mind you, I’d had a number already. Things especially slowed down later in the day when the crowd got much thicker and lineups were ten deep in places. I mostly concentrated on trying what was new to me and found myself quite satisfied by the end.

The festival finale was the announcement of the Industry and People’s Choice awards. The people chose Crannóg’s Back Hand of God Stout as the festival’s best beer. A panel of judges, including my editor at Northwest Brewing News, Alan Moen, selected Pyramid Apricot Ale as the best macro beer, while Shuswap Lake’s (aka Barley Station) Sam McGuire’s Pale Ale was their choice for best micro beer. And that’s what I would call a successful conclusion.

For more OFOA photos, see my Flickr Beer Festivals Set. I also have some photos from my tour of Cannery Brewing the day before.

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.

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