B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘James Walton

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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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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Of Beer and Cheese

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Two events I recently attended have shown an increased interest in beer & cheese pairing — FigMint’s B.C. Day “Beer on the Wood” and the Vancouver Beer Meetup/CAMRA lambic & cheese tasting at the Alibi Room. Cheese for both events was supplied by Mount Pleasant Cheese, who are becoming noticeably more beer savvy with suggested beer pairings on the tags of some of their cheeses in their Cambie Street shop.

Figmint’s first “Beer on the Wood” was lightly attended. However, they have since been gaining in popularity. This time it was oversold and, thankfully, the additional people were accommodated in the lounge, rather than having only seats at the bar. Highlighting the artisan producers of B.C., the following cheeses were paired with organic farmhouse ales supplied by zero waste brewery, Crannóg:

  • Organic Extra Aged Gouda from Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm, Salmon Arm
      – Beyond the Pale Ale
  • Castle Blue from The Farm House Natural Cheeses, Agassiz
      – Hell’s Kitchen
  • Farm House Brie from The Farm House Natural Cheeses, Agassiz
      – Back Hand of God Stout
  • Farm House Natural Chèvre from The Farm House Natural Cheeses, Agassiz
      – Pooka Cherry Ale

The first three ales are regularly brewed and available all year round, while the Pooka Cherry Ale is a seasonal beer made with 200 lbs. of  Crannóg’s own Bing cherries. (After the tasting, I blended 1/3 of a glass of the latter with 2/3 Back Hand of God to make a delicious Cherry Stout. As Crannóg are a draught only brewery, hopefully you can find the two together somewhere to make your own blend. Otherwise, order two party pigs.)

Chef Lee Humphries created an innovative pairing plate that not only included the common cheese, fruit, and some condiments with bread, but even some hors d-oeuvres to match both the cheese and the beer. For example, with the Farm House Castle Blue, he made a small skewer of pork sausage wrapped in tomato crêpe. For the Farm House Natural Chèvre & Pooka Cherry, it was a cherry soda & vanilla ice cream float and two fresh, ripe cherries. Great value for $25.00.

The lambic & cheese tasting at the Alibi Room highlighted Belgian products recently imported by Bravo Beer of Squamish. Unfortunately, James Walton of Storm Brewing has been the only B.C. brewer to make this classic style of beer available commercially, but he isn’t planning on making it again. Yaletown Brewing brewmaster, Iain Hill, is working on a related beer — an Oud Bruin — that should be released in the fall. For such a challenging style and labour of love, these brewers should be given every encouragement.

Twenty-six people enjoyed a selection of gueuze, fruit lambics, and faro paired with five cheeses selected by Nigel Springthorpe and I. The beers were a mix of commercial lambics from Brouwerij De Troch and Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck, and traditional lambics from Brouwerij Oud Beersel. The cheeses were Chevry Plain from Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan, Le Douanier from Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, Le Bleu Ermite from the Benedictine monks of Fromagerie de l’Abbaye SaintBenoît, Le Riopelle de l’Ile from Société coopérative agricole de l’Île aux Grues, and an extra aged Gouda from Gort’s Gouda.

The tasting began with a comparison between Vanhonsebrouck’s St. Louis Gueuze and Oud Beersel’s Oude Gueuze Vieille. The cheeses best paired with these very sour beers were the stronger-tasting Le Bleu Ermite and Le Douanier.

We then followed with a three-way comparison between De Troch Chapeau Kriek, Oud Beersel Oude Kriek Vieille, and Vanhonsebrouck St. Louis Premium Kriek. Duck confit croquettes would have nicely paired with the aged kriek, but people were hungry and devoured them even before the first beer was paired. The commercial krieks, the Chapeau Abricot, and the St. Louis Premium Framboise that were sampled after went well with the Chevry Plain and triple-cream Le Riopelle de l’Ile.

The final beer of the evening’s tasting was the St. Louis Premium Faro. Unfortunately, the B.C. Liquor Store that the beer was ordered from did not fulfill the order for the Chapeau Faro that was planned for a comparison. Nevertheless, by that point, participants were quite satisfied and enjoyed the faro with the carmel flavour of the aged Gouda.

If you are interested in doing your own beer and cheese pairing, see Janet Fletcher’s article on the subject in the San Francisco Chronicle.

New Brewery Ferments in Victoria

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Third-hand brewing system originally from Flying Monkey Brewery in Olathe, Kansas.

Third-hand brewing system originally from Flying Monkey Brewery in Olathe, Kansas.

Just when you thought Victoria had enough breweries, another one is about to float in on the capital’s wave of craft brewing success. Driftwood Brewery is a new venture of Kevin Hearsum and Jason Meyer, formerly of Lighthouse Brewing. Meyer, Driftwood’s brewmaster, is a BJCP certified beer judge, past President of the Edmonton Homebrewers’ Guild, and Alley Kat’s first employee.

Driftwood will be a production micro-brewery producing draught largely for bars and restaurants in the Victoria area, along with 650ml bottles in select private liquor stores. Some seasonal releases will only be available in bottles. (I think we can persuade Driftwood to send some of their beer over the pond to Vancouver, knowing Nigel Springthorpe at the Alibi Room will want to stop by on his regular trips to the Island.)

What makes Driftwood different? According to Meyer, “We plan on providing an eclectic mix of high quality brews with a continuously changing selection and a decidedly Belgian slant. Expect to see everything from styles familiar to Northwest beer lovers (we love our “C” hops as much as anyone) to wild and brettanomyces-fermented, wood-aged, sour mash, and other adventures in flavour.”

Driftwood brewmaster, Jason Meyer, stands in front of his vented mash tun.

Driftwood brewmaster, Jason Meyer, stands in front of his vented mash tun.

This is welcome news for B.C. We won’t have to import Belgian-style beer from Quebec, the U.S., or Europe to get our fix. There is a building interest in Belgians with many brewpubs and micro-breweries releasing fruit beers, dubbels, tripels, and Wits, Granville Island being just the latest with their limited release Belgian Wit now available. James Walton, brewmaster of Vancouver’s Storm Brewing, has been the most experimental with his phenomenal fruit lambics that were ahead of their time for sufficient acceptance by the local market — unfortunate because he is no longer making them. Spinnaker’s Rob Monk released a saison at the beginning of this year that tasted more like an abbey ale due to the predominant presence of bubble gum in the flavour profile. Nevertheless, I hope he continues to work on this versatile style.

Driftwood is currently under construction; they just received their brewing equipment this week. If you are interested in following their progress, you can track it through their Facebook page. And while Hearsum and Meyer have already made dozens of experimental brews in their pilot brewery, they don’t expect to be in production until the fall. Their goal is to produce 2,000 hectolitres in the first year and 5,000-7,000 hectolitres within five years.

Although they intend on exhibiting at the GCBF, Meyer doesn’t think they will have any beer to offer. Nevertheless, I”m sure they’ll be happy if you stopped by for a chat.

Driftwood Brewery
450 Hillside Avenue, Unit 102
Victoria, BC  V8T 1Y7
Tel: (250) 381-BREW (2739)
Fax: (250) 384-2333