B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Merridale

A Great Canadian Long Weekend on the Victoria Ale Trail

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Poster for The Great Canadian Beer Festival 2017.

Most of the 3.6 million annual overnight visitors to Victoria – city of my birth and capital of the province of British Columbia – are drawn to its charming island setting, British colonial character, mild climate, and outdoor activities. Each time I visit Suzhou’s sister city, however, I rarely find time to stroll the lush grounds of Butchart Gardens, explore the hidden alleys of Canada’s oldest Chinatown, or join a waterborne whale watching adventure. It’s the craft beer I come for.

One of my favourite times to enjoy Victoria’s fermented delights is in the second week of September when the Royal Athletic Park plays host to the Great Canadian Beer Festival (GCBF). More than 60 breweries participate, attracting approximately 8,000 people. With so many brewers and craft beer enthusiasts gathered in a city of only 86,000 residents, you can feel the excitement.

This year was special. It was July 11, 1992, when the forerunner to Canada’s longest-running beer festival was held at George Pearkes Arena with eight participating breweries. Twenty-five years later, the GCBF has grown substantially from its humble origins and survived many challenges. Its founding organizers continue to serve as directors of the festival society. Needless to say, there was no way that I would miss the opportunity to celebrate this remarkable achievement. Read the rest of this entry »

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Upcoming GCBF Highlights

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If you’re going to the GCBF and haven’t perused the brewers list on their Web site, you may want to make your way over there to plan ahead for what you definitely don’t want to miss out on.

For myself, I’m not interested so much in the exhibitors with bottles aka import agents and large producers. You can buy these in a liquor store. My first priority is breweries whose products I can’t get here. Of those, cask ale tops the list as they may be a one-off or at least of a regular style they brew but of unique character.

Non-B.C. breweries I’m looking forward to sample are Baron, Boundary Bay, Peaks, Silver City, Wild Rose, and Wildwood. Bushwakker from Regina, SK, is one coming the furthest to represent themselves and another I’ll be thoroughly evaluating. Paddock Wood from Saskatoon will be there too, but their products are available in Vancouver and they have exhibited only bottled product in the past.

Specific beers on my to do list: Anacortes IPA, Baron über-Weisse, Boundary Bay Imperial Oatmeal Stout & Scotch Ale, Peaks Dungeness Spit IPA, Pike IPA, Silver City Indianola Pale Ale & Imperial Stout, and Wild Rose Port-infused Oatmeal Stout

My second priority is B.C. brewers with a cask, a seasonal, or something new, followed by breweries whose beer I’ve never tried — Barley Mill Brewpub from Penticton and Hells Gate in Delta (I suspect this is the new Mark Anthony brewery).

B.C. beers I’m excited to try: Central City Imperial IPA; Crannóg Bansidhe, Bogtrotter Brown, Insurrection Pale Ale, and Pooka Cherry Ale; Howe Sound Pothole Filler & Total Eclipse of the Hop; Longwood Imperial Stout, IPA, Märzenbier; Nelson Paddywack; Spinnakers Hefeweizen; Steamworks Great Pumpkin Ale & Grand Espresso Stout (conditioning since last winter); Swans Scotch Ale; Tree Hophead; and at the Yaletown booth, Alchemy, Dix IPA, and Whistler Brewhouse Heart of Darkness.

Central City Thor’s Hammer is another standout. Brewer Gary Lohin used to make this when at Sailor Hagar’s. Sailor Hagar’s still have some of it from ten years ago and had a keg on draft last December — incredible! Word is they have one left, so keep an eye out for it later this year. In the meantime, you can try Thor’s Hammer the Younger in Victoria. If you’ve had Thor’s Hammer the Elder, you will recognize the progeny. Hopefully, Gary will put some away in a cool, dark corner and sit on it for a few years. Otherwise, bottle it so we can do so.

We’ve been expecting a Dead Frog cask in Vancouver from Tony Dewald (formerly of Dix) for a while, but he did not participate in the Surrey Summer Cask Festival, nor Caskival 5 at Dix — much of whose success is because of him. Now it looks like he’ll have a cask of their Nut Brown, so I’m anxious to sample it.

Dave Woodward’s Heart of Darkness from Whistler Brewhouse won best beer at the Central City’s Surrey Summer Cask Festival. An Imperial Stout aged on bourbon-soaked oak, it is a delightful mouthful that ought to be a staple Après-ski winter warmer in the Village.

If you stop by the Crannóg booth, one sample you should try to get Brian make up for you is a blend of 1/3 Pooka Cherry and 2/3 Back Hand of God. It makes a wonderful cherry stout.

On a final note, don’t overlook the wonderful cider from Merridale. Their cask Cyser is a must. It’s very popular, though, so I would recommend sampling it early. It also makes sense to do it before the big-flavoured, high gravity ales so you can fully appreciate it.