B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Northwest Brewing News

A New Chapter

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Guide drinking a Festbier at Gordon Biersch, Taipei

Converting my guide to craft beer: drinking a Festbier at Gordon Biersch in Taipei.

You may have noticed that my posts have been coming a lot less regularly. That’s because I have started a new business venture with a friend that is not related to beer. It’s called Adventurocity, a travel company focused on Asia. (No, I have no plans to move back to Asia at this time.) My passion for beer is exceeded by that for travel, so my beer activities are now taking a back seat. Fortunately, I won’t necessarily find myself wanting for a good brew when on the road, but that depends on the country. My friends Josh Oakes and Sunshine Kessler have done a great job documenting the beer scene in a number of places. (They are currently in Malaysia.) There’s plenty of mass-market lager in Asia, but not a lot of indigenous craft beer – a good business opportunity for anyone wanting to start a brewpub or microbrewery and live overseas. Some brewers from North America and Europe are already doing this.

In starting this new chapter of my career, I have resigned as CAMRA Vancouver President; I no longer write for Northwest Brewing News and Urban Diner; and I no longer work for the Craft Brewers Guild of British Columbia. Although I initiated Vancouver Craft Beer Week, my role with VCBW is as a consultant, not as part of the executive. Nevertheless, I’m still very interested in what is happening in the craft beer scene here and hope, some day, we will have a beer culture that will rival that of Washington and Oregon. You’ll only reach high if you aim high.

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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.

Russian Imperial Stout Cheesecake

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As the weather becomes colder, the winter warmers are starting to make their appearance. This means it will be easier to find Russian Imperial Stout for this recipe, which is not commonly made by B.C. breweries who package their beer. Suitable beers for this cheescake are Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, Moylan’s Ryan O’Sullivan’s Imperial Stout, North Coast Old Rasputin, and Phillips The Hammer. If you can’t find any of these at a BC government liquor store, try a private one. Add a scoop of French Vanilla ice cream to any of these, and you have a delicious beer float (I kid you not!).

Russian Imperial Stout Cheesecake served with preserved Bing cherries and cherry syrup that was served with a Lindemans Kriek.

Russian Imperial Stout Cheesecake served with preserved Bing cherries and cherry syrup that was served with a Lindemans Kriek.

Russian Imperial Stout Cheesecake

1 1/2 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs *
2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 kg (4 x 250g pkgs Philadelphia) cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
454g (1 lb) dark chocolate melted in a double boiler *
473ml (1 pint) Russian Imperial Stout (room temperature, degassed) *
4 large eggs at room temperature

Preheat oven to 325°F (or 300°F if using a dark pan). Grease the sides of 9″ spring form pan and cover bottom with wax paper. Mix crumbs, 2 tbsp sugar, and melted butter in a bowl until evenly blended; press firmly onto the bottom of the pan with a fork.

Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth, then add remaining ingredients (except eggs) at medium speed until well blended. On low speed, add eggs one at a time, mixing each until just blended. Pour batter over crust.

Bake 55-60 minutes or until centre is almost set. Loosen cake from side of pan by running a paring knife around the inside edge. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature before removing side of pan. Refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight. Store any leftover cheesecake in the refrigerator.

Adapted from Michel Brown’s Russian Imperial Stout Cheesecake by Fred Eckhardt in Northwest Brewing News, Feb/Mar 2008, Volume 7 Number 1, pg. 29.

* NOTE: You can use Oreo cookie crumbs for the chocolate graham crumbs. I also thought there was way too much sugar for the batter (American recipe), so I halved it, using only 1/2 cup. With the beer/chocolate combination I used, this amount of sugar was perfect. You may be able to get away with using even less, depending on the chocolate and beer you use; taste the batter before pouring it into the pan to see if you need to add more sugar. I would recommend a good quality chocolate with at least 60% cacao. I used an organic dark German chocolate found at Choices Markets; Belgian Callebaut would also be a good bet.

To degas the beer, a trick I learned from a brewer is to pour the pint of beer into a small container or pitcher, then pour it back and forth into another until the head dies down and the beer goes flat.

To serve the cheesecake, berries are an excellent complement — raspberries, strawberries, cherries, black currants. When plating the cake, you could crown the slice with a dollop of whipped cream topped with a berry and mint leaf, then surround the cheesecake with a coulis made from the same fruit. This is a classic Valentine’s dessert — sinfully rich chocolate and the fruit providing the red colour of love.

To pair a beer with the dessert, use either the beer used in the cake or a fruit lambic that is the same as the fruit you used to complete the presentation. If you want to impress dinner guests, stout should be served at cellar temperature in a cognac snifter and the lambic, like champagne, chilled in a flute.

The Importance of Imports

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Some of the offerings at Brewery Creek Liquor Store in Vancouver (Photo © 2008 Rick Green).

Some of the offerings at Brewery Creek Liquor Store in Vancouver (Photo © 2008 Rick Green).

While I’m a strong proponent of “thinking global and drinking local,” Alan Moen makes an interesting point in the Oct/Nov 2008 issue of Northwest Brewing News: that without access to foreign brews, our own beer suffers. I have to agree.

We can see that fact with the emergence of craft brewing in BC in the mid-eighties. If you ask the pioneers why they started brewing, it’s typically because they wanted access to European ales that were unavailable here. Why was Fogg ‘N Suds so popular? Because, suddenly, a whole palette of beer was available when only homogenized macro lager was sold before. Those who had emigrated from, or travelled to, Europe could now satisfy their thirst for flavour.

When I returned from a decade’s absence in Hong Kong and San Francisco, I was surprised to see a decline in the availability of imported beer. The venerable Fogg ‘N Suds was closing restaurants and cutting back on their beer offerings. There seemed to be a stagnation in the local brewing scene. Coincidence?

Within the last 18 months, however, the import side has picked up due to the efforts of beer importers AFIC Group, Beerthirst, and Bravo Beer in conjunction with private beer & wine stores, such as Brewery Creek, Firefly, and Viti. The arrival of Brooklyn Lager seemed to be a catalyst that sparked a swell in imports, giving us the likes of Anderson Valley, Bear Republic, Binchoise, de Blaugies, Bosteels, Dogfish Head, Dupont, Flying Dog, Gordon Biersch, Green Flash, Hook Norton, Lost Coast, Mill Street, Moylan’s, North Coast, Oud Beersel, Pike, Pyramid, Rogue, and Van Steenberge, to name just a few.

In the meantime, the availability and variety of cask ale in Vancouver has been increasing. Dix and The Whip have been offering weekly casks. Now the new Irish Heather offers a cask daily, a first in Vancouver. We’ll see if Victoria catches up as the British brewing tradition is their trademark. We may see Spinnakers start pushing this in 2009.

We’ve also seen brewery expansions, either with capacity increases or moves into new facilities. This has been the case for Cannery, Central City, Dead Frog, Fernie, Howe Sound, Mt. Begbie, Phillips, and R & B. Taylor’s Crossing will be adding new capacity to meet the growing demand for the Mark James Group’s Red Truck Ale and Lager until they complete a dedicated production brewery for those two products on Terminal Avenue in Vancouver.

Consequently, we are also seeing the emergence of new beers. Howe Sound is exploring an Imperial IPA and and Imperial Stout, both of which were consumer tested at this Great Canadian Beer Festival. Fernie Brewing successfully released a Huckleberry wheat beer as a summer seasonal for the first time this year, while Phillips came out with a blackberry wheat in support of local farmland. Granville Island launched two new Limited Release beers—a Witbier and a Belgian-style blonde ale—and will drop their upcoming Merry Monks Doppelbock and Scotch Ale for two new styles. Yaletown Brewing’s Iain Hill will release an Oud Bruin next month.

Then there’s Driftwood Brewing, a completely new brewery in Victoria that aims to carve out a special niche. According to brewmaster, Jason Meyer, they 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.”

The hop shortage has also spurred innovation by forcing some brewers to come up with ways to maintain the flavour profile of their recipes or brew styles that use less hops. Taylor’s Crossing, for example, will focus their remaining seasonals on either unique flavours produced from yeast or from different adjuncts.

It’s an exciting time for brewers and beer drinkers in B.C. We just need to work on the government to remove some of the Byzantine barriers that prevent us from achieving what Belgium, Oregon, and Washington have.