B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘porter

Super Bowl Super Duds

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A Province article on February 1 explained how their sports department attempted to discover “the best refreshing brew to enjoy” while watching the Super Bowl. Naturally, given the sports orientation of the exercise, this year’s “ultimate Super Sud” was to be determined by a “knockout-style bracket.” The contenders? BC’s eight top-selling beer brands and eight “lesser-known but still tasty” ones. The tasting panel was comprised of six males and one female. (Do we detect a bias?) For the results, read on and weep.

The provincial top eight sellers are:
1. Corona
2. Molson Canadian
3. Kokanee
4. Budweiser
5. Coors
6. Stella Artois
7. Miller Genuine Draft
8. Alexander Keith’s

Notice that seven of the eight are mass-market lagers. All eight are heavily advertised — ergo, the power of media in brainwashing the public. Many would call these everyday beers for the working man, but think of what really is the working man’s brew. Is it beer’s equivalent of Wonder Bread, a product mass-produced by a large corporation to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to maximize profits? These contenders strike me as the equivalent of trying to find the tastiest meal by comparing McDonald’s with Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway, KFC, Panago, Tim Horton’s, and Denny’s. Because the food can be had fast and cheap, notwithstanding the ultimate high price paid, people are persuaded they are, somehow, good.

The remaining eight were:
9. Sleeman’s  (sic) Honey Brown
10. Carlsberg
11. Grolsch
12. Innis and (sic) Gunn
13. Bowen Island Pale
14. Phoenix
15. St. Ambroise
16. Yanjing

“Phoenix” is actually Phillips Phoenix Gold Lager. St. Ambroise could be any one of eight beers produced by Montreal’s MacAuslan Brewing; in this case, it happens to be their Apricot Wheat Ale.

In the first round, the match-up was between Corona & Yanjing, Canadian & St. Ambroise, Kokanee & Phoenix Gold, Budweiser & Bowen Island, Coors versus Innis & Gunn, Stella & Grolsch, MGD & Carlsberg, and Keith’s & Sleeman. Going on to the next round were Yanjing, Canadian, Kokanee, Budweiser, Innis & Gunn, Grolsch, MGD, and Sleeman. Except for the I&G, all the remaining contenders are lagers.

In the Province article’s commentary, there were some interesting remarks. Corona was characterized as “bland” and “distinctly unimpressive.” So why is it the top-selling beer in BC? If you are what you eat/drink, what would that say about the people here? Of course, being the top-seller doesn’t necessarily mean that the majority of people here buy it. Those that like it may guzzle it a lot, but the rest of us may be justly satisfied with drinking less and drinking well.

Naturally, the St. Ambroise was deemed a girly beer (“This isn’t a Super Bowl beer…”), so the female panelist was rapidly slapped down. But Innis & Gunn proved Kevlar to the Silver Bullet, keeping her in the game as it was her clear favourite. Kokanee trumped Phoenix Gold because it’s “a good, standard, hoser beer.” That clearly deserves a replay. Budweiser dominated Bowen Island, but all of the latter’s tasters were polished off. Sound like the game was rigged? Next to Grolsch, Stella was exposed as “swill,” “rancid and awful.” Better beer does tend to do that. The Sleeman Honey Brown was mischaracterized as an ale. I guess the panel didn’t think a lager could have such flavour.

I was a Kokanee whore. Now I’m changing my ways.
– Rose Weir, The Whip Restaurant & Gallery

The second round pitted Sleeman against Yanjing, Canadian vs. MGD, Kokanee & Grolsch, and Budweiser vs. Innis & Gunn. Given the trend so far, one might expect Sleeman, Grolsch, and Innis & Gunn to get knocked out. Not so. Going on to the semi-finals were Sleeman, MGD, Kokanee, and Budweiser. Comically, Grolsch was characterized as a “Dutch ‘Budweiser.'” Nevertheless, the competition started getting serious. A former CFL player on the panel was reduced to cursing when Bud advanced.

Now at this point, even when you’re drinking swill, the beer can start going to your head. The panel’s choice of sustenance to keep moving the ball forward? Pizza and chips — two of America’s favourite food groups.

With the carbo loading out of the way, the taste of victory was in the mouths of the remaining competitors. Down to the five yard line? MGD and Sleeman! Who’s going to kick the winning field goal? The five times cold filtered contradiction (hint: draft means it isn’t in a bottle) or the beer of colour that’s actually a lager? Potential spoiler: the writer notes that Sleeman comes in clear bottles and “some have said that the taste can be affected by the exposure to light.” However, the panel didn’t seem to think so. I imagine it’s because their bottles weren’t light struck (thus, it’s conclusive this is a myth!). Ever wondered why beer bottles are mostly brown?

Despite the handicap, Sleeman Honey Brown is voted the Super Sud. Why? “…having slogged through so many lighter-tasting beers, they all began to taste the same. But not Sleeman’s.” Wow! A sports-centric group tiring of beer monoculture? We may be starting to get somewhere. But given the glacial rate of progress, I’m not quite prepared to hold my breath. Calling beer “suds” doesn’t indicate to me an appreciable degree of respect for the beverage. Would you catch a writer referring to wine as “plonk?” Only if it were meant to indicate derision.

The first problem with this competition is that the goal was to pick a single beer to imbibe for a whole eight hours. Why do you have to drink just one for the entire duration? What a bore! The other problem was the selection chosen to begin with. Twelve lagers out of 16 evaluated? That’s a distinct stylistic bias. The rabble have yet to discover bocks, porters, dubbels, tripels, quadrupels, saisons, lambics, alts, barley wine, bitters, milds, IPAs, Scotch ale, bière de garde, Rauchbier, Roggenbier, Koelsch, wood-aged ales, red ales, brown ales, Trappist ales, spiced ales, Russian Imperial stout, sahti, Berliner Weisse, Australian sparkling ale, etc. It’s kind of like the Titanic hitting an iceberg: the extent of what exists is not visible from what is merely in the surface.

I’m always puzzled by the strong association of light lager with American football, as epitomized by the Super Bowl beer commercials. If football is such a macho sport, then why do jocks think it is très cool to drink such wimpy, characterless beer? Something more fitting would be a chewy IPA or stout. When faced with the latter, however, the sport nuts are scared of the dark and want the light turned on. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate their image.

In the meantime, stay tuned for periodic beer evaluations from the Thinking Drinkers tasting panel. They will be more even-handed evaluations with an even split between male and female participants. For inspiration, my “first-down” this evening is going to be one of the last bottles of R&B’s Hop Goblin’, which will be replaced with a new brand: same IPA, different name. We can thank the litigious limeys at Wychwood for that.

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New Stout from Cannery

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New maple stout from Pentictons Cannery Brewery.

Penticton’s Cannery Brewing has released a new beer, a 5.5% maple stout. It is smooth and sweet with the maple in balance—not overpowering the base beer. This is Cannery’s first seasonal beer, so it will only be available for a limited time. They intend to release two seasonals per year, following this up with another in the spring.

Most beer with added maple syrup is, naturally, brewed close to the source in eastern Canada and New England. Here in B.C. there is Granville Island Kitsilano Maple Cream Ale and Phillips Draught Dodger Maple Cream Ale, which has since had the maple dropped and warranted a renaming to Slipstream Cream Ale.

Dark beers—such as bocks, brown ales, porters, and stouts—are the preferred styles to add maple syrup to, but some have tried lager and wheat beer, the success of which I cannot personally attest to.

I can see this beer going well with the heartier fare one hankers for during colder weather. A baked, maple-glazed ham just might do the trick or beef ribs with maple barbecue sauce. Stout and bay scallops also pair well which can be emphasized with a stout glaze and some maple-smoked bacon.

Sweet stouts are always a winner with dessert—tarte au sirop d’erable, maple cheesecake, maple pecan pie, maple chocolate cake, or even maple walnut ice cream. This should give you plenty of scope for sampling Cannery’s Maple Stout over the winter.

Granville Island Drops Two Limited Releases

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Many of you may be unaware that Granville Island Brewing makes all of its regular beers in Kelowna. Only the Limited Release beers are brewed on Granville Island by Vern Lambourne. Many of us look forward to a change in season in anticipation of the next GIB Limited Release. Those of you expecting their Merry Monks Doppelbock and Scotch Ale, however, should not get their hopes up. They are being discontinued.

This year it was decided to introduce some new Limited Release beers, meaning some would have to be retired. The first new introductions were a witbier and a Belgian-style blonde ale. The wit turned out particularly well; Lambourne was also happy with it, therefore, we should see it again next year. He wasn’t as happy, however, with the blonde. The yeast didn’t meet his expectations, so its release was immediately halted. We may see a new attempt next year using a different yeast.

The latest seasonal is their regular Oktoberfest Märzen, which will be available until early November. That will be followed by a Trappist-style ale which will replace the Merry Monks. (Personally, I wish they would replace that horrible Winter Ale, but it is a very popular seller.) Cask versions of this will be available at The Whip and the Dix Xmas Xtreme Caskival on December 6. I hope someone else does a Doppelbock, but it takes time, so it may be too late.

In January, Lambourne will have a porter to replace their Scotch Ale. He hasn’t decided the specifics of the recipe just yet, but it will likely be a traditional version without smoke or spice.

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October 15, 2008 at 5:48 pm

Derrick’s Experiment: Smoked-Fruit Beer

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You may be aware of smoked beer made with smoked malt.  Many of you will be familiar with fruit beer (made with the addition of whole fruit, fruit purée, or fruit syrup, not fruited malt). How about smoked-fruit beer?

Derrick Franche, brewmaster at Vancouver’s Dix BBQ & Brewery, will be experimenting with peaches and plums smoked in-house by chef Zai Kitigawa. Franche intends to make smoked peach Hefeweizen & porter, smoked plum Oktoberfest & porter, and an IPA with both smoked peaches and plums.

It will be interesting to see how much smoke comes through in the beer, as well as how much fruit. Apparently, the fruit was lightly smoked, so it may not be that noticable.

Written by BCbrews

September 17, 2008 at 4:56 pm

Alibi Room’s New Draught Lineup

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Nigel Springthorpe is back from the GCBF and a run to Vancouver Island. He also has a pallet of outstanding US microbrews to replace the Rogue Dead Guy arriving imminently. Here’s the latest:

  • Lost Coast Indica IPA: arrives Thursday, tapped as soon as a line is available
  • Longwood IPA
  • Lighthouse Keeper’s Stout
  • Spinnakers ESB, followed by Blue Bridge Anniversary Ale
  • Swans Scotch Ale
  • Taylor’s Crossing Alchemy English Golden Ale: arrives Thursday
  • Tree Hophead: truly wonderful on draught

Also in the pipeline is Deschutes Black Butte Porter and various Rogue kegs that will be exclusive to the Alibi Room in Vancouver.

The Art of Beer Blending

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Blending beer has a history going back hundreds of years. For example, popular convention has it that porter was originally a blend of three ales — a third of ale, beer and twopenny — known as “three threads,” before being named after the class of punters it was most favoured by. (Martyn Cornell, however, has a very interesting article on the origins of porter that disputes the accepted history.)

One of the most widely-known beer blends is a Black and Tan: a blend of pale ale and stout or porter. It’s also been made using lager and stout. I’ve had it at Dix made from cask IPA and stout — a very satisfying drink that was beautifully poured by Aussie bartender Daniel.

I was at Steamworks yesterday and discovered, when chatting with the bartender, that they seem to like experimenting with blending their beers too (not the first time). Their current two seasonals are a Frambozen and an Ipanema Belgian Wit — both excellent beers on their own. Blended together, they make a visually appealing, refreshing, and flavourful drink, called a Berry White. The Frambozen floats atop the straw-coloured Ipanema, with a zone in the middle where the colours blend into each other.

Another off-menu blended beer drink you can order at Steamworks is a Black Berry, which is a blend of Frambozen and Heroica Stout. While you can just ask for your preferred proportion, there are two different approaches by the staff. Some prefer more stout than frambozen, using 1/3 frambozen, 2/3 stout; others prefer the reverse. I tried it with 2/3 frambozen and found it very pleasant. It has a more forward fruit flavour than if you went for the higher proportion of stout, which I tried at FigMint’s B.C. Day On the Wood beer & cheese tasting using Crannóg’s Back Hand of God and Pooka Cherry. (Note to self: next time, try half and half.)

Another blend the Steamworks bartender told me of was their IPA with their fall seasonal Great Pumpkin Ale. I would never have thought of that combination, but now I’m definitely going to try it. However, it probably won’t be the same as last year because their IPA formulation is different now due to running out of their Kent Goldings hops which were the signature variety in the beer.

The latter, in particular, has got me thinking about further exploring beer blending with no holds barred. You may be surprised by what you can discover, so why fence yourself in?

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.