B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Rob Monk

Casks in Victoria

with one comment

Spinnakers brewer, Rob Monk, pours some Real Ale in the pub at Spinnakers.

Spinnakers brewer, Rob Monk, pours some Real Ale in the pub at Spinnakers.

Spinnakers started the cask ale trend in Victoria at the beginning of this year by tapping a cask daily at 4:00pm. What a trend to start! This evening, there is a cask of Blue Bridge Double IPA at Spinnakers for $5+tax, but The Office Lounge would like to respond with a cask of Driftwood Ale from 5:30-8:30pm.

Next week—Friday, July 31—a cask of Oaked Scotch Ale will be available at Swans, starting at 4:30 p.m. for $6.75+tax. Not to be outdone, Solomon’s has just announced a cask of dry-hopped Driftwood Ale on August 7 at 4:20pm.

What an exciting couple weeks ahead for those with an appreciation for fresh beer in Victoria. Let’s hope this is a trend that continues.

~ Kris Constable, Victoria

Advertisements

150 Years of BC Brewing

with one comment

You may have heard that British Columbia turned 150 in 2008. Of course that’s just a gleam in the eye compared to Quebec City’s fourth centennial, so there wasn’t quite as much of a fanfare here, not that we could top Quebecers who are more cultured than we lotus eaters. One aspect of our anniversary that seemed to have been virtually overlooked, however, was that it also coincided with 150 years of brewing in BC.

I suppose the reason for this oversight is that it seems like we’ve only had 25 years of brewing history worth paying attention to. (After all, who bothers with Canadian brewing history outside of living memory except for the ultra beer geeks?) We took a wrong left at Albequerque with Prohibition and are only just beginning to find our way back after some 60 years. Think of the opportunity cost that represents!

Fortunately, with Greg Evans, Victoria has a knowledgeable beer historian who can relate beer’s beginnings on the Wet Coast. He reminded the good people of CAMRA Victoria and Spinnakers that a William Steinberger of Cologne, Germany, arrived in Fort Victoria in 1858, seeking his fortune in the Fraser River Gold Rush. Having previously worked in a brewery, however, he realized a fortune could be made making beer for thirsty gold seekers. Consequently, he established the Victoria Brewery near Swan Lake in Saanich, the first Canadian brewery west of the Great Lakes. Steinberger grew his own hops and he had a ready supply of barley available from the Puget Sound Agricultural Company. They had lost their Russian customers due to the outbreak of the Crimean War. Although Steinberger only brewed for two years, the Victoria Brewery established a strong enough foundation to build a lasting beer culture.

On November 22, CAMRA Victoria members, along with representatives of the German Canadian Cultural Society, gathered at Spinnakers to toast a century and a half of BC brewing. Brewmaster Rob Monk made a special Kölsch for an appropriate Steinberger salute. As Canada’s first brewpub, it was a fitting location to honour this pioneer. Perhaps in 25 years we’ll be better prepared and celebrate 175 years of B.eer C.ountry throughout the province.

Spinnakers Boosts Victoria Real Ale

with one comment

Until recently, the hotbed of BC cask-conditioned ale — aka real ale — was Vancouver. As Real Ale has a distinctly British pedigree (as you might glean from having heard of the Campaign for Real Ale), this is somewhat surprising, given Victoria’s British heritage (royal this, that, and the other thing; high tea; double-decker buses, etc.). However, you could only find a cask served at Spinnakers every Friday. Whereas in Vancouver, aside from its three annual cask festivals, a cask is always on at the Irish Heather, is featured every week at Dix and The Whip, and is offered monthly at BigRidge and Taylor’s Crossing. Ironically, a greater number of Vancouver Island brewers were supplying Vancouver with cask ale than their own patrons.

To address this paradox, Spinnakers has aggressively ramped up their real ale production. Now, every weekday, they are tapping a different cask in the taproom at 4:00pm. These are not just cask versions of their regular beer. Brewer Rob Monk is taking advantage of the cask’s small size (40 L) to experiment with different, innovative recipes. For example, tomorrow will feature a Basil IPA, next Tuesday there will be a Maple Nut Brown Ale, and on January 22, it’s a French Oaked Belgian Blonde.

Although brewing real ale represents more work for the brewer, it offers them an enticing advantage. When creating esoteric or extreme beers, brewing, say, a 10 hectoliter batch exposes them to much greater financial risk. Most beer drinkers in BC are not that adventurous or even beer savvy, considering how much macro lager is sold here. It would be hard selling so much of an unconventional beer in such a small market (compared to the size of the US). Brewing 40 L, on the other hand, is a completely different proposition. Now the brewer can afford to be creative and may, cask by cask, gradually convert enough of the clientele to be able to brew a full batch of a beer they would not have previously accepted. This is what seems to be happening in Vancouver.

The vanguard of brewing in BC is mostly found in its brewpubs (except for Kelowna and Penticton). Typically, they will offer a range of beer styles from lager to stout, Hefeweizen to IPA. Real ale is the next frontier. Hopefully, Spinnakers will now do for Victoria what Dix and R&B have done for Vancouver. A regular supply of real ale is a good thing that every self-respecting pub should have. The further away we get from BC’s beer parlour tradition, the better.

New Brewery Ferments in Victoria

leave a comment »

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