B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Russell Brewing

Is the Middle Kingdom the Next Craft Beer El Dorado?

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Rick Green visits Bund Brewery, Shanghai.With the craft beer market share in BC at 20% and the number of craft breweries in the province approaching 100, the landscape is starting to look a lot like Downtown Vancouver’s skyline. That’s not to say the market can’t sustain more breweries, given the other 80% that hasn’t come under the craft beer umbrella, but there will need to be more growth. The question is, where will it come from?

No Sure Bet

The easy days – if there really ever was such a thing – are over. Considering names like Surgenor, DIX, Taylor’s Crossing, and R&B, opening a craft brewery in BC is no longer a sure thing. Having a passion is not enough to carry a business. Now, a lot more dispassionate business acumen has to go with it. Marketing needs to be a fundamental component of one’s business plan, not an afterthought. That means realistically analyzing the market to find your niche and developing a strong brand around it before spending a cent on real estate and plant. Or for those with an existing business, it’s time to take a hard look at where the industry is going and ask yourself if major changes will be needed in how you operate to stay in the game.

As I anticipated, increased competition has breweries – especially those without a clearly defined niche – increasingly searching for new markets. Logically, the first forays outside BC have been to Alberta and Washington. Then, it’s only natural that the rest of North America eventually came into view. Anywhere else?
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Another Milestone: The Alibi Room 200th

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Nigel Springthorpe spoofs Michael JacksonI remember there was a time when a new change-up in the Alibi Room’s draught lineup was newsworthy of being posted on this blog. Those then became such a regular occurrence that even Nigel couldn’t keep up with posting copies of his new draught menu to his own Web site. Now we are lucky to get the occasional tweet, warning us of the odd noteworthy beer going on tap.

On December 3, 2009, the Alibi Room celebrated its 100th tap list with a party that has become legend amongst local craft beer nerds and brewers alike, not least of which was Nigel’s souvenir the beer geek’s guide to the Alibi’s 100th beer list. A shade over a year later, and three and a half years after this ball got rolling, it’s time to toast the 200th:

The Alibi’s 200th Beer List
December 22, 2010, 5:00pm
157 Alexander Street, Vancouver

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Moving Mountains

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Sometimes, changing a culture feels like trying to move a mountain. You put all your strength into it and it doesn’t budge. Of course, being that lone wacko on the fringe is like battling windmills with a toothbrush, you can easily be dismissed. Having acquaintances with earth moving equipment, though, begins to lessen the odds.

Fun at the Fest-of-Ale

Modelling beerwear at the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale, Penticton - April 4, 2009.

In BC’s craft beer scene, we witnessed a slight tremor in the mountain in 2009. Spinnakers Gastro Brewpub inaugurated their first cask ale festival on March 14, which quickly sold out. They followed with another fest on November 21. Both days of Penticton’s Okanagan Fest-of-Ale on April 3 & 4 were completely subscribed. Summer Caskival at Dix Barbecue and Brewery in Vancouver garnered a full house. The Great Canadian Beer Festival always sees full attendance on both days. CAMRA Vancouver’s Oktoberfest celebration at the Granville Island Tap Room sold out. X-mas X-treme at Dix on December 5 had to close its doors less than two hours into the event because of reaching capacity. Now we find that the third annual Feast of Five Firkins at Vancouver’s The Whip Restaurant & Gallery sold out in a day!

This can be a bit of a problem for CAMRA members and their circle who have supported many of these events from the beginning. Venues are at capacity when you visit, or events are sold out with even a day’s delay. What’s a poor beer aficionado to do? Well, it indicates an expansion of capacity is necessary. Events may have to grow or become more frequent. More establishments will have to be persuaded to part with their slavish 10 taps of crap and begin offering a rotating selection from other parts of the beer spectrum. Pioneers have to venture out to tame the frontier, bringing living colour to the glasses of macro-lagerdom.

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X-mas X-treme Strong Ale Festival

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One of Vancouver’s best beer tasting events is on tomorrow at Dix BBQ & Brewery. This is an annual event held every December to showcase a variety of strong ales that highlight the seasonality of beer. In the colder weather, you might be inclined to reach for a warming beer, as opposed to a refreshing beer that you would seek in summer.

Typical winter warmers are barley wines, Belgian strong ales, bocks, English strong ales, imperial stouts, Scotch ales, and spiced ales. Here’s this year’s lineup:

  • BigRidge IPA
  • Central City Spiced Winter Ale
  • Crannóg Old Puddin’ Head
  • DIX Saison Visceral
  • DIX Smoked Plum Porter
  • DIX India Red Truck Ale
  • DIX Rum-Candied Mandarin Orange & Organic Espresso cask-conditioned Imperial Stout
  • Dockside Winter Ale
  • Granville Island Jolly Abbot
  • Howe Sound Father John Christmas
  • Longwood Scotch Ale
  • Mission Springs Winter
  • R & B Auld Nick
  • Russell Cranberry Porter
  • Steamworks Blitzen
  • Storm Snakebite
  • Swans Scotch Ale
  • Taylor’s Crossing Dubbel
  • Tree cask-conditioned Double Hophead
  • Whistler Bear Arse Barleywine
  • Whistler Vanilla Bourbon Porter
  • Yaletown Le Nez Rouge
  • Yaletown Oud Bruin

Some of the brewers like to experiment a little, so you often get a one-off beer that you may never ever taste again. Many of the brewers also attend the event, which is a good opportunity to get to know your local brewer. In addition to the full food menu at Dix, there will be a special open-faced turkey sandwich with stuffing and gravy.

For some of the best beer in the province, make your way down to:
Dix Barbecue & Brewery
871 Beatty Street, Vancouver
Saturday, December 6, 2008, noon – 5:00pm
Cost: $20 entry ($10 CAMRA members); $1.00 per 4oz sample

The Straight Readers’ Best Vancouver Beer

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I’m always interested to see when readers of The Georgia Straight weigh in on what they consider to be the best of xyz. It serves as a useful gauge in terms of current popular taste and understanding.

In terms of beer, their Best of Vancouver 2008 includes three beer-related categories—B.C. Beer, Brew Pub, and Local Microbrewery. The winners for each category are, respectively, Granville Island Brewing, Yaletown Brewing Company, and Granville Island Brewing.

The listings under B.C. Beer were somewhat confusing as it refers to beer in the singular. Perhaps there were a variety of different answers that were synthesized into a general ‘Granville Island Brewing’ and ‘Okanagan Spring Brewery.’ The best answer, though, which the editors listed under the heading, was, “I can’t just pick one!” If you read my article, you’ll see why, if you don’t already know. Given the winners in the other two categories, it was disappointing to see that second place went to a mass-market lager.

For the final two categories, the listing of Granville Island Brewing is a bit problematic because it is neither a brewpub, nor a microbrewery. GIB is not a pub or restaurant that brews beer on its own premises and sells 25% or more of its beer on site. The Tap Room is strictly that, a brewery tap, and shouldn’t be confused with a brewpub.

GIB’s annual production is 60,000 hetcolitres when, according to the US Brewers Association, a microbrewery is a “brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels (17,600 hectoliters) of beer per year.” In fact, GIB is a regional craft brewery. It also isn’t a local brewery, per se, because most of its production is in Kelowna. The only beer that is produced locally on Granville Island is its Limited Release beers (aka seasonals) brewed by Vern Lambourne. These are packaged only in 650ml bottles.

In the City of Vancouver, there are only two microbreweries—R & B and Storm. In Metro Vancouver, there are three, with the addition of Russell Brewing. Russell is on the verge of becoming a regional brewery as its current capacity is 16,000 hectolitres. However, their status, like Granville Island, may also be somewhat ambiguous because of their merger with Fort Garry Brewing of Winnipeg. Excess production capacity at Fort Garry is being used to fulfill Russell’s contract for BC Place Stadium. Therefore, actual production of Russell-branded product may, at some point, exceed 17,600 hectolitres, if it hasn’t already.

I hope The Georgia Straight readers will renew their search for Vancouver’s best beer. I look forward to seeing who the winners are next year.

Lions to Launch Beer of Champions

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BC Lions LagerRussell Brewing, in partnership with the BC Lions, is launching BC Lions Lager on September 4. Although Granville Island Brewing has had their Whitecaps IPA since 2006, this is actually the first time that a Canadian professional sports team has developed a proprietary beer brand.

12-packs of cans will be selling in government and private liquor stores for a recommended price of $19.34. To really be set for the game, however, you’ll need to get your very own beer launching fridge to avoid those pesky trips to the kitchen for a refill.

My prediction? For the Leos to win the Grey Cup, they’ll need to bring out a secret weapon — some IPA!