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Posts Tagged ‘Sorrento

CAMRA Recognizes Vancouver’s Best in Beer

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Dustin Sepkowski, Morris Anh, Rose Weir of The Whip

Dustin Sepkowski, Morris Anh, and Rose Weir, photo courtesy Brian K. Smith Photography.

The Vancouver chapter of the Campaign for Real Ale has announced the results of its annual members poll recognizing local and regional excellence in brewing and beer service. Dix BBQ & Brewery was awarded Best Local Brewpub; The Alibi Room is Best Local Beer Cafe, Pub, or Restaurant; and Brewery Creek, Best Local Liquor Store for beer selection.

“While it may seem curious that the best beer is in Surrey and the best brewery in Victoria, this year’s results reflect the growth in popularity of real ale in Vancouver,” explained CAMRA Vancouver President, Rick Green. “We are fortunate to have brewers throughout the province willing to meet the demand here.”

Dix BBQ & Brewery began the trend in 2002, featuring a cask-conditioned ale once a month. With the encouragement of CAMRA Vancouver, the following has grown. Now Dix features a weekly cask ale and hosts a semi-annual cask festival.

“We are very pleased to be awarded favourite brewpub in the Lower Mainland,” said Dix brewer, Derrick Franche. “On behalf of the Dix BBQ & Brewery staff, I’d like to thank CAMRA Vancouver for their support.”

Nigel Springthorpe, Alibi Room publican.

Nigel Springthorpe, photo courtesy Brian K. Smith Photography.

In January of 2007, The Whip Restaurant & Gallery partnered with local microbrewery, R&B Brewing, to offer a weekly cask from brewers all over BC. Last year, they inaugurated the annual Feast of Five Firkins, a special brewmasters’ dinner featuring five courses paired with five firkins from five brewers. Their success is reflected in the three rewards they received this year.

Real ale is also reaching the suburbs. Taylor’s Crossing brewpub in North Vancouver offers a monthly cask ale, as does Surrey’s BigRidge brewpub. Central City Brewing, also in Surrey, launched their annual cask festival last summer.

Not only is Gastown an evolving dining destination, it’s also a growing focal point for craft beer. Steamworks has been the standard bearer since 1995. Two years ago, the Alibi Room changed direction to become a true free house showcasing all of the province’s best beers. Publican, Nigel Springthorpe, noted:

“We went out on a limb to try something different. The build has been slow, but I really feel things are coming together. We pick up our own beer from the Island; we even have small breweries in the Interior carpooling their beer or getting visitors to throw kegs in their trunks to bring to us. Things are changing. Craft beer is becoming a bigger part of our culture here in BC.”

Last year, the Irish Heather moved across the street into a newly-renovated location. As part of their makeover, they became the first establishment in Vancouver to offer cask-conditioned ale daily, supplied by R&B. And with first-rate imports being sold through progressive retailers, such as Brewery Creek, we can expect the bar to be raised in Vancouver.

The results of the 2009 CAMRA Vancouver Awards are:

Best Local Brewpub
Gold: Dix BBQ & Brewery
Silver: Central City Brewing
Bronze: Yaletown Brewing

Best Local Beer Cafe, Pub, or Restaurant
Gold: The Alibi Room
Silver: The Whip Restaurant & Gallery
Bronze: The Wolf & Hound

Best Local Liquor Store
Gold: Brewery Creek Cold Beer & Wine Store
Silver: Firefly Fine Wines and Ales
Bronze: BCLS Signature Store (39th & Cambie)

Best Local Beer Event
Gold: The Whip Real Ale Sundays
Silver: CAMRA On a Mission to Mission; Feast of Five Firkins (tie)

Best BC Brewery
Gold: Phillips Brewing Co., Victoria
Silver: Storm Brewing Ltd., Vancouver
Bronze: Crannóg Ales, Sorrento; R&B Brewing, Vancouver (tie)

Best BC Beer
Gold: Central City Empire IPA
Silver: Storm Black Plague Stout
Bronze: Crannóg Back Hand of God Stout

Best BC Seasonal Beer
Gold: Yaletown Oud Bruin
Silver: Steamworks The Grand espresso stout
Bronze: Granville Island Winter Ale

BC Hop Revival

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You may have heard about the hop shortage that started to bite in 2007. It came about as a consequence of poor harvests in Europe and the US—where we get most of our hops from—farmers converting to more lucrative crops—especially those subsidized by the US government for ethanol production—growing demand from China, and a 2006 warehouse fire in Yakima, WA, that wiped out a significant amount of the U.S. specialty hop supply.

This shortage put the squeeze on a number of B.C.’s small brewers, nearly putting some out of business. Not only did the price of hops increase astronomically, it was difficult to even find a number varieties, particularly those used for making Northwest-style ales.

For over 100 years, B.C. had a thriving hop-growing industry. But due to declining demand and business competition, the last hop farm in the province ceased operations in 1997. Consequently, our brewers are almost entirely at the mercy of outside sources.

As a result, there has been an increased interest in reviving hop farming in B.C. Sorrento organic farmhouse brewer, Crannóg Ales, grow most of their own hops. They have two hop yards, for a total of just over one acre, where they grow Cascade, Challenger, Fuggles, Golding, Mt. Hood, Nuggett, and Willamette.

Christian Sartori stands in front of his hop nursery on the Sartori Cedar Ranch. He has planted Centennial, Magnum, Newport, Sterling, and Willamette hops (Photo © 2008 Rick Green).

Christian Sartori stands in front of his hop nursery on the Sartori Cedar Ranch (Photo © 2008 Rick Green).

Last Wednesday, I visited one of the latest entrants in the province’s hop resurgence, Sartori Cedar Ranch. South of Chilliwack, in the Columbia Valley, Christian Sartori is preparing to transplant Centennial, Magnum, Newport, Sterling, and Willamette from a nursery onto three acres. He just took delivery of a shipment of wooden poles with which to construct trellises. Overseeing Sartori’s hop production is Rick Knight who was foreman at B.C.’s last hop farm, John I. Haas.

We began the tour with a look at the field. It had already been excavated for the poles, so you could examine the underlying soil profile. It was also evident the field had good drainage. Despite recent rains, the surface was not saturated.

We next visited the hop nursery. The rhizomes had only been planted this season, yet they were already sprouting hop cones. Given that they didn’t have to compete with grass and weeds for nutrients, they had also developed dense root systems.

Knight anticipates they will be able to harvest half a hop crop at the end of next season and a full crop in 2010. The hop cones will be dried and then baled for delivery to customers. In the meantime, Sartori plans on planting another nine acres with whatever varieties local brewers are interested in.

With initiatives like these, it’s a good opportunity for small B.C. brewers to form direct partnerships with growers that are otherwise not open to them. They can play a greater role in influencing their hop supply and not have to be as concerned they will be outbid or outmanoeuvered by the larger players in a sometimes volatile market.

Crannóg Ales Holds Hundred-Foot Feast

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Crannóg Ales and Stellar Seeds are hosting a Hundred-Foot Feast on Sunday, August 24. This year’s Feast is a five-course extravaganza of Crannóg’s farm-raised food — from pork and lamb to honeycomb, heritage tomatoes, and garlic — served under their cherry trees. The chefs this year are Ed Walker from Thompson Rivers University Culinary Programme and Rob Sengotta of Shuswap Chefs. Each course is paired with a fresh ale from Crannóg, including some special cask-conditioned ales made only for this event.

Date: August 24 @ 5:00pm until dark
Cost: $75, inclusive of taxes & gratuity
Tickets: sold out in 3 days last year; reserve immediately by calling (250) 675-6847
Crannóg Ales
706 Elson Road
Sorrento, B.C.

Written by BCbrews

August 19, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Of Beer and Cheese

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Two events I recently attended have shown an increased interest in beer & cheese pairing — FigMint’s B.C. Day “Beer on the Wood” and the Vancouver Beer Meetup/CAMRA lambic & cheese tasting at the Alibi Room. Cheese for both events was supplied by Mount Pleasant Cheese, who are becoming noticeably more beer savvy with suggested beer pairings on the tags of some of their cheeses in their Cambie Street shop.

Figmint’s first “Beer on the Wood” was lightly attended. However, they have since been gaining in popularity. This time it was oversold and, thankfully, the additional people were accommodated in the lounge, rather than having only seats at the bar. Highlighting the artisan producers of B.C., the following cheeses were paired with organic farmhouse ales supplied by zero waste brewery, Crannóg:

  • Organic Extra Aged Gouda from Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm, Salmon Arm
      – Beyond the Pale Ale
  • Castle Blue from The Farm House Natural Cheeses, Agassiz
      – Hell’s Kitchen
  • Farm House Brie from The Farm House Natural Cheeses, Agassiz
      – Back Hand of God Stout
  • Farm House Natural Chèvre from The Farm House Natural Cheeses, Agassiz
      – Pooka Cherry Ale

The first three ales are regularly brewed and available all year round, while the Pooka Cherry Ale is a seasonal beer made with 200 lbs. of  Crannóg’s own Bing cherries. (After the tasting, I blended 1/3 of a glass of the latter with 2/3 Back Hand of God to make a delicious Cherry Stout. As Crannóg are a draught only brewery, hopefully you can find the two together somewhere to make your own blend. Otherwise, order two party pigs.)

Chef Lee Humphries created an innovative pairing plate that not only included the common cheese, fruit, and some condiments with bread, but even some hors d-oeuvres to match both the cheese and the beer. For example, with the Farm House Castle Blue, he made a small skewer of pork sausage wrapped in tomato crêpe. For the Farm House Natural Chèvre & Pooka Cherry, it was a cherry soda & vanilla ice cream float and two fresh, ripe cherries. Great value for $25.00.

The lambic & cheese tasting at the Alibi Room highlighted Belgian products recently imported by Bravo Beer of Squamish. Unfortunately, James Walton of Storm Brewing has been the only B.C. brewer to make this classic style of beer available commercially, but he isn’t planning on making it again. Yaletown Brewing brewmaster, Iain Hill, is working on a related beer — an Oud Bruin — that should be released in the fall. For such a challenging style and labour of love, these brewers should be given every encouragement.

Twenty-six people enjoyed a selection of gueuze, fruit lambics, and faro paired with five cheeses selected by Nigel Springthorpe and I. The beers were a mix of commercial lambics from Brouwerij De Troch and Brouwerij Vanhonsebrouck, and traditional lambics from Brouwerij Oud Beersel. The cheeses were Chevry Plain from Carmelis Goat Cheese Artisan, Le Douanier from Fromagerie Fritz Kaiser, Le Bleu Ermite from the Benedictine monks of Fromagerie de l’Abbaye SaintBenoît, Le Riopelle de l’Ile from Société coopérative agricole de l’Île aux Grues, and an extra aged Gouda from Gort’s Gouda.

The tasting began with a comparison between Vanhonsebrouck’s St. Louis Gueuze and Oud Beersel’s Oude Gueuze Vieille. The cheeses best paired with these very sour beers were the stronger-tasting Le Bleu Ermite and Le Douanier.

We then followed with a three-way comparison between De Troch Chapeau Kriek, Oud Beersel Oude Kriek Vieille, and Vanhonsebrouck St. Louis Premium Kriek. Duck confit croquettes would have nicely paired with the aged kriek, but people were hungry and devoured them even before the first beer was paired. The commercial krieks, the Chapeau Abricot, and the St. Louis Premium Framboise that were sampled after went well with the Chevry Plain and triple-cream Le Riopelle de l’Ile.

The final beer of the evening’s tasting was the St. Louis Premium Faro. Unfortunately, the B.C. Liquor Store that the beer was ordered from did not fulfill the order for the Chapeau Faro that was planned for a comparison. Nevertheless, by that point, participants were quite satisfied and enjoyed the faro with the carmel flavour of the aged Gouda.

If you are interested in doing your own beer and cheese pairing, see Janet Fletcher’s article on the subject in the San Francisco Chronicle.

FigMint ‘BC Day’ Beer & Cheese Tasting

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Wine and cheese is such a cliché that many people scoff or are skeptical that beer and cheese go together. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Beer-pairing author and Brooklyn Brewing brewmaster, Garrett Oliver, is impassioned in his advocacy of the superiority of beer when it comes to pairing with cheese. Janet Fletcher of the San Francisco Chronicle also wrote a good article on the topic.

Curious now? Then, I recommend taking in FigMint’s next ‘On the Wood’ tasting series, featuring a ‘BC Day’ beer & cheese pairing theme. Executive Chef, Lee Humphries, will present four BC artisan cheeses supplied by Mount Pleasant Cheese (3432 Cambie Street, Vancouver) and organic ales from Sorrento’s organic farm brewery, Crannóg:

Tickets are $25 with seating limited to sixteen. Call today to reserve a spot:

Thursday, August 7, 2008
FigMint Restaurant & Lounge
500 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver
Tel: (604) 875-3312