B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Storm Brewing

B.C. Beer Chicago Bound

with one comment

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson made a friendly wager two weeks ago with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley over which city’s team would win the NHL playoffs. Each mayor put up a selection of local products they would give the other if their team lost. With the Canucks losing 5-7 to the Blackhawks in Game 6 in Chicago on Tuesday, Mayor Daley is the lucky winner.

Mayor Gregor Robertson packs up the booty for Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley.

Mayor Gregor Robertson packs up the booty for Chicago Mayor, Richard Daley.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Tightening the Beer Belt?

with 10 comments

A refreshing Storm Hurricane IPA on a sunny day.

A refreshing Storm Hurricane IPA on a sunny day.

Pacific Western Brewing’s Cariboo “Genuine Draft” is flying off the shelves, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun. It’s because the lager is the cheapest six pack in the province. Given the likelihood that it doesn’t taste much different from BC’s top-selling diluted beer brands — Corona, Canadian, Kokanee, Budweiser, Coors, etc. — this isn’t much of a surprise. Why spend $10.75 on a six pack of Canadian when you can get Cariboo for $7.54? Do you really think paying $11.95 for a six pack of Corona means it’s that much better? Does spending an extra $4.00 for imported swill make one cool? When a six pack of locally-brewed Central City Red Racer Pale Ale costs $10.75, definitely not!

Unlike wine, beer is not so expensive that you have to make sacrifices, unless you drink lots of it. In that case, it doesn’t hurt to reconsider your drinking choices or drinking style, for that matter. If you drink a lot of mass-market light lager, maybe the reason is that its lack of flavour is not satisfying, so you keep drinking and drinking until you’re full or drunk. Try drinking an undiluted, unadulterated, unfiltered, unpasteurized craft beer instead. You might find that you are satisfied with drinking less. So in paying a bit more for a more flavourful beer, ironically, you may actually spend less on your overall consumption.

Picking up a growler from your local brewpub may be another option to save some money and, more importantly, the environment. You’ll have to buy the 2L bottle first. After that, just bring it back for a refill and pay the price of a couple of pints, but get 700ml more beer! Central City Brewing in Surrey, for example, normally charges $10 for a refill, but it’s just $8.50 on Sundays. This is cheaper than a six pack of Molson Canadian, but it produces less waste, doesn’t require recycling, and uses a lot less energy over the life of the container. It’s also the freshest beer you will ever get.

Taking this to a bigger scale, you may also be able to get 8.5L party pigs or 20L & 50L kegs from your local craft brewery or brewpub if you’re having a barbecue or throwing a party. It’s got the same advantages of a growler, only you spread the benefits to more people.

In Vancouver, an additional opportunity to reduce your beer expenses is by joining CAMRA Vancouver. Members receive a 10% discount at the Alibi Room, Brewery Creek, Firefly, Viti, and the Wolf & Hound.

Then there’s a more involved way to shrink your beer budget: home brewing. Pseudo-home brewing is using a brew-on-premises (BOP) shop, especially the kind where you don’t have much direct involvement in the actual brewing beyond choosing the style of beer you want and pitching the yeast. To actually get involved in brewing from start to finish, the easiest and cheapest way to get rolling is with a beer kit. Depending on how well-equipped your kitchen is, you may not have to get a lot of extra equipment. You certainly don’t need any fancy gear to brew good beer, nor really a lot of space if it’s just for your own consumption. It’s not that hard to brew beer; it just takes time. The challenge, however, is in making a great beer. Fortunately, there’s lots of help available in the form of books, videos, homebrewer groups, and your local hombrew supply store. Some home brewers I know still go to pubs and buy packaged beer from stores. Others swear by doing it yourself and bask in the savings.

Another option for the beer drinker is to look at some other expenses to see if you can reduce them instead of having to sacrifice enjoying a quality beer. Coffee is one item that most people will be able to reduce the cost of by simply making it themselves. If you typically buy two cups of coffee every day from a coffee shop, assuming you pay $1.50 per cup for drip coffee, that works out to $1,095.00 per year ($1,569.50 for a small Starbucks Americano, $1,825.00 for a medium). On the other hand, if you buy 1/2 a pound of fresh-roasted coffee from your local roaster every week for $8.00 and make it at home and/or at work, it will cost $416.00 and taste better. You save $679.00 (and a lot of waste if you can’t be bothered to use a travel mug when buying from a coffee shop).

While the economy may be forcing you to tighten your belt, you don’t have to go so far as to drink swill to afford drinking beer. It may just mean taking a different approach.

Spinnakers Hosts First Cask Festival

with 2 comments

Speaking of culinary tourism, Spinnakers hosted their inaugural cask festival on March 14 from noon to 5:00pm. As they’ve been tapping a different cask every weekday since December, it was only a matter of time before they would have a festival. I got word that the planning was underway when two of their employees attended the X-mas X-treme Caskival at Dix on December 6 to take notes.

The timing of Spinnakers’ cask festival was somewhat unfortunate in that it coincided with Just Here for the Beer’s Wine & Beer Festival at the Plaza 500 Hotel in Vancouver. Forced to make a choice, I selected Real Ale and an excuse to get out of town. Even with a high chance of rain, a day spent indoors imbibing cask-conditioned ale from some of BC’s top breweries, in the company of brewers and the craft beer cognoscenti, is time well spent.

The event was held upstairs in Spinnakers’ pub, which meant a limited number of tickets were available. Demand seems to have greatly exceeded supply as they sold out rapidly. Perhaps for the next one they will consider a larger venue. However, I doubt they will close off the downstairs dining room as I’m sure they make a lot more money from regular diners than drinkers.

Nineteen beers were featured, so there was adequate space to stage the casks around the room. The lineup was:

Some of the brewers who contributed to the cask festival.

In comparison to the more freestyle nature seen at Dix Caskivals, these beers were fairly indicative of their respective styles. A little bit of experimentation was seen with Canoe’s stout, Granville Island’s Ginger Beer, Spinnakers’ Black Velvet, and Swans’ porter, but nothing as eccentric as Dave Varga’s Masala Pale Ale or Tariq Khan’s Chipotle Cream Ale that they brewed for Caskival. Canoe Habit Espresso Stout is a collaboration with a Victoria coffee roaster. I like both beverages; even better together! Granville Island Ginger Beer appeals to all those ginger lovers with plenty of Hawaiian ginger to spice things up — great food pairing beer. Spinnakers’ Black Velvet was a blend of Irish stout and sparkling white wine. This was my first taste of the fest and I found it tasty, light, and refreshing — somewhat reminiscent of Unibroue Chambly Noire. Swans Pod Porter was conditioned with organic Madagascar vanilla pods, giving it a nicely enhanced vanilla flavour that is a major contrast to Granville Island’s over-the-top, cloying Winter Ale. Lovers of the latter should compare the two in a side-by-side tasting.

Spinnakers Katie Zimmerman announces end of their inaugural cask festival.

Spinnakers Katie Zimmerman announces end of their inaugural cask festival.

Although Phillips did not bring a cask, they did do something out of the ordinary that I found most welcome, despite some people’s grumblings — they served their draught IPA through two randalls, one containing Cascade hops, the other Centennial. Basically, they were dry-hopping the IPA even more on the fly. Delicious!

This was the first opportunity I had to try the mysterious Lighthouse Riptide Pale Ale. It’s their first new beer in three years and I must say that it’s about time! Offering seasonal beers is a basic practice for improving marketing: at the very least, you have more to say to the public to get their attention. Naturally, I was curious to find out more about the Riptide — how is it different from all the other pale ales out there; what malt or hops did they use, etc. Unfortunately, they won’t tell me anything beyond their generic marketese: ‘choicest imported malts, mated with a unique hop blend…’ Doesn’t everyone say that? Actually, no. If you look at the festival programme, virtually all of the other brewers talk about the specific ingredients they used for their beer. No big trade secret. Without specific measurements and knowing the particular brewing techniques, it is highly unlikely a brewer will be able to exactly match another’s beer. There are too many variables. I find the secrecy rather silly. Riptide doesn’t have a je ne sais quoi that makes it truly unique. It’s just another pale ale aiming for broad drinkability.

Five hours of drinking means that you need to have something to eat. Spinnakers is a good place to be hungry. I ordered their pulled pork nachos and Highland Beef Burger. There was no need for dinner after! Nevertheless, as a lagniappe, complimentary handmade white chocolate saison truffles were served to sweeten the day’s experience.
I always find these festivals come to a reluctant end. There’s never enough time to talk in a lot of detail to all of the brewers and your craft beer comrades and still be able to taste all of the beers. Fortunately, if you wanted to stay around, Spinnakers honoured purchased tasting tickets and you could order pints of any of the remaining casks. I had a ferry to catch, so I made a hasty departure with my travelling companions, Spinnakers Barley Wine and India Pale Ale malt vinegars for souvenirs.

The Best of… Beer Confusion

with 6 comments

WE, the weekly formerly known as the West Ender, recently published its ‘The Best of the City’ readers choice awards. In their After Dark section, they had a couple of categories covering beer, so fewer issues for me to have than with the Georgia Straight‘s ‘Best of Vancouver‘ awards. Nevertheless, it is another canary in the coal mine to judge how beer-savvy their readers are. The verdict? Not terribly.

WE had two categories devoted to beer —Microbrewery and Brew Pub. What were the picks?

Microbrewery:

  1. Dockside Brewing Co.
  2. Steamworks Brewing Co.
  3. Granville Island Brewing

Brew Pub:

  1. Yaletown Brew Pub (sic)
  2. Steamworks Brewing Co.
  3. Dockside Restaurant & Brewing Co. (sic)

Problem? Dockside and Steamworks are not microbreweries They produce beer solely for sale on their premises, hence the term ‘brew pub.’ Microbreweries produce beer for sale outside of their premises. They’ve been allowed to have tap rooms to offer visitors a sample of their brews, but full pub service is not available.

So for next year’s ‘The Best of the City’ awards, let’s get what we’re voting on straight. In Vancouver proper, there are three microbreweries — Granville Island, R&B, and Storm — and four brew pubs — Coal Harbour, Dix, Dockside, Steamworks, Yaletown. If the boundary is actually Metro Vancouver, then the options extend from Lions Bay to Delta, Bowen Island to Abbotsford. That excludes Howe Sound Brewing, Whistler Brewhouse, Dead Frog, and Mission Springs. It also doesn’t include Whistler Brewing which doesn’t even brew in Whistler. Granville Island is a bit of an anomaly because the only beer they brew at the island is their seasonal releases. Anything that’s sold in a six-pack is made in Kelowna.

CAMRA Recognizes Vancouver’s Best in Beer

leave a comment »

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

X-mas X-treme Strong Ale Festival

with one comment

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

Caskival: The Coming Beer Culture

with 3 comments

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.