B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Tree Brewing

Moving Mountains

with 8 comments

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder Chowdown

with one comment

Boundary Bay Smoked Salmon Chowder Having been very impressed with the Granville Island Brewing / Pacific Institute of Culinary ArtsWinter Ales and Fare” cooking competition, I’m pleased to announce another food and beer contest comes right on its heels.

On Wednesday, November 25, the Vancouver Aquarium‘s Ocean Wise program is hosting their 2nd annual Seafood Chowder Chowdown in conjunction with the Craft Brewers Association. The following ten Ocean Wise chef finalists will battle it out to be the BC Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder Champion 2009: Chef Wesley Young (C Restaurant), Chef Josh Wolfe (COAST  Restaurant), Chef Matt and Andrew Christie (Go Fish), Chef Chris Whittaker (O’Doul’s Restaurant), Chef Sarai De Zela Pardo (Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts), Chef Jasen Gauthier (Provence Marinaside), Chef Michael Carter (The Refinery), Chef Randy Jones (Whistler Blackcomb), Chef Myke Shaw (Vancouver Aquarium Catering & Events), Chef Nobu Ochi (Zen Japanese Restaurant).

Granville Island Brewing, Phillips Brewing, R&B Brewing, Tree Brewing, and Whistler Brewing will each be partnered with two of the chefs to come up with beer pairings for their chowder. These, along with the ten chowders and other beers from the breweries’ portfolios, will be available for guests to sample in the extraordinary setting of the Aquarium at night. At $35 per ticket, this is a phenomenal value.

You get to choose the People’s Choice Award, while five esteemed judges—Chef David Hawksworth, Jamie Maw, Chester Carey, Guy Dean, Kim Stockburn—will determine this year’s champion. Chef Quang Dang of C Restaurant was last year’s 2008 Sustainable Seafood Chowder Champion.

As wine is often an ingredient in chowder, I’m looking forward to seeing what the chefs will come up with in respect to beer. The Smoked Salmon Chowder pictured here is made by Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro in Bellingham. It paired wonderfully with Buy tickets!their Chinook IPA, an annual special release beer that’s sold to raise funds for the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association.

The Seafood Chowder Chowdown serves as a good model for other cooking competitions that also lend themselves very well to pairing with beer. Two that I can think of right off the top of my head are the Canadian Festival Of Barbecue And Chili at Eat! Vancouver and the Gastown Blues & Chili Fest. An IPA and curry cookoff would also be brilliant.

2nd Annual BC Ocean Wise Seafood Chowder ChowDown
Wednesday, November 25, 2009 @ 6:00 – 9:00 pm
Vancouver Aquarium, Stanley Park
Tickets: $35 / person

Creemore Springs Buying Granville Island

with 7 comments

Creemore Springs BreweryIt was announced yesterday that Creemore Springs Brewery (a Molson Coors Canada subsidiary) intends to acquire Granville Island Brewing from Andrew Peller Limited. No changes in Granville Island’s operations are currently anticipated. According to the press release, Creemore’s primary reason for buying Granville Island is to offer a broader portfolio across more markets in Canada. This offers the potential for both to become national brands.

Craft beer aficionados are concerned about what role Molson Coors may play in this. However, according to Ontario beer writer, Greg Clow, “Molson has taken a very hands-off approach to Creemore, similar to the way that Sleeman basically left Unibroue alone. The beer is still brewed in the same place on the same equipment by the same people.”

Granville Island BrewingThere is some irony in this deal. The raison d’être of craft brewing in British Columbia—begun by the likes of Horseshoe Bay Brewing, Spinnakers, Granville Island, and Vancouver Island Brewery—was to offer more choice to British Columbians than the Big Three, whose mass-produced lager dominated the market to such an extent that it was synonymous with “beer.”

What role did Molson, one of the aformentioned triumvirate, play in this? How hands-off will they remain? Won’t it be better for Granville Island to be owned by brewers, rather than winemakers?

The best-case scenario is that Molson Coors will remain behind the scenes and merely provide Creemore Springs/Granville Island with the financial means to expand craft beer consumption across Canada. This allows them to profit from beer’s fastest growing market segment without generating nearly as much controversy and suspicion from beer aficionados that creating faux craft beer brands and fictitious breweries has done.

Should Molson Coors decide to become more involved in the day-to-day brewing with Creemore Springs/Granville Island beers suffering as a result, they will just be further examples of craft beer compromised by the corporate mentality. The customer base will shift with the more quality conscious moving to, perhaps Phillips or Tree; they will be replaced by industrial lager drinkers who have discovered their taste buds and want to move towards something more interesting.

However, one thing is certain. Regardless of what happens, craft beer in B.C. is here to stay. With three new microbreweries starting up in the last year, there is no shortage of those wanting to offer us a better brew. Seeing what is happening in the U.S., there is ample room for growth in Canada.

For the original Creemore Springs/Granville Island press release, see Canadian Beer News. You can also join the discussion on this deal at The Vancouver Sun, The Globe and Mail, and the CBC.

Kelowna Craft Ale Enthusiasts Treated to Brewmaster’s Dinner

leave a comment »

It’s hard to cover the entire territory of B.C. single-handed in any great detail. Therefore, I’ve decided to invite those who are involved in our craft beer scene in some capacity to contribute to the B.C. Beer Blog about their particular niche or region. Here is my first guest blogger from the Okanagan, Rob Trent, who is spreading the word about craft beer in wine country, along with his cohorts at the Okanagan Tapmasters Society.

Craft beer enthusiasts in the Okanagan had something to cheer about recently when Kelowna’s Tree Brewing teamed up with Cabana Bar and Grille to present a Brewmaster’s Dinner. Cabana chef, Ned Bell, one of Canada’s foremost culinary talents, created four sumptuous courses plus appetizers to pair with six different Tree brews.

The evening started in grand Okanagan fashion with appetizers of Jumbo Prawns and Hot Wings served on the patio. Tree Brewmaster, Stefan Buhl, provided a unique cask-conditioned Kelowna Pilsner and his seasonal Hefeweizen to accompany the plethora of pre-dinner treats. Read the rest of this entry »

Beer Festival in Wine Country

with 2 comments

Patrick Cumisky serving up some Central City Red Racer IPA.

You may be surprised to learn that it takes a lot of good beer to make a fine wine. That might explain why Penticton’s Cannery Brewing sells more beer in Naramata than all of Alberta and why Silverado Brewing operates a burgeoning brewpub on the grounds of a winery in Napa. It may also explain why the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale in Penticton has no problem still selling out in its fourteenth year.

This year was the first time I attended the OFOA. I had heard the festival was starting to get on the rowdy side in recent years (from the perspective of older beer geeks like myself). My suspicions were aroused when a half-dozen twenty-something males in the lineup in front of me started whooping and hollering even before the venue doors had opened! They were not already drunk. I guess the OFOA must be their biggest event of the year — combine drinking and two-dimensional food (pizza) with skirt-chasing and brawling et voilà, Christmas in April.

How about some Paddock Wood London Porter?

How about some Paddock Wood London Porter from Saskatoon?

I expected, therefore, to see plenty of young bucks drinking themselves into alcohol-induced belligerency, rather than taking the time to learn about and appreciate the beer. However, festival organizers seemed to have taken note of the downward trend and made some changes. Tickets were reduced by 1,000 for each of the festival’s two days, the cost was increased, and sales were strictly limited to before the event. It was also suggested that the music, for the most part, was chosen to coax a more mellow mood than feed the fire. These measures and vigilant security seemed to effectively keep a lid on things. A number of vendors expressed to me a resulting improvement.

On the tasting side, the majority of the festival was devoted to craft beer. There were 17 microbreweries directly represented, including four Washington breweries; two importers poured five beers from four foreign craft breweries; two mass-market beers squeaked in over the bar; and a smattering of alcopops and a macro-cider were there for the females who think they don’t like beer and will continue to think so until their menfolk graduate from drinking macro lager as their everyday beer.

Crannog brewmaster, Brian MacIsaac, accepts the Peoples Choice Award for his Back Hand of God Stout.

Crannog brewmaster, Brian MacIsaac, accepts the People's Choice Award for his Back Hand of God Stout.

Molson Canadian managed to weasel in a pseudo presence at the Boston Pizza booth, unofficial sponsor of unhealthy eating and, by extension, unhealthy drinking. Nevertheless, the food offering was actually better than the Washington Cask Beer Festival. The Barking Parrot took it for best value in my books. (How can you beat a cheeseburger for $1.00?) The Kettle Valley Station Pub offered a decent Louisiana Chicken Burger for $2.00. However, the best eating was easily from Salty’s Beach House — Thai Mini Meatballs, Scallops Remoulade, and fresh-shucked oysters. How civilized! The majority of festivalgoers seemed to agree too as Salty’s won the award for best food.

While there were seven hours on Saturday to make your way through the 60-odd beers worth trying; between drinking, chatting with brewers & fellow CAMRA members, eating, and taking in some of the entertainment, I didn’t manage tasting them all. Mind you, I’d had a number already. Things especially slowed down later in the day when the crowd got much thicker and lineups were ten deep in places. I mostly concentrated on trying what was new to me and found myself quite satisfied by the end.

The festival finale was the announcement of the Industry and People’s Choice awards. The people chose Crannóg’s Back Hand of God Stout as the festival’s best beer. A panel of judges, including my editor at Northwest Brewing News, Alan Moen, selected Pyramid Apricot Ale as the best macro beer, while Shuswap Lake’s (aka Barley Station) Sam McGuire’s Pale Ale was their choice for best micro beer. And that’s what I would call a successful conclusion.

For more OFOA photos, see my Flickr Beer Festivals Set. I also have some photos from my tour of Cannery Brewing the day before.

Tree Goes Hop Head to Hop Head with Green Flash

with 18 comments

In yet another case of lupulin litigation — or the threat thereof — Kelowna’s Tree Brewing served notice on San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing Co. to cease using the name “Hop Head” in BC.  Since August 2008, Green Flash has been selling its Hop Head Red Ale in select private liquor stores, mostly in the Lower Mainland. Tree brews Hop Head India Pale Ale.

This is the fourth case in two years in which BC craft breweries have been involved in legal disputes over trademarks. In 2007, Vancouver’s Mark James Group demanded Victoria’s Phillips Brewing stop using the name Blue Truck because it was too similar to its Red Truck brand. Last year, England’s Wychwood Brewery threatened punitive action against Vancouver’s R&B Brewing as they felt the market would be confused between the latter’s Hop Goblin’ India Pale Ale and their Hobgoblin Ale. (Memo to Wychwood: we aren’t confused and are pissed off you think us to be that stupid.) Also last year, Sleeman took Aldergrove’s Dead Frog to task over use of clear bottles. Dead Frog isn’t backing down and will battle it out in the courts.

Lawyers Win, Drinkers Lose

Tree President, Tod Melnyk, said Tree was obligated to protect its trademark, otherwise they could lose it. He felt the onus was on Green Flash and its agents to perform due diligence before entering a market. Since he received no telephone call from anyone representing Green Flash, he instructed Tree’s lawyer to send notice to Green Flash. Green Flash, being a small brewery, will not contest this in court. British Columbia is a small market for them, therefore, they will discontinue shipping Hop Head Red Ale here.

While Melnyk is correct in wanting to protect his trademark and that Green Flash ought to have done their due diligence and contacted him, it doesn’t necessarily indicate any hostile intent on the part of Green Flash. A phone call might have straightened out any misunderstanding or oversight, and an agreement reached so that consumers could continue purchasing both beers. Unfortunately, we won’t know if this could have happened. Tree’s decision was to initiate communication through their lawyer, which is rarely conducive to friendly dialogue. Now we have one less award-winning craft beer to purchase in BC.

Craft Brewers’ Code

While one expects corporations to speak to small businesses through their lawyers, the cases of Mark James/Phillips and Tree/Green Flash are different. All four are craft brewers. And whenever they employ corporate tactics without attempting to speak directly to each other, we all lose.

In the case of the Red Truck/Blue Truck tiff, Phillips conceded to avoid costly legal expenses. However, this raised the ire of craft beer drinkers in southern Vancouver Island, spawning “Better Dead than Red” t-shirts. In the process, the publicity of the case raised the profile of Phillips and the experience prompted them to release a new beer, their Accusation Ale, to emphasize the pettiness of it all. Had Mark James employed a more co-operative approach with Phillips, they could have worked together to improve craft beer’s market share vis-a-vis industrial lager, but the opportunity is probably lost. Red Truck will likely face a higher barrier to entry across the strait if they ever decide to make a go of it.

One reason why craft beer has grown considerably in the US is because they have craft brewing guilds where the brewpubs and breweries support each other in the fight against the beer behemoths. Case in point: Collaboration not Litigation Ale. Avery Brewing and Russian River Brewing both brew Belgian-style ales called Salvation. Rather than square off against each other in the so-called halls of justice, their respective brewers sat down together and decided to collaborate by blending their two Salvations for a special annual seasonal release, CNLA. So instead of one company forcing both to contribute to the lawyers’ welfare fund, they profit from each other’s good will.

This is much less the case in BC. Some microbreweries are not above poaching another’s taps because it’s the low-hanging fruit. All this does is cannibalize the beachhead craft beer clings to in the province. From the perspective of the big boys, the divided will remain conquered and the multitude will continue to swig soulless swill. Guess who the winner is. Hint: it isn’t you.

Market Mayhem

As in the Mark James/Phillips case, being legally right doesn’t always mean coming out ahead. One needs to consider the market’s dynamics before going such a route.

With the current state of beer in BC, it’s the conglomerates that have a huge advantage. Their deep pockets mean they can afford to deliver a constant stream of brainwashing to the uninitiated and the oblivious, never mind being able to buy shelf space and tap handles. It’s impossible to compete head to head, therefore, a different approach is required.

For the craft brewing underdog, a more fruitful avenue is to focus on early adopters. If they enthusiastically embrace your product, they will evangelize it for free. It will then influence those around them because the message comes from a more objective authority, not a self-interested business entity. The more the message is verified and accepted, the wider the circle radiates from friend to friend. With today’s technology and the power of social media, this process can proceed very rapidly.

It also works the same for negative news, but even faster. The average BC beer drinker who doesn’t care for craft beer isn’t affected by the legal manoeuvres of matroyshka multinationals. The conglomerates will fight it out in court with their legal legions and their products will still be around at the end of the day. In the case of craft brewers, however, a legal loss may mean the demise of a beer or even the brewery. Deprive early adopters of a quality product, prepare to incur their displeasure and have that spread through their network. This is similar to what spawned CAMRA in the UK.

Another potential cost to Tree is if they ever intend to enter the US market. As part of the craft-brewing fraternity, they may have been able to count on the support of their American brethren to establish a foothold across the 49th parallel. Given the choice that was made, however, they may be treated as a hostile competitor and find the going much tougher.

I hope Canadian craft breweries will give more serious consideration to how they relate to each other and their neighbours in the future. We still have a long ways to go before we gain a share of the market for craft beer comparable to Oregon and Washington. We can only hope we’ll get there.

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