B.C. Beer Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Vancouver Island

Tales of The Vancouver Island Craft Beer Creep: Part 1

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You may be asking yourself, what could I possibly mean by ‘craft beer creep’? Could I be talking about the guy at the bar leering from behind his chalice of porter? Perhaps this is the guy who scoffs at your choice as you stand in the liquor store line with a 12-pack of Bud? Or is this that irritatingly outspoken person on the internet, going off about how this year’s ‘hot beer’ isn’t nearly as good as it was last year? Or could it be something else, something completely different?

Pardon if I go a bit geeky on this next bit, but anyone who has played the Zerg in the globally popular game, Starcraft, will have seen the term ‘Creep Colony’. For the uninitiated, a creep colony spreads out ‘creep’ on the play surface, making it able to place new buildings on it, and spreading out the species’ (the Zerg’s) influence on the game. (For more on ‘creep’ see the Starcraft Wiki.) I’m using this analogy for craft beer because of a trend I am starting to see develop on Vancouver Island.

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Spinnakers Cask Festival 2

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Spinnakers Cask Festival 2

Spinnakers is hosting its second cask festival on November 21, building on the success of its inaugural event on March 14 and the growing profile Real Ale is getting in Victoria. This is also a great opportunity to meet brewers from both the Island and the Lower Mainland, many of whom previously brewed at Spinnakers.

What’s the big deal about meeting a brewer? It’s like knowing a farmer, butcher, baker, or cheesemaker — you have a direct relationship with where your food and drink comes from that helps you to know what you are consuming. You also have a better opportunity to understand the process from source to table and even, perhaps, influence what the producer makes.

Here is the lineup:

  • Central City ESB
  • Dead Frog Oaked Winter Warmer
  • Deschutes Jubelale
  • Dix Barley Wine
  • Driftwood Porter
  • Driftwood #2 TBA
  • Granville Island TBA
  • Lighthouse Winter Ale
  • Longwood Brewpub Imperial Stout
  • Mission Springs Winter Pumpkin Ale
  • R&B Bourbon Oak-meal Stout
  • Spinnakers Gingerbread Ale
  • Spinnakers Mt. Tolmie Dark Ale with Highland Park 18
  • Storm TBA
  • Swans TBA
  • Vancouver Island “Caskannator”
  • Whistler Brewhouse Woodwards IPA

Spinnakers is dedicated to sourcing local ingredients, therefore, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Slow Food and Real Ale than spending an afternoon at the gastropub on Lime Bay.

Time: Saturday, November 21 @ noon – 5:00pm
Place: Spinnakers, 308 Catherine Street, Victoria
Cost: $40 (includes 3 samples, souvenir glass, appetizers)
Tickets: at Spinnakers, both Spirit Merchants locations in Victoria, and CAMRA Vancouver’s Web site

Written by BCbrews

November 9, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Brews Cruising in BC

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Maple LeafI used to work in the cruise industry in Vancouver, but I’ve never been on a cruise. The reason? I’m not a fan of floating feedlot dining and I don’t like to travelling with a large group of people, especially when you get hundreds disgorging from multiple cruise ships in port at the same time, overwhelming small towns with more tourists than residents, many of whom are seasonal workers from somewhere else.

Maple Leaf AdventuresTall Sails and Ales craft beer and culinary tour through the Gulf Islands via 92-foot tall ship, however, is something completely different. Led by Victoria-based brewing historian, Greg Evans, this low footprint cruise highlights 50 B.C. craft beers through brewery tours, tastings, and pairing with meals prepared from local ingredients (e.g. cheddar and ale soup, cream ale apple fritters, Salt Spring Island lamb, stout brownies). In addition to beer education and brewing history, guests will learn the “unbuttoned” social history of drinking on Vancouver Island and local Prohibition lore.
Itinerary Map

Of course, you cannot ignore the natural beauty of the area the itinerary covers. Maple Leaf Adventures also offers natural history tours, so you will also get the benefit of this expertise in experiencing the flora and fauna, such as porpoises, sea lions, seabirds, beaches, and rainforests. What a great way to enjoy beautiful British Columbia!

Tall Sails and Ales Cruise
October 22-27, 2009
5 nights, 6 days
Departs from: Port of Sidney Marina
Cost: CAD$2215, includes all accommodations, meals, tastings, materials, and use of gear on board, including kayaks

To book this trip, contact Maple Leaf Adventures at 1-888-599-5323 or via their Web site.

About Greg EvansGreg Evans
Historian, museum director, beer consultant, and raconteur, Greg Evans is known in many circles as a man who knows a lot and makes learning fun.

He is an active member of the Victoria chapter of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the executive director of the Maritime Museum of British Columbia. He has previously been director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum and the B.C. Museums Association, president of the Heritage Council for B.C., and a member of many boards and cultural organizations.

His masters thesis is on the Vancouver Island brewing industry from 1858-1917. His extensive knowledge is enhanced by a quick wit, as evidenced in the names of some of his lectures, including “Hic Hic Hooray: How Canadians Kept Americans Wet During Prohibition.”

You can find some articles by Greg Evans on Maple Leaf Adventures’ Web site.

Red House Rollout in Comox

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BC’s newest brewery is now open for business. Surgenor Brewing in Comox held a soft launch celebration on March 21 attended by family, friends, and local dignitaries. It was a proud day for owner, Bob Surgenor who has realized his dream after seven years and $2 million.

Surgenor hired brewing consultant Mark Simpson to help design the brewery and formulate the recipes. Douglas Rae is Surgenor’s brewmaster. Both Simpson and Rae have experience working at Granville Island Brewing and Molson.

Abbotsford’s Newlands Systems Inc. fabricated the lauter/mash tun, brew kettle, and tanks, while Surgenor Industrial Electrical Contracting installed the state-of-the-art automated process controls. The 24 hl system is operated from Allen-Bradley PanelView 1000e graphic terminals mounted on the brewer’s platform and in the brewhouse office. This allows Surgenor to achieve the consistency of an industrial brewery while producing a craft product.

The brewery currently produces an Irish red ale and a Czech pilsner — Red House Ale and Steam Donkey Lager. The ale is brewed with Chico yeast and Cascade hops, while the pils uses Saaz hops, Caramalt, and Augustiner yeast. While both beers are quite accessible, they have depth of flavour and pronounced hop bitterness that distinguishes them from macro American lager. A stout and a wheat beer are contemplated additions to the Surgenor lineup. For the latter, Simpson is thinking of using local wild blackberries and grape must.

Bob Surgenor standing in front of his brewery beer cooler at the brewerys soft launch, March 21, 2009.

Bob Surgenor standing in front of his brewery beer cooler at the brewery's soft launch, March 21, 2009.

Surgenor will be the first BC brewery to utilize Exal aluminum bottles. These were chosen because of their unique design, light weight for reducing shipping costs, opaqueness to provide protection from sunlight, low energy requirements for recycling, ease of chilling, and safe portability as use of glass outdoors and in various facilities becomes increasingly proscribed.

Currently, the brewery is shipping its beer in kegs. Early customers include The Old House Restaurant, The Pier Pub & Bistro, and the officers’ mess of 19 Wing, CFB Comox. Packaged product in open six packs is expected to ship in four weeks. Red House Ale and Steam Donkey Lager already have LDB listings.

In the meantime, feel free to stop by the brewery for a tour and tastings. The tap room wasn’t yet hooked up to pour beer when I visited, but that should be taken care of soon. If you are interested in carrying Surgenor Brewing beer, contact:

Bob Jeffery
Sales Representative
Tel: (250) 339-9947
Cell: (250) 898-7862
861 Shamrock Place
Comox, BC V9M 4G4

See Flickr for more photos…

Craft Beer Comes to Comox

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With forestry having played a large role in the economy of Vancouver Island, it’s not surprising that as the industry took a nose dive, many people found themselves facing the prospect of unemployment. Bob Surgenor was one of those people. He depended on the forest industry for much of the work that engaged his Comox-based industrial electrical company. Not wanting to lay his employees off, he decided to start a brewery to keep them working. Last month, after a number of delays, they began shipping beer.

Not a brewer himself, Surgenor has hired Douglas Rae as his brewmaster. Rae began his brewing career at Granville Island in 1984, before moving on to stints at Labatt and Molson. He’s starting off with two beers — Red House Irish Red ale and Steam Donkey Lager — to ween the “Lucky Lager crowd” from macro lager onto craft beer. A stout and a wheat ale are next in line.

Surgenor is concentrating on developing the nothern Vancouver Island market over the next nine months, followed by the south Island, before expanding province-wide. The brewery will host a soft-opening celebration on March 21. The grand opening is planned for some time in July.

Spinnakers Boosts Victoria Real Ale

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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.