Tag Archives: Anchor Brewing

Pulling into Elizabeth Station

As a frequent cross-border beer shopper I thought I knew all the hidden gems for finding the best craft beer selection in Bellingham, WA but apparently I did not know squat because I had not been to Elizabeth Station.

Elizabeth Station Entrance

Elizabeth Station is an impressive shop brimming with craft beer fridges organized geographically, a decent wine and spirit section and quite possibly that largest selection of junk food I have ever seen.

Beer Fridges at Elizabeth Station

From jars of candy to a cereal bar to towering shelves of chips to sandwiches Elizabeth Station basically has all manner of food stuffs any self-respecting person with the munchies may or may not have to good sense to ignore.

Thankfully they also have a three beer limit so I won’t inadvertently become compelled to purchase a Ring Pop for each finger after a few too many.

Candy at Elizabeth Station


Cereal on Tap

In addition, and perhaps most importantly, Elizabeth Station boasts a small selection of taps, growler fills and bottle service – see something you like in the fridge and they will open it for you and you can consume in store.

On Tap

While there I had the pleasure of trying Petrus Aged Pale from Bavik-De Bradandere on tap, a lovely crisp, bright sour that serves as the mother (the starter beer) for the rest of the beers in the brewery’s line-up.

My hubby asked for a porter recommendation from the resident beer guy and was very impressed with the suggested Anchor Porter.

We took home a bottle of Vlad the Impaler form Cascade and a four of 90min IPA from Dogfish Head to commemorate our visit.

So next time you find yourself in downtown Bellingham stop in and be impressed!

Petrus Aged Pale



Summertime and the Drinking is Easy

Last year at this time I wrote an ode to the humble lager, long-time ball park staple and ubiquitous summer brew of choice for those wanting something thirst quenching, ice-cold and somewhat embodying sunshine in a glass. But as all good beer geeks know there are many other options at the lighter end of the spectrum that make equally good summer drinking.


Tuff Lite Lime


Putting the obvious IPA aside, when it is a hot humid dog-dangling kind of afternoon and your thoughts turn to the beer fridge think pilsner, kolsch, hefeweizen, fruit beer, porters or sour beer for something just a little outside the box. Each of these choices retaining a lighter bodied quality that makes them hot weather compatible while at the same time offering something just a little bit more than your basic lager.

Some of my summer stock includes Mill Street Brewing’s Lemon Tea Beer, Anchor Brewing Liberty Ale, Unibroue Ephemere Cerise, Tofino Brewing Tuff Lite Lime and Swans Brewing Company Coconut Porter.


Ephemere Cerise


Mill Street Lemon Tea Beer 

A light almost tepid beer that tastes somewhere between ice tea and a summer ale. Very refreshing and simple, I think this makes an excellent starter beer for your BBQ or for sipping under your patio lanterns. Hoping they bring this one out in six-packs in the BC area.

Anchor Liberty Ale

A malt forward ale that also has a decent amount of hoppiness. A bit more body than some of my other summer selections, Liberty Ale is a  great example of the style. No frills, no fruits, no weird flavour combinations; it is what it is and what it is is a really good beer.

Unibroue Ephemere Cerise

Ephemere apple is one of my favourite summer beers so I was quite excited to see a cherry version on the shelves this summer. Unibroue never disappoints on the Belgian beer style but the addition of cherry was a bit of a miss for me. While the apple adds a tartness the cherry flavour just seemed artificial, like cherry candy or cough syrup, and the beer had an almost chalky taste.

Tofino Tuff Lite Lime

Putting a Simpsons’ style label on this beer meant I was going to buy it no matter what, throw in the cheeky wordplay on the nefarious Bud Light with Lime and I may just have to purchase stock options. This may be one of the lightest bodied beers I have had in a long time; clean drinking with a hint of lime this beer it exactly what it claims to be. Another great starter beer when you want something easy.

Swans Coconut Porter

For those who just cannot part ways with their beloved dark beers coconut porter is a great summer option. Lighter bodied but still retaining some roasted malt character the sweetness of the coconut literally makes this beer scream summer, sunscreen and sipping. Also, if everyone else around you breaks out the pina coladas you’ll have you very own beery version.


Liberty Ale

Cali or Bust – Part 3

The next leg of my Californian odyssey found me in San Francisco home of beautiful houses, old hippies, tourists, an abundance of hills and one very big, very red bridge (oh, and there is beer here too).


San Francisco


While in San Francisco proper I took the opportunity to visit one of the oldest microbreweries in the US, Anchor Brewing Company. The tour of the brewing facility was widely touted as a tourist must-see unfortunately they also recommended booking months in advance. Due to my reluctance to schedule stops into my vacation (feels too much like work) I thought I would take my chances and drive down to the brewery to see what I could see.


Well, what I could see was nothing, well not nothing exactly, I saw the outside of the building and a guy sitting behind a desk. This guy informed me that I was not to proceed and not to pass go i.e. non-tour booking beer geeks such as myself shall not enter the premises so what remained behind the closed doors -rivers of beer navigated by giant steam-powered paddle boats steered by oompah-loompahs balancing hops in woven baskets atop their heads- remained a mystery. Though said desk bound guy did offer to fit me into the tour in a week …maybe next time.


Anchor Brewing


So if you find yourselves in San Francisco sans your Golden Ticket to enter Anchor Brewing have no fear there are other sources of beer.


In particular you can visit breweries like 21st Amendment, Thirsty Bear Brewing and  Southern Pacific Brewing Company and whet your palate at tap rooms like Toronado or Magnolia Brew Pub. Additionally, there are lots of little markets and beer stores tucked into San Fran’s neighbourhoods that boast pretty amazing selections, such as Ales Unlimited and City Beer Store.


Next up, I head north along the coast where I stumble into a couple of unplanned brewery visits…

It’s Lager Time!

Summer is great; more hours of sunshine, warmer temperatures, less clothing, BBQ dinners, nights on the patio, wearing sunglasses, eating gelato, going on holidays, swimming in the ocean, watching fireworks …need I continue?  With this advent of sunny weather, and the resultant increase in endorphins, comes an inevitable change in the beers we want to stock in our fridges. Out are the ‘winter warmers’,  the dark porters, strong barley wines and robust stouts that warm us from the inside out while providing a days’ worth of calories, and in are the fruit beers, the IPA’s and the lagers.

Lagers are probably the most common style of beer in the world in terms of sheer quantity. Quite arguably the quintessential summer drink, and long the staple of ballparks and stadiums, lagers range in colour, hopiness and strength but share the defining characteristic of being fermented and stored at cool temperatures. In its perfect form (to me anyway) lagers are light bodied, crisp and refreshing; something you can drink ice cold and something that is safe to consume in multiples.

As always, I would like to give some background so you can to get to know your lagers a little better.

Moving from Dark to Light…

According to Randy Mosher in Tasting Beer, the origin of lagers is somewhat murky but generally the story goes that brewers in Bavaria were perfecting their craft by fermenting beer in natural caves or cellars dug into the limestone hillsides. Gradually, a new yeast strain emerged adapted to this cold weather brewing process. Flash forward five hundred or so years and Bavaria style lagers, and brewing practices, were transported to the New World with German immigrants.

The first lagers being produced in North America were dark brown beers and probably had little resemblance to the straw gold brews we have come to know today. We have Anton Schwartz, a brewing scientist, to thank for developing the cooking technique in the 1870’s, which afforded the use of lightening ingredients such as corn and rice. Couple with this the development of machine bottling and refrigeration and the stage is set for the birth of the modern lager.

A Bit about the Style

In terms of taste, cold-temperature and long fermentation times means less (or no) fruity esters in the beer, which ideally produces a clean, crisp taste focusing solely on the malts and hops. One of the great things about lagers is this simplicity; with only the choice of malt and hop determining the flavour profile subtle characteristics can emerge in the beer from honey and caramel to mint and herb. Mosher suggests that for this style any hint of fruitiness may indicate a too-warm fermentation temperature but subtle sulphur or DMS notes may be acceptable.

Some of the styles falling under the lager umbrella include: Pilsners, American Lagers, Malt Liqour, Dunkel, Oktoberfest, Bocks, Rauchbier and many other variations within. When you think about the vast range of tastes and appearances represented in these styles it is pretty amazing to believe all these beers are classified as lagers, a style essentially defined by a couple of strains of cold-temperature tolerant yeast!

The Best of the Best

I guess it is only fair to warn you that due to the mass popularity of the style, there are a lot of bad lagers out there. In fact, while I was perusing Rate Beer’s 50 Worst Beers list I noticed a disproportionate number of the bottom feeders were in fact lagers. But be brave and be perseverant because there is gold in ‘dem dar hills. Some notable lagers include:

Rate Beer – Mikkeller The American Dream, Pretty Things Lovely Saint Winefride, Pilsner Urquell Kvasnicový, Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock, Avery The Kaiser Imperial Oktoberfest, Dogfish Head Liquor de Malt, Surly SurlyFest, The Bruery Humulus Lager.

Beer Advocate – Snoqualmie Summer Beer, Fort George 1811 Pre-Prohibition Lager, Rogue Morimoto Imperial Pilsner, Full Sail Session Lager, Anchor Steam Beer, Brooklyn Lager, La Trappe Bockbier, Samuel Smith’s Organically Produced Lager Beer

World Beer Awards (2011) – Samuel Adams Double Bock, Bernard Dark, Samuel Adams Double Bock, APU Borgio, SA Damm Keler 18, Chatoe Rogue Dirtoir Black Lager, Egils Gull, International Breweries Australian Max, Hop City Barking Squirrel Lager, Eisenbahn Rauchbier

In my Fridge

Brooklyn Lager pours clear reddish gold with lots of off-white head that lingers. Slight carbonation in the glass. Sweet malt on the nose and citrus notes as well. Light bodied and very clean to drink. Taste wise there is some caramel and citrus with a bit of hoppy bitterness at the finish.

I Am Canadian

When I was a young lass the North American beer scene was a very different animal. Dominated by big breweries producing the only most basic of beers, you did not even consider ordering a beer by style rather you ordered by naming one of the two big brands – I will have a “Canadian” or a “Blue”. Amid this sea of bland lager there was one underlying truism that we as Canadians could cling to, a platitude that kept us warm in the evening and made us feel ever so slightly superior – our beers were made of stronger stuff than the brews coming from our American cousins.

Flash forward to the weekend and I am out and about looking for a patio to drink at. Using some random foodie app I check out Yaletown Brewing Company (YBC) to see what people thought when I came across a review by an American tourist sampling the beer line-up. They prefaced their review by saying they passed over the “Canadian piss beers” and moved straight onto the IPA, which they went on to favourably compare with some of the US microbrewers.

Now hold on just one second, when did Canadian craft beer become piss beer? Has the resurgence of craft beer resulted in a geographical role reversal? Are Canadian microbreweries brewing blasé beers? Are we now brewing the Old Milwaukee of the craft beer scene? Maybe the answers lie in looking at our brewing pedigrees.

From the destitute landscape that was the beer reality of the 1970’s, Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, one of the last remaining microbrewers, was purchased by a good soul dedicated to preserving authentic beer. At roughly the same time, the counter culture movement had begun altering people’s perceptions about how we live in the world. Home brewing, embracing local economies and travel to Europe opened people’s eyes to just what beer could and should be and as they say they rest is history. Craft breweries were steadily popping up throughout the US in the 70’s and 80’s, and by the 1990’s the craft beer industry was growing at 45 percent per year (Mosher 2009). This means American craft brewers have been hard at work for over forty years perfecting their art.

In Canada, we were a little late to the craft beer party, seriously getting on the bandwagon in the 1980’s with microbreweries like Upper Canada Brewing Company in Ontario and St. Ambroise in Montreal. Growth in the craft beer industry has been equally impressive in Canada with British Columbians buying craft beers 12.7% of the time in the early 2000’s (www.cbc.ca). So are these regional differences real or imagined? Perhaps Canadian craft brewers are still testing the waters so to speak, carving out a niche for what will come to define our new national beer identity.

Coming full circle back to YBC, I am sipping lager and my partner brown ale and we both feel the same way; these beers are fine, they are drinkable, but I am not wowed and I want to be wowed. Obviously the challenge for the craft brewer is to keep the customer interested and coming back, which for a growing mass of educated beers geeks means putting out new and challenging product while maintaining a high standards of quality. In many ways I feel like we play it a little too safe here. Call it cultural differences, but American craft brews are assertive, quirky and most definitely challenging while our beers are …well …nice. One of the reasons I often turn to the US craft brewers for my staple beers is that many brewers seem to have found what works for them, they have created a beer identity, and they do not necessarily brew one of every beer style in the guide.

I wonder, what does the “I am Canadian” rant sound like now that we are a nation of craft beer drinkers?

*Thanks to VanCity Love and Barley Mowat for the photos

Unbiased Opinions, Educational Television, Non-Alcoholic Beer …Great Oxymorons of Our Time

Low-alcohol beer is also known as non-alcoholic beer, small beer, small ale, or near-beer. The key feature of these beers is their very low or lack of  alcohol content. Most low-alcohol beers are lagers but there are some low-alcohol ales. In the United States, beverages containing less than 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) were legally called non-alcoholic, according to the now-defunct Volstead Act. In the United Kingdom, the following definitions apply by law; No alcohol or alcohol-free: not more than 0.05% ABV, De-alcoholised: over 0.05% but less than 0.5% ABV, and Low-alcohol: not more than 1.2% ABV


The conceptualization of non-alcohol brews took place during prohibition but also had roots in the First World War. A climate of scarcity and uncertainty fostered a culture where restraint became the paragon of virtue and under this culture the idea of temperance proliferated. President Wilson had proposed limiting the alcohol content in malt beverages to 2.75% in 1917 in an effort to appease avid prohibitionists but in 1919 congress approved the Volstead Act which limited the alcohol content of any beverage to less than 0.5%. These beverages became known as tonics and many breweries began brewing these extremely low alcohol content beverages in order to keep from going out of business. Due to the fact that removing the alcohol from the beer requires just one additional step many breweries found this as an easy transition, and in 1933 when prohibition was repealed removing this single step again was easily done.

Near Beer

Originally, near beer was a term for malt beverages containing little or no alcohol mass-marketed during Prohibition in the United States. By 1921 production of near beer had reached over 300 million US gallons a year. Near beer could not legally be labeled as beer and was officially classified as a cereal beverage; however, the public almost universally called it near beer. Today, the term has been revived to refer to modern non-alcoholic beer.

Food critic and writer Waverley Root described the common American near beer as “such a wishy-washy, thin, ill-tasting, discouraging sort of slop that it might have been dreamed up by a Puritan Machiavelli with the intent of disgusting drinkers with genuine beer forever. At the same time I would have serious doubts about the quality, and taste, of regular full-bodied ales and lagers being produced at this time in North America. For instance, a popular illegal practice was to add alcohol to near beer. The resulting beverage was known as spiked beer or needle beer, so called because a needle was used to inject alcohol through the cork of the bottle or keg. The questionable brewing methods and resultant brews developed during the prohibition era must have had a dramatic impact on the culture of beer that would develop over the next several decades.

Small Beer

Small beer is a beer that contains very little alcohol. Sometimes unfiltered and porridge-like, it was a favoured drink in medieval Europe and colonial North America. It was sometimes had with breakfast since in those times of poor sanitation, water-transmitted diseases were a significant cause of death and alcohol is toxic to most water-borne pathogens. Small beer was also produced in households for consumption by children and servants. Some workers engaged in heavy physical labour drank more than ten pints of small beer during a work day to maintain their hydration. This was usually provided free as part of their working conditions. As sanitation conditions improved the consumption of small beer was replaced with coffee and tea and even gin, which became the fashionable tipple of choice.

Small beer can also refer to a beer made from the “second runnings” of a very strong beer mash. These beers can be as strong as mild ale depending on the strength of the original mash. This was done as an economy measure in household brewing in England up to the 18th century and is still done by some home brewers and microbrewers. Few commercial breweries make small beer today with the exception of Anchor Brewing Company, which produces a small beer made from the “second runnings” of Old Foghorn Barley wine Style Ale.

How it’s Made

Between the maturation and carbonation stages of the brewing process is when a brew can be converted to non-alcoholic. Low-alcohol beer starts out as traditional alcoholic beer. The un-carbonated beer is brought up to the boiling point of alcohol in order to evaporate the alcohol. This is possible because alcohol has a lower boiling point than water making it easier to boil off. Another method of removing the alcohol is to decrease the pressure so the alcohol boils at room temperature. This is the preferred method because the addition of heat this late in the brewing process can greatly affect the flavor of the brew. Most modern breweries utilize vacuum evaporation to preserve flavor and speed up the boiling process. In essence, the beer is placed under a light vacuum to facilitate the alcohol molecules going into gaseous phase. If a sufficient vacuum is applied, it may not even be necessary to cook the beer. Another alternative process called reverse osmosis does not require heating. Once the alcohol is removed proceed with the normal finishing process where the beer is carbonated and bottled.

How does it Taste

The last time I had non-alcoholic beer was in high school when my most thoughtful teacher brought us some near beer to sample in our ancient civilizations class – I can’t say it left a memorable impression but it has been awhile. To be fair I thought I would highlight some of the most reviewed non-alcoholic beers on Rate Beer while I crack open my Tokyo Stout from BrewDog, which weighs in at a respectable 18.2%.

Rate Beer records ratings as low as Bavaria Non-Alcoholic – 1 and Coors Non-Alcoholic – 1.13 through to Driver NA – 5 and Texas Select Non-Alcoholic – 6.

Hopscotch 2011 ‘I think I saw the Kraken’

So last night I made my annual pilgrimage to Hopscotch. Pilgrimage in the sense that I had to trek from the Main Street Skytrain station down to the Rocky Mountaineer in heels and in the freezing cold; there is something sort of biblical about enduring all that suffering and hardship to be rewarded with beer. Saturday night’s festivities were underway when we arrived, so no line-up, which was good, but it was crazy crowded, which was bad. I am not sure what the Fire Marshall would say but I am thinking if there were any acts of god we would not have been getting out the building too quickly. It is also a major liability when one it trying to carry around there precocious taster glass full or liquor. Onward and upward and armed with my trusty Hopscotch Hit List I went about my merry way to sample the dozen or so beers I had chosen with the occasional divergence into the vodka and whiskey booths.

What I like about Hopscotch: There is a variety of beer and spirits (and cigars!) so you can actually dust off your non-beer geek friends; you get tokens with your admission –in my mind this makes me feel like I am somehow getting more value; the Rocky Mountaineer is a really nice building with tons of windows and high ceilings; pretty impressive Scotch selection; more than a fair share of booths willing to dole out a free sample; well-organized with lots of staff; feels a little classier than beer fest –hello indoor plumbing; liquor store on premise to buy as you drink; Fentimans sampling.

What I don’t like so much: The beer selection is not that exciting with most of the samples being readily available in the BC liquor stores; beers were repetitive from last year; too many people for the space means it is hard to find an area where you can sample without being jostled; nowhere to sit outside the food tent; hard to tell what is available at each booth with the crowds; pours are pretty small for beer (I think they were about 2 oz); the bottom line factoring in ticket price and sample size those are some pricey beers; hard to map your route by the distributor; location makes transit difficult.

It is really tough to given any kind of ranking to beer samples especially when you are mixing beer with spirits so I will give the list of the beers I sampled and then give a few of my favourites. All in all, to the best of my recollections, I tried:

Anchor Porter Beer

Chang Beer

Chimay Strong Ale (Gold Label)

Howe Sound Brewing Co. Father John’s Winter Ale

Grolsch Lager

Green Flash Double Stout Black Ale

Red Racer Winter Ale

Tin Whistle chocolate cherry porter

Whistler Brewing Company Winter Dunkel

Tree Brewing Co. Vertical Winter Ale

Yukon Red Amber Ale


My three stars of the evening were: 3) Anchor Porter 2) Green Flash Double Stout Black Ale 1) Tree Vertical Winter Ale

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