Tag Archives: BC Beer

The Best of the Best in BC Beer

Yesterday was the 4th annual BC Beer Awards honouring the best of best craft beers being brewed in our beautiful province. The sold-out event was held at the Croatian Cultural Centre in Vancouver and hosted by CBC’s Stephen Quinn. While I was not able to attend I still wanted to share the list of winners and draw attention to BC’s ever-expanding and ever-diversifying craft beer scene.

A big congratulations to all the winners competition looked pretty stiff in some of the categories!

Here is the rundown courtesy of http://www.bcbeerawards.com

 2013 BC BEER AWARD WINNERS

BEST OF SHOW

Vancouver Island Brewery – Hermannator Ice Bock – Ralf Pittroff

 

SESSION LAGER – 13 ENTRIES

1st Place – Big Surf – Big Surf Lager – Wolfgang Hoess

2nd Place – High Mountian Brewing Company – Lifty Lager – Derrick Franche

3rd Place – Coal Harbour Brewing Co – 311 Helles Lager- Ethan Allured

 

PILSNER – 13 ENTRIES

1st Place – Central City Brewers and Distillers – Red Racer Pilsner – The Central City Brew Crew

2nd Place – Tree Brewing Co. – Kelowna Pilsner – Dave Gokiert

3rd Place – Parallel 49 Brewing Company – Crane Kick – Graham With

Special Mention – Four Winds Brewing Company – Pilsner – Brent Mills

 

SPECIAL LAGER – 8 ENTRIES

1st Place – Vancouver Island Brewery – Hermannator Ice Bock – Ralf Pittroff

2nd Place – Dead Frog Brewery – The Session Vienna Lager – Tony Dewald

3rd Place – Tree Brewing Co. – Captivator Doppelbock – Dave Gokiert

 

SESSION ALE – 26 ENTRIES

1st Place – The Nelson Brewing Co. – Wild Honey Organic Ale – Mike Kelly

2nd Place – Phillips Brewing Co. – Slipstream Ale

3rd Place – Parallel 49 Brewing Company – Red Eye – Graham With

 

ENGLISH ALE – 14 ENTRIES

1st Place – The Nelson Brewing Co – Hop Good Organic Session IPA – Mike Kelly

2nd Place – Central City Brewers and Distillers – Red Racer ESB – The Central City Brew Crew

3rd Place – Powell Street Craft Brewery – Old Jalopy Pale Ale – David Bowkett

Special Mention – Okanagan Spring – Pale Ale

 

AMERICAN ALE – 28 ENTRIES

1st Place – Parallel 49 Brewing Company – Gypsy Tears – Graham With

2nd Place – Old Yale Brewing Co. – Old Yale Pale Ale – Larry Caza

3rd Place – Central City Brewers and Distillers – Red Racer Pale Ale – The Central City Brew Crew

 

WHEAT BEER – 18 ENTRIES

1st Place – Deep Cove Brewers and Distillers – Quick Wit Wheat Ale – Kevin Emms

2nd Place – Moon Under Water Brewery – The Victorious Weizenbock – Clay Potter

3rd Place – Howe Sound Brewing – King Heffy Imperial Heffeweizen – Paul Wilson & Franco Corno

 

FRUIT BEER – 18 ENTRIES

1st Place – Central City Brewers and Distillers – Red Racer Raspberry Wheat Ale – The Central City Brew Crew

2nd Place – Parallel 49 Brewing Company – Seed Spitter – Graham With

3rd Place – Fernie Brewing Company – What the Huck – Gord Demaniuk/Paul Graham

 

VEGETABLE / SPICE BEER – 20 ENTRIES

1st Place – Central City Brewers and Distillers – Red Racer Pumkin Ale – The Central City Brew Crew

2nd Place – Steamworks Brewing Company – Steamworks Espresso Stout – Caolan Vaughn & Takeshi Guenette

3rd Place – R&B Brewing Company – Birra Fresca Cucumber Mint I.P.A. – Todd Graham

 

SPECIAL BEER – 25 ENTRIES

1st Place – Howe Sound Brewing – Wee Beastie Oak Aged Scotch Ale – Paul Wilson & Franco Corno

2nd Place – Parallel 49 Brewing Company – From East Van With Love – Graham With

3rd Place – Coal Harbour Brewing Co. – Smoke & Mirrors Smoked Imperial Ale – Ethan Allured

 

SCOTTISH / IRISH – 7 ENTRIES

1st Place – Lighthouse Brewing Company – Race Rocks Amber – Dean Mcleod

2nd Place – Tree Brewing Co. – Groove Session Ale – Dave Gokiert

3rd Place – Fernie Brewing Company – Fernie Big Caboose Red Ale – Gord Demaniuk/Paul Graham

 

BROWN / PORTER – 23 ENTRIES

1st Place – Phillips Brewing Co. – Chocolate Porter

2nd Place – Townsite Brewing – PowTown Porter- Cedric Dauchot

3rd Place – Parallel 49 Brewing Company – Old Boy – Graham With

Special Mention – Hoyne Brewing Company – Dark Matter – Sean Hoyne (no trophy)

 

STOUT – 14 ENTRIES

1st Place – Persephone Brewing Company – Stout-Off Stout – Anders McKinnon

2nd Place – Longwood Brewing – Stoutnik Russian Imperial Stout – Harley Smith

3rd Place – Old Yale Brewing Co. – Sasquatch Stout – Larry Caza

 

BELGIAN / SOUR BEER – 15 ENTRIES

1st Place – Yaletown Brewing Company – Yaletown Oud Bruin – Yaletown Brewers

2nd Place – Granville Island Brewing – Thirsty Farmer Saison – Vern Lambourne

3rd Place – Four Winds Brewing Company – Wild Flower Saison – Brent Mills

 

IPA – INDIA PALE ALE – 34 ENTRIES

1st Place – Driftwood Brewing Company – Fat Tug IPA – Jason Meyer & Kevin Hearsum

2nd Place – Driftwood Brewing Company – Sartori Harvest IPA – Jason Meyer & Kevin Hearsum

3rd Place – Moon Under Water Brewery – Tranquility IPA – Clay Potter

Special Mention – Hoyne Brewing Company – Devils Dream IPA – Sean Hoyne (no trophy)

 

IMPERIAL IPA – 11 ENTRIES

1st Place – Central City Brewers and Distillers – Central City Imperial IPA – The Central City Brew Crew

2nd Place – Phillips Brewing Co. – Amnesiac Double IPA

3rd Place – Parallel 49 Brewing Company – The Hopnitist – Graham With

 

STRONG – 8 ENTRIES

1st Place – Central City Brewers and Distillers – Thor’s Hammer – The Central City Brew Crew

2nd Place – Parallel 49 Brewing Company – Vow of Silence – Graham With

3rd Place – Townsite Brewing – Biere d’Hiver – Cedric Dauchot

 

CBC PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD

Powell Street Craft Brewery – Whiskey Porter

 

DAN SMALL HOMEBREW AWARD

1st Place – John Folinsbee

2nd Place – Takashi Guenette

3rd Place – Adam Crandall

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The Art of the Beer Label – BC Edition

I have decided to revisit one of my favourite blog topics, the art of the beer label, this time with an eye to what the creative brewers in British Columbia have chosen to adorn their bottles.

Not surprisingly there is a huge range of styles and themes chosen to represent the beer within. So let’s take a look at just a few of the bottles from our beautiful province and see if we can discover what the labels tell us about the brewery.

 

Phillips Brewing Company

Phillips Brewing Company seems to employ every style under the sun and every colour in the spectrum when it comes to their beer labels.  One thing with the Phillips labels, though artistic, they do not always feel reflective of the beer you are about to drink – Train Wreck for instance, with its’ Deco imagery, feels like it would be more at home on the cover of an Ayn Rand novel than a barley wine. Always inventive, if busy, I tend to feel like I love em’ or hate em’ when it comes to Phillips labels.

Phillips Trainwreck Barley Wine

Phillips Pandamonium Label

Mass-Extinction-Label-Ice-Barley-wine-proof-2

 

 

Driftwood Brewery

Driftwood Brewery tends to mix-it-up now and then with their labels moving from the naturalistic palette and colours employed in their standard lbeer line-up to more cheeky or edgy takes on their seasonal beers. Driftwood does a really good job of reflecting the beer style in the label. Personally, I think the Sartori harvest label is one of the nicest labels around.

Driftwood Sartori Harvest

oldcellardweller-label-medium1

driftwood_naughtyhildegard

 

 

R&B Brewing Co.

R&B Brewing Co. is another brewer that seems to employ a ‘do what you feel’ kind of attitude when it comes to their labels arguably with mixed results. One of the tough things for me is the colours and style of the R&B logo always seem at odds with the rest of the graphics. That being said I really like their seasonal Auld Nick label.

iceholes_lager1

East Side Bitt R&B

aulp_nick

 

 

Howe Sound Brewing

I have to admit I usually do not get what Howe Sound is going for with their labels aesthetically. I mean, I get the literal interpretation of the beer name, i.e. scotch ale on a tartan background, but I feel like their choice of labels lacks an overarching vision. That being said I think the Mega Destroyer label really nailed the spirit of the beer within.

Howe Sound Mega Destroyer

howesound_weebeastie

Howe Sound High Tide

 

 

Parallel 49 Brewing Company

Okay so personal preference here but Parallel 49’s whole cartoon-ish Sailor Jerry carnival theme just does not work for me; however, I can appreciate that they have obviously put some serious thought into the aesthetic they want to present to consumers. It feels very lighthearted like you should never take the beer inside too seriously.

parallel49_uglysweater

Ruby Parallel 49

parallel49_lostsouls

 

 

Hoyne Brewing

Far and away my favourite beer labels come from Hoyne Brewing Co. Artistic and playful but never derivative, Hoyne manages to walk that elusive balance between too much of any one thing while maintaining a core imagery that still lets the consumer know this is a Hoyne beer. The tie to the beer is subtle but present. Great colours, great lay outs, great use of fonts, great job!

label-honey-hefe

label-dark-matter

Hoyne Devil's Dream

 

 

Vancouver Island Brewery

Vancouver Island Brewery has one of those label campaigns that feels a bit like we’ve been there and done that in terms of the graphics (a little bit Driftwood and a little bit Phillips). At the same time I do like their layouts, colour choices and the way they provide information on the beer inside. VIB always employs colours that embody the beer within i.e. Marzen with rich, fall tones. The Christmas label still creeps me out though.

vancouverisland_ironplow_label

vancouverisland_flyingtanker

vib_DoughHead2012

 

 

Russell Brewing Company

Russell Brewing Company has often opted for the no-label label with their specialty and/or beers in a way that I think works very, very well. In particular, the Blood Alley Bitter and the Russian Imperial Stout are a couple of the best bottles out there showing a great use of font, placement and negative space to create memorable bottles. I feel like the aesthetic choices they make really marry the beer styles within.

Russell Black Death Porter Russell Blood Alley Bitter Russell Russian Imperial Stout


Being a Beer Tourist in my own Backyard

Instead of my usual cross-border dash on long weekends, I played tourist in my own hometown this Saturday visiting a couple of our great taprooms The Alibi Room and Bitter Tasting Room.

The two locations have quite a bit in common with their hipster chic décor of industrial fixtures and reclaimed wood, foodie menu staples (local chicken undergoes spiritual counselling prior to be brought to your plate), slightly gentrifying neighbours and neighbourhoods, and of course the obvious care and attention lavished on their beer selection. Luckily for beer geeks there are also some key differences, which means you really need to try both places.

 

 

The Alibi Room concentrates on draught beers, presenting an impressive menu of over fifty beers broken down into various styles bolstered by a couple of cask selections. Obviously the focus on is local breweries but a number of American and foreign craft beers can also be sampled. Eleven dollars buys you a flight of four so you can try a variety before committing to any one pint – as every good beer geek knows you gotta do your homework. Alibi Room is bright and spacious with long communal tables that allow you to interact with your best new beer friends aka your tablemates. You can do a little train watching while you drink, and the ‘stick a bird on it’ mentality further ensures hipsters feel comfortable. There is even a bar downstairs to accommodate an extra busy night. Stairs, many stairs, to the bathroom always seems like an inherently bad idea in a place serving alcohol but they present a good challenge after a few rounds of taster trays.

 

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Bitter Tasting Room is a smaller space with a central bar, a cool wall of illuminated fridges and a throw-back speak-easy vibe emphasising black and white décor, metal fixtures and interesting graphics/fonts everywhere you look. Here the focus is on the bottle with an extensive line-up of brews and half a dozen or so taps for good measure. One really neat menu item is their selection of beer cocktails from the staple shandy, to a beer geek take on the Caesar, to a grown-up version of root beer. You can order flights here as well but they are pre-set selections based on style (mix of draught and bottle). We tried the dark beer trio for eleven dollars. I like the idea of letting the learned bartender set out choices that complement one another. The food menu is not that dissimilar from The Alibi Room but they have pretzels (!!!), which were obviously invented just to pair with beer. Really nice and informative staff – someone helped me take pictures and our server debated the merits of adding sea salt to stout (I think this is a brilliant idea). Rumour has it that they will be opening a patio onto the side street maybe in time for summer.

 

Now onto the Beer…

First, I always try the cask beer at The Alibi Room just because I have to. After the casked brews I pick whatever piques my interest and whatever I haven’t tried before. Sadly, this time out I was really stretching for a beer I liked enough to order by the pint. Out of the twelve samples my favourites were both from Yaletown Brewing Company, the Oun Bruin Flemish Brown Ale and the Raspberry Ale.

I went to Bitter specifically to try the R&B Milk Stout (an exclusive) since I am a pretty big fan of Rogue Creamery but alas this milk stout was just okay for me. Of the dark trio I actually think the Mill Street Coffee Porter was the best of the lot. Luckily The Bitter Chill was a standout for me, a savoury and spicy beer cocktail that would work wonders on a hot day.

 

Closing Thoughts

I am not sure I get the late opening times for the tap houses, do people really only want to drink beer after 5pm? The Alibi Room opens earlier on the weekend but then the kitchen closes mid-afternoon until dinner. If you can’t get any food to soak up some of your beer, you can’t makes room for more beer, which ends the vicious but profitable cycle that traps beer geeks like lint in the dryer. Also, I know we live in Vancouver but eleven dollars for a flight of beers? Really? C’mon.


The Dark Side of B.C. Beers

Still committed to my 100 mile (ish) beer diet, I am continuing to sample brews from my own backyard. This time around I tried three beers from the darker end of the spectrum, you know, the best end of the beer spectrum, sampling Dark Matter from Hoyne Brewing Co., Dark Chocolate Porter from Lighthouse Brewing Co., and the Extra Special Bitter From Salt Spring Island Ales.

Just to qualify my obvious bias for dark beers, in all fairness all the really cool flavours hang out on this end of the continuum; you never see light beers with descriptors like coffee, chocolate, molasses, dried fruit, bourbon, whisky, oatmeal, licorice, caramel, treacle etc. so in my defence I really have no choice but to embrace the dark side.

Dark Matter: Pours clear, deep reddish black and with a quickly diminishing caramel coloured head. Sweet caramel notes and roast coffee on the nose. Quite bitter in the mouthfeel, light to medium in body and a ton of roasted malt. The finish is slightly reminiscent of burnt coffee. Great interplay of sweet and bitter elements, which makes the beer highly drinkable. Love the label and reference to the Hadron Collider. Overall a 4/5

 

Dark Chocolate Porter: Deep brown/black in colour with ton of stiff ivory head and good clarity. Really nice roasted elements and chocolate on the nose. Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate at first taste but this beer mellows a bit too much as it warms losing the bitter edge that played so well off the sweet flavours. Label is a bit wanting in creativity. Overall 3.5/5

 

 

Extra Special Bitter: Pours a partly hazy amber with monumental white head. Floral hops on the nose with a bit of resin. Very hoppy for a bitter but sadly also a little off-flavour with an out-of-place medicinal taste. I can’t properly review this bottle but be assured it happens to the best of us. One of the hazards of drinking craft beer; however, I wouldn’t have it any other way  …doesn’t get any more “real”  ale than this.


Still Drinking My Way Around BC …Patience is a Virtue

I have been dutifully continuing with my plan to become a craft beer locavore by sampling another three beers brewed right here in beautiful British Columbia – I also put in some time at St. Augustine’s purely for research’s sake.

In terms of BC beer selection this time out I bought my brews from the provincial liquor store so I am not skewing my education by only shopping at the Central City Liquor Store.

So what’s on the agenda this time around? Deckhand Belgian Saison from Lighthouse Brewing Company in Victoria, Dark Star Oatmeal Stout by R&B Brewing Company from Vancouver and French Oaked Stiff Stout from Dead Frog Brewing in Aldergrove.

Deckhand Belgian Saison: Pours straw gold with a ton of white head that quickly dissipates. Beer label is a neat idea, Sailor Jerry tattoo style designed by a local artist, but the overall aesthetics are not my favourite. Requisite amount of cloudiness for the style. Strong sour yeast nose with an almost chalky mouthfeel on the first sip. Gives way to competing notes of bitter and pepper that generally work well in a saison but tend to overpower this beer since it is quite light bodied. All the flavour seems to some at you right away but no element lingers for an aftertaste. Mellowed out when it warmed easing up the sharp tastes.

Dark Star Oatmeal Stout: Pours a lovely dark chestnut/black, clear with a minimal amount of caramel coloured head. An okay bottle graphic nothing memorable. Very astringent on the nose, almost rubbing alcohol like, but thankfully this disperses as the beer sits out. Nose evolves into roasted coffee notes. Very light in body for a stout and not a lot of flavour in the mouthfeel besides coffee. Reminds me Mill St. Coffee Porter. Much like the first beer, Dark Star improves with a bit of warming giving the beer a bit of depth.

French Oaked Stiff Stout: Pours deepest black stout, clear with a rapidly disappearing head. Not a fan of the Dead Frog labels but to each their own. This oaked beer is part of their “Beer Master Series”. The Stiff Stout has an oaky, sweet nose and a sticky mouthfeel. A bit more depth in the body compared to the Dark Star. Complex flavours that warms well. There is nice sweet malt on the finish.

The Verdict – I give this round to Dead Frog’s French Oaked Stiff Stout.


Drinking My Way Around BC

I’ll admit I am often very unpatriotic in my beer drinking habits because more often than not I tend to fall back on my south-of-the-border or across-the-pond go to breweries when I am looking for something to restock the fridge. In order to remedy this deficit in my beer experience, I made it one of my new “beers” resolutions to try more beers from the Great White North. After all British Columbia is quickly becoming a craft beer destination, and boasting over fifty microbreweries and brewpubs there is no shortage of local beers to choose from.

Hoyne Brewing Company Big Bock Ale: The Big Bock pours amber and with unbelievable clarity. Nice amount of white head that lingers. Sweet malt on the nose. Very clean to drink with a medium to light body and subtle strength that is in no way overpowering. I am loving the beers coming from the Island and kudos for the inspired label.

Mission Springs Brewing Company’s The Strongman Ale: The Strongman Ale is copper-gold in colour with nice clarity. A ton of stiff head that hangs around for the majority of the pint. Subtle bitter hop on the nose and in the flavour. Decent amount of malt adds some balance. Lives up to its namesake in strength but it is not overwhelming for the 650ml size – just enough to get that warmth in your belly. Smooth to drink and relatively light in body with a bit of stickiness.

Russell Brewing Nectar of the Gods: Nectar of the Gods is described as wheat wine ale. It pours and amber-copper colour and like the other beers, has impressive head retention. A fair amount of sediment. Fermented fruit, currant and earthy wood dominate the nose. Tons of oaky whiskey flavours imparted from the casking, almost barley wine like in character but not quite. Tannin aftertaste. Hard to discern the wheat beer qualities with all the complex and dominant flavours going on.

As I was writing this post I googled ‘map of BC breweries’ but did not come up with anything, which is surprising to me. I use my Washington and Oregon Beer Guides so often they are in shambles, and they have proven an invaluable resource, source of inspiration and all-around guiding star on numerous occasions.

In the meantime I will continue drinking (and blogging) my way around BC.


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