Tag Archives: Central City Brewing

Beer and Politics

There was an interesting convergence of beer and politics this past St. Patrick’s Day.

In case you missed it, Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams, drew attention for their decision to withdraw funding for the Boston St. Patricks Day parade because the organizers would not allow members of the LBGT community to march in said parade.

Specifically, the issue concerned Irish-American veterans who identify as LBGT marching as a group in the parade and carrying signage identifying themselves as such.

After the announcement there were mixed reactions towards the company with some voicing their support whilst others vowed to boycott beer produced by Boston Beer.


In light of potential to alienate and/or engender consumers I have to ask should we mix beer and politics?

Do we want our pints and shut up please because we don’t care about the ideologies of brewery owners and operators or do we want to know the people behind the beer, what they stand for and what lines they will not cross?

More cynically should we view these public ‘stances’ merely as a means to thrust a company into the headlines because, as the adage goes, all press is good press?

Personally, I was impressed with Boston Beer Co. for taking a stand and making their voice heard and, if anything, the fact that I know what they stand for and stand behind makes me more likely to be a customer.

They took the opportunity, when presented, to do what they felt what was right and perhaps this means that there are more important issues than number of beers sold or the number of events sponsored.


Perhaps it is naiveté on my part but all too often we seem to hear that companies made choices and taken stands without much publicity. Unfortunately these stands include abhorrent working conditions, unfair labour practices, horrendous environmental impacts etc. When we learn about such practices our moral outrage surfaces and we vow to change our consumer habits.

On the other hand, what if we knew what organizations stood for because they simply told us and backed their words up with actions? This gives consumers the power to endorse or boycott as they choose because we know how the company aligns itself.

Breweries, of all sizes, support causes, fund raise, make purchasing choices etc. Craft breweries in particular seem to be leading the way by brewing beers for causes, hosting beer events for local and international non-profits, and generally keeping things local. As such, they participate in shaping the development of the craft beer community and culture and we all have a stake in what that will look like and how it reflects upon us.

So maybe we all need a little more politics with our beer.

*Images courtesy of www.canadianbeernews.com and www.centralcitybrewing.com


Great Canadian Beer Fest 2013

Smart advertising from Fernie

Smart advertising from Fernie

Well another Great Canadian Beer Festival has came and went and this year saw the participation of craft breweries from the east, the coming out party of some new local breweries, the increase in after-party events and the introduction of some new-to-us American craft beers into the Canadian market.

The GCBF has become a bona fide craft beer destination and it is exciting to see all the breweries, brew pubs and just craft beer culture in general flourishing here in Victoria, which is beginning to rival Vancouver for the mantle of Beervana North.

Beer from Powell Street

Beer from Powell Street

Chatting up 33 Acres

Chatting at 33 Acres

Now I have been to GCBF when it was too cold and I have been to GCBF when it was too hot but this year the beer gods chose to smile on us geeks and the weather was just right, a little cloudy to start off Friday’s festivities and perhaps a titch soggy but then the sun came out to shine over the remainder of the festival.

As usual there were sell-out crowds and long line-ups but things seemed to move more stream-lined than in years past. There was the traditional smattering of buskers, creatively dressed patrons and music to keep the crowds engaged as well as food tents to keep us all carb-loaded so we could fit in more beer.

Moon Under Water tapping the keg

Moon Under Water tapping the keg



For the first time at GCBF I came in early to join the media tour, which was a great way to check out the breweries’ set-ups and to hear from some of the new kids on the block like 33 Acres Brewing Company from Vancouver BC, Sound Brewery from Poulsbo WA and Powell Street Craft Brewery from Vancouver BC from before the flood gates opened (we even got to sneak in a few samples).

Being a bit of a marketing nerd I enjoyed the opportunity to check out everyone’s displays and to see what kind of swag the breweries were offering – never underestimate the drawing power of free beer mats and stick-on tattoos!

Saltspring's lovely set-up

Saltspring’s lovely set-up

As always I was prepped and ready with my beer list highlighting my must-haves and like every year I selected too many for one person to possible consume and like every year I forgot about following my list after about five samples in.

A couple missed opportunities for beers that never arrived, errant brewers and kegs that just refused to be tapped kept an element of spontaneity to my sampling selection.

No explanations needed...

No explanations needed…

Pouring at Muskoka

Pouring at Muskoka

Nonetheless I did manage to hit up quite a number of booths and here are some of my (and my entourages) beer highlights in no particular order:

Sound Brewing Humulo Nimbus Dbl IPA

Wolf Brewing Rannoch Scotch Ale

33 Acres of Life

Double Trouble Vanilla Bean Espresso Imperial Stout

Powell Street Old Jalopy Pale Ale

Hopworks Urban Brewery Survival Seven Grain Stout (a surprise but welcome appearance)

Whistler Brewing Mint Julep

Red Racer

Red Racer

Of course we tried many beers that in retrospect may have been good or may have been not so good but honestly by the end of a beer festival you are just happy if you can distinguish between flavours.

At the end of the day for those who had not quite got their fill, an added bonus was after-parties hosted by Beerthirst for the launch of New Belgium Brewing in BC and hosted by Copper & Theory for the Upright Brewing and Ninkasi tap take-overs .

Oddly enough for me, the highlight of the festival may have been the opportunity to sample the four stellar Lips of Faith beers from New Belgium at the Irish Times pub.

Driftwood swag

Driftwood swag

The Great Pumpkin Beer Wrap-Up

Well I did it (self congratulatory pat on the back) I tried nineteen different pumpkin beers  leading up to Hallowe’en and I am happy to not have to see or drink another pumpkin beer until next year. In honour of this feat I thought I would put together a little wrap-up by ranking the pumpkin brews 1 through 19 to give my readers a better sense of my favourite and not so favourite beers.



Starting at the top of the gourd pile we have…

1. Southern Tier Pumking

2. Elysian Night Owl

3. Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

4. Parallel 49 Schadenfreude

5. Granville Island Pumpkin Ale

6. St. Ambroise Citrouille (Pumpkin)

7. Parallel 49 Lost Souls

8. Tree Jumpin Jack

9. Elysian Dark O’ the Moon

10. Elysian Hansel and Gretel

11. Steamworks Pumpkin Ale

12. Epic Brewing Imperial Pumpkin Porter

13. Fernie Pumpkin Head

14. Red Racer Pumpkin Ale

15. Howe Sound Pumpkineater

16. Two Beers Pumpkin Spice Ale

17. Pike Harlot’s Harvest

18. Lighthouse Pumpkin Ale

19. Phillips Crooked Tooth


Now onto the Great Christmas Beer Countdown, 55 beers in 55 days …just kidding!


Pumpkin Beer Sixteen, Light and Clean

Sweet Sixteen. It is almost Hallowe’en and thank goodness since I am getting mighty sick of drinking pumpkin beer. With that embittered and biased preface out of the way allow me introduce Central City Brewing’s Red Racer Pumpkin Ale (I’ll play nice I promise).



Red Racer Pumpkin pours a very, very clear orange with a little bit of off-white head that vacates the premise pretty quickly. The nose is subtle but I think I detect some pumpkin pie spices in there maybe cinnamon and maybe some nutmeg. Red Racer Pumpkin is a light bodied and low ABV (5%) ale that is very clean drinking. Flavour wise you get the pie spices and a touch of bitterness. There was no discernible finish to this one.


If you are looking for pumpkin beer done light, a baby pumpkin beer if you will, this is the six-pack for you, it was kind of like they took one of the big pumpkin beers and cut it in half with water. Don’t get me wrong this is not necessarily a bad thing sometimes you just want a session beer that hints at bigger things but personally I like a beer with a big attitude.


What does a ghost call his Mom and Dad?

His Transparents!


I am giving Central City’s Red Racer Pumpkin Ale six candy corns out of a possible ten.

Back on the Chain Gang

For the second time in my beer drinking career I tried my hand at the other end of the keg serving up casked ales at Central City Brewing Company’s Summer Cask Fest held on June 30th. While it may have been ‘summer’ only in the mindset of local beer enthusiasts, thirty-one cask creations ensured that no one was too sad to spend their Saturday indoors.



This time around I opted to volunteer for the morning shift so I could ensure I had the afternoon open to sample all must must-tries before they were tapped out. Beer geeks are not what you might consider morning people so once the doors opened at 11:00am we weren’t exactly swamped with thirsty customers but luckily the pace picked up quickly and some live blues music from Brandon Issak got the fest into full swing. To fill the lull times my station co-volunteer nicely offered me information on everything beer and brewing in case I was not quite up to snuff on my geek speak.

I was in charge of the Pale Ales, not the most popular station I’ll admit, but busy enough to get some socializing in and to afford me enough free time to try my hand at serving at a couple of the other stations (here I learned the hard way that not all kegs pour the same way and spilled beer is quite alarming to the masses). The brews at my station were Dead Frog’s Dry Hopped French Oaked Pale Ale, Howe Sound Green Tea Pale Ale and Lighthouse Tasman Ale. For educational purposes I had to sample all three so I could converse with token bearers. See the line-up section below for some brief tasting notes.


Looking back on the day as a volunteer, I enjoyed the morning shift for many reasons not the least was the fact that the majority of patrons were still lucid and the kegs were still pouring well –insert quasi-disastrous images of people ‘volunteering’ to tip near-empty kegs to drain the last drops of beer, which nicely encapsulates my experiences during the Winter Cask Festival as an afternoon drone. After my shift, my afternoon was happily spent ticking off all the beers I wanted to try and sampling from the menu. For the record I want to say that Central City treats its volunteers real nice (I even got an extra token from brew maestro Gary Lohin after my shift!) offering us five free tokens, Red Racer gear, food and an after-fest party so the remaining kegs did not go to waste! If you have never taken the time to volunteer at a craft beer event I highly recommend it.


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The Full Line-up

Alameda Yellow Wolf IPA

Big River Dry Hopped ESB

Cannery Oak Aged Port Porter – A nice surprise; rich and sweet but light in body.

Canoe Summer Chocolate Honey Wheat Ale – Far too light bodied with a watery chocolate flavour and honeyed finish.

Central City Brewing Citra Dry Hopped ESB – Well-balanced bitter with lots of citra hop on the nose and in the flavour. Clean drinking with a bitter finish.

Central City Brewing Hibiscus Cherry Ale – Too sweet for me but the hibiscus adds a nice tepid quality. Summery.

Coal Harbour Imperial Smoke Ale

Crannog Mead – Very mild and flat with fruit and honey notes. Seems like it could benefit from additional aging.

Dead Frog Dry Hopped French Oaked Pale Ale – Similar to the one they bottle in the 650ml, a little sweet and a bit more of a hop bite. Did not inspire much in the way of feedback (at least to the pourer).

Elysian Brewing Splitshot Coffee Milk Stout – Sold Out during the morning shift : (

Granville Island GI Bitter

Howe Sound Green Tea Pale Ale – Nice palate cleanser with that tepid green tea flavour. Mixed feedback from my customers on this one though.

Lighthouse Tasman Ale – Interesting with the citrus forward Tasman (New Zealand) hop profile. Lots of good feedback on this one.

Longwood Port Alberni’s Brewers Gold Dry Hopped IPA – A lot of citrus elements on the nose and in the flavour, almost like a touch of tang in your beer. Light bodied and very still.

Odin Brewing Thor’s Oakuinox – Sold Out during the morning shift : (

Parallel 49 Brewing Dry Hopped Ruby Tears – A flat, hoppy bitter but not one of my fest favourites.

Port Townsend IPA

R&B Smoked Hop IPA

Russell Graetzer Polish Smoked Wheat Ale

Salt Spring Brewing Dry Hopped ESB

Spinnakers Spicy Mandarin Hefeweizen – Orange notes on the nose, light bodied and typical hefe mix of citrus and spice.

Steamworks Ginger Beer – Told this one was for ginger lovers but I found it pretty mild.

Storm Raspberry ESB – Lots of raspberry flavour playing off the hoppy bitterness; so not too sweet. One of my favourites!

Storm (Daniel Knibbs) Ginger Rye Saison – A mild saison, light on the barnyard, but nice hints of ginger and spice.

Swans Dry Hopped ESB – A nicely balanced bitter with some extra hop kick from the regular 650ml.

Taylor’s Crossing Manhattan Brew – Strong candied cherry notes and heavy on the liquor taste. One of my favourites!

Tin Whistle Dry Hopped Scorpion Double IPA

Tofino Brewing Sitka Spruce Tip IPA – Resiny hop taste with a bit of sweetness. Seems to be taking a run at the Big Dog Pliny and a respectable effort. One of my favourites!

Vancouver Island Hopfenweisse

Whistler Brewhouse Oaked Amarillo Dry Hopped IPA

Why it’s Great to be a Canadian Beer Geek!

First and foremost I would like to say Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canuck beer enthusiasts. There are many, many reasons why it is great to be a Canadian beer drinker and to celebrate our nation’s 145th Birthday I want to, in the best Canadian fashion, give a top ten list of the reasons I think being a Canadian beer geek is so great.

  1. An amazing emergent and thriving craft beer culture that continues to push brewing boundaries.
  2. Driftwood Brewing Company in Victoria, BC.
  3. All the fabulous Quebec microbreweries bringing Belgian styles to Canada.
  4. The friendly beer people from brewers to bloggers to importers to cicerones to sales reps we are all one big happy family encouraging and supporting craft beer love.
  5. Molson Canadian (you have to know what you don’t like to brew what you do).
  6. All the foodie-centric tap rooms bringing us rare casks, endlessly rotating taps and hard-to-find bottles.
  7. Central City Brewing Company for any number of reasons; the brew pub, the cask fests, the award-winning IPA, the incredible liquor store …need I go on.
  8. The Great Canadian Beer Fest in Victoria, BC.
  9. Church-Key Brewing Company in Campbellford, ON.
  10. We can enjoy our craft beer in one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world!!!

Why Can’t We Be Friends? D’oh!

Sometimes I get on a tangent with a topic I like and I forget (or ignore) that little voice in my head that says “Hey, wait a minute aren’t you forgetting something?” This was most definitely the case with my last post where I completely forgot about the collaboration between Storm Brewing and Russell Brewing Company on the Big Smoke Ale, a big and peaty strong ale brewed in limited quantities …Run, don’t walk, to Central City Liquor Store and get some now.

Mea culpa and congrats to both brewers on moving the BC craft beer scene a major leap forward!!! I hope this is just the start of a beautiful friendship.


Behind the Keg …A New Angle on the Beer Fest

My Kegs

Hi, my name is Sara, long-time patron, first time volunteer. Yesterday I attended Central  City Brewing’s Winter Cask Festival and for the first time ever I took up post behind the keg as a volunteer server. My partner and I headed over to Central City a bit early to sample a few of the casks before our shifts started. Nice turnout of local, BC and Washington State brewers with casks coming from Central City (of course), Storm, Tofino Brewing, Parallel 49, Cannery, Salt Spring Brewing, Spinnakers, Port Townsend and Boundary Bay just to name a few. Central City was packed to rafters with every conceivable inch of space taken up by a beer geek, a table of beer geeks or a row of kegs and a server. Beers were mapped out by style in small stations circling the pub.

The Scotch Ales

One of the great things about beer fests is they afford brewers a chance to try something really creative in a relatively small sample; for instance, Parallel 49 offered a Campfire Smores Stout, Spinnakers had a Peppercorn Saison and Canoe an Asian Fusion Pale Ale. As a patron it is fun to try some of these more challenging flavour combinations in a small pour instead of committing to a whole pint or god-forbid an entire six pack. Often these out-there beers are something I would only want in a small sample as they probably wouldn’t make their way into my regular rotation. Some of the stand-outs for me were Tofino Brewing’s Bourbon Coffee Porter, Russell’s JD Barrel Aged Scotch Ale, Canoe’s Asian Fusion Pale Ale (think ginger and pear), Lighthouse Houblonic Plague and for something clean and easy on the palate Steamworks Pilsner.

ESB's and IPA's

So will I be offering up my skills as a beer server at another beer fest? Absolutely. It was so much fun being behind the scenes chatting with brewers, servers and fellow beer geeks. The volunteers were treated very well by the folks at Central City, we were fed, given t-shirts, admission and tokens. Everybody seemed to be having a really good time, which made the 3.5 hour shift fly by in no time. Working the keg allowed me to gleam invaluable on-fly-assessments of the different beers as well as being to privy to opinions on everything from the best place to shop for beer cross-border, how to open a new brewery, fashion advice and everything in between. In the same way that brewing your own beer only heightens your appreciation for the craft, I would highly recommend that every beer enthusiast tries their hand at working the taps at least once it really does give you an entirely different perspective on how beer fests are organized and run. Cheers to the folks at Central City for a great event!

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