Tag Archives: Driftwood Brewing Company

New Brew Friday

Happy Holidays to all my fellow beer nerds, I hope Santa treated you well bringing a sack full of new and interesting beers for you to share with friends and family.

This new brew Friday is somewhat special for me because I finally got to drink a beer I have been looking forward to for quite some time now, Lustrum Wild Sour Ale from Driftwood Brewery.

Anyone who knows me or has ever read this blog will know that I am to sour beer what hop heads are to Double IPA’s. To find out that one of my favourite BC breweries was trying their hand at my most favouritest style was exciting.


Here is the description from Driftwood: “Aged for over a year in French Oak this blood red vinous beast holds depth of color, flavor and aroma unparalleled in any beer we have brewed thus far. Fermented with locally sourced wild yeast and a copious load of black currants, Lustrum will be enjoyed on many levels!”

And here is mine: Lustrum pour a beautiful deep plum red colour with tons of reddish tinged soapy head that really stuck around. Big dried fruit nose with an equal helping of funky yeastiness. Tart at the front then giving way to an oaky character and some sweetness. The currant really dominates giving this beer an almost lambic like quality meets red wine reminding me of Unibroue Cassis or Lindeman Cassis. A dry beer that finishes with some tartness but also a bitter quality. To me this beer tastes a bit young, like the flavours have not really blended together, and I think it could have benefited from further aging. I found the currant taste over-powering at times and also a bit cloying while the yeastiness seemed a bit too up front. Personally, I like my sours to be quite tart and very dry. Overall it felt like a bit too much was going on in this beer at once making it feel like a bit of an identity crisis.

Nonetheless to see BC brewers delving into sour/wild ale territory is quite exciting and hopefully this is the beginning of something big. #BCneedsabarrelhouse

Beer Phonetics

In order to foster and maintain the exclusivity of our beer geek culture we must ensure that the proper pronunciations of craft beer terminology are kept a closely guarded secret so we might mock and ridicule outsiders who just don’t get it – it is pronounced hefe-why-zen not hefe-wee-zen (insert exaggerated drawl and emphasis as desired).

Unfortunately amicable Driftwood Brewing did not get the memo when they released their Gose-uh, a beer with built-in pronunciation notes.

Oh well, now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag I might as well fill you in on the background of the style. In Tasting Beer Mosher notes that Gose is a historical style of white beer, a top-fermenting beer seasoned with coriander and salt. Like many other historical styles gose beers have begun a sort of renaissance as craft brewers look back to ales thought long-forgotten to sate the rabid legions of beer geeks eager for the next big thing. Generally, this style is lower alcohol, herbal and somewhat sour due to inoculation with lactic acid. There is no real bitterness or any strong nose. So based on this description gose is a fairly safe segue into craft beer.

Driftwood Gose

Driftwood Gose-uh (5% ABV)

Gose-uh pours a cloudy orange colour with lots of airy bright white head. Very wheat beer on the nose that is to say you get yeastiness and some spiciness, coriander primarily. This one is light-bodied and clean in the mouthfeel, very much a summer drinker. The sourness is very, very subtle in this beer and I expected it to be a bit more prominent based on other versions of the style I have tried. Flavour wise this beer is middling but not in a bad way the different tastes are subtle, it is a bit funky and a bit spicy. There is a slight saltiness to the finish that a first is a bit off-putting but really grows on you as you continue to drink (historically patrons could specify the saltiness of this beer style). Overall an easy beer that marks yet another impressive entry in Driftwood’s seasonal line-up.

Baby, why are you so Sour?

Somewhat contrary to my fellow beer geeks, when I first started exploring craft beer one of the more challenging styles quickly emerged as my favourite and that style is soured beer. I  know this category of beer is not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ and in fact many people are initially turned off by the often over-powering tartness of  a gueze or an oud bruin but if you think you are not a fan of wild ales you really do not know what you are missing.


Sour Beer from Cascade Barrel House

Sour Beer from Cascade Barrel House


Sour beer is technically not a style in and of itself, rather it is a process of using bacterial infection to impart tartness while fermenting and/or beer, as such under this broad category there is a range of flavours and, well, sourness from sweet and fruity lambics, to the deep and rich sour brown ales, to the accessible Flanders red ales, to the straight lambics, which offer no apologies for their tart kick.

Historically, lambic beers (a style of beer brewed with aged hops and a high proportion of unmalted wheat) were spontaneously fermented. That is to say you basically do the opposite of everything you learned in homebrew school and intentionally infect your wort with some of the many microscopic critter floating around in the air. The different resultant bacterial infections all work to ferment the beer while it ages in wooden barrels (the wooden barrel being a natural haven for microbes). Ensuring consistency is near impossible for the sour beer brewer so the resultant batches are blended to achieve the desired tartness levels.

According to Mosher in Tasting Beer, when Lindemans expanded their brewery they took a portion of their old wall and bolted it in their new building in order to preserve their signature mix of beneficial bugs.




In modern times, the souring of beer is less by chance i.e. opening a window and hoping for the best but really not by much.

Bacterial agents like lactobacillus, brettanomyces and pediococcus are systematically introduced to the fermentation process; however, the outcome remains somewhat unpredictable and the time commitment to brew a sour beer is significant compared pretty much any other beer style think years versus months. Blending remains the most viable means to ensure the sourness of your beer is at a level that is drinkable.


Beet Sour Beer from Epic Ales

Beet Sour Beer from Epic Ales


Once the sole domain of dedicated Belgian brewers devoted to the art of brewing sour beers, wild ales are carving out an impressive niche in Europe and North America. Russian River, Cascade Brewing, Jolly Pumpkin and Epic Ales are all making a name for themselves in pursuit of excellent sourness.

A little more north Oud Bruin from Yaletown Brewing Company and Driftwood’s Bird of Prey Flanders Red are showing Canadian brewers are also getting on the sour bandwagon.




Is sour beer the next big thing in the craft beer world? Well, not to self-promote (too much) I have to say I saw this one coming for quite sometime now. I even wrote a post called ‘Love is a Sour Delight’ back in February of 2011 espousing the wonder that is sour beer. If you require further confirmation, you just need walk into any decent beer store and observe the number of barrel-aged, wild and wine-blended beers now on the market.

As we move into warmer weather I urge my fellow beer geeks to crack open a bottle of sour beer on a warm summer night and tell me this isn’t one of the best affirmations they have ever had that craft beer will one day rule the world.


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




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





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.


East Side Bitt R&B




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


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.


Ruby Parallel 49




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!



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.






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

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!!!

There is Good Beer in the Burbs

I have to admit this review is long overdue. In my never-ending quest to explore all things craft beer related I somehow forgot to go back to my roots and pay homage to the places where I cut my beer teeth (so to speak). So now I would like to give proper due to a little gem in the heart of White Rock with a fabulous patio and impressive beer menu …Uli’s Restaurant.


To be honest, I have a wee bit of an urban bias when it comes to craft beer. I tend to frequent places where I can spend an afternoon imbibing at different beer oases, never encumbered by the restraints of one beer line-up or one environment, free to roam (on foot of course) between brew pubs and tap rooms BUT on a warm, sunny Saturday you would be hard-pressed to find a better location to park with a beer or two than Uli’s patio.

Uli’s is probably the place that did the most to further my beer education. When I was just discovering the diversity of craft beer their beer menu seemed like a veritable buffet. Often on the recommendations of Uli’s owner and beer geek Tyson, I explored all kinds of different beer styles starting with the light and fluffy, Fruli on tap, to the dark and fishy, Upright Brewing Oyster Stout, to the wonder that is sour ale, Duchesse De Bourgogne.


Re-visiting the beer menu as a seasoned beer drinker the menu is still impressive if a bit pricey. There is a good bottle selection with equal representation given to the big styles –IPA’s, Lagers, Belgians, Darks and Stouts– and a list of specialty bottles for the more adventurous sort. Sadly there are only five or six beers on tap and they do not rotate quite as frequently as I might like. I would love it if Uli’s did beer flights based on a selection of rotating taps but if wishes were horses …blah, blah, blah. They have begun hosting beer pairings, which is great news for those of us who live out in the White Rock/South Surrey area.

This time out we tried the Driftwood Farmhand on tap, D’Achouffe (Hopped version) on tap, Elysian Idiot Sauvin, Kronenburg Blanc, Samuel Smith Apricot Ale, Green Flash Trippel and a half Fruli half Kronenburg creation. For me, the Elysian, the La Chouffe and the Samuel Smith were the standouts.


My carnivorous friends praise the locally-sourced menu items; they even boast an award winning burger in two versions no less. I am a big supporter of the locavore movement but as a veggie the food selection is a little less impressive and not very consistent. They do have a veggie burger, salads and they can veg-ify the paella but there is nothing I would go out of my way to recommend to a fellow vegan or vegetarian.

The best part about Uli’s is alas also the worst part in many respects –the patio. White Rock is a tourist town, which means while I had visions of whiling away my Saturday afternoon drinking in the sun instead I got a ‘time slot’ on the patio after which we were unceremoniously re-located indoors (we were even threatened with another re-location due to an impending birthday party). For locals in the know you really need to visit Uli’s in those ever elusive windows where we have rogue sunny days in April and October so you can kick back, enjoy the ocean view and chip away at the beer menu.


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The Counter Culture Roots of Craft Beer

In 1969 Sociologist Theodore Roszak wrote a seminal book called “The Making of a Counter Culture”. In his book Roszak develops the concept of a counter culture, which is roughly defined as the provocative, new and even radical creations of a generation of youth profoundly alienated from the parental generation. It is a questioning of the status quo as represented by the dominant world view and an undermining of the foundations of what Rosazak termed the “technocracy” (technological aristocracy)  – read industrialization, mass marketization and homogenization of all aspects of culture. Roszak goes on to propose the “myth of the objective consciousness” postulating that a culture, which subordinates or degrades the visionary commits the sin of diminishing our existence. The question facing us is not “How shall we know?” but “How shall we live?”

It seems to me that we have been embracing this rejection of the technocracy in many facets of culture ever since. We are increasingly concerned with the inequitable and unsustainable way in which we interact with the earth and with each other. There seems to be a genuine desire for change driving many of the ways we now choose to live our lives, and nowhere is this more obvious than in our ever evolving relationship with food.



The Rise of the Foodie Culture

To me, there has been a profound shift in our relationship with (to) the foods we eat and the beverages we consume. Whether you call it visionary or merely a re-discovery, we are embracing a simplicity and accessibility to the things we consume. Building upon the foundation laid (or re-asserted) by counter culture ideals, the slow food movement challenges (and rejects) almost all the prevalent attitudes towards food and eating held by our parents. Microwaves, T.V. dinners and fast food were novel uses of our technology but ultimately they severed any ties we have to what we are putting in our bodies.

Carlo Petrini, the Italian founder of Slow Food, suggests “Our century, which began and developed under the insignia of industrial civilization, first invented the machine and then took it as its life model.” The ‘slow’ in slow food is not simply a rate of change but a way of being that encourages the development of a careful, reflective, quality-over-quantity, intuitive and receptive connection with our food. This desire to understand the foods we consume has manifested itself in countless ways from the notion of a 100-mile diet, the embracing organic and whole foods, the proliferation of farmers markets, the locally-sourced term on restaurant menus, the creation of Farm Folk/City Folk and so on. Oft-mocked as ‘foodies’ there is a growing base of consumers willing to pay more for less in order to re-establish that connection.



The (re)Birth of Real Ale

‘But that was my father’s beer.’ Interestingly this idea has resonance for many people. If it was good enough for my parents then it is good enough for me, it is what they always drank, that brewery has been in business for over a hundred years how bad can it be? The continued popularity of the leading big three lagers, sanitized and pasteurized to the point of having no discernible taste, presents an interesting challenge for counter culture adherents. Fortunately the other side of this stick-with-what-you-know notion is a rejection of the same old same old in favour of actually knowing what goes into your beer, how it is made, who brewed it, and where it comes from. Counter culture ideals are manifest in our (re)introduction to the world of real ale.

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, began in Britain in the late 1960’s with the aim of preserving traditional beer, which was being threatened by the industrialized and mass-marketed ‘beers’ that had become so ubiquitous. Real ale is naturally carbonated cask beer, in other words it is a slow food – it takes time to brew, time to ferment, time to carbonate, time to transport, and time to serve. CAMRA has spawned chapters all over the world uniting brewers and consumers passionate about the craft. Indeed the ever-increasing popularity of craft beer and microbreweries is an amazing testament to our culture’s desire to return to quality over quantity. Brewers have sought out ancient recipes, ingredients and techniques (Dogfish Head), they incorporate local elements into traditional styles (Driftwood) or better yet they grow their own (Rogue).

But there is also a cautionary tale here because as craft beer finds its niche others, less dedicated to the ideals of preservation, find a profitable market. Much like the juggernaut that has become organic food, how to set parameters to ensure the craft remains in craft beer? I feel we can look to one of the principle tenets, if not the principle tenet, of slow food balance for our answer. Being able to successfully market quality product, to be able to sustain and grow your business, and to be able to make a living doing something you love is always the goal; however, when business sense overtakes passion we take the first tentative steps down a very slippery slope.



*Thanks to Theodore Roszak The Making of a Counter Culture, Randy Mosher Tasting Beer, and Carl Honore In Praise of Slow for content.

All About Hops

An ode to the most humble hop

Who in fall its rhizome’s do drop

The cone from the vine

Adds grapefruit and pine

To give my pale ale bitter pop

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What exactly are hops?

The hop, Humulus Lupus, is a climbing plant in the Cannabacinae (nettle) family. Commonly referred to as a vine hops are actually a bine, which has a stout stem with stiff hairs to aid in climbing. These bines grow quickly, wrapping clockwise around anything within reach. Only the female plants are grown in hop fields to prevent the production of seeds by the male plant. The part of the plant useful in brewing is the cone (scientifically known as the catkin or strobile). Inside the cone is a stem surrounded by a waxy substance called lupulin, which contains the bitter resins and aromatic oils beloved by beer enthusiasts. The resins are divided into alpha and beta acids with the alpha acid being the measure of the hops bittering power (ranges from 2 to 20 percent). Recently high-alpha varieties have been developed in the unending quest for the hoppiest of the hopped beers. The oils have their own characteristics that can be described as floral, resiny, spicy and even minty. The differing aromas tend to be region specific; German hops are more herbal, English varieties tend to be spicy or fruity and American types, while quite diverse, lean towards piney-ness. In addition, there is a group of European hops termed ‘noble’ that are used for the distinctive aroma found in lager beers.

How and where are they grown?

Hops can be grown in both hemispheres between 35 and 55 degrees latitude. The hop plant is trained to grow up stings in a field called a hopfield, hop garden or hop yard. Hops are harvested in early fall and dried in an oast house. The majority of harvested hops are used in beer production; however, hops are also used in herbal medicines to treat anxiety and insomnia. In Europe and North America the most prized varieties of hops are tied to specific growing regions: for instance, the spicy saaz is grown in western Bohemia, the herbal Hallertau in northern Bavaria, the twangy green spiciness of the East Kent Golding grown in south-eastern London or the grapefruit happy Chinook and Columbus grown in the Pacific Northwest. Another unique varietals include Sorachi Ace the lemony hops grown in Japan. Locally, both Rogue (Oregon) and Driftwood (Vancouver Island) have brewed using their own locally sourced hops for some amazing, but transient, fresh hopped beers. Rogue Ales have a series of Grow Your Own (GYO) beers celebrating the use of local sourced hops.

The History

According to Mosher in Tasting Beer the first hopped beers appeared in Bremen, Germany at the start of the eleventh century. Many of the first brewers to use hops were ‘free’ cities that operated beyond the reach of the Church. At this time the Church mandated the use of gruit (a mix of seasonings), which was sold by the local Gruitrecht, which just happened to be controlled by said religious organizations. Gruit brewers were making amber or brown ales while the hop brewers were crafting ‘white’ beers, which contained a fair amount of wheat. It took about one hundred years for these hoppy ales to spread to Amsterdam and about five hundred years to make it to the English shores. So why did the addition of hops to beer endure? One of the many great qualities of the hop is its preservative properties, which lengthened the shelf-life of beer (from a few weeks to a few months). Despite the reservations of the English towards this new import beer eventually hopped beers became the norm and by the 1600’s all English ale contained some quantity of hops.

What do hops bring to the table?

To get the bittering quality from hops you must boil them vigorously but this causes the aromatic oils to be driven off. To achieve balance in this aroma/bitterness dichotomy hops are added at multiple stages of the brewing process. Adding hops to the boil facilitates isomerisation, the process by which hop alpha acids are chemically rearranged into a form that is more bitter and soluble. Each variety of hop has a certain amount of bittering substance, which varies by region and year. This information is provided with the shipment. Balance, of course, is something subjective so the brewer must take into account the appropriate ratios for each beer style as well as leaving room for their own creativity. It is not merely a balance between the malt and hop but the consideration of the subtle interplay between the differing qualities of roasted malts, the variety of hop and other spices/elements that will be added to your brew. Generally the ratio of Bittering Units (BU) to Gravity Units (GU) will get you started in your calculations.

How do I describe the hoppiness in my Beer?

Aroma – Comes from the aromatic oils extracted during the different stages of the brewing process. Described as hoppy, spicy, herbal, floral, lavender, piney, resiny, citrus, earthy and/or cat pee.

Taste – Comes from the isomerized alpha acids. Described as bitter, hoppiness (medium to high to very high).

IBU (International Bitterness Unit) – This is a measure (parts per million) of the actual bitterness of a beer as contributed by the dissolved alpha acids
from hops.

So you think you know your Craft Beers?

The Beer Tasting Line-up

I’ve been thinking a lot about the development and evolution of my palate lately. The types of beers I enjoy, the flavours I can discern and my ability to articulate differences between beers has changed a great deal since I began exploring the world of craft beer a couple of years ago but how far have my skills come? When push comes to shove can I tell my Budweisers from my Brooklyn Lagers? How well do any of us self-proclaimed beer enthusiasts really know our ales? In order to put my skills to the test I recruited five willing (does bribing with cupcakes count as willing?) guinea pigs to try a blind taste test. I chose nine beers all with an ABV of around 4%-8% and all fairly middle of the range style-wise i.e. no heavy stouts, double IPA’s, cask conditioning or anything else that might give away the craft element. I created a rating chart so people could comment on appearance, aroma, flavour and then provide their best guess as to whether the sample was a craft or commercial beer, the brand, the style or anything else they wanted to mention. I put myself in the role of omnipresent beer god so I knew which beers were being served but I still partook of the sampling purely in the name of science. Other variables to note; I served everything quite cold and in glass, I rinsed between samples and water with lemon was available to cleanse the palate. To amalgamate the results I decided to highlight a few of the reviewer’s comments on each aspect of the beer in the table that follows:

Mendocino Brewing Company Red Tail Ale American Style Amber Ale

Handcrafted American

ABV 6.1%

“Just by looking at it I thought it was craft”

“dark amber”




“mild hop”


“bitter, hoppy, caramel”


“Not Kokanee”

“Pale Ale”

Driftwood Ale Northwest-style Pale Ale

Craft Canadian

ABV 5%

“Golden cloudy”


“light colour”

“sour tinge”

“mild at best”


“harsh metallic finish”

“reminiscent of soap”

“fruity, citrus, light hops”

“Not Craft?”

“could be a craft because of the cloudiness”

“mass produced light ale”

Stella Artois Belgian Premium Lager

Commercial Import

ABV 5%

“very light”

“Domestic, industrial”

“very filtered

“familiar but not distinctive”

“little aroma”

“Doesn’t leave much behind”

“metallic finish”

“green apple sour/sweet mix”

“Mass lager”



Tree Brewing Co. Cutthroat Pale Ale A Classic Pale Ale

Craft Canadian

ABV 5%

“Fall colours”

“Light Amber”

“a little cloudy”

 “warm, earthy, sweet” “smooth and citrus”

“hint of hop”

“airy after taste”

“Six pack standard craft”

“Pale Ale”


Molson M Microcarbonated Lager

Commercial Canadian

ABV 4.9%

“super filtered”

“super light”

“Beer hall”

“White grapes, sweet”

“Nothing here, flat line”

“Apple, sweet, but very tepid”

“Smooth and dry”

“Summer Beer”

“Industrial Lager”


Colt 45 Strong Beer

Commercial American

ABV 8%

“Makes me worry”

“light golden, foamy”


“Sweet, flowery”

“Standard beer”

“Not much”

“Lingering aftertaste makes me suspect mass market”

“Fruity – but what kind?”

“Stronger finish”

“Maybe a strong beer”


“Mass produced pilsner”

Brooklyn Brewery Lager American Amber Lager

Craft American

ABV 5.2%


“Golden Amber”

“sweet, hoppy”

“complex and sweet”


“Excellent, well balanced”

“sweet grapefruit”

“Hop aftertaste”

“Perhaps Brooklyn”



Budweiser Lager (?)

Commercial Canadian

ABV 5%

“Apple juice”

“very light yellow”


“no aroma”

“not much”



“No flavour”

“Not offensive”


“Industrial lager”

“Possible craft”

Moon Under Water Lunar Pale Ale Pale Ale

Craft Canadian

ABV 4.2%

“Deep amber”


“Little head”

“Hoppy, floral”

“Flowery, grapefruit”

“stronger than most”

“Clean taste, a little sweet, some hops”

“Smooth with robust pop”

“Lingering finish”, excellent”

“Higher production craft”

“Craft IPA”

Pale Ale Red Ale”

So what did I learn from this experiment? Well after several hours of gruelling conditioning I could make my guests salivate when I rang a bell …oh no wait wrong experiment. Seriously now, I was impressed with everyone’s ability to pinpoint the majority of the craft beers while at the same time I was impressed with some of the complexity people were getting from those mass marketed beers we tend to pass over in our trips to the beer store. The Colt 45 was a particularity interesting case since the higher ABV seemed to confuse our palates by bringing out contesting elements that made one lean towards craft then lean back towards commercial. At the same time the less-than-stellar reaction to Driftwood was a bit of a surprise. To be fair to all the beers nine is a large sample to keep things distinct and if I had more glass ware I should have probably served everyone all nine in one sitting so they could compare and contrast. For those who rated their samples using various systems Brooklyn Lager was the clear winner followed closely by the other craft selections. The best of the rest was probably the Colt 45 and Molson M. Overall an amazingly fun and informative evening and I would like to give a quick acknowledgement to all of my most excellent human subjects – ‘The participant with fancy shoes’ ‘The participant who likes sex often’ ‘The participant who likes light coloured beer’ ‘The participant who wears a size 12’ and ‘The participant who likes the way Guinness changes colour’. Cheers guys!

A Beer Nerd’s Guide to Surviving the GCBF

This is my second year attending the Great Canadian Beer Festival (GCBF) in Victoria, BC and I think that qualifies me to dispense some sage advice on how to get the best out of your beer fest experience. First up it is a super quick walk to Royal Athletic Park from downtown Victoria and many hotels offer beer fest rates so check-in early, have a pre-beer fest pint at one of Victoria’s many great brew pubs (Spinnakers, Swans, Moon Under Water, Sticky Wicket, Canoe Club etc.) and meander your way to the gates early, I am mean really early. We got to the festival about a half hour before the gates opened and the line was down the block and around the corner. This meant by the time the line started moving and we got through the admin stuff it was almost quarter to four; we lost nearly 45min of quality drinking time! The masses behind us probably lost upwards of an hour to and hour and a half. I am not sure why the GCBF organizers do not let the crowds in early and just not start pouring drinks until the festival start time? This would allow patrons to walk around the grounds, scope out bathrooms, buy beer swag and check out the food options. Speaking of food, you can’t bring any food or drink with you AND the food selection is pretty tragic. If you are a veg like me be prepared to eat some falafel that has been parked under a heat lamp for most of its natural life. I saw some intrepid beer lovers wearing pretzel necklaces, which seems like a great idea and unlikely to get confiscated if you keep it tucked under your shirt on the way in. If you are a big geek like me pre-plan your beer route, if you an even bigger geek re-order the beer list numerically (GCBF has it alphabetically) that way you can make a big beer loop while minimizing your walking distances.

Once you actually get onto the grounds prioritize, prioritize, prioritize; many brewers run out of their more unique offerings so if you want something that is made for the festival or one of the casked ales go get it first. It really sucks to wait until the end of the day and realized the beer you want ran out an hour ago. On the other hand be aware of the ominous ‘Saturday Only’ or ‘Friday Only’ tags and have a back-up planned in case the beer you want is a no-show (ahem, Fig Saison). Don’t start the beer festival with something super strong or crazy flavoured it will skew your sense of taste for the rest of the day; on that same note don’t expect to taste much of anything by the end of the day. No matter how often you tell yourself you will pace the samples there are just too many great beers not to take advantage. Make use of super warm water randomly dispersed throughout the grounds you need to keep hydrated and cleanse the palate between samples. The brewer line-ups are long and they only get longer throughout the day so enjoy your sample while you get in line for another otherwise your glass will get all sad and empty. Try not to overbuy tokens; many people were stuck with leftovers at the end and once the air horn sounded at eight the beer stopped flowing -instantly. The bathrooms get real scary real quickly so go use the ones at the entrance as the day wears on it you want to avoid overspray. Take some time to people watch; I saw a leprechaun, Darth Vader playing the violin, living statues, a large man with a coconut bra, Duff Man, a ton of clever beer shirts, lederhosen clad freshmen and various other characters. Take advantage of the free beer swag you can never have too many coasters, stickers and temporary tattoos –my partner looked like a Nascar by the end of the day he had so many decals on his shirt. Most of all enjoy yourself, interact with the brewers, servers, entertainers and other festival patrons everyone is in great spirits -it gets loud and silly but never rowdy.

Now a bit about the beer. In all fairness I can’t really give a proper review to the samples since they were small pours, I was mixing across all kinds of styles and if truth be told I was pretty darn loaded by the end of the day; however, I would still like to offer some thoughts on my samplings and you can take them for what you will. I started with Cool Grand from Hopworks cask conditioned ale brewed with North West malt and local Oregon hops. A nice festival starter, quite balanced, a hoppy nose with a sweet finish. Yoda’s Green Tea Golden Ale from Port Townsend Brewing a very still beer with a strong green tea flavour (more than any other tea beer I have tried). Bourbon aged breakfast stout from the new kid on the block Coal Harbour Brewing; this one struck me more like a porter than a stout lacking somewhat in heft, a cold coffee taste with a hint of sweetness. Kolsch from Double Mountain Brewery (my first Kolsch!!!) light, effervescent ale with a dry fruit element that was light and crisp. Steamworks Brewing Great Pumpkin Ale (x2) just the best pumpkin beer EVER; honourable mentions to their equally stellar Grand Espresso Stout and regrets to their sold-out Frambozen = (. Three Skulls Blood Orange Wit mild wheat ale with a far too subtle orange element. Salt Spring Island Golden Ale and Heatherdale Ale; the former a nutty ale that was really crisp and the latter a dry ale with elements of honey and an almost floral like quality –both were really great and served quite cold. Moon Under Water Blue Moon Bitter a nice darker ale with a hoppy aftertaste and Tranquility IPA a middle of the road example of the style; not bad, not stellar. Sound Brewing Monks Indiscretion and Tripel Entendre. These Belgians were two of the beer fest stand-outs for me; strong and flavourful yet immensely drinkable. Pike Brewery’s Naughty Nellie, which I think was pretty good but things were getting a little fuzzy at this point. Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard Ale, one of the longest lines at the festival and one of the most fun beers to order, this is the Stone signature drink aggressive hoppy ale with a bitter aftertaste that is really great. Yukon Brewing Red Amber Ale, which again I think was a pretty good red with a creamy mouthfeel and a bit of spice. I know there were others and I tried to keep track, I really did, but I am not sure what they were so I don’t want to do anyone a disservice by making a guess. A good selection of beers but I wish it was a little more distinct from last year since there were many repeats. Also, I did not feel like there were as many unusual flavours/styles represented; the piquant ales were there last year as were the numerous pumpkins but not many brewers had something highly distinctive.

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