Tag Archives: Granville Island Brewing

Squeezing in just one more Pumpkin Beer

The Pumpkining


It is down to the wire as far as pumpkin beers go (it’s gauche to consume one after October right?) so when my very nice neighbour dropped off  a couple of bottles of The Pumpkining from Granville Island Brewing I knew I had to dutifully drink it before midnight lest I turn into a pumpkin.

The Pumpkining (6% ABV) pours a burnt orange (according to the bottle) but to my untrained eye I would describe it as a very clear chestnut reddish brown beer with lots of thick off white head and excellent head retention. An earthy nose that is rather subtle and an earthy yam-like flavour with a lot of underlying pumpkin pie spices. Body wise I find this one a bit thin with no real warming character despite the label’s assertion it is a strong beer. I don’t get much in the way of maltiness from this beer and the finish continues the earthy notes making this one consistent if not terribly complex. I have to say GIB always nails it when it comes to putting the flavours front and centre i.e. if it says it is a pumpkin beer there are lots of pie spices or if it says vanilla than by gosh there is a boat load of vanilla. Whether this is a good thing can be up for debate. Personally I like my pumpkin beers to be a bit on the sweet side and a little heavier body wise.

Overall not a bad entry into the (overly) saturated pumpkin market but not memorable enough to make The Pumpkining a repeat purchase.

Happy Hallowe’en!

O Hoppy Night

Pauline’s presents present particular problems when placed parallel to pink poinsettias 


Behind door number six…

It’s Granville Island Brewing’s Lions Winter Ale. A vanilla forward Christmas offering that has been a seasonal standard for many years now.


Granville Island Brewing Lions Winter Ale


Lions Winter Ale pours an amber red colour with a decent amount of cream coloured head. There is good clarity to this beer. It is all vanilla all the time on the nose of this beer. Fairly light bodied with a clean mouthfeel. Flavour wise you get vanilla (obviously), maltiness and a bit of a nutty taste. There is some hop to the finish, which cuts through the sweetness.


This is a good starter Christmas beer for those unfamiliar with the whole craft beer thing; it is easy to drink, comes in a six pack and tends to be pretty middling all-in-all; however, for the dedicated beer geek this one is not quite in the same league as some of the other seasonal offerings this year.


I am giving Lions Winter Ale  five candy canes out of a possible ten.

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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 Six, A Surprising Top Pick

Pumpkin Beer six and I am roughly one third of the way into my journey to drink all ales pumpkin flavoured. This time out I am sampling Granville Island Brewing’s Limited Release Pumpkin Ale.



Their pumpkin ale pours a burnt orange copper colour with a decent amount of white head that turns pretty quickly into a light layer of lacing. Initially there is not a lot of nose to this ale but as it warms you get a complex mix of malt, hop and earthy notes on the nose. There is a ton of earthy pumpkin flavour, some sweet caramel notes from the malt, and a touch of nuttiness or roasted grain. The ale is light bodied, fairly low in alcohol at 6%, with a dry and slightly bitter finish. A really good pumpkin ale characterized not by pumpkin pie spices but rather by the earthy squash-like flavour of real roasted pumpkin.


This one was a pleasant surprise and I would give Granville Island’s Pumpkin Ale eight 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

Granville Island; The Best Irish Beer? Priming for St. Paddy’s Day at Firefly


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Last night I went to Firefly’s La Table Commune for a crash course in all things Irish and beer; kind of like a “dry” run for beer geek’s Christmas also known as St. Patrick’s Day. And no, before you comment, ask aloud or even form the thought in your brain we did not have any green beer, and no, green food colouring does not enhance the drinking process until at least six pints into the evening. In the place of emerald brews we sampled beers from Ireland and not just Guinness – apparently there are other beers in Ireland, who knew???


The evenings line-up included Ireland’s most popular beer Harp Lager (blanched Guinness …kidding), Kilkenny Cream Ale (best Irish name), Granville Island Irish Red (re-christened Granville Isle for the evening – at least in my mind), Smithwicks Ale (the ‘w’ is silent -thanks Lundy I don’t want to sound like a rookie), Magners Irish Cider (not beer at all), Half & Half (a cocktail of Harp and Guinness), Innis & Gunn Scotch Stout (comes in a green box!) and last but not least and not unexpected Guinness Dry Stout (aka Guinness for light weights). Our Irish beers were accompanied by a nice selection of cheese including Guinness cheese AND an amazing beer truffle from Cocoa Nymph.


We got some interesting background information on the evening’s theme:

  • For instance, even though Ireland=Guinness=Stout in the minds of many 63% of the beer sold in the country is lager – perhaps this is why Harp is brewed by Guinness.
  • At the beginning of the 19th century there were over two hundred breweries, today there are fewer than twelve.
  • Historically Ireland produces ales without hops because the hop is not native to Ireland.
  • Popular Irish beer styles include Lagers, Cream Ales, Red Ales and of course stout.
  • Guinness pioneered the use of the ‘widget’ (that thing rattling around in the bottom of your beer can) in the late 1980’s to maintain that creamy draught character.
  • Guinness is actually the lightest of the beer selection served in terms of calories and alcohol content. Guinness for health indeed!


HARP LAGER: Clear and golden with lots of stiff white head; grape and apple on the nose with a hint of nuttiness; light bodied and crisp with the ever so slightest bitter finish; drinkable but not remarkable.

KILKENNY CREAM ALE: Light amber, clear with a decent amount of head; a little sweet malt on the nose; clean and creamy in the mouthfeel but very flat.

SMITHWICKS RED ALE: Reddish amber with cream coloured head and good clarity; touch of sour and sweet on the nose; nice malt/hop balance and a bit of depth body wise; subtle bitter finish.

GRANVILLE ISLAND IRISH RED ALE: Deeper red colour with lots of white head; definite hop on the nose; smooth to drink with caramel notes and a soapy hop quality; bitter finish.

MAGNERS IRISH CIDER: Very, very pale gold, effervescent and clear; sweet apple nose; crisp and easy to drink; sweet finish but not cloyingly so more refreshing and not cooler like, which is a definite bonus.

INNIS & GUNN STOUT: Dark reddish brown with a quickly dissipating caramel coloured head; sweet, oaky nose; smooth in body, smoky overtones, lots of whisky flavour; liquor-like finish.

GUINNESS DRY STOUT: Deep black and tan with lots of creamy head; roastiness on the nose; very light in body and dry but with lots of flavour notes like coffee, chocolate and roast cereal; bitter finish.

HARP AND GUINNESS (Half and Half): Points go to this one for awesome aesthetics for this cocktail; a layered drink with the dark Guinness floating atop the light Harp.

HARP AND MAGNERS (Snakebite): I’m a big fan of this ‘radler’ style of mixing lager with something sweet like cider, soda or lemonade; reminds me of picnics and sunshine.


Hopscotch 2010

Last Saturday I attended my very first Hopscotch an event that has become an annual rite for Scotch, Whisky and Beer drinking Vancouverites.  Initially I had some reservations about the beer portion of festival noticing an absence (or very limited presence) of many of my US Northwest favourites but I had many pleasant surprises and found myself tasting out of my element –a good thing!  So onto the ales; some of the beers I sampled include Delirium Tremens, Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Biere, Lagunitas Brown Shugga’, Rogue’s Yellow Snow IPA, Granville Island’s Imperial Chocolate Stout, Howe Sound Winter Ale, Whistler Brewing’s Winter Dunkel Signature Series vol. 2, Smuttynose Wheat Wine Ale 2009 Vintage, Tree Brewing Co. Vertical Winter Ale and Tree Brewing Limited Reserve Spiced Ale.  For the sake of brevity I will do a sports reel style recap highlighting the memorable moments –for better or worse.

10.Coming in at my least favourite libation Lagunitas Brown Shugga’…wow sweet beer, not sweet like awesome dude, but sweet like drinking a glass of brown sugar dissolved in a mediocre ale.

9.  Rogue Yellow Snow IPA; ah Rogue sometimes I think that you and I will never meet in the middle, either I cannot discern the nuances between your hopped up beers or too many hops drown the other elements.  The former is the most likely case and kudos on the fun seasonal name.

8.  Sliding in at number eight, Howe Sound Winter Ale, nice dark ale but on the whole not remarkable.

7.  Next up one of the two chocolate beers on this evening’s roster Granville Island’s Imperial Stout.  A complex stout with many competing elements; coffee at the forefront, a slight bitterness and just a hint of its chocolate namesake.

6.  Smuttynose made me wait and it was a little warm so it rounds out the bottom half of the list.  I found the barley wine really dominates this ale with its distinct rich liquor taste not letting the great taste notes of the wheat ale come through.

5.  Jolly Pumpkin swings in at five with a strong, cloudy ale containing lots of malt flavour and that somewhat unique taste so often described as barnyard.

4.  One of the two Tree offerings lands at number four.  The limited reserve Spice Ale was the final beer of the evening (and free).  Dark strong ale with a mild amount of spice but to be fair this beer will get another turn at bat since I have one cooling in the fridge.

3.  Third star of the evening goes to (oops did I switch metaphors?) Delirium Tremens the ale that heralds itself as the ‘World’s Best Beer’.  Okay, okay it was good, very good, clean and strong with just the right amount of fruitiness.  I would have no trouble picking out this Belgian from the rest of the line-up and I would not hesitate to pick it up again.

2. Our second star of the evening, and the second kick at the chocolate can, Whistler Brewing’s Dunkel.  Quite possibly the best chocolate beer I have tried.  Dark and slightly effervescent, a malty Dunkel with a prominent chocolate taste.

1. Drum roll please, my favourite of the evening, the only beer to make it to repeat drinking status… Tree Brewing’s Vertical Winter Ale.  Mild ale that is crisp with a nice balance of spice and vanilla. A beer to accompany fireplaces and good books –the benchmark to which all ales aspire, at least in my mind.

Out of a possible five I would give this event a 4.0 (points lost for the ridiculous cab/shuttle situation and lack of options for us vegan beer aficionados; c’mon it’s Vancouver)


With visions of Pumpkins…











Continuing right along with my seasonal tastings I sampled Jolly Pumpkin’s la Parcela No. 1 Pumpkin Ale –finally the brewery with pumpkin in their name brings out a pumpkin beer (ha ha) I am sure they have never heard that one.  No. 1 Pumpkin pours a deep golden colour; it has a strong lingering head and is opaque in the glass with lots of sediment settling to the bottom.  This beer is quite strong and heavy on the spice element.  I would say there is almost a Saison quality to it.  The finish has a subtle sweetness and the taste of cloves comes through.  In the 750ml size this beer made a great sharer but I am not sure I could finish a bottle on my own.  Overall this ale was a unique take on the pumpkin theme.

Out of a possible five I would give this ale a 4.0

Nothing marks the turn of the seasons like the arrival of fall and winter seasonals at the beer store; pumpkin, spice, chocolate and vanilla flavours abound in bottles adorned with deep coloured labels signalling the onset of cold weather and fire places.  Feeling somewhat autumnal –but not Christmasal- I decided to try out Granville Island’s limited edition Pumpkin Ale.  This beer pours a cloudy orange with very little head that quickly dissipates.  There is also little to no lacing on the sides of the glass.  I found this ale to have a somewhat sour quality on first tasting, not like a lambic or a Flemish, but something I couldn’t quite place perhaps the ‘earthy undertone’ described on the label.  In the same vein, I found the spiciness to be somewhat lacklustre.  Overall this really just tasted like somewhat tart, somewhat strong ale with nothing to set it apart as pumpkin per se (short of the label of course).  I expect pumpkin ales to have strong distinct notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves coupled with a discernable pumpkin taste; basically pureed pumpkin pie lovingly tempered with strong ale.  Disappointingly this will definitely not be a repeat for purchase me…I await Lions Winter Ale with bated breath.

Out of a possible five I would give this ale a 2.5

Update: Liking this pumpkin offering but not loving it I tried out a few other Autumn inspired brews. Elysian, much like Granville Island, suffered from that all too common shortcoming of flavoured beers by having too little of the featured ingredient to make an impact. A nice spiced ale in it’s own right but not memorable. What was memorable was Steamworks pumpkin ale. Seriously this was like drinking pumpkin pie in a glass; it was sweet with cinnamon and hot with clove and nutmeg elements. Fantastic!

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