Tag Archives: Hopworks

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

Hoyne

Hoyne

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

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The Bottles are Flowing…

It’s December 23th so lets open our second to last door…

It’s Abominable Winter Ale an organic offering from Hopworks Brewery.

Hopworks Abominable Winter Ale

Abominable Winter Ale is housed in an amazing yeti adorned bottle; perhaps my favourite artwork of the season. Abominable pours a very clear amber orange with just a little white head and some lacing. Lots of citrus hops on the nose and a bit of malt. First sip is a mix of hops, spicy and citrus, at the front of the palate then the caramel malt flavour comes through at the finish. As you drink the bitterness becomes more prominent making this one pretty typical for a Northwest Coast ale. Mouthfeel is clean, medium bodied and there is some strength to this ale giving it a bit of a warmer quality; however, setting aside the winter-eque bottle nothing else really seems that Christmas like to me it just seems like a good Hopworks ale.

 

I am giving Abominable seven candy canes (six for the beer and one for the bottle) out of the possible ten.

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Sleep Less (drink more) in Seattle

Last weekend was the Seattle International Beerfest, a modest affair with a scant 210 beers from 15 countries, a beer garden with $3 pints, live music and a pet friendly venue. Situated under the Space Needle in Seattle Centre the event ran for three days with the $30 admission getting you unlimited re-entry and ten tokens towards some of the 4oz pours.

 

 

The Venue

Despite the central location of the tasting garden, it took us a considerable amount of time to find the entrance. After wandering behind the Sci-Fi museum, over to the King Tut exhibit, talking to a rather unhelpful staff member, we eventually spotted beer drinkers through a chain link fence. We followed this fence all the way to the end of a gigantic line, which thankfully moved along quite quickly.

Once inside, I found the set-up to be really confusing. In retrospect I probably should have read through the line-up ahead of time and mapped out a route. There were only a few stations but each one had a dozen or so line-ups and you had to get in front of the cooler serving the beer you wanted to try. Token amounts were displayed prominently while the beer number was in smaller handwriting below. Despite my own ineptness at tracking down the beer, obviously a lot of work went into the beer fest guides, which had detailed and abbreviated beer lists, a map, general beer knowledge, tips to maximizing your experience and ads from local beer stores and tap houses.

Unlimited access is great if you are staying all weekend but it also meant that on a warm sunny Saturday you could barely find a place to stand and drink. Smarter people than I came early armed with blankets to stake out a coveted lawn space. For a beer geek trying to keep notes and take pictures it was a pretty comical juggling act -if you break your tasting glass it will set you back $5!

The Seattle International Beer Fest billed itself as a “high-end event” but I am not really sure how this was supposed to play out. This beer fest was similar to most outdoor events and $3 pints did not exactly contribute to a restrained drinking environment. Just an observation that notions of a high-end beer festival may be an oxy-moron.

 

 

The Beer

There was a lot of beer and in order to try even a portion you really needed to come for all three days. Since I could only make it for the Saturday I had to strategize the best I could by focusing on rarities, new (to me) brewers, collaborations and anything with a really long line –very scientific I know.

There was an almost even split between draft and bottle selections. Cost to sample ranged from 1 to 10 tokens –for ten tokens you got to try on of the Samuel Adams Utopias, which was a rare chance to buy into a very expensive bottle of beer. The bottles tended to be the more expensive selections with one of the Evil Twin beers fetching 7 tokens and the Deschutes Conflux fetching 6 tokens. Doing the math on the bottles it seemed to me that the draft beers were a better value.

One odd element was the cask rotation. You would find the beer you wanted, follow the map, only to learn that it was all gone or had not been tapped. Okay, so the guide warned about this possibility BUT when you inquired when they may be tapping the keg the servers did not know!?! Kind of like winning the beer lottery if you show up at the right time and place.

What did I try? Not as much as I would have liked as a mix of hot sun and high ABV meant I had to be a picky drinker. I did manage to sample a couple of Mad Viking Beers, the Belgian Strong and the Vintage Bourbon Stout, a couple from Double Mountain Brewery, the Peche Mode, Ferocious Five and just a wee taste of the Rainier Kriek, the New Belgium Brewery/Lost Abbey collaboration, Mo Betta Bretta Sour Ale, Anderson Valley Brewery’s Brother David’s Triple, Lost Abbey’s Serpent Stout, Two Beers Brewery Ascension Triple IPA, Scotch de Silly Belgian Scottish Brown, Evil Twin Freudian Slip Barleywine, Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge Sour Ale, Oakshire Brewery Blackberry Impy Stout Gin Barrel Imperial Stout, Tenth & Blake Big Eddy Wee Heavy Scotch Ale, Pike Brewery Pike Saison Houblon, and finally, an Icelandic beer Olvisholt Lava Smoked Imperial Stout.

As always I like to toss out the caveat that it is really hard to give a review based on a small pour at a beer fest but I did enjoy the Mad Viking beers and the Double Mountain beers quite a bit. The Cuvee des Jacobins Sour was also an awesome choice on a hot day.

 

 

All in all a fun event with lots of unique beers! Thanks Seattle.

 

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Does Beer Geek ≠ Foodie?

I always assumed that craft beer was a natural extension of foodie culture. Love of quality ingredients, focus on the art of preparation, the desire to know where you food comes from and who makes it, all seem like tenets that marry well with beer geek culture BUT lately a number of brewpubs seem to have set out to disprove my theory. I know that beer and pub grub (think nachos, deep fried whatever, shepherd’s pie) have a long and well-established relationship and you go to a pub for the beer not the gourmet cuisine blah, blah, blah but craft beer is an entirely different animal right?

 

The pride and quality that goes into producing small batches of unique beer should not be hindered by pairing said beer with mediocre food offerings more suited to a case of the late-night munchies at the 7-11. I am not saying I need complicated or elaborate courses served at the breweries but I do want the quality of food to be a reflection of the quality of the beer. I want food that compliments and enhances the character of the beers, and I have to believe I cannot be the only one.

 

Luckily here in Vancouver we have many awesome tasting rooms like Alibi Room and Bitter Tasting Room that provide finely honed menus to suit their craft beer offerings. In Beervana aka Portland I have also had the pleasure of visiting brewpubs with stellar food selection like Cascade Brewing Barrel House and Hopworks Urban Brewery. These places manage to put a foodie twist on pub staples, toss in some unexpected items, have menu diversity and just generally keep the quality of ingredients very high.

 

Sadly this has not always been the case with other brewpubs.

 

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On Thursday I visited Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen in Bellingham Washington. The brewery and tasting areas are housed in a typical warehouse-like buildings situated beside a small river in the heart of downtown. Displayed along the entrance way are the numerous awards bestowed upon Chuckanut craft brews; I was particularly excited to try their much lauded Kolsch. There is a small seating area by the bar, a large seating area in front of an open kitchen, and a patio with a few tables along the water. I also noticed a back patio, which I assume plays host to events or tastings at the brewery. It is a pretty nice layout all-in-all with lots of flowers lining the fence along the patio.

 

When we got the menus I was happy to see that all the food is prepared fresh as you order. Not a lot in the way of veg friendly options and a pretty standard line-up of brewpub fare like Bangers and Mash, BLT’s and Burgers. Faced with two choices, hummus or yam fries, we opted to split an order of fries to accompany our sampler of the six beers. Our food came quickly, so quickly in fact that I saw the fries sitting on the counter about two minutes after my partner order (warning bells alert me that fresh made in two minutes violates the laws of physics). Needless to say the food was pretty bad, well really bad actually, kind of like eating day old fries that attempt to make up for their questionable freshness with tons of salt. The food went back and we opted to focus on the beer sans nourishment – our waitress was not too happy and pretty much ignored us for the remainder of our visit so we probably could not have tried something else from the menu anyway.

 

But this is a beer blog so I will get on with the beer assessment. I inadvertently learned the Kolsch was a no-show when I found a British IPA in its place –bummer. The other five beers we sampled were the Pilsner, Yellow Card Ale, Rauch Lager, Golden Ale and the Smoke Porter. The Pils was very pale gold and effervescent. It was very dry, light in body with a bitter hoppy finish; would have benefited from a slightly colder serving temperature. The Yellow Card and the Golden were somewhat similar in appearance with the Yellow Card Ale being stronger and hoppier with some fruity element on the nose. The Golden Ale was milder with a nutty flavour. The British IPA was orange-gold in colour with lots of stiff bright white head. It was very smooth but quite dry again with a subtle hop character. The Rauchbier and the Smoke Porter both had a lot of hickory (sweet but smoky) flavour almost like applewood smoking. In the Rauch this smoked flavour dominates the palate while in the porter it adds another dimension to a fuller bodied beer. I wish the porter had more of a rosted quality to it. I think both of these beers would be fun for food pairings since they have a lot of character. If I visit again I would get the British IPA and try the Kolsch.

 

So you can take what you will from this rant; either it is about the beer and food is just a side-note or craft beer and foodie culture really make great bedfellows. I think as the craft beer market continues to define its place in the world, the food breweries choose to serve alongside their beers must not be an afterthought but rather a compliment to and a reflection on the care and passion put into each and every beer being served.


You can never drink the same beer twice

Beer Craft?

So another year ends marked by yet another trip to my favourite beer city Portland, Oregon. I visit so often that I worry one day I will become bored with the beer scene but this is just not the case and let me try to tell you why.

The adage goes “you can never step into the same river twice” and I like to think this outlook applies to craft beer drinking as well. Just like a river is always changing you will never drink the same beer twice for any number of reasons. On the most superficial of levels brew pubs are forever mixing up their menus bringing in the new, running dry of the old, changing equipment etc., and new breweries and tap houses are always emerging onto the scene. Looking at this truism from another perspective brewers, well craft brewers anyways, pride themselves on their inability to recreate the same ale over and over. Any number of external variants can affect the final taste of beer and this is a good thing. Like wine some beers have good years and they have less-than-stellar years. Tried and true beers often form the basis of a new flavoured ale, a casked ale or even a collaboration between breweries. If you want to get really philosophical you can also approach this as you will never be the same person at two different points in your life; your tastes will change, your circumstances will change, your worldview will change and so forth – I know I am not the same person I was when I started drinking craft beer so why would I prefer the same brews. What does all this rhetoric mean in real life? Well when I go to Beervana I visit the new and revisit the old to make the most of my beer-cation. Here are some of my Portland highlights:

 

The Belmont Station Bier Café had both Don the Younger and Pliny the Elder from Russian River on tap. Don the Younger was especially exciting since it was brewed exclusively for the 35th Anniversary of the Horse Brass Pub. Don the Younger is a hoppy, lemony American Bitter with pine on the nose, large white head, lots of carbonation, sweet lemon mouthfeel and bitter aftertaste. Finding Pliny the Elders to take home in the adjacent Belmont Station  Beer Store was equally exciting.

 

Visiting the Horse Brass Pub for the first time. Not the greatest menu unless you are a dyed-in-the-wool Brit (bangers and mash anyone?) but definitely a pub that knows their beer. Our server seemed shocked that we could even contemplate drinking in taster glasses (beer comes in something other than pint glasses?). Our server used to be a brewer himself so despite the many changes in beer availability he could offer a myriad of alternatives based on your taste preferences. Did I mention more Russian River on tap?

 

 

Beer Shopping. There are so many beer stores here but I swear there seems to be variation between them all. Loading up the trunk with a selection of hard to find (or impossible to find) ales to reinforce my beer stockpile is incredibly fulfilling. Stone and Russian River always top the shopping list but I also found a number of Oregon-unique ales like Hopworks Kolsch, Full Sail Imperial Porter and Rogue Double Chocolate Stout that made their way back across the border. Stone Levitation Ale and Stone/Dogfish/Victory Saison du Buff didn’t make it past the hotel room bar fridge.

 

 

Drinking through a sampler tray at the BridgePort Brew Pub. Not my favourite beers of the trip but an amazing lively atmosphere at the brew pub, beautiful location in a brick heritage building in the Pearl District, and tons of inventive pub grub options at super reasonable prices especially during happy hour -tofu fries with spicy cashew dipping sauce? Vegan perfection.

 

(Re)visiting Deschutes Brew Pub for consistently good beer and good food. The folks at Deschutes are constantly mixing it up in the beer front and this time around I got to sample their new Red Chair Ale (casked and regular), Orange Cream Ale, Menagerie Sour, Chainbreaker and Hop-u-py. The casked version of the Red Chair was the clear favourite of the night. Another great environment to drink in, always bustling, great location and incredible service. Here I first came across the concept of “nitro” beers; beers that change up the usual gas used for dispensing draft. Not sure I could tell the difference but the server swore it gave the beer a smoother taste. Bonus for the cool holiday decorations (see first picture in this post).

 


The Art of the Beer Label

I have a confession to make: when I am unsure about which new beer to try I often pick the one with the most creative label and conversely (and perhaps more detrimentally) I often avoid brewers with less-than-stellar aesthetic sensibilities. Despite how often we are plied with the euphemism to not judge a book by its cover we just darn go ahead and do it anyway. Part of this is necessity; if we were allowed to pour a sample glass before buying a bottle or can we could judge a beer using all of our available senses. But this is perhaps the fevered dream of an as-yet-unbuilt beer utopia… As such this post will be grounded in cold hard truths of reality and entirely devoted to some of my favourite beer labels.

Taste is subjective. What I appreciate in a beer label may not be what you enjoy, and this is good thing since brewers express themselves in a myriad of ways from the fairy-tale beauty of Pretty Things, to the adverserial taunting of Stone, to the medeival nerdiness of Russian River. So what do I like in beer labels? I am not sure I can put my finger on any unifying stylistic elements but I do admire many differing qualities including but not limited to simplicity, clean lines, creative use of colour, witty banter, historical references, an overarching theme and perhaps above all an effort to stand out from the (six) pack. What follows are some of my favourites in no particular order:


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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Back to Beervana

Just got back from another road trip to Portland or Beervana as it has been dubbed by the mayor (you know your town is pretty cool when the establishment okays a city nickname with beer in it) where I got to sample a variety of new draught and bottled beers. Rather than attempt to recount the details of all my imbibing I have decided to highlight some of my favourites.

First stop was Hopworks Urban Brewery (HUB) where my partner and I sampled a bicycle hub filled with their ten most current brews –this included six of their regular line-up and four special ales; two new reds the Galactic Imperial and the Rise up Red, a robust Belgian the Muscles from Brussels and the Pick-a-thon IPA. Our favourite was the Galactic Imperial Red, a hoppy 100+ IBU ale with a nice almost sour malt quality to it.

Next day was the Green Dragon Pub, which boasts and impressive Front 20 and Back 30 beers on tap. We tried six samples, which included Rogue Creamery Ale, Green Dragon Quadrupled, Ninkasi Radiant Summer Ale, Full Sail Saison a Pleine Voile, Russian River Consecration and Caldera Dry Hop Orange. The hands-down winner of these six was the Rogue Creamery Ale a strong brown ale with a subtle burnt cafe au lait aftertaste. Across the road at Cascade Brewing Barrel House we sampled Nightfall, Pre-Buorbonic, Apple Pie and Honey Rye Ginger. Tough call on this one so I will award a tie to the Pre-Bourbonic and the Honey Rye Ginger, which were both amazing sour ales but for very different reasons; Pre-Bourbonic was strong and sweet with a porter like quality to it while the Honey Rye Ginger was an awesome balance of sweet and spice on the palate. Both of these sours tempered their tartness with robust but complementary elements.

On to Deschutes Brewery & Public House where we got a little carried away with another dozen samples. Cascade Ale, Gluten Free NW Pale Ale #29, Twilight Ale, Bourbon Murder, Black Butte Porter (Casked), Imperial Hop in the Dark (Casked), Armory XPA, Deschutes Brewery Hefeweizen, Conflux 2, La Cycliste, Hop-in-the-Dark and Obsidian Stout. Bit of a two-way tie here as well. The Conflux 2, a collaboration with Boulevard Brewing Company, is white IPA, which marries the spice of a nice hefeweizen (coriander, orange, lemongrass) with the robust hop of a northwest IPA. The Bourbon Murder (okay so I think is actually the better of the two) is a bourbon casked stout with the most amazing vanilla nose followed by a send-you-to-heaven chocolate and coffee mouthfeel. It actually lacks the heft of some stouts but keeps the prominent liquor taste making it creamy and easy to drink …yum!

Last but not least we complimented any lulls in our pub crawl by stocking up at the amazing Belmont Station Beer Store, which boasts a mere 1201 BEERS. You know the expression kid in a candy store well I think grown-up in a beer store is equally apt. We found way too many beers several of which actually made it back to BC with us but some of which only made it as far as our hotel room. Armed with a box of voodoo donuts we sampled (bottle sized samples) Russian River Redemption Blond Ale, Baird/Ishii/Stone Brewing Japanese Green Tea IPA, Russian River Salvation Dark Ale and Maredsous Triple. This might not be shocking to those who have read any of my previous posts but the winner here was the Russian River Blonde. A sweet, nutty ale with a lot of carbonation. It had a pungent yeasty nose and but tasted surprisingly light. The mouthfeel was almost creamy. Amazing gold colour, hazy with a ton of head, I can never say enough about the quality of beers this brewery is producing.

Trending in Portland Radlers, beers mixed with lemonade or lemon/lime soda, and bourbon casked ales …Stay tuned for reviews on the rest of the beers I liberated from Beervana.

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Hopworks Urban Brewery

I first encountered Hopworks Brewery at the GCBF and shallow as this may sound I did not want to sample their beer because I really did not like their logo –it kind of reminded me of the logo on a can of bug spray.  Fast forward to the other weekend when I once again crossed paths with Hopworks while visiting Portland and this time I decided I would visit the city’s first Eco-Brewpub.  In the spirit of transparency (and in a city with a veritable buffet of breweries) the deciding factor was the fact that this pub had vegan pizza.  So after a few missed turns my partner and I plunked ourselves down at a patio table overlooking the brewing tanks and general operations; a guy with a disco ball on his forklift shuttled kegs back and forth at an alarming rate.  The fun industrial decor – think bicycle wheel lamps and metal pipe fixtures – and socially conscious philosophies had me re-thinking my earlier superficial judgements.  With the sun blazing overhead I order a Radler, a lager mixed with lemonade, and my partner ordered a sampler of four beers to accompany our much anticipated vegan entree.  The Radler may very well be the quintessential summer sipper combining the best aspects of a light lager with the tart sweetness of lemonade; to say this went down easy may be the understatement of the decade.  Our sampler consisted of two seasonals the abominable winter ale and a Red whose name escapes me and two regulars the DOA Organic and the Survival Stout.  First up the Winter ale which reminded me of a mild IPA, golden amber with fair amount of lacing, good but nothing jumped out at me defining this beer as a winter beer per se.  The Red ale was very similar in appearance to the Winter ale, it had a bit of a soap-like hops taste but this was well balanced and the beer was clean to drink (the fantastic waitress mentioned this was her favourite).  On to the DOA which looked much like the first two samples but had a smooth hop taste and a definite liquor presence.  Last but not least the Survival Stout with its strong coffee nose and complex grain taste.  Interestingly I could not discern the coffee taste while drinking and the beer tasted similar to a porter in density.  We both agreed this was our favourite and bought a bottle to take home.  It is interesting to think that I may have missed this experience entirely due to my tendency to judge a beer by its label, my rationale being a creative and witty label equates to unique and inspired ale, but perhaps I learned a life lesson here…if only I could remember what it was after all that beer!

Out of a possible five I would give this Eco-Brewpub a 4.5 and the Vegan Pizza a 5.

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