Tag Archives: Moon Under Water Brewery

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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