Tag Archives: Russell Brewing Company

Don’t Drink Green, Go Red Instead!

Russell Luck of the Irish


Happy St. Patrick’s Day beer lovers!

While the masses may be reaching for pints of green-hued lagers the craft beer legions know that real geeks celebrate the day by eschewing green and going red instead.

Red ales are malt-forward, light-bodied, often session-like, slightly sweet brews that just beg to be served by the pitcher.


Luck of the Irish


I am marking the day with Luck of the Irish from Russell Brewing Company, a 5% ABV Red Ale.

Luck of the Irish pours a lovely clear red (duh) colour with lots of cream coloured head and great head retention. As always Russell impresses with their bottle, which is a no-label painted bottle using varying green tones and simple well-placed graphics. There are subtle notes of roasted grain on the nose and maybe a bit of sweetness. This red ale is a thin brew with sweet caramel and toasted grain flavours. It is very clean on the finish with just the tiniest hint at bitterness.

Overall a very sessionable, and thereby drinkable, beer that is a great way to start a night that inevitably must end with a big bold stout 😉


Red Ale

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

While Shepherds Watched their Bocks by Night

I open door number three to find…

Russell Brewing Company’s Naughty & Spiced Porter a 6.5% ABV beer that is “spiced with seasonal spices then aged on oak chips”.


Russell Naughty & Spiced


First things first I have to say I love their bottle design and beer name. Naughty & Spiced pours a deep reddish chestnut colour with some cream coloured head that has so-so retention. There is caramel and vanilla coming through on the nose. As it warms you get more of a cold coffee element. For a porter it is pretty light bodied and I expected more of the sweetness from the nose to come through in the flavour. There is a roasty bitterness to the finish and a slight earthiness that seems to come from the oaking. All in all a very drinkable porter but I am not bowled over by the Christmas-ness of this beer.


Naughty & Nice comes in at a six candy cane beer on my Christmas scale.

Candy CaneCandy CaneCandy CaneCandy CaneCandy CaneCandy Cane

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

Drinking My Way Around BC

I’ll admit I am often very unpatriotic in my beer drinking habits because more often than not I tend to fall back on my south-of-the-border or across-the-pond go to breweries when I am looking for something to restock the fridge. In order to remedy this deficit in my beer experience, I made it one of my new “beers” resolutions to try more beers from the Great White North. After all British Columbia is quickly becoming a craft beer destination, and boasting over fifty microbreweries and brewpubs there is no shortage of local beers to choose from.

Hoyne Brewing Company Big Bock Ale: The Big Bock pours amber and with unbelievable clarity. Nice amount of white head that lingers. Sweet malt on the nose. Very clean to drink with a medium to light body and subtle strength that is in no way overpowering. I am loving the beers coming from the Island and kudos for the inspired label.

Mission Springs Brewing Company’s The Strongman Ale: The Strongman Ale is copper-gold in colour with nice clarity. A ton of stiff head that hangs around for the majority of the pint. Subtle bitter hop on the nose and in the flavour. Decent amount of malt adds some balance. Lives up to its namesake in strength but it is not overwhelming for the 650ml size – just enough to get that warmth in your belly. Smooth to drink and relatively light in body with a bit of stickiness.

Russell Brewing Nectar of the Gods: Nectar of the Gods is described as wheat wine ale. It pours and amber-copper colour and like the other beers, has impressive head retention. A fair amount of sediment. Fermented fruit, currant and earthy wood dominate the nose. Tons of oaky whiskey flavours imparted from the casking, almost barley wine like in character but not quite. Tannin aftertaste. Hard to discern the wheat beer qualities with all the complex and dominant flavours going on.

As I was writing this post I googled ‘map of BC breweries’ but did not come up with anything, which is surprising to me. I use my Washington and Oregon Beer Guides so often they are in shambles, and they have proven an invaluable resource, source of inspiration and all-around guiding star on numerous occasions.

In the meantime I will continue drinking (and blogging) my way around BC.

Why Can’t We Be Friends? D’oh!

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

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


Behind the Keg …A New Angle on the Beer Fest

My Kegs

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

The Scotch Ales

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

ESB's and IPA's

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

The Assorted Room

Pumphouse Pub & Beerthirst Long Table: A hoppingly bitter evening or Does that guy have a bucket on his head?

Last night I attended a long table dinner hosted by Beerthirst and held at the Pumphouse Pub in Richmond. It was my first time to this pub, which is housed in an old fire hall and located right near the busy heart of Richmond. The Pumphouse Pub has a really nice ambience; stone fireplace, lots of wood, old fire hall photos and paraphernalia, large bar and even space for live music. There was a great turnout of beer geeks for the long table dinner, and the evening got underway a fashionable hour late – coincidentally this gave us just enough time to peruse the pub’s extensive beer list and have a pint before the night got underway. I have to say I was really impressed with the pub’s beer selection; not a lot of rare beers but a solid line-up of fantastic go-to favourites all reasonably priced and poured generously. But I digress, back to the event at hand. I went into this long table with no beforehand knowledge of the night’s line-up and as such no expectations of what would be paired. What follows is the breakdown course by course (I am including the veggie options that the chef so kindly prepared for my partner and I):

Course 1 – Big Al Brougham Bitter (ABV 5.5%, IBU 25, Seattle WA) paired with shrimp and corn fritters with Moroccan lemon aioli. Veg option was a greek style salad of baby romaine, tomatoes, red peppers, cukes and a balsamic reduction.

Course 2 – Big Al Fresh Hopped Harvest Ale (ABV 5.4%, IBU 59, Seattle WA) paired with Asian red rice and grapefruit salad.

Intervallo – Big Al Big Hoppa India Pale Ale (ABV 7.1%, IBU 75, Seattle WA); no food pairing.

Course 3 – Russell Blood Alley Bitter (ABV 5.5%, IBU 50, Surrey BC) paired with Lamb tagine, cous-cous. Veg option was the tagine loaded with veggies and served with cous-cous.

Course 4 – Green Flash Imperial India Pale Ale (ABV 9.4%, IBU 101, San Diego CA) paired with a chicken green thai curry. Veg option was the same curry dish served with eggplant.

Course 5 – Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale (ABV 5.9% , IBU 18, Seattle WA) paired with roasted pumpkin bread pudding with a caramel beer glaze.

How it all came together: The servers began bringing us our pours and one of the guys from Beerthirst would come around to the table and give us the low down on the beer, brewer and if you were very lucky regale you with a story of some beer fuelled adventure or a slightly inappropriate Surrey joke. Each table also had a cheat sheet describing the beer style and stats – we were encouraged to study this literature for the end-of-the-night beer quiz.

First beer was great, really great; amber ale with nice lacing and not much on the nose, tepid mouthfeel that made it quite smooth, and just a little bitterness that lingered at the finish. With the veg option this was a tough pair since the balsamic reduction was so flavourful but I was told the fritters paired quite well, the deep fried batter complementing the hop in the beer. Second beer was a good fruity IPA; amber colour with minimal head; pungent grapefruit/citrus nose; hint of maltiness cuts into the hop bite; a wet-hopped beer. With the food pairing I found the grapefruit came almost too far to the front of the palate, the heavy cilantro in the salad was not my favourite but you know you either love it or hate it. This beer was not high in the IBU’s but the salad really seemed to ramp it up. Third beer was the Intervallo (no food pairing) and it seemed to arrive in my tasting glass unannounced so I was unsure when I stopped drinking a re-fill of the Harvest Ale and started drinking the Big Hoppa IPA. Nonetheless, this beer was more of a golden-amber; subtle lacing; more balanced with the higher ABV stepping up to the assertive citrus; lingering bitter finish. Fourth beer was definitely a bitter; golden amber again; very clear; bitter right at the first sip and lingering to the finish. The bitter went quite well with the tagine since the dish is so earthy and heavy. Fifth beer was an old friend; golden and clear; light, crisp body; hefty hops but easy to drink with no unpleasant finish; intensely aromatic. This was the all-star knock-out food pairing for me …why haven’t I always been sipping Green Flash with my curry? This beer loved the hot/sweet thai flavours and the curry loved it right back. Finally we capped our night with a sixth beer an obvious October choice; deep amber/orange with cream coloured head; subtle spice on the nose (nutmeg); very smooth. The beer paired really well with the sweet warm bread pudding; caramel complementing the pumpkin pie spices in the beer.

Overall thoughts on the night: I have found IPA’s to be challenging to pair with food, when they don’t work it can ruin your palate for both the beer and the food, so I was pleasantly surprised to see the hop at the forefront of the night. The drink portions were generous, almost too generous at points (if this is not too sacrilegious) because I found it increasingly difficult to keep the tastes distinct and discrete. Same with the food portions; I was so stuffed by the time the dessert course arrived that most of the bread pudding is in my fridge. Looking back I might have liked to mix it up a bit more style wise since I found many of the IPA’s to be heavy in the citrus element but none veering into the more floral or pine flavours.  The choices for the final course seemed a bit out of place with the rest of the menu; I would have liked to an Asian inspired dessert and a wild card beer choice. I love to discover a new brewer so that samples from Big Al’s were my favourite beers of the evening. The beer quiz was a fun way to cap the evening with everyone shouting out answers to win the much coveted buckets of beer. Overall though I think the dinner was an amazing success, everyone seemed to have a great time, the guys from Beerthirst were a lot of fun, and the staff at the Pumphouse were most accommodating and friendly.

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*Special thanks to Camilla from the Pumphouse Pub

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