Tag Archives: Tap Room

My Year in Beer

It’s that time again where people gather to reflect back on the year that is passing and to look forward to what the future will bring.

For craft beer aficionados it feels like the bubble will never burst. Just when you think the seemingly insatiable growth of the craft beer industry may be leveling off a new brewery sets up tanks, a new tap room polishes its’ taps, a new beer festival celebrates an emergent style, a new hop farm plants a rhizome, a long-forgotten beer style is revised and revamped and a new beer blogger offers up their thoughts to the universe.

 

SRB Beer Tasters

 

2013 was an enjoyable year in beer for me. I went to a few of my favourite beer festivals, I visited some new local breweries here in British Columbia and in Washington, I took a road trip to California, which included brewery visits of course, and I tried some very memorable beers.

Also, this year I really tried to focus on quality over quantity when it came to my craft beer choices. For awhile the market was small enough that you could (reasonably) try each and every new thing but this is no longer realistic. I have been sampling my way around long enough to really know my own palate or I know what I like dammit so why not invest in what I enjoy.

 

Bottle Caps

 

Here are some of my highlights from the year the was:

Visiting Russian River Brewing Company – I had put Russian River on a pedestal for so long I knew my visit could never meet my expectations; nonetheless it was so worth it to sit down in front of the massive sample try and enjoy some of the world’s best beers on tap in the place where they were born.

Discovering The Bruery – This year saw me introduce myself to what just may be one of my all-time favourite breweries. Focusing on barrel aged creations, The Bruery really caught my attention with Tart of Darkness a sour stout. Any brewer that can successfully merge these two stellar beer styles deserves our devotion.

 

 

Drinking a Manhattan – The beer that really blew me away this year came from a very reliable source, Cascade Brewing in Portland, OR. An amazing fusion of sweet, rich cocktail meets sour beer made this a beyond memorable brew.

Pulling into Elizabeth Station – This little tap room that can in Bellingham, WA has become a must visit every time I am cross-border shopping. An incredible bottle selection accompanied by a well thought out tap list.

Out of Province Beers – I had the chance to sample craft beers from Prince Edward Island, Ontario and Quebec that never make there way out to BC and it is always fun finding something new that none of the local beer geeks have got their hands on.

 

Westvlelevern

 

Tasting the Best Beer in the World – Unintentionally stumbling across a case of Westvleteren 12 at a local liqour store meant I could finally see for myself what all the hype was about. The best? Maybe not definitively but pretty damn amazing that’s for sure.

Blogging about Beer – Always a highlight coming up with topics of interest and subjecting fellow beer geeks to my personal views on whatever comes to mind. Some of my personal favourite posts were Four Word Beer Reviews, Putting the “I” in Beer Review, Decoding Duchesse and Re-Inventing Rodenbach, The Art of the Beer Label BC Edition, Out of the Cellar and finally, Beer with (insert current foodie fad).

 

FW Tasteroom Tasters

Looking forward to another big year in beer. Happy New Year!

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Craft Beer Market, the Vancouver Edition

I am a little slow on the draw so while I was aware of the fact that a behemoth tap room opened a location in Vancouver, BC it took me until last week to actually visit and, to be honest, I only went in because I was at nearby Legacy liqour store and managed to snag a free parking space.

Craft Beer Market

Craft

The Vancouver edition of Craft Beer Market is located in Olympic Village (False Creek) in the gorgeous Salt Building. Before I get to the modern incarnation of the building here is a little history courtesy of Scout Magazine

“Thanks to its crisp, polished finishes and bold color scheme, the Salt Building could easily be mistaken for a brand new structure leaning on our city’s penchant for industrial design. The truth, however, is that this spot is the real deal featuring a long history that reflects much on our city’s changing industrial landscape and operations. 

Built circa 1930, the original 13,000 square-foot space served in partnership with the Bay Area salt trade in San Francisco, whereby unrefined salt was shipped to Vancouver for secondary processing and extraction… The structure features a complex roof truss system bearing weight onto numerous columns, with a large clerestory of windows brightening the long stretch of working space.” 

Craft Beer Market Kegs

Craft Beer Market Inside

Craft Beer Market a self-described ‘premium casual restaurant’ boasts 140 taps with over 100 of said taps devoted to beer, Canada’s largest selection. The sheer logistics of the volume of beer being tapped here is staggering and the sight of a mountain of tapped kegs sprouting silver tentacles, filled with numerous beer lines, is worth the visit alone.

Now I have to interject with a bit of a personal hang-up before I continue. Typically, I am not a big fan of big. Big beer, big box stores, big vehicles, big homes, (big hair is cool though), I feel like it all screams over-compensation or, even worse, it is simply big for the sake of being, well, big. As I sat down to peruse the menu I did my best to shelve this bias and be the objective blogger I was destined to be.

Craft Beer Menu

Lo’ and behold there are many beers on tap here so it is as advertised. Beers are broken down by style to help guests manage the mega-menu. Rotating guest taps and cask night on Tuesdays add some new items into the mix, while pre-chosen flights offer guidance to the overwhelmed – though the ‘what the locals drink’ menu boasting two Stanley Park beers did set off some alarm bells.

Flight at Craft

Odd as it may sound in this veritable sea of options I had a really hard time choosing something to drink, not because there were so many beers I wanted to try but rather just the opposite because there were so few.

The beer menu was predictable in the sense there were no surprises to be found.  It was like walking into a provincial liqour store and seeing the familiar beers we know and love from the familiar brewers we know and love and feeling that slight twinge of disappointment that there is nothing to get excited over, nothing different to be discovered. For the non-craft beer nerd it must seem like a cornucopia of choice but for the veteran it felt a little stale. Granted the usual suspects are on tap so if draught versus bottle turns your crank you will be pleased.

I settled on an Elysian Oddland Series Spiced Pear Ale, a hoppy ale, and the hubby tried Ommegang Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout, a pretty standard stout. Overall, both beers were pretty middling. When our server asked what we thought I mentioned some thoughts on the Elysian but they pretty much tuned out so I figured we were not going to talk shop.

Elysian Spiced Pear Ale

Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout

Personally, the whole thing felt a little corporate lacking in the ambiance, engaged staff and unique and/or challenging beer options that really make a tap room worth its’ salt. While I understand the need to have the majority of beers be something accessible I felt like there was no heart behind brand, that behind the beautiful facade there is no real love of craft beer here.

Beer on Tap


They say you can’t go home again

Philosophically speaking this rings true but when visiting the place of one’s birth you can take time to try lots of different beers so in a way (a somewhat obscure way) you can make it feel like home again by bringing your wonderful beer geekiness with you in your travels.

Okay so that probably doesn’t make sense but I am stretching for an introduction to highlight the fact I am back from Ontario after an extended visit with the family and while there I visited a couple of local tap rooms and tried lots of interesting craft beers that never make their way out west.

Specifically, I was in Peterborough, Ontario a mid-size city that boasts a couple of breweries, The Old Stone Brewing Co. and The Publican House Brewery and a couple of tap rooms St. Veronus Cafe and Tap Room and  Ashburnham Ale House.

Each time I come home I make a concerted effort to try all the Ontario and Eastern US beers I can find as well as visit anything new that falls on my radar.

Ashburnham Ale House

Ashburnham Ale House is new to Peterborough and it is located in the old part of town known historically as Ashburnham (now East City). I was really excited when I read about this tap room, local beers, rotating taps, eco decor and a great location. The Ale House is a large space heavy on the wood and leather accents and equally heavy on the meat menu. Seeing that me and the vegan hubby were not going to be eating we decided to head on over to the bar to enjoy some craft beer.

Ashburnham Ale House

Ashburnham Ale House

In an almost completely empty space we were seated, immediately asked what we wanted and then left to fend for ourselves. Inquiring about the rotating taps we were told the names of the beers and the ABV with no real description, when I asked again another server gave me a totally different ABV -do people really only pick a beer based on the alcohol content???

The bottles were listed on the menu but no descriptions were provided. Somehow I expected the staff to be a bit more enthusiastic about the beer in a tap room! After looking over the bottle and tap selection we decided to try a flight of everything on tap but sadly they have no flights and no small pours.

Overall, I was really disappointed in Ashburnham Ale House and I hope they get some passionate beer geeks to make this space come alive.

 

Thankfully we were able to head to St. Veronus Cafe and Tap Room, which beer for beer may be one of the best tap rooms I have ever been to. Their beer menu is extensive focusing on Belgian beer but also boasting a nice selection of Canadian options. They always manage to find something unique to have on tap and the rare bottles are numerous (the photo below is one of three pages!).

St. Veronus

St. Veronus

While there the hubby and I tried a couple of Rodenbachs a (mildy) sour Flanders Red Ale, the Bacchus a Flanders Oud Bruin described (accurately) as tasting like flat coke and the Gueuze Fond Tradition a tart unsweetened lambic. All the beers were interesting and the server really knew his stuff. Oh and did I mention the food? Well it is incredible, savoury, filling and creative with options to fit even the pickiest eater in our party.

Stay tuned for more of my beer explorations in Ontario…


Pulling into Elizabeth Station

As a frequent cross-border beer shopper I thought I knew all the hidden gems for finding the best craft beer selection in Bellingham, WA but apparently I did not know squat because I had not been to Elizabeth Station.

Elizabeth Station Entrance

Elizabeth Station is an impressive shop brimming with craft beer fridges organized geographically, a decent wine and spirit section and quite possibly that largest selection of junk food I have ever seen.

Beer Fridges at Elizabeth Station

From jars of candy to a cereal bar to towering shelves of chips to sandwiches Elizabeth Station basically has all manner of food stuffs any self-respecting person with the munchies may or may not have to good sense to ignore.

Thankfully they also have a three beer limit so I won’t inadvertently become compelled to purchase a Ring Pop for each finger after a few too many.

Candy at Elizabeth Station

 

Cereal on Tap

In addition, and perhaps most importantly, Elizabeth Station boasts a small selection of taps, growler fills and bottle service – see something you like in the fridge and they will open it for you and you can consume in store.

On Tap

While there I had the pleasure of trying Petrus Aged Pale from Bavik-De Bradandere on tap, a lovely crisp, bright sour that serves as the mother (the starter beer) for the rest of the beers in the brewery’s line-up.

My hubby asked for a porter recommendation from the resident beer guy and was very impressed with the suggested Anchor Porter.

We took home a bottle of Vlad the Impaler form Cascade and a four of 90min IPA from Dogfish Head to commemorate our visit.

So next time you find yourself in downtown Bellingham stop in and be impressed!

Petrus Aged Pale

 


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