Tag Archives: Upright Brewing

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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There is Good Beer in the Burbs

I have to admit this review is long overdue. In my never-ending quest to explore all things craft beer related I somehow forgot to go back to my roots and pay homage to the places where I cut my beer teeth (so to speak). So now I would like to give proper due to a little gem in the heart of White Rock with a fabulous patio and impressive beer menu …Uli’s Restaurant.

 

To be honest, I have a wee bit of an urban bias when it comes to craft beer. I tend to frequent places where I can spend an afternoon imbibing at different beer oases, never encumbered by the restraints of one beer line-up or one environment, free to roam (on foot of course) between brew pubs and tap rooms BUT on a warm, sunny Saturday you would be hard-pressed to find a better location to park with a beer or two than Uli’s patio.

Uli’s is probably the place that did the most to further my beer education. When I was just discovering the diversity of craft beer their beer menu seemed like a veritable buffet. Often on the recommendations of Uli’s owner and beer geek Tyson, I explored all kinds of different beer styles starting with the light and fluffy, Fruli on tap, to the dark and fishy, Upright Brewing Oyster Stout, to the wonder that is sour ale, Duchesse De Bourgogne.

 

Re-visiting the beer menu as a seasoned beer drinker the menu is still impressive if a bit pricey. There is a good bottle selection with equal representation given to the big styles –IPA’s, Lagers, Belgians, Darks and Stouts– and a list of specialty bottles for the more adventurous sort. Sadly there are only five or six beers on tap and they do not rotate quite as frequently as I might like. I would love it if Uli’s did beer flights based on a selection of rotating taps but if wishes were horses …blah, blah, blah. They have begun hosting beer pairings, which is great news for those of us who live out in the White Rock/South Surrey area.

This time out we tried the Driftwood Farmhand on tap, D’Achouffe (Hopped version) on tap, Elysian Idiot Sauvin, Kronenburg Blanc, Samuel Smith Apricot Ale, Green Flash Trippel and a half Fruli half Kronenburg creation. For me, the Elysian, the La Chouffe and the Samuel Smith were the standouts.

 

My carnivorous friends praise the locally-sourced menu items; they even boast an award winning burger in two versions no less. I am a big supporter of the locavore movement but as a veggie the food selection is a little less impressive and not very consistent. They do have a veggie burger, salads and they can veg-ify the paella but there is nothing I would go out of my way to recommend to a fellow vegan or vegetarian.

The best part about Uli’s is alas also the worst part in many respects –the patio. White Rock is a tourist town, which means while I had visions of whiling away my Saturday afternoon drinking in the sun instead I got a ‘time slot’ on the patio after which we were unceremoniously re-located indoors (we were even threatened with another re-location due to an impending birthday party). For locals in the know you really need to visit Uli’s in those ever elusive windows where we have rogue sunny days in April and October so you can kick back, enjoy the ocean view and chip away at the beer menu.

 

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Winter Beer-Off 3: Snowmagedon

We had an unexpected (but not entirely unwanted) burst of cold weather out here on the West Coast so I thought I would sample a couple more winter beers in honour of this dip in temperature and increase in white stuff. This time around I am trying Belly the Mountain from Upright Brewing described as “A regular picturesque postcardy old ale”, and Winter Hum Bug’r from MacTarnahan’s Brewing Co. described as “A deceptively dark holiday ale” and “A rich holiday porter.” This is my first beer from Portland’s MacTarnahan’s Brewing Co. so I am curious to see what this brewer is like –price is certainly right barely breaking the three dollar mark for a 650ml!

Belly the Mountain: Great label depicting a night scene of the city ringed with mountains. This seasonal ale pours a deep reddish brown with lots of thick   head. It is very sedimenty; even with gentle pouring the glass took some time to settle. There is sweet malts on the nose. Medium bodied, rich malt taste in the mouth and a burnt finish. The finish does not linger as much as I would have hoped. Mellows really well as it warms to room temperature becoming even sweeter. Nice strength that really meets that winter warmer criteria of warming you up from the inside out.

Winter Hum Bug’r: Fun beer name but I am not really feeling the cartoonish label design. The porter pours deep black with good clarity. There is a ton of heavy mocha coloured head that lingers for quite a while eventually developing into some nice lacing on the glass.  There is a fruity element to the nose that I can’t quite place. The porter is light in body, clean to drink with a distinctive coffee taste in both the mouthfeel and finish. The finish has a bitter burnt quality. The coffee taste is a little overpowering for me since there is not much in the way of competing flavours to balance it out. Kind of an average porter for me.

The Winner? I have to give this one to Belly the Mountain from Upright Brewing.


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:


The Great Canadian Beer Festival 2010

Friday morning saw me crossing the Salish Sea to attend the Great Canadian Beer Festival in Victoria BC.  The somewhat tedious trip on the ferry gave me plenty of time to review the impressive line-up of brewers, pick my must-haves and plot my route.  I decided that I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, fruit beers and lambics, and try some brews that would challenge my palette and broaden my horizons.

First stop was at Driftwood Brewery to try the ‘Friday Only’ ‘once in a lifetime’ Old Cellar Dweller 2009.  This 12% barley wine was casked in November especially for the festival and it did not disappoint –even after dinging me for two tokens, ouch!  This golden-amber slightly cloudy beer was strong and hoppy with little to no head and a strong liquor taste.  In retrospect a good pour to end, not start, the day with as the successors seemed not to deliver quite the same kick.  Undeterred I headed to Merridale Ciderworks from Cobble Hill BC.  I had never tried a hard cider – not being much of a cooler gal– I opted for Scrumpy their ‘famous rough farmhouse cider with a rich tannic body’.  This drink is tart, sharp and flat, which I apparently quite like in a cider.  The taste is something like a crab apple wine, challenging but satisfying to sip.  Interesting start to my day…note to future self do not begin with a 12% beer…and the fest was a nice amount of busy with just the right mix of costumed characters.

Taking a sharp left, figuratively and perhaps literally, I journeyed back to beer land with the Swans ‘Brewcifer IPA’ and ‘Coconut Porter’.  The Brewcifer is a piquant ale brewed with jalapeno, lime and black pepper, which despite initial concerns for the welfare of my taste buds surprised the heck out of me –in a good way.  The beer had an amazing jalapeno nose and it was easy to drink peppery with subtle amounts of lime and a lingering heat that emerged long after you swallow.  It was Mexican beer all heat and citrus and yummy.  Before I continue I should provide a caveat to my next review, I do not like coconut, the very thought of a Pina Colada or Malibu make me a little nauseous, but I was lovin’ Swans coconut porter.  This porter looked dark almost like a stout but it goes down like a lager; it had a crisp freshness and the coconut was a really authentic taste, not at all like the sickly sweet aforementioned coconut concoctions.  The cold is becoming somewhat noticeable and the need for sustenance weighs heavily on my brain; off to the samosas.

Continuing on with my tour I headed to Steamworks where they threw down the gauntlet with their Great Pumpkin Ale (sorry Howe Sound Brewing) an almost unanimous favourite amongst our entourage.  There are many pumpkin ales out there and when one takes a chance and cracks a bottle they immediately conjure up the sights, tastes and smells of their favourite pumpkin pie before even taking that first sip.  I do not know if the cold biting weather played a role but this beer met and exceeded all my expectations.  Dark amber/orange in my sipper glass this brew had an incredible spicy nose and just the right amount of effervescence.  It was slightly sweet with a strong ginger flavour; it was so good that we circled back at the end of our day to finish off with another taster.  The proportional relationship between a good beer and a good mood is critical in situations where respite is port-a-potties that are rapidly deteriorating in quality and quantity -even the men’s communal is filling at an alarming rate!

It is always hard to follow an amazing taste experience so I may be a little ‘bitchy’ in my review of Russell Brewing Lemon Ale, which was a tepid, light ale strong on lemon taste with nutty overtones.  This beer had no carbonation and may have been much better on a sweltering day but today it just didn’t it.  Unfortunately I followed one disappointment with another when I sampled Three Skulls Ales Blood Orange Wit.  Another tepid, light beer that was seriously lacking in the tastes that make a wit so enjoyable and sadly I could not discern any blood orange flavour.  Down but not out I broke my own rules and headed to R&B Brewing to drown my sorrows in the limited edition Brent’s Black Raspberry Lambic.  If there are foodie equivalents in the beer world (beeries?) then that’s me with regards to lambic beers; in other words I have a very particular taste that I enjoy cultivated through extensive research (tasting).  This lambic was good not great, lacking somewhat in the liveliness of a traditional bacteria filled brew but with a beautiful berry colour and good balance between the sweet and the tart.  Okay so three mediocre samples equates to a heightened perception of mud, cold and drunken university boys with an unfortunate spell of what they colloquially labelled the ‘beer farts’…sigh.

I began to wind down the day when as I sauntered over to Bravo Beers to try Sara Silenrieux’s brother Jospeh Silenrieux.  This offering was really great, bubbly and crisp, the perfect amount of head, and subtle fruit overtones that did not detract from the Belgian wheat lager at its heart.  This may have been the perfect festival opener just lightly awakening the palette and cleansing it for the heavy hitting flavours yet to come.  Another nice middle of the roader was Barley Mill Brewpub’s Red Clover Honey Ale a mildly hopped beer that was tempered with the sweetness of the honey and fruit infusions.  A dry ale that was clean drinking and would be fantastic on a warm summer evening.  Cheered immensely by an infusion of bubbles and despite being the subject of an impromptu beer shower I headed back to the token booth for one round.  Last token firmly in hand I decided to try one of my perennial favourites Upright Brewing. Like an old friend that is reliable, familiar and consistent I have yet to be let down by you guys plus you’re from Portland…truly you rock.  For this my penultimate sample I tried Six a dark rye beer, which was tart and sweet at the same time.  Caramel came through as did cherry; flavours that supported the strength of the rye base.  A gorgeous mahogany colour, strong and warming what can I say but loved it.

*Sincere regrets to Lighthouse Brewing’s Espresso Vodka Infused Imperial Stout and Vancouver Island Brewery’s Black Rock Chipotle Rauchbier, I wanted to drink you, I really did but alas you went and got yourselves sold-out…sigh.

Out of a possible five I would give this event a 5.0+ can’t wait til next year


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