Tag Archives: Vancouver Breweries

Crowd Surfing at Brassneck Brewery

More beer

On my recent pilgrimage back to the city I stopped to try another new Vancouver beer hot spot Brassneck Brewery, which just happens to be the progeny of some serious local beer pedigree, Nigel Springthorpe (of The Alibi Room) and Conrad Gsomer (former brewer at Steamworks).

The Growler Wall

Brassneck Artwork

Brassneck is located on Main Street just north of many great food spots, quirky used book stores, trendy coffee shops and local clothing merchants, in other words in a pretty great neighbourhood.

The brewery, growler fill station and tasting room are housed in a rather nondescript building but it has a big glass front allowing people the chance to see the brewers in action and to see the depth of the line-up at the growler fill counter.

Barely open two weeks when I stopped by, the hubby and I just squeezed into the seating area under the max capacity allowance.

A View to the Room

Brassneck Entrance

Food Truck

Nice touch

The long narrow tasting room is, well, woody, which for some reason seems to be the decor choice of many a brewery. A giant communal table extends from the end of the bar and the other half of the room has equally cozy tables where drinking with your neighbour is somewhat unavoidable – the exception being one table tucked away at the back for secret meetings and brewery espionage (I presume). Little cutout windows afford patrons a view behind the scenes.

The aesthetic here seems to be studied quirkiness (very Main Street) with pen and ink sketches for the beer ‘labels’, underwear branded with the brewery name and, of course, a food truck parked in front – oh, and a grain sack for a garbage.

Behind the scenes it looks like most breweries lots of stainless steel, plastic bucks and an endless nest of hoses running here and there.

More behind the scenesBeer, Beer and more Beer

The Maze

Beer, beer, beer…

They have a lot on tap for a new brewery, ten beers in fact. Oddly though the taster flights come in fours so this begs the inevitable question what to leave out? I decided to let the guy pulling the taps make that decision for me so I would not discriminate uninformedly (not sure this is a real word).

One other thing that seemed like an ‘ironing out the kinks’ kind of issue is that there is no means to differentiate the beers in your flight other than the whirlwind recount from your server. So when you are forgetful like me (or you’ve had one too many beers) this lack of labelling makes it hard to remember what is what and I noticed more than one beer geek (myself included) with the beer order jotted down on a scrap of paper.

Flight of the Beer

Flight of the Beer part two

While we were at Brassneck we tried:

Small Wonder – A table saison meaning a light and accesible drink to be shared. Light pale gold gold in colour, just a little head and the tiniest bit of funkiness to remind you that this is indeed a saison style brew. A good starter beer.

Kingmaker – A clear golden coloured pils with a light skim of head. A slight yeasty nose and a bit of nutty flavour, which is pretty typical for the style. An okay beer but I wasn’t loving it.

Brassneck Ale – Moving along the colour chart we have a clear light amber ale. A little bit more flavour and depth that the first two beers. Some toasted elements, a hint of bitter and a bit of a coppery taste.

Blichmann’s Finger – We are now onto the golden ale, which in appearance is pretty close to the Brassneck, perhaps a bit darker in colour. Hoppy on the nose and in flavour with equal parts maltiness.

Old Bitch – Cloudy reddish-brown in appearance with very little head. A very tepid and thin beer lacking the malt flavour I expected. A bitter finish but overall really lacking in character.

Passive Aggressive – Bright cloudy orange pale ale with nice lacing. Big floral hop nose with some piney notes. Lots of sweet malt flavour and even more hoppiness as you drink -perhaps more IPA than pale ale. Dry bitter finish. This one is the best of the bunch so far.

Barn Burner – Dark black-brown with some mocha coloured head. This dark saison has a sweet and funky nose, nice roasted malt and leather flavours and a dry finish.

The Geezer – Last but not least the porter. A dark black-brown beer with mocha coloured head. Chocolate and roastiness on the nose, lots of roasted malt flavour. Chocolate is dominant, coffee notes very slight, making this porter not too bitter but it is quite thin. Dry finish.

What's on Tap

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33 Acres Brewing Company

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This past weekend I paid my first visit to 33 Acres Brewing Company one of the many new breweries and tasting rooms popping up all over the Lower Mainland. 33 Acres is centrally located where east meets west on 8th Avenue in Vancouver.

33 Acres Brewing Company

The tasting room is housed in a somewhat spartan space that feels a bit like the people from a J.Crew catalogue met for a beer at a Restoration Hardware.

White everywhere, silver and wood accents and the occasional succulent dot the tasting room and, to be truthful, I felt just a little too old and a little too un-hipster to be drinking in this space but I did because I liked what I tried at the Great Canadian Beer Festival and what the hey, we are all beer geeks inside.

All in all it is not the most warm or inviting tasting room I have ever been in but at the same time the staff were informative and accommodating letting me take a peek behind the scenes and showing me their in-progress kitchen area and mentioning plans to have a rotation of food trucks available for patrons – waffle Sundays anyone?

Also, I have to say 33 Acres has really nice, if expensive, merchandising (ceramic growlers and surf boards) and clearly they have a cohesive vision for the aesthetic of their brewery.

33 Acres Bar

 

33 Acres Interior

33 Acres Merch

33 Acres Brewing Equip

But really I have been to tasting rooms that are little more than old garages and dingy basements so when it comes right down to it it is all about the beer you are pouring…

While I was there 33 Acres was serving 33 Acres of Life California Common and 33 Acres of Ocean West Coast Pale Ale both of which were available to GCBF patrons though word has it another seasonal is in the works (they had a seasonal called 33 Acres of Sunshine at the GCBF) but I could not get any more details than that.

33 Acres Samples

33 Acres of Life (4.8%) pours a bright copper penny colour with just a little white head and some lacing. Very good clarity and carbonation to this beer. You get a burnt sweetness on the nose and a rich caramel flavour as you drink with just the slightest bitterness. Fairly light in body. The finish is fairly sweet. Overall a very approachable beer though not terribly memorable.

33 Acres of Ocean (5.3%) pours a lighter amber/copper colour with a little white head, some lacing and very good clarity. In appearance remarkably similar to Life but just a lighter colour. One sniff of the nose tells you this is an entirely different beer. Sweet and piney hop-forward nose with an undercurrent of citrus. Light bodied, hoppy in flavour but not over-poweringly so and a clean finish. Overall a very nice pale ale that retains a West Coast character while not being a hop-bomb.

33 Acres Beer


Do you like Hoses? I mean really like Hoses?

Last Thursday I got to live out every beer geek’s dream of being a brewmaster for the day. In actuality sub-assistant brew lackey might be a more accurate descriptor of the utilization of my talents but this does not mean I did not have a great time helping out at Steamworks Brewing Co. on a brew day!

 

 

The Brewpub, the Brewery and the Beer

Steamworks Brewing Co. is located in historic Gastown Vancouver, BC. The brewery derives its’ name from the steam heating system running through the building. According to their website, Steamworks is the only steam generated brewery in Canada.

 

 

The brewpub, liqour store and brewery are all located in one beautiful old building. For those of you who have not ventured beyond the pub the brewery, located downstairs, is a mostly open concept layout where patrons can watch (and take pictures of) the beer masters in action. There are a total of five bars within the facility.

In order to keep up with demand, and the new bottling production, some  Steamworks beer (pilsner and pale ale) is brewed off-site by Deadfrog Brewery and brought in for consumption; Deadfrog is currently handling the bottling operations but plans are underway to open a Steamworks off-site brewing and bottling facility.

 

 

Steamworks is a little more mainstream and a little less beer geek than some of Vancouver’s downtown beer sites. Much of the beer production focuses on accessible brews like lager and pale ale, which sell well in a tourist heavy location. At the same time, Steamworks has a much-deserved reputation for a stellar seasonal line-up from their Frambozen to their Pumpkin to their JJ Bean Espresso Stout. Within the standard beer line-up the brewers like to mix things up trying different hop in the IPA or different coffee beans in the stout so batch-to-batch you are not always getting the exact same beer.

Food-wise there is not too much remarkable here, pub basics really, but the helpful staff did create an impromptu vegan pizza so I could keep up my keg-hauling strength.

 

 

The Beer Guys

Conrad is the head brewer for Steamworks and he has been working at the brewery since 1996. Initially Conrad was studying to be an architect before taking that fateful turn towards beer geekery. Beer wise Conrad is a Belgian and Saison kind of guy.

Tak is the assistant brewer and he has been with Steamworks for seven months. Tak was (and still is!) and avid home brewer who came to the job via a recommendation from Parallel 49 head brewer Graham With. Tak’s beers of choice lean towards sessional brews and Bitters.

 

 

Both guys tell me how lucky they are to do what they love for a living, which to me is the greatest compliment one can ever bestow upon their chosen career path.

As some of you may have heard Conrad will be leaving Steamworks soon to open Vancouver’s newest brewery, Brass Tacks, with Nigel from Alibi Room. This new brewery will be located near The Whip on Main Street and will be offering growler fill-up. This should be a great collaboration and I can’t wait to try them out when they open.

 

 

The 9 to 5 of being of Brewer

Much like a “regular” person’s work day the brew day got underway around 9:00am. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was not going to be relegated to the side-lines when I was handed my uniform of safety goggles, rubber gloves and galoshes. Literally I was able to watch or participate in every stage of the brewing process from adding milled grains to the mash tun to sparging to adding hops to the kettle to pitching the yeast.

 

 

We began by transferring beer and cleaning equipment in preparation to brew Steamworks Nut Brown Ale. As my blog title suggests navigating around hoses, attaching and detaching hoses, spraying water and any other reasons you can think of for needing a hose pretty much define your day. Overall I was surprised by how routine the day actually was. For some reason I expected more unpredictability in the brewing process but things ran like clock-work.

 

 

The fun(?) happens when life outside the brewing process seeps into your day. When I got to Steamworks Tak mentioned they had received a pallet of Parallel 49’s brewing supplies in error so part of my time was spent moving product through the service corridors so it could get back to the proper brewery. Also, Thursday night was the official launch of Steamworks new bottles so I assisted with carting around kegs to the various tasting stations for the evening’s attendees.

Other tough aspects of the job including sampling beer with lunch, and after lunch, to ensure the best possible quality control levels. Based on my expert analysis, it looks like a great year for the espresso stout and the pumpkin ale both of which are coming on tap soon.

 

A great big thanks to Conrad and Tak for allowing me to be a part of their day!

 


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