Tag Archives: Whistler Brewing Company

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



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


Three Weizen-men came from Country Far

Door number nine is extra special because when we open it we have not one but two Christmas beers…


Both treats are dunkelweizens or dark wheat beers. The first is Bob’s Your Dunkel from Mt. Begbie Brewing Company described as a “rich, unfiltered wheat beer loaded with chocolate and Munich malts” and the second is Winter Dunkel described as “a rich beer with toffee, chocolate and orange taste” from Whistler Brewing Company.


Mt. Begbie Bob's Your Dunkel


Bob pours a deep chestnut brown with a little off-white head. There is a big fruity nose most specifically banana and some cloves. Flavour profile on this beer is a lot of the weizen but not so much on the dunkel that is to say lots of yeasty, fruity notes with just a hint of the roasted malt character typical of a dunkel. There is some sweetness to this beer notes of chocolate and a element of pink bubblegum. It is very clean drinking with a bit of body but I would probably not go so far as to call it medium bodied. At times I find the banana far too pronounced for me (given I do not like bananas this is a bit problematic for me personally). Bob is also one of those beers that while it is released at Christmas it is not the Christmas style I prefer.


Bob’s Your Dunkel scores six candy canes out of a possible ten.

Candy Cane

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At the start of this blog series I mentioned the difficulty of calling something a Christmas beer or even a winter a beer since there is so much diversity under this label and personal taste plays a huge part in expectations from a Christmas brew nonetheless we will move onto Whistler’s Winter Dunkel to do a little head-to-head ‘dunkeling’.


Whistler Winter Dunkel


The Whistler Dunkel pours a very deep reddish brown with good clarity (odd for a weizen) and lots of off-white head (though the head dies down pretty quickly to a bit of lacing on the glass). Flavour wise this one is quite different from Bob. There is lots of orange and chocolate flavour, some sweetness and it is quite light bodied and very thin. On the finish the chocolate taste lingers and there is just a slight touch of bitterness. Not really sure this stacks up as a dunkelweizen since I do not get the wheat beer character like I did with Bob; however, chocolate orange is a pretty stellar combination and one that definitely makes me think of Christmas. I wish the nose on this beer translated to a bigger beer with more complexity.


Whistler Winter Dunkel scores five candy canes out of a possible ten.

Candy Cane

Candy CaneCandy CaneCandy CaneCandy Cane






It was a tough call on these dunkelweizens for me. If you want a more authentic taste that stays true to the style try Bob’s Your Dunkel but it you want a session like chocolate orange beer try Winter Dunkel and just put a piece of masking tape over the label…



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

Hopscotch 2011 ‘I think I saw the Kraken’

So last night I made my annual pilgrimage to Hopscotch. Pilgrimage in the sense that I had to trek from the Main Street Skytrain station down to the Rocky Mountaineer in heels and in the freezing cold; there is something sort of biblical about enduring all that suffering and hardship to be rewarded with beer. Saturday night’s festivities were underway when we arrived, so no line-up, which was good, but it was crazy crowded, which was bad. I am not sure what the Fire Marshall would say but I am thinking if there were any acts of god we would not have been getting out the building too quickly. It is also a major liability when one it trying to carry around there precocious taster glass full or liquor. Onward and upward and armed with my trusty Hopscotch Hit List I went about my merry way to sample the dozen or so beers I had chosen with the occasional divergence into the vodka and whiskey booths.

What I like about Hopscotch: There is a variety of beer and spirits (and cigars!) so you can actually dust off your non-beer geek friends; you get tokens with your admission –in my mind this makes me feel like I am somehow getting more value; the Rocky Mountaineer is a really nice building with tons of windows and high ceilings; pretty impressive Scotch selection; more than a fair share of booths willing to dole out a free sample; well-organized with lots of staff; feels a little classier than beer fest –hello indoor plumbing; liquor store on premise to buy as you drink; Fentimans sampling.

What I don’t like so much: The beer selection is not that exciting with most of the samples being readily available in the BC liquor stores; beers were repetitive from last year; too many people for the space means it is hard to find an area where you can sample without being jostled; nowhere to sit outside the food tent; hard to tell what is available at each booth with the crowds; pours are pretty small for beer (I think they were about 2 oz); the bottom line factoring in ticket price and sample size those are some pricey beers; hard to map your route by the distributor; location makes transit difficult.

It is really tough to given any kind of ranking to beer samples especially when you are mixing beer with spirits so I will give the list of the beers I sampled and then give a few of my favourites. All in all, to the best of my recollections, I tried:

Anchor Porter Beer

Chang Beer

Chimay Strong Ale (Gold Label)

Howe Sound Brewing Co. Father John’s Winter Ale

Grolsch Lager

Green Flash Double Stout Black Ale

Red Racer Winter Ale

Tin Whistle chocolate cherry porter

Whistler Brewing Company Winter Dunkel

Tree Brewing Co. Vertical Winter Ale

Yukon Red Amber Ale


My three stars of the evening were: 3) Anchor Porter 2) Green Flash Double Stout Black Ale 1) Tree Vertical Winter Ale

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