Monday, August 30, 2010

Victoria: the craft beer zone

If you follow the blog, you'll know that Victoria is eagerly expecting its fourth brewpub — a traditional English-style pub called The Moon Under Water — once its rezoning hearing goes through. Well, I was one of a hundred or so people who turned up at Victoria City Hall for the hearing last week. The first bit of good news is that council voted unanimously to let the pub open. The even better news is that this city fricking loves craft beer.

As I wandered in with other-beer-blogger Eskimo Dave, I wasn't sure what to expect. The rezoning hearing was to decide whether it was OK for a brewpub to open in an area marked for "industrial production." As one astute councillor pointed out, craft brewing is a light industry. But the fact that the business planned to operate under a "liquor primary licence" (meaning its main purpose was to sell alcohol on premises) meant that the Moon Under Water's owners had to sweat it out for several months with a half-built pub, not knowing if they'd ever be able to open.

I expected a fairly quick "yay" or "nay" from a city official, but it turns out that rezoning hearings are conducted as part of council business — meaning the mayor and council are all present and the public are given forum to express their views. Bonnie Bradley (one of the owners) was called to put forward the case for the pub. Apparently Victoria has an abnormally high number of liquor primaries, meaning you really have to justify a new pub. Bonnie did a fine job convincing everyone that the Moon' is going to be a respectable watering hole.

Next, the public were invited to speech. I was impressed as CAMRA representatives, local industry-types, and several other members of the public put some well-prepared arguments in support of the pub. The highlight (I'm sure everyone who was there will agree) was the speech by Jason Meyer from Driftwood Brewery. Here's someone for whom the Moon' is technically a competitor — yet he put forward about the most  eloquent case for the social and artisanal benefits of a pub that you'll ever hear. I only wish I'd recorded it.

I was so giddy from all the craft beer love, that I even went up and spoke in front of council myself. I hadn't  expected to speak at all, so I just blathered on about how proud the city should be of its beer industry. I needn't have bothered. I was preaching to the converted. Several councilors — including one who admitted to opposing pretty much every new licence application going — gave warm approval to the plan. Councillor Phillipe Lucas — Green Party member, medicinal cannabis advocate, buddy of mine, and all-round class-act — closed things up by welcoming the Moon' to the city, and everyone left happy that craft beer has a deep support throughout pretty much the entire community.

Proud to be a Victorian. Cheers.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fruit? Nuts.

Assuming it's been missed, I apologize for the lack of posts in the last three weeks. I have been writing a major paper and I can't burn the typing candle at both ends, so sadly the beer blog's flame has dwindled, temporarily. 

Of course I've still been drinking like a fish. And I'm posting today because I can't not let this out:
Fruit beers: what's the point??

OK that's a bit harsh, but I seriously believe that 95% of fruit beers are a waste of time and that the beer would have been far better without them. It's not that they are inherently bad, but they tell the same lie told by fruit tea: The packaging looks delicious (hmmm, blueberries, yum), the aroma is room-fillingly fantastic, but when you raise the glass to your lips…..nothing.

I don't know why — as I rarely touch them usually — but I have had five fruit beers this month and only two of them have been any good. One of those you already  know about: I find Driftwood's Belle Royale to be delightful. But it is both powerful and local (my weaknesses), so am just kidding myself? No.

Exhibit A: Phillips Twenty-four Mile Blueberry Pail Ale

This is a local beer by one of my favourite breweries brewed using ingredients sourced from within twenty-four miles. A wannabe-lefty-beardstroker like me should be gushing over this, but I found it very bland. It poured utterly headless: like Tizer. It smelled like fizzy blueberry tea, and I know this sounds harsh, but it tasted a little bit like pickled beet juice. I have to stress that this is an exception from the usually-reliable Phillips stable. But I did not like it.

Exhibit B: Dogfish Head Black and Blue
A massively 10% "Golden ale fermented with blackberries and blueberries". I might be uncultured, but this tasted like very boozy diet fruit soda to me. It has a thin tannin mouthfeel. I get some odd spices and yeast that makes it worthwhile, but I wouldn't track it down again. I don't even want to think about what I paid for it.

The one thing they have going in their favour is they make pretty pictures. And they do say pictures paint a thousand words…

…which is a lie. My prof won't accept doodles. I gotta get these papers written. Speak soon. SB

Guests pretending to like the
weird beer I served them.
It's not even blue…

Not bad, this one. But I'd not buy  it again. 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: Pretty Things Fluffy White Rabbits

The gypsy brewery Pretty Things continues to put out lovely beers with lovelier labels. Gypsies like to wander which might explain why PT beers are in such rich supply out here on Vancouver Island. If they all made beer like this I'd make my backyard available as a caravan site.

"Fluffy White Rabbits" is a hoppy tripel. Taking established styles and giving them the North American hop treatment is big at the moment. I scowl at trends but I'm yet to drink an unusually-hoppy beer that hasn't been good.

FWR pours a typical golden-orange colour. The head's not too fluffy. It quickly shears down to a thin but resilient crewcut.

The smell is a bit reserved, with only a mild yeasty aroma and little hop pungency.  I get mown grass, pear, and pencil shavings. The first hit of flavour is very satisfying, with loads of peppery yeast, floral hops, and crackling spice. It's a drier tripel, which I guess is to embrace the hop bitterness rather than counteract with a richer body. I really appreciate the play of the floral hops with the chili profile in the yeast.

The aftertaste doesn't sit entirely well with me. Whether it's hops in the boil or some other source of bitterness, I get a minerally jasmine-like flavour that lingers unflatteringly. At 8.5% it should be a slow drinker, but my lust for the glass-to-lips zing — definitely the strongest aspect of this beer — means I've practically chugged it.

With hoppier tripels in short supply, you should probably get one of these if you can. It's a good indicator of the impact this style has to offer and a good beer in its own right, but it doesn't quite scale the peaks some of the other PT beers have.