Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cask Away

Our latest article for the Monday Magazine is in print. We talked about the local cask ale culture, which is vibrant. The article was written before the Great Canadian Beer Festival, otherwise we would have been able to wax lyrical about some of the other great casks on offer.

Spinnakers responded to the article to point out that they have been offering cask events for years. This is true, and Spinnakers efforts should not be ignored. We chose to focus on Vancouver Island Brewery (VIB) because, well, I think that their regular lineup is a little bit tame. Good quality — but conservative. I was hoping that getting some discussion going about the totally non-tame casks VIB are producing might help put pressure on the powers-that-be at VIB to let their creative talents spread to the bottle fridge.

Speaking of casks, there will be a unique casking event this Friday at the Beagle Pub in Cook St. Village. For non-Victorians or those who don't know, Driftwood's Sartori Harvest IPA was a sensational release last year. So much so that they are brewing twice as much this year.

Sartori will still only be available in limited quantities, so get down the Beagle if you have the chance,  or camp outside a decent liquor store as bottling is underway and it will hit the stores soon. Because it is a fresh hop IPA it is probably best drunk as soon as possible before the volatile and short-lived flavours imparted by the fresh hops fade away.

Fresh hopping (shown left, courtesy of the Double Mountain Brewery) is a seasonal practice. Hop harvests come in at this time of the year and are usually pressed into pellets or processed in other ways to maintain their shelf-life or enhance their usability for brewers. Hop pellets maintain the flavour of the hop very well, but some brewers swear that only fresh hopped beers are capable of imparting the full range of sensations that these little herbs have to offer.

At the Great Canadian Beer Festival I found parts of a hop in  my Central City imperial IPA. I'd been warned against chowing down on one of these for fear of ruining my palate for the night. But, let's be honest, after several hours at a beer fest your palate is pretty much beat in any case.

Chomped down I did. Not great. Definitely better in the beer itself. Head to the Beagle tomorrow night to find out what I mean.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Great Canadian Beer Festival Roundup

The Great Canadian Beer Festival came and went. I won't argue with any of the four words in its title. My biggest disappointment was enjoying it so immensely that I almost completely neglected to take notes and pictures. Que sera. Above is a shot I did manage to get of one of the festival beer tokens that you handed over in exchange for a 4oz taster (unless you wanted to drink Merridale's cider, in which case the cheeky swines demanded two tokens per scrumpy!)

The bits I do remember will be written up in the next few blog posts. Today I wanted to talk about the beer. I find that tasting notes are useless unless you can actually summon the memory of the drinking itself. These are memories that go stale fairly quickly. Best to write 'em while you got 'em.

My list of beers I was looking forward to didn't all turn out to be the ones I loved the most. Let's tackle them first:

1. Vancouver Island - Chipotle Rauchbier
Now this had potential and was appropriate for a beer fest but I wouldn't drink it again unless the recipe was altered a little. Brutally spicy, droolingly citric, and not too strong on the smoke front. It was a real eye-waterer. I spoke with the brewer Chris Graham and I was impressed. I also got the idea that he knew this one was a bit OTT. His upcoming casks will no doubt be great and I can't wait to get hold of some.

2. Driftwood - Old Cellar Dweller
Wonderful. I knew I'd love this. I already had the 2009 in a bottle, but this cask-aged version was sumptuous. Thickly bitter with rich sherry-flavour. The hops really shine in this old beer. Tastes like a good tonic for a winter morning.

3. Central City - Red Racer Imperial IPA
Probably the best imperial IPA I had at the festival, although I prefer their regular IPA. This is one of those really chewy impIPAs with a bit of sweetness and some spice too. The aftertaste went mildy sour for me, but the front end was just great.

4. Howe Sound - Total Eclipse of the Hop
I didn't drink this one. I can't remember if it was only offered on Saturday or if it was one of the breweries whose line-ups were so long I kept thinking I'd get to it later. I was scarcely conscious of the passing time once I'd been there six hours, so a few beers sadly passed me by.

5. Swan's - Brewcifer IPA with Jalapeno, Pepper and Lime
Just bad. Didn't taste much like an IPA to me. Similar to the VIB effort, the spice was well overdone. This might be a subjective thing, but remember I love curries and enthusiastically munch on habaneros, so I'm inclined to think I wasn't alone in being put off by the power of this one. Not much room left for the beer.

6. Moon Under Water - Pale Ale
I really liked it, as I suspected I would. Richer than the low ABV would suggest, and like their bitter it was not scared of the hops. A real quencher with a lingering hazelnuttiness, and not quite as dry as the bitter.

7. Three Skulls - Blood Orange Wit
There was one beer that tasted and smelled like hydrogen peroxide (as our friend Adam astutely pointed out). I am fairly sure it was this one. Just dreadful. You can't think about the flavour with a face full of hair-dye.

Next blog post, I'll deal with the other beers that left an impression on me. I'll leave you with this picture taken while Dave, Adam and I took an early break to sip the Driftwood barley wine. It is my last truly cogent memory of the day, but what a great beer to say goodbye to reality with. Cheers.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Great Canadian Beer Festival - Brewery Map

The 17th Great Canadian Beer Festival hits Victoria this Friday and Saturday. To celebrate, I geeked out and made a googlemap of every brewery that will be attending. I also ignored my family for an additional hour in order to add info on EVERY DAMN BEER they will be bringing too (ctrl-c; ctrl-v courtesy of If this doesn't up my readership I'm just going to snap.

Here's a bunch of list nonsense to keep you distracted while you wait for the weekend.

Top 5 distances traveled by breweries to get to GCBF"
1. Brooklyn Brewery (NY, USA) - 4802km
2. Unibroue (QB, CA) - 4571km
3. Les Trois Mosquetaires (QB, CA) - 4558km
4. Beau's Brewery (QB, CA) - 4551
5. Mill St. Brewery (ON, CA) - 4191km

Top 5 beer styles (by no. of examples) at this year's GCBF
1. Bitter (40)
2. IPA (31)
3. Fruit beer (20)
4. Lager (19)
5. Pale ale (13)

Top 7 beers I am personally looking forward to
1. Vancouver Island - Black Rock Chipotle Rauchbier with lapsang souchong tea (wtf)
2. Driftwood - Old Cellar Dweller 2009 Barley Wine (cask)
3. Central City - Red Racer Imperial IPA (cask)
4. Howe Sound - Total Eclipse of the Hop (cask)
5. Swans - Brewcifer IPA with Jalapeno, pepper and lime (cask)
6. Moon Under Water - Pale Ale (I already had a sneak preview of their "Blue Moon Bitter", which was just beautiful)
7. Three Skulls - Blood Orange Wit

Top 3 random beer stats
1. 57 breweries will attend
2. 184 different beers will be swigged from 4oz tasting cups
3. 20,000 litres of beer will need drinking/spilling

View GCBF Breweries in a larger map