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British Columbia Archives | The Bar Towel

Posts in British Columbia

Beer Advent Calendars

January 3rd, 2014 Posted by Brewery News, British Columbia No Comment yet

advent-craftFor the second year now I’ve acquired the Craft BeerAdvent (TM) Calendar. In 2012 it was an interesting mix of European brews. A few of them I had already had, but most of them had never been available here. The anticipation and surprise was really awesome, I felt like a kid again! Those 24 European brews currently have a Beer Advocate average of 3.5, but unfortunately a few of them weren’t quite fresh. For 2013, their selection was entirely from North America and the BA average increased to 3.6 (they averaged 3.2 on Rate Beer and 3.5 on Untappd). Freshness was occasionally still an issue and my personal score for these brews was 3.4. That said, I actually preferred the European mix simply because there was a wider variety of styles that aren’t readily available here.

advent-phillipsNow for 2013, December was even more interesting. Phillips Brewing offered their own “Snowcase” Calendar filled with 24 unique brews. Naturally, I put them head-to-head (and kept notes in The Bar Towel forum). These brews averaged 3.8 on Beer Advocate, 3.2 on Rate Beer and 3.6 on Untappd. My personal score for the brews from this case was 3.7. So comparing the two, it was a wash for the Rate Beer users, Untappd put Phillips 0.1 ahead, BA put it 0.2 ahead, and I put it 0.3 ahead.

Given the price point (~$135), I think the Craft(TM) guys could certainly select some better brews for us beer geeks. Perhaps they’re trying to appeal to the general population, but who’s buying these things? I know it was the beer geeks that snatched them up within a few hours in some locations. The Phillips Snowcase was clearly the better bang-for-the-buck (~$60), and I must say that I’m truly impressed that a single brewery can put together 24 brews of this caliber. There’s not many breweries that are capable of doing that, but it would be really great to see a few try. Perhaps someone could offer a “12 Beers of Christmas” (which would be an amazing gift to find under the tree), team up with another brewery, or perhaps the Ontario Craft Brewers could do a “Secret Discovery Pack”? I’m certain there would be a lot of interest.

Looking forward to 2014…

Crannóg Ales & Left Fields Farm

June 26th, 2013 Posted by British Columbia, On The Road Reports No Comment yet

crannog1I spent the last weekend camping at the Shuswap Lake Provincial Park, which was the perfect opportunity to finally check out Crannóg Ales. When they opened in 2000, they were Canada’s first Certified Organic farmhouse microbrewery. The farm and brewery are integrated so well that they produce almost zero waste. The spent grain is used to feed the livestock and also provide compost for the hop yard and gardens. You may have heard of a 100 mile diet, but Crannóg has hosted a 100 foot feast!
crannog3The surrounding gardens support ladybugs, which love to dine on any pesty aphids!

Some homebrewers may be familiar with their Left Fields Hop Store. They ONLY sell rhizomes. I ordered them when I bought my first home in Toronto, and I’ve acquired many more here in BC. If you’re interested in growing hops, be sure to get your order in early as they always sell out.
Inside the brewery you’ll find an eclectic mix of old dairy and brewing equipment. Most impressive is the 12 Hectolitre system which was purchased from John Mitchell (originally installed in Canada’s first modern brewpub, Horseshoe Bay Brewing in 1982).

Their brews are only available by draft, growler or party pig. No bottles or cans. If the brewery grew much bigger, it would probably out-grow the farm.

Greg gave us an excellent tour which finished in their tiny tasting room. I’d say it’s maybe 150 square feet, but one of the coolest little spaces that I’ve ever seen.

A fresh sample of their Back Hand of God Stout was a treat. I’d say this is my favourite dry stout, with Granite’s being a close second.

The Gail’s Blood Potato Ale is an interesting take on an Irish Red. I swear I can taste the potato skins, though I have the benefit of knowing what’s in it. I think it’s very drinkable (I’ve ordered a second pint at a local restaurant).

The Insurrection IPA is an old school American IPA, dry-hopped with Cascades. At 5.4%, some might consider it a session IPA by today’s standards.

This was my first taste of the Bogtrotter Brown Ale, so I went home with a growler. It had a some pleasant cocoa and roasted nut, with just a hint of sweetness showing through the gentile bitterness. Nice hopping on the finish.

Their seasonal brew is a Sahti, which I tasted fresh from the conditioning tank. They used Juniper berries without any hops. I was surprised by the balanced sweetness and body of this tasty brew. Very well crafted.

If you’re ever traveling through Sorrento on the Trans-Canada, I’d certainly recommend booking a Tour & Tasting.


BC Brewing in 2012

January 6th, 2013 Posted by British Columbia No Comment yet

sweaterWhen I moved to BC in 2010, I intended to report on this vibrant brewing scene and post all of the interesting new beer releases. It quickly became apparent that there were far too many, so I started putting them together in monthly updates. It has been a few months since I’ve posted (new baby in the house), but I assure you that this scene is not slowing down.

The Canadian Brewing Awards were held earlier this year, and the BC craft brewers took home an astounding 40% of the awards. Their proportion has gradually increased every year that I’ve been here. Moreover, as Joe Wiebe reports in Urban Diner, the number of craft brewers has steadily increased as well. There were about 40 craft breweries when I moved here, and by the end of 2013 we’ll have close to 60. That’s about a 50% increase!

One the new breweries to watch is Parallel 49. Their head brewer, Graham With, has been experimenting with homebrews for years. Now he’s churning out some interesting stuff. Their regular lineup includes the excellent Hopparazzi India Pale Lager, while recent seasonals have included the sessionable Ugly Sweater Milk Stout and a divine Salted Caramel Scotch Ale.

In addition to all of the new breweries popping up, others continue to expand. The most notable is probably the Central City Brewing Company. They’re finally moving equipment into their new brewery, which will provide much more volume, and hopefully some more diversity as well.

Happy New Year!

BC Beer: July 2012 Releases

July 23rd, 2012 Posted by British Columbia, New Beer Releases No Comment yet

Whistler Brewing has a new wheat beer for the summer called the Pineapple Express. As many brewers are running at full capacity for the summer months, this seems to be last of the new ‘seasonal’ releases… but there’s still some new products hitting the shelf.

Pacific Western has introduced a new organic lineup called Scandal Brewing. They’ve launched with an Ale and a Lager.

Russell Brewing is celebrating their 17th anniversary with a Barrel Aged Scotch Ale. I’m a huge fan of their award-winning Wee Angry Scotch Ale, so I look forward to trying this one!

Tin Whistle Brewing recently celebrated their 1000th brew. Seventeen years ago they were the only brewery in the South Okanagan, and they’re still going strong. The owner told the Penticton Western News that they were looking for a new location so they can expand and start canning as well.

Molson’s Six Pints Specialty Beer Company has released a “Hand Picked 6 Mixed Craft Pack”. Molson has been strangely silent on the marketing front, but the box says:

Two pioneers in Canadian craft brewing have joined forces to bring you this signature selection of distinctive flavours. HAND-PICKED 6 unites three West Coast-inspired ales from Vancouver’s Granville Island Brewing and three traditional European lagers from small-town Ontario’s Creemore Springs Brewery. It’s a unique collaboration that lets you discover some of our country’s finest award-winning beers.

The “Hand Picked 6” is currently available at the LCBO as well as BC Liquor stores. There’s already some discussion on the Bar Towel Forum. I like it.

BC Beer: June 2012 Releases

June 20th, 2012 Posted by British Columbia, New Beer Releases No Comment yet

The summer solstice is upon us and BC has a brand new lager hitting the shelves: Creemore Springs! That’s right, while Ontario has been enjoying this craft lager for 25 years, British Columbians finally get a taste as well. Creemore was one of my seasonal staples for many years, so I was glad to grab a 6-pack from my local today. Despite the diversity of brews in BC, there still isn’t a whole lot of quality lagers, so hopefully this will fly off the shelves! Like Granville Island Brewing, Creemore is part of Molson’s Six Pints Craft Beer Division, so hopefully we will see some more of their great brews. Speaking of Granville Island, they just released a Cascadian Dark Ale, which is also available at the Government Stores. I think this is one of the best brews to come out of Granville. At 6% abv and 45 IBU it’s loaded with Falconer’s Flight hops with some quality malt to back it up. Really great stuff.

If you’re lucky, you might still find a Rick August Russian Imperial Stout from Russell Brewing. Rick was the 2011 Golden Stag Home Brewing Contest winner and Russell produced 360 cases at the end of May (Rick shares some of the profit). Now as cool as this whole story is, the beer is also REALLY great, so I recommend seeking it out. “The recipe uses more than 10 types of malts, two types of hops, a special yeast strain, juniper berries and licorice root. At 10.8% ABV this strong beer is intensely dark and extremely flavourful”.

The relatively new Hoyne Brewing Company has released yet another brew. The Summer Haze Honey Hefe is brewed with honey from the beehives at the Fairmont Empress Hotel. This one is on-tap at the hotel and also available from the brewery and select liquor stores in Victoria and Vancouver.

Also from Victoria for the summer is a variety of cans from Spinnakers! They’ll have the Blue Bridge Double Pale Ale, Lion’s Head Cascadia Dark Ale, Northwest Ale, Original Pale Ale and Ryder Hesjedal’s (2012 Giro d’Italia Champion) Tour de Victoria Summer Ale. Hopefully the canning line will instigate a larger distribution of their excellent brews. They’re working on a couple of new hop bombers as well: Hoptoria (6.8% abv & 80 IBU) and India Session Pale Ale (4.5% abv & 70 IBU).

Need some re-hydration in the summer heat? Or perhaps a Root Beer Float would hit the spot? Well, Cariboo Brewing is making a 0.5% abv. Root Beer!

The next 6-pack from Lighthouse Brewing Company will be TASMAN ALE. According to their facebook page, it’s brewed with “the Tasmanian hop varieties Topaz and Summer along with Motueka and Rakau from the Tasman region of New Zealand. Fresh and crisp, this copper hued ale features distinctive tropical fruit characters, clean and light bittering and a soft malt body. 5% alc/ vol”. New Zealand is becoming a bigger player in the hop market, and I do enjoy their unique regional flavours. With the southern hemisphere’s alternate harvest season, transporting their fresh hops half way around the world does make some practical sense. I’m certainly looking forward to trying this one!

2012 Canadian Brewing Awards – BC Winners

June 16th, 2012 Posted by Beer Awards, British Columbia No Comment yet

This year the BC brewers took home 40% of the Canadian Brewing Awards, and once again the Brewery of the Year is Central City Brewing Company.

There’s always some interesting discussion around these awards, and it has already started in the
forums. Has BC reached its climax? Are other provinces rising up? This year Ontario brewers took the Gold & Silver in the American Style IPA category, and a sour beer from Quebec (Co-Hop V, À La Fût) was awarded Beer of the Year! From coast to coast, there’s some interesting times ahead. Congrats to all the winners!

Here’s what the BC brewers brought home:

Vancouver Islander Lager, Vancouver Island Brewery
Hermann’s Dark Lager, Vancouver Island Brewing Co.
Coffee Porter, R&B Brewing Co.
Red Racer ESB, Central City Brewing Co.
Swans Scotch Ale, Swans Brewery
Pale Ale, Yaletown Brewing Co.
Steamworks Pale Ale, Steamworks Brewing Co.
Sungod Wheat Ale, R&B Brewing Co.
Woolly Bugger Barleywine, Howe Sound Brewing Co.
Powell IPA, Coal Harbour Brewing Co.
Central City Imperial IPA, Central City Brewing Co.
Mandarin Orange Amber Ale, Dead Frog Brewery
Dark Snout Bacon Stout, R&B Brewing Co.
Thor’s Hammer Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine, Central City Brewing Co.

BC Beer: May 2012 Releases

May 17th, 2012 Posted by British Columbia, LCBO Releases, New Beer Releases No Comment yet

With the May Two-Four upon us, there’s a couple of unconventional wits to enjoy with the outdoors. First up is the Flying Tanker White IPA, which is a hybrid of the Wit and IPA styles. Vancouver Island Brewing told the Alberni Valley news that “Flying Tanker IPA is the first bottle in our Vancouver Island series to be released — we’ve got a whole series of beers tied to Vancouver Island icons planned”.

Second is Parallel 49 Brewing’s Seedspitter Watermelon Wit. This is their first brew, and they’ve launched it just in time for Vancouver Craft Beer Week. Bottles should be available shortly and they’ve got three other brews that will be available soon.

Tin Whistle Brewing Company has released their new Scorpion Double IPA. They’ve been brewing since 1995, so it’s about time they threw some more hops into the mix… and why not make it a double? This was supposedly a big hit at the Okanagan Fest of Ale, and should be available in BC Liquor stores soon.

Steamworks Brewing Company recently brewed the Copper Roof Ale in honour of the Vancouver Sun’s 100th Anniversary. Check out Randy Shore’s online article and video clip with some good discussion with the brewers.

Speaking of ESBs, Driftwood’s Naughty Hildegard is back. This year they’ve returned to Pacific Northwest hop varieties (the 2011 had UK hops), which I believe make this a truly epic West-Coast ESB. Coincidentally, Pope Benedict has now officially recognized Hildegard von Bingen as a saint.

For those in Ontario, the LCBO’s Tree Brewing feature is starting to hit the shelves. This includes the Hefeweizen, Raspberry Porter, Captivator Doppelbock, Hophead Double IPA and the new Hophead Black IPA. This has already sparked some discussion in the forums. Their Duke’s Cider is on the LCBO shelves as well.

BC Beer: April 2012 Releases

April 19th, 2012 Posted by British Columbia, New Beer Releases No Comment yet

With summer just around the corner, there’s a few new wheat beers cropping up. The Okanagan Spring Brewery has their Hefeweizen, which does have some apricot flavour and a good dose of cloves. The Vancouver Island Brewery has the Beachcomber Summer Ale, which is also a traditional Hefeweizen, fermented with the miraculous Weihenstephan yeast. I’m really looking forward to trying this one!

Tree Brewing released a Hefeweizen last year, and this year they’ve added a Madcap Belgian White Ale. Tropical with a spicy finish, and at only 4.5% it should pair well with the Okanagan sun! In addition to the King Heffy, Howe Sound Brewing has added a draught-only 4 Way Fruit Ale. This wheat beer is brewed with passionfruit, mango, raspberry and pomegranate. At 4.4%, it’s sure to be a hit on the patio’s this summer.

I love traditional wheats and I’ll surely give the 4 Way Fruit a try, but this is the Pacific Northwest. We need something like a 3 Floyd’s Gumballhead or Great Lakes Miami Weisse!

The Nelson Brewing company has bottled their Old Brewery Pale Ale (SKU#198028), and it’ll be in the new mix pack from the BC Craft Brewers Association.

The Firehall Brewery has finally opened in Oliver. They launched with the Stoked Ember Ale, which was quickly followed by the Holy Smoke Stout. For their first appearance at the Okanagan Fest of Ale, they were awarded best booth! Congrats!

Don’t forget that Vancouver Craft Beer Week is coming up (and many tickets are already sold out).

BC Beer: March 2012 Releases

March 19th, 2012 Posted by British Columbia, New Beer Releases No Comment yet

Russell Brewing has released their first barrel-aged beer: Nectar of the Gods Wheat Wine. I tried this at the 2011 VCBW before it hit the barrel, and IMHO, it was the best of show. This brew is 50% wheat malt combined with Pilsner and Munich to create a 10% wheat wine. Columbus hops provide a firm bitterness and create a truly unique flavour when paired with the French Strisselspalt. I can only imagine the additional layers of complexity that the Tennessee Whiskey barrels have added. Available only at the better private liquor stores.

R&B Brewing have just released “Double Devil”, an extra strong version of their Red Devil, aged in Bourbon Barrels.

Phillips just released another batch of their Double Barrel Scotch Ale. This one “was aged in fresh Tennessee Whiskey barrels, then allowed to mature in cabernet sauvignon oak barrels from the sunny Okanagan Valley.”

Tree Brewing has also released Serendipty #4. This one is based on their recent Hophead Black IPA. I must admit that I was a bit skeptical about the combination of flavours, but I think this is actually the best thing they have ever brewed. The brewery has already sold out, but if you’re lucky, you might still find it at one of the better private liquor stores. They’ve also just re-released their award-winning Captivator Doppelbock as well.

Whistler Brewing will have a limited-release, Cheakamus Chai-Maple Ale for the spring.

Lighthouse Brewing has released a new Dark Chocolate Porter. This 5.5% robust porter is flavoured with cocoa nibs and will be available at both Government and private liquor stores.

Howe Sound has re-released their Gathering Storm Cascadian Dark Ale. Look for 1L bottles at the better private liquor stores.

Fernie Brewing has just launched their newest brew, Lone Wolf IPA. “This IPA has four select malts in combination with four classic hop varieties”. Soon they’ll have 650mL bottles in both BC and Alberta Liquor stores.