Road Trip Part II, The Sour Fest

Sorry for the delay in getting to part 2. I’m still recovering from my week in Cali, and spent a quiet weekend in Seattle with my better half. I’ll throw the beery details of the Seattle trip in another post.

Without further adieu, lets roll with Part II.

As previously noted, my friends Scott and Abby were kind enough to let me crash on their couch after the events of Saturday night. After slowly rising from the near dead, I had to make a quick run to my parent’s fridge in North County prior to attending the Sour Fest. Why the mad dash, you might ask? Squirreled away in their fridge was a 1 liter swing top bottle containing the magic elixir known as Storm Brewing’s 12 year old Black Currant Lambic.
I smuggled, not one, but two bottles of Storm Lambic into the US. The first was the 12 year Geueze with fresh cherries discussed in Part I, and the second was “The Holy Grail” of Lambics, the Black Currant.

After grabbing the lambic, I rushed to Stone so I could stand in sweltering heat for 45 minutes waiting to get into Sour Fest. Let me say that I have lived in Southern California for most of my life, so heat is usually not an issue. Hell, I used to live in Bullhead City, AZ where the temps regularly exceeded 120 degrees. The temperature Sunday probably topped out in the low 100’s, but after Saturday night, it felt like 200! At some point (I honestly lost track of time) Scott and Abby caught up with me and we made our way into the Sour Fest. Thankfully we got there early (despite the heat) as the crowd exceeded even Stone’s expectations. It wasn’t long until they were running out of commemorative taster glasses, and late comers were given either 12th Anniversary glassware or simply plain glasses.

Sour Fest Glassware

Sour Fest Glassware

Once the entry to the fest was completed, we immediately made our way into the garden for the festivities. We remade the acquaintance of Larry and Natalie from L.A. and our chance meeting at the Ritual. We had discussed a plan of action the night before and while in line in the oppressive heat. On the advice of Dr. Bill we immediately headed for the pouring stations on the lower part of the lawn area. This is where the ‘good stuff’ was pouring, and Bill had intimated that many of these taps were likely to run out early.

On tap at the West Side of the lawn were:

Russian River Brewing’s Consecration, Temptation, Sanctification and Supplication.

Lost Abbey’s Isabelle Proximus, Red Poppy, Veritas ’02, Cuvee de Tomme 2009 and Duck Duck Gooze.

Valley Brewing’s Olallieberry Sour, Chilie Wonka, Dysfunktion Ale Part Deux, and Grand Cru 2009.

One of my Favorite Places to be

One of my Favorite Places to be

On the East Side of the Lawn:

New Belgium’s Love Barrel # 3, Le Terroir, La Folie, Spicy Folie, Tart Lychee, Transatlantique Kriek, Eric’s Ale 2007, and Bottleworks 10th Anniversary.

Avery Brewing’s Voltron, Bad Sally, De Vogelbekdieren, Altar Boy, Brabant, and Anniversary Ale 16.

Since we had met up with Larry and Natalie, they had grabbed a table on the patio with an umbrella to shade us from the blistering sun. (It didn’t work, it was still absolutely brutally hot!) We decided as a group that to conserve taster tickets and taste as many beers as possible, we would “team taste”. We would each get a different beer, share with each other and pass judgment and decide which ones we would go back for. We decided to pass on the Russian River beers for the most part, as we had all had them before. We also decided to put our focus on the draft stations as we had been fortunate enough to have pretty much all of the bottled sours previously.

We immediately headed to the lawn, as we were forewarned that Tomme Arthur’s newest, Duck Duck Gooze would be one of the taps to go quickly*. I opted for the Duck Duck, while Scott chose Red Poppy and Larry went for the Love Barrel. Natalie grabbed a Spicy Folie while her friend Arianna manned the table. The Duck Duck is a pale golden color, with bright spicy notes in the aroma. Wickedly tart and very refreshing. The Red Poppy was dark, rich and an explosion of sour cherries. Based on a dark ale and named for the poppies common to both California and Flanders, barrel aged for a minimum of 6 months. The Love Barrel was by far one of our faves of the fest, bright gold, funky, sour, crisp…words can’t describe! The Spicy Folie was complex and interesting, but we all felt that the added spice somewhat overpowered the malts and tartness of the original.

*Oddly enough, this tap lasted pretty much the entire day. Many of the sour heads knew it was being released in bottles during Lost Abbey’s “Christmas in July” the following weekend, so they passed on the draft version.

Next we moved to Transatlantique Kriek, which was another of everyone’s favorites. Very clear pink, the aroma of cherries was amazing, with a hint of vinegar on the nose. Dry, tart, mildly sweet, with a big sour/vinegar finish. The Tart Lychee was interesting to say the least. I am a big fan of lychee fruit, and wondered how it would come across in a beer. The beer poured extremely cloudy, with a big funky horsey aroma. The lychee was definitely present imparting a tropical fruitiness to the brew. Good, but there were others we preferred more. Le Terroir has been one of my personal faves since I first had an illegal taste of it 2-3 years ago. A local tavern owner had traded/smuggled a keg to San Diego and had it on tap for a couple of days (it went fast!). After the first taste on Sunday, I was immediately reminded why I loved it so; Bright, crisp and sour, sour sour! Eric’s Ale is another wonderful creation (did I mention we were drinking all night with Eric?) A peach sour, the peach flavor is just a whisper in the aroma and at the finish. In between it’s wonderfully tart and dry.

Lost Abbey’s Isabelle Proximus was amazing as well. Similar in style to the Duck Duck, the aging from 2002 softened some of the sour notes, and made it extremely drinkable. The Cuvee de Tomme 2009 was very tasty as well. More cherry notes and slightly less sour than previous batches, this may be the most balanced Cuvee yet (although I like the super sour Cuvee). The Avery 16 seemed to be missing something. The body was a bit thin, and there was little or no lasting flavor to it. Someone likened it to a sour pilsner!

Valley Brewing was a new taste for me, as I don’t get to North Central California often. What the hell was I thinking? I’ll make road trips just for this stuff! The Olallieberry Sour was incredible. Amazing fruity aroma, deep reddish pink color, and simply amazing fruit flavor with just the right balance of sour notes. The Chilie Wonka had a very peppery aroma and the palate was very spicy and mildly sour. I’m told that there are no chilies in the Chilie Wonka. I want to know how he got the spicy notes and aroma! The Dysfunktion Ale was rich and malty and funky and only slightly sour.

OK, here is my aside to the heat. It was BRUTAL (best pronounced as 2 words; BRU – TAL!) Initially when you ran into someone you know, you did this funky half hug thing, so you wouldn’t get your sweat all over them. By 1 o’clock, everyone was so drenched and miserably hot, that courtesy went out the window. Just a big ol’ sweaty, dripping hug! You felt kinda sorry for the people who didn’t dress properly; girls in tight jeans, anyone in pants, the poor bastard dressed up as a monk. The monk guy was in full regalia; heavy wool robes, high collared shirt underneath, the works!  (I could swear I took a picture of the Monk, but it could have been a mirage from the heat and sour beer!)* Women who wore anything but the most basic of makeup were in for it as well. That was a pretty sight! Some of the girls looked like Tim Curry during the pool scene in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.

Monk Photo Courtesy of Stone Brewing

Monk Photo Courtesy of Stone Brewing

We moved on to the Outside Bar, mostly because it was only a few steps from our table. Plus it was HOT!

*At some point in here, we were joined at our table by my good friend Danielle from Lost Abbey. I never expected to see her at a sour fest. At our favorite pub, Churchill’s, Danielle would drink Stella Artois and/or Cider, and do shots! Since she started working at Lost Abbey however, her palate has opened up and she’s a real beer fan now! Congratulations and welcome to the club, Danielle!

The Outside Bar:

Ballast Point Hout Dark Cherry, Hout Geueze, and Sour Wench

The Bruery Cuvee Jeune, White Zin, and Berliner Weisse

Green Flash Grand Mantis

Deschutes St Lucy’s Artisan Ale, Saison de la Bond, Green Monster and Little Buddha

Craftsman El Prieto and Honesty

Ommegang Rouge

Moonlight # 16 Sour Blonde and #28 Sour Ale

Alvinne Kerasus

St Louis Geueze

Telegraph Reserve Wheat

Verhaeghe Duchess de Bourgogne and Echte Kriekenbier

Van Honsebruck Bacchus

DFH Festina Peche

Drakes Brewing It’s Fity and George Brett Triple

The scene from behind the bar

The scene from behind the bar

Ballast Point Hout Dark Cherry was spectacular. It poured a deep reddish brown with lots of fruit in the nose, rich malty and sour on the palate. The Sour Wench came off a bit too vinegary, previous batches were better. Deschutes Little Buddha was one of our least favorites. Strongly astringent, too much vinegar. Let’s leave it at that*. When I think of Moonlight Brewing, I think of lagers, not sours. The #28 Sour Ale was rather plain, not very sour. Their lagers are awesome, though!

The Bruery provided 3 of the highlights of the festival; Cuvee Jeune, White Zin and Berliner Weisse. The White Zin is a wild ale aged in, what else, Zinfandel Barrels. Peachy color with an intense grape aroma. Sour but not too tart, the grapes come through more in the nose and slightly in the finish. The Cuvee Jeune is another wild ale, this time aged in Chardonnay barrels. Possibly the most drinkable beer here. Pale gold, slight lemony aroma, with a hint of grape. Tart and refreshing. The Berliner Weisse was the perfect beer for such an incredibly hot day. Very light, only 3.1% ABV, pale gold and clear. Light lactic tartness, incredibly refreshing. Here’s to the revival of the style, it’s the perfect summer sour.

*Funny, the Little Buddha was one of the first taps to be pulled. I don’t know if it was because the keg blew due to it’s overwhelming popularity (doubtful) or because they wanted to save people from wasting a precious taster ticket)

Dogfish Head Festina Peche was terrific as always, first time I have had it on draft. Another Berliner Weisse style beer, great tartness from the lactobacillus, nice fruity finish from the peaches. Green Flash Grand Mantis, which is the Grand Cru inocculated with Brettanomyces and barrel aged. Only a slight tartness to stand up to the rich malt of the Grand Cru. I think this beer will be fantastic in another 6 months as the brett continues to work it’s magic. The Craftsman El Prieto poured a deep reddish brown and smelled of Dr Pepper and slightly vinegar. Lots of roasted malt, slightly overpowering the sour notes. Good tart dry finish.

For me the most surprising beer of the fest was Drakes ‘George Brett Triple’. I’ve never been a big fan of Drakes beers, it seemed like they were trying too hard. Their IPA’s and DIPA’s were too astringently hoppy and poorly balanced, their previous attempts at Belgian-style beer fell kind of flat for me. Imagine my surprise when my friend Danielle from Lost Abbey shared her taster of George Brett with me! Bright, robust biscuit character, with just a bit of blanket in the nose. Perfectly balanced tart/sour notes that matched up well with the malt and yeast. Dry tart finish from the brett. Very impressive indeed.

Dr. Bill and The VIP's toasting something

Dr. Bill and The VIP's toasting something or other

At various times throughout the day, I wandered over to the VIP area Dr. Bill had set up for friends and dignitaries. As a “Beer Ambassador” I had access to the aforementioned VIP area. This is where some of the more hardcore beer geeks were gathered.

Some serious bottles goin' down

Some serious bottles goin' down

Many, if not all brought rare bottles to share and taste. John Schulz brought Lost Abbey Cable Car and Yellow Bus, Stone Web Developer Bill Sobieski brought his homebrewed sour, Mission Impecheable.

Bill Sobiesky pouring Mission Impecheable

Bill Sobiesky pouring me a taste of Mission Impecheable

I brought the Holy Grail, Storm Black Currant Lambic. Honestly, there were too many great beers pouring, and I can’t remember them all. Maybe it was the heat? Or perhaps the alcohol?

Your Author with "the Holy Grail"

Your Author with "the Holy Grail"

The Mission Impecheable was very nice, especially considering that it was homebrew. Bright tart peach aroma, followed by horse blanket and lactic notes. Light peach flavor at the beginning, followed by the ever present tartness, with a dry finish. Not quite on par with Eric’s Ale from New Belgium, but an excellent offering nonetheless.

We also sampled Cable Car and Yellow Bus, limited edition offerings from Lost Abbey which are no longer available anywhere. The Yellow Bus is a peach sour, with big lactic notes and mild wood in the nose. The peach is very subdued, just a whisper in the nose and on the palate. Very tart, acidic bite, super dry, with a hint of fruit; pineapple, not peaches!  Mild oakiness in the finish, but not overpowering. An astounding beer! Cable Car is a pale orangey color, with a small head. Big aroma of grapes (chardonnay?) and funk. Very sour with hints of lemon and grapes again. Dry finish with mild wood notes. Another example of the quality Lambics being produced in the US.

And now, the beer you’ve all been waiting to hear about: Storm Brewing’s Black Currant Lambic (Cassis) aged 12 years in Oak barrels. I can honestly say this one of the unsung hits of the fest. Once I shared it with a few people, our table was flooded with people coming by begging for a small taste. Word travels fast at a festival, eh?

The lambic pours a faint purplish brown, with an aroma of vinegar, wood and fruit, almost like a Flemish sour on the nose. It starts with some muted barnyard funk and wood tones, followed by a big blast of sour. A bit on the acidic side, the fruit announces it’s presence with a light, almost imperceptible sweetness.  The finish is sour, followed by more lingering funk, and a dry sourness on the sides of your tongue. Definitely a world class lambic from our resident alchemist, James Walton. The raves from the beer geeks were unanimous in praise of this rare beer. The guys from Brouwer’s Cafe, were asking if I could smuggle a small keg down for their sour fest! Others offered me bottles of Cable Car and Yellow bus in exchange for a hand filled bottle in trade! (I’ll have to ask James about that!)

I made several trips back to Valley Brewing, New Belgium, Lost Abbey, and The Bruery to refill my glass with more of my favorites from the fest. Even after tasting dozens of wonderful beers in the team tasting and refilling for personal lubrication, I still had 5 of the original 10 taster tickets I was issued! After a nice conversation with the late arriving Tomme Arthur, I shared my remaining tickets with late arriving friends and excused myself from the festivities.

Except for the unbearable heat, the Sour Fest was an unqualified success! I can’t wait to see what Dr. Bill comes up with next year.

Special thanks to Kathryn Bouscaren of Stone for sharing the photos. Either it was too hot, or I was too hungover to man the camera myself.

Cheers,

Andy The Beerman

Road Trip

As many of you know, I recently took a 5 day road trip back home to sunny and HOT Southern California, primarily San Diego and environs. The outward reason for the trip was to deliver our 3 boys to their grandparents for a vacation. Partly for them but mostly for my wife and I. For me it was 5 days of brewery visits, seeing old friends, pub crawls and most importantly, Stone Brewing’s Annual Sour Fest. I’ll get to the sour fest, but first a rundown of the trip:

It all began on Thursday with an advance visit to Stone in preparation for the sour fest, visiting friends employed at Stone and to check in with Dr. Bill Sysak, the beverage coordinator for the Stone Bistro and director of the Sour Fest. Bill gave a quick tour of the festival area, a rundown of the pouring stations and schedule and of course, the exact location of the VIP area for all of the rare bottles. Bill was also kind enough to invite me to go on a pub crawl on Saturday with visiting brewers and other industry folks!

Bill, knowing my love of hops (and sensing my BC induced withdrawal from said hops), immediately poured a fresh Pliny The Elder from Russian River Brewing. How fresh, you ask? The date on the kegs said they were filled on Tuesday, arrived at the Bistro Wednesday, poured into my glass on Thursday! I also sampled an array of well hopped local beers, including Ballast Point, Alpine* and Port Brewing.

The Amazing Bistro Draft List

The Amazing Bistro Draft List

We sampled the Stone 13th Anniversary Beer, a dry hopped Imperial Red with tons of Simcoe and Centennial hops. Definitely one of the best Imperial Reds I’ve had. Very well balanced for such a big beer. I also had a pint of the Sublimely Self Righteous Ale, originally brewed for Stone’s 11th Anniversary. A wonderful black IPA that is amazing. HUGE hop presence, with enough malt to hold it all together. It is my personal favorite of the recent anniversary beers, and I’m glad they brought it back.

*I was crushed when they told me that they had just blown the keg of Nelson, one of my favorite beers of all time. I was forced to ‘settle’ for Ballast Point Even Keel. Poor me!

From Stone I made my way to Churchill’s Pub and Grille, my home away from home. Churchills recently discovered some problems with the fooring and plumbing under the main bar, and is undergoing a MAJOR reconstruction project. Normally “Church” has 20 taps, 250 Bottles and at least 1 beer engine. During the construction they are pouring 6 beers from jockey boxes. When the re-opening happens in the next month or 2, they should have 30+ taps and 2 beer engines running full time!

The temporary bar at Churchill's

The temporary bar at Churchill's

While at Churchill’s I ran into much of the production and management team from Lost Abbey and Port Brewing. I smuggled a bottle of Lambic from Storm Brewing in Vancouver to share and the responses were unanimous; James is a genius! We sampled James most recent creation, a 12 year old geuze infused with 30 lbs of fresh Okanagan Valley cherries. The Lost Abbey crew are big fans of sour and barrel aged beer, and their praise of the lambic from Storm was high praise indeed! Ivan Derezin, the owner of Churchill’s was also kind enough to break out a bottle of Deschutes Black Butte XXI, their 21st Anniversary beer. Building on the existing chocolate notes already present in Black Butte Porter, brewers added cocoa nibs,  1000 pounds of locally roasted Ethopian and Sumatran coffee, and then aged a portion of it in Stranahan’s Colorado whiskey barrels. Wow!

Black Butte XXI

Black Butte XXI with Storm Cherry Infused Lambic to the right

Friday brought me to Green Flash Brewing, where I was able to spend some time with Brewmaster Chuck Silva. We chatted about everything from the beer scene (or lack thereof) in BC vs. San Diego, ingredients, recipes and so on.

Green Flash Brewmaster Chuck Silva

Green Flash Brewmaster Chuck Silva

The highlight of my trip also happened while at Green Flash. Chuck and I had a detailed discussion regarding his award winning Hop Head Red and our inability to get it into BC. Tree Brewing has a registered service mark on the phrase ‘Hop Head’, and therefore Green Flash can bring their other beers into Canada, but not Hop Head Red. Chuck was very understanding of the reasons that he could not export the Hop Head Red, and holds no animosity towards Tree Brewing whatsoever.* As a matter of fact, Chuck stated that if the tables were turned, he would have to do the same thing!

Being somewhat of a Beer Ambassador, I suggested a solution to Chuck;

Why not have Chuck come to Tree Brewing in Kelowna, work with their brewer and make the Hop Head Red in BC? Chuck was VERY enthusiastic about the idea, and basically said that if it’s cool with Tree, it cool with him. Of course, I immediately called my friends at Tree and passed along the idea. They were also pretty enthusiastic about the plan and hopefully we can see something happen soon. Cross your fingers, BC beer geeks!

*A sharp lesson for all of you BC beer geeks who keep slamming Tree! If Green Flash is OK with it, you need to pipe down!

The idea of a cross-border collaboration is very intriguing. The ‘new’ beer could be co-branded, with a detailed description of the collaboration on the label, and Green Flash and Tree could share the proceeds. It could also allow Tree Brewing an inroads to distribution in the US! Imagine the media coverage! “US/Canadian Beer Detente” “Beer Diplomacy” It would be heavily covered in the beer press as well as the mainstream press on both sides of the border. You can’t buy advertising like that! And did I mention that I was involved? (Shameless self promotion, eh?)

So after a morning and afternoon of recovery on Saturday, I made my way to the Stone Bistro for the beginning of the pub crawl. Had a Stone 9th Anniversary beer, a wheat wine that seemed to be lacking when it was released back in 2005. The last 4 years have been nothing but good to this beer! Wow!

From Stone we met up with several of the staff from Brouwers Cafe in Seattle at O’Briens Pub in San Diego, one of the better tap houses on the West Coast.

Tom Nickle, Owner/Publican

Tom Nickle, Owner/Publican

Imagine my unbridled joy when I saw that Nelson was on tap! Nelson is one of my alltime favorite beers and is only brewed once or twice a year. The name of this Rye infused IPA come from the Nelson Sauvin hop from New Zealand, a wonderfully fruity and citrusy hop. Alpine uses roughly 18% rye malt in the grain bill, giving the body a dry,sharp intensity which allows the Nelson hops to shine through. We were also graced with a visit from Sean McIlhenney from Alpine.

Sean from Alpine

Sean from Alpine

Sean was kind enough to share some of his secrets with me, so hopefully we’ll see a BC version of Nelson and/or Duet in the near future.

From O’Briens we ventured south to Toronado San Diego, sister pub to the world famous and original Toronado in San Francisco. There we were joined by Eric and Lauren Salazar from New Belgium Brewing, in town to pour some of their creations at the Stone Sour Fest.

Lauren and Eric from New Belgium

Lauren and Eric from New Belgium

Some of the degenerates getting warmed up

Some of the degenerates getting warmed up

The evening quickly accelerated at this point, as the rare bottles began appearing at our table. The amazing selection of bottles provided by Ian of the Toronado were Amazing! Cantillon Original Geuze, Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek, Allagash Confluence, Toronado 20th Anniversary from Russian River, Russian River Consecration, and the big one; a Magnum of Anchor Brewing Barrel Aged Reserve.

Would you look at all those bottles!

Would you look at all those bottles!

The Anchor Reserve is incredibly rare, the first and only time I have had the pleasure. Rich, malty, smoky, vanilla…pure heaven. Very reminiscent of Firestone Walker 11, another amazing barrel aged beer. We also had a few bottles of North Coast Old Rasputin XXI, their barrel aged anniversary edition of their venerable Russian Imperial Stout. The bourbon barrels amplify the intense espresso and chocolate flavors, yet soften the finish with subtle vanilla notes.

Old Rasputin XXI

Old Rasputin XXI

From there we moved on to Boulevard Brewing Barrel Aged Stout, a very limited release.

Boulevard Stout

Boulevard Stout

Amazingly rich and complex the barrel aging again intensifies the already present coffee and chocolate flavors, and adds a note of vanilla that softens the finish into an symphony of joy.

At this point we were all feeling pretty good, and some of the crew wanted to take the party to Hamilton’s Tavern just a few blocks down 30th street. Being in no shape to drive, I was lucky enough to have run into old and dear friends Scott and Abby who offered to let me stay with them. Considering that they live only a few blocks from Toronado SD, how could I refuse?

My Saviors!

My Saviors!

But we couldn’t finish the evening without a nightcap could we? Of course not. And it just so happens, another of my favorite San Diego hangouts, The Ritual Tavern was right across the street! The Ritual only has 6-8 taps, but the taps are always occupied with local beer. They have a very impressive bottle list as well. There is always a cask on, and as a CAMRA guy, I had to have a pour from the beer engine. On this evening was a cask  of Red from Rock Bottom Brewing. Nice malty character with sufficient hops to balance nicely. The cask really softened the hop bite and brought out the rich malts. While at the Ritual, we met Larry and Natalie. Larry is the manager/beer buyer for Father’s Office, one of the few true taphouses in Los Angeles. They were in town for, yep…Sour Fest. We made arrangements to meet up at the Sour Fest so we could share and compare.

Pump that Beer!

Pump that Beer!

At this point we were getting pretty tired, and need to rest up and recover for the Stone Sour Fest on Sunday. After a quick stop for some greasy, yet incredibly satisfying Carne Asada, we retired to Scott and Abby’s for the night.

Considering that I am already over 1700 hundred words in this post, I think I’ll have to recharge with a pint or 2 and give all the gory details of the Sour Fest in my next post.

…to be continued…

Cheers,

Andy The Beerman

Canada Cup of Beer Recap

First I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend! First time I’ve ever been anywhere but the good ol’ USA for the Fourth. I figured if I couldn’t celebrate with beer and fireworks, I could at least celebrate with beer. And it just so happens that the Canada Cup of Beer was going on at UBC Thunderbird Stadium…

I arrived at UBC around 1:30 (Gates opened at 1), and the crowd was still pretty thin. Being the enterprising beer geek that I am, I figured that would be great…shorter lines!

Sparse early crowd

Sparse early crowd

Imagine my disappointment when I saw that some of my favorite breweries were not there: Phillips Brewing, Driftwood and Dead Frog (Dead Frog was in the program, but not at the festival). As the saying goes, “Dance with the one that brung ya” or paraphrased “Drink what’s here!”

My first stop was Central City Brewing, as I was dying to try their highly recommended IPA.

The Central City Booth

The Central City Booth

I don’t know if they call it Red Racer IPA or Empire IPA, all I can say is that it did not disappoint, WOW! Clocking in at around 70 IBU’s, definitely the hoppiest beer in the Province, possibly the hoppiest in all of Canada. Beautiful, golden amber hue, big hop aroma (duh!). Coming from San Diego, I am used to beers that come in at 100+ IBU’s, and the average IPA probably has 60-70. This was right in my wheelhouse. This IPA would easily hold it’s own with many of the West Coast IPA’s. Definitely the star of the event, IMHO.

Directly across from Central City was Kelowna’s own Tree Brewing. I have had numerous conversations and emails* with Chris Stirling and was excited to finally meet face to face. I introduced myself, and immediately began sampling their wares.

Me and Chris Stirling (Nice Hat!)

Me and Chris Stirling (Nice Hat!)

First up was the Hop Head IPA. Maybe I should have had this IPA before the Central City! Nice golden amber color, crisp hop aroma. The Hop Head is roughly 60 IBU’s which would be considered very hoppy by BC standards. The hops were more European in character, not as citrusy as many of the West Coast IPA’s. No offense to my buddy Chris, but this is my 2nd favorite IPA of the day. I also tried the Kelowna Pilsner, a very nice Bohemian style Pilsner, pale gold with nice Saaz/Noble hop aroma. One of my new faves is the Thirty Beaver Amber Ale. A well balanced session ale, weighing in at 5% ABV, perfect for summer. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am writing this while quaffing a Thirsty Beaver, and it hasn’t clouded my judgement…yet) Nice malty character, and more full-bodied than some of the beers passing themselves off as brown ales!

*Definitely qualifies as an equaintance

Next stop, Vancouver Island Brewing. While the new Spyhopper Honey Brown wasn’t near the top of my list, I sampled the Hermann’s Dark Lager and was very impressed. Rich full bodied nutty character, lost of toasted malt aroma, with just enough hops to balance it well. If you blindfolded me and told me it was a Nut Brown, I probably wouldn’t argue, it had that much flavor. If Keith’s were selling this, they would probably call it a stout!

One of the longest lines of the festival was at Peacock & Martin Imports:

The Line at Peacock & Martin

The Line at Peacock & Martin

They are an importer of some of the finest beers in the world; Duvel, Orval, Mort Subite, and Westmalle from Belgium, St Peters from England, as well as Yukon Brewing from Whitehorse. I didn’t get to try the Yukon Arctic Red as it was slurped out early. Being a bit of a Belgian Beer fan (No, really?) I made a beeline once I saw what they were offering. I was somewhat surprised to see the crowds lining up. There is hope for Canada yet! I didn’t expect the Trappiste beers to be that popular. Of course I had the Westmalle Tripel, one of the top 20 beers in the world IMHO.

I think those monks are on to something!

I think those monks are on to something!

I also had the Mort Subite Geueze, which was terrific. Geuze is a blend of young (1 year) and older (2-3 year) lambics, with lots of fermentable sugars for bottle conditioning. The Mort Subite had just enough residual sweetness to prevent the lactic acids from overpowering the palate. Not quite on the level of a Cantillon or Girardin, but an excellent beer nonetheless, especially if you don’t want to spend $30-40 dollars on a bottle of Cantillon.

Howe Sound Brewing drew a nice crowd as well:

Howe Sound

Howe Sound

Once I found out that my buddy John Ohler didn’t make the trip, and they didn’t bring The Devil’s Elbow IPA, I moved on to scout more beer.

I paid a quick visit to Red Truck and I’m sure you can guess why:

I thought the goal was to get people INTO the booth!

I thought the goal was to get people INTO the booth!

I have had the Red Truck lager previously, a typical continental pilsner, nothing to write home about. I wanted to try the Red Truck Ale. No designation of Amber, or Pale or anything that might confuse us simple beer drinkers, just “ALE”. Kind of bland, no real hop character, no assertive malt presence to get your attention. I’ve had better, I’ve had worse.

I also made a visit to Granville Island Brewing’s booth.

It's good to be here

It's good to be here

Granville Island had a good presence as well, I spent quite a bit of time chatting with one of their sales reps. Since I tasted many of their beers at the Facebook/Twitter gathering, I didn’t spend a lot of drinking time at GIB. I did have their Hefeweisen, though. Very nice, cloudy yellow gold color, with lots of clove and banana on the nose. I think I was the only person who had my taste without a lemon!

Lighthouse Brewing of Victoria also had a good crowd, most trying their newest entry into the market; Riptide Pale Ale. Riptide is a nice session ale, not too malty, not too hoppy, pretty well balanced, but nothing that jumps out at you. I also tried the Race Rocks Amber, which came across as a slightly maltier version of the pale ale. Not a bad beer mind you, just nothing spectacular. I guess I was at CCOB hoping for spectacular.

I was also hoping that more of the local importer/distributors were in attendance, so I could enjoy some of my favorites from the US like Green Flash, North Coast, Bear Republic, and Anderson Valley.

All in all, it was a lot of fun. I got to meet some of the people I have been in email contact with and try a lot of new beer. Judging by the crowds and lines at some of the booths, I have great hope for the British Columbia beer scene.

I’m looking forward to the next beer event.

Cheers,

Andy the Beerman

Quick Post

Just a quick post before I head out for the Canada Cup of Beer.

Been doing a bit of beer travelling this week and wanted to put up a couple of quick reviews:

Mission Springs Brewery:

Took the kids on a road trip out to Mission and lunch @ the brewery. Started with the Olde Sailors IPA. Deep copper color, nice dense head, reducing to wonderful lacing. Nice hop aroma. A teeny bit hoppier than a traditional English IPA (which is always OK by me!) Full bodied, great mouthfeel, pleasant hop character from the Goldings.

Followed that up with the Fat Guy Oatmeal Stout. Served on Nitro, almost black color with hints of ruby. Incredibly smooth and creamy, super dense caramel colored head. Nice roasted malt character, silky smooth with the addtion of oats to the mash.

Terrific food, great service, nice atmosphere. I will definitely be visiting again soon.

We followed that up with a trip across the border to Boundary Bay Brewing in Bellingham, WA. My second trip to Boundary Bay, as the beer and food were so impressive the first time around. Started with the limited release Double IPA. HUGE hop presence, poured a deep amber/copper color, off white head with nice lacing. Did I mention the HUGE hop notes? Big piney aroma from Northwest Hops (Simcoe?), good malt balance, slight tinge of the alcohol (8%+) comes through. Very clean finish, somewhat citrusy and dry, so the hops don’t permanently punish the palate.

Followed up with another limited release IPA, Chinook, brewed for an NSEA event, with a portion of the proceeds going to NSEA. Again, lots of hops, predominately Simcoe and of course Chinook. Lighter in color than the double, slightly more golden hue. Lots of pine notes with some herbal/citrus backbone. I think I detected some Amarillo in there, perhaps in the dry hop?

All in all Boundary Bay is producing some awesome Northwest/West Coast IPA’s! Considering that I have a PO Box in Washington, I’m pretty sure Boundary bay will be a frequent stop on my beer travels.

Heading off to the Canada Cup of Beer, will follow up with posts and reviews soon.

Cheers,

Andy The Beerman