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!
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.
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.
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:
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 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:
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 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.
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.
Andy the Beerman