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.


Andy the Beerman

One thought on “Canada Cup of Beer Recap

  1. Damn – I was toying with going but wife was working & nobody I knew was going (and I had more than enough work to keep myself busy too!). If I’d made your equaintance earlier I might have come along to say hi & share notes.

    Yes, Central City Brewing is not bad at all. For range and willingness to experiment I rate it pretty close to Steamworks. The Red Racer is pretty fine & I’ve gone through a couple of cases of that stuff 🙂

    Tree Brewing I’m a *big* fan of – their Hop Head is one of my BC favourites. It has the added attraction of being too hoppy for my wife so if I buy a 6-pack I get to drink all 6! Thirsty Beaver suffers by comparison to their more stand-out brews. Try the Cutthroat – a beautiful everyday beer with good taste but not quite the knock-your-socks-off hops of the Hop Head.

    And yeah, Cup of Beer seems to be all about the local stuff – good, bad and (mostly) indifferent. Not to say that it isn’t a great day out – there’s enough there to satisfy you. But for variety and beers from further afield your best bet is Victoria in September:

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