Tree Brewing HopHead Double IPA

From the Brewery:

“With five different varieties of superior hops, Hop Head Double IPA (8.0% ABV) packs in the hoppy bitterness like no other. Similar to its award-winning, best-selling little brother, Hop Head IPA, Hop Head Double IPA also boasts citrus aromas and sweet malt undertones with a slightly darker, copper colour. This strong hops taste pairs well with a flavourful meal or sweet dessert.”

My initial impressions:

Pours with a very dense off-white head. Deep copper/orange color. Decent initial hop aroma, very grassy and piney. Not picking up the citrus boasted of by the brewery. Slight alcoholic/phenolic tinge to the aroma. Very malty body, as evidenced by the deep copper color. Bathes the tongue in a resiny mouthfeel. Again, lots of grass and pine, very little citrus if any. The aftertaste is not what I would expect from a DIPA. Not a lot of lingering hop bitterness, more of a metallic, briney taste that lingers for quite some time.

Like many Canadian IPA’s and Double IPA’s, it has a much more English character than a true “West Coast” IPA. Slightly sweet and malt heavy, with a body that doesn’t allow the hops to truly shine.

After all of the hype, including a Canadian Beer Award, I’m left decidedly underwhelmed.

Compared to most Canadian IPA’s and Double IPA’s it’s a strong effort. When compared to benchmarks like Central City Red Racer IPA (and it’s DIPA brother) and Phillips Amnesiac, this DIPA pales in comparison.

On a 1-100 scale I would rate Tree Brewing HopHead Double IPA no more than 86-88.

Not to say this is a bad beer, it’s just not what I’m looking for in my DIPA. If you want a turbocharged English IPA, this is your beer. If you’re looking for a West Coast  style “Hop Bomb”, there are other alternatives.

Cheers,

Andy The Beerman

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The Tipping Point

I have finally, belatedly, begun reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point”.

It’s a phenomenal look at what (and who) causes epidemics, with the primary focus on social ‘epidemics’; what are the mitigating factors, who are the ‘players’ in these movements, and taking a detailed look at the cause and effect. As I’m reading through the book, being a beer geek, I keep trying in my head to apply his thesis to the craft beer movement, specifically as it applies to Vancouver and BC as a whole.

Where does craft beer fit in the “Law of the Few”? Who are the Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen? What’s the ‘Stickiness” factor as it applies to craft beer? Am I part of this potential epidemic? If so, where do I fit?

I’ve pondered this so much, it feels like my head is going to explode!

What caused Portland, OR to ‘tip’ towards craft beer over mass produced lagers? What happened in Seattle to foment a backlash against macro-swill? Having lived in and around San Diego during it’s craft beer explosion, I’ve seen some the causes and effects first hand. Did I recognize them while they were happening? Of course not!

What were the causes for the change of mindset amongst the local beer drinkers? Was it Greg Koch and Steve Walker founding Stone Brewing?  Was it the opening of Pizza Port in Solana Beach? To be honest, I don’t know what the specific tipping point was in San Diego (or Portland, Seattle, Denver, etc.)

What I do know is that I am seeing some of the same changes in attitude and mindset here in Vancouver that I saw in San Diego. As I posted when I moved to Vancouver, I thought that YVR is roughly 5-7 years behind some of the other west coast beer cities. In the year that I have been here I have seen that gap close pretty quickly. We’re still behind the curve, but not by nearly as much!

What happened to close the gap? It’s not like new breweries are popping up all over town. The brewery count is pretty much the same as when I got here.

The subtitle for the book is “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference” What are the little things happening in BC?

We are seeing changes in the attitudes of the local brewers as much as anything. We’re seeing a drift away from pedsestrian English Ales and Continental Lagers, to more ‘cutting edge’ craft beer. From Iain Hill’s Oude Bruin to Gary Lohin’s Red Racer IPA, to James Walton and his crazy lambics and experimental beers, to Phillips Brewing and their special releases, Driftwood Brewing releasing more Belgian inspired brews, even Granville Island is moving forward with Vern’s Jolly Abbot. Russell, Tree, Swan’s, Vancouver Island, Crannog, Howe Sound are all brewing outside the box of staid, ‘traditional’ beer.

We are seeing a more dedicated craft beer ‘crowd’. Bloggers, writers, and flat-out beer geeks are taking the craft beer message to the streets. People like Chris Bjerrisgaard, Daniel Knibbs, Rick Green, Chester Carey, Gerry Erith, Nigel Springthorpe and myself, proselytizing and educating the masses on the joy and wonder that is Craft Beer. People like Norm Eng and Adam Henderson scouring the bushes to bring us the best and most unique craft beer that America and the world have to offer.

We’re seeing larger and larger groups of people growing bored with the same old stuff. More people filling the Alibi Room and the Whip. Cask nights popping up all over, even in the suburbs! Restaurants like St. Augustine’s changing their beer menus to strictly craft beer. I was impressed to see so many hardcore beer fans at the CAMRA AGM this past weekend.

We’re staging the Inaugural Vancouver Craft Beer Week from May 10-16, yet another opportunity to educate the masses and make Vancouver a beer destination.

Are any of these small changes the tipping point, or are they an accumulation of ‘little things’ signaling a larger movement towards the epidemic stage?

Are we in the early stages of a craft beer epidemic in BC?

I would have to say Yes, Yes we are! And you know what? That’s a good thing!

Andy The Beerman

The Week in Beer

A big week for beer, lots of tastings and the Tacoma Craft Beer Festival.

Before I get to the Craft Beer Fest, a few tasting notes from the week that was;

A couple of weeks back, while making a quick trip to Blaine, WA to check my PO Box and pick up illicit packages, I popped into the Chevron station to get gas. I made a quick peruse of the cold case to see if there were any interesting beers. To my surprise they had a 6-Pack of Sierra Nevada Kellerweis. Not having had the chance to try this golden elixir previously, I quickly slapped down my $8 and went on my merry way. Kellerweis is one of the only American Hefeweizens made using the traditional Bavarian style of open fermentation. Though classified as a Summer beer, it’s been warm enough here in Vancouver into September to make this a good Autumn beer as well. Hazy golden color, as a hefeweizen should be, with wonderful aromas of clove, bananas and pear. Definitely one of the better wheat beers I have had this year.

Next on the list was Jah*Va Imperial Coffee Stout from Southern Tier. Weighing in at a whopping 12% ABV, this is beer not for the faint of heart (or constitution for that matter). Brewed with Cascade and Columbus hops, along with Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, this stout pours rich and black as night. My initial reaction was that it tasted a bit burnt, but I realized that it was still a bit cool from the fridge, and I let it warm to near room temp before my second taste. What a difference! Big coffee and chocolate notes, accompanied by a whisper of warming alcohol. This beer is very smooth and very deceptive, as it doesn’t taste like a 12% beer. Another excellent offering from the Blackwater Series of Stouts.

For my next tasting, I went back in time a bit, as I had not had much Bear Republic in a while. Courtesy of Norm Eng at Beer Thirst, I delved into a Hop Rod Rye and Red Rocket Ale. I had forgotten how good the Hop Rod Rye is! It’s basically an Imperial IPA with 20% rye malt added to the grist. A bit darker than a typical IPA, it explodes with hop flavor and aroma. It finishes a bit on the sweet side, which is a nice balance to the hops. The Red Rocket is an American Red Ale, with lots of malt character to balance the Centennial and Cascade hops. At 6.8% ABV, it’s definitely not a session beer, but it’s so damn smooth you want it to be!

Red Chair IPA from Deschutes Brewing is up next. This is one of my favorite IPA’s right now, very well balanced with a big hop presence. Copper/amber in color, the pine and citrus notes come through on the nose and palate and the malt backs it up to achieve an extremely quaffable IPA. It paired perfectly with my homemade green chile and chicken enchiladas.

Final home tasting is a beer I have been seeking out for a while, BrewDog Punk IPA and it was right in my backyard at Brewery Creek. I guess I can use the excuse that I don’t get downtown very often, but you probably don’t want to hear it! Punk IPA uses one of my all-time favorite hops, Nelson Sauvin, from New Zealand along with Maris Otter Pale Malt, with Northwest hops Ahtanum and Chinook for good measure. BrewDog bills it as a “post modern classic pale ale” and a a “trans-atlantic fusion IPA”. Yeah, that about covers it! You get lots of citrus and pine notes from the NW hops and the Nelson gives it a hint of a tropical flavor. A very nice IPA and fairly priced at Brewery Creek. (Also available at Viti Wines and Lagers)

And now, the story you’ve been waiting for…

The First Annual Tacoma Craft Beer Festival!

We packed up the minivan and headed out way too early on a Saturday; Myself, Daniel Knibbs from Dead Frog, Chester Carey the beer and BBQ guru from Brewery Creek and beyond and Chris from TrueCask.com. (Sorry Chris, if I try to type your last name my spell check would explode!). The rest of the crew had never been to Haggen Market, so our first stop was a mini beer run in Ferndale. My first visit to the Ferndale store and I was not disappointed! Terrific craft selection including BrewDog, Stone, Deschutes and more. After a fair amount of time wavering about what we should grab, we all loaded up 4-6 bottles each and made our way back to the van.

Next stop Seattle!

Before we could make our way to the festival, we were forced to make a stop at 99 Bottles, one of the premier beer stores in the entire Northwest. I had previously made a phone order with Tiffany, one of the wonderful owners, so I could procure the last 7 bottles of Stone Juxtaposition Pilsner, a collaboration between Stone, BrewDog and Cambridge Brewing. (Expect a separate post on this amazing beer!) Daniel, Chester and Chris were like kids in a candy store. Daniel and I went shelf by shelf; had that, had that, ooh haven’t had that, got that at home, had that…ad infinitum.

So many choices!

I focused on wet hop/fresh hop beers, as I am a HUGE fan of the style. Wet hops have a higher moisture content than dried hops (duh!), and impart more of the grassy and piney flavors without the astringent bitterness you get from some beers. Since they are available for such a short time, I always try to load up on bottles and get as much on tap as I can handle. Deschutes Hop Trip (which is the beer I’m drinking while writing this post), Rogue Chateau Rogue, the Sierra Nevada Harvest series (Chico Estate, Southern Hemisphere, 13th Harvest, formerly known as Yakima Harvest), along with some seasonal releases like Jubelale from Deschutes. After loading up on way too much beer, we knew we needed to load up on carbs before heading to the fest. Luckily for us, Jimmie Mac’s Roadhouse was just a few short steps across the parking lot from 99 Bottles. We slaked our thirst with the Armadillo Amber Ale (a house beer made by Hales Ales) and chowed down on prime rib sandwiches (a great deal for $9!). With that we were ready to finally make our way to the fest.

After finding parking what seemed like miles away from the fest, we made our way into the First Annual Tacoma Craft Beer Festival. The initial crowd out front seemed a bit light, probably owing to the fact that the fest ran until 9 PM, and the party crowd would show up later (and it did!).

First stop was one of our favorite beers of the day, Schooner Exact Brewing’s 3 Grid IPA, a 77 IBU hop bomb brewed with Chinook, Columbus, Cascade and Amarillo hops, served on cask with an additional dose of Cascade in the cask! Being CAMRA members, we were all excited to see the first booth pouring cask beer. Alas, they were the only brewery pouring a cask conditioned beer. Hoppy, tart, yet extremely well balanced.

In no particular order we sampled beer from Iron Horse, 21st Amendment, Stone, Two Beers Brewing, Elysian Brewing, Diamond Knot, Big Al to name a few. Shortly thereafter we tweeted up with the famous/infamous SudsyMaggie. This girl is a hoot! She qualifies as an e-quaintance, as we met through Twitter, and have tweeted/chatted back and forth about beer for 6 months and this was our first face to face meeting. Who says you can’t meet good people online?

Big standouts for me on the day were the Cherry Stout from Walking Man Brewing, the Jubelale from Deschutes, and the German Pilsner from GABF Small Brewpub of the Year, Chuckanut Brewing of Bellingham, WA.

My personal faves for were the Union Jack IPA from Firestone Walker (back to back Gold Medal winner in the American IPA category at GABF!), and Ommegang Rouge Grand Cru, a Flanders Red sour beer. I’ve had pretty much every beer from Ommegang, I’ve even taken the tour, but this was my first taste of the Grand Cru Rouge and it was freaking awesome!

I was excited to see that several breweries brought fresh hop beers to the fest. Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere, Deschutes Hop Trip, a Fresh Hop Ale from Big Al, another from Two Beers Brewing and Lupulin Fresh Hop Ale from Full Sail. My personal favorite is the Hop Trip, followed VERY closely by the Sierra Nevada and the Full Sail.

None of us could believe that this was a first time festival. Everything was well done, very well organized and I can’t wait for the 2nd annual Tacoma Craft Beer Festival!

That’s all that I am legally allowed to comment on, so if you want to here more about our adventures click here

Cheers,

Andy the Beerman

Random Stuff on a Saturday

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, been uber busy with family stuff.

A group of us traveled to the Great Canadian Beer Festival in Victoria a couple of weeks ago and it was Awesome!

We started the day by sharing a bottle of Cuvee De Tomme 2009, a wonderful cherry sour from Lost Abbey. What a way to destroy the palate at 10 AM! We also downed a bottle of Victory at Sea from Ballast Point, an Imperial Coffee Porter with Vanilla Beans.

Once at the fest, we focused mainly on BC Beers and the handful from the States that we can’t readily get. An immediate standout was the White Bark Wit w/ Brett from Driftwood. Simply beautiful. As much as I love brettanomyces, I hadn’t thought of adding the bacteria to a wit bier. Stroke of brilliance for the Driftwood boys!  They were also pouring a raspberry lambic/framboise, which was nice, but still a bit young. Hopefully they can cellar some away, as this beer will be spectacular in 6 months or more.

The Cascadia from Daniel Knibbs at Dead Frog was one serious kick ass concoction. I don’t quite know how to categorize it, but it was awesome! Daniel took the first runnings from a brown ale, hopped the ever-lovin’ snot out of it, fermented it down,  and then dry hopped the bejeezus out of it and served it on cask. A malty hoppy flavor bomb from hell! Gary at Central City was serving his amazing Red Racer IPA (kicked up a notch, methinks) and a Double IPA version sporting over 100 IBU’s which was honestly one of the best double IPA’s I’ve had in a long time. The Phillips Amnesiac DIPA on Cask was another great effort from Matt Phillips and Crew, as was the Boundary Bay IPA from Bellingham WA. Jeez, can ya tell I like me some IPA?

After that much of the fest is a blur, I just know I had a great time, and can’t wait for next year. Maybe there will be a new BC brewery serving amazing craft and barrel aged beer? Hmmm?

Last Sunday went to the Whip for Cask Sunday, Anacortes IPA dry hopped with lots of hoppy goodness. Very nice! I haven’t been a big Anacortes fan, but that IPA is changing my beer addled mind. After the cask, we broke open several bottles from our respective stashes; Spring 2008 Hair of the Dog Blue Dot, Ninkasi Ticerahops, 2009 Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Wet Hop Ale, and Lost Abbey Angel’s Share aged in Bourbon barrels.

As to the HOTD Blue Dot, the ’08 seemed to have lost a lot of it’s hop character, but was still very appealing. (I have 4 bottles of ’09 coming soon!) The Tricerahops was, like most offerings from Ninkasi, rock solid. a big bold DIPA with lots of  citrus notes. The Sierra Nevada Harvest is as always, amazing.  As with most wet hop beers, the bitterness is drastically toned down due to the excess moisture present in the hops before drying, so what you get is amazing hop flavor and aroma without the some of the astringency you get with kiln dried hops. We popped the cork on the Angel’s Share next, and there is not much more I can say about Tomme Arthur’s beers. Big, smoky, chocolate, coffee, raisins, oak…WOW!

We also tapped a bomber of Phillips Brewing Crazy 8’s Annu-ale, brewed to celebrate their 8th anniversary. The description on the label is a bit vague, and I don’t know quite where to put this one. Big beer, 8% ABV, lots of malt, lots of hops. Not quite an IPA, but lot’s of character. Definitely warrants another go.

Also through my Norm at Beer Thirst, I discovered a new beer stop close by in Bellingham, WA. Haggen Food and Pharmacy has a great craft beer selection, lots of NW beers not available north of the border. And it beats driving down to Seattle. I was able to pick up Ninkasi, Sierra Nevada Harvest, Deschutes Red Chair IPA (they are getting Hop Trip this week!), Elysian and several varieties of Rogue that I hadn’t seen before. (They must have had 15 or more Rogue beers in bombers!) So when in Bellingham, definitely give Haggen’s a try, they have several stores in Bellingham and one in Ferndale.

Speaking of Elysian, their 2009 Night Owl Pumpkin Ale is spectacular. One of the 3 or 4 best pumpkin beers I have had. I think I like it so much because it is very similar to a pumpkin ale I have homebrewed in the past. I used over 1 pound of fresh pumpkin in a 5 gallon batch, they used over 7 lbs per barrel which is a pretty similar ratio. Spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, clove) are added at the end of the boil and also post fermentation. The result is a deep amber ale that smells like a pumpkin pie! There is enough pumpkin and spice to carry over to the palate without overpowering it like many of the others I have tried. Good stuff!

Also, there is a rumor (or is it rumour?) floating about that there could very well be a new BC craft brewery popping up on the radar. I’m not privy to all the details (or am I?), but I’m hearing that it will be exclusively focused on craft styles, no mass market lagers, cream ales and the like. I’m told that the focus will be on artisan ales and lagers, with lots of experimentation with organic malts, brettanomyces and lactobacillus, barrel aging and the like. Keep your fingers crossed, this is just the kind of craft brewery BC needs!

Speaking of BC Craft Breweries, The Canadian Brewing Awards were announced this week, and BC was well represented. Congratulations to Gulf Island Brewing (Gold), Russell, (Bronze, Silver) Nelson (Bronze), Tree Brewing (Gold for Hop Head Double IPA, Bronze), R & B (2 Silvers), Old Yale (Gold), Bushwakker (Silver), Swan’s (Bronze), Howe Sound (Silver, Honourable Mention), Dead Frog (Gold, Bronze) Phillips (2 Silver and a Gold), Lighthouse (Silver) and Whistler Brewing (Gold). A complete list of the winners can be found here. Keep up the good work, BC is definitely a beer force to be reckoned with!

That’s all I have for today, hope to post more tasting notes and news soon.

Cheers,

Andy The Beerman

I Have a Craft Beer Dream

Let’s call this my Craft Beer Manifesto.

Or my own little “I Have a Dream”. Not to compare myself to MLK by any stretch.

But I DO have a dream. It’s a dream of craft beer relevance for Canada, BC in particular.

As most, if not all of you know, I am originally from San Diego, one of the 4 or 5 most important regions in the world for craft beer innovation. San Diego gave birth to the “West Coast” IPA and the Double IPA. San Diego is home to close to 30 craft/microbreweries and brewpubs. San Diego, if it was a country, would rank in the top 5 award winning beer regions in the world! Stone, Ballast Point, Alesmith, Green Flash,  the Pizza Port/Port Brewing/Lost Abbey family, Alpine Brewing, just to name a few. Vinny Cilurzo, head brewer at Russian River Brewing and one of the most innovative and influential brewers in the US, got his start in the San Diego area.

Aside from the big hoppy IPA’s and Double IPA’s, San Diego has been a huge contributor to the recent  influx of barrel aged beers. While Firestone Walker in Paso Robles may be the one of the pioneers of barrel aging, the innovators in San Diego have taken it to new heights. Tomme Arthur at Lost Abbey/Port Brewing is one of those innovators. He has outgrown his original 30 foot by 30 foot barrel room (floor to ceiling) and has leased space in another building to hold the HUNDREDS of barrels he is practicing his brewing alchemy with. Stouts, porters, IPA’s, Barleywines, and the numerous Belgian/farmhouse ales go into various barrels for aging. Bourbon, Brandy, Chardonnay, Port, Sauterne, Scotch, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon are just a few of the many types of barrels he is experimenting with.

Chuck Silva at Green Flash has added a barrel room to the brewery, Alesmith has been barrel aging Speedway Stout and Old Numbskull for years. Most, if not all of the San Diego area brewers are using barrels or some form of oak treatment to their brews.

Many of the breweries are creating sour beer as well. Kriek and Lambic and Geueze and Flemish Sours highlight the list.

Belgian influenced beers; Dubbel and Tripel and Saison, Grand Cru and Farmhouse Ales, not to mention hybrid styles like Belgian IPA’s.

Black IPA’s, Hoppy Brown Ales, even a Black Pilsner have emanated from these brewmasters.

Another area where San Diego has been deeply involved is the collaboration beer. Lost Abbey and De Proef, Stone and everyone it seems (Nogne, Cambridge, Brewdog, Dogfish Head, Kona, and more). There have been so many collaborations with so many great breweries around the world, I can’t keep up.

I guess my point is not to brag about how great the San Diego brewing scene is, but to encourage the brewers of BC to jump on the innovation train before it passes by.

There are a handful of brewers here in BC who are thinking outside the box, but they are vastly outnumbered by the traditionalists. I have spoken to many of the brewers locally and I often think that they (or more specifically their bosses) greatly underestimate the palate and intellect of the Canadian beer drinker.

Yes, most Canadian beer drinkers drink mass produced swill. But then again, so do most beer drinkers in the US and Europe. The difference is that in the US there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of craft brewers and brewpubs committed to making world class beer. Over the past 5 years, craft beer has grown as a market segment by double digits anually. The big 3 (which used to be AB, Miller and Coors) have seen their mass produced, watered down excuse for beer lose market share every year. That is just one of the many reasons for all of the mergers and partnerships between the macro brewers in the past 2 years. (AB-Inbev, Molson-Coors, SAB-Miller, even Miller-Coors have a working relationship in North America)

Notice to BC brewers: Adding fruit to your hefeweizen is not innovative! For the past few months it seems like every craft brewer in BC rolled out a fruity wheat beer. I can think of at least 5 or 6 who were pouring/distributing a raspberry wheat beer at the same time! While not a bad concept, you would think that at least a few brewers would go against the grain and do something different. Even at the recent Caskival at Dix, 6 of the 24 beers served were fruit infused versions of established beers. That’s 25%!

Also, adding honey is not very innovative either. Honey Lager, Honey Brown Ale, Honey Pale Ale, the list goes on and on. Yes, honey is a wonderful adjunct and I have used it myself in my homebrewing, but slow down people! I am also aware that Maple Syrup is one of Canada’s flagship products, but there have to be more creative uses for maple syrup than Maple Cream Ale!

I am encouraged that some brewers are experimenting with various forms of tea in their brews. Daniel Knibbs at Dead Frog won the Peoples Choice Award at the recent Caskival for his Sahti Pale Ale. (See, Canadians do have discriminating tastes!) Yaletown’s Iain Hill is making great use of tea, as his Darjeeling Pale Ale is wonderful.

Look, I am by no means saying that BC brewers are not good brewers. Quite the contrary, I think there are some very good brewers locally. In addition to the brewers above, James Walton at Storm Brewing is brewing some great beers, including his barrel aged Geueze and Currant Lambic. Gary Lohin at Central City makes a world class IPA, R and B has a kick ass Bohemian Pilsner, Tree Brewing has an excellent IPA, Driftwood in Victoria has a wonderful Dubbel, Phillips Brewing has one of my personal favorites; the Black Toque India Dark Ale (although they just came out with a light beer, bowing to the masses).

Bottom line, I have yet to have a BAD beer here in BC. I have had the pleasure of sampling dozens of GOOD beers. None of these breweries and brewpubs would stay in business long if they served a bad product. It’s just that other than the few listed, I haven’t had many GREAT beers.

It seems that every brewery and brewpub has the same basic lineup of beer; A European (Mostly German) Lager, Wheat Beer (Wit or Hefeweizen), Pale Ale, English Style IPA, Cream Ale,  Brown Ale or Porter, and a Irish/Dry Stout. Like I mentioned earlier, you get a few twists here and there, like all of the raspberry/blueberry variations of the wheat beers, the occasional Barleywine and sometimes an Oatmeal or Export Style Stout. Again, it’s not that these aren’t good beers, it’s just that they’re not GREAT beers. And honestly, they’re a bit boring after a while. What’s the inspiration to go to one brewpub over the other when you know they all serve basically the same beers?

The other thing BC (Vancouver in particular) is missing are many beer bar/tap houses. I mean, other than The Alibi Room and Amber Jacks in Surrey, who has more than 15 taps? Who has 150 bottles on their bottle list? Not to keep beating the same dead horse, but San Diego (similar in size to Vancouver) has at least 10-15 places that meet the criteria set above. Just a few hours south in Seattle, I would venture that there are at least a dozen places. There is one area of San Diego which boasts several places with 20-30 taps and 200-300 bottles, all within walking distance of each other!

And God forbid that you live in the suburbs like I do, there is NOTHING even close. I have to drive/travel 40+ minutes just to sit in a pub and have a good beer!

At least there are several bottle shops where I can go pick up interesting beer. Brewery Creek, Firefly and Viti come to mind. But once again, in the suburbs…NOTHING! (Although I hear that Firefly is opening a store in Maple Ridge).

But you see, I DO have a dream.

I dream of a Vancouver that elevates itself into a World Class beer destination, like San Diego, Denver, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco or even Boston.

I dream of a vibrant beer scene, where you have a local watering hole that serves world class beer (either a brewpub or tap house, doesn’t matter) within 20 minutes travel for everyone.

I dream of brewers who are not content to brew good beer, but aspire to make truly GREAT beer! (Again, this is not an indictment of the local brewers. I believe that every one if these local brewers is incredibly talented. I would give almost anything to be in their shoes! Many are simply held back by management.)

I dream of brewers collaborating to make interesting/experimental beer together.

I dream of more of these terrific brewers thinking outside the box.

I dream of an active brewers guild/association that truly bands together to promote BC Craft Beer.

I dream that maybe I could be a small part of this Craft Beer Revolution, either as a brewer, publican, or even just a proselytizer.

I dream of being somewhat of a Johnny Appleseed of Craft Beer, facilitating/galvanizing the collaboration of breweries, both here and in the States. (I am already working on a cross-border collaboration between Tree Brewing and Green Flash, cross your fingers!)

I dream of a real local beer festival (like the Canada Cup, only more focused on local and craft beer), where local brewers are inspired and incentivised to participate.

Now I guess the question is; How do I realize these dreams?

I have somewhat of a plan in place. In just a few weeks 2 of my 3 boys will be in school, which means my daycare costs will be manageable. It will also give me the time to get out and try make shit happen.

I plan on going out and meeting every brewer (those that I haven’t already met) in the GVA, both to beg for a job and to encourage them. I plan on badgering my local pubs and watering holes to carry more local beer. I plan on working with people like Norm Eng from Beer Thirst to get more amazing craft beer from the US and beyond here in BC. I plan on being more active in CAMRA. I plan on contacting the organizers of the Canada Cup to see how we can elevate it into a must attend event for beer fans.

Most of all, I plan on continuing to do what I do; proselytize about craft beer. Be as invloved as I can in the local scene. Tweet about it, write about it. Make the BC beer scene something people want to know about.

And I encourage every beer geek, beer fan, and casual drinker of craft beer to do the same:

Get out, drink local, encourage and thank your local brewer.

Participate in the local beer scene.

Join CAMRA.

Seek out and attend local beer events, get to know your fellow beer fans.

If you tweet, tell people about the local beer. If you blog, tell people about the local beer.

It’s going to take more than 1 or 2 people to become a beer community.

Get out and plant those seeds!

Cheers,

Andy the Beerman

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

My New Favorite Word

I had a recent chat/conversation with Jonah Keri, writer extrordinaire. We were trying to come up with a word that properly describes the web relationships we build. In today’s fast moving, instant messaging, tweeting , blogging, chatting world, we make contacts/friendships with people we’ve never met face to face. In fact, Jonah and I have been emailing, tweeting and chatting back and forth for over a year, and have yet to actually meet.

I suppose this is not an entirely new phenomenon, as there have been pen pals and such for decades. But seriously, how many people had pen pals? In this modern age, we actually engage people we meet via the web.

For example, I play in several fantasy sports leagues, and I have only physically met 3 or 4 of the more than 30 people in the various leagues I participate in. Yet we have almost daily contact with each other, either via email or IM. We talk smack, talk trades and forward stupid emails to each other.

In fact, when we relocated to Canada, I sent an email out to all of my contacts giving them a heads up. A guy in one of the fantasy leagues responded to say  that although we have never met, he was just down the freeway in Seattle, and to feel free to call on him if I needed anything. We’ve been in the same Fantasy Football league for something like 5 years.

I occasionally post comments on some of the blogs I like, and have developed casual relationships with the many of the authors. Of course I Tweet, and have interaction with hundreds of people through Twitter, most of whom I have never met. Tonight my 14 year old son and I are driving to Seattle to watch our hometown Padres play the Mariners. We will be meeting up with several people from San Diego (and a few transplants like ourselves), all through meeting on Twitter.* I find this absolutely fascinating. Total strangers with common interests finding each other online and establishing relationships.

*I guess these are called Tweetups.

The nagging question for me is what do we call these relationships? Jonah and I have a mutual online friend, Joe Posnanski, and recently Joe pondered the same question and came up with the term “e-migo”. While it may be fairly descriptive of the interaction, “e-migo” just missed the mark for me.

After racking what’s left of my brain for what seemed like days, I think I have the ultimate word for our new online relationships:

Equaintance

It’s an easy word to say, and I think it sufficiently describes our casual relationships. Like an acquaintance, it’s someone we know, but haven’t reached a point where we would consider each other friends. We kind of know each other, but not so well as to know things like birthdays, anniversaries and the like. We may even know each others spouses or kids names, but that probably came more through our online profiles than real connection.

Like my buddy from the FF league, we reach out to each other and offer our help and services if needed. Kind of like an acquaintance, but not quite the same.

“I’m Andy The Beerman, it’s a pleasure to make your equaintance!”

You know, I really like that. Let me know what you think, maybe we can get it in Websters!

Cheers,

Andy