Barley Mowat 

Cellar Chronicles Part I: Find Your Hole

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One day, in early October, I rolled out of bed, had a shower, ate some breakfast, and then bought a house. Shortly thereafter, I began scouring over floorpans of my new house, looking for a room in an out of way corner that I could turn into a walk-in cellar without Sharon noticing. Sharon, wise to this plan, suggested that I could take our new two car garage and turn it into a 1 car, 2000 bottle garage. Challenge Accepted!

Building a walk-in cellar, unlike buying a house, is not something you simply wake up and decide to do on a whim. It takes many hours of research and detailed planning. You have to balance thermal and humidity control with killer interior design that screams out “Look at me! I’m a rich twat!” Getting that balance just right is pretty hard.

The guy who built this, for instance, must be a huge asshole. Well played, good sir.

Seriously, if you Google “wine cellar” you’ll quickly find a steady stream of glassed in, brightly lit, wealth-brags cleverly disguised as rooms in which to age grape juice. The reality of aging wine and beer, though, is that all the things that makes a cellar photograph well are the exact same things that are bad for your boozey fluids.

Wine and beer age best in dark places, far from the vibrations caused by people walking, held at a very consistent temperature and humidity. If you’ve ever seen someone with a big open wine rack built on top of their kitchen cabinets, for instance, then you’ve been in the kitchen of an idiot who drinks a lot of spoiled wine. Heat from cooking rises to also cook the beer/wine, light from the ceiling fixtures accelerates undesirable chemical breakdowns, and the constant vibration from opening/closing kitchen cabinets never lets sediment settle out.

“Above your cabinets” is probably the single worst place you could possibly store significant quantities of booze, yet if you search for “kitchen wine storage” instead of a single result saying “don’t, you fucking moron” you get page after page of “stunning renovations.”

Sure, it looks badass, but it’s the booze storage equivalent of leaving your Lamborghini unattended on the streets of Surrey for 15 minutes.

Spending a lot of money to build a massive wall rack in your kitchen or dining room, and then walling it in behind glass, isn’t much better. Sure, you now have an enclosed space that you can apply cooling to, but your wine and beer are still very far from being comfortable. Of course, building a cellar in your basement doesn’t show off your very expensive booze in the same way, but with a kitchen cellar all you’re really showing off is your desire to slowly ruin perfectly good wine in front of your friends. In short, you’re an asshole.

So, where should the non-asshole store his beer and wine? Every house will have its own secret booze hutch, just waiting for your discovery. Some might have a below-grade, unused basement bedroom. Other’s might have an actual honest-to-god root cellar. Still others might have a dry well that, until recently, was only used for storing your lotion.

Poke around. Leave a digital thermometer in your potential spots for a few days and look for places in out-of-the-way corners with as little temperature variation as possible. Keep in mind that you will not be building a glorious temple to liquid happiness. Instead, you’re looking to create a dark, semi-humid, hole that you will cram full of booze to age comfortably and undisturbed. Once you’ve picked a spot, we can move on to Part 2: Planning Your Build.

The back left corner of this unfinished carhole is where my actual cellar will be built.

Written by chuck

November 6th, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Beer and You

BC Beer Awards Hits and Misses

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UPDATE: I’ve since been provided evidence that Driftwood did, indeed, enter at least 1 beer into this year’s BCBA (Fat Tug). So, uh, yeah… there you have it.

Alright, let’s get to this: my takedown of the BC Beer Awards. Last year, the fest took a sharp turn towards credibility by handing a gold to a beer that I brewed (or more accurately, that Vern Lambourne at GIB brewed while I did all the physical labour). How do this year’s results stack up? Will Chuck rant? Read on to see. I’m not going to provide feedback on every category (because, oddly, I agree with most of it), but I will call out a few items.

Disclaimer: Yes, I know how beers are judged, aka by a group of experienced, certified testers working their way through a mountain of entries, blind, and not by a bearded beer geek in his basement, who’s not even wearing pants. Still, this is my take on the results, and what I might have done differently had BC Beer Awards come to their senses and just let me pick the winners singlehanded.

North American Light Beer

1. Tofino Brewing Company: Tofino Blonde Ale
2. High Mountain Brewing: Lifty Lager
3. Granville Island Brewing: Island Lager

Ugh. Why are we rewarding breweries for making beers in this category? It’s kind of like handing out an award for Best Keanu Reeves movie. Sure, they’re sometimes tolerable based on their own unique subset of merits but, ultimately, wouldn’t you want to be watching something else?

Light European Bier

1. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: Craft Lager
2. Central City Brewers and Distillers: Mayor Kolsch
3. Russell Brewing Company: Eastern Promises

Just because it’s from Europe, it’s better right? Well, actually, it sort of is. I don’t agree with placing P49’s Craft Lager at the top of this list. Sure, I haven’t had the most recent iteration (what is it, P49 Lager #5, 6, now?) but the first handful were refining a low-taste, bland recipe that was intended to keep the Surrey residents happy at St Augustines.

Second and third, though, are hard to argue with. I would have moved Russell’s excellent Eastern Promises higher in the list. Lastly, “Bier”? Really, guys?

UK Pale Ale

1. Big Ridge Brewing: Big Ridge Clover Ale
2. Forbidden Brewing Co.: Forbidden Pale Ale
3. Bomber Brewing: Bomber ESB

Amber/Dark Lagers

1. Steel & Oak Brewing Co.: Dark Lager
2. Persephone Brewing Company: Oktoberfest
3. Tree Brewing Co. Captivator: Doppelbock

♬ One of these things is not like the other ones… ♬

UK Red/Brown Ale

1. Whistler Brewing Company: Black Tusk
2. Lighthouse Brewing Company: Race Rocks
3. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: Old Boy

Not quite sure what to make of this category. My gut emotional reaction is that I’m not a huge fan of any of these beers but my brain get’s all logic-y and asks which ones I’d rather see in here.

North American Pale Ale

1. Howe Sound Brewing Co. Sky Pilot Northwest Pale Ale
2. Persephone Brewing Company Pale Ale
3. Russell Brewing Company Hop Therapy ISA

This is interesting: Howe Sound beats out Persephone and Russell. HS’s Sky Pilot was quite good when it was released, so it’s interesting to see this additional validation.

North American Amber/Brown Ale

1. Big Rock Urban Brewery: Hollow Tree
2. Russell Brewing Company: Cream Ale
3. Brassneck Brewery: Brassneck Ale

Hollow Tree? Really? It was not a great beer when I tested it in May (despite being one of BR’s best), but it wasn’t awful. However, I would not expect “you know, not awful” to take gold.

German/Belgian Wheat

1. Barkerville Brewing Co.: White Gold
2. Big Rock Urban Brewery: Dunkelwiezen
3. Granville Island Brewing: Hey Day Hefeweizen

How many entrants were there? I ask because this list starts off at “pretty good” then slides downhill to “what the fuck is IN this bottle” pretty freaking fast.


1. Stanley Park Brewing: SunSetter
2. Tree Brewing Co.: Mellow Moon Pineapple Hefeweizen
3. Strange Fellows Brewing: Framboise Noir

I’ll be honest: it’s not a great category to start with. SF’s Framboise Noir was a pretty decent fruit beer, but it derived much of that appeal by tasting very little like a fruit beer.


1. Tofino Brewing Company: Spruce Tree Ale
2. Stanley Park Brewing: Icebreaker
3. Tofino Brewing Company: Kelp Stout

Oh man, loves me some spruce. Also, interesting to note Stanley Park/Turning Point’s success in the “let’s cram some shit in our mediocre beer and hope it sells” categories.


1. Brassneck Brewery: No Brainer Pre Prohibition Lager
2. Bridge Brewing Company: Wee Tipsy Peated Scotch Ale
3. Steamworks Brewing Co.: Steamworks Gose

I’m not sure if I could come up with three examples of more diverse beer styles if I tried. Sure, I know that is what this category is literally for, but still this is somewhat comically extreme.


1. Doan’s Craft Brewing Company: American Rye Stout
2. Barkerville Brewing Co.: 52 Foot Stout
3. Mission Springs Brewing Co.: Fat Guy Oatmeal Stout

Wood/Barrel Aged

1. Bridge Brewing Company: Imperial White IPA
2. Four Winds Brewing Co.: Pequeno Cabo Tequila Barrel Aged Berliner Weisse
3. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: Barrel Aged Vow Of Silence

This is an interesting, significant win for Bridge. Gold is always nice, but both of the other entries in this list were absolutely excellent. Bridge seems to be putting out better and better beer in their new facility, so we should keep an eye on them for next year.

North American IPA

1. Central City Brewers and Distillers: Red Racer IPA
2. Red Truck Beer: Red Truck IPA
3. Hearthstone Brewing: Hearthstone IPA

Before you freak out: Driftwood did not enter. Okay fine, you can still freak out. I’m surprised to see Red Truck on this list, as while there is nothing off about their IPA, it’s not exceptional either. Hearthstone, though, is no surprise to me.

Specialty IPA

1. Bridge Brewing Company: Black Rye IPA
2. Moon Under Water Brewery: Hip As Funk
3. Bomber Brewing: Blood From A Stone Red Rye IPA

Another interesting win from Bridge… colour me intrigued.

Belgian/French Farmhouse

1. Persephone Brewing Company: Multigrain Saison
2. Dageraad Brewing: Randonneur Saison
3. Ravens Brewing Company: Farmers Ale

Very happy to see the top two here (haven’t had a chance to try #3). Persephone’s was a favourite of mine when it came out, and pretty much everything Dageraad makes should have gold hung around it.

Strong Ale

1. Swans Brewpub: Legacy Ale
2. R&B Brewing Co.: Auld Nick Winter Ale
3. Swans Brewpub: Swans Scotch Ale

Belgian Abbey Ale

1. Dageraad Brewing: Blonde
2. Tree Brewing Co.: Trappist Artist Belgian Dubbel
3. Old Abbey Ales: Belgian Quad

Dageraad tops this category with their Blonde. All is well in the world.

Imperial IPA

1. Brassneck Brewery: One Trick Pony
2. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: 187 On An Undercover Hop
3. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: Hopnitist

Oh great, thanks, world. Now I have a strong desire to down these beers one after another to compare them.

Sours/Wild Ale

1. Four Winds Brewing Co.: Juxtapose Wild IPA
2. Strange Fellows Brewing: Roxanne
3. Dageraad Brewing: De Witte

I’ll admit it: I read the “specialty IPA” category above and just immediately assumed that Four Winds didn’t submit Juxtapose this year.

BEST IN SHOW: Brassneck Brewery One Trick Pony

My only complaint about this result is that OTP is not a single beer. It’s a series of interesting beers that range from “hey this is pretty good” to “shut up, I’m drinking” levels of attention-grabbing awesomeness. I would assume that the BCBA entry was from the current batch: a beer so good that, upon sipping it, you immediately lose the ability to assess other people by any factor beyond their likelihood to limit your access to more of this delicious ambrosia.

Well done, Conrad and Nigel.

Last words: Where was Yellow Dog? I simply cannot believe that YD entered their full lineup and struck out in every category…

Written by chuck

October 28th, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Steamworks Hop Attack IPA

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I have to admit it: I never thought I’d ever receive a sample from Steamworks again. That’s a shame, too, because they do occasionally make rather good beer.

So, imagine my surprise to see not one, but two bottles of their Fresh-Hopped IPA show up for my consideration. I’m thrilled, to be honest. In any event, let’s not worry about the past, and beer politics, but instead let’s talk about the beer itself.

Any time a brewery moves to a much larger facility there is concern around maintaining quality. Two recent BC Brewery moves, though, show that the concern is often unfounded. Central City’s new facility is producing some of the best, most consistent beer to ever come out of Gary’s brain, and Steamwork’s giant beer-a-torium in Burnaby has also dialled things in.

Their recent wet-hopped IPA is no exception. Frankly, it’s pretty damned good. Sure, this year’s hop harvest is likely lending its helping hand to the quality of this brew (every wet hopped beer I’ve had so far has been fantastic this year except Hoyne Wolf Vine–damn this vintage is nasty), so I’ve begun to hope for a long dry summer every year.

However, even within the range of “damn this fresh hopped beer is fine” there are gradients, and reigning supreme at the top is the usual suspect: Driftwood Sartori. Predictably, it has long since sold out. If you want a 95%-as-good replacement, though, get Steamworks’ offering. “95% as good as another beer” isn’t always considered high praise, but given that the other beer is Sartori, and given that this is perhaps Sartori’s best vintage, and it should be taken as extremely grand praise, indeed.

APPEARANCE Pours hazy yellow amber with quickly dissapating white head.
NOSE HOPS! Wet socks, but in a good way. Fresh hops layered over lots of piney aromatics.
TASTE Well integrated fresh hops, with a sweet backbone and a nice sharp finish.
STATS 6.0% ABV / 60 IBU / Fresh-hopped IPA
SHOULD I BUY IT? Yes, and drown your Sartori-less tears in a glass of runner-up.
SIMILAR BEERS Driftwood Sartori, Phillips Green Reaper
CHECK IN (4/5, Excellent)

I’d say to go out and buy it, but even this guy is getting hard to find.

Written by chuck

October 23rd, 2015 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Beer and You