Barley Mowat 

Archive for December, 2010

Legacy Liquor Store

with 2 comments

There’s been lots of buzz around the opening of a massive new Cold Beer and Wine in the Olympic Village, so I stopped by the newest addition to Vancouver’s beer retail scene this past weekend, and the results were both a bit disappointing and very promising. How can it be both? Well, let’s get started.


As soon as you walk in, it becomes immediately apparent that Legacy is not like any of the other CBWs in the city. First, the store is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Ultra-high ceilings and lots of rich wood trim make an immediate impression. Second, the store is huge; after a while, you just start assuming that each nook will yield yet another passage/door to yet another section of the store. The location is picturesque (just off the seawall in the Olympic Village, but still close enough for a view of the water, downtown, and mountains), if a bit eerie because of all the near-abandoned condos looming overhead.


This is where things start to fall apart, if only just. Beer is segregated into two different sections: the craft beer racks, and a much larger cold aisle for the major labels. Selection in the craft beer corner was decent, if not exceptional. Plenty of BC Micros were represented (Phillips, R&B, Howe Sound, etc), and a few US-based imports (Elysian, Anderson Valley, Dogfish Head, Pretty Things), but the selection was mediocre. Keep in mind, however, that I am a colossal beer snob.

That I can look upon this and think “Meh” frightens even me.

But what did I expect? Legacy has only just opened, and it takes time to accumulate a good collection of those odd releases (eg Dogfish Head Blue & Blue, Pretty Things KK, Upright Late Harvest). First you have to build your base, then you can expand into the odd niches. That this will happen is heavily hinted at by the larger context of the craft beer corner. Those coolers and nearby displays are taking up a tiny fraction of the floor space allocated to the Good Stuff, the rest is bare. In fact, empty space is a strong theme throughout this newly opened business.

The Future

I talked for quite a while with Chris Bonnaillie, the Head Beer Guy at Legacy (as an aside, I would kill for business cards with that title), and his vision for where he’d like to take this store is one to bring a tear to my eye. Not only would he like to do the normal things like expand the craft selection and offer beer tastings in their gorgeously appointed tasting room:

What happens when you don’t cram a store into 500sf beneath a downtown hotel (sorry Viti, I loves ya, but yer small).

But Chris also outlined a possible future where Legacy builds up a cellar for aging beers with periodic releases. This would be a fantastic first for the city, as the only commercial beer cellar I know of in the city is Nigel’s at the Alibi, and he keeps that gem under lock and key. The notion of an open cellar where I could wander in, browse, and purchase aged beer is almost enough to make me cry.

What Next?

As promising as Legacy is, there are a few things that need to be corrected. First, the temperature. Boy golly is it ever hot in there; crazy hot. Hot like “take of your pants because it’s 27C” hot. Combine this with the high ceilings and in a few weeks (or less) I would be very hesitant to purchase any stock that’s been stored high up. A few weeks after that, and I’m not touching anything that’s outside of a fridge. Much of the beer is thus stored, but there are thousands upon thousands of wines there sweating it out. I’m 100% positive Legacy will make addressing this fatal defect a priority, but not mentioning it here would be criminal.

Second, the major labels represent far too much of their beer stock. Yes, I understand the need for a CBW to have at least something to sell to the ~90% of people that don’t like good beer, but that’s no reason to have well over half your stock devoted to them. Especially when, as Chris pointed out, they’ve sold a grand total of 1 bottle of Molson to date. This is easily curable by not reordering as stock diminishes over time, much as Firefly has been doing (with surprisingly little comment aside from PBR–don’t mess with hipster scorn).

Third, and this is a minor item, I’d like to see their massive cold aisle sealed off and turned into a cold room. Bringing the stock out from behind the glass helps show it off, makes people more likely to pick up and examine the product, and in turn helps sales. It also lets you store much more stock in the same space. Keep the temperature high enough and this can double as Chris’ desired cellar (a fridge in the cold room can keep the major labeled beer at a more commercially appropriate temp). However, given how new the store is, it’s pretty unlikely for such a major change to occur so soon.

The Final Story

Combine the physical size of the store with the presentation (and online presence) and it is clear that Legacy has come to the game to play seriously. They claim to be Vancouver’s premiere CBW and while I don’t think they’re quite there yet, I have no doubt they will get there shortly. With great potential comes great responsibility, and Legacy’s potential outstrips nearly everyone else on the field. With that in mind I will be keeping a very, very close eye on happenings in the Olympic Village.

Written by chuck

December 9th, 2010 at 10:19 am

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with

Winter Fest of Ale @ St. Augustine’s

without comments

This Saturday saw the coming and going of CAMRA’s annual Winter Fest of Ale (previously incarnated as the December Caskival at Dix). As one would expect from the sort of “high-functioning alcoholic hiding behind the guise of beer geek” that I am, I was there for much of the day. In most ways that matter, this event was a solid improvement over the previous Fall HarvestFest at the Railway Club in both atmosphere and brewery dedication.

I won’t bore you with dozens of tasting notes on the highly-obscure (and more than one 1-off) brews served up during the fest. I’m sure those are all over the interwebs, and also just to the right in my beer reviews. I will, however, highlight some key changes I noticed during this fest:

First, the tasting glasses have progressed from the age-old mini-lager glasses to the newer style 4oz mini-tulips. As a guy who as all but ranted about glassware previously, this had me smiling and nodding. The types of beers served up at festivals looks, smells and tastes much better out of this style glassware. See for yourselves.

It’s ok to lick your monitor. Perv.

Second, virtually all the breweries put their backs into this one. The list of beers included casked versions of seasonal treats, one-offs, and crazy experimentals. In fact, I’m only going to call out Phillips Brewing for phoning this one in. Guys, sending a couple cases of bottled-product and a rep just won’t cut it (in fact, I didn’t see even the rep, so that might not have happened). We appreciate the chance to sample the ’10 releases of both your Barley Wine and your excellent Dopplebock, but c’mon. Try harder.

Compare that lazy effort with James Walton of Storm, who 1) Brewed up a “very special” smoked porter, 2) Made it so overwhelmingly smokey that I felt as if I had just brushed my teeth with campfire charcoal, and 3) Showed up dressed like this:

Pictured: A man who does not do half measures.

Third, I know I’ve been down on the joint in the past, but St. Augustine’s is a very nice place to hang out for an afternoon pint. I would strongly recommend it to any and everyone. Just check the UFC schedule first–I failed to do this previously, and hit 2/2 fight nights, and came under the unfortunate conclusion that all of Surrey with a BAC of .10+ flooded out and filled up this establishment every second night. In reality, the fights are few and far between.

There were only two things they could have done better to make people feel more welcome, one under their control and one less-so. 1) The hors d’oeuvres were not fantastic, and cost a whole drink ticket per item. This did not promote sobriety. A 4oz sample of Dave’s Xmas Cake Ale, or a 1.5″ long cold mini-sausage? Easy choice. If it tastes sorta like food, it’s the same thing right?

And 2) with only one functioning bathroom, we had the unfortunate circumstance of the ladies and gents sharing the remaining 3-station room in unison. When one of the two functioning urinals started flooding the room, that was the building’s subtle way of telling us to get the fuck out.

Still, I plan on coming back periodically (even if only for the new Nitro taps), and perhaps even checking out one of their more civilized upcoming Beer Pairing Dinners:

You should, too.

Or, you know, start at the left and work your way right.
It’ll be like a race!

Written by chuck

December 6th, 2010 at 10:13 am