Barley Mowat 

Archive for March, 2011

Dia de San Patricio

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For those of you that don’t speak Spanish and/or are not practising for an upcoming trip to Cuba, that there headline is “St Patrick’s Day” (I think), which falls on this upcoming Thursday. Instead of having my headline hidden in a sea of english versions, I thought I’d go with something different. So sorry to disappoint, this isn’t article about St Paddy’s in Havana, as if such a thing exists.

Sorry about the crushing poverty.
Here, have a green hat.

St Paddy’s day is about as close to a beer-themed holiday as there can be, but honestly it has about as much to do with good beer culture as Xmas does with Jesus. Sure, there’s something about Irish culture and whanot, and that might include a pint o’ the black if you’d like, but hey, buckets of cheap green beer! Woooo! Yeah!

Except not. Ever notice how rotten you feel the next day? Even if you really restrained yourself and only had 8 pints? And how that never happens any other night of the year? Ever also notice how green beer is always made from macro lager and tastes like complete shit, even worse than the crappy lager tasted to start with? Think all these things might be related?

In the end, it turns out pouring gobs of coloured high fructose corn syrup into beer is a shit-poor way of going about things, even if that beer is likely almost entirely corn to start with. There are a few alternatives, like spiking lager with blue caraçao (blue + yellow = green) which works colour-wise, but congratulations fucknut, you just created 20% ABV light lager. Enjoy your evening on that party bus.

I hope they at least hose it out a bit before school tomorrow.

Alternatively there have been a few attempts at actually brewing beer with algae mixed in to give it that particular hue, but the results have been mixed (from “decent” as per above to “ugh” as per Dogfish Head’s attempt, which scored abnormally low for a DH beer despite even having the word “Good” in the name).

But why all the fuss? Beer is sweet, lovable, and nigh perfect in its existing form, and has natural hues from almost clear through, well, the exact opposite. As well, adding colouring to your beer is just going to piss off the brewers. In yesterday’s post on VancouverBeerBlog, Jack Bensley, Brewmaster from Russell Brewing was quoted as saying “I hope people can appreciate it for what it is rather than putting some green s@#t in it.” That’s the sound of man speaking through clenched teeth. I rather suspect if you coloured his beer he might come over and kick your idiotic ass.

So, by all means, go out and have fun this Thursday. The afore-mentioned VBB article has an excellent summary of places where you can get good, non-coloured beer in Vancouver. In addition to that, Howe Sound’s Brewpub is taking things to the next, much more awesome level, by releasing live snakes in the pub and awarding prizes to whomever can rid the motherfucking bar of the most motherfucking snakes. How cool is that?

Written by chuck

March 15th, 2011 at 11:14 am

Top Ten Lists

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Okay, I’ll admit it. Beer geeks are an obsessive lot. Nothing proves this more than the recent wave of consternation and discontentment that rippled through the barley fandom after a random website published a “Top Ten List of BC Breweries” that wasn’t in line with what many expected. Or reality.

Was the list bad? Hells yeah. How bad? Well, when your Top Ten list includes a brewery that no longer exists you know you’re doing something wrong. I’d like to think there are a few breweries out there that both outcompete Dockside in terms of quality and still produce, you know, beer. Basically the whole thing reeked of a desperate attempt to throw together something–anything–to cash in on this whole hot “good beer” trend and get some page views. And we happily obliged this hackneyed effort by linking to it over and over and over again.

Which website? Who the fuck cares? It sucks. If you’re curious about it, a 10s trip to Google or twitter will turn it up. Not directly, mind you, but rather through blogs about it, again pointing out the stupidity of the matter, that the blogs discussing it are more highly ranked than the source page. I’d advise against going there in any event, as there’s nothing to learn. I’m not going to link it here, but rather I will talk about my favourite BC breweries instead. Mostly because I’m awesome… or a complete narcissist, I can’t remember which.

I have a list of BC breweries on this site. And implicit in that is a ranking (you can sort by any column, including “Ranking”). However, I don’t like the notion of anything as arbitrary as a top ten list. What’s the difference between 10 and 11? By the time you get down there, you’re really splitting hairs.

So what’s my top ten list? I don’t have one, as the notion is too subjective and changes too often. I do, however, group breweries based upon a simple notion: if said brewery were to create a brand new beer, what would my preconceived expectation be? For those too lazy to click the link above and sort, here’s the summary:

I expect great/awesome beer:

  • Driftwood
  • Crannóg
  • Howe Sound
  • Central City

I expect solidly good beer:

  • Craig Street
  • Granville Island Tap House (NOT the big brewery)
  • Longwood
  • Spinnaker’s
  • Steamworks
  • Storm
  • Swan’s

I’ll omit the balance for brevity. Am I right? I doubt it. Will this list change? Absolutely. Several breweries are doing their damnedest to improve their beers or produce interesting casks (R&B and Russell among them) and new contenders are popping up all the time. For every new entrant I’ll just have to try their beers and see what I think. Man, this job sucks.

Written by chuck

March 10th, 2011 at 12:56 pm

CAMRA Spring Fest of Ale

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The craft beer movement has brought us a slew of excellent beers and some entirely new styles, but virtually all these new beers are heavy, high alcohol numbers. I suspect this is an instinctive reflex away from the low alcohol light beers so favoured by the shit beer fans. And rightly so. If you claim something sucks, then logically something you like will be rather different, right?

Well, not always so. Light alcohol beers absolutely have a place in the craft beer aficionado’s stable of fine ales. Please note, though, that I said “light alcohol” and not “light flavour” or even “light calorie” (although a lot of beer’s caloric hit is from the booze itself).

In fact, many of the more familiar beer styles these days have their origin in post-work, low-alochol versions more aimed at refreshment than starting fistfights. Styles such as the Irish Stout, Saison and English Bitter all could typically be found with sub 4% booze content, to enable one to have a pint or two after work and still be able to find your way home.

These styles have all been augmented recently to up both the flavour and alcohol away from “refreshing” and more into the “rocket fuel” territory. For instance, I have recently had a 8% beer (Lighthouse Deckhand) that was still called a regular “Saison” (as opposed to Imperial or Double), and there are similar examples for all of the above (and other original low-alochol styles not mentioned).

Where am I going with this? Well, it’s been a while since I’ve pimped for CAMRA, so here we go. CAMRA is putting together their Spring Fest of Ale, and to make things interesting they’ve made the focus light alcohol (sub 3.5%) “session ales.” This is a style of beer that I’ve been searching for in vain for quite some time, so it will absolutely be interesting to see what the local brewers can conjure up for our consumption.

With the low ABV theme, it might even be possible to sample all the entrants and remain reasonably objective!

The event kicks off on April 16th at CAMRA’s standard Friday haunt (The London Pub). Pricing, breweries, and hours have yet to be announced, but there have been a few murmurs on twitter about beers being prepped.

See y’all there.

Written by chuck

March 8th, 2011 at 10:18 am

Posted in Beer and You

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