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Archive for March, 2011

March Beer of the Month: Driftwood Cuvée D’Hiver

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I’ve decided to draw attention to one beer a month, or thereabouts (if there’s nothing interesting to talk about, I’ll skip a month). These are not necessarily the best or tastiest beers, but rather an interesting brew that I’ve decided needs more attention. So, without further ado, March’s beer is:

Cuvée D’Hiver by Driftwood Brewing

It’s no secret that Driftwood is one of my favourite local breweries. A quick glance at my beer cellar shows that roughly 2/3 of the available shelf space is given over to one of Old Cellar Dweller or Singularity, and rightly so. Add into that mix their fall Sartori IPA and excellent regular beers and it means when Driftwood announces a new beer, I pay attention.

Logo unceremoniously stolen from Driftwood’s website, but it’s ok if this gets them more sales.

And this is the case with Cuvée D’Hiver. First, it’s a light saison coming out in the middle of winter. Second, it’s brewed with barley grown and malted on the Saanich Peninsula, just down the road from the brewery. Heck, until they announced this beer I thought barley malt was exclusively manufactured in factories and shipped to you in burlap sacks but no, turns out it’s a real thing that grows in the ground. Incroyable!

(Joking aside, locally sourced hops and barley is absolutely something I think there should be more of, and it really is a trend that is catching. Gulf Islands Brewing, Crannóg, and Driftwood all are doing their parts)

Thus when it was announced that the Railway Club would have a cask of this interesting ale, nothing in the known world could stop me from having a tasty pint or three. My buddy Tim has actually joked that my love of Driftwood is such that they could piss in bottle and I’d buy it. At first glance, the colour of this beer raised my suspicions that such a deed was afoot, but one taste and my worries were allayed. Oh but if my pee tasted this good!

The beer is a fruity, more refreshing version of the regularly excellent Farmhand. I’m not sure if it beats out Lighthouse Deckhand for best saison in the province, but it is absolutely worth a try. My only complaint is that this beer is so very perfectly made for summer that going outside to face the rain after my pint was doubly depressing.

Where to get it: All the finer local craft beer stores. On tap at the Alibi. Also, several casks have been made so keep an eye out.
Where not to get it: BC Liquor Stores

Written by chuck

March 4th, 2011 at 10:25 am

Posted in Beers,Breweries

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Brewers Win… for now

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I posted recently about new allergin label requirements proposed for beer. There was lots of discussion around this both pro- and con-. On the pro side, one could only imagine what sort of dirty secrets would be revealed should the big breweries finally have to admit what, exactly, goes into their brews.

On the con side, lots of smaller breweries screen-print their labels directly onto the bottles, and don’t produce new bottles all that often. A new labelling requirement would mean they’d need to replace their massive, expensive floating stock all at once instead of slowly as needed. For some breweries, that could put them out of business.

So it appeared there were breweries on both sides of the craft divide interested in seeing this law amended or dropped all together.

Well, it would seem the brewery requirement has been dropped from the legislation… for now. Story here.

The exemption is called a “reprieve” rather than a permanent change, so I suspect we’ll see these labels at some point in the future. I only hope they come up with a solution that lets the little guys phase in the new labels slowly as their stock breaks or is reprinted. And perhaps some kind of extra-large label for corn or rice 🙂

Written by chuck

March 3rd, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Portland Part II

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For the first instalment of my two-part Portland review, click here. Or scroll down you lazy bastards. You clicked, didn’t you? Sigh.

After leaving Cascade’s Barrel House we headed due east down SE Belmont, with an aim to check out the quirky stores, cafés, and minor taphouses that dot the street, ultimately wandering into the Horse Brass Tavern for a quick pint and bite to eat at about sunset.

Or, at least that was the plan prior to blowing the entire afternoon at Hair of the Dog and Cascade. The last picture in the previous article gives you a hint of how well my carefully thought-out plan was going along. This one spells it out a bit more explicitly:

But Google said it was three inches!
What do those numbers at the bottom mean, anyways?

So… yeah… only just leaving after we should have arrived, plus carrying an unexpected cargo of six Cascadian Bottles (Cherry Kriek and Vlad the Imp Aler could not be left behind), we elected to skip the Horse Brass and head directly to Belmont Station to have any chance of getting back downtown before morning. This is one of my keener regrets from this trip, and next time I will absolutely be employing a cab, bike, skateboard, or whatever it takes to get the Horse Brass into the mix.

Belmont Station is a beer store, or at least Portland’s take on a beer store. There are a few key differences between a beer store in Portland and one in Vancouver:

  • It is also a bar
  • You can get up from the bar, buy your beer from the store, and charge it to your bar tab
  • You can then take take that beer into the bar, open it, and drink it
  • You can alternatively fill up a growler, jug, whatever, from one of the taps at the bar
  • The bar is cheap (the beer store less so, but still cheaper than YVR)

In addition to all that, the bar manages to have a fantastic selection of rare or one-off beers on tap, and rotates them out with such dedication that the same beer rarely comes back for a second go. They keep all their old taps, though, and display them near the entrance for all to see.

The beer selection here was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and I left with two cases of beer and a big smile.

So yeah, one or two taps.

From there it was off to the hotel for a long sleep, followed by a trip into the Pearl District to hit up two of the older craft brewers in the area: Rogue and Bridgeport.

I’ve heard it said that it’s impossible to visit Portland without stopping by the Rogue Public House at the corner of Flanders & 14th, and thus far it as proven so with me (Side note: I also just surprised myself by reflexively knowing the address of a pub in Portland, whereas a query as to the location of most Vancouver pubs and all Victoria pubs would net a “uh… over there somewhere?” from me… time to spend more time locally I think).

However, Rogue is now batting 0 for 2 with me, and honestly I don’t think I’ll give them another chance. On my first visit the food was terrible, the service spotty, and the menu populated by standard Rogue beers you could have, and exotic Rogue beers you couldn’t. This trip proved no different, with even the standard beers being unexciting or occasionally downright insipid.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad place. The beer is still solidly on the good side of good/bad, but I can’t forgive Rogue for stealing time that could have been used to hit up another brewery I skipped in their favour, like Lompoc. Or HUB. Or Full Sail. Or Tugboat. Or any of the dozens of other small breweries that still seem to give a damn.

From Rogue we wandered north, checking out the small odd shops that the Pearl District attracts, and also admiring the cheap penthouse lofts that were found to be for sale everywhere for 40% of the cost of a similar Vancouver domicile. Caught out in a sudden downpour, it seemed most prudent to wait out the rain with a pint in hand, and whipped out the trusty iPhone to see where the nearest pub was. We were standing under the awning of it. Ah, such is Portland.

The awning, as it turned out, belonged to Bridgeport Brewing. Here we found a fantastic interior and a bartender that at least seemed to still care about service, actually seemed interested in serving me a beer I would enjoy, and also knew some of the backstory. We were already far ahead of Rogue.

Bridgeport’s beers were solid if a little boring, making them akin to the Central City of Portland. This is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, but after the sour insanity of Cascade I needed something a bit more… mad. So we hopped on a free trolley and headed across the river to Upright Brewing.

Let me sum up Upright’s Tasting Room in one sentence: If I was responsible for creating a brewery tasting room, this is what it would look like. Upright’s brewery is located in the corner of the basement of a recently renovated loft warehouse, and their tasting room is in the same spot. Not next door, but honestly in the middle of the brewery. They just scattered around some tables, set up a tap, and said “That’s about right.” And it is.

Those barrels in the background aren’t decorative.

Grab a glass of beer for $3, or a sampler tray for $1 each, then wander around the brewery checking out their shiny new gear, barrels, or even their set of three open top fermenters, which give Upright beer its distinctive tone.

Upright had all four of its regular brews on tap, as well as two one-offs: a coffee stout and Melange Solide, a fruit-spiked version of Seven. I simply could not stop drinking this exquisite beer, and found sipping one of the best beers I’d ever had in the middle of one of my favourite breweries to be the perfect finale to my Portland adventure.

The only question that remains is “when do I go back?”

Written by chuck

March 1st, 2011 at 10:36 am