Barley Mowat 

Archive for October, 2011

Holy Sh*t! Malone’s Has Great Beer!

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This might come as a shock to many of you, but not every single one of my regular readers is a diehard CAMRA member. If they were, then the title of this article wouldn’t really be much of a surprise at all, honestly, as Malone’s hosted CAMRA’s most recent organized booze up (Oktoberfest) just last weekend and everyone got a face full of good beer awesomeness served up the most recent convertee to the Good Beer Crew.

But for me, and most of the regular public out there, saying “Good Beer” in the same sentence as “Malone’s” would require the insertion of “most definitely cannot be found at” in order to make any sense. To give you an idea of what I speak, Malone’s primary purpose in my life was as the place where you awkwardly killed a few minutes after trying to get into the Railway Club before it opened at 5pm.

After walking in the door, you’d progress through each of these activities in order:

1/ Wonder what that smell is.
2/ Attempt to avoid making eye contact with the sort of pre-gaming hockey fans who feel a normal pre-requisite to viewing said sport is to have legitimate trouble finding the stadium through drink.
3/ Grab a beer menu, and read the whole thing. Twice, because you can’t give credence to so many taps yielding so few drinkable beers.
4/ No really, what IS that smell? Actually, fuck it. Knowing will likely make this experience even worse.
5/ Sigh, and resign yourself to ordering a “pint” of the best (only) decent beer: GIB Winter Ale.
6/ Wonder if complaining about the obviously dirty 12oz glass your beer came in will get you stabbed.
7/ Ugh. When was the last time they sold a pint of this? It’s clearly off, and no one else in the bar seems to be drinking beer darker than light urine.
8/ Put money down, and quickly scuttle over to the Rail to wait the last few minutes outside in the cold.

Sure, I can be harsh, but that is pretty much my exact experience from a trip to this place last spring. Imagine my horror when I wanted to Rail it up with a couple friends a few weeks back, and they informed me it was closed and hence they were at Malone’s.

Me: “Ugh. Please, no. Rogue’s not too far away. Hell, even the fucking KINGSTON has better beer.”
They: “I dunno, this bitter I’m having seems decent.”
Me: “… bitter? Um… not calling you a dirty liar or anything, but who makes it, ya dirty liar?”
They: “Uh… where’s the menu… Swans?”
Me: “I’ll be right there.”

So, what happened? Well, Malone’s has thrown down some serious good beer gauntlets, that’s what happened. Their current beer lineup goes past good to really quite great. Heck, they’re in Rogue Wet Bar territory without the snotty name. In fact, with the name change to Malone’s Urban Drinkery, I’ll even give them the edge. The food is better, although still pretty sketch, but the heavily BeerThirst-inspired tap list does much to make me forget about subpar burgers (very improved from before but still not great food in general).

A decent variety of US imports like Elysian, Pike and Lagunitas balance out my favourite BC beer bar staple: the brewpubs like Swan’s, Longwood, Howe Sound and Central City. Few bars other than the Alibi bother getting in stuff from Swan’s or Longwood.

Also, the use of a Kokanee chalkboard to proclaim “The only good beer is craft beer” was a delightful move, even if it might piss off your account rep (or perhaps especially because of that fact). Keep up the good work, guys.

Written by chuck

October 20th, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Posted in Bars

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Sartori Sartori Sartori Sartori!

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To be honest, I was very seriously considering just making this entire update nothing but the word Sartori, but I finally relented when I realized exactly how fucking stupid that would be.

Yes, it’s that most wonderful time of year: the annual release of Driftwood Sartori, BC’s reigning beer champ. If you were following me on Twitter yesterday, you would have seen a series of announcements as I wandered from private craft beer store to store, marched to the counter and demanded “Where is it? WHERE IS IT!?!?”

My multi-location retail-focused adventure was caused not by low stock, but by said stores’ policies to limit sales per customer. Some as high as six. Some as low as two. Sure, these rules ration out the diminishing supplies of the golden elixir so that as many people as possible can get their yearly top up, but they also prevent me from purchasing–then consuming–ALL the beer and are therefore bad (note, similar rules designed to prevent anyone else from such hoarding would be good).

Most stores received about 10 cases of the stuff, and were selling it rapidly even before it made its way onto the shelves. In fact, even though I was in each store only 4-5 minutes total, at every one but Darby’s I was not the only beer geek with as many bottles of Sartori in my hands as they’d let me carry away… yanked right out of the still-open cases not he floor. Translation: if you want some of this delicious brew, you’d best either have it already or be on your way to the store right now. I am very serious when I predict most stock to not last the weekend. Except Darby’s. For some reason that store just doesn’t show up on the beer geek radar. Heck, they still have Spring Rite, but don’t tell anyone.

In the end, a grand total of 20 bottles proved enough to keep myself, my friends, and Sharon happy for a the month or two consuming them will take. Sartori will now become one of my regular beers until I run out. I tried cellaring it last year to discover that the freshness of the hops disappears over the course of 6-8 weeks. If you do wish to enjoy some mid-winter, then keep it as close to 0c as possible. A bottle I found in the back of the food-fridge (3c) was good 6m after the fact.

So, how is it? Is it still the best in BC? Yes, absolutely. This is a fantastic IPA. Is it better than last year? A qualified yes. As always, the hops are fresh and juicy. The switch to local malt has upped the local-ness of it, which is worth something. And I don’t know if it’s the local malt, but there’s also a certain Belgian-ness to it, something it shares with Driftwoods other two local malt beers (CuvĂ©e D’Hiver and Spring Rite). Of course, those are Belgians so take that comparison with a grain of salt.

However, the BC beer scene in general has improved significantly in just the past twelve months. So much so, in fact, that Sartori no longer stands out as the only truly awesome beer I’ve had recently. It’s still a 10, but a 10 surrounded by 9s just isn’t as stand out.

Sure, this is largely due to Driftwood itself (20 pounder, Fat Tug, Spring Rite, etc), but other breweries are improving things also. Heck, the fresh keg of R&B East Side Bitter I have *holds its own* against Sartori. It’s not as good, mind you, but it’s also not bad in direct comparison, sip vs sip. Not bad at all. And that’s a good thing.

Written by chuck

October 14th, 2011 at 11:19 am

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

IPA Fight!

with 2 comments

As I alluded to in my previous post, I felt it was time to revisit my “Central City IPA is slightly better than Driftwood Fat Tug” theory. This was prompted by the rapid rise in the availability of Fat Tug through the LDB, and a recent perceived drop in the quality of CC’s canned products. Perceived, at least, by me. Ben Coli from Sloppy Gourmand. suggested we do dual re-reviews of which beer comes out ahead, and I agreed, always keeping an eye out for any paper-thin excuse to drinking dangerously large quantities of high test craft beer.

So this weekend, with the assistance of the lovely Sharon, I performed a single-blind taste test of the two buggers. Unlike some of my previous taste tests, this one had a beer lineup that ranged from Very Good to Excellent; the only question was really what the the order was.


Oh yeah, this is a horrible inconvenience.

The result can hardly be characterized as fair. About 1/2 a sip into “Sample A” I immediately identified it as Driftwood Fat Tug, so well do I know these beers. Of course, Sharon did not confirm nor deny my suspicions until after I was done, but it was pretty obvious.

The differences I had previously ID’d held true. Fat Tug has a bigger, fuller body, and CC has the fragrant citra hops pounding away at your nose. However, when put side by side, monster hops against monster hops, the CC’s advantage ebbs away while the Fat Tug’s smoother tones hold true. In the end, the CC ends up tasting like slightly bitter water in comparison.

However, that’s in a head-to-head comparison. I don’t know about you, but I very rarely find myself double-fisting 6.5% and 7.0%ABV IPAs. OK, maybe not that infrequently, but when I do I’m not in it for the subtle flavours of each, but rather looking to numb my tongue with the excessive hops before launching into the much more economical mouthwash-drinking portion of the evening’s entertainment.

Round two saw me enjoy a nice 5oz of each beer solo. Again, the Fat Tug won out due to the bigger body. Long after the intensity of the hops on each had faded, the Fat Tug continued to offer up flavour while the CC IPA seemed to out-hop itself.

I don’t know if the canned formula has changed, but overall the massive hop blast I’d come to expect from the CC simply wasn’t there whenever Fat Tug was around, and that proved to be it’s downfall. I will have to try this test again with the draught versions the next time I’m out, as I have always found the draught CC IPA to be even more massively awesome than the canned.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the CC IPA is still a fantastic IPA; it’s just that the Fat Tug is slightly more fantastic. I guess I need to update that list on the right now.

Written by chuck

October 10th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Beers

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