Barley Mowat 

Archive for April, 2012

It Begins

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Well, my barrels arrived, and thanks to a friendly border agent they were tax free. Along with the no tax came a mild surprise: they’re American Oak, and not Hungarian Oak as I’d previously suspected. American is… better, somehow, I guess. I’m not quite sure on the details, but it’s what wine snobs seem to prefer when French Oak is not available, so I guess that’s something.

The general plan of attack here will be to get these tiny bad boys into production ready status ASAP, and the suggested way to do that is to prime them with water. Water will make the oak planks expand, which will seal the barrels good and tight for when you put the good stuff in. But this isn’t some podunk beer blog out in shit-nowhere USA. This is Barley Mowat, and fuck water. It’s over there all smug because it supports civilization as we know it, but t’aint no water going in MY barrels. No siree, I’m priming these guys with whiskey and cheap–nigh undrinkable–red wine.

Which, let’s face it, is mostly water. Fuck.

You see, when the beer eventually gets into these suckers the bourbon and red wine will seap back into the beer adding, we hope, depth and complexity, but more realistically adding a slight hint of botulism.

Seriously, though, contamination is a real risk in this endeavour and will be my main enemy. In order to keep the chances of contamination to a minimum I have cleverly devised a method to avoid my precious beer from ever contacting the air, and the horrible oxygen that air contains.

Since I already have a keg fridge and supporting gas cylinder, I went to Home Depot and picked up an air nozzle for my line. First I filled the barrel with water, which very notably is not air, then I crammed my air nozzle in the barrel’s bung hole (heh. Bung hole) and forced the water out with compressed CO2. The net result is a barrel full of CO2, not deadly anti-beer oxygen.

This looks like more fun than it was. Actually, scratch that, a CO2 powered oak barrel water rocket is pretty fun.

Next was the task of getting the liquid into the barrel. I’m less concerned with air touching the wine I’m using to prime the oak, but this seemed like a great chance to try out my crazy device. Effectively what I’ve done is hollow out a cork enough for a tube, and then used the basketball fitting for my air gun to penetrate said cork (heh. Penetrate). The increased pressure of the CO2 inside the wine bottle will cause the wine to travel up through the tube and into the barrel. Again, not really required for wine used to prime a barrel, but it’s always good to do a dry run incase your plan isn’t quite airtight and you need some minor adjustments.

Pictured: Minor Adjustments.

The process was repeated for a bottle of mid-range bourbon (Bulleit). Hopefully these liquids will give my barrels a unique flavour over the next few weeks, and perhaps even vice versa. Although I must admit that I did just, in all probability, make a virtually flavourless red wine slightly better and ruin a perfectly good bourbon. Time will tell.

Next up will be harvesting some brettanomyces from a bottle of Green Flash Rayon Vert, then tasting various locally available beers with fruits to plot out my plan of attack. I’m thinking perhaps something lighter in the wine barrel (Driftwood Whitebark or Howesound White Cap) and something darker (R&B Raven, or maybe Hoyne Dark Matter) in the bourbon barrel. Those beers plus fruit plus brett plus time equals… I don’t know, really. I honestly have no idea, but that’s half the fun.

Written by chuck

April 29th, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Be The Change

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Finally, the Rio won. Last week the provincial booze czar, Rich Coleman, announced that the government was caving to common sense, and that movie theatres in general could go about applying for liquor licenses. Soon, you won’t have to sneak that beer in illicitly (well, maybe. The ruling says nothing about “Craft Beer” or “Affordable Beer”).

I kinda like this Coleman guy. He was parachuted into this job when the previous government crony Shirley Bond was putting up far too much of a red tape fuss over the Rio wanting a liquor license. Sure, the Rio didn’t exactly go about the whole thing in the best way, but the end result was a big old shining light on BC’s inept liquor laws. Something so stupid can only benefit from being brought out into the open where everyone can gasp about how obviously horrible it is, and talk about how something dearly needs to be done.. like homeopathy–yes, I did just compare our liquor laws to homeopathy. The laws are that bad. This line applies equally to both: the only way you can support it is if no one has ever really explained it to you.

Much like discount blood transfusions.

A few scant months later and we have booze in theatres. Yay us! Not only that, but rumour now has it that a “review of liquor policy in the province” is currently underway. What, exactly, is under review? I have no idea. Nor does anyone else, but don’t let that stop us from sending in our useful suggestions. Paddy, the stalwart president of CAMRA Vancouver, has offered to collect all our crackpot ideas together and forward them on to anyone in government who will listen. See Paddy’s appeal about half way down the page here.

Mail Paddy at:

So what would I like to see changed? Oh boy do I have ideas! I’ve ranted about this before, but no harm in rehashing it a bit. For now, I’ll leave my ideas about import/warehousing change aside.

Chuck’s Big List Of Liquor Law Changes

  • No specific liquor license for restaurants or pubs
    • No Liquor primary/food primary distinction. Want to sell food? Have at it. Don’t? Cool.
    • No licensed/unlicensed businesses. Anyone can sell booze if they’d like
  • Liquor sold by any business anywhere, and consumed by anyone anywhere. This includes:
    • Drinking in Public
    • Bring Your Own Booze for restaurants
    • Booze in grocery stores, 7-11s, food carts (how cool would that be?)
    • Take-home Growler fills at the pub
  • Return of Happy Hour
  • Allow retailers of liquor to augment it (house flavoured spirits, cask conditioned ales, or even re-fermented beers)
  • Allow tied houses (Parallel 49 cannot be sold at St Augustine’s due to the owners involvement in both–think about that for a second)
  • Allow offsite aging/barreling for brewers (lets brewers rent cheaper warehouse space for long term aging)
  • All the dumb shit, like allowing patrons to stand with their drink, or letting a band have a beer on stage

Very likely a few of you are shaking your heads and thinking “Wow that Chuck guy is extreme.” But I’m not. There are places in this world where every single one of those recommendations are in effect, and very few places where none of them are.

Written by chuck

April 19th, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with

Value On, Liquor. Value On.

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New Liquor Retail Stores are cropping up left right and centre in this town, making me think that I’m not the only one getting a bit disenfranchised with the whole LDB monopoly thing. While it is true that the selection of good beer at the LDB is increasing, it’s really only because existing LDB brands (notably Lighthouse) have started producing better beer.

However, if your good beer desires stretch beyond the 4 or 5 reliable brands carried by the LDB, or if you want to interact with staff who actually give a crap about good beer, you have to haul your lazy ass over to an LRS. And over at that LRS you will generally find much better selection, a staff as snooty as you are, and prices that can sometimes verge on bankruptcy inducing.

Say what you want about the attitude you get for not buying Molson at the LDB, but that bomber of Driftwood Fat Tug sure is $5.50. That same bottle is >$7 at many LRSs, and even more at Viti, who annually win both the citation for Highest Prices in Town and that other award for Closest LRS to Chuck’s House.

It’s a cash prize.

At Value On Liquor, though, that bottle of sweet, delicious liquid hops rings true at $5.50. Yup, Value On offers LDB price matching, which is a Good Thing. Of course, as someone who lives downtown, it’s also a Moot Thing, as I most certainly didn’t drive past three or four perfectly good LDBs to buy the same schlock for the same price, only further away. I’m here precisely because the LDB doesn’t have good beer.

And sadly, Value On doesn’t have a lot of good beer either. Sure, they’ve got the standard mix of Deschutes, Lagunitas and Green Flash, and even some of the odder Canuck ales like Garrison, but where are the Uprights or Belgians? The store is still new, and there are lots of empty slots on those shelves, so perhaps they’re still stocking up, but somehow I don’t think so.

You see, in order to get to those above mentioned brands, you have to walk past their massive Wall of Beer (the back wall is all glass fronted coolers). And the first thing you’ll notice is that this Wall of Beer is comprised of Bud. And Coors. And Labatts. Lots and lots of it. For comparison, go to Viti, Legacy, Brewery Creek or Firefly and try to find the pyramid of Bud.

Much like Tall Food, stacking beer does nothing to make it taste any better.

It’s very clear that the big name brands are where Value On expect to make their money, and I get the feeling that the relatively small section of craft beer is only because a rep at AFIC or BeerThrist was able to convince them to try just the tip, just for a bit, just to see how it feels. RainCity, notably, is completely absent, so don’t go here hoping to grab an Upright or Glazen Toren.

Their wine selection is significantly better, though, and the price matching guarantee stole Sharon from my side for an extended period of time. I could always figure out where she was in the store by the muted “clinks” that came from her ever-increasingly-burdened basket every few minutes, but alas I’m a beer guy first and I was nowhere near as excited.

And while the price matching is a nice benefit, it goes right out the window for beers not offered at the LDB. Deschutes Mirror Pond? $15, same as the LDB (roughly twice the $7 it is in Oregon). Deschutes Inversion IPA, which is $8 in Oregon and not available at the LDB? $21. Throw on to that price the fact there is no 10% discount for CAMRA members and their beer is starting to look a bit pricey… at a store that obviously is positioning itself on price.

And on an First Nations burial ground. Next to an old strip bar. (Haunted strip bar?)

Perhaps this place might be a good middle ground for beer-loving geeks and their wine-loving girlfriends, but I’m not going out of my way to come back. Could I walk in en route to a party and find some beer that I would have no shame consuming? Absolutely. Is there anything here to geek out about? Not really.

Sure, it’s a giant step up for people that live in the area, but a store as large and as ambitious as Value On needs to be much, much more than that. It needs to be good enough to give me a reason to come back other than when I’m en route to get drunk watching the planes land at YVR.

UPDATE: I would be remiss if I did not at least mention that the famous Lundy Dale (of CAMRA BC and Firefly fame) will be involved with Value On Liquor. Lundy is sure to bring good things to the 3 or 4 craft beer coolers available to her, and maybe might even begin a program of annexation of the macro displays. I have no doubts that she’d like to, but what management wants to do might be another thing altogether.

Written by chuck

April 16th, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Posted in Beer and You