Barley Mowat 

Archive for May, 2012

June Beer of the Month

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This month’s beer is special for a few reasons. Perhaps that’s why I’m putting this up early! Yup, leaving my BOTM selection until it’s nigh The Next Month is a thing of the past. So, goodbye Howe Sound 4Way, we hardly knew ye.

And hellllloooo Russell’s Rick August Imperial Stout! To be honest, I have no idea what this beer is really called. Is it Russell’s Rick August’s Stout? Russell/Rick August Stout? Russell’s Rick August Stout where “Rick August” is the name of the beer much like “Blood Alley” is the name of their bitter? I have no idea.

And I don’t give a flying fuck. Why? This beer is good. Damned good. Fantastic, in fact. It’s a solid 7/10 amoung imperial stouts, and that makes it a solid 99.9/100 amoung All Beers. It’s a damned tasty beer, and you should drink it.

What else is special? Well, this beer is actually made by some bloke named Rick August. He won the 2011 Golden Stag Home Brewer’s award with this beer. Well, not technically *this* beer. Just a beer very much like this. *This* beer was brewed recently by Jack at Russell Brewing from a recipe very much like Rick’s, and bottled under his name.

That’s probably why I love this beer so much. Not only is Russell brewing and bottling a scaled home-brew recipe brewed by some guy named Rick from Saskatchewan, but they’re doing it again this year with Dave Shea’s barley wine. In case you aren’t sure, that’s cool. That’s very cool, and it deserves our support.

So, when you see this in an LRS near you, buy it by the armload.

It’s okay to lick the screen. I already did. It’ll be like we’re eKissing!

Written by chuck

May 30th, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Posted in Beer and You,Beers

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The Week That Was VCBW

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Are you ready for my half-assed, far too-short review of VCBW? No? Well, here it is anyway.

VCBW was a massive, rollicking event that spanned 7 days, 4 events, and 4 restaurants. I know the website claimed a fair number more than that, but I can’t really confirm anything I didn’t personally see, so I’m sticking to my 7/4/4 claim.

Hoppapalooza I’ve already covered in a prior post. Go read it here.

Next up was the Driftwood + Pourhouse dinner that was coined “Beach to Bone” and came with a rolling narrative that basically served to roll out a menu that contained oysters, chicken, beef and maple syrup. I bought these tickets menu-unseen, based simply on the people involved. The thinking went something like: Pourhouse is good food and Driftwood is good beer, but… I already have my wallet out, don’t I? Crap.

A similar line of thought about books and John Travolta was less successful

Well, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was pretty good, but I can’t help but compare it to the Alibi’s Driftwood dinner and sorry Ian(s), you guys come up short. Of course, it was also half the price, so I guess that makes it pretty good. For a much better review of this event than I can put together, see Jan’s reporting over at the Province here.

Thursday saw me get off work early, then walk a kilometer… then get on a Skytrain… then take that thing all the way to the end… then wait fifteen minutes in the wind for a bus… then take that bus another two kilometers… then fight a balrog… and then finally get to a bar called “Pumphouse”. Ok, one of those things isn’t literally true. The balrog and I settled our differences via government-mandated binding arbitration. 5% wage bump per annum my ass.

The BeerThirst/Elysian tap-takeover out in Ditchmond was exactly as promised: a little slice of the suburbs served up with 20 tasty Seattle brews, many of which had not seen the light of BC yet. Full disclosure time: BeerThirst did indeed bribe me to come out to this event with promises of two free tickets and free beer. And yes, I might not have attended if not for this. However, I started this blog to get free beer, and thus I used this misplaced generosity to dive in and sample a wide range of beers from a decent brewery.

There were quite a few middle-of-the-road beers, and more than one great beer, but the Barley Mowat Best in Show goes to The Dread, an oak-aged imperial stout that is so good, you just know it’s not coming back any time soon. I don’t know why, but the import rules are basically made to keep out good beers, and to let in Becks. Sigh.

Will I be back? Nope. Sorry, folks, I left the rural life behind me, and the Pumphouse just doesn’t jive with my huge downtown snobbishness. I’d love to say that I found hanging out with the salt of the earth very relaxing and energizing, but alas the truth is closer to what Sharon whispered in my ear on the long train ride home: “Can we never go to the suburbs again, please?” There’s just so many better bars so much closer to home.

There’s also lots of shitty bars. I have options, is what I’m saying

Final day, final event: The VCBW Beer Festival. You take a day of perfect weather, a very awesomely restored 80 year old salt refinery, and combine them in a pot with 50 stalls of good beer and you have a very happy Chuck, right? Well, not so fast there skippy. I actually think this might have been my last beer festival. Sorry, festivals, it’s not you, it’s me.

You see, standard beer fests like this one are the same as always: lots of breweries and lots of good beer, but nothing too terribly interesting going on. Sure, they’re very nice, and generally fairly well executed, but consider this: I had not one beer from Driftwood, but three of Storm’s. Driftwood brought their regular (and very good) lineup, but I’d already had that. Storm, meanwhile, being off their meds as per usual, brought three exotic and very odd beers, and I had them all. Storm also ran out of most of their beer.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my 10 4oz samples of random beer, but overall I’m not sure that what was effectively 2 standard pints should have cost me $55, and I certainly didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as Hoppapolooza, which was $60 all in and involved literally dozens of intriguingly rare or one-off beers. Sure, I could have stretched out the value for $1.25 per 4oz (or $2.50, which was the going rate at far too many booths), but at 10 I had had everything I wanted (and a few I didn’t… looking at you, Whistler Brewing’s Grapefruit) and was effectively done.

As attractive and well put on an event as this was, the stark reality is that beer festivals are for relative new-comers to good beer, and that just isn’t me. So farewell, beer fests, it was good to know you. And hello cask fests, you come around far too infrequently.

Written by chuck

May 28th, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with

Insert Hop Pun Here

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Last night the Alibi opened its doors and welcomed about 120 beer geeks inside from the cold and rain to celebrate Hoppapalooza III, a celebration of all things hoppy (and by “all things” we mean “beer”). I was one of those lucky 120, so I went down to see Nigel and experience my very first taste of what has become a Vancouver beer scene legend.

As is his style, Nigel went a bit overboard on this one: the beer lineup featured over 50 different beers, including 21 IPAs and 5 bitters/hop forward ales. To go with this was bottomless beef, pork or veggie chilli, which is a classic IPA pairing. And, let’s face it, when you’re pairing food with the final product of the entire 2012 hop crop, keeping it simple is a Good Thing. Chilli was the perfect companion to this event.

Despite those numbers above, I was very surprised by the sheer number of non-IPAs. In fact, there were more non-hoppy beers than hoppy beers. By the numbers: 7 Saisons, 1 Red Ale, 2 Barley Wines, 5 Lagers/Pilsners, 2 Wheat Ale, 5 Stouts, 2 Sour Ales, 3 Misc Flavoured Beers. Sure, I could complain that some taps weren’t IPA or even bitter at an event with “Hop” right in its name, but even a curmudgeon like me would look askance at that. 21 IPAs is more than enough for anyone, especially when you look into the details.

Numbers are all fine and well, but the quality/rarity of some of these beers really drove home how far Nigel went to put all his cards on the table. Here are the highlights from my point of view (organized by brewery):

  • Upright — First time (I’m aware of) that all four Upright ales have been on tap together in Canada. Heck, even the Upright tasting room rarely pulls this off.
  • Gigantic — Not just a new brewery, but also a brewery that elected to serve their beer first in BC (although I believe Belmont Station beat the Alibi by a day in getting this into glassware). Imagine this, and let it sink in a bit: A brand new Portland brewery opens up and thinks “I’d love to premier our beer at the Alibi Room in Vancouver… BC.”
  • Deschutes — The Abyss is probably one of the 10 best beers I’ve ever had, and I’ve never even heard of it being on tap. Yet there it is.
  • Odin — Another brewery’s BC launch premiering at The Alibi. Sure, the official launch was at the Hogshack in Steveston, but Nigel served the first pint in BC.
  • Central City — Aged Thor’s Hammer? Imperial Roach? Yes, please.
  • Parallel 49 — Another launch beer (Hopparazzi). I’m starting to think The Alibi is just where good beer is born.

And yes, that is a list of good & interesting beer where a cask of the excellent 2012 Driftwood Naughty Hildegard did not even merit mention. Well played, Mr Springthorpe, well played.

But now to get down to real business: who wins the Hoppapalooza III Barley Mowat Best In Show? No surprise here, the winner is Tofino Brewing’s Spruce Tip IPA, brewed with real trees (I shit you not). This beer combined fantastic conception with near perfect execution and was the solid show favourite of everyone I talked to. The crew out in Tofino keeps on trying new things, and just absolutely nails every one.

The only fault is that there was only 1 cask made of this, and their absolutely tiny brew kit means bottling in any sizeable quantity is a ways off. Seriously, that thing is like 5 hectolitres max. We should start a kick-starter for them to upgrade into the 100+ hl world, and buy a bottling line (and maybe a shipment contract to my door).

What is this? A brew kit for ANTS?!?

The runner up was Gigantic Brewing’s Black Saison; their IPA is pretty regular, but the saison is amazingly unique and worthy of repeat consumption. Look out for this beer to start appearing at your local LRS, and buy it. Buy all of it. Then drink it.

Overall, though, last night gets an A+ from me. Not just for the atmosphere, or the great blues by Rich Hope, or the chance to meet new and friendly brewers, or for the beer geek satisfaction of incredibly rare and delicious beer, but also on value. After all was said and done, last night ran me $60, and included all the beer I could drink and all the food I could eat, a souvenir menu by Perrin (to go with my 100, 200, and 300 tap list menus), and a handy tasting glass.

The tasting glass is an important note, because its small 4oz size actually served to keep the audience relatively sober. Larger pints were available, but for a fiver. This little trick worked out well, and nicely avoided the very real risk of dozens of people getting messy drunk on the almost exclusively high-ABV beer list. Again, well played guys.

If I had to complain about any one detail (and, let’s face it, I do–It’s sorta my schtick), it would have to be the price. At $49 (before tax/service charge) it’s just… too… low. Yup, too low. At $49 a head, The Alibi very likely barely broke even on this event (or maybe even had a small loss). Personally, I would love for Hoppapalooza to have been a massive profit, because then we’d see another one next week instead of next year. But again, that’s about the only thing I can think of to complain about.

Perhaps I should also complain about Gardy posting this in my name, but hey, you buy the ticket, you take the ride.

Written by chuck

May 21st, 2012 at 6:12 pm