Barley Mowat 

Archive for October, 2012

Whistler Valley Trail Chestnut Ale

with 7 comments

I am very rarely surprised by beers. I’ve tasted hundreds, if not thousands, of beers, ranging from simple swill to divine amber liquid. If you can name a BC beer, then I’ve probably had it. Unless, of course, you name one of the more recent beers to be produced by Whistler Brewing (a shadow brand of Kamloops-based Northam Brewing).

The reason is simple. I don’t want to generalize here, but every beer Whistler Brewing has ever made is simply awful. And the public tends to agree with me… except this one. People seem to like it. People whose beer opinions I respect like it (well, people whose beer opinions I will actually read seem to like it).

Not being willing to ever completely write off a brewery, I decided to have a go and see what the fuss is all about. My thoughts? Wow. This beer has definitely made an impression on me. Sure, this brewery has a solid reputation for making awful beer, but to go out and make this beer takes talent.

Folks, this beer is–quite simply–one of the worst beers I have ever had. Top ten, if not better. It’s a thin, barely perceptible pale ale that’s had a fucktonne of hazelnut extract dumped in it, and then a few bittering hops thrown in randomly because, well, why not? (Note: I know what the label says; the aroma is 100% hazelnut)

The nose is HAZELNUTS punching you in the face, not the rich toasty roasted chestnuts promised by the label. Instead, imagine you did a headstand and your friendly Starbucks barista double-pumped your nostrils full of hazelnut syrup (or, hey, walnut, because once you have that many chemicals in something it’s not about the flavour). This beer has all the subtlety and grace of Mike Tyson on a PCP binge, and tastes just as chemically.

Balancing out that massive syrupy hit is… I’m teasing you here, there’s nothing balancing that wall of sweetness out. A pale bit of hops finishes the taste, but this more serves to seriously underline the awfulness of what you just swallowed rather than to cut the sweetness by any appreciable amount.

Did it get any better with my fifth sip? No idea. Drain pour.

Coles notes:

Brewery Whistler Brewing
From Whistler, BC
Name Valley Trail
Style Nut Ale
SOA Now No seal awarded
SOA Potential No seal awarded
Drink Never; don’t even look at it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Minutes until you no longer taste the artificial flavour 20 and counting
Availability Widespread LRS & LDB
Cost $5.75-7.00 per 650ml bottle
Similar Beers OK Spring Pale Ale with a triple pump of hazelnut syrup.
Chuck says Ugh. I want to untaste this.

Written by chuck

October 30th, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Howe Sound Pothole Filler

with one comment

Howe Sound surprised the beer geek culture last week by dropping Pothole Filler (their Imperial Stout) upon us a few months early. It turns out this change in production schedule is the result of Howe Sound fully tripling their production capacity this year. The word from HS is that we can expect their seasonals to, overall, be much less seasonal.

A big reason for the increased production is Howe Sound’s recent penetration (heh, penetration) of the Ontario market. This might also explain the wording on the side of the bottle, extolling the virtues of their brewing process, which utilizes “Coast Mountain” water. Locally, we like to call this “tap water.” I guess we have it good, though.

So what about the beer? The recipe is quite different from last years, at least on the surface. Twelve months ago we were treated to a giant whack of alcohol and then something stoutish, while this year all that booze is hiding behind a massive heap of roasted malt. Lots of toasted cereal flavours here, on a rich creamy mouthful, backed up by something not-quite-licorice-y on the nose. Sharp, bitter coffee rounds out the palate, giving this a bit of an unfinished feel.

Overall this is a decent–if not great–imperial stout. However, it is the only brewed-in-BC option if you want to keep your pint of high-octane black local. Rumour has it that Parallel 49 is doing something decidedly Impy sometime soon, and come the New Year all true BC geeks will start lining up outside our local stores for the annual release of the provinces reigning beer king: Driftwood Singularity.

Until those two rear their heads, though, this is the only game in town unless you want to go Yankee.

Coles notes:

Brewery Howe Sound Brewpub
From Squamish, BC
Name Pothole Filler
Style Imperial Stout
SOA Now No seal awarded
SOA Potential No seal awarded
Drink Now; cellaring will not likely improve this, but I won’t stop you.
Best non-drinking application Brain panning burglars with the bottle
Availability Widespread LRS
Cost $10-13 per 1L bottle
Similar Beers Driftwood Singularity, Elysian Dragonstooth
Chuck says Since this is the only Imp Stout available right now, buy one and drink it. The second another good Impy comes out switch to that.

Written by chuck

October 29th, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

BC Breweries By Production

with 8 comments

I’m obsessed with numbers, and as such I was very curious about finding out what the annual production for all our local breweries is. While this is generally published in the US as a sign of pride, in British Columbia the micros tend to keep this info fairly well guarded.

I suppose the implication is that big=bad, and while historically those two things have been strongly correlated, the rise of such huge breweries as Dogfish Head, Boulevard, and Deschutes have shown that it is possible to grow large while still producing good, nay, excellent beer.

However, with the locals keeping their mouths closed we’re stuck, right? Well, not really. You see, the LDB is a government body, and government bodies tend to publish their budgets as a matter of course. As part of that budget, the LDB also publishes the amount of money it pays out to breweries in BC. Since all beer sold in BC must first, by law, be sold to the LDB, these numbers are a decent indication of brewery size.

Using a few breweries that were willing to (privately) give me their production numbers as a starting point, I took these payout numbers and produced a best guess as to brewery production.


  • See that word “guess” up there? That’s what these numbers are. If breweries would like to give me the real numbers, I’d be happy to correct them.
  • The value that seems to best translate dollars to hectolitres for my control breweries is $325. Obviously this is a very rough guess. Draught-only producers will have their production adjusted higher, while bottle-focused producers will be lower.
  • Yes, the final production numbers smell like ass because that’s precisely where I got them from.
  • Because of the craziness of shadow brands and contract brewing, it’s hard to split out some of these numbers. OK Spring, in particular, also produces Sleeman locally, and those sales are blended in.
  • Hoyne is a complete guesstimate, as they had not completed a full year of brewing when these numbers were issued. I’ve adjusted their numbers up to account for this, but who knows how their year went.
  • Some breweries are missing, including: Coal Harbour, Steamworks, Townsite, Parallel 49 amoung others. I have no idea why.
  • I have excluded Labatt’s (Kokanee) simply because it would be impossible to seperate out beer produced in-province from imports.
  • Likewise, I have skipped Mark Anthony Group (Turning Point/Stanley Park) because most of their money comes from wine (Mission Hill)
  • Breweries with no distribution to speak of (mostly brewpubs) have been dropped from the list.

Fun facts:

  • The largest producer in BC is not Molson, as many might have guessed, but rather OK Spring–by a lot.
  • Consider this. The three US producers I mentioned above have these production values:
    • Deschutes: 258,000 hl
    • Dogfish Head: 88,000 hl
    • Boulevard: 184,000 hl
  • Lots of breweries run under slightly different names on the books.
    • Red Truck is Avalon
    • Tree is Fireweed
    • Kamloops, Bowen and Whistler are all shadow brands for Northram
    • Barley Station is Shuswap Lake Brewing
    • Tofino is Tuff City Brewing
    • Steamworks is Quarterdeck (or rather was, they no longer appear in the 2012 numbers)
  • It’s a good time to be a brewer. Virtually all breweries are seeing large year-over-year growth in sales. Except Molson. And Granville Island. Also note I said sales, not profits.
  • Driftwood is by far the fastest growing brewery since 2009. How fast? They’re doing 16x the sales of just four years ago. Second place goes to Phillips at 3.2x.
  • If Driftwood somehow were to continue their extreme rate of growth, they will be the largest brewery in BC in two years. 🙂
  • Since 2009, over 150,000 hl of new market has been created in BC. Of that new market Pac West has grabbed 33% and OK Spring 24%, meaning there’s some truth to there being room to grow slightly up market from macro (Molson lost 32,000hl of market in the same period).
  • Next in relative new growth are Phillips at 16% and Driftwood at 5%. Despite Driftwood’s 16x growth, they were a much smaller brewery 5 years ago than Phillips.

Brewery Income Production (hl)
Red Truck 985213 3000
Cannery 1238733 3500
Central City 2508961 7500
Crannog 332799 1100
Dead Frog 1680211 5250
Driftwood 2653713 8100
Fernie 1134768 3400
Tree 5415175 16500
Granville Island 24732615 76000
Gulf Islands 308883 750
Howe Sound 1924350 5500
Hoyne 391032 1000
Lighthouse 4684083 14250
Molson 57240081 175000
Moon Under Water 67124 150
Mt Begbie 1484419 4000
Nelson 2383267 7000
Northram 10469291 31000
OK Spring 93446929 285000
Pacific Western 32725605 95000
Phillips 12142566 35500
Plan B 107520 400
R&B Brewing 1428113 4300
Russell Brewing 3682097 11000
Spinnakers 179447 500
Storm Brewing 375628 1300
Tin Whistle 472565 1350
Tofino 360314 1200
Vancouver Island 7689047 23500
Wolf Brewing 217347 650

Written by chuck

October 26th, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Breweries