Barley Mowat 

Archive for October, 2012

A Window To (Cheap) Wine

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A few weeks have gone by since I last updated the ol’ LDB website wine counter, so let’s see where we stand as of today:

Liquor: 4 (+2)
Corporate: 5 (+3)
Wine: 12 (+2)
Beer: 0 (+0)

Raise your hand if any of this surprises you. One of those corporate ads is for the fall issue of the BC LDB’s Taste Magazine, which is basically 196 pages of LDB ads for booze stuffed between alcohol manufacturer ads for booze. Maybe they’ve hidden all the beer suggestions in there? Well, let’s see.

In those 196 pages of recipes, insipid articles and Ads Ads Ads! there are recommendations from various folk at the LDB for a total of 181 different products. Wow that’s a lot, but how do they break down into the LDB’s three booze categories? You won’t be too surprised:

Wine: 146
Spirits: 34
Beer: 1

Hey, at least we made the list! This particular beer recommendation was for Kingfisher because Diwali is coming up, and Kingfisher is brewed in India, right? Somehow I think the intern they hired to do these searches didn’t get the memo about beer (also, Kingfisher–a Pale Lager–was listed as a pairing for Vij’s Curry. Think about that for a second).


Because nothing pairs better with flavourful hot curry than tasteless yellow water.

Okay, fine, but it’s not like they had other articles on food that bring beer to mind, right? What? A section about pumpkins? And another titled “ancient grains.” Are they actually trying to piss me off?

Okay. Different tact. Maybe I’m being too much of an ass about this? Maybe completely screwing over the beer industry is just how business is done if you’re the provincial government arm responsible for selling liquor in your province? I mean, go look at the Autumn 2012 issue of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s “Food & Drink” magazine. There’s nothing about beer in there… huh… you don’t say? A feature on Ottawa’s Wellington GastroPub, as part of a dedicated column called Pub Bites? (I’d love to link to it, but sadly it’s a paid subscription)

So, again we’re faced with overwhelming bias against beer when it comes time to show off products at the LDB. I wish I could explain what’s going on here. It’d be natural to just say the people doing the product recommendations at the LDB are just wine snobs, but they clearly are not. Have you actually SEEN the wine they’re recommending with these ads? Let’s just say they’re “value priced” and leave it at that.


Oh yeeeaahh! It’s time to get DRUNK! WOOOOOO!!!! Seriously, though, serve this to when I come over and I will stab you in the fucking neck. I am not kidding.

Written by chuck

October 24th, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with

Hoyne Voltage

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On paper it sounds great: craft brewed, high-quality coffee beans (and hand-pressed at that), extremely limited batch, and even a slick label. What’s not to love about this beer? The problem comes in that quirkly little thing called execution.

The coffee half of this beer is thick and lucious. Usually the kind of coffee that winds up in beers is not exactly high grade, but even after being turned into stout and sitting in a bottle for a month you can tell that Habit Espresso is the kind you need more of.

And that’s the problem. The coffee so outplays the stout here that we quickly forget what we’re drinking. The beer half of this equation is thin with a disappointing mouthfeel. I wanted a massive punch of chewy, roasted malt to balance out that espresso, but alas it’s just not there. All I get is a watery stout that disappears behind the (great) coffee with each sip.

In the end this beer, much as the label hints, cannot decide if it’s beer or coffee, and it suffers for it. What had the potential to be an amazing home run from Hoyne on their first birthday winds up just being an okay version of an admittedly hard style to nail.

However, at the price point of $5-7 that’s what you’d expect. Even so, I just can’t help wanting more from this one, but that’s just the sort of beer geek I am, I always want perfection.

Since only one tank was made, and Sean Hoyne uses 10 hectolitre tanks, get this sooner rather than later. Even with the slow sales, those ~125 cases will be gone forever before you know it.

Coles notes:

Brewery Hoyne Brewing
From Victoria, BC
Name Voltage
Style Espresso Stout
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential N/A; Table beer
Drink Now
Recommened cut off for drinking espresso in beer 8:30 PM
Availability Some LRS, zero at LDB
Cost $5-7 per 650ml bottle
Similar Beers Elysian Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout
Chuck says Buy 1 or 2 to drink now, then more as required. If it still hurts in a week, come back to see me.


I get the feeling I won’t use the silver much.

Written by chuck

October 23rd, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Beer Slowly Wakes Up

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From about the early 1930s until the mid 1990s beer was quite boring. It was produced much like any other commercial industrialized product: on a large scale, for the least overhead as possible, and with little concern for the quality of the final product.

This was the Age of the Macro Lagers. Before this age beer production was too small and decentralized to be industrialized, and after this time consumers finally snapped out of the spell of slick marketing.

This age was a period of beer production focused on a product so lifeless, so completely devoid of flavour that eventually all the other lagers out there got upset, had a meeting, and kicked the macros into a oft-ignored sub-category: Pale Lager.

Actual Pale Lagers then said “The fuck?!” and promptedly re-kicked macros into the newly minted American-style Pale Lager category and there they’ve been stuck ever since.

But all that’s over, right? Starting in the mid-80s, and really getting steam in the mid-90s, Craft Beer has emerged and we’re done with macros! The 60-odd years of Macro Dominance will be remembered as a curiosity, as a short period when humanity didn’t like good beer for whatever reason.


Much like how since 1973 we don’t seem to like awesome hats.

No, not really. Good beer is only just starting the process of waking up. The problem is that we just don’t grasp how huge the macros were, and how huge they remain today. They didn’t just reshape beer and the population’s attitude towards beer, but they reshaped the entire process of brewing beer itself.

When craft brewers had finally had enough, and wanted to produce something different, they had a problem. The only products available on the market to make beer with were focused on making huge vats of pale, insipid lager. I’m not just talking equipment, either.

Barley and Hops had also become a manufactured product focused on lager production. If you were a barley producer in 1960s you had a choice: grow beautiful barley that maybe the bakery down the might buy, but no one else, or plant a specific version of crappy barley you could sell to the brewery all in one go. Coincidentally bakeries started sucking around this time too.

In fact, because they bought so much product, the macros controled barley and hops production to such a large degree that even today many commericially available blends of both bear the name “Coors” or “Anheuser Busch.” Yes, they had so much buying power that farmers bred out the flavour to impress the macros (or more specifically, bred out certain enzymes so the macros could use more corn… seriously. How messed is that?).

Thus enters our inteprid craft brewer in the summer of 1984. He opens a brewing catelogue to order product for his amazing beer and it quickly becomes apparant that all he can make on a commercial scale is maybe a decent pale ale. Or perhaps a bitter, which is basically a pale ale with more hops.


Or an IPA, which is basically a bitter with… oh you get the picture.

And that’s what we got: better made, and definitely hoppier, beer but even this slight difference changed things. Hops suppliers noticed this minor increase in demand for their product (which was not exactly ordered by the tonne by macros), and they started playing around. They started planting older varieties that the macros wouldn’t buy. They started importing new varieties that had never been grown here. They even started cross breeding new varieties that had never existed before.

This caused the hops explosion of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and we’re still reaping the benefits today (mostly because it’s still the early 2000s). New and fantastic hop strains are streaming into the market, and today’s newer hoppy beers bear very little ressemblence to the “same thing, just bitter-er” ales of even just ten years ago.

Barley growers have alse taken notice of this trend (but also of the steadily increasing price of high grade barley), and now we’re starting to see the emergence of barley farms growing malting barley specifically for the craft brewing industry, and on a large scale.

This is only a recent development, and I suspect it will be some time before we start seeing the high-quality malt-forward ales that will be the natural result of such a trend, but trust me, they’re coming. This might take a while, though, because high-proof malty ales are exactly the sort of thing you want to stick in a barrel for a few years before releasing in your fancy cork & wiretop bottles, but when they show up I’ll be the first in line to buy ’em.

As I tell anyone who will listen: this is an exciting time to be a craft beer fan. The industry is changing rapidly, and thanks to the exponential growth of the craft beer-drinking consumer base, the rate of change will only accelerate.

The craft beer we have today has little resemblence to the craft beer we had ten years ago–it’s much better and more varied. I can only believe this will continue.

Written by chuck

October 22nd, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Posted in Beer and You