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Archive for March, 2013

March Beer of the Month 2013

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It’s been a few months since I picked a Parallel 49 beer as BOTM, so I figured “Hey, Graham’s about due.” And thus the March Beer of the Month decision was made: Parallel 49 From East Van With Love.

Okay, fine. It wasn’t that arbitrary; I picked this beer for a few good reasons. First, it’s great. This is a fine bourbon/maple stout that is perhaps Parallel 49’s best imperial stout to date.

Second, it’s a collaboration brew with Gigantic Brewing (Portland), and I love me some craft brewery collaboration. Collaboration embodies what makes craft beer so much better than macro, and reminds us how much we like each other in this industry (in general).

Third, the title is a fun play on the names of P49’s Graham With and Gigantic’s Ben Love, and combining good, craft brewed beer with that highest form of humour–the pun–is a tried and true tradition. Also, that they’re breaking new ground by using a non-hops-based pun is practically revolutionary.

Fourth, they brewed this beer in tuxes. Freaking tuxes. I’m not sure how, but it absolutely has to class up this stout. Perhaps maybe my palate isn’t sensitive enough to pick up the subtleties that tuxes no doubt bring to the scene, but I’m sure they’re there (like fancy fibres, ghosts of proms past, and, let’s face it, sweat).


Hot? Yeah, I’ll go with hot.
Image blatantly stolen off P49’s Facebook Page

Tasting notes:

NOSE Bourbon and maple mixed with caramel/dark fruits but well blended so as to not be overpowering. Some fruity/spicey esters.
APPEARANCE Black as the night. Soft tan head.
TASTE Bourbon/Maple highlights the taste with caramel malt in the background. Some slight dark fruit there if you look for it. Well blended and super smooth.
SHOULD I BUY IT? Yes. Immediately.

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49 / Gigantic
From Vancouver / Portland
Name From East Van With Love
Style Imperial Stout
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential Bronze
Drink Now through 2014
AKA From Cascadia With Love, but we don’t want to talk about that.
Availability Brewery store only right now. LRS maybe to come
Cost $12.60 per 650ml bottle
Similar BC Beers Driftwood Singularity, Phillips Hammer, Parallel 49 RIS


It’s only just starting for P49. They have a dedicated Barrel Room, remember.

Written by chuck

March 6th, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Growler Mark-Ups and You

with 4 comments

Oh man. You guys aren’t going to like me very much after this post. Before we get into the hate, though, let’s talk about background. In BC, the BC Liquor Control and Licensing Board is essentially responsible for stopping us from drinking ourselves to death. They write lots of regulations and policies to back this up, and those documents are about as long, confusing and official-looking as you’d expect from a government body whose main reason for existing is to make it hard to have booze-related fun.

As part of all this, the LCLB tasks the Liquor Distribution Branch with charging a mark-up on all booze sold in BC because, well, they can. Actually, that’s not strictly true: they do it to stop booze from being too cheap, and also to generate revenue which they can use to figure out new and better ways to stop us from drinking too much.


And yet they allow shit like the “vented, wide mouth cans” because people just can’t pour awful beer down their NASCAR-watching face holes fast enough

The mark-up on beer made by breweries with less than 15,000hl annual production is currently $1.04 per litre for “Packaged Product” and $0.72 per litre for “Draught.” Let me take a second to stop here and stress that this is not a “tax,” despite what people are putting on petitions or enraged Tweets. The LCLB does not have the legislative mandate to set taxes. They do, however, have the ability to set mark-ups, which in the end is a whole lot better for the LCLB than taxes because they get the money directly instead of having it go through the rest of the government first. It’s just that when you want to yell publicly about something you don’t like, you should at least yell about the technically correct thing. This makes it much harder for the government to dismiss you as ill-informed knobs. But I digress; tax or mark-up, it’s a surcharge that is applied to beer.

“Packaged Product” is beer intended for consumption off-premises. This includes anything you take away from the place where you bought it and intend to drink. Why does “Packaged Product” have a much higher mark-up? I have no idea, but the existence of an effective restaurant lobby and this policy that makes it cheaper for restaurants to sell draught beer cannot be a coincidence. Either that or the government wants to steer us away from staying home, crying and drinking alone and instead force us to go to the bar where, presumably, we can depress other people with our woes.


Pictured: Better somehow

The uproar started when it was revealed by the ever-excellent Paddy from VanEast Beer Blog that the LDB was going to start charging the higher Packaged rate on growler refills instead of the lower Draught rate that was currently charged. Paddy reported this on his blog because, well, that’s exactly what the LDB told him when he asked.

The problem here, though, is that this simply isn’t always the case. Some breweries have been charging the lower draught rate while others had been instructed to charge the higher packaged rate. If you go read that Policy Manual I linked to up there, and specifically read Section 7.6.6*, it’s pretty clear that growlers are currently considered packaged product, refill or no. So this is obviously a massive misunderstanding. I mean, growlers are intended for off-site consumption and are therefore packaged product, right? No change in the mark-up; we’ve been stuck with the high rate all along and the LDB is just corrected a temporary oversight. Well, not quite.

The LDB is changing their mark-up on draft beer as of April 1st. They’re lowering it from $1.04 per litre to $0.97 per litre. So, uh, yay beer just got 7 cents cheaper per litre I guess? Except it’s not: sadly that same April 1st is also the same day we lose the 12% HST and replace it with the good ole 5% GST plus 10% Liquor Tax. Remember those guys? That $10 refill plus $1.20 of tax for 1.8 litres of tasty beer will now cost you $10 plus $1.50. I guess the brewery might pass on the 12.6 cents they saved under the new mark-up on that growler, but frankly it’s not worth the effort.

So yeah, there is a new, higher tax on growlers coming down the pipe next month, but it’s not the one you think. It’s the one you asked for. But wait, there’s more! I ain’t done yet.

All told, this whole “Growler Tax” hoopla is a poorly executed distraction. Oh noes, growlers are getting almost imperceptibly more expensive! Whatever should we do? How about some hard math? If you assume that a small nano brewery produces about 500hl/year, sells 50% of that as growlers, was charging the old rate of $0.72/l, is now charging the new rate of $0.97/l, and that they decide to eat the increase, then they’re looking at $6,250 per year increased costs. They can make that back with 1-2 extra brew days; that would be an issue if they couldn’t sell their product but in this market that ain’t happening.

Yes, I get it, it’s increased costs, and those are bad, but we’re fighting the wrong fight here. Instead of campaigning against minutia like this, how about we get organized and demand something a bit more proactive, like any or all of:

1/ Introducing a new brewery category with production below, say, 2,000hl with dramatically lower mark-ups. The impact on the LDB is negligible because of the tiny volumes, and the cushion to start-up nanos is huge. Wanna talk about boosting a cottage industry?

2/ Introduce a third category of sales, in addition to packaged and draught, again lower. Call it “on-site” or some such, and make it for product sold directly from the brewery. You can justify lower mark-ups because the product was physically never handled by the LDB. This encourages direct interaction with the community by breweries rather the the arms-length approach some take now.

3/ Grant breweries farm-gate eligibility. Farm-gate, for those that don’t know, allow vineyards and distilleries that make products from 100% BC-sourced ingredients to skip charging the tax for sales from their production facilities. Breweries need not apply currently, but why not? Barley would be the big ingredient that’s hard to come by locally, but this would single-handedly create demand for it. Boom, jobs.

So, let them have this tiny mark-up and ask for something bigger instead. That’s how politics works, baby.

* Yes, I know s7.6.6 is for brew pubs, and doesn’t technically apply to breweries, but it’s the ONLY reference to refillable containers I could find ANYWHERE in the LDB policy guides, and I gave up 3 hours and 15 IQ Points in that search. It would be logical for them to use a similar guideline for all license types (I hope).

Written by chuck

March 5th, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Beer and You