Barley Mowat 

Archive for August, 2013

A Tale of Two Books

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I’ll be honest, my plan was to review two beer books that would make awesome hammock fodder for this upcoming long weekend, but the weather report just shat a steaming load of crushed dreams all over that idea. So here are two books you could read, um, on your couch I guess. While the rain pours down outside. Seriously, when did summer end, and why did no one tell me?

Book 1: Craft Beer Revolution by Joe Wiebe

Want to know something about Craft Beer in BC as of Summer 2013? Look in this book. Joe’s all encompassing compendium of BC Craft Beer doesn’t miss much of anything. Want a history of the early days of BC Craft Beer? It’s here. Want a rundown of the newest kids on the block? Bam, you’re covered.

However, where Joe’s book falls a bit short is, well, as a book. This is not a cohesive cover-to-cover read. It is a guide to the current state of beer in BC, with a few anecdotes sprinkled through for flavour.

The writing frequently repeats itself, declaring a new tidbit as a novel fact when it was actually discussed just two pages prior. This is to be expected for a book that was, no doubt, based in part off of Joe’s extensive and authoritative writings on BC Craft Beer over the past few years. Read it in short bits for best effect–I’m not saying it’s a bathroom reader, but that might just be the perfect application for it, aside from a reference.

Does any of that mean I don’t like Joe’s book? Nope. I’ll leave futher criticism of Joe’s approach until I have my own damned book on the market to point to (spoiler: I’m not writing one). Instead of pointing out what it isn’t, I should be spending more time pointing out what it is: a complete, up-to-date compendium of everything to do with Awesome Beer in BC, backed 100% by in-depth personal research by Joe himself (aka Joe went to a lot of breweries and drank a lot of beer… well played, Joe).

For a person just getting into local beer, or even someone with a bit more experience, this would be an invaluable resource. Even a huge beer snob like myself found some tidbits I didn’t know. I expect that many copies of this book will wind up under trees come December.

In short, is it worth a damn? Yes.


Also, the cover is cool, which is the most important part of a book.

Buy it now: Amazon $14.40 ($9.99 Kindle), iBooks: n/a, Chapters: $14.40 (n/a for Kobo)

Book 2: The Audacity of Hops by Tom Acitelli

The Audacity of Hops is everything that Joe’s Craft Beer Revolution is not. CBR is about BC, AoH is about the USA (BC gets about 1/2 a page). CBR is a guide to the current state of beer with some history for context, AoH is about the history of the craft beer movement with some current state of affairs for filler. CBR is fairly well written and easy to digest. Oh snap!

The Audacity of Hops attempts to string a narrative through the sprawling history and origins of Craft Beer in the United States. This history fits well when the book is talking about the start of the movement in 1960’s California, but author Tom Acitelli’s desire to present a cohesive, linear view of a history that is–in reality–fragmented, regional and random just doesn’t work, especially in later chapters as the breweries begin to pop up faster than you can keep track of.

Add onto that mix his use of prose that left me reaching for a thesaurus on many occasions and we wind up with a book that spends most of its 416 pages feeling just a little bit out of reach–as if you’re being lectured to–and don’t we all love that feeling.

As a narrative it fails, but as an extensively researched broad overview of just about every important brewery in the United States it succeeds. Fritz Maytag, Steve Hindy, Garrett Oliver, Sam Calagione: they’re all here, complete with backstory and a brief glimpse into what makes them tick. Not an in-depth profile, mind you, as there’s just too many to go that deep–a bit of backstory, maybe an interview snippet, and we’re off to the next famous brewery down the line, and boy there are a lot of them.

In short, is it worth a damn? Yes.


Where did they get a picture of my living room?

Buy it now: Amazon: $15.85 ($9.02 Kindle), iBooks: $15.99,Chapters/Indigo: $15.85 ($12.95 Kobo)

Written by chuck

August 28th, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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August Beer of the Month

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I know what you’re thinking: good ole Chuck, lazily waiting until mid-month to update his Beer of the Month. However, that’s not the case! (this time) Nope, I was waiting for a worthy contender to step up to the plate, and boy was I patient.

Alas, none arrived. There were some decent beers, but ultimately nothing I felt really deserved a call out. So, the August Beer of the Month is: Nothing! Absolutely Nothing!


Stupid! You so stupid!

Sure, I could have gone the easy route and picked something like Parallel 49’s Li’l Red Sour, but I tend to pick beers that aren’t awful (sorry guys, it really isn’t any good). Maybe GIB’s Pucker Meister then? It’s a low-ABV style and I’m all about those, but honestly it’s not an amazing or highly unique beer, and I just singled out a low-ABV style by GIB last month. I don’t want to get repetitive or anything.

So, we’re stuck with nothing. Congratulations British Columbia Brewers, way to over-achieve.

Written by chuck

August 15th, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Beer and You

A Short Missive on the Price of Great Beer

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I’m off to Chambar tomorrow to celebrate Sharon’s birthday, and my reservation reminder email got me salivating like some Russian scientist’s pet. Sure, the food is amazing, and they do make a foie gras terrine so decadent that it likely would have been outlawed in the sexually repressed 1950s. However, the thing that really got me going was the beer I had there last time. Raise your hand if you’re surprised in any way by this.

The last time we were there, I enjoyed an extreme beer rarity: Westvleteren 12. This seldom-seen trappist is hailed by many as the “best beer in the world.” While I might not put it on such a lofty pedestal, it definitely is one of the better beers to ever pass my lips, and not to fluff my own pillow, but that means it’s pretty damned good.


Although I’m uncertain if the fact that my pillow
is also a beer helps or hinders my case.

I enjoyed this beer immensely for a number of reasons. First, it was served at the right temperature in an appropriate glass. Second, the atmosphere of Chambar is nigh perfect for a post dinner sipper of a big ale. Third, and I cannot stress this one enough, trying the Westy at Chambar meant not having to dip into my own small stash to monitor how my investment was progressing.

With such a memorable experience behind me, it’s fairly natural to remark about how great a time was had to friends, relatives, passers-by, and pretty much anyone who will listen. Imagine my shock when, instead of the intended jealously and interest, my story generated disapproval, centered solely around the question of price. I paid (IIRC) $27 for my 33cl bottle of Westvleteren 12–just over twice the ~$13 cost at retail, and therefore around the low-end of restaurant booze mark-ups. The reaction?

“How much? For beer!? *A* beer? I wouldn’t have paid that. You got ripped off.” Sure, some folk got it, and immediately went to Chambar for their own bottle, but others–even some craft beer fans–just couldn’t get over paying that much for a beer. Some even suggested that I could have saved money and drank beforehand. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t frequently pre-game fine dining.


I’m not saying it wouldn’t be awesome,
just that I personally don’t do it.

Think about this one for a second: $27 for 33cl is ~$82 for a litre, or ~$61 for 75cl. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? Here’s Chambar’s wine list. The price per bottle ranges from $38 (Bodegas Navarro Lopez ‘ROJO’ ’11 Tempranillo) to $525 (Chateau Palmer ’07 Margaux). $61 doesn’t even get you into the decent reds.

Drop $525 on a bottle of wine at a restaurant and people will think “wow, that must have been a great wine!” Drop $60 on a bottle of beer, and folk will think “what a rip-off.” The wine > beer mentality has been burnt into our sub-conscious by decades of cheap products from Big Beer and the advertising to back that up. It’s okay for wine to be expensive, but alas beer is not afforded such a luxury, no matter the quality.

Which would you prefer? The “best beer in the world,” or an okay Merlot from Washington State? (Charles Smith ‘The Velvet Devil’ $59). I know which one I’d go for, and I’d do it again in a second if Chambar hadn’t sold out already. While annoying for me, that fact is proof that some progress has been made, but until I can enjoy a high-end beer at a quality restaurant without derisive comment about what is frankly a low markup, we’re not quite done here.

Written by chuck

August 9th, 2013 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Bars,Beer and You

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