Barley Mowat 

Archive for September, 2013

Nitro Update

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Well, I promised to keep you up to date on Steamworks’ Owner Eli Gershkovitch’s other trademark dispute–the one against US-based Left Hand Brewing over the far too generic term “Nitro.” If none of this makes any sense to you, the words “Eli” and “trademark” entered the craft beer lexicon last fall when it was revealed that Mr Gershkovitch held (and was defending) a trademark on the term “Cascadia.” I have a summary of how things went down here. Or, if you want, just skip to Part 3 where I talk about Nitro here.

In the end, Steamworks did the right thing and allowed general usage of the term Cascadia, even though they still technically hold the trademark. In the US, though, they summoned lawyers and started to prepare a defence of Nitro against Left Hand Brewing, makers of their (quite decent) “Milk Stout Nitro.”

Lawyers and documents went back and forth. Deadlines were extended, letters exchanged, and law-talking-folk made rich. A trail of PDFs in legalize the length of my arm was generated, and it read about as exciting as one might imagine. In the end (just last week) negotiations between Eli and Left Hand concluded with Mr Gershkovitch agreeing to voluntarily give up the trademark. There’s no indication of what changed hands in the background to facilitate this, if anything.

Anyway, there you go. Presumably Left Hand will now proceed to register their own trademark on the term Nitro, but perhaps they’ll exclude more generic uses of the term when they do so (like, for instance, for beers with nitrogen in them). We can only hope. To be clear: this isn’t a win for craft beer. Neither outcome would be that. This is simply an update. So, uh, happy Friday.

Written by chuck

September 27th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Liquor Policy Review

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I guess you want my opinion on the whole liquor review thing, eh? For those not in the know, the BC Government has finally admitted what we’ve been screaming at it for decades: our provincial liquor policy is outdated and draconian. Rules that might have made sense in the period immediately post-prohibition just no longer apply almost a century later.

And frankly the dumping of infused vodka in False Creek
and tommy-gunning restaurateurs who allow BYO Beer was a bit extreme*

* Yes – Restaurants infusing their own spirits or allowing customers to bring in their own beer are illegal under current legislation

I like this initiative, and think it’s long overdue. The whole “host a website to solicit public feedback” thing is pretty nifty too. So you, being a beer-blog-reading type of person, are likely the sort of folk that might actually provide some feedback. So, what should you say?

First, you might as well delete that email you’ve already half-written about selling liquor in grocery and convenience stores. Yes, we all want that. It’s already been asked enough to be on the government’s RADAR, and they’ve already written a post on their website about it.

That reads almost like a “no way” response. Of course, it has to be phrased as an open discussion since that’s how the government is positioning this whole thing, but I can’t help but notice Mr Yap didn’t go straight to the “but… but… health!” argument when talking about selling liquor at farmer’s markets (which, btw, would be cool. Please do this).

I also expect that discussion around the government getting out of liquor retail will be off the board as well. The retail arm does generate around $900 million a year and once you get addicted to that level of cash flow it’s hard to give it up. So, this review won’t be revolutionary. It won’t lead to the balls-out awesomeness I’ve called for before. What WILL it be, then?

Yeah, no. Not even a chance. Sorry about that.
(This is a growler station in a grocery store)

Well, it will be evolutionary, and there will be at least some movement towards modernity. To even perform this whole process in the first place shows some budging from the LCLB’s long-held stance of “everything we do is perfectly reasonable and justifiable” to a semi-more sane position of “you know what, it IS weird that you can’t have a bottle of wine at a picnic, isn’t it?”

Yup, you heard that right, drinking of at least some liquor in at least some forms of public spaces (parks/beaches) is being considered, but all these things will be dropped unless you the public chimes in (although the only way to do so appears to be via comments on blog topics chosen by Mr Yap).

Individual consumers aren’t the only ones that can speak out. CAMRA had a meeting with Yap recently, and you can read their requests here. In general I agree with most things they’ve asked for, although I’d like to see pubs and retail stores be able to sell growler fills in addition to producers (and arguing for enforcement of current policy re:pint sizes should be a separate conversation from a review/revision of policy in general).

Heck, even the Campaign for Culture has chimed in here with a not-unreasonable list of suggestions, backed by some pretty solid research.

In the end, this is a move in the right direction, and the folks being granted face-to-face meetings with Mr Yap are doing the smart thing: pushing for minor adjustments to the existing policy, which are more likely to get passed than wholesale change.

However, keep in mind that these interest groups are not always as aligned with consumer goals as the CFC and CAMRA, who are two consumer-focused organizations. Restaurant groups will want changes that allow them to make more money, whereas MADD and health officers know that liquor can be bad and want it controlled.

Ultimately, the only way to make sure that your voice is heard is to join the conversation. You can do that on the website, or by emailing

Written by chuck

September 26th, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Game On

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Alright, here we go. Got your warpaint on? Elbow pads? Helmet? Bear spray? Let’s DO THIS THING!

Driftwood Sartori is out today, folks. There might be some anticipated beer releases in BC, but none approach the madness that is Sartori Day. I thought I was alone in my fanatical pursuit of it last year… at least at first.

In an attempt to get around the per-customer bottle limits that so frequently accompany rare releases like this one, I drove from LRS to LRS buying my max. I thought that surely I’d be the only idiot so devoted, but that was not the situation. I was but one in a ravenous hoard of fresh-hopped nutters moving from store to store, emptying case after freshly opened case with a seemingly insatiable hunger.

Seems like a reasonable serving
(oh c’mon, that’s adorable)

This year I expect things to be even worse. Craft Beer, you see, is huge right now, and only getting more so by the minute. Sure, Driftwood–knowing a good thing when they see it–brewed up a double batch but even that’s only a wimpy 600 cases or so.

Driftwood has massively expanded their LRS support in the past 12 months, so supplies on a per-store basis will be rather limited. Don’t expect anyone to get more then 10 cases, but also expect random non-craft beer focused LRSs to land a few just because they happen to sell a lot of Fat Tug.

All told, the usual suspects (Legacy, Firefly, Brewery Creek, Viti) might sell out mere hours after getting their shipments in, so watch those Twitter feeds. Other, less popular or more remote stores should have supply into the weekend (16th Street, Darby’s, My Liquor Stores). Heck, Central City LRS isn’t even scheduled to get their shipment until Thursday.

If you think the bottle lust to be a tad extreme, then avoid St Augustine’s and the District Public House. Those fine establishments will be each receiving a cask of the lovely, and at a paltry 35 litres that’s barely the equivalent of 4 cases of bottles.

So get out there and get some.

How much does it cost and is it any good?

UPDATE — Stock is generally good. Legacy got in 40 cases and sold ~20 last night. Darby’s has 7 cases. My Liquor Store has some (unknown number). The only sell out I’ve heard of it Brewery Creek.

UPDATE 2 — Legacy is out, but Liberty on the Drive says they have some, as does Edgemont

Written by chuck

September 23rd, 2013 at 11:37 am

Posted in Beers

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