Barley Mowat 

Archive for September, 2013

Fresh is Best

with 25 comments

With fall comes pumpkin ales, but we’ve already talked about those and their bitter sweet habit of signaling the end of summer. Fall, though, also brings the hop harvest, and the hop harvest brings fresh-hopped beers.

For a bit of background, beer is virtually always made with dried hops packed into pellets. The hops last longer and are also easier and more efficient to ship when they come in dry pellet form. Given that hops naturally mature in the fall, preserving them like this also gives us the ability to brew beer year around, and I like that.

However, for a brief window in September hop growers have a rare commodity: fresh off the bine*, whole cone hops. Brewers buy these in ludicrous quantities to use in fresh hopped beers, and these are just now trickling into the market.

What’s the big deal, you ask. Why does a fresh hop make a bloody difference? Well, let me put it this way. Do you cook? What’s the difference between fresh rosemary and dried rosemary? Fresh garlic vs garlic powder? Now you’re starting to get it.

Fresh hops have an almost completely different character compared to their dried cousins. Very herbal and almost sweet, these beers let much more of the individual hop varietal’s characteristics through into the final product. The hop species explosion means that I can’t tell you what each beer will taste like without trying them, but hey, sometimes you just gotta roll up your sleeves and get some research done.


Looks official, right? All we need now is a clipboard
and we can let the grant applications fly!

2013 will feature far more fresh-hopped beers than ever before, due both to the craft brewery boom as well as the massive re-emergence of BC hop farms. Whereas the first Driftwood Sartori came as a bit of a shock to local beer consumers (what? BC grows hops?), today it seems you can’t throw a rock in rural BC with hitting a hop farm.

Thus, I’m declaring September’s beer of the month to be the current batch of awesome fresh hopped beers. I’ll fill in the list below as I learn of new brews, and have a chance to review them.

Hoyne Wolf Vine (out now and great)
Driftwood Sartori (you blinked? You missed it. Still the king of fresh-hopped beers)
Howe Sound ??
Phillips Grow Hop
Brassneck (Conrad vs Cowboy Dan Fresh-hopped Belgian Pale Ale)
GIB – Mad Dash ESB with Sartori hops
Tin Whistle – Harvest Honey Pale Ale with hops from Grand Forks
Salt Spring Island Ales – fresh hops in one of their regular beers
Lighthouse – Road Trip Brown w/ Chinook & Zeus
Townsite – Time Warp Pale Ale
P49 – Bohemian Pilsner with Sartori hops
Fuggles & Warlock – Three Dawgs Pale Ale (With hops by Lynn! (@HopsCanary))
Storm – 100% James IPA (James grew the hops)

(Thanks to KWL and Dean for the fresh hopped beer info)

* Yes, dammit, it’s bine. Deal with it.

Written by chuck

September 20th, 2013 at 11:50 am

Posted in Beers

Parallel 49 Crane Kick, Snap Crackle Hop

with 8 comments

It’s been a while since I reviewed some beers, so I figured I’d dip my toe back into the critic water and see how it feels. Not surprisingly, P49 has seen fit release a couple one-offs, so let’s talk about those. Rather pointedly, I did not get around to posting a review of their previous special release: L’il Red. This was not due to any sort of beer blogger politeness (many other folk declined to review it, or even rate it on Untappd, because they’re nice) but rather because my day job was busy enough to prevent me posting a multi-page profanity-strewn rant about how bloody awful it was.

Or, I should say, is. Yup, it’s still around. That limited release that should have evaporated like all other P49 releases (which vary from decent to great) is still on shelves everywhere, including all over the LDB. That worries me, since the LDB gets a low of beer newbies, and this beer could be their first exposure to Parallel 49 or even craft beer in general. I’m not sure on the finances of pouring out a few dozen hectolitres of barrel-aged beer versus the risk of bad branding, but minimally they should have considered putting it in the corner for a year or so until they figured out what to do with it, like Driftwood did.

Anyway, I digress. Onwards with the current batch.

Tasting notes:

Crane Kick

I’m not normally a Pilsner kinda guy. Usually I like my beer big, robust, and greedy with hops. However, sometimes you’re looking for something just a little bit lighter. Lighter, though, doesn’t mean lacking in flavour. A few local lagers/pilsners have upped the ante in terms of how good the lighter side could be (notably Central City Pilsner and 33 Acres Ocean), but what would Graham With do? How about a single-hop release based on Sorachi Ace?

It’s a curious combination, but once you have that first sip it makes sense. In the recent arms race to giant floral hops from New Zealand, we’ve forgotten about the subtle delights of Japan’s Sorachi Ace variety. The light sweetness and balanced citrus aroma works well with the cereal rich pilsner malt. So well, in fact, that I’m shocked I didn’t think of this until I tried it.

STATS 5.8% ABV
APPEARANCE Pours transparent hay with strong carbonation and a lasting white head. Aka “like a pilsner”
NOSE Pilsner malt, cereal grain and a light hop finish. Aka “like a pilsner”
TASTE Clean taste with great hops/malt balance. The hops are a little stronger than I’d expect from the style, but the elements of the Sorachi Ace are just fantastic. Aka “like a pilsner, if it was very good and hopped with Sorachi Ace”
SHOULD I BUY IT? Depends. Are you a fan of interesting pilsners? Then yes. Do you consider pilsners to be too close to macros? Then no. Also, branch out, man.

Snap, Crackle, Hop

Okay, here we go. Hop pun in the title? Check. Hops on the label? Check. High ABV? Check. Yup, it’s a giant craft double IPA alright. These all need gimmicks, though, so what’s the gimmick here? Rice. It’s brewed with rice. Rice is what’s used to brew most US Macros, and for a good reason: it ferments very cleanly, leaving very little in terms of residual flavour aside from a faint, well, rice-i-ness.

So, what’s this doing in a giant West Coast IPA, where the malt character needs to balance out all those hops? Not a lot, as it turns out. The hops are way out of balance here. There is basically no body to speak of. If the hops weren’t the current “it” hop Motueka we’d be in major trouble. Motueka, though, is almost sweet on its own. Big florals, big citrus notes, and really quite a beautiful hop profile dominant this beer from start to finish.

In the end, though, I miss the body. If you’re a massive hophead who desires nothing else than no barriers between you and the latest trend in NZ hops, then have at ‘er.

STATS 9.3% ABV, 70 IBU
APPEARANCE Hazy copper with tight off-white head. Medium carb.
NOSE NZ hops: sweet kiwi, jackfruit, citrus. Bitter sweetness in the air.
TASTE Punch in the face of hops. Sweet front with a long lasting bitterness. Bright acidity over a very subtle, almost non-existence grain body.
SHOULD I BUY IT? Sure, why not. It’s a good showcase for Motueka, and sometimes you just gotta get you some hops.

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49
From Vancouver
Name Crane Kick Snap, Crackle, Hop
Style Pilsner Double IPA
SOA Now None awarded. None awarded.
SOA Potential n/a n/a
Drink Now Now
x times better than L’il Red? 10 8
Availability Most LRSs, some LDB
Cost $5-7 per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers (you can buy) CC Pilsner None

Written by chuck

September 10th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Timing of Pumpkin Ales

with 11 comments

I’ve often toyed with answering user questions via letters, but there have always been a few roadblocks to my taking this idea seriously. These roadblocks are comprised of, but not limited to:

  • Not having any readers who are either engaged or literate enough to ask questions
  • I already get enough spam and hate mail
  • Further raising the chance of coming home to find a bag of faeces crammed through my letter slot with “answer this, asshat” scrawled on it in block letters
  • I kinda don’t wanna

Although, honestly, I would kill to answer questions like this weekly.

However, all that changed this week when this showed up in my inbox:

Dear Chuck,

<Salutations, excessive praise, and platitudes omitted for brevity>

A few of us were having a discussion on this down at St. Augustine’s, and wanted your take on it. This year it seems like the pumpkin beers are coming out much earlier than in past years. I always understood that the timing of pumpkin ales (and other beers) coincided with the end of the pumpkin harvest, when pumpkin was ripe, plentiful, and cheap. Do you think brewers are using some sort of artificial flavouring, an extract, or canned pumpkin? Or am I wrong that the pumpkin beers seem early this year?

Also, you are very handsome and generally awesome*.

Ryan M, Burnaby
* Edited for clarity**.
**Okay, fine, that last line wasn’t in the original.

Well, being easily distracted by beer-related queries, I took my eyes off of the road in front of my gasoline-laden tanker truck for a brief moment to tap out a reply, school zone be damned:


Dear Ryan,

You’re not wrong. There’ve been a few articles in the media about it, eg this one; pumpkin beers are definitely early this year. Heck, Howe Sound and Parallel 49 both have theirs out already. HS’s was out in August, fer Chris’ sake.

The trick here is that pumpkin ales are one of the key predictable seasonal beers, and often the only craft beer that some folk drink. As a result, craft beer sales are higher in the fall compared to the rest of the year. Pumpkin beer is, quite simply, massively profitable and a great gateway product to expose your brand to new consumers.

Brewers–especially the big craft ones–want to capture that temporarily expanded market. Being the only pumpkin beer on the shelf just makes it that much easier to sell more. Thus a calendar game of chicken was born: when is too early to release you fall beer lineup? Apparently not August.


What? You thought this happened because brewers just really like pumpkin beer? Oh you silly, naïve git.

Regarding ingredients, if you had visions of freshly harvested pumpkins being hollowed out by a slaving brewmaster, then dumped in the beer, I’m afraid you’re about to be disappointed. There are virtually no breweries that make beer with fresh pumpkins, even in BC. Now, they’re generally not stooping to extracts or artificial flavours, but they’re also not buying out local Farmer Joe, even though a cask-conditioned ale in a giant, hollow pumpkin would be about 300 kinds of awesome. (Side Note: Graham from Parallel 49 indicates he’s going to try this. Somehow, I knew he would.)

Nope, it’s all canned pumpkin and/or pumpkin pureé. Virtually every flavoured beer uses canned fruits and vegetables. Those cherry berliner weisses? Canned cherries. Many-fruited-ales? Pureé. Blackberry? You see where I’m going with this. Canned goods are easier to work with, easier to order, and let you produce your flavoured beer whenever you want, not just when the ingredients are in season. Plus, you can absolutely get high quality canned ingredients so why not?


While pulled over to power-wash what appeared to be partially liquefied kindergarteners off my truck’s grill, it occurred to me that I had effectively just written an article. Not wanting to let an opportunity to turn random internet correspondence into a lazily slapped together blog post, I decided to go for it.

You know what? It didn’t turn out half awful, so if you have any other beer related questions, feel free to contact me. I’ll do my best to string together enough half-truths and plain old incorrect facts to turn your honest query into pageviews for me. Ain’t I just the best?

Written by chuck

September 5th, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Beer and You