Barley Mowat 

If I Were Judge

with 17 comments

Another year, another BC Beer Awards, another list of results that I can rant about. Sure, I know many of the judges and trust their beer opinions, and I understand that the judging process itself is not perfect but I just wouldn’t be Chuck unless I nitpicked until someone was insulted. So let’s get going.

First up is the Best in Show: Vancouver Island Hermannator. Big surprise: I have no qualms with this beer winning. It’s a gorgeous beer that is a complete outlier compared to the rest of the decidedly down-market beers VIB produces (aka “dreck”).

Now on to specific categories, where I will provide some insights, agree with some awards, shake my head at others, and suggest beers that seem to be missing. Note that the BC Beer Awards did not release the complete list of entrants, or the categories that the brewers put their beers in, so I’m very much ranting in the dark here, as per usual. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but horribly misinformed diatribes are sorta my thing. Notably both Tofino and Storm seem to have decided to sit this one out, but they aren’t the only ones.

Session Lager
Ugh. Really? This category is scarily close to the US’ “American Style Light Lager” in that it’s worded to only include awful beers, then award them a medal. This section’s appearance in 2013 is worrying. To indicate my disdain, I will avoid discussing any of the three awful beers that won.

Although, I wouldn’t object to a “Best Beer Marketed via Body Paint” category, but only because I’m a horrible person with no morals.

Nod: CC Pilsner (1st) – Damned straight this won. Fantastic beer.
Shake: Four Winds – Special Mention? Does this mean a judge wouldn’t shut up about it until they caved an added it as fourth? If so, bravo on you good sir (or madam). Four Winds Pilsner should have been second.

Special Lager
Nod: VIB Hermannator – No qualms here, or with the Best in Show nod. I love this beer, and am cellaring many bottles.
Missing: Parallel 49 Hop-a-fucking-razzi. Thank you.
Missing: 33 Acres Stärke, 33 Acres of Life (I would call both these “Session Lagers” but somehow I do not think this is what that category is for)

Session Ale
I guess the criteria here is “a beer you can drink a lot of”? Not sure this should be a full category, but sure, let’s play the game.
Shake: Nelson Wild Honey – The fuck? I’ve had this beer. It’s awful. Nelson has many other, much better beers.
Shake: Phillips Slipstream – At least the order is right. This is even worse than Nelson Honey.
Missing: Tofino Tuff? Oh yeah, Tofino didn’t enter. Why guys, why?

English Ale
Is anyone else sensing an issue here? Four beers in four styles? With only 14 entries I guess some lumping had to happen, but it’s not fair putting an English IPA up against an English Pale blind. I will assume we’re looking at BCJP Styles 8 (Bitter, Best Bitter, ESB) and 11 (Mild Brown, Southern Brown, Northern Brown) plus English IPAs (14A) but who knows?

Nod: OK Spring showing up here as a Special Mention is curious, but arguably their sugary-sweet Pale Ale is more of a traditional English Ale than any of the actual winners.
Missing: Howe Sound Devil’s Elbow
Missing: R&B East Side Bitter. I think this is the best bitter in the province. There, I said it.

American Ale
At least here’s there’s a BCJP style associated with the category (Style 10), even it’s very broad. 28 entries means there was a lot of variation going on here, although I can’t really argue with the three chosen results.
Nod: Old Yale’s Pale impressed me the last time I had it
Nod: And CC’s Pale disappointed–Still award-worthy, but not the gold magnet of previous years.

Shake: Deep Cove Quick Wit – I have tried both Batch 1 and Batch 2 of Deep Cove’s Quick Wit. Batch 1 was a hot mess of a beer, unless of course you like band-aids in your beverage. Batch 2 improved dramatically, but to swing all the way to gold? No way. Unless this is Batch 3, and it improved a likewise amount over Batch 2…

Fruit Beer
No huge issues here. While I’m not a fan of Fernie’s What the Huck, I’m also not a fan of fruit beers in general.
Missing: Howe Sound’s Bumbleberry Ale is rather tasty, but I haven’t seen it in bottles ever, so maybe it didn’t get submitted.

Vegetable / Spice Beer
Ah, the much vaunted pumpkin-beer category. The fact that only 1 such beer placed says something about this year’s crop of pumpkin ales which, I have to admit, I found lacking in general. Maybe it was the pumpkins?
Missing: Parallel 49 Schadenfreude

Special Beer
Nothing like a grab-all category for those misfits that don’t fit in else where. Sure, Special Beer is an official BCJP Category, but it’s the “everything else” category. Somewhat shockingly, I have no issues with the winners here.

Scottish / Irish
Okay, I have issues with the winners here. Dean, I loves ya, but I don’t loves Race Rocks, and I wouldn’t have given it this medal… as a Scottish Ale… seriously, WTF? There is so much wrong with this category that I can’t seriously rule out a misprint.
Missing: Storm Highland Scottish, GIB Irish Red, Russell Wee Heavy or, you know, SCOTTISH AND/OR IRISH BEERS!

Seriously, not one bad kilt pun in the lot?

Brown / Porter
Argh. I cannot stand Philips’ Choco Porter. I find the sweet–almost fake–chocolate confusing in a style that I revere for its roasted, malty bitterness.
Nod: Townsite PowTown. This beer was an early highlight before Townsite dialed-in their brewing process and started making generally great beer. It’s only gotten better.
Missing: Powell Street Dive Bomb, a fantastic beer that has only just now seen serious competition (from Brassneck)

Nod: Persephone Stout-off. I only had Persephone’s Stout after reading that they won gold. Wow, well deserved guys, that’s a great stout. (Your red ale stinks, though)
Shake: Longwood Stoutnik
Missing: Howe Sound Pothole Filler, Driftwood Singularity

Belgian / Sour Beer
Seriously, could we just break Sour off to its own category and call it the “YBC Oud Bruin v Storm Flanders Red” category? It would save some confusion.
Nod: All three. All three are wonderful beers.
Missing: Storm Flanders Red, Lighthouse Uncharted, Lighthouse Deckhand

Here we are; welcome to The Show. 34 Entries, more than any other category.
Nod: Can’t argue with anything here, although I have to wonder how fresh that Sartori was.
Missing: High Mountain Five Rings, Lighthouse Switchback, CC IPA

Imperial IPA
Nod: All three are good beers.
Shake: Hopnotist deserved first, but alas they have to judge the beers as presented, and not as they were when released (aka freaking awesome). This beer was best fresh, and has declined ever since.

Beers that get you there. Barley Wines, Belgian Strongs, and beers that are just generally high ABV and sweet. Not Russian Imperial Stouts or Imperial IPAs though.
Nod: Thor’s Hammer – Had a 2011 last night. Awesome.
Shake: P49 Vow of Silence – Not a bad beer, but not a silver medal. Only 8 entries, though, makes me think of the less common beers weren’t entered.
Missing: Howe Sound Woolly Bugger, Lighthouse Belgian Black

Overall, I think the awards accurately reflected the evolving landscape of BC Craft Beer. Some old stalwarts hung in, Fat Tug won gold, and some newbies took home some bling. As I’m fond of saying, it has never been a better time to be a craft beer fan in Vancouver, and it just keeps getting better.

Written by chuck

October 21st, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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17 Responses to 'If I Were Judge'

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  1. Great truths in all your comments. Especially the omission of “session lager’. Not sure what happened there?

    Regardless of the results it was fantastic to see the event in a larger location with more people, more beer and more breweries.

    All in all it was a huge success!

    Dustan - Beer Me BC

    21 Oct 13 at 16:03

  2. […] ? BC Beer Awards Which ones have you tried? Also local beer guy/blogger's thoughts on the list: If I Were Judge at Barley Mowat __________________ […]

  3. I’m not sure, but I think “special mention” means that a beer scored highly, but lost because three better beers were ahead of it.

    I talked to some of the organizers about the results because I was surprised Driftwood didn’t win more. Apparently they didn’t enter very many beers. Some beers we think should have won just weren’t entered.

    Also, since brewery’s are providing the beer to the awards themselves, I think some are brewing up special awards small batches. Deep Cove Quick Wit is a likely culprit…

    I wonder how much my bias for a beer or brewery affects how I actually perceive it’s taste. I feel like you should probably do your own blind taste tests for the categories you object to most. I would do it, but I’m too lazy.


    21 Oct 13 at 16:13

  4. @Chris – I think doing my own blind tasting would be interesting, but alas we don’t even have the list of entered beers.

    And yes, absolutely some breweries are brewing up fresh/custom batches just for the awards. It’s a long running debate for beer judging. Do you allow it? If not, how do you prevent it?


    21 Oct 13 at 16:16

  5. If you force entered every BC beer in a category and bought them all from the same store, your blind tasting would be as comprehensive and fair as it gets.


    21 Oct 13 at 17:03

  6. I think overall the awards this year were a far better representation of the best beers than in years previous. I can say that English Ale was strictly category 8 from what I recall, and the results listed are accurate to what we tasted that day – there were a lot of off flavours in the beers poured for us that day, including one of the ones listed in the medals. As for stouts, it was strictly imperial stouts, not wood aged versions which were entered into specialty (as they should have been in pervious years). I believe there were only three imperial stouts and the other two had some off flavours even though they were more imperial stout like.

    Rob A

    21 Oct 13 at 17:31

  7. Oh, and that Nelson Wild Honey? Absolutely phenomenal that day. Even once it warmed up to room temperature it was nothing but a perfectly clean blonde ale, not a single thing wrong with it. It went far into the BOS round.

    Rob A

    21 Oct 13 at 17:42

  8. I am definitely not a judging expert, and I realize there are issues with what beers are submitted, but it did make me laugh that a Scottish ale won the Speciality class and the winner of the Scottish ale class isn’t even the best Scottish ale produced by that brewery (which would be Lighthouse Highland Ale, which is OK).


    21 Oct 13 at 18:00

  9. Chuck, I’m calling you on your lager comment. I’m not sure why it was re-titled session lagers for the awards, but as the results hint at the range included light American, Helles and Dortmunder lagers.

    Beer nerds hear lager and they run away screaming, probably due to all of the bad places the macros touched them when they were younger. There’s a world of difference in the lager category, from fizzy yellow beer through refreshingly crisp pilsners through malty bocks up to deep rich malty eisbocks like, oh, say, this year’s best of show winner.

    Of course we all know that, but I still think there’s a tendency to write off the lighter ones as being boring macro-equivalent useless beer. I hear you. I was there once. But you’re wrong. Do this one thing for me: go to your nearest local tallboy purveyor and grab a Coors Lite, PBR, Grolsch, Hacker Pschorr Münchner Gold, and a DAB. Have someone pour each into a glass and taste them blind.

    You might be surprised at how much variation there is in this style.

    Dave S.

    21 Oct 13 at 21:26

  10. Hi Chuck,

    Thanks for the nod on Hermannator – glad you enjoy this beer as much as we do. As for our other beers I hope you have taken some notice that we have begun to challenge our brewing team to be more innovative – much in the same way Hermannator was innovative back in ’87! We have some core beers from the early days that are still in demand so we will continue to brew them ( we like them to!) but we continue to be excited about doing more 650ml’s, casks and special releases as we can cram in. Thanks for your support of craft beer and VIB.


    Rob @ VIB

    22 Oct 13 at 12:12

  11. @Rob – The 650s are definitely a step in the right direction. I even called out Iron Plow last year as a diamond in the rough. The 335s, though, still suffer from that age-old problem for breweries: they were great 10 years ago and show it, yet now have a dedicated repeat clientèle that just won’t let you let go.

    I wrote a bit on this problem about a year ago:


    22 Oct 13 at 13:09

  12. Race Rocks is definitely worthy of a win but I am surprised about the category.

    Coniferous Gloom

    22 Oct 13 at 13:10

  13. Yup I enjoyed that article. Some see this as a problem, we look at it as an opportunity. We have a great loyal clientele yet can get new customers excited by brewing bigger and better beers. It’s all in your attitude and approach, oh and I just sourced a “2013” stamp for the top of our waxed ‘Nator bottles. I’ll be wax dipping and stamping next Saturday with the crew.
    Cheers, RR

    Rob @ VIB

    22 Oct 13 at 15:31

  14. […] I saw Chuck’s post yesterday, I joked on Twitter that I was working on a follow-up to nitpick his nitpicking. He […]

  15. I don’t understand some of the comments made about Race Rocks. I looked over the BJCP style guide, which itself is very weak when compared to, say, the MBAA one, and Race best fit into the 80 Shilling box. So I entered accordingly. And the judges agreed that it is a great example of that style. That you don’t find the beer itself agreeable Chuck is completely irrelevant.

    Highland wasn’t entered as it was not commercially available at the time of judging. This is a rule in other competitions that would have excluded this year’s Best In Show. Ditto Deckhand and Uncharted as these beers are no longer brewed.


    23 Oct 13 at 20:18

  16. […] the strange thing that happened is that I tried the much maligned (by me) “Best Scottish/Irish Ale in BC”: Lighthouse Race Rocks. I was up at the Harrison Beer […]

  17. I think I remember you tnleilg me to try that a while ago I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it. And the SN was just called Stout I’ve only seen it one time and it was at Trader Joe’s. Very elusive.


    4 Mar 16 at 23:54

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