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Archive for December, 2013

Beer of the… Quarter?

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It’s been a while since I’ve picked a beer of theā€¦ let’s just call it quarter. However, this holiday season there’s one very interesting brew out there that I figure everyone should buy and try.

Beers make it into my acclaimed Box What Is On The Right Of The Blog for a few reasons. Sometimes they’re stonking great, but often they’re just interesting or unique for any one of a dozen reasons. Maybe the brewery is stepping up their game, maybe the packing is interesting, or maybe the beer itself is excellent. This mon–er, quarter, all three are true.

The beer in question is Howe Sound’s Woolly Bugger 2013. In past years, this has been one of the few BC Brewed, English-style Barley Wines on the market and I’ve loved it for that. This year, though, they change things up a bit and went for more of a hybrid form: a strong malt base with a slightly bitter finish. The result is an outstanding step up from previous years, and a beer that is eminently drinkable now but will definitely cellar well for 2-3 years. Right now you’ll get subtle chocolate behind balanced hops, but over time the smooth malt tones will mingle and come forward.

But I said something about packaging, right? Sure did. Check this bad boy out.

Ooooooooo, yeah.

This is a dramatic departure from previous HS bottlings, but also from prior Woolly Buggers. Frankly, I love every little bit of this bottle. To generate this beauty, Howe Sound teamed up with Tom Pedriks from Resonance Branding and, gosh darn it, they did well. In addition to a flat out awesome 19th century pharmaceutical look and feel on a bottle that basically contains medicine, the format of the bottle should not be overlooked.

It’s a 375ml demi bottle. Most local Barley Wines come in 650ml bombers, which can make the commitment involved in cracking one open to drink somewhat daunting. For reference, here is the one I had last night, with the entirety of its contents poured into my glass.

“Drinkable” in beer doesn’t usually means “something you can physically drink in one sitting” but what the hell, I’ll call this one Drinkable.

So, go forth and buy a few bottles of this sweet boozy concoction, and enjoy yourself a cool snifter in front of a roaring fire. It’s what this beer was made for.

APPEARANCE Deep, opaque auburn with quickly dissipating thin head.
NOSE Caramel, chocolate and a hint of backing hops.
TASTE Sharp, but not overwhelming, hops followed by a smooth malt body. Subtle chocolate intertwines with strong caramel.
STATS 10.5% ABV / 75 IBU / 25 Degrees Plato
SHOULD I BUY IT? Absolutely. Buy at least two: one for now and one to drink alongside next year’s version.

Brewery Howe Sound
From Squamish
Name Woolly Bugger
Style Barley Wine (Hybrid American/English)
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential Silver
Drink Now-2016
Thing that could improve label Two gloved hands pointing at the name
Availability Most LRS’s have some
Cost ~$5-7 per 375ml demo
Similar Beers All the other Barley Wines out there right now


Time will make it better. Trust me.

Written by chuck

December 24th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Beers

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Sneak Peak of Main Street Brewing

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Brewery Creek saw a good year, with two highly regarded breweries opening their doors. Locals, thirsty for a decent pint, flocked to jam-pack first 33 Acres then Brassneck. The clean white interior of 33 Acres couldn’t contrast more with the warm woodiness of Brassneck, but us beer drinkers didn’t care. The liquid on offer was good, so we came–in large numbers. And, as anyone who’s tried to get into Brassneck after 5:30pm on a Friday can attest, we continue to do so to this day.

Meanwhile, not quite two blocks from the bustling, frenetic energy of Brassneck, another brewery is slowly but steadily marching towards opening. That outfit is Main Street, who started out (and currently still run) as a contract brewery compliments of Russell Brewing. They aim to change that status by bringing all the fermentation in-house, and soon. I had a chance to do a brief tour of their current state of affairs this week, and while opening day is still clearly some weeks away, the dream is finally beginning to materialize.

As per usual, the dream involves lots of beer.

These are some teaser shots of what they’re working on. While 33 Acres borrows heavily from a minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic, and Brassneck could perhaps be most accurately described as the ultimate man cave, Main Street will be playing up the aged bricks and beams and soaring ceilings of the aptly named Vancouver Brewery Garage to create something totally different.

If you had a spot like this in your house, you’d turn it into a tasting room, too.

I’d like to say that I’m only sharing three shots because I’m all secretive and stuff, but the reality is that I’m a lousy photographer and the rest came out blurry. I’ll head back in a few weeks’ time with a proper camera (and Sharon to operate it) for an uptime–all the pieces should be coming together by then. Based on my dead reckoning, expect Main Street Brewing to open in February or March of 2014.

Unless that rugged, old roof caves in.

Written by chuck

December 19th, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Breweries

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Extreme Reading

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Got a beer snob on your Xmas shopping list, and are running out of ideas? Assuming that special someone is at least partially literate, you could plausibly pick up a copy of Adem Tepedelen’s The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers. This 208-page, picture-heavy, full colour tome is a veritable encyclopaedia of craft brewing’s obsession with redefining the edges of what qualifies as “beer.” Page after page yields beautiful, well laid out summaries of rare or interesting beers, and a detailed review of each.

What this isn’t, per se, is a book. Blurbs on individual beers rarely last more than a single page, and occasionally interviews with metal musicians are thrown in because… well, because Adem writes the Brewtal Truth column for Decibel Magazine, and it’s on theme, that’s why. The end result is a more like a series of beer/music pamphlets loosely collected around a single theme than anything that could be confused with The Great Gatsby (which is a book, not a movie, dammit).

The highlighted beers are chosen for one or more extreme qualities, like extremely high ABV, containing more hops than eight lesser brews, or a desire to kidnap the Reinheitsgebot, shoot it in the head, and dump the body out in the woods somewhere. What beers are not chosen for is quality (many of the highlighted beers are virtually undrinkable, with the occasional great one thrown in for spice), but let’s face it, a 200-odd page book that does nothing but blather on about how awesome the beers contained are, and how the author got to drink them (and you likely never will) wouldn’t exactly be a good read now, would it?

The mini-summaries of each beer are fairly well written; Adem has more literary talent than many other beer columnists out there and it definitely comes through in the prose. Even Adem’s talent for spinning a yarn, though, doesn’t make up for the main drawback of this book: it’s a top ten list in print form (okay, fine, a top ~200 list), and it reads like one. Don’t fool yourself, reading about a single beer will be great fun, but reading the whole book cover to cover just isn’t a thing you’ll do in one sitting, if ever.

Ultimately, though, I like this book. Adem’s reviews aren’t critical (he seems to like most of the beers, including the obnoxious Rogue Voodoo Maple Donut), but finding beers you like isn’t what this book is about. Rather, this book is a great source for beers that will instill in you the same core urge which drives you to smell the long-expired milk: raw, morbid curiosity.

In short, is it worth a damn? Yes.

Zero points for cover design–sorry Adem, but this is ugly.

Buy it now: Amazon: $16.02 ($9.99 Kindle), iBooks: $11.99, Chapters: $15.85 ($10.79 for Kobo)

Written by chuck

December 17th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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