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Archive for February, 2014

Alcohol in Craft Beer

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Stunning revelation time: beer has alcohol in it. I’m sure that you’re shocked to learn this, as I am. To be fair, though, we couldn’t be expected to know this, as it’s not like anyone in the industry goes out of their way to fess up. Bottle descriptions will tell you what types of hops are in the beer, and where they were grown. Some will list the grain bill. Most will talk about yeast and give you tasting notes, but none direct your attention to the small number at the bottom.

So I’ll do it. Beer has alcohol in it. Booze. Grog. Happy juice. Enabling fluid. Whatever you want to call it, it’s in beer, and every time you drink beer, you’re drinking alcohol. A lot of alcohol. In craft beer circles, no one wants to talk about this. It has become the elephant in the room.

And the elephant is drunk.
Seriously, though, how fucked is this train schedule?

Okay, fine. Maybe you’re smart and already knew this. Maybe you’re even are aware that, as fun as alcohol can be, it can be dangerous in large quantities. Perhaps you even know that Health Canada recommends drinking less than 15 beers a week, and you abide by that rule. (10 for women–for simplicity’s sake I’ll focus on men in this article, sorry ladies, but the numbers for women are 2/3 those of men)

Those 15 beers are divided nicely into 3 beers a day. What’s that? 3 beers a day means 21 a week? Well, folks, Health Canada recommends, gasp, not drinking every day. In fact, at least two days a week should be alcohol free, and you should definitely avoid downing more than 4 in a sitting.

4 while standing, though is just fine.
(The top one is for ballast)

“Okay, okay, fine,” you say, “I rarely drink five pints in a night anyways. For the sake of health, I guess I’ll skip Sunday and Wednesday, but every other day I’ll stop off at the bar and have my three pints of Fat Tug, call it a day, and go home to continue my newly healthy, long life.” Not so fast, skippy.

Here’s the kicker: Those 15 beers up there are cans of 5% ABV macro lager. Craft beer is a different beast entirely, and as the ABV wars have escalated the average alcohol content slowly over the years, craft beer drinkers have decidedly not adapted their drinking habits. Judging by the constant stream of Untappd checkins from people I follow, the craft beererati seem to be consuming about the same volumes of beer as their macro drinking counter-parts, and often even more.

Mostly because our six packs have bigger bottles.
Buy this cool holder on etsy

Fat Tug, served in pints, breaks those guidelines in two important ways. First, a proper pint is a lot bigger than a can (67% bigger, in fact), and it’s a lot boozier as well (+40%). Factor those two things in and that 20oz pint of Fat Tug you’re sipping on becomes 2.3 standard drinks. Those three pints you were going to have? 6.9 drinks, or over a six pack of regular beer. That means you can only have one pint, my friend.

Some of you just scoffed at this. “Sure, but those guidelines are for wimps.” Maybe. Maybe not; consider this: compare “I’ll stop by the pub for a few pints” with “I’m gonna slam a six pack with a whiskey chaser.” One is the sort of thing said by a craft beer aficionado, and the other by a smelly skid row alcoholic on welfare Wednesday. Both people, though, are drinking the same amount of alcohol.

Let me say it again: those three pints of IPA are the booze equivalent of seven beers. Seven. Unless you’re 20 and it’s Friday, seven beers is not the best idea. Do it every day after work and you’re seriously flirting with alcoholism. Add a pint at lunch and you’re suddenly on Betty Ford’s Christmas card list. This doesn’t even include pulling a shift at your favourite pub on Friday and Saturday nights.

And that’s Fat Tug, which at 7% ABV is hardly the reigning heavy weight of local brews. Other IPAs are 8% or more, and non-IPA styles like Belgian Strongs are frequently in the 9%+ range. Local Imperial Stouts crest 10% and one example clocks in at a whopping 14.6%. That 14.6% stout, sold in a 650ml bomber, contains 5.7 standard drinks: more than a whole bottle of most wines. Health Canada recommends keeping any single evening to 4 drinks or under, meaning that drinking a bottle of Imperial Stout by yourself would make a doctor frown–opening a second one afterwards is right out.

Unless you share. Then it’s cool; doctors are notorious drunks.

So what is a standard drink? It’s about 17ml of pure alcohol. Since that’s not super helpful by itself, I’ve done the math for you, for a few local brews.

Beer ABV Package Size Drinks in Package Appropriate Serving
Driftwood Fat Tug 7% 650ml 2.7 270ml (9.5oz)
Howe Sound Woolly Bugger 11% 341ml 2.2 155ml (5.5oz)
Phillips Hoperation 8% 650ml 3.0 213ml (7.5oz)
CC Imperial IPA 9% 650ml 3.4 191ml (6.7oz)
Driftwood Singularity 14.6% 650ml 5.7 115ml (4.0oz)

Well, crap. What do we do about this? Demand that beer be sold in tiny, tiny bottles? Nope. We just need to be more aware of the amount of alcohol we’re consistently cramming down our pie holes. When you walk into a bar you need to realize that in the vast majority of cases a pint is not an appropriate serving size for craft beer, unless you plan on making it your only drink of the evening.

And no cheating with the definition of “pint” ya rummy. It’s 20oz or nothing.

Be aware of what you’re consuming, and what’s in it. Try higher ABV beers in smaller sizes (the Alibi has both 10oz or 6oz sizes for just such a reason, in addition to reducing the size of their “large” glass for high ABV beers). At home, exercise some restraint and don’t drink the whole bottle. Crazy, I know, but open beer will last until tomorrow if you cap it (I’ll do some research on this and report back later).

Treat the higher ABV beers with the respect they deserve. These are painstakingly produced and deserve to be sipped and savoured. You should drink them on a timeline closer to a glass of wine than a can of shit lager, letting the flavours open up as the fluid warms and interacts with the air.

As well, if you want more than one pint of beer, try more of the increasingly popular sessional releases that are coming out from local breweries. These guys typically come in below 5%, meaning you can have more than one, or have the same amount and consume less booze. Phillips and Central City have India Session Ales, and sessional beers are increasingly on the menu at Brassneck (although, note that a 20oz pint of 4% session beer still is about 1.3 standard drinks).

Monitor how much and how often you drink. This one might seem a bit extreme on first reading, but no one consciously chooses to become an alcoholic. They just wake up that way one day. What’s worse is that it’s usually a few years later that they actually realize it, and a few more before they admit it to others.

In short, be an adult, and remember that while the drink in your hand is lovingly made in small batches, using quality ingredients, and costs a lot to buy, it’s still a drink.

Written by chuck

February 26th, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Beer and You

2013 CAMRA Beer Awards

with one comment

The CAMRA Vancouver Member Awards were this weekend past, and since I knew ahead of time I was on the award-ee list, I decided to go, because I like external validation.

Much to my surprise, though, the awards were not just a 3-hour gala dedicated to yours truly, but instead I had to share the stage with some other “deserving” folks. Oh well, in the sake of at least seeming interested in things other than myself, I guess I’ll re-post the results here.

Okay, enough of the faux self-absorbed beer blogger persona. In all honesty, congrats to the winners. These rewards represent some serious beer-geek cred. The CAMRA Vancouver membership represents perhaps the crustiest top tier of beer snobs in Vancouver, which is the beer capital of BC and, by extension, Canada. Sorry Victoria, I know you have both Driftwood and a higher brewery-to-populace ratio, but how many new breweries did you open last year? Thought so.

Amongst the just-over 1400 CAMRA card-carrying beererati are a large number of professional brewmasters, retail store owners, restauranteurs and actual professional beer reviewers (remember, I’m just an amateur). Impressing this lot is not an easy task.

Overwhelmingly I agree with the results. Perhaps my only complaint would be that Four Winds Saison Brett didn’t make the Best Seasonal cut, but so little of that was produced that likely not enough voters had tried it. (Also, Howe Sound coming in first for Best BC BrewPub yet only placing third for Best Local BrewPub is a bit odd, but maybe too many folks didn’t consider it local despite the explicit note that Squamish was in-area)

So, without further adieu, here is the full list of CAMRA Member Award Winners. I’ll include their Twitter handles so you can give them a follow or two. Please do so.

Best Beer Blogger or Writer:
Bronze: Jan Zeschky (@JanTweats)
Silver: Joe Wiebe (@ThirstyWriter)
Gold: Chuck Hallett (@Barley_Mowat)

Best Beer Name (Gold only):
Gold: Toques of Hazzard (@Parallel49Beer)

Best Beer Artwork (Gold only):
Gold: Craft Beer Month Collaboration Spruce Tip Stout (@CraftBeerMonth)

Best Local Beer Event:
Bronze: BC Beer Awards (BCBeerAwards)
Silver: Hopapalooza (@AlibiRoom / @VCBW)
Gold: Vancouver Craft Beer Week (@VCBW)

Best BC Beer (Non-Seasonal):
Bronze: Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears (@Parallel49Beer)
Silver: Central City Red Racer IPA (@CentralCityBrew)
Gold: Driftwood Fat Tug (@DriftwoodBeer)

Best BC Beer (Seasonal):
Bronze: Driftwood Singularity (@DriftwoodBeer)
Silver: Driftwood Lustrum (@DriftwoodBeer)
Gold: Driftwood Sartori Harvest (@DriftwoodBeer)

Best Local Beer Server/Bartender:
Bronze: Nicole Coetzee (Alibi/Brassneck) (@XGingerBeerX)
Silver: Alex Wilson (Alibi/Brassneck) (@A_P_Wilson)
Gold: Nigel Springthorpe (Alibi/Brassneck) (@AlibiRoom)

Best Local Beer Establishment:
Bronze: BierCraft (@BierCraft)
Silver: St Augustine’s (@StAugustinesVan)
Gold: Alibi Room (@AlibiRoom)

Best Local Private LIquor Store:
Bronze: Central City Liquor Store (@CentralCityLRS)
Silver: Legacy Liquor Store (@LegacyLiquor)
Gold: Brewery Creek Liquor Store (@BreweryCreek)

Best Local Cask Night:
Bronze: The Railway Club — Tuesday (@RailwayClub)
Silver: St Augustine’s — Monday (@StAugustinesVan)
Gold: The Whip — Sunday (@WhipRestaurant)

Best Local Brewpub:
Bronze (tie): Howe Sound Inn & Brewpub (@HoweSoundBeer)
Bronze (tie): Yaletown Brewing Company (@YBC_Brewing)
Silver: Steamworks (@SteamworksPub)
Gold: Central City Brewpub (@CentralCityPub)

Best BC Brewpub:
Bronze: Spinnakers (@Spinnakers)
Silver: Central City (@CentralCityPub)
Gold: Howe Sound (@HoweSoundBeer)

Best BC Brewery:
Bronze: Four Winds (@FourWindsBrewCo)
Silver: Parallel 49 (@Parallel49Beer)
Gold: Driftwood (@DriftwoodBeer)

Special, Lifetime Achievement Award: John Mitchell (no Twitter)

That’s it, folks. No smarmy trash talk, no funny pictures. This list is about handing praise over to deserving folks, so please go do that now. Tell them you love them, buy their beer, go to their pubs. If you’re really into learning more, do some Googling on this “John Mitchell” character above.

I’ll resume my self-indulgent navel gazing in another post.

Written by chuck

February 17th, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with

Steamworks Imperial Red Ale

with 4 comments

We’ve all been there: you have a blog on which you talk about beer, and you feel like featuring the odd interesting and noteworthy brew once a month because, well, you want to. Then “once a month” becomes “once in a whenever” then lots of heady talk happens around doing better and being more consistent. Fast forward a couple of months, and your Beer of the Month dates from December and is pretty much sold out everywhere.

Well, screw that. I’m ditching the Beer of the Month and just full-on embracing my sporadic updates as a purposeful feature. Henceforth the BOTM shall be known as the Barley Mowat Feature Beer. I figure if I remove any reference to a timeframe I’m safe to leave that bastard up there until my site’s finally taken down for non-payment of hosting fees.

Actually, who am I kidding, it’ll be shuttered by court order.

So, to kick off this new feature I thought that I’d do something unexpected. What beer is out there right now that is interesting, good, and deserving of more attention? Hint: it’s not from Driftwood (although Bird of Prey is great).

Nope, this beer is from Steamworks. Steamworks gets a bad rap from the local beererati, and there is some reason for the ill will. Ever since busting out of their Water Street on-premises brewing facility like some sort of brew pub Hulk, the produced product has wavered in quality.

The finger of blame can be squarely aimed at Dead Frog, who was not only responsible for both brewing a sub-standard batch of Steamworks’ award-winning Pilsner under contract, but for also releasing that same batch. Even though Dead Frog has since brought their production quality and consistency back up to craft standards (or perhaps higher), the damage was done. Steamworks’ brand was affected.

Throw on to that fire their focus on the mid-scale market, where the more boring, old-school styles of Pilsner, Pale Ale, and Stout dominate, and you wind up with quite a few people who’ve only had either bad or boring beers from SW. Not encouraging.

The frenetic, busy graphics on the bottles don’t help. Hint: if you could throw “Much Beer. So Hop. Wow.” randomly on your bottle and it wouldn’t look worse, you’re doing it wrong.

Then there was that whole ruckus last year wherein a local nuisance blogger pointed out Steamworks’ myriad trademark battles and you were left with a brewery that puts a bad taste in your mouth before you even took that first sip of (likely questionable quality) beer.

Well, it might be time to revisit the (IMHO) ugliest beer bottles in BC. SW has come to the Imperial Red party started by Lighthouse Siren, and shit just got real. Steamwork’s blogger-infuriatingly unnamed Imperial Red is about 10x better than you’d fear, after finally resigning yourself to trying some because talking about beer in BC is your job. You know, as one does.

In fact, it’s even better than Siren which, despite never quite recovering its ambrosia-like pinnacle evident on first release, is still no slouch by any measure. SW Impy Red is no contender against Parallel 49’s recently released Robo Ruby, but it’ll also likely be around a bit longer as well. That’s because this isn’t being brewed on that tiny copper system on Water Street. Nope, it hails from Steamworks’ gleaming new Burnaby brewery, headed by an equally gleaming new Caolan Vaughan. The Burnaby facility will have no problems keeping the thirsty hoards satiated.

APPEARANCE Deep hazy red/brown. Long lasting, thick head.
NOSE Big tropical hops, with a hint of the caramel sugar bomb body in back.
TASTE Balance, with an appropriately tin-y high-malt finish. Booze definitely present, but accentuates malt.
STATS 8.5% ABV / 75 IBU / Imperial Red Ale
SHOULD I BUY IT? Absolutely. You’re hard pressed to get more beer for your $6.25

Brewery Steamworks
From Burnaby
Name Imperial Red
Style Red IPA/IIRA
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential n/a
Drink Now
Better Steamworks Beers None.
Availability LDB
Cost $6.25 per bomber (LDB)
Similar Beers Parallel 49 Robo Ruby (slightly better), Lighthouse Siren (slightly worse)


A Bronze medal for a metallic tasting Bronze beer. Writing these is hard. Does anyone even read this?

Written by chuck

February 11th, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Beers

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