Barley Mowat 

BC Beer Awards Hits and Misses

with 11 comments

UPDATE: I’ve since been provided evidence that Driftwood did, indeed, enter at least 1 beer into this year’s BCBA (Fat Tug). So, uh, yeah… there you have it.

Alright, let’s get to this: my takedown of the BC Beer Awards. Last year, the fest took a sharp turn towards credibility by handing a gold to a beer that I brewed (or more accurately, that Vern Lambourne at GIB brewed while I did all the physical labour). How do this year’s results stack up? Will Chuck rant? Read on to see. I’m not going to provide feedback on every category (because, oddly, I agree with most of it), but I will call out a few items.

Disclaimer: Yes, I know how beers are judged, aka by a group of experienced, certified testers working their way through a mountain of entries, blind, and not by a bearded beer geek in his basement, who’s not even wearing pants. Still, this is my take on the results, and what I might have done differently had BC Beer Awards come to their senses and just let me pick the winners singlehanded.

North American Light Beer

1. Tofino Brewing Company: Tofino Blonde Ale
2. High Mountain Brewing: Lifty Lager
3. Granville Island Brewing: Island Lager

Ugh. Why are we rewarding breweries for making beers in this category? It’s kind of like handing out an award for Best Keanu Reeves movie. Sure, they’re sometimes tolerable based on their own unique subset of merits but, ultimately, wouldn’t you want to be watching something else?

Light European Bier

1. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: Craft Lager
2. Central City Brewers and Distillers: Mayor Kolsch
3. Russell Brewing Company: Eastern Promises

Just because it’s from Europe, it’s better right? Well, actually, it sort of is. I don’t agree with placing P49’s Craft Lager at the top of this list. Sure, I haven’t had the most recent iteration (what is it, P49 Lager #5, 6, now?) but the first handful were refining a low-taste, bland recipe that was intended to keep the Surrey residents happy at St Augustines.

Second and third, though, are hard to argue with. I would have moved Russell’s excellent Eastern Promises higher in the list. Lastly, “Bier”? Really, guys?

UK Pale Ale

1. Big Ridge Brewing: Big Ridge Clover Ale
2. Forbidden Brewing Co.: Forbidden Pale Ale
3. Bomber Brewing: Bomber ESB

Amber/Dark Lagers

1. Steel & Oak Brewing Co.: Dark Lager
2. Persephone Brewing Company: Oktoberfest
3. Tree Brewing Co. Captivator: Doppelbock

♬ One of these things is not like the other ones… ♬

UK Red/Brown Ale

1. Whistler Brewing Company: Black Tusk
2. Lighthouse Brewing Company: Race Rocks
3. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: Old Boy

Not quite sure what to make of this category. My gut emotional reaction is that I’m not a huge fan of any of these beers but my brain get’s all logic-y and asks which ones I’d rather see in here.

North American Pale Ale

1. Howe Sound Brewing Co. Sky Pilot Northwest Pale Ale
2. Persephone Brewing Company Pale Ale
3. Russell Brewing Company Hop Therapy ISA

This is interesting: Howe Sound beats out Persephone and Russell. HS’s Sky Pilot was quite good when it was released, so it’s interesting to see this additional validation.

North American Amber/Brown Ale

1. Big Rock Urban Brewery: Hollow Tree
2. Russell Brewing Company: Cream Ale
3. Brassneck Brewery: Brassneck Ale

Hollow Tree? Really? It was not a great beer when I tested it in May (despite being one of BR’s best), but it wasn’t awful. However, I would not expect “you know, not awful” to take gold.

German/Belgian Wheat

1. Barkerville Brewing Co.: White Gold
2. Big Rock Urban Brewery: Dunkelwiezen
3. Granville Island Brewing: Hey Day Hefeweizen

How many entrants were there? I ask because this list starts off at “pretty good” then slides downhill to “what the fuck is IN this bottle” pretty freaking fast.


1. Stanley Park Brewing: SunSetter
2. Tree Brewing Co.: Mellow Moon Pineapple Hefeweizen
3. Strange Fellows Brewing: Framboise Noir

I’ll be honest: it’s not a great category to start with. SF’s Framboise Noir was a pretty decent fruit beer, but it derived much of that appeal by tasting very little like a fruit beer.


1. Tofino Brewing Company: Spruce Tree Ale
2. Stanley Park Brewing: Icebreaker
3. Tofino Brewing Company: Kelp Stout

Oh man, loves me some spruce. Also, interesting to note Stanley Park/Turning Point’s success in the “let’s cram some shit in our mediocre beer and hope it sells” categories.


1. Brassneck Brewery: No Brainer Pre Prohibition Lager
2. Bridge Brewing Company: Wee Tipsy Peated Scotch Ale
3. Steamworks Brewing Co.: Steamworks Gose

I’m not sure if I could come up with three examples of more diverse beer styles if I tried. Sure, I know that is what this category is literally for, but still this is somewhat comically extreme.


1. Doan’s Craft Brewing Company: American Rye Stout
2. Barkerville Brewing Co.: 52 Foot Stout
3. Mission Springs Brewing Co.: Fat Guy Oatmeal Stout

Wood/Barrel Aged

1. Bridge Brewing Company: Imperial White IPA
2. Four Winds Brewing Co.: Pequeno Cabo Tequila Barrel Aged Berliner Weisse
3. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: Barrel Aged Vow Of Silence

This is an interesting, significant win for Bridge. Gold is always nice, but both of the other entries in this list were absolutely excellent. Bridge seems to be putting out better and better beer in their new facility, so we should keep an eye on them for next year.

North American IPA

1. Central City Brewers and Distillers: Red Racer IPA
2. Red Truck Beer: Red Truck IPA
3. Hearthstone Brewing: Hearthstone IPA

Before you freak out: Driftwood did not enter. Okay fine, you can still freak out. I’m surprised to see Red Truck on this list, as while there is nothing off about their IPA, it’s not exceptional either. Hearthstone, though, is no surprise to me.

Specialty IPA

1. Bridge Brewing Company: Black Rye IPA
2. Moon Under Water Brewery: Hip As Funk
3. Bomber Brewing: Blood From A Stone Red Rye IPA

Another interesting win from Bridge… colour me intrigued.

Belgian/French Farmhouse

1. Persephone Brewing Company: Multigrain Saison
2. Dageraad Brewing: Randonneur Saison
3. Ravens Brewing Company: Farmers Ale

Very happy to see the top two here (haven’t had a chance to try #3). Persephone’s was a favourite of mine when it came out, and pretty much everything Dageraad makes should have gold hung around it.

Strong Ale

1. Swans Brewpub: Legacy Ale
2. R&B Brewing Co.: Auld Nick Winter Ale
3. Swans Brewpub: Swans Scotch Ale

Belgian Abbey Ale

1. Dageraad Brewing: Blonde
2. Tree Brewing Co.: Trappist Artist Belgian Dubbel
3. Old Abbey Ales: Belgian Quad

Dageraad tops this category with their Blonde. All is well in the world.

Imperial IPA

1. Brassneck Brewery: One Trick Pony
2. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: 187 On An Undercover Hop
3. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: Hopnitist

Oh great, thanks, world. Now I have a strong desire to down these beers one after another to compare them.

Sours/Wild Ale

1. Four Winds Brewing Co.: Juxtapose Wild IPA
2. Strange Fellows Brewing: Roxanne
3. Dageraad Brewing: De Witte

I’ll admit it: I read the “specialty IPA” category above and just immediately assumed that Four Winds didn’t submit Juxtapose this year.

BEST IN SHOW: Brassneck Brewery One Trick Pony

My only complaint about this result is that OTP is not a single beer. It’s a series of interesting beers that range from “hey this is pretty good” to “shut up, I’m drinking” levels of attention-grabbing awesomeness. I would assume that the BCBA entry was from the current batch: a beer so good that, upon sipping it, you immediately lose the ability to assess other people by any factor beyond their likelihood to limit your access to more of this delicious ambrosia.

Well done, Conrad and Nigel.

Last words: Where was Yellow Dog? I simply cannot believe that YD entered their full lineup and struck out in every category…

Written by chuck

October 28th, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Beer and You

11 Responses to 'BC Beer Awards Hits and Misses'

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  1. I don’t get how Four Winds wins a gold medal in a sour/wild category with a beer that is neither.


    28 Oct 15 at 18:43

  2. Brett counts as wild, even if you “harvested” your strain from a wyeast bottle.


    28 Oct 15 at 19:06

  3. I feel like you held back on this one Chuck.

    A few notes…

    – the Juxtapose is now labelled as “wild” rather than “brett” as it isn’t technically a Brett beer.

    – Given that this was supposed to be the year of the sour I was somewhat disappointed to see an IPA win the category. (Even though the beer is awesome)

    – Agreed. Love to see Bridge getting some recognition

    – Agreed on the specialty category… it is the comparing apples to oranges award.

    – Love the Swans Scotch ale! Just saying….

    – Where does a Red Ale fit into the mix if it isn’t from the UK?

    Overall though, I think this year’s awards are a pretty good represtation of the state of beer in BC.


    28 Oct 15 at 19:41

  4. @dave – come on, you know exactly how that happened. The former brett trois was only reclassified as sacchromyces in April.

    Dave S.

    28 Oct 15 at 22:51

  5. For me this what a 50/40 mix of “wow-, glad to see that beer finally get recognized for what it is” and “what, really, how did that happen”. Throwing the fact that there will always be subjectivity in play, and that beers are often judged to style versus judged solely on flavour, I still can’t see how a panel can pick some of these mediocre beers as top 3.

    A couple of notes:

    1) Imperial IPA – other than Brassneck and Central City the best BC Imperial IPA’s came out in the spring so likely weren’t entered. You’ll notice all winners are pretty fresh batches here, all are good too so no issues with the selections.

    2) No Yellow Dog – Most often mentioned comment I’ve heard, that’s a big miss from the judges unless they entered their beers in weird categories. Sorry Red Truck, your IPA is decent, but it’s not better than Play Dead IPA!

    3) If Four Winds entered Nectaruous into the Sour Category as well, they must be scratching their heads yet again. No idea if they did or not.

    4) UK Red/Brown Ale – we need better examples of these beers in BC, very few good one’s are brewed here. No issue with the winners, just a weak category for BC.

    5) Sorry Fat Tug – that ship has been surpassed by all the new ones, but I’m glad you’re out there for those places just starting to offer craft “at least they have Fat Tug” has come out of my mouth many times.

    6) The fest is awesome, well run, well priced and tonnes of fun. This makes up for 95% of any complaints I have 🙂

  6. Yellow Dog is awesome. Their fresh hopped IPA on tap at St. Augustine’s was the best IPA I have ever had. Yes, even better than Sartori.


    29 Oct 15 at 11:01

  7. I believe the OTP was mosaic version. Hard to go wrong with Mosaic!
    I’m guessing batch variations and age go a ways to explaining part of the IPA category , plus palate fatigue. Certain amount of luck is involved in judging unfortunately. Eg tasting order and judges all don’t have same IPA character preferences.
    I think most of the judges for IPA did DIPA cat as well.


    29 Oct 15 at 13:07

  8. That’s bs. Driftwood entered beers. Saying they didn’t is just sour grapes and a little sad.


    31 Oct 15 at 12:52

  9. Sartori was entered too.


    31 Oct 15 at 12:53

  10. @Dustan – I didn’t really hold back, as I mostly agreed with the results. Believe me, I could use a good rant but these results just didn’t need it.

    @Mitchell – Yes, it was pointed out to me that Driftwood did actually enter (I had previously been led to believe otherwise). When I get fact checks like that, though, I like to do them in bold at the top of the article and then leave the original text in place. I don’t mind being wrong, and freely admit it when I am.

    That Sartori entered and didn’t place was surprising to me, as I felt this was a really good year for fresh hopped beers, and Sartori specifically. As always, though, it’s hard to know what went down during judging (I was invited to judge, but declined to keep my ranting options open 🙂


    31 Oct 15 at 13:20

  11. Beer awards are beer packaging awards.

    They’re not “fresh from the brewery the second it’s on tap straight from the brite tank and blanketed with co2 to protect from oxidation” awards. The judging is blind. They have no idea if it came from a bottle, keg or growler.

    A 1.5 month old bottle of driftwood sartori stored at any temperature won’t stand a chance against a freshly dry hopped ipa poured directly from the brite tank at a brewery. Chuck knows this.

    “That Sartori entered and didn’t place was surprising to me, as I felt this was a really good year for fresh hopped beers, and Sartori specifically.”

    Bottled on dates are critical for IPAs.

    The “drink now within 3 weeks don’t age” text on a pliny bottle taught us all that back in the early 2000s. The infamous zero o2 reading on alchemy’s heady topper ipa cans reinforced it 10 years later.

    Packaging is a losing game. Hop aromas are volatile. Late hop additions are gone after a few weeks in a bottle at best. Lowest o2 wins, especially for IPAs.

    If you want fresh hops, drink straight from a dry hopped keg, or become friends with someone that does. Reading this makes me so glad I have nothing to do with this game.

    Fuck the hype. Brew your own. Share your successes. And start your own blog.


    19 Nov 15 at 23:36

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