I had a great New Year’s Eve. I got to spend time with some friends I haven’t seen in a while, see my buddy Tim sabre a champagne bottle right in freaking half, and then go home to spend some quality time amongst my lovelies in my newly finished cellar. Yup, not a bad evening.
The only way to cap such an evening is to play arrogant beer geek and hand out my annual awards. So, without further adieu, I present the 2015 Annual Barley Mowat Excellence in Beer Awards, aka the legendary Beerdies.
A quick reminder of the rules: I make them up as I go along, and I break them when it pleases me. There are no votes. There is no popular consensus; I will spend the next thousand words telling you what to like and not like and, honestly, isn’t that how you prefer it?
So let’s get to it!
Last year 33 Acres zeroed in on my weakness for eating lunch by launching a sandwich program, simply importing sandwiches from Gastown’s excellent Nelson the Seagull. This year they upped the quality by making the sandwiches in-house, from scratch. This also made them take 20 minutes to prepare instead of 5, and I ain’t got all day, dammit.
Combine this disappointment with the restoration of Chuck’s Beer Fridge of Awesomeness at my day job (pictured here) and we have a recipe for a new king. When you administer a tap of local draught beer for consumption by your beer-knowledgeable coworkers, it gets very hard not to just keep ordering Yellow Dog IPA, and that’s pretty much what I did all year. Damn me, that’s some good hops right there.
Call me weird, but the increasingly diverse–and delicious–food and not-beer offerings at various breweries blurs the line between brewery and pub even more, and I loves me a good pub. Heck, you can even get wine, or beer brewed at a different brewery, at many local ale factories.
Last year, no body got this bad boy. This year, Four Winds dialled in their seasonal release program, and keep producing hit after hit after hit. General rule: if it’s from Four Winds, and it has a cork, sell your mother’s remaining kidney to score an extra case.
Honourable Mention: Parallel 49 (Brewmaster Graham With). P49’s L’il Red Redemption showed us that Graham has more than just a few dozen barrels of vinegar stashed away across the alley, and their Sour White was an exquisitely polished beer of exceptional quality.
All that oak from last year is starting to pump out sours, and this summer’s superb Farmhouse Festival gave breweries a platform to showcase their speciality treats. Whereas 5 years ago it would be insane to start a brewery without an IPA, it’s increasingly hard to be taken seriously while lacking a solid Berliner Weisse. It’s a good time to drink beer in BC.
I’m taking a break from this one for 2015, as both Nigel and last year’s recipient (Aaron from Strange Fellows) have been too busy running their respective businesses to lend a helping hand to other startups.
Bridge Brewing’s main purpose in life was to provide a much needed oasis of not-terrible beer in the off-flavour swamp that is the brewing scene on the North Shore. You’d saddle up to their cool tasting bar, have a few beers, and think “huh, these aren’t great, but they’re pretty well brewed” and, if you sampled enough, you’d fine one or two you actually liked very much.
In short, they were your standard young brewery: still finding their way. With their new facility, though, came a much higher quality standard. Their beers are now solidly okay, with the odd very good standout. Keep up the good work, guys.
This one was easy. Even though SF technically opened at the end of 2014, they hadn’t been cranking out beer long enough to be considered. Now that they’re a year old, they can come collect their well-deserved Beerdie for being the best of the new crop, and on their way to one of BC’s top flight breweries.
Honourable Mention: Hearthstone (Brewmasters Darren Hollett and George Woods). Hearthstone jumped into the deep end of the craft beer startup scene by acquiring Red Truck’s old, sizeable, facility in North Vancouver. Their beers are all very competently brewed, but the standout of the current lineup is their IPA–I look forward to seeing how their lineup progresses.
And now, the grand prize of the 2014 Beerdies (aka the Golden Beerdie):
Yup. I’m skipping this one for 2015. I, personally, grew a beard so rich and luscious that I was mistaken for a homeless binner while taking out the recycling one evening. Other folks in BC’s craft brewing scene, though, did not their their beardly responsibilities quite so serious. Some even, gasp, *shaved* their beards this year.
What. The. Fuck. It’s not that hard, guys. Just don’t shave! Or, maybe, shave your head to make your small beard look longer. I’ve heard that works.