Barley Mowat 

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August Jack

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It was with great interest that I learnt of the impending opening of a beer-focused tapas bar mere blocks from Sharon’s apartment in Kits. Prior to this opening, if we wanted an evening out at a restaurant with even slightly decent beer, we had to choose between the Manchester, Bimini’s or, more recently, Ceili’s. Needless to say, we cook a lot.

August Jack promised to change that, so I eagerly accepted their offer of a fully comp’d evening to take their new menu for a spin. I won’t bore you with a course by course rundown of what I was fed; enough beer bloggers went through the August Jack that ten seconds of Googling will get you quite a few detailed takes. However, I will run down what was good, what was okay, and what was worrisome.

The Good

The food ranges from quite good to excellent, and let’s face it, that’s sorta why you eat out. All five menu items I sampled were well structured & balanced dishes, prepared with care, and all priced at a very reasonable level. In particular, the mussels were fantastic. The Pan Seared Beach Oysters offered a very BC-take on our local meaty oysters, and had a rich earthy flavour that took me back to my days growing up on the coast, filling my insatiable oyster craving via my proximity to the beach. Of course, you have to take great food with a grain of salt, as the restaurant was fully aware that over 3/4 of their clientele that evening were reviewing the grub. Anything less than awesome would have been a disaster.

Pictured: Food of some sort.
What do you want from me? I’m a beer blogger.

The Meh

The beers chosen to pair with each meal were a confused lot. Take the opening salvo: inviting a bunch of beer geeks to your new restaurant and thrusting Steamworks Pale Ale in their faces upon arrival is a ballsy move. This is arguably the worst craft pale ale in the province, and using it as your lead move in a beer-pairing restaurant is questionable at best.

Then take the oysters. Why, oh why, would you skip down a tap list that includes Storm’s amazing Black Plague stout and elect to pair your oysters with Unibroue’s Blanche de Chambly? Yeah, I get it; the coriander in the beer is supposed to pair with the tarragon and portobello slices. It makes sense on paper, but it just didn’t work on the plate. Stout with oysters is Beer Paring One-Oh-Freaking-One, and they missed it.

Some of the pairings did work, especially the Odin Kolsch/mussels pair, but overall there were enough misses or questionable decisions to make me not trust the menu’s pairing recommendations… in a restaurant staking its reputation on beer pairings.

The Worrying

A glaring menu omission can be found on the draught list itself. Where are the serving sizes? The beer stats (ABV, IBU, FG)? Tasting notes? The theme of the restaurant is pairing food with beer, but somehow no one thought to put together a couple of lines about what flavours the beer actually has?

However, no aspect of the evening was more concerning than the wait staff’s decision to seat a party of sloppily intoxicated, rowdy 20 somethings in the midst of two tables of mid-review bloggers. I get it; the restaurant was empty and man those folks looked like they’d leave a bit of money behind, but August Jack needs to decide what kind of restaurant they want to be and stick with it.


Overall, my evening at August Jack was a pleasant one, and it does take time for a new restaurant to find its groove. The planned draught expansion, and the beer bottle cellar will take time to build out, but should add an extra level of complexity and quality to a solid start.

Overall, though, the restaurant really does seem like an endeavour from someone for whom craft beer is not a passion, but rather a sound business investment (see owner Chris Hall’s other restaurant, the Sin Bin to back this theory). But you know what? Craft Beer in Vancouver has grown to the point where it really IS a sound business decision, and I’m okay with that.

Will I go back and pay this time? Absolutely. Should you? Yup.

As I am wont to do, I crawled outside the foundation and into their cellar. It’s not loaded with awesome beer yet, but it will be.

Written by chuck

September 3rd, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Bars

Tagged with

A Tale of Two Books

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I’ll be honest, my plan was to review two beer books that would make awesome hammock fodder for this upcoming long weekend, but the weather report just shat a steaming load of crushed dreams all over that idea. So here are two books you could read, um, on your couch I guess. While the rain pours down outside. Seriously, when did summer end, and why did no one tell me?

Book 1: Craft Beer Revolution by Joe Wiebe

Want to know something about Craft Beer in BC as of Summer 2013? Look in this book. Joe’s all encompassing compendium of BC Craft Beer doesn’t miss much of anything. Want a history of the early days of BC Craft Beer? It’s here. Want a rundown of the newest kids on the block? Bam, you’re covered.

However, where Joe’s book falls a bit short is, well, as a book. This is not a cohesive cover-to-cover read. It is a guide to the current state of beer in BC, with a few anecdotes sprinkled through for flavour.

The writing frequently repeats itself, declaring a new tidbit as a novel fact when it was actually discussed just two pages prior. This is to be expected for a book that was, no doubt, based in part off of Joe’s extensive and authoritative writings on BC Craft Beer over the past few years. Read it in short bits for best effect–I’m not saying it’s a bathroom reader, but that might just be the perfect application for it, aside from a reference.

Does any of that mean I don’t like Joe’s book? Nope. I’ll leave futher criticism of Joe’s approach until I have my own damned book on the market to point to (spoiler: I’m not writing one). Instead of pointing out what it isn’t, I should be spending more time pointing out what it is: a complete, up-to-date compendium of everything to do with Awesome Beer in BC, backed 100% by in-depth personal research by Joe himself (aka Joe went to a lot of breweries and drank a lot of beer… well played, Joe).

For a person just getting into local beer, or even someone with a bit more experience, this would be an invaluable resource. Even a huge beer snob like myself found some tidbits I didn’t know. I expect that many copies of this book will wind up under trees come December.

In short, is it worth a damn? Yes.

Also, the cover is cool, which is the most important part of a book.

Buy it now: Amazon $14.40 ($9.99 Kindle), iBooks: n/a, Chapters: $14.40 (n/a for Kobo)

Book 2: The Audacity of Hops by Tom Acitelli

The Audacity of Hops is everything that Joe’s Craft Beer Revolution is not. CBR is about BC, AoH is about the USA (BC gets about 1/2 a page). CBR is a guide to the current state of beer with some history for context, AoH is about the history of the craft beer movement with some current state of affairs for filler. CBR is fairly well written and easy to digest. Oh snap!

The Audacity of Hops attempts to string a narrative through the sprawling history and origins of Craft Beer in the United States. This history fits well when the book is talking about the start of the movement in 1960’s California, but author Tom Acitelli’s desire to present a cohesive, linear view of a history that is–in reality–fragmented, regional and random just doesn’t work, especially in later chapters as the breweries begin to pop up faster than you can keep track of.

Add onto that mix his use of prose that left me reaching for a thesaurus on many occasions and we wind up with a book that spends most of its 416 pages feeling just a little bit out of reach–as if you’re being lectured to–and don’t we all love that feeling.

As a narrative it fails, but as an extensively researched broad overview of just about every important brewery in the United States it succeeds. Fritz Maytag, Steve Hindy, Garrett Oliver, Sam Calagione: they’re all here, complete with backstory and a brief glimpse into what makes them tick. Not an in-depth profile, mind you, as there’s just too many to go that deep–a bit of backstory, maybe an interview snippet, and we’re off to the next famous brewery down the line, and boy there are a lot of them.

In short, is it worth a damn? Yes.

Where did they get a picture of my living room?

Buy it now: Amazon: $15.85 ($9.02 Kindle), iBooks: $15.99,Chapters/Indigo: $15.85 ($12.95 Kobo)

Written by chuck

August 28th, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with ,

August Beer of the Month

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I know what you’re thinking: good ole Chuck, lazily waiting until mid-month to update his Beer of the Month. However, that’s not the case! (this time) Nope, I was waiting for a worthy contender to step up to the plate, and boy was I patient.

Alas, none arrived. There were some decent beers, but ultimately nothing I felt really deserved a call out. So, the August Beer of the Month is: Nothing! Absolutely Nothing!

Stupid! You so stupid!

Sure, I could have gone the easy route and picked something like Parallel 49’s Li’l Red Sour, but I tend to pick beers that aren’t awful (sorry guys, it really isn’t any good). Maybe GIB’s Pucker Meister then? It’s a low-ABV style and I’m all about those, but honestly it’s not an amazing or highly unique beer, and I just singled out a low-ABV style by GIB last month. I don’t want to get repetitive or anything.

So, we’re stuck with nothing. Congratulations British Columbia Brewers, way to over-achieve.

Written by chuck

August 15th, 2013 at 5:49 pm

Posted in Beer and You