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Alibi 400 Beer List

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My hosting provider might call me over this one, but it’s worth it. Okay everyone, here are all the menus for the Alibi Room’s 100, 200, 300 and 400th Beer List Celebrations! These thumbnails click through to very high resolution PDFs so you can print out your very own copy if you’d like, or perhaps just browse online and remember the good times (or forensically reconstruct the good times which you only vaguely recall). Cheers!

It’s beauutiful.

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Written by chuck

February 19th, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Posted in Bars,Beer and You

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The Albertans Are Coming!

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Twitter’s been a-buzz about a new mega-taphouse franchise from Calgary moving into the Salt Building in the Olympic Village. While the public consensus has been generally positive, the local beererati have been somewhat less taken with our new Albertan friends.

While “new taphouse” is a phrase to get any real beergeek’s attention, there are some warning flags that we also pay attention to, and boy-howdy is this place full of them. There are so many warning signs that I’ll do my usual thing and talk about each separately.

The Number Of Taps

They’re making all sorts of promises about bringing in lots of beer. 150 taps of beer, in fact. When a taphouse wants to talk about numbers before breweries, you know that the thing they care about isn’t the quality of the beer on a given tap, just that it’s a bit different from the tap next to it. Truth be told, Vancouver isn’t Portland, and keeping 150 taps full of high quality beer will be very difficult.

Now, both the Alibi Room and St Augustine’s boast large numbers of taps (50ish and 40ish respectively), but they didn’t pick a number and fill them, they looked at the beers available, figured out how many they could serve without compromising quality, and set that number. In the case of the Alibi, the opening number was less than 20, and it has slowly grown as Nigel decided he wasn’t offering all the possibilities his clients wanted. That’s a lot different from picking a nice round (and huge) number out of thin air, cracking open the catalogue, and ordering at random until you’re full.

Length of Draft Lines

3km is an impressive number, isn’t it? Sure sounds like they’ve got a high-tech operation there to be able to handle that. Of course, this reaction misses the point that long draft lines are bad, and that any decent taphouse will attempt to make them as short as possible, usually by running them under the floor to a taproom immediately below the bar.


Look at this picture. See how their tap lines are proudly displayed on the roof? That’s a very bad sign. And see how they’re not clustered together for cooling efficiency? Another worry.

While it does sound like a lot, 3k works out to only 20m per line. That means about 2/3 of a pint will be sitting in the line at any given time, slowly going bad. Still, not horrible if someone’s clearing the line by frequently ordering the beer. At 150 taps, you have to wonder when the last time someone ordered your particular beer was.

The Little Things

Go and seriously look at their beer menu. While they do have a few very interesting beers on tap, there are lots of little things that caught my eye. Specifically:

  • There is a category named “Anomalies”. “One-offs” I could see, even “Uncategorized” but “Anomalies”?
  • In that category is a saison. A SAISON. A craft beer focused taphouse with 100 freaking beers considers A SAISON weird? What’s going on here?
  • Every sub-category has a single page listing a few beers. Except Pale Lagers. Two Pages. Twelve beers.
  • Light Beer. That is all.
  • They spelt “trappist” wrong.
  • Several beers are improperly spelt or listed. Look at Russell/Blood Alley for instance
  • Just in case you were sidetracked by the beer, go look at the food menu and read about “Fast Food Sushi.” I won’t spoil the surprise for you.

I watch Epic Meal Time, too. That doesn’t mean I think they’re good chefs.

Mathematical Analysis

Okay, maybe this one is just me, I’m a bit weird about beer, but I figure the best way to predict what they’ll do here is to go see what they’ve done in Calgary. Their Calgary location only has 100 taps, but I think that’s a pretty good indication of their approach. Given the large number of beers, I decided to analyse this situation with math! Here’s a breakdown of some key stats from CBM’s CGY location versus our very own St Augustine’s.

Much of my math was done via RateBeer. While RateBeer is not perfect, it does provide a decent overall gauge of how good a beer is. Every 90+ point beer is not guaranteed to be great, but most of them are pretty damned awesome. As well, the warning level is around the 30 point level, as below that we’re looking at misfired craft beer and macro lager.

CBM St Augustine’s
1 Beer Taps 100 38
2 Pale/Light Lager (%) 18% 3% (1)
3 IPA (%) 7% 24% (9)
4 >90 pts (%) 21 21% (8)
5 <30 pts (%) 31% 5% (2)
6 Macro (%) 30% 3% (1)
7 Local 17% 45% (17)
8 Best Beer(s) Diel de Ciel Aphrodisiaque (100pts)
St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout (100pts)
Ayinger Celebrator (100pts)
North Coast Old Rasputin (100pts)
9 Worst Beer(s) Budweiser (0pts)
Bud Light (0pts)
Phillips Raspberry Wheat (19pts)
10 Mean Score 53pts 79pts
11 Median Score 45 79
12 Unranked Beers (%) 3% 24% (9)

(No counts given for CBM because they have ONE HUNDRED taps. How dumb are you?)

  1. Ciders have been excluded. Lousy apple-lovers.
  2. These products are not craft beer. They are anti-craft beer. Including more than 1 or 2 on your menu is incredibly worrisome.
  3. IPA is representative of a beer-nerd preferred style, and should be one of your biggest categories of beer if you want to be taken seriously. On a menu with 100 entries, 7 is all but ignoring the style.
  4. >90: Both pull through equally here, but CBM offers greater variety due to more taps.
  5. <30: Uh oh. 31 beers scoring lower than 30 is again, a very bad sign.
  6. As is 30% of your beers coming from macros. While some macros do produce good product, in general it serves as a warning sign when InBev is making the thing you’re cramming down your beer hole. And yes, the St Augustine’s Macro is GIB Taphouse, and not technically a macro, but if I’m counting Ommegang at CBM I’m counting GIB Taphouse at St Augustine’s.
  7. Commitment to local breweries is key for a great taphouse, and you can really see St Augustine’s focus here. Yes, Alberta doesn’t have as many breweries as BC, but they have more than 17 local beers (or which 4 are Big Rock).
  8. CBM comes through here. When you have 150 beers on tap, you are going to get some good ones. If your day involves tasting three of the highest rated beers in the world, and on tap at that, then go to CBM.
  9. And if you want to sample the worst of the worst, CBM is where you go as well.
  10. This is the most worrying. The idea behind RateBeer is that the score is compared to all other beers, and that the mean score of all beers on the planet will be 50. Thus, if you were to grab 100 beers at random, with no thought as to quality of beer, their average score would be… 50. CBM isn’t far off that mark. St Augustines really shines here, indicating that their list was carefully and thoughtfully put together.
  11. The median score is what you would expect if you ordered a beer at random from each list. The closest matching beer in this case is: Newcastle Brown Ale (CBM) and Storm Imperial Flanders (SA).
  12. Beers only get ranked on RB if enough reviews have been submitted to be statistically significant. An unranked beer is generally a newer beer, or a one off. SA’s much higher performance here is a result of working with local producers to bring in new releases. CBM’s performance is a result of no one drinking their house lager.


It doesn’t look good folks, but I’m willing to be wrong. I want to be wrong. Stocking a 150 tap bar in Vancouver with good beer will be incredibly hard but you know what? It’s possible. Imagine having nearly the whole lineup from every BC brewery in one place, or the 150 best beers available for purchase in the BC, or a month where every IPA in Cascadia is on tap. With CBMs money and infrastructure, these things are all possible.

As well, the Salt Building is a fantastic venue, and it features a cool damp natural cellar that is just begging for a few barrels of beer. Custom aged one-off releases? Yes please! I want Craft Beer Market to come into that place and do amazing things.

Vancouver is a finicky market where well meaning, competition-winning chefs from the middle provinces go to lose their shirts. Our beer market is the most mature in Canada, and we’re willing to reward a quality product with giant heaping wheelbarrows full of cash. Piss off our fickle nature, though, and you will suffer a slow bleeding death.

To CBM: Do us proud. Before you plan out your menu, go to The Alibi Room and sit at the bar. Watch how the best beer bar in town is run, and realize that this is what you have to do. Not just match, mind you, but exceed. See how the bartenders QC every new keg? See the knowledgeable staff answer questions about the beer, the brewery and the way it was produced? See the custom brewed beer that can only be bought there? See the rare kegs driven 250 miles to the Alibi Room by the brewers themselves because they want their product presented in a respectful way to knowledgeable consumers? See the proper glassware? See how it fills up 10 minutes after opening?

This is what it takes to succeed in this market. I’ll be happy to sit with you and point all these things out and more, because you have a chance to make CBM-Vancouver the single best beer bar the country has ever known.

Don’t fuck up.

Written by chuck

October 18th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

Posted in Bars

Tagged with

Low Hanging Fruit

with 6 comments

Alright, so now that I have some amateurish Seal of Approvals to slap on things, I guess I’d better start using them, eh? Before we get into the more interesting reviews, let’s spend a few moments today and get the easy and obvious ones out of the way.

Before we get going, please do remember that I have no interest in ranking these businesses objectively. I am solely interested in sharing my incredbily beer-skewed version of reality with anyone who will listen. The criteria for making this list is quite straight forward: do I want to go there, or would I rather go somewhere else?

Bronze is a place I’ll happily pop in for a pint if I’m in the neighbourhood (eg Yeah, sure, why not?). Silver is a place that I will go out of my way to pop into (eg Sweet! Let’s go!). And Gold is, well, to be honest, Gold is reserved for The Alibi and St Augustines (eg Fuck yeah!).

For those wondering why your favourite pub is missing from this list, it’s likely either because it’s not in Vancouver (I’m a Vancouver snob, sorry), or that I’ve simply not heard of it (or plum forgot, I drink a lot).

For those wondering why your favourite pub has been considered but tossed aside, please remember what I just said above, but also consider that even Bronze is a pretty freaking good rating for a pub. This is a tough list to make, and just because I didn’t feel the need to put my good name (and anthropomorphic seal caricature) on your beloved establishment doesn’t mean it’s no good. It just means I’m likely not going back.

So, without further adieu, here are the businesses that have earned the coveted(?) Barley Mowat Seal of Approval (for pubs).


The Whip
Once one of the stalwards of the craft beer movement, The Whip has been eclipsed by newer establishments. Brewery Creek’s resurgence in the craft beer scene leaves it posed to reclaim its former greatness, though.

Probably the best local brewpub, but the nearness and awesomeness of Rogue’s taplist begs the question: why bother?

Railway Club
I love the Rail, but they need more great beer, and they need to change it up once in a while.

Food: decent but pricey. Beer: interesting but not great. Patio? Top three in town.

The Bimini
A great oasis in the beer desert of the Kits strip. Too bad it turns into a nightclub around nine.

An interesting twist to the beer-focused restaurant scene, and a fantastic bottle list. Shame it’s five minutes from the Alibi.

Second Door (Malone’s)
I used to absolutely fear coming here, now I’m only kinda scared. It remains to be seen how long the Second Door will stick to its craft beer guns.

Brick & Barley (Incendio Pizza)
A tight tap list and decent pizza make this a decent backup for when the Alibi is full.

New Oxford (aka Hooker’s Green)
Great Yaletown patio, but the beer list definitely needs some work.

Biercraft Commercial
A little too focused on the more popular Belgians, and a little too close to St Augustine’s to seriously tempt me.

London Pub
While effectively a Russell tied-house, that isn’t always a bad thing. Throw in casks on Fridays and good proximity to the best Italian cheese shop in town, and I’m down.

Library Square
Great patio, decent food, and okay tap list. Just be sure to leave before the douchbag avalanche shows up in the evenings.

Exact same comment as Library Square. You’d think the Donnelly Group had a formula or something?


Portland Craft
Truly a special place, with a rapidly rotating list of unusual PNW beers. Almost gold, guys. Keep it up.

Tap & Barrel
PATIO. PATIO PATIO PATIO. (stupid glassware, slow service, blah food, okay tap list) PATIO PATIO!

Darby’s Pub
I know, I almost don’t believe myself, but look at that tap list, and look at that patio. The attached beerstore only makes it even better.

Biercraft Cambie
See what getting away from St Augustines does for you? I just like this location better.

Rogue Waterfront
Combine the great food with the good patio and awesome beer list, and it’s almost enough to dissuade me from walking all the way to Main St. Almost.


St. Augustines
Top flight beer list, but mostly ordered from a catalogue. I love the online beer menu, though.

Alibi Room
I cannot count the number of one-off or unique beers that have been produced just for the Alibi. That should tell you something.

Notable Absentees (not yet reviewed, but I’ll get to them):
Rogue Broadway
Parallel 49 Tasting Room
Cascade Room
Sunset Grill

Reviewed but not approved:
The Manchester — I get the feeling that the one good beer on tap isn’t ordered very often
Cinema — Proof that the Donelly Forumla is not universally applied
Irish Heather — Just not quite good enough to make the cut
Yaletown Brewing Company — Drink Boring Beer. Sorry guys, but change it up will ya?
Granville Island Taproom — Sure, Vern’s nice one offs are featured here, but it’s also crammed pack with tourists and has a 12oz serving limit. Go to the Alibi instead.

Written by chuck

October 9th, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Posted in Bars,Beer and You