Archive for the ‘Beer and You’ Category
Okay, fine, I haven’t updated the beer 411 column on the right in quite a while (and now it’s gone). Maybe I just wanted to leave my beloved beer up in the lime light for as long as possible, or maybe I’m a lazy ass. It can be both things, right?
Well, leave it to Four Winds to jolt me into action. Sure, Saison Brett came out a few months ago and it was great, but meh, that’s old hat; we’d seen SB before. This week, though, they go and drop the long rumoured Nectarous bottle release on us.
Nectarous is one of those beers that the beererati have been talking about so long it’s almost become mythical. There was a sample batch released in small quantities last spring, and then it had occasional sightings at the brewery tasting room, but it never did show up in bottled form. All we had to go on was breathless reports of an amazing sour being developed south of the Fraser but, by the time we hired sherpas and found our way out there, it was gone.
Well, it’s here now, and as my mono-syllabic Untappd review hints, it’s freaking amazing. This is a world-class sour, folks, and you’d be a bloody idiot not to march into your nearest private liquor store and carry out as much as your body allows.
2015 isn’t a month old, and we already have a strong contender for beer of the year. However, there’s a chance this could just be the start. If the rumours I’m hearing about a never-ending parade of sours coming to BC this year are to be believed, we’re in for a hell of a 12 months.
UPDATE: I have been informed that this beer actually contains no fruit. All the fruity juiciness and esters are purely a product of the yeast and bacteria. While I’ve definitely had fruitless fruity sours previously, I would have bet damn good money on this guy having the real deal in it. That only makes this beer even more amazing.
Pours opaque orange/yellow with a tight, long lasting head.
Nectarine and peach, with a hint of tartness in the back balanced by lemon peel. Is that kiwi/jackfruit from the hops?
Wow. Perfect balance between the sweetness of the fruit, the yeast funk, the tartness/acidity/lemon and the hops. Where does the peach/nectarine end and the Galaxy hops start? Beautiful.
5.5% ABV / 15 IBU / Fruit Sour
Are you mad? Do you breath? Is life worth living?
Wow. So that happened. I, for one, didn’t see it coming; not even a little. But, rather than getting all picky about who killed whom, let’s just all take a deep breath and learn our lesson. When someone shows up at a party with a frothy container of liquid, it’s very important to not just assume the liquid is barely fermented ale. It’s important to consider that maybe, just maybe, it’s actually an ungodly amount of ayahuasca. That’s a Barley Mowat Pro Tip, right there.
Right, moving on. It’s that time of year again. Time to reflect upon the year that was, and hand out recognition to the few, the proud, the bearded. Yup, it’s time for the 2014 Annual Barley Mowat Excellence in Beer Awards, aka the Beerdies.
Unlike some other blogs out there, I don’t hand out annual awards based on popular votes. No siree. You see, people are fucking morons. Run a poll on your blog for a few weeks and you’ll wind up handing Granville Island Brewing a Gold Medal for the liquid vanilla-in-a-bottle what is Lions Winter Ale. This is proof that democracy just plain doesn’t work.
What we have over here at BarleyMowat.com is a classic, functional dictatorship. I try all the beers, tell you about them, then you go buy them, and then you agree with me by telling me how awesome I am. That’s our relationship and frankly I think it’s working for us. So, without further adieu, let’s get to it!
Finally someone pushes Driftwood from their reign of terror over my beer expenses. What change did Josh and Dave implement to tip the scales? Sandwiches. Yeah, I know. That’s pretty sad, but it’s the truth. If you want Chuck to consistently wander into your brewery and slap down money, don’t brew good beer. Instead, offer up tasty (and reasonably healthy) sandwiches in a convenient location forty feet from his day job. Damn I loves me some sandwiches.
I don’t mean “hot” as in great. I mean “hot” as in every brewery has one these days. Even recently opened Strange Fellows is getting hard to get into these days, and you might as well forget about Brassneck (I encountered a lineup there at 4pm on a weekday). Where did all these craft beer nerds come from? Half of them don’t even have beards! (edit: I have since been informed that these are “women”)
With all the new breweries opening, the local focus has been on establishing solidly brewed main beer lineups, not seasonals. The few breweries that do have steady seasonal lineups have either stagnated innovation-wise (Driftwood, Granville Island, Four Winds), failed to really hit a winner (Dead Frog), or shat the bed quality-wise (Parallel 49). With the landscape being what it is, I’m taking my ball and going home.
You can’t start a brewery these days without a barrel program, end of story. Walk into any of the newer facilities and what do you see? Barrel stacks, and I don’t mean one or two barrels here or there, I mean massive stacks of oak all lined up to make awesome beer. In a couple of years we’ll be wading in sours, people!
I’m going to break from tradition here and not just automatically hand this one out to Nigel. Sure, Nigel’s still the best, but his trophy cabinet is pretty full and I don’t want him to have to buy a new one. That’s floor space he could use for another foeder.
Instead, I’m going to give the nod here to Aaron Jonckheere. He’s half the team behind the just-opened Strange Fellows, but I’ve been talking to Aaron for over a year about his trials, concerns, and hopes. He hasn’t limited his sharing to me but, rather, has engaged everyone he could find as well as sharing his story on his own blog: I’m Starting A Craft Brewery. Sure, there’s a bit of clever marketing going on there, but also a genuine desire to make starting a brewery in BC easier. That’s very Nigel of you, Aaron.
When you’re lying on your back in a ditch, all you can see is stars. What the folks who wrote that aspirational quote failed to mention is that, 99 times out of 100, instead of reaching for the stars you just go out and re-do whatever it was that put you in the ditch in the first place.
Turning Point, on the other hand, has taken that first step towards crawling out of said ditch. They’re wet, sick and covered in composting garbage but, hey, they can almost see the road.
Okay, enough tortured metaphor. What I’m saying is that their beer used to be undrinkably insipid but now it’s almost not bad. Between Wind Storm and their Wit, the beer has improved drastically and the marketing, while still the target of a good chunk of my beer nerd rage, has at least toned down the absurd not-quite-lies that spoke to unscrupulous profit-driven motivations.
Well this one was easy. Not only is Yellow Dog hands-down the best new brewery of 2014, but they’re making a serious run at best brewery in BC, period. Their smoked porter won Best in Show at the BC Beer Awards, and frankly I think their IPA is health-destroyingly great. Combine that with targeted taunts about an upcoming sour and I get all tingly feeling.
Add to that mix what is probably the best tasting room experience in the province and you have a winning combination. Congrats, guys!
And now, the grand prize of the 2014 Beerdies (aka the Golden Beerdie):
I was rightly chided for missing Dave during last year’s awards but, let’s face facts: I don’t get over to the island very often and I could be forgiven for forgetting about Dave. Well, Dave met me half way this year. Seriously, his beer now extends most of the way across the straight.
Way to grow hair, Dave!
The government went and made it official: Grocery stores will be able to sell liquor as of April 1, 2015. This latest announcement comes as part of a slew of changes around wholesale pricing and government store restriction-loosening, and was met with about a 50/50 split reaction of “wee! booze while you shop” and appropriately skeptical hate-screaming over how impractical the imposed restrictions will make this.
To recap, even though the title of the presser might say “Liquor in grocery stores a reality” the nitty gritty details previously spelt out paint a picture of a red tape nightmare that will likely prevent anything along those lines. Here are the specifics:
- No new Licensee Retail Store licences will be created; grocery stores must purchase an existing license and move it. Despite a growing population and local liquor industry, the government has elected to keep the hard cap on retail licenses because… uh… the children, I guess? New licenses for the “Wine Store” license type though, will absolutely be issued as part of this.
- The old 5km restriction on how far you could move a license is gone. This has raise fears of all the grocery stores in cities like Vancouver draining liquor outlets from the hinterlands. I will show you below why that won’t be the case.
- Grocery stores must be at least 10,000 square feet in size to apply. This basically rules out your local produce store from getting in on the action, because selling liquor is a Big Retailer Game only.
- Liquor and beer must be sold via a store-within-a-store model, with separate checkouts, staff and security. There are several government and private stores already immediately beside the grocery store, so really this just prevents you from having to go outside. Also, note that I didn’t say “wine” there. More on that below.
- And the big one: grocery stores wishing to sell liquor must be a minimum of 1 kilometre from other, existing, Licensee Retail Stores (private liquor stores) or Government Liquor Stores. Again, note the curious absence of BC Wine Stores in that exclusion. It almost seems like they’re going somewhere with this, doesn’t it?
Rather infamously, all this information was summarized by the Vancouver Sun in an article a few months ago, pointing out that these rules effectively ruled out booze in grocery stores for every sufficiently large store in the City of Vancouver except two: the Choices Market on W 57th and another Choices Market on W 16th. Curiously, the W 16th location is actually about 960 metres from the Kitsilano Liquor Store, but perhaps the government is rounding up.
Also curious is the fact that the Kitsilano Liquor Store is not the closest booze outlet to the W16th Choices. Nope, at just over 700 metres distant is the Broadway International Wine Shop. However, being a Wine Shop (and not a Licensee Retail Store) they are excluded from the 1 kilometre rule. Now isn’t that interesting? It gets even more interesting when you consider that wine (specifically BC VQA wine) will be exempt from the store-within-a-store restriction above as well.
With all this info, we are beginning to develop a much better picture of how this whole “booze in grocery” stores thing will go down. On April 1st, grocery stores will be faced with two prospects.
Prospect 1: Buy all the LRS licenses within one KM of your store. This could be as high as 5 or 6 (using the Whole Foods at 8th and Cambie as an example), and the going rate for such things is high six digits each and will only go up dramatically once you start buying them all. Then, spend millions of dollars renovating your store to effectively build a liquor store, buy new point of sale and inventory systems, and then hire and train up new employees to use them. When this is done, Bob’s Discount Grocery not only has an attached liquor store, but Bob also has several spare licenses he can use out in his rural stores to ensure a consistent brand experience for consumers. All Bob’s Stores have liquor. Safeway doesn’t.
Prospect 1 is the exact opposite of what the fear mongers are throwing around. Instead of rural BC being drained of licences to put liquor in every Vancouver store, the 1km rule effectively means that Vancouver will be drained of licenses to populate rural grocery stores with grog. Don’t despair, though, as the costs of doing this for even one store are so astronomical so as to be fiscal suicide.
However, if one store does take the plunge, it’s game on. As expensive as licensing that Safeway at Commercial and Broadway will be, the cost of not licensing with be much, much higher when the Whole Foods down the street IS licensed and there aren’t any liquor stores anywhere near by because freaking Whole Paycheque bought them all and moved them to the strip malls ringing Kelowna.
Effectively, as of April 1st every grocery store chain with an interest in Vancouver will be engaged in a corporate Mexican Standoff–all assuring us that they won’t take the plunge while making secret plans to launch an all-out LRS buying blitz in a heartbeat if the competition moves first. It’s sorta like Mutually Assured Destruction, only way worse than nuclear war because this one is screwing with our beer.
After that nightmare scenario, Prospect 2 will seem downright sane. Prospect 2 is an elaboration on that whole, odd, wine exemption. Instead of buying those expensive LRS licenses with their screwed up store-within-a-store and 1km exemption rules, Bob’s could just focus on BC VQA wine and snap up a few of the 54 Wine Store licenses scattered around BC, or simply apply for a new one from the government for a small fee (since the years’ long license freeze seems to be over for Wine Stores).
Grab, say, one license per store and then relocate them into your local Bob’s. No 1km exclusion rule, and no 5km relocation limit to worry about. Next, Bob goes out and buys some BC VQA wine, and puts it on the shelf right next to the cereal, because who doesn’t like some Pinot Cheerio? No new renovations, no new systems, no new staff. Bob can sell that grog like it’s peanut butter, so long as it’s BC VQA wine. No other liquor can be sold this way.
I think it’s pretty clear which of these two scenarios will play out. The laws are so heavily skewed towards making ready access to BC VQA wine cheap and easy (for the retailer; BC VQA at a grocery store will be shockingly expensive for the consumer), while making arguably less-ready access to beer, spirits and non-BC VQA wine that I’m not even mad. Nope, I’m impressed. The BC VQA lobby strikes again, twisting BC liquor laws even further in their favour. Us beer folk, we’re fucking amateurs in comparison.
Despite having brewery and distillery and importer representatives included in the consultation process, the resulting legislation is a giant Fuck You to anyone who isn’t a BC VQA Vineyard. So thanks for that, BC Liquor Control and Licensing Board, way to take an overwhelming mandate for what should have been a relatively simple thing to implement (better access to booze), and turn it around into a massive pay out to your lobbying buddies.