Barley Mowat 

Archive for the ‘Beer and You’ Category

So You Wanna Be A Craft Beer Nerd

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I wrote this little piece for vol.2.2 of The Growler. The version below is the unedited I version I submitted for publication, so it might contain somewhat more profanity than the printed version, but y’all should be used to that on this site.

Craft Beer is IN. It’s hip, it’s local, it’s environmentally friendly, and to top it all off, it gets you drunk. What not to like? I think Oprah even mentioned it (editor’s note: she most certainly did not).

So, you’re ready to do this. You’re ready to take the plunge and become an authentic Craft Beer Nerd (or, as I like to phrase it, a member of the Craft Beererati). You have your plaid button up shirt, skinny jeans, up-cycled shoes, and you haven’t shaved in weeks. Let the oat soda flow!

Maybe not, though. There are definite downsides to becoming one of the Beery Elite. Perhaps you should consider the following before taking the plunge into the mash tun (aside: do NOT take a plunge into the mash tun; it’s, like, 60 degrees C in there).


Yeah! Cheap beer! Superbowl commercials featuring animated frogs or slow motion horses! Cheerleaders! Summer BBQs! U-S-A! U-S-A! The one thing that ties all that together is American-style Pilsners such as Budweiser, Molson or Labatts.

They’re not fancy sniffing beers, but they sure taste good after a hot afternoon mowing the lawn, right? Wrong. These beers are swill: the desiccated, slightly fermented extract of horse urine filtered through straw.

Once you have craft beer, and once your taste buds become accustomed to the wild flavour party what is a finely crafted pale ale, there is no going back. You will hate Macro Swill, and all that it represents.

Every slightly sweet sip of a can of Molson will taste every bit the god-awful corporate bullshit and cheapest-available ingredients that it is. You will reach a point where drinking that can of Macro isn’t even an option, and you will find yourself having wine out of a plastic cup at a summer BBQ because all they have in that ice-filled cooler is Michelob Ultra.

You can dig for hours but you’ll still end up settling for that Stanley Park you saw in the first 10 seconds


No shit Sherlock, you say, right? Of course beer makes you fat. That’s why you can have Lite beer instead. It tastes the same and doesn’t make you quite as fat.

Well, once you go craft, Lite beer is off the menu. There is no Lite craft beer. Not only that, but regular craft beer has about twice as many calories as even the full strength Macro Swill equivalent. Plus, it’s so good you drink more.

Add all that up, and suddenly we understand why craft beer geeks all wear tight jeans.


I have a saying: “If you want to be slightly frightened, ask me about beer.”

I love craft beer. I’ve made it an obsessive hobby of mine. If I start talking about beer, the people around me start off acting politely interested… then after a few minutes they start trying to change the subject… then a few minutes later they stop talking and just turn around and leave.

This will be you. You will be so immersed and obsessed about beer that your friends will use an entire breathless sentence to introduce you to new acquaintances: “ThisIsChuckDon’tAskHimAboutBeer”


The resurrection of the growler is the best thing to happen to beer in many decades. Fresh beer, straight from the place it was brewed, briefly to your fridge, then into your face. Fuckin’ A, bubba!

However, you’ll sometimes forget your reusable growler at home, so you’ll have to buy a new one. They’re only about $5, so no biggie. That’s how it starts. Then growlers start seriously piling up.

You might rationalize an entire kitchen cabinet given over to growlers by saying that you’re “collecting them.” They’re all a bit different, after all, and some are rather nice. That’s all the justification you need to bleed your collection over into the living room.

Image blatantly stolen from Beermaid

Fast forward a few months and anyone who walks into your house will assume you have developed a serious drinking problem (except, you know, the growlers are empty).


No, no, not THAT kind of problem (well, okay, maybe that kind of problem). I’m talking about something more aligned with the Airplane “Drinking Problem”: you will being purchasing more beer than you can physically drink.

Special releases, rare one-offs, great deals on case-lots of Eclipse 50/50… all these will begin accumulating somewhere in your house. You will buy a cheap fridge off Craigslist to keep these purchases in, then you will research and buy an actual liquor “cellaring cabinet” to store what you have begun referring to as “my cellar.”

Spreadsheets will be filled out with particulars on your collection, and then, as your harem expands, you’ll start eyeing up a corner of your basement to insulate and cool to make a walk-in cellar. Then, stuck with a cellaring cabinet you no longer need, you’ll start writing beer articles for periodic circulars just to convince other beer geeks they need a “cellaring cabinet” so they’ll buy yours.

Seriously, though, anyone want to buy one? I have, like, two to sell.

Well, now you know what you’re in for. To be completely honest, had I read this before I took the plunge I would have… not changed a thing. Damn, Craft Beer is good.

Written by chuck

July 7th, 2016 at 4:13 pm

Posted in Beer and You

A Quick Word on the Vancouver Island Brewing Sale

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Today Vancouver Island Brewing announced that they were being sold. Not to AB-InBev or Molson, nope, but to Bob MacDonald, who also owns Muskoka Brewing. Bet you didn’t see that one coming, did you?

Slipped in near the bottom of this Press Release was also the announcement that Tim Barnes, until today VP of Sales and Marketing at Central City, will be taking over as President of VIB.

I think this has the potential to be a very positive move for VIB. Read on for why.

As an islander, I know how fiercely loyal to Island-based brands us backwards, woods-dwelling, cousin-marrying, yokels can be. Heck, Lucky Lager still sells by the gallon-lot on the island because people still think it’s produced there. We all know it tastes like slightly-worse Molson, but it’s an island beer (in reality, it was bought by Labatt and production moved to the mainland in 1982—they have contemplated axing it several times, but keep it around because islanders have been reluctant to switch to Labatt other properties).

For islanders demanding something slightly better than Lucky, there was always Vancouver Island Brewing. And boy howdy did we drink it. 12 packs of Piper’s were a staple growing up, and still are the main tenant of any island fridge.

However, that’s slowly been changing. Despite an initial reluctance to accept craft brewing north of Victoria, lonely Tofino Brewing has in recent years been joined by a sudden rash of small scale craft breweries. In particular, the area around Courtenay has seen a huge boom in decent beer, but Nanaimo and Duncan have also seen openings.

This trend indicates islanders are slowly, reluctantly, releasing their iron grip on VIB’s brews in favour of tastier, upscale products that also happen to be produced on the the island. VIB’s sales have suffered hugely in consequence: down 11% year-over-year from 2014 to 2015 (latest numbers available from the LDB).

Tim Barnes is a marketing and sales guy first, and a beer enthusiast second. Even so, he’s very familiar with how the market reacts to a superior product: he witnessed Central City’s explosive growth firsthand, and that cannot but had an impact on how he views beer markets.

The number one job in front of the new ownership and new management at VIB will be to reverse that downwards trend in sales, and given their market I think that can only spell good things for the future of Vancouver Island Brewing.

Time will tell, though.

Written by chuck

June 15th, 2016 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Cellar Chronicles Part III: You Put Your Beer In There

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It’s been a while since I blogged about my cellar. Despite plenty of historical precedent this was not actually due to my extreme laziness. Rather, the schedule villain in this scenario was contractor availability and racking orders.

When planning out your cozy booze cave, it’s important to be very certain about how much room you have to build shelves and bottle racks. So much so that instead of taking a rough estimate of the finished interior space I had to work with, I elected to wait until I had the real thing to measure. When your wiggle room is less than half an inch, you bloody well want to be sure that your measurements are accurate.

If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

So you do math, lots of math. It turns out that this step is pretty common when planning out a cellar, so all the shelving units come with reasonably accurate dimensions, which allows you to model out how awkward it’ll be to take that third imperial stout of the evening off the shelf. For reference, I elected to go with VK Redwood racking from

In addition to lots of measurements, most popular wine racking systems are available in the Google SketchUp 3D model warehouse. That means I could model this stuff in 3D to see how it looks. Sure, it took me a few hours and was somewhat niggly, but it allowed me to procure that all-important spousal approval prior to commencing construction.

This is a perfectly reasonable thing to spend three hours modelling.

In additional to the dedicated wine (and corked beer) racks, I also went out and ordered a whole bunch of Ikea Ivar modular shelving. These will be home to my upright beer bottles, pickles, and earthquake supplies (because hey, if that 9.0 strikes, what better place to camp out than a small, cramped room in my garage with a floor absolutely covered in broken bottles and stale beer?). These things are cheap and come in a variety of sizes/configurations. Pro tip: check to make sure each piece has the prerequisite pins before buying or, since they give out the pins for free in the customer service area and the pins are a bitch to pry out of the packaging, just grab a handful or two on your way out while you’re eating those terrible-yet-strangely-compelling 75 cent hot dogs.

The beer half of the cellar had a bit more wiggle room, and cost a tiny fraction of the price, so I didn’t bother modelling it out as carefully as the wine half. This was a decision that in no way came back to haunt me later, when I discovered that the Ivar legs were two inches too tall for the ceiling moulding I had installed, or that one of the Ivar legs perfectly covered up an electrical outlet. No siree, that didn’t suck at all.

Here is my shame, for all the world to see.

So, uh, yeah, measure everything, you fools. Access to electrical is critically important, as your cellar is cool and dark to start with, and only gets more so as you add in bottle after bottle of delicious barley sauce.

Last pro tip: check the weight limits of your Ikea Ivar shelving and compare that to your beer which, shocker, is surprisingly heavy. No, I didn’t suffer a massive calamity, but let’s just say that those corner shelves will need a bit of reinforcing prior to being completely filled up with wobbly pops.

That’s about it, folks. The cellar is now up and running: my cheap space heater is heating, and the cooling unit eagerly awaits its chance to take part come spring. As a parting gift, here is a panoramic shot of my lovely, with most of the Ikea shelves installed.

Ooooooo yeaaahhhhhh….

Written by chuck

January 15th, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Posted in Beer and You