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2013 Beerdies

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What a night, eh? Wow, that was epic. I have to admit, if you asked me at the start of the evening if I thought I’d be able to get up at 8am to work on the blog I’d have carefully expressed my respectful skepticism. My answer would have morphed from “Unlikely” to “Feeesk yoush… yoush don’t know meee!” right about the time we were saddling that pack of stray dogs, and hanging a cat from a string on a stick.

Okay, fine. I’ll be honest. I wrote this over the weekend and it’s been auto-posted and Twitter-pimped by clever software. I am asleep, or in a ditch, or maybe even asleep in a ditch. You most likely are, too, and might even be beside me, but that’s what cellular data is for.

Last year on New Year’s Day I introduced the “Annual Barley Mowat Excellence in Beer Awards” aka The Beerdies, and I figure there’s no sense in introducing an annual something if you don’t plan on at least doing it every year or so, like clockwork. That’s me: when I make a commitment to give out an award repeatedly, on a set schedule, I come through each and every time. Why are you laughing?

Enough intro, time for the awards! Unlike most Year In Review columns, I’ve waited until the year is actually done, so even newly opened Green Leaf had a chance to be considered. Sure, they didn’t win anything, but they were considered and that’s enough for me.

Brewery What Took Most Of My Money: Driftwood (brewmaster Jason Meyer)

A repeat from 2012, but Driftwood isn’t as far out front here as they have been. This whole “brewery lounge” thing has given a distinct advantage to the newer breweries right by my office, and while Driftwood still won out due to a few great seasonals bought by the caselot, and Fat Tug being my go-to beer in non-beer pubs, Brassneck was not too far behind… and they’ve only been open a few months… I drink a lot after work, is what I’m saying here.

Also before work, but that’s just part of a balanced breakfast.
Hottest Brewery Accessory: Lounges

Tasting rooms were swell, but the ridiculous legal restrictions made them kinda sucky. Lounges, though, turn brewery tasting rooms into de facto bars, but bars that just happen to have direct access to the freshest, tastiest beers around. Chuck likey.

Best Seasonal Lineup: Parallel 49 (brewmaster Graham With)

This was a hard decision to make (see Most Improved for the runner-up), but in the end the sheer number of interesting beers coming out of Triumph Street gave the nod to P49. Sure, they dumped L’il Red on the market like you’d dump an old mattress in an alleyway, but they also released Hopnotist, and about a dozen other great beers.

Best New Trend: Food Trucks at Breweries

Tuesdays have become known as “Pie and Beer Day.” A constantly rotating food truck out front lets the brewery focus on beer, and lets people inside said brewery have an ever-changing rotation of cuisine to choose from. The mix and matching for beer pairings is endless.

Best Nigel Springthorpe: Nigel Springthorpe

Even though Nigel did the unspeakable and shaved away all his beer geek cred in one foolish, marriage-saving move, he still takes home the candy. Nigel’s day-in, day-out commitment to supporting, making, and serving top notch beer has transformed this city into the premier craft beer destination it is today and I, for one, will never stop being grateful.

I can still lament the horrible beard decision, though, right?
Photo credit: Vancouver Sun
Most Improved Brewery: Granville Island (brewmaster Vern Lambourne)

No, I’m not talking about their regular lineup. That’s still dreck. I’m talking about the one-off and seasonal releases that are still brewed on the namesake island/bloated peninsula. Vern’s beers have always been decent, but this year he doubled the special sauce in the ingredient list. They’re better both inside and outside the bottle.

First, I’ve been a champion of differentiating the branding between the Molson-ized 12oz products and Vern’s carefully crafted line of bombers for quite a while, and they finally heeded me (let’s just pretend it was me, okay? It makes me feel important). The bombers don’t lie about where they were made, but neither do they scream Granville Island at you. This increases the chance of their selling on merit, to craft beer types–not the market their mainstream beers are targeted at.

Second, the beers are just plain better than last year. Pucker Meister, Burly Goat, Thirsty Farmer, Mad Dash, Uncle Monty’s–all great. Plus, somehow they made a collaboration IPA with Joey Restaurants that is outstanding (it’s white labeled as “Urban Legend” and getting rare). All round, more good beer, showcasing more of Vern’s talents.

Best New Brewery: Four Winds (brewmaster Brent Mills)

Nothing like an upset, eh? Brassneck doesn’t win Best New Brewery? What gives? Brassneck is producing some mighty fine beer, but Four Winds started off good and has been dialling in their regular line up over the past six months to near perfection. Their IPA is challenging the reigning trifeca of Central City, Driftwood and Lighthouse, and that takes some doing. Then, this fall they went out and released two great barrel-aged beers, and confided in me that a sour release was coming. However, nothing speaks to their potential more than the beer they didn’t release.

Remember that jaw-dropingly awesome Saison Brett? Well, there were two batches of it. Yup, two. Only the first one was released, though, because Brent didn’t feel that batch number two lived up to his quality expectations. That’s a move that takes balls, and shows an unrelenting commitment to great beer, and that’s why they got my nod in this category.

And now, the grand prize of the 2013 Beerdies (aka the Golden Beerdie):

Best Beard in BC Beer: Josh Michnik (33 Acres)

I almost gave this prize to the no-doubt sizeable heap of Conrad’s ex-beard, but I had forgotten that a great BC Beer Beard existed just four blocks to the west. Congrats, Josh!

If you think he looks trepidatious, keep in mind that I just pulled out a camera and asked if I could take his picture “for the internet.”

Written by chuck

January 1st, 2014 at 11:51 am

Extreme Reading

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Got a beer snob on your Xmas shopping list, and are running out of ideas? Assuming that special someone is at least partially literate, you could plausibly pick up a copy of Adem Tepedelen’s The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers. This 208-page, picture-heavy, full colour tome is a veritable encyclopaedia of craft brewing’s obsession with redefining the edges of what qualifies as “beer.” Page after page yields beautiful, well laid out summaries of rare or interesting beers, and a detailed review of each.

What this isn’t, per se, is a book. Blurbs on individual beers rarely last more than a single page, and occasionally interviews with metal musicians are thrown in because… well, because Adem writes the Brewtal Truth column for Decibel Magazine, and it’s on theme, that’s why. The end result is a more like a series of beer/music pamphlets loosely collected around a single theme than anything that could be confused with The Great Gatsby (which is a book, not a movie, dammit).

The highlighted beers are chosen for one or more extreme qualities, like extremely high ABV, containing more hops than eight lesser brews, or a desire to kidnap the Reinheitsgebot, shoot it in the head, and dump the body out in the woods somewhere. What beers are not chosen for is quality (many of the highlighted beers are virtually undrinkable, with the occasional great one thrown in for spice), but let’s face it, a 200-odd page book that does nothing but blather on about how awesome the beers contained are, and how the author got to drink them (and you likely never will) wouldn’t exactly be a good read now, would it?

The mini-summaries of each beer are fairly well written; Adem has more literary talent than many other beer columnists out there and it definitely comes through in the prose. Even Adem’s talent for spinning a yarn, though, doesn’t make up for the main drawback of this book: it’s a top ten list in print form (okay, fine, a top ~200 list), and it reads like one. Don’t fool yourself, reading about a single beer will be great fun, but reading the whole book cover to cover just isn’t a thing you’ll do in one sitting, if ever.

Ultimately, though, I like this book. Adem’s reviews aren’t critical (he seems to like most of the beers, including the obnoxious Rogue Voodoo Maple Donut), but finding beers you like isn’t what this book is about. Rather, this book is a great source for beers that will instill in you the same core urge which drives you to smell the long-expired milk: raw, morbid curiosity.

In short, is it worth a damn? Yes.

Zero points for cover design–sorry Adem, but this is ugly.

Buy it now: Amazon: $16.02 ($9.99 Kindle), iBooks: $11.99, Chapters: $15.85 ($10.79 for Kobo)

Written by chuck

December 17th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

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How an Awesome Growler is Born

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Ever wonder why those slickly awesome 33 Acres ceramic growlers are $65? Watch the video below to see how they’re made from start to finish, by hand, down in Portland (by the logically named Portland Growler Company). In addition to the clean aesthetic of the pure white version favour by 33 Acres, they have one-of-a-kind wood-fired versions (for twice the price, of course).

33 Acres’ growlers and their dirty, dirty cousins. Oh yeeeeah.

There’s still time to order one for that special beer geek in your life (or beer blogger that you secretly adore from afar), but before you whip out that VISA there are two caveats that you’ll need to accept:

  1. Shipping is pricey, as these guys are both heavy AND in the US. $30 shipping on a $65 growler might discourage you, but then again, that’s what Point Roberts was built for. Plus, of course, 33 Acres has a few of their branded versions left in their tasting room.
  2. Being opaque, these beautiful little vessels can’t be used in the growler-filling stations so popular in BC (which require the operator to watch the beer levels inside). So tap fills it must be. UPDATE: 33 Acres says they’ve figured it out, but other breweries might not be as clever.

Even with those drawbacks, they’re still awfully pretty to look at.


Portland Growler Company from Cineastas on Vimeo.

Written by chuck

December 4th, 2013 at 10:45 am

Posted in Beer and You

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