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Walking in a Winter Wonderland (December Beer of the Month)

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I’m going to take things in a slightly new direction here, and declare the December BotM to be all the various seasonals that crop up at this time of the year. It seems like you can’t turn around without bumping into a Christmas this, a Barley Wine that, or a Winter Ale there.

So, without further adieu, here’s the winter funtime seasonals that I will be keeping my eye out for, along with a bit of authentic Chuck commentary on each.

  • Driftwood Old Cellar Dwellar — I’ve been proactively cleaning out space in my cellar for this bad boy. I’ll even do a ’09, ’10 and ’11 vertical when it comes out. No, you aren’t invited.
  • R&B Auld Nick — Last year this guy had a bit of a buzz because of the, er, enthusiasm with which it tackled the ABV. This year, while it certainly has a bit more umph than the 6.5ABV label suggests, it’s not the same dark brown beery insanity from last year that made it so very popular with alcoholics. Still good, though.
  • Driftwood Bird of Prey — This came out, and was bought up in record time. I managed to find a few to put down despite missing the initial release. My thoughts? Keep it in your cellar for a year or so. If you want a Flanders Red right now, seek out the Storm version, which is better… now.
  • Howe Sound Father John — Just found a 2010 of this hiding in the closet, so I’ll definitely do a side by side. However, this is one of the best Xmas ales out of the gate, so focus on drinking it now versus later.
  • Vancouver Island Hermannator — I did a side by side of my last 2010 and my first 2011. A year made this beer fantastic, to the point that the new one seems pale and limp in comparison. Buy it to cellar, as it is cheap and there are better Ice Bocks on the market.
  • Fort Garry Munich Eisbock — And this is one of them. Fort Garry has only just now starting showing up out here in BC, and this is a great Eisbock to keep the cold at bay right now.
  • Saltspring Fireside — You know, we don’t get enough of this guy over here. A pleasant mug sipper for those with masonry fireplaces, giant dogs to use as foot-warmers, and awesome lounging jackets.
  • Howe Sound Woolly Bugger — Also a good sipper, if not the best Barley Wine out there. Buy it for the tiny wee bottle if nothing else. (The bottle is actually the recommended serving size for barley wine. I’ll let you ponder that while looking at that empty Old Cellar Dweller in front of you this holiday season).
  • Central City Thor’s Hammer — Expected out mid-December. This is one tasty barley wine; I still think it should be a crime to not bottle this.

Also rans:

  • Dead Frog Christmas Beeracle — Just not very good at all, sorry guys.
  • Central City Winter Ale — Did someone have an accident with the hop bucket while brewing this year’s batch? Much too hoppy for my liking. UPDATE: CC informs me this is on purpose. I’m on the fence, but perhaps they’re about to make a new style? Check it out.

Lastly, I haven’t including anything by the non-bottling brew pubs, as the list was already getting a bit longish. In short, this is prime malty beer brewing and drinking season, so everyone should get out to their local and consume, consume, consume.

Written by chuck

November 29th, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Change IS Possible

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Gather around everyone and I shall tell you a story.

There once was a people who struggled dearly under a cruel and unjust King and his corrupt government. The pitiless overlords forced their people into long queues to purchase the one magical substance that could make their suffering-filled lives endurable. Let’s call the substance booze.

Not only was the people’s access to booze limited. The King knew that the people wanted the magical liquid terribly, and thus limited it’s availability to only state-run stores so he could ensure all the profits went straight to the crooked government.

The people begged and pleaded their king to change, and let anyone sell their beloved booze anywhere. But alas, the king, blind to the desires and needs of his people, heard no complaint but his own. And thus the people continued to suffer.

Sound familiar? I’ll be honest, I didn’t make up the plot from scratch. I might have borrowed some of the major details from a real life calamity. However, things don’t end as poorly for our beleaguered plebs as you might imagine.

You see, a mighty band of heroes named Costco came to the kingdom, and with the use of 22.7 million “little knights” they managed to convince the people to rise up and overthrow the cruel king. Sure, it could be argued that Costco just wanted all the profit from booze for themselves, but hey, hard liquor in a 10 litre jug! And will you look at that price!

Ok, I’m done now. In case you hadn’t figured it out, I’m talking about Washington state, which just recently voted to overturn their state-imposed state-run monopoly on liquor distribution and retail. Costco campaigned heavily for this, of course, as the thought of people NOT hauling whole flatcars of booze out of their stores was almost painful to imagine.

Read more here: http://reason.com/blog/2011/11/09/liquor-liberation-in-washington-state

See folks, with enough time, determination, and a giant pile of cold, hard cash for bribes, anything is possible. Think big. CAMRA is starting down the path towards liquor law reform, but as of yet there isn’t a large corporate sponsor willing to pony up the bucks.

Written by chuck

November 10th, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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Get a Fat Tug in Public

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Congratulations are due to Driftwood Brewing, who have managed to get their grubby hands on that mythical beast, the fifth BCLDB SKU slot. For most small breweries, the LDB rather oddly limits them to four products, and only four products. This makes getting seasonal releases onto the shelves awkward at best. Howe Sound, for instance, seems to keep three permanent beers in stock and rotates in a seasonal for the fourth. Other breweries, like R&B, seem stuck at four permanently.

Thus, I was very very pleased when, starting a couple of weeks ago, Driftwood’s Fat Tug IPA began making it’s way onto store shelves next to White Bark, Crooked Coast, Farmhand, and their eponymous ale. Of course, Fat Tug then just as quickly made it way off said shelves and into the bellies of delighted beer fans everywhere. I’m not kidding; actually finding an LDB with Fat Tug in stock has proven rather difficult. I have been confronted with an empty slot on the shelf 3/4 of the times I try to buy it, and have to walk away disappointed.

And who can blame beer geeks? Fat Tug is at the LDB for a cheap, cheap $5.00 a bottle. Now that’s a product/price point I can get behind. Again and again. And really, isn’t over consumption what the LDB is all about?

With the addition of Fat Tug, the LDB Great BC Beer List has grown to a healthy five in my opinion:

  • Red Racer IPA
  • Phillips Hoperation Belgian IPA
  • Lighthouse Deckhand Saison
  • Driftwood Fat Tug IPA
  • Driftwood White Bark Wheat Ale

The addition of Fat Tug means that CC’s Red Racer should be feeling a bit nervous in its position as Best Beer Available At The LDB. I know I’ve gone on record saying it’s the better beer of the two, even if only marginally. However, I haven’t had a Red Racer v Fat Tug drink-off in a while, so perhaps I’ll re-evaluate things this weekend. Man this is a hard job. Red Racer ESB used to be one of my go-tos, but honestly I think the canned variety has gone downhill in recent months, and if that same deterioration is found in their IPA, well, let’s just cross that bridge when we get there.

Any other great, non-seasonal BC-based brews that should be on the shortlist?

Written by chuck

October 5th, 2011 at 11:31 am

Posted in Beer and You

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