Archive for the ‘Breweries’ Category
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of an urban snob. At least I came upon this trait honestly, though. You see, I grew up on the island, and I’m not talking Victoria. Nope, I’m talking “The Island” as in thinking “let’s all drive our trucks into the woods, build a giant bonfire, and chug Lucky Lager until we pass out” to be the height of societal discourse.
You see, I’ve had to discover and appreciate urban culture for myself rather than have it handed to me as my birthrate like some bloody hipster. Heck, if I hadn’t come to Vancouver for school just in time for the craft beer revolution, I’d likely still be there today. Maybe even with a bigger truck. Definitely with a bigger gun.
So when we start talking about beer what’s made in small towns, I get a bit skeptical as to quality. If the general populace of that small town don’t know shit about good booze (as I certainly didn’t way back when), then they’ll buy whatever crap is brewed locally and talk a good streak about how awesome it is.
In short, small town brewers have a tendency to put out mediocre beer and never know better, because no one knows enough to tell them. Eventually, they get big enough to ship a few bottles down to Vancouver, then they get panned, and subsequently go out of business, leaving Smithers brewery-less again… uh… you know, in general. I’m not talking about anyone specific here.
Thus, when I spied a screen-printed bottle of Barkerville Brewing’s 18 Karat Pale Ale in the local LDB a few months back, I reluctantly bought it expecting it to be bottled shit, or something even worse, like DMS-laden shit. Even though the brewery isn’t actually located in Barkerville, calling Quesnel home doesn’t exact get you big city cred.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the beer turned out to be pretty damned good. No, not just good, great. Now double the surprise you’re imagining when I stumbled over a bottle of their 52 Foot Stout and found it equally great. Well, crap, there just might be something here.
So I set out to get the rest of their beers into my mouths. The chaps up in Quesnel were nice enough to send along their Golden and Brown ales, and luckily my local Rogue Wetbar had a keg of their Wandering Camel IPA on tap.
Five beers brewed; five beers consumed. Are they all great? Nope, but they are much better than anything I’d expect to come out of Quesnel, and honestly better than about half the beer us Lower Mainland beer snobs are drinking on a daily basis. Are they worth driving to Quesnel for? Fuck that; nothing’s worth that. However, they are worth making some poor schmuck drive a delivery truck from Quesnel to Vancouver for. Heck, if I hadn’t moved to the city, that schmuck might be me.
Prospector’s Peril Golden Ale
Clear as a bell golden colour. Likely highly filtered.
Thin cara malt (some Pilsner?). Simple light hops.
Smooth round mouthfeel, some diacetyl, gives way to a tad too heavy hopping.
5.4% ABV / 24 IBU / Blonde Ale
Meh. There are better local Blondes around.
3.5/5.0 (Above Average)
Hound of Barkerville Brown Ale
Rich, beautiful, opaque, auburn; tight off-white head.
Light nose, some caramel/rye? Pepper.
Sweet malt, with metallic finish and slightly chemically hops.
5.9% ABV / 17 IBU / Brown Ale
Decent example of a brown, a style lacking popularity. So sure, buy it.
3.5/5.0 (Above Average)
Wandering Camel IPA
Light aromatic hops. Citrus, light pine.
Pours cloudy orange/yellow. Thin tight head. Long persisting.
Little bit watery but good hops integration. Nice jackfruit citrus freshness. Creamy mouthfeel.
6.5% ABV / 48 IBU / English IPA
If fresh, yes. This guy goes over a serious cliff after about a month.
3.5/5.0 (Above Average)
18 Karat Pale Ale
Light caramel. Some slight c-hops.
Pretty much perfect bitter/pale body with a tight persistent head.
Bam. Great slight roast malt. Well matched hops. Good finish. Great stuff.
5.0% ABV / 33 IBU / American Pale Ale
Some bottle variation, but I’ve had some killer samples.
52 Foot Stout
I’ll admit it: I like Spruce Ales. In much the same way that I’m not partial to White IPAs, I am partial to Spruce Ales. So, you should take this review with a grain of salt. Maybe I’m just gaga over anything with tree bits in it, or maybe I hold Spruce Beers to an even higher standard because of how much I lust after them. I honestly have no idea.
Dead Frog is continuing to try and convince the world that they’ve given up their Lime Lager ways, and the Big Stump Spruce Golden Ale is the next in their “no really, it’s good beer, we swear!” series. Okay, fine, the series doesn’t actually have a name but that’s how they’re coming across. And, while the Lime Lager Days definitely are behind DF, their debt to craft beer in general hasn’t quite been paid off yet.
The press material for this beer is frankly incomplete, only hinting at the origin of Spruce Tip Ale with a frustratingly vague reference to Captain Cook’s NorthWest voyage. Spruce Beer was indeed brewed by Captain Cook, who’s on-board brewery mixed spruce tips in with their ale to combat scurvy. While the exact origins of the practice are not known, it is certainly at least several centuries older than Captain Cook. You can learn more on WikiPedia.
Secondly, and minorly, the presser mentions that Dead Frog draws their water from the Fraser River. I will chalk this one up as poetic license, for if they’re pulling that brown “liquid” into their brewery we should all get tested for any number of water born illnesses immediately, but I digress.
How is the beer behind the label? Not bad at all. It’s not an amazing Spruce Ale, but it’s fairly competently done, and a great example of an all-too-rare style. Combine that with a beer that frankly pours an attractive glass, and you have a strong contender for your weekend patio pints.
|Style||Golden Ale (Spruce)|
|Does it compare to the first Tofino Spruce Tip IPA?||Sigh. No. Nothing ever could.|
|Cost||$5.50-$7.50 per 650ml|
|Similar Beers||Tofino Spruce Ale|
About a month ago, a local pseudo-brewery sent out a request on Twitter for people to review their new beer. Whistler Brewing (actually a subsidiary brand of the larger NorthAm Group out of Kamloops, which also brews the piss-in-a-can known as Bowen Island Beer) had released a new California Common, titled Big Sky, and wanted local beer snobs to know about it.
It didn’t take long for the kind folk of Twitter land to suggest that perhaps they should send a sample off to me for review. Strangely, no sample arrived. Perhaps they forgot. Or, perhaps they’re even passingly familiar with my blog and/or previous reviews of their “beer”.
Whistler could be forgiven for thinking that I have it out for them, but then again I did rather like their Lost Lake Unfiltered IPA. So, you see Whistler Brewing, it’s your beer I dislike intensely, not you. If you brew better beer, I tend to give it good reviews.
See how that works? Weird, right? I know, I know, it truly would be so much easier if I was the kind of beer snob who would hand out praising reviews simply because you’re giving me free beer. Alas, that’s not the case. Also alas, it’s what gives the following review some clout.
First up, the style. I’ve always suspected that the marketers ran the show at NorthAm, and calling this beer an “Uncommon Lager” just reinforces that. The label rambles on providing a decently accurate description of the California Common style, although they completely fail to mention anything about California, or the actually interesting history behind that style.
Why would they invent a style, though? I can’t profess to know, but I suspect their target market might be confused by the California Common term, and its nasty trait of not having the word “Lager” crammed right in it. Perhaps unsophisticated beer drinkers of the sort what comprise Whistler’s demographic like lagers, and generally can’t be counted on to be patient or literate enough to bother reading the beer description. Sure, that’s rampant speculation, but I’m running with it.
Is it any damned good, though? Meh. It’s an okay, if not great, Cali Common. When I drink a Cali, I’m looking for a smooth malt body and complex finish. This beer falls short of the mark. Cereal properly comes through up front on the palate, but the finish is dominated by bitter hops without any of the firm, toasted grain backbone typical of the style. If you want a Cali Common, go drink 33 Acres of Life, which is drinking particularly well right now.
pale red, filtered. Thick tight persistent white head.
Hints of pilsner malt. Cereal and strong grain. About right.
Like a strongly hopped light ale. Lacks lager crispness and round mouthfeel, yet despite all this is actually very sweet. Long unpleasant bitter finish.
5.0% ABV / 36 IBU / California Common
Do you like boring, over hopped beer?
|Best use||Making 33 Acres Life taste even better|
|Cost||$4.75-$6.00 per 650ml|
|Similar Beers||33 Acres of Life, Anchor Steam|