Archive for the ‘Beers’ Category
When you think of craft beer in Vancouver, you don’t often think of Old Yale Brewing. I mean, they’re all the way out in Mordor (the Wack), so their beer can’t possibly be any good, right? So let’s just grab another hop bomb from <insert hip hot new local brewery here> and call it a day.
Thus, when 2014’s Canadian Beer Awards rolled around, more than a few eyebrows where raised when Old Yale’s tried and true Sasquatch Stout won the coveted “Beer of the Year” award. I’ll be honest, it took me by surprise as well. 2013’s winner was Powell Street’s delicious Old Jalopy Pale Ale. I had no problem with that. Hip new breweries beat the old guard, right? Punchy Pales > Boring Old Stouts.
Or so the thinking went before everyone woke up and remembered that Sasquatch is really quite a well brewed Stout. The win looks like it might have been somewhat of a surprise for the fine folks at Old Yale themselves, as the sudden rush of sales and publicity that follows such an award seems to have jarred them into a bit of a brand modernization.
With that rebrand comes a new brew, being right now broadly distributed via the BC LDB. With broad distribution comes media samples, and for the first time ever I received some Old Yale product to open, taste, and trash/praise. So, is Vanishing Monk Belgian Wit any good?
Yup, it is. It won’t blow your mind wide open, but it is a very well brewed example of a style that’s easy to mess up. Frankly, this beer is pretty good. There’s lots of yeast complexity going on here, but not so much it becomes the focus of the beer. There’s a subtle line between a refreshing Wit and a beer that’s all gonzo “Look at me! I’m brewed with a kooky yeast! CAN’T YOU TASTE THE ESTERS?!”
Plus, at 5.59 (before taxes) at the LDB it’s not a bad option. There’s lots of great competition in the Wit Zone, but Old Yale’s is one of the better ones.
Pours cloudy yellow with a thin, instantly dissipating head.
Faint lemon zest, good Belgian yeast esters (clove, black pepper).
creamy mouthfeel, good balance between sugar and yeast complexity. A nice light summer ale.
5.0% ABV / 20 IBU / Witbier
Yes, and then find a patio by a lake for full effect.
Driftwood White Bark, Strange Fellows Jongleur, Brassneck Staircase
I’ll admit that I’ve been a lazy ass, and have been sitting on this review for a while—a few months, even. However, sitting inside while the wind is blowing through Vancouver seems like the perfect time to write this sucker up. Beats the tar out of going outside, at least.
So… another Stanley Park brew, eh? What does Chuck think? Well, before we can talk about what’s inside the can, let’s spend a bit of time talking about what’s outside the can.
Turning Point Brewing (the actual brewery behind the Stanley Park brand) has elected to reinforce their completely fictional relationship with the park whose name they’ve appropriated by releasing a hoppy pale ale to commemorate what is one of the worst tragedies to ever strike Stanley Park.
For those new to the city, in December 2006 a series of massive storms touting winds as high as 120 km/hr tore through the iconic Vancouver park, and uprooted over ten thousand trees. The damage was wide spread and jaw-dropping. Entire acres of wooded rainforest were laid bare, turned into chaotic clear cuts. The emotional toll of this event on Vancouver natives was tremendous. People were literally brought to tears by the footage.
So now, eight years later, to have a brewery commercialize this tragedy for profit is… well, let’s just say it takes a certain insensitivity to think this is a good idea. However, Turning Point rampant desire to build any sort of association themselves with their namesake trumps any sort of good will.
Not to say there isn’t actual good will here. Turning Point is donating 25 cents per can (or per pint of draught) to the Stanley Park Ecology Society and, while 25 cents doesn’t sound like a lot when you consider that the can in question cost you $2.50 at the LDB, believe me it’s eating a pretty hefty hole in their bottom line (although, don’t get me wrong, this beer is still very profitable).
Perhaps I’m being too harsh? Maybe they can pull this one off and treat this touchy topic with all the decorum and sensitivity it demands? Let’s go watch this promo video to learn more.
Well fuck. Seriously, guys? In addition to all-but-implying that the brewery has any sort of actual relationship to a wind storm that occurred a four full years before they opened shop, that video lays down a sentence of marketing copy downright laden with wind-theme adjectives: “An unexpected storm of tropical fruit and earthy pine-hop character that bends to a gust of citrus on the palate and a rewarding bitterness that finishes clean.” That is verbatim from this video, and is printed on the side of their cans.
You can do a benefit ale. That’s a thing you can do. Central City has done several versions of their IPA whereby profits are donated to Autism research. However, the beer is simply called “IPA for Autism” and they donate $2 per 650ml bomber compared to Stanley Park’s $0.25 per 500ml can (approximately 6x Turning Point’s offering). If you go read the description of the beer here you’ll see that CC has avoided using tie-in words. Imagine how horrible it would be if they described their beer as having “strong aromatics that can look you in the eye.”
Unimaginably horrible and tasteless, that’s how it would be. And yes, a wind storm in Stanley Park is not even remotely the same thing as a child with Autism, but they’re two tragedies that two breweries have responded to with two benefit beers, and the two different approaches couldn’t say more about each of those businesses.
Nothing more clearly demonstrates Turning Point’s true feelings about Stanley Park than this beer. Stanley Park is not a treasured gem or a source of civic pride to Turning Point. Nope, it’s a marketing opportunity, pure and simple. It was that in 2010 when they created the Stanley Park Brewing brand and it still is today. If they were serious about rebuilding the park, they would have released a tastefully marketed brew and donated 100% of the profits, not 25 measly cents.
What about the beer itself? Yeah, it’s okay. Actually, the nose on this thing is amazing. You should have a sniff. Don’t actually drink the beer, though, as it’s not that great, but merely good. Even so, it might be the best beer Stanley Park has ever produced, but until they change their marketing game I’m going to spend most of my time talking about the packaging.
Oh, and to save you time: skip their winter ale too. It’s frankly bad.
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