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GIB Barley Wine

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On Wednesday I counted myself lucky enough to be invited down to Granville Island Brewery for a preview of their first ever Barley Wine. In addition to a glass goblet heavy enough to brain a horse, I was given unlimited access to their most recent brew, and even a nicely wrapped bottle to take home for offsite consumption.

So, is it worth a damn? Yup. Vern describes this effort as a stylistic middle ground between the more refined, traditional English-style Barley Wine and its loutish American/New World upstart offspring. I would agree with that sentiment, although the bourbon barrel ageing is a definite New World touch.

On pouring, this guy has an awful lot of carbonation for a barrel-aged Barley Wine… almost too much. It’s hard to say whether this is for sure artificial, as the beer is bottle conditioned. Even so, I’m unsure how much extra carb you’ll get out of yeast that’s given its all to make 11.5% ABV and then spent the last four weeks chilling in a used bourbon barrel.

The nose is very mild, almost imperceptible malt and a touch of bourbon. On tasting, the hops come through initially and then the bourbon follows up with a solid kick to your chest. The malt, though, is almost absent, with all those rich sugars effectively hidden behind the whiskey.

And that’s my main complaint about this beer: Where’d the malt go? The sugars, and all that caramel-y/toffee promise that they bring are definitely there–the hyper-smooth mouthfeel will testify to that–but the barrel ageing is all you’re going to pick up on right now.

My secondary complaint would be that this shares a certain je-ne-sais-quoi with GIB’s main beers, specifically their Pale Ale. Whether it’s the yeast or the hops, I can’t say (although I’m leaning towards hops), but it does have that unique GIB-ness about it.

The negatives I mention slowly fade over the course of 8oz or so, and the smooth mouthfeel and body build up nicely. The bourbon and hops create a nice spiciness, very similar to Central City Thor’s Hammer. Try one to see for yourself, but only try one… for now.

Ageing is not optional with this beer. Right now this beer is interesting, perhaps even decent, but give it a few months to half a year and it could become great.

With time, the bourbon and hops will fade, and hopefully give all that malt sugar a chance to come forth. At ~$10 a bottle, this is priced low enough that even inexperienced cellar-ers should pick up a few to see how it develops.

Lastly, I think the bottle-conditioning, cloudiness of the beer, and complete lack of filtering (aka potential for oak bits in your glass) give this beer a wonderful homebrew-y quality, which is the exact opposite of what you’d expect from a brewery that is, after all, a wholly owned subsidiary of MolsonCoors.

Coles notes:

Brewery Granville Island Taphouse
From Vancouver
Name Ltd Release
Style Barley Wine
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential Silver
Drink Mid-2013 to early-2014
Watch out for Bits of oak floating in your glass
Availability Select LRS (60 cases) & at GIB (300 cases)
Cost $9.00-$11.00 per 650ml bottle.
Similar Beers CC Thor’s Hammer, Driftwood OCD/OBD
Chuck says Buy several and use it as a tutorial on ageing beer


Turns out Barley Wines are good.

Written by chuck

December 21st, 2012 at 11:53 am

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Two Seasonals From Townsite

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Ah, December release madness. You think you’ve got it all covered, so you take a day off to relax then Bam! there’s like six more beers to review. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

This round features two interesting seasonals from Townsite Brewing, who are just up-coast in Powell River. Townsite busted onto the BC Brewing scene earlier this year and released a lineup of beers that were quickly met with… acclaim?… nope, that’s not it. Not criticism, either… more like “meh”-ism.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with their beers, but in a brewing market that has become increasingly upscale and snobbish in recent years, about the most charitable thing I could come up with was that they were “making the best beer Powell River’s seen in some time.”

While the beers were decently crafted examples of their style, Townsite wasn’t exactly wowing us beer geeks in quite the same way as Tofino or Parallel 49.

So how do their two most recent releases rank with the biggest bearded beer geek of all (by mass)? Well, both are great beers. While neither is going to be celebrated as best-in-class any time soon, they do represent a step up for the brewing game of Townsite, and indicate that we can expect more great beers to come. Of course, the sword cuts both ways, as now our expectations have been raised accordingly.

And no, our ego is not so inflated that we’re referring to ourselves in the majestic plural. Rather, it’s a medical condition we have and we’d appreciate your tact in this matter.

Tasting notes:

Biere D’hiver (Winter Ale): Nose is light caramel a bit of toffee thrown in because hey, why not?. Sip this back and whoa, we’re talking roasted malt. Heavily roasted, almost burnt malt. This yields an unexpected dark roast coffee flavour, which seems to amp up the dry bittering hops far beyond their stated 27 IBUs.

A few more sips and that roasty-malty flavour blends in with the alcohol to do what any good winter warmer should: make you feel all fuzzy inside.

Shiny Penny (Belgian IPA): Nose is strong Belgian yeast, barnyard funk and straw. On tasting, the dryness from the yeast slows yields to a lingering dry bitterness from the hops. The yeast is very dry and funky here, almost Brett-like, and the body round robust and sweet: a very pleasant, almost ideal combination.

After a few sips the hops fade into the background as your palate adjusts, making the nuances of the yeast more apparent.

Coles notes:

Brewery Townsite
From Powell River
Name Biere D’hiver Shiny Penny
Style Winter Warmer Belgian IPA
SOA Now None awarded Bronze
SOA Potential n/a; table beer
Drink Now
My suggestion for Townsite’s next style Russian Imperial Stout. Can’t have enough RISs. You can even call it “Chuck”.
Availability Limited LRS, and selling fast
Cost $6.00+ per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers Hoyne Gratitude, R&B Auld Nick, Howe Sound Father John’s Lighthouse Uncharted, Phillips Hoperation
Chuck says Simultaneously intriguingly and disconcertingly coffee-like A solid Belgian IPA that I’d drink again in a heartbeat


Like you expected anything else.

Written by chuck

December 17th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

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Barley Wine Time

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Barley Wine season marches on. You already know to buy Driftwood’s dual release, and lots of it (perhaps more OCD than OBD though), but what about the other bottled barley wines? There are four other members of this elite style of beer vying for your attention (that I’m aware of), and three of them are out right now. What says Chuck?

Central City Thor’s Hammer

It’s good, buy it. What? You want more details? How about the fact that the NW Brewing News Readers’ Awards just named it the best Barley Wine… not in BC, but in all of Alaska, BC, Washington, Northern California and Oregon. That swath covers a good chunk of the best breweries on the planet. Sure, I’m not a fan of populist polls, but I do trust readers of NWB to be a little more beer-savvy than readers of the Straight.

What? My opinion? Okay, fine. This is a thinner, sweeter and spicier cellaring beer compared to Driftwood’s OCD, and frankly I don’t think it will improve as much but, you know what, it’s better right now so it all comes out in the wash.

Phillips Trainwreck

It’s not great. Don’t buy it… unless you like burnt nuts and toffee. Now, to be clear, this is not an awful beer (few Barley Wines are), but so far it’s the loser of the 2012 release cycle. That toffee is accompanied by a diffuse maple syrupy sweetness and, dare I say it, tones of bubblegum… in a beer. As a side note, does anyone else wonder how Phillips keeps slipping beer names past the LDB that basically promise extreme intoxication? Amnesiac, Instigator, Trainwreck? Is anyone even paying attention over there anymore?

Howe Sound Woolly Bugger

It’s great. Buy it. It’s not one of these massive, hoppy new world barley wines like Thor’s Hammer and Old Cellar Dweller, no, this is a throwback to the high malt, chocolatey English style, and it’s an absolute delight. Massive malt tone and depth give this a smooth, creamy almost velvety body, rich with chocolate. Balancing out all that sugar is subtle old world hops. Take a sip and guess at the IBUs. You, too, will be shocked to learn this has 75 of the things, and that tells you just how balanced and deep this beer is.

If you see it, buy some, as I have no idea what the production run on this was, since the bottles are not helpfully numbered as they have been in previous years.

Coles notes:

Brewery Central City Phillips Howe Sound
From Surrey Victoria Squamish
Name Thor’s Hammer Trainwreak Woolly Bugger
Style American Barley Wine American Barley Wine English Barley Wine
SOA Now Silver None Silver
SOA Potential Silver None Silver
Drink Now to 2014 Don’t Now to late 2013
Best feature Unusual spicey-ness Name implying this beer will fuck your shit up Consumption-friendly bottle size
Availability Very Limited LRS Widespread LRS Limited LRS
Cost $15.00 per 650ml $5.50-$7.00 per 650ml $4.00-$5.50 per 341ml
Similar Beers (you can buy) Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller, Old Barrel Dweller
Chuck says Stock up Skip Stock up

Written by chuck

December 13th, 2012 at 4:22 pm