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July Beer of the Month: GIB Uncle Monty’s

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Well, it’s official. We now live in a world where someone can have a sip of a 6% ABV Hefeweizen and think “Huh, that’s a nice low-ABV alternative to that 7.7% ABV Hefeweizen I’d rather be drinking.” How did this happen? How did “low ABV” manage to be used in the same sentence as “6”?

To answer this question is to acknowledge a dirty secret in the craft beer community: just as much as there is a very public hops-arms race going on, there is also a much less talked about alcohol arms race keeping pace. If you look closely, though, you can see evidence of a lower-ABV past. BCJP styles, for instance, despite only being 5 years old, consistently show an ABV range below modern examples. Take my two hefs, for example, the BCJP style caps out at 5.6%, meaning both are officially off style.

This escalating booziness is not without merit. High ABV brews are the result of higher sugar recipes and longer fermentation times, which can translate to more intense and complex flavours. These boozy monsters can invariably be found sitting atop the awesome beer scoresheet, mocking their less ethanol-y brethren below. However, just because I do like an occasional 15%ABV Barley Wine sipper, that doesn’t mean I want to drink more than a small glassful.

For sitting down with a proper pint, a lower ABV style is required. Sadly, even “normal” beers are increasingly in the 6%+ range. The sub-4% ABV sessional style is all but lost to memory. Sure, CAMRA has a Spring Sessional festival once in a while, and everyone gets momentarily obsessed with low alcohol sessionals, but then a whooper of a Saison comes out and we decide to stop talking about it.

Not Granville Island Brewing, though. GIB has brought their low ABV (3.6%) Uncle Monty’s Best Bitter from this year’s festival to market. This is a beer you can go into a store today and buy. Heck, buy two, because it’s possible to drink a whole bottle of this and not regret it.


I also like the new labels about 10x more than the old.

Sure, it’s not the best beer from the Spring Sessional (that honour belonged to the nascent Bomber Brewing Company, and their take on a Bitter). It is, though, something that’s being bottled, and bottling an unpopular style like this takes balls.

Those balls make GIB Uncle Monty’s Best Bitter my (somewhat belated) July Beer of the Month. I only wish more breweries would follow suit, especially Bomber when they open up.

Tasting notes:

APPEARANCE Transparent amber body with a semi-persistent white head
NOSE Malt prevails, with a slight hoppy finish
TASTE Light, and a bit watery; good hops character, though, which builds over the glass (as does the grain); low carb doesn’t get in the way of the subtle flavours
SHOULD I BUY IT? Do you like having more than one beer in an evening? Same question.

Coles notes:

Brewery Granville Island (TapHouse)
From Vancouver
Name Uncle Monty’s
Style Best Bitter
SOA Now n/a
SOA Potential n/a; table beer
Drink Right now, and again in 15 minutes
Will anyone else brew a beer like this? I doubt it, but want to be surprised
Availability 600 cases, limited LRS
Cost $5.50-7.00 per 650ml bottle.
Similar BC Beers None. Only example of low-ABV style.

Written by chuck

July 15th, 2013 at 5:37 pm

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June Beer of the Month

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Another month, another beer to feature. This month’s beer is special for a few reasons, but perhaps most of all because it was brewed by my friend Dave Shea. Yup, I have no qualms promoting my cronies via this here blog. That Nautical Disaster is worthy of consideration for at least five other reasons doesn’t matter. I’d still be singing its praise if it was complete and utter dreck. So what else is interesting? Well, it’s:

  • A Barley Wine released in June, instead of December
  • Brewed at Russell Brewing as a prize for winning a homebrew competition
  • Has an awesome label created by Dave Shea himself
  • Is named after a Tragically Hip song
  • By having a name, avoids the name confusion of the last homebrew winning beer

In addition to all those great reasons, Russell has gone to the effort of putting together a big ‘ole list of places where you can find this beer should you want some. I mean, in addition to Dave’s closet. What more could I ask for in a beer?


Okay fine, flavour and alcohol would be nice, too.

Overall, this is a nice hybrid Barley Wine–somewhere between the sweet English style and its hoppier American cousin. I suspect the bitter finish will mellow out with some time in the cellar, but right now it’s drinking very similar to Central City Thor’s Hammer, and damn if that isn’t a compliment. With a bit of time, though, it should start moving towards Howe Sound Woolly Bugger: a big, complex, malty bastard of a beer. I’m not guessing on this one, Dave has been kind enough to periodically update ND’s Uptappd page with tasting notes tracking the declining hops.

Tasting notes:

APPEARANCE Murky dark caramel brown
NOSE Sweet, malty caramel with hints of more complex sugars. Did I get some light red fruit/cotton candy?
TASTE Young barley wine; lots of subtle red fruit esters and earthy yeast sub-tones; needs a few more months to mellow and blend. A bit bitter on the finish.
SHOULD I BUY IT? Do you like Dave? Then buy one to drink and more to age. If you don’t like Dave, then I don’t like you.

Coles notes:

Brewery Russell x Dave Shea
From Surrey
Name Nautical Disaster
Style Barley Wine
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential Silver
Drink Late 2013 to mid 2014
Should Dave keep brewing commercially? Yes. How about a run of your double IPA please?
Availability Widely available at LRS (list)
Cost $7-10 per 650ml bottle.
Similar BC Beers Central City Thor’s Hammer, Howe Sound Woolly Bugger


It’ll get there.

Written by chuck

June 4th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Beers

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Parallel 49 Humphrey BdG, VCBW Altbier, Black Hops

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Yeah, that’s three beers up in the title. Sure, Hopnotist got its own post, but it’s one of the most outstanding beers produced in BC in the past twelve months (name another? Okay, Lighthouse Siren; not what you expected, eh?).

Now, I’m not saying these three beers aren’t good beers. They all are, to varying degrees, but I only have so much review bandwidth these days, and thus all three get crammed into a single review. Seriously, folks, my beer closet has an actual, physical queue of beers waiting for me to taste them. This job sucks.

Tasting notes:

Humphrey Bière de Garde

If you asked me a month ago to peg P49’s next release, I absolutely would not have gone with a traditional old-world style like a Bière de Garde. Black Hops (bottom) would have been more like my best guess: a weird West Coast take on a non-mainstream style. Colour me stupid, then, for Parallel 49 went and released both.

In short, Humphrey is a subtle Canadian variation of a malt-forward old world strong ale. I do like this beer, but ultimately it falls a bit short of its potential because of the malt used (a bit too new world grainy for my tastes). Better malt would yield a better product, but alas there just aren’t that many high quality, small batch malts available… yet.

In any event, by the time you’re done the bottle, the pleasant liquor burn (7% ABV) and balanced hops do much to make you forgot your longing for better grain. There is some ageing potential here, but honestly this beer is drinking just fine right now.

APPEARANCE Auburn/amber with very low carbonation.
NOSE Very subtle farmhouse aromatics and grainy malt.
TASTE Caramel, grain, and a great spice from the hops. Subtle flavours build over course of the glass.
SHOULD I BUY IT? As a rare example of a malt-forward ale in this hop-crazy world, you definitely should.

VCBW Altbier

Okay, sure, Parallel 49 isn’t strictly the only chef in the kitchen on this one (as usual, the list includes pretty much every brewer in the province), but it was brewed there, and that means Graham With had much more control over the final product than the designed-by-committee style hints at on the label.

The previous two VCBW collaboration brews were hop-dominant beers (a Cascadian Dark and a Cascadian Brown to be specific), so the third beer in the series represents a 180 on the hops usage, all the way back to Malt Town. It’s almost likely another recently released Parallel 49 beer used up all the hops or something.

This beer is a near-flawless execution of the style, which is a subtley malty brew with a crisp hoppy finish. It’s a great session beer, and if you give it some time there are some interesting, more subtle flavours to be discovered.

APPEARANCE Translucent amber with a persistent off-cream head.
NOSE Caramel malt, some subtler grains. Just a whiff of the hops.
TASTE More of the nose, but with some interesting subtle subtexts (fruit esters, earthiness). Balanced hop crispness.
SHOULD I BUY IT? Do you like any of the 30-odd breweries on the label? Do you want to hurt their feelings? Then buy it already.

Black Hops Cascadian Dark Lager

I had a preview of this beer about a month ago, on cask at the Whip. I liked it. I like it so much, in fact, that I drank four pints of it. Then I drank another two. That cask was a smooth, mildly hoppy and flavourful low ABV beer (at least, low ABV compared to other hoppy beers).

Now that it’s in bottles, and on tap around town, its lost something. It’s still a fine brew, but I’m not going to rave about this beer to the beererati like I did the cask version. Take a beer off the yeast and it changes, folks.

APPEARANCE Black with a thin, quickly dissipating beige head.
NOSE Hops dominate the nose, but are not overpowering. Roasted malt comes through at the end.
TASTE Roasted malt plus a bite-y citrus-y hops finish. Both flavours are muted, though.
SHOULD I BUY IT? Maybe it’s just me, but I’d prefer a proper IPA or CDA. Buy one and see what you think.

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49
From Vancouver
Name Humprhey VCBW Collaboration Black Hops
Style Bière de Garde Altbier Cascadian Dark Lager (or Schwarzbier)
SOA Now Bronze n/a n/a
SOA Potential Bronze n/a n/a
Drink Now-2014 Now Now
Pirate friendly? Yaaaar! Avast!
Availability Most LRSs, some LDB
Cost $6-9 per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers (you can buy) Maybe Driftwood Clodhopper? Driftwood Crooked Coast None


Add in some great barley
and these beers get seriously better.

Written by chuck

May 24th, 2013 at 1:30 pm

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