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Parallel 49 Humphrey BdG, VCBW Altbier, Black Hops

with 3 comments

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

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Parallel 49 Hopnotist

with 5 comments

Has it been a year already? It seems like only yesterday that a massively-funded brewing start-up in East Van was setting up shop with dreams of selling metric shittonnes of beer to the world. That brewery, of course, is Parallel 49. Just over a year later they’ve proven all my early concerns about over-production to be bunk, and are producing hit after hit after hit, all of which are welcomed then consumed by a growing fan base of ravenous craft beer devotees. Almost anything Graham With brews is gold, and pretty much everyone out there agrees with me, judging by the increasing stack of trophies and accolades in the corner of the brewery’s tasting room.

To celebrate turning one, they’ve brewed and released that heavy of the craft beer scene, an Imperial IPA. This is big news for a brewery that doesn’t even have a Bitter or a regular IPA in their standard line-up. Their one dalliance with the hoppier side of the fence was Lord of the Hops, and while not a bad beer by any stretch, it just didn’t have enough wow factor seriously challenge the reigning IPA kings of Driftwood Fat Tug, Lighthouse Switchback and Central City IPA.

But Lord of the Hops was not an Imperial. How is their first foray into hops madness? Really fucking awesome, that’s how it is. Hopnotist is everything you could hope for from an Imperial IPA: sticky, hoppy, resiny, citrusy, juicy, wow-in-a-jar awesomeness. Did I mention that, in addition to all this, it’s unfiltered? Yup, this beast pours hazier than my Friday night memories of your mom, and the taste is just as… yeah, not going that far. Let’s just say there’s lots of yeast character in this beer.

In short, this is, in my opinion, the best beer Parallel 49 has brewed to date. It is the best Imperial IPA in BC by far, and that’s a province that has all of: Russell Hop Therapy, Driftwood Twenty Pounder and Central City Imperial IPA. The bitterness of the hops, while present, is balanced out nicely by the huge malt. Just when you think the sugar might be too much, the yeast shows up to give it character, depth and complexity.

I bought three, and I did not buy enough.

Tasting notes:

NOSE Huge citrus flavours, orange, jack fruit, kiwi
APPEARANCE Hazy orange with a lingering tight white head
TASTE Balanced, believe it or not. The high sugar lets the flavours of the hops play rather than let the bitterness dominate
SHOULD I BUY IT? Steal from your mom to buy it. I sure as hell did

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49
From Vancouver
Name Hopnotist
Style Imperial IPA
SOA Now Gold. Wanna make something of it?
SOA Potential Might cellar, but how could you leave it alone that long?
Drink Now.
Indecent dreams I’ve had about this beer in the past week 9. I went back to sleep twice to get more.
Availability Brewery and at select LRS
Cost $6.60 per 650ml bottle at the brewery (resupply this Sunday). Slightly more elsewhere. Holy shit that’s cheap.
Similar BC Beers Russell Hop Therapy, Driftwood Twenty Pounder and Central City Imperial IPA.


Here’s a little gold to go on your trophy shelf.

Written by chuck

May 16th, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

May Beer of the Month

with one comment

The more astute of you might have noticed my BOTM not being updated for April. This is for a few reasons, namely:

  1. I was in Bolivia
  2. No beer stood out in April
  3. I plain old forgot

Mostly, though, it was number two there. I always said I’d skip a month if no beer of note was released, and that was the case. Sure, there were a few that piqued my interest slightly, but in the end none of them really fit the bill.

May, though, is a different story. A beer was released in late April, and is still available in stores right now, that is definitely something to think about. It’s Driftwood Clodhopper. Clodhopper is virtually unique amongst beers in BC because it’s brewed with barley grown and malted in BC. Sourcing local barley might seem like a huge chore when there’s a nice website you can just plain old order the stuff from by the pallet-load, but it’s the next big step for breweries to take on the road to making better beer.

The problem is this: sure, it’s nice and easy to order from that catalogue, and you sure do get a consistent product, but you know who else can order from that catalogue? Everyone. Every single brewery in BC can, and does, source barley from one of a handful of possible locations. Barley contributes as much flavour to a beer as yeast and hops do, both of which are carefully considered before being used (yeast is mostly propagated in-house, and hops are increasingly locally sourced, or even home grown in some cases). Barley, though? Give Ed at BarleyWorld a call and get 500kg of the Malt. See if we can’t get some with less rats this time.


But not no rats, though. They help with stirring the mash. And add flavour.

Not Driftwood Clodhopper, though. This is made with barley grown mere minutes from the brewery. Sure, the farm isn’t very big, and the harvest is likewise small, so they’re restricted to this one release, but the demand is there and it’s growing. Unique, malt-forward beers are coming.

Unless, of course, the government doesn’t do anything. You see, one of the main advantages of using all-BC ingredients in your booze is you can then sell the resultant happy-juice tax free from your establishment. The goal here is to create demand for BC-grown ingredients that are traditionally sourced from out of province. Demand equals jobs which equals, let’s face it, votes. Wineries have long enjoyed this little break, and just recently the government opened up the legislation, stared long and hard at the wording, and changed it… to include distilleries. Breweries, on other hand, can just go fuck themselves.

How does this threaten beer made from local malt? I mean, if it’s better, you’ll do it anyway right? You sure would, if the farmer hadn’t already sold it to distillers. Yeah, that locally distilled, high octane, booze, in addition to being awesome, is also made from–you guessed it–barley malt. Sucks to be a brewer wanting to make better beer.

Oh well, enough rambling from me, go out and enjoy this beer, and think about all the political nuances that went into its creation.

Tasting notes:

APPEARANCE Low, almost no, carbonation. Dark red/brown body.
NOSE Some darker fruits (plum, cherry), thick sugar/malt nose, with a hint of spiciness on the end.
TASTE Smooth, lots of blackened caramel, and just a wee bit of Belgian funk
SHOULD I BUY IT? Yes. Buy three. No, four.

Coles notes:

Brewery Driftwood
From Victoria
Name Clodhopper
Style Abbey Dubbel
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential Bronze
Drink Now. Might improve with some age, but it’s good right now.
Label Seriously, what an ugly label. What gives, guys?
Availability Widely available at LRS
Cost $7-10 per 650ml bottle.
Similar BC Beers None right now

Written by chuck

May 6th, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with