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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

Posted in Beers

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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

Dark Macro Showdown

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It’s that time of year again. You know, when you get to hang out with your co-workers en mass at some shitty restaurant, eat okay food, drink okay booze and make awkward small talk with their spouses, all the while waiting to see which of the interns gets inappropriately drunk and hits on the boss first.

(Aside: Except my office–my office’s Christmas party was epic, perhaps because my work is better than yours. And no, this comment has nothing to do with an increase in readers coming from my work IP.)

Usually these functions trot out some variant of “red or white?” for liquor offerings, but sometimes they go the extra mile and cram a bunch of beer in a bucket full of ice. Often these beers are things with words like “Christmas” or “Winter” in them, but not the good stuff since it’s both too expensive, and comes in confusingly large bottles. (Another aside: When confronted by a 650ml bottle of beer, the masses will often open it and drink it like they do a regular beer bottle. I have seen this first hand.)

Nope, we’re talking the likes of OK Spring’s Mild Winter Ale and Granville Island’s Lions Winter Ale here*. So what do you do? Do you pull a Chuck and move on to wine and/or hard liquor? Well, I’m a hard core beer geek, and I can’t expect y’all to have such a snobbish demenour in less-than-ideal situations, so I’ve done everyone a favour: I’ve done a side-by-side comparison of these two popular winter beers to see which one wins.


Despite what you might initially think, picking a clear winner is not as easy as it sounds. Also, there are waaaaaaay more pictures of hilariously ugly dogs on the Internet then I would have guessed.

First, let’s get one thing straight: neither is a good beer. Comparing them to an actual winter ale is like getting a five-year old to draw elephant. You’ll get some of the coarser aspects, and you certainly will recognise it as a cruel caricature of such, but you won’t, for one second, expect it to stand up and start pouring water over itself with its trunk.

Now on to the notes:

Brewery Granville Island OK Spring
Name Lions Winter Ale Mild Winter Ale
Visual Clear amber, good (too good?) carbonation Clear, slightly darker. Decent carb
Nose Vanilla. Barest hint of hops. No malt. Roasted Malt and spice, slight hint caramel
Mouthfeel Fairly creamy. Lots of sugar in this puppy. Like a cream ale. Decent, but not too viscous.
Taste VANILLA and sugar. Fairly astringent. Mild roasted malt, fairly empty, but has that… OK Spring finish (macro-esque, maybe their hops blend?)

Detailed notes on GIB: Gah. I mean, I like vanilla extract and all, but must you guys cram my beer full of it? Did more subtle levels of “sugary vanilla” just flop out in market testing? You know that the kind of people that will agree to taste beer for free at 2pm on a work day aren’t exactly beer connoisseurs, right?

Detailed notes on OK Spring: I’m confused by the name. Is this a milder take on winter ales or an ale for a mild winter? Regardless, I wouldn’t consider this a great execution of either of those things. This is a boring, boring beer, to be brutally honest, and it says great things about OK Spring’s current line-up that this is probably the best thing they’re brewing right now.

Picking a Best Beer between the two is like stapling wings to a dog and a cat and throwing them off your roof to see which one flies farthest. You’re judging two contestants based on criteria that neither possesses. These beers aren’t meant to be savoured by craft beer geeks; they’re meant to be consumed en masse by people wearing backwards baseball caps and who likely bump chests as a means of celebration.

If pressed to make a call, I guess the cat flew a bit further before splattering, because it wasn’t ladden down with a sickly dose of vanilla. Despite being a boring, boring beer, the OK Spring Mild Winter Ale was the least offensive of these two, and that’s a victory of sorts… I guess.

* Yeah, yeah, neither is technically a macro, I know, but that title is awesome. What do you want? “Regional Breweries with Annual Production Exceeding 100,000hl but not 300,000hl Dark Beer Kumatai?”

Written by chuck

December 8th, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Beers

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