Barley Mowat 

Archive for the ‘Breweries’ Category

Estate Breweries Are Coming

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Breweries are changing rapidly these days. In the 1980s the first brewpubs in North America opened, inspired by the ancient watering holes of old Europe. Shortly thereafter, the first commercial-scale craft brewers started putting out beer with actual flavour instead of just cans of slight bitter booze-water.

From there, the brewers started experimenting with styles and ingredients. They adopted increasing amounts of the newer hop varieties to create the IPA explosion of the late 90s/early 00s. They even began experimenting with barrel-aged beers, and souring beers in said barrels.

Recently, though, the trend is towards single-origin hops and barley. Notably Russian River and Rogue Brewing in the States are selling beers created from single-farm ingredients. If you’re interested, the beers in question are Russian River’s Row 2 Hill 56, and Rogue’s Chatoe Rogue series. Along with single-origin beers came actual, honest discussions about terroir in beer without anyone snickering or asking a condescending “are you serious?”

From there, it’s only a matter of time before someone joins the complete package and creates estate breweries. Don’t believe me? It’s already starting: “The Farmery” is a new estate brewery breaking ground in Manitoba as we speak, and undoubtedly more are in the works.


Once I cover the guest bedroom floor
with dirt this will be epic!

Breweries are starting the move from run-down industrial parts of town back out into the country where they grew up. But which part of the country are they moving to? Location is everything when it comes to wine, and you sure don’t see a lot of estate cideries up in the Yukon, so where’s the best place to grow both the barley and hops required for good beer?

Barley likes areas with a low or no frost, and lots of nitrogen in the soil. Hops also hate frost, but like lots of sunshine in warm–but not hot–climates, preferably in areas with a slightly low soil pH. Using the handy-dandy maps Environment Canada makes available for such things you quickly discover there are two major areas that have all the ingredients. One is in South West Manitoba, right where our friends above are setting up.

The other? The Gulf Islands of BC. Yup, Saltspring, Pender, Galiano, etc. Those are all premium estate brewery locations. Notably Gulf Islands Brewing is already operating in the area, and they do grow their own hops. Estate Barley, though, is not planned at this moment (but maybe after reading this article they might change their minds?)

We can only hope that the next major phase of craft beer will result in a cluster of awesome breweries just a short ferry ride away. I look forward to plotting my multi-day trip through the Islands, with many stops to visit and taste barrel-aged, malt-forward estate ales within a stones throw of all the ingredients in the glass.

Sure, a multi-year barrel-aged beer such as the once I just spent five minutes fantasizing about is expensive (what can I say, I have weird fantasies. Oh like your fantasies are sooooo normal?), but it’s not bank breaking. Running some back-of-the napkin numbers based on barley & hop yields, bottle and barrel prices, brewery equipment and labour costs, I figure a small 2-3 hectare brewery and barrel room could operate profitably with a once-a-year release priced at only 15-20 bucks a bottle. Even less if they produce non-aged beer the rest of the year… or charge for tours.

So, who wants to start a brewery with me?

UPDATE: Oops. Replace “Saskatchewan” with “Manitoba” in that article (I’ve already updated it), for both the location of the Farmery and prime estate brewery territory. More than 2 hours sleep is recommended before fact-checking your own work.

Written by chuck

November 12th, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Lighthouse Uncharted

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Belgian IPAs are growing in popularity (especially amongst friends named “Edan”) but still remain a niche style in the shadow of both their progenitors (Belgian Ales and IPAs). Luckily, year round we can get two decent Belgian IPAs in BC: Phillips Hoperation and Green Flash Le Freak. Hoperation is great and affordable while Le Freak is a better take on the style, but costs almost twice as much.

For a few short weeks in the fall, though, a third option is available. Lighthouse Brewing’s recent focus on Belgian beers (think Deckhand, White and Black) and IPAs (Switchback, duh) should give you some inkling that a Belgian IPA is something they can pull off.

I mean, if the base case is dumping a vat of Deckhand into Switchback and calling it a day, then a purpose brewed release should be great, right? And it is. The 2012 release of Uncharted is a solid Belgian IPA, and takes it’s rightful place right between Hoperation and Le Freak on the continuity of Goodness (and price).

Tasting notes are pretty much what you’d expect: a solid Belgian funk over a tangy rich New Zealand hoppiness. Mouthfeel is thick and creamy, as one would hope for from a Belgian abbey ale. Despite the label’s claims about the lack of filters and general cloudiness, the beer pours a crisp clear light amber with absolutely no trace of residual yeasts. I’m not saying it’s filtered, but I am saying that getting an unfiltered Belgian this clear and clean is a pretty slick technological feat.

A big bodied Belgian Abbey Ale like the base of this guy should age well, but the second you add those NZ hops you’re asking for disappointment if you put these down. So buy ’em and drink ’em, but not all at once. At 7.5% ABV a couple bottles of this will get you into trouble.

Coles notes:

Brewery Lighthouse Brewing
From Victoria, BC
Name Uncharted
Style Belgian IPA
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential Bronze. The Belgian part might age, but the IPA part won’t. They’ll meet in the middle, says I.
Drink Now.
Odds that someone, somewhere, has the label as a tattoo Better than 30%
Availability Broad LRS and rumours of LDB
Cost $5.50-$7.00 per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers Phillips Hoperation, Green Flash Le Freak
Chuck says Might as well pick up a few, in case Edan comes over.


It might age, but I’m not the guy to do it.

Written by chuck

November 11th, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Posted in Beers

Parallel 49 Black Christmas

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I suspect the recent increase of seasonal one-offs from Parallel 49 is a calculated attempt to monopolize my blogs’s beer review bandwidth. In addition to Salty Scot yesterday and today’s post, I have Ugly Sweater to get up in the near future (preview: buy it), and P49’s brewmaster Graham With has dropped severals hints of small batch release craziness still in the pipeline.

So what should we expect from P49’s third bomber release, coming directly on the heels of #2 on Wednesday? “Black Christmas” is marketed as a “Christmas Dark Ale,” but don’t go opening one of these guys hoping for a fantastical P49-style twist on your precious sweet, sticky Christmas Ales*. Nope, this guy is a CDA, straight up. I’m not sure where the “Christmas” aspect plays in, aside from the creepy label (side note: it was originally supposed to be the Grinch but the LDB nixed that, saying that a cartoonish label would inspire kids to drink it. To the LDB: The fuck?! Why are you selling beer to kids?)


This is so much… better?

One detail that’s hidden away in the small text on the label is that this beer makes use of “100 Mile Fresh Hops.” Usually beers containing fresh hops have that fact splattered in bold print all over the front, or even incorporated into the name, but not this one. In fact, even while discussing the beer with Graham, the freshness of the hops was not brought up.

But what does it taste like? As you’d expect with a CDA (Xmas or regular Cascadian variety), it pours nearly pitch black with a good deal of carbonation. The fresh hops announce themselves in the nose, followed by a nice malty/raisin scent.

Upon liberally pouring this down your beer hole, you get basically more of the same. The malty-raisin builds slowly sip to sip, and even presents a bit of rhubarb over time. The mouthfeel is rich, creamy, and definitely well executed. Bittering hops are not overdone. Essentially this is a nice well balanced English IPA that’s been coloured black through roasted wheat malt.

Overall, despite Graham’s obvious enthusiasm for this particular beer, I’m not as sold on it. It’s definitely a decent CDA, but the fresh hops throw an off-putting twist on the style. That’s the thing with experimenting, sometimes you get amazing results, and sometimes Chuck’s not a huge fan. Oh well, y’all should still (try to) buy it and drink it, it’s definitely worth a taste, it’s just not something I’ll likely grab again given all the other beers I’m morally obliged to taste and tell you about.

* Update: I’ve heard from the brewery that Christmas was used because of the timing of the release and the pine-forward hops, and that also there’s some trademark issues around “Cascadian”. I’m researching that and will post a hyper-rant if true.

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49
From Vancouver, BC
Name Black Christmas
Style Cascadian Dark Ale
SOA Now Swing and a miss
SOA Potential n/a; not a cellaring ale.
Drink Now.
What Chuck really wanted for Xmas A CDA crossed with an Xmas ale. That would have been swell.
Availability Very limited release to LRS and at brewery
Cost $7.00-$9.00 per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers Howe Sound Gathering Storm, GIB CDA
Chuck says Buy it if you can find it.

Written by chuck

November 10th, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Beers

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