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Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride

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We’ve all made promises we regret: those decisions made in the spur of the moment that come back to haunt us later. Maybe we had one too many, or perhaps even many too few, but regardless of your state of mind, the promise stands and your future self has to honour it.

Well, I did one of those. Some time ago I made a promise to review all the readily available Amber Ales at the LDB. It sure seemed like a good idea at the time, but somehow these things are never quite as good as you imagined them.


Like my sweet eBay bike. I wound up regretting the horns the most.

Still, I promised to do this, and do this I must. Time to pinch my snobbish nose and take one for the team. And thus I went to the LDB in search of four widely available Amber Ales to inflict upon my palate and the palates of my friends.

I walked out of the liquor store with these candidates: Tree Thirsty Beaver, Lighthouse Race Rocks, Stanley Park Amber and Vancouver Island Seadog.

With the help of the actually-qualified-to-do-this Jenn Gardy, I constructed a single blind taste test and submitted a group of my most non-beer snobby friends to a side-by-side comparison test, with the hope of ranking each beer from 1 to 4 (first through fourth).

The results? Mixed. The actual scores ranged all the way from 2.2 to 2.6 when averaged out. If you’ve taken some stats, you know not to play the lottery. You also know these results are a complete wash. No one beer was measurably better than the others, and frankly all of them were pretty bad. Consider that no beer was more strongly correlated to a high score than it was to the glassware it was served in (wine glasses make beer better, by the way, I have proof).

So what did I, our own inhouse member of the elite beererati think? What’s my professional opinion? Buy something else is my opinion. Why are we fucking around with amber ales when Central City’s whole lineup is just as generally available? Who made this challenge anyways?


Oh. Right. Fuck you, me.

Well, here goes. My notes on these beers are as follows:

  1. Tree Thirsty Beaver — Not bad. My pick of the litter. Decently balance between malt and hops, but no real character to be found.
  2. Lighthouse Rack Rocks — Also well balanced, but a light sniff of DMS put this into second. Another can was better, but that wasn’t the one I judged.
  3. Stanley Park Amber — And here we find the cliff. Hops? What hops? All sweet all the time. Ugh. Beer can’t be sweeter.
  4. Vancouver Island Sea Dog — Oh shit, yes it can. Really? You’re calling this “beer”? Honestly I’m not 100% certain this isn’t contaminated. Just a vile mess of syrupy sweetness.

There, are you happy now? I kept my word. Ugh. And no, I won’t do the lager half of this test. That was always a “maybe.” Next time I do a tasting it will be a best-in-bc IPA-off between Driftwood, Lighthouse, Central City and Tofino. I’ve earned it.

UPDATE: Since I posted this, both Lighthouse and Vancouver Island have contacted me to investigate the reports of off-flavours. Now, I might not love these beers, but I do absolutely love how these breweries have reacted: admit that something might possibly have gone wrong and look into it.

Sure, all this might just be a result of me not having a great palate for this style or beer, or maybe Jenn messed up the samples, but at least let’s talk about it. Too often the result of negative press is the company ignoring or, even worse, trying to discredit or silence the source. By tackling this stuff up front, openly and honestly, the worst case scenario is that I just gained a lot of respect for both breweries. Y’all should too. Good on ya, guys.

Written by chuck

June 4th, 2012 at 6:44 pm

June Beer of the Month

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This month’s beer is special for a few reasons. Perhaps that’s why I’m putting this up early! Yup, leaving my BOTM selection until it’s nigh The Next Month is a thing of the past. So, goodbye Howe Sound 4Way, we hardly knew ye.

And hellllloooo Russell’s Rick August Imperial Stout! To be honest, I have no idea what this beer is really called. Is it Russell’s Rick August’s Stout? Russell/Rick August Stout? Russell’s Rick August Stout where “Rick August” is the name of the beer much like “Blood Alley” is the name of their bitter? I have no idea.

And I don’t give a flying fuck. Why? This beer is good. Damned good. Fantastic, in fact. It’s a solid 7/10 amoung imperial stouts, and that makes it a solid 99.9/100 amoung All Beers. It’s a damned tasty beer, and you should drink it.

What else is special? Well, this beer is actually made by some bloke named Rick August. He won the 2011 Golden Stag Home Brewer’s award with this beer. Well, not technically *this* beer. Just a beer very much like this. *This* beer was brewed recently by Jack at Russell Brewing from a recipe very much like Rick’s, and bottled under his name.

That’s probably why I love this beer so much. Not only is Russell brewing and bottling a scaled home-brew recipe brewed by some guy named Rick from Saskatchewan, but they’re doing it again this year with Dave Shea’s barley wine. In case you aren’t sure, that’s cool. That’s very cool, and it deserves our support.

So, when you see this in an LRS near you, buy it by the armload.


It’s okay to lick the screen. I already did. It’ll be like we’re eKissing!

Written by chuck

May 30th, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Posted in Beer and You,Beers

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Insert Hop Pun Here

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Last night the Alibi opened its doors and welcomed about 120 beer geeks inside from the cold and rain to celebrate Hoppapalooza III, a celebration of all things hoppy (and by “all things” we mean “beer”). I was one of those lucky 120, so I went down to see Nigel and experience my very first taste of what has become a Vancouver beer scene legend.

As is his style, Nigel went a bit overboard on this one: the beer lineup featured over 50 different beers, including 21 IPAs and 5 bitters/hop forward ales. To go with this was bottomless beef, pork or veggie chilli, which is a classic IPA pairing. And, let’s face it, when you’re pairing food with the final product of the entire 2012 hop crop, keeping it simple is a Good Thing. Chilli was the perfect companion to this event.

Despite those numbers above, I was very surprised by the sheer number of non-IPAs. In fact, there were more non-hoppy beers than hoppy beers. By the numbers: 7 Saisons, 1 Red Ale, 2 Barley Wines, 5 Lagers/Pilsners, 2 Wheat Ale, 5 Stouts, 2 Sour Ales, 3 Misc Flavoured Beers. Sure, I could complain that some taps weren’t IPA or even bitter at an event with “Hop” right in its name, but even a curmudgeon like me would look askance at that. 21 IPAs is more than enough for anyone, especially when you look into the details.

Numbers are all fine and well, but the quality/rarity of some of these beers really drove home how far Nigel went to put all his cards on the table. Here are the highlights from my point of view (organized by brewery):

  • Upright — First time (I’m aware of) that all four Upright ales have been on tap together in Canada. Heck, even the Upright tasting room rarely pulls this off.
  • Gigantic — Not just a new brewery, but also a brewery that elected to serve their beer first in BC (although I believe Belmont Station beat the Alibi by a day in getting this into glassware). Imagine this, and let it sink in a bit: A brand new Portland brewery opens up and thinks “I’d love to premier our beer at the Alibi Room in Vancouver… BC.”
  • Deschutes — The Abyss is probably one of the 10 best beers I’ve ever had, and I’ve never even heard of it being on tap. Yet there it is.
  • Odin — Another brewery’s BC launch premiering at The Alibi. Sure, the official launch was at the Hogshack in Steveston, but Nigel served the first pint in BC.
  • Central City — Aged Thor’s Hammer? Imperial Roach? Yes, please.
  • Parallel 49 — Another launch beer (Hopparazzi). I’m starting to think The Alibi is just where good beer is born.

And yes, that is a list of good & interesting beer where a cask of the excellent 2012 Driftwood Naughty Hildegard did not even merit mention. Well played, Mr Springthorpe, well played.

But now to get down to real business: who wins the Hoppapalooza III Barley Mowat Best In Show? No surprise here, the winner is Tofino Brewing’s Spruce Tip IPA, brewed with real trees (I shit you not). This beer combined fantastic conception with near perfect execution and was the solid show favourite of everyone I talked to. The crew out in Tofino keeps on trying new things, and just absolutely nails every one.

The only fault is that there was only 1 cask made of this, and their absolutely tiny brew kit means bottling in any sizeable quantity is a ways off. Seriously, that thing is like 5 hectolitres max. We should start a kick-starter for them to upgrade into the 100+ hl world, and buy a bottling line (and maybe a shipment contract to my door).


What is this? A brew kit for ANTS?!?

The runner up was Gigantic Brewing’s Black Saison; their IPA is pretty regular, but the saison is amazingly unique and worthy of repeat consumption. Look out for this beer to start appearing at your local LRS, and buy it. Buy all of it. Then drink it.

Overall, though, last night gets an A+ from me. Not just for the atmosphere, or the great blues by Rich Hope, or the chance to meet new and friendly brewers, or for the beer geek satisfaction of incredibly rare and delicious beer, but also on value. After all was said and done, last night ran me $60, and included all the beer I could drink and all the food I could eat, a souvenir menu by Perrin (to go with my 100, 200, and 300 tap list menus), and a handy tasting glass.

The tasting glass is an important note, because its small 4oz size actually served to keep the audience relatively sober. Larger pints were available, but for a fiver. This little trick worked out well, and nicely avoided the very real risk of dozens of people getting messy drunk on the almost exclusively high-ABV beer list. Again, well played guys.

If I had to complain about any one detail (and, let’s face it, I do–It’s sorta my schtick), it would have to be the price. At $49 (before tax/service charge) it’s just… too… low. Yup, too low. At $49 a head, The Alibi very likely barely broke even on this event (or maybe even had a small loss). Personally, I would love for Hoppapalooza to have been a massive profit, because then we’d see another one next week instead of next year. But again, that’s about the only thing I can think of to complain about.


Perhaps I should also complain about Gardy posting this in my name, but hey, you buy the ticket, you take the ride.

Written by chuck

May 21st, 2012 at 6:12 pm