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Feature Beer: Dageraad Blonde

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From Burnaby comes a new Feature Beer. Ben Coli’s new Dageraad Brewery caught some local beererati attention with the release of Beta, an aborted batch of their Belgian Amber that was too good to throw out. For the outcome of an “oh shit, oh shit, oh shit” moment it was a pretty good beer. Heck, even if it was the outcome of a carefully measured and executed brewing process it would still be considered a pretty good beer.

Beta, alas, has come and gone, never to return. Replacing it are the first of Dageraad’s permanent lineup: Blonde and Amber. Amber isn’t quite as good as Beta was–frankly it could use a bit of dialling in–but that’s not the beer I want to talk about today. Today I’m talking about Blonde.

Oh right. That’s what happens when you Google “Blonde Beer.”
There actually is a beer in there somewhere, I’m told.

And ho boy is this a good Belgian beer. I should know; I was just in Belgium, and honestly this beer could slide into a Bruges café and no one would be the wiser. It’s not perfect, but its faults are subtle.

In addition to just being a lovely beer, I picked Dageraad Blonde as a Feature Beer for two additional reasons. First, the brewery is a true micro. Ben, Mitch and Erin are literally the whole show, and Erin’s only working part time. Second, this is the first honest-to-Gord Belgian brewery in BC.

Sure, others have flirted with Belgian-style beers here and there, but mostly via buying a vat of Belgian yeast from Wyeast and then cramming the kettle full of hops. Sure, I like a hoppy Belgian, but they’re not exactly authentic, now are they?

Enter Dageraad and their balanced, round Blonde. Buy some, drink some, and cellar some. This beer will improve with time, much like its Old World ancestors.

APPEARANCE Pours bright cloudy yellow with a thin, persistent white head.
NOSE Standard Belgian yeast esters: banana, lots of clove
TASTE Good mouthfeel. Sweet start and a balanced dry end, some citrus/lemon. Perhaps every so slightly overhopped on the finish, but really splitting hairs here.
STATS 7.5% ABV / <20? IBU / Belgian Blonde
SHOULD I BUY IT? Yes. Absolutely. Ignore the lumpy label and buy the damned thing.

Brewery Dageraad
From Burnaby
Name Blonde
Style Belgian Blonde
SOA Now Silver
SOA Potential Silver
Drink Now-2017
Bottles of this you could buy instead of a ticket to Belgium 156
Availability Most LRSs
Cost ~$8-10+ per 650ml
Similar Beers None locally


Seriously, let’s all go to Bruges and do a blind taste test… then just go drink Quads until we’re blind.

Written by chuck

June 20th, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Posted in Beers

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Postmark Brewing

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It’s been about three weeks since Main Street Brewing opened their doors and claimed the title of “newest brewery in Vancouver” so it’s high time they stopped hogging all the attention, stepped off the podium, and let someone else bask in the limelight.

Enter Postmark Brewing. Postmark is the final puzzle piece of the destination resort of alcohol known as The Settlement Building (55 Dunlevy, at Alexander). Housed within its approximately 15,000 square foot interior you will find a fully operational brewery (Postmark), winery (Roaring Twenties) and restaurant (Belgard Kitchen). If they had rooms for rent some folk would never leave.

Pic shamelessly ripped off from Scout Magazine

The space features soaring ceilings, stacks of barrels (for wine, sorry folks), skylights, a giant (yet non functional) fire place, and the mother of all bars practically bristling with steel-headed taps. From those taps flow all sorts of both rotten grain and grapes, as closely aligned with all these establishments is former Settlement occupant freshTAP, whose business plan of simply pumping wine out of barrels and into kegs and calling it a day has proven fabulously successful.

So, are they worth a damn? Should you spend all that effort walking down Alexander Street only to keep walking past The Alibi Room? Sure. Go once. The space is great, and the novelty of the combined services are definitely worth a visit.

If you’re looking for great beer, though, you aren’t going to find it at Postmark. Much like the wine, the oat soda here is definitely downmarket. We’re not talking macro swill by any stretch of the imagination, but neither will it set the beererati reaching for their phones to rate it 5/5 on Untappd.

Oh, let’s face it, they’ll check in anything at any time

The two beers I sampled yesterday were… okay? I guess? Probably the better of the two was their Saison. Don’t get all excited by the style, though. While some Saisons can be fruity, estery, flavourful glasses of sunshine; this guy was fizzy, yellow, fluid. Sure, it’s technically a Saison and, if handed it blind I would likely identify it as such. However, if other Saisons can turn the flavour knob up to 11 this one is solidly stuck at 3. The dry balanced finish was the highlight of this beer, but again it was very restrained.

At least it was better than the Red IPA. To be honest, I’m not sure what they were aiming for with this beer; it almost tastes under attenuated. Lots of sugar almost obscures the chewy malt, but the heavy handed bittering leads to a roller coaster on the palate: “too sweet, too syrupy” yields to “whoa! bitter! bitter!” Low aromatics means the bitterness just sits on your tongue and leaves your nose wondering what all the fuss is about.

The beers didn’t blow me away, but that’s not what Postmark is aiming to do. They’ve put their sights squarely on the newly craft-curious macro drinking public. With that in mind, a dialled down Saison and a sweet IPA might be exactly the sort of beer Postmark should be making. The upcoming Pilsner, still conditioning during my preview, was described as “half way between a mainstream lager and a craft Pilsner.”

So yeah, they have that going for them. The question, though, is this: “Is this a good business model? Can they make a go of it?” I’m going to come out and say “Yes” here. Sure, it’s basically blasphemy to me for a brewery to deliberately brew boring beer, but that doesn’t mean it won’t sell. The thing about craft-curious macro drinkers is that they’re real, they’re tired of the Same Old Stuff, and holy shit man, there are a lot of them. Also, they drink a LOT of beer.

Like, I mean a LOT.

Granted, if someone branches out a bit and tries a Postmark “Not Quite Canadian” Pilsner and likes it they’re much more likely to try a different craft lager for the next six pack, and that different lager will be even better. This eventually will lead our craft-curious beer drinker to drop the “curious,” become a full-on hophead, and leave Postmark behind as they discover the several dozen other breweries producing good beer in BC.

This might sound like a flighty, temporary client base to build a business upon until you realize that just as the first wave is completing the transition to/from Postmark, the second wave will be just starting. And–if current trends in macro beer are to be believed–the second wave will be bigger than the first. And the third than the second. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Eventually the macro-drinking public will have exhausted its craft-curious supply and Postmark’s client base will dry up. That day is a long way away, though. Should that glorious future ever arrive, luckily they could always just brew better beer.

Coles notes:

Postmark Brewing
55 Dunlevy Street, Vancouver
Hours: 11am-11pm daily.
Growlers: 32oz ($5.50-6.50), 64oz ($10-12)

Written by chuck

June 18th, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Posted in Breweries

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Business of Craft Beer in BC

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I attended the BC Business of Craft Beer event yesterday (May 29th) and came away hopeful but not necessarily impressed. What made me hopeful was that this event even happened at all. That 250 people would give up both $75 and a mid-week afternoon to cram themselves into a downtown eastside bar on the off-hope of gleaning some sort of wisdom to help their craft beer business dreams is encouraging. Amazing, even.

Imagine traveling back in time to show your 1994 self cell phone photos of this event. Imagine what 1994 You would say? Well, I guess you’d probably say something like “Forsooth! What sort of foul devilry be in this magic box thoust hold?!” and then burn Future You as a witch. Or something like that. History isn’t my strong suit.

This despite the fact that I’ve watched Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, like, 50 times.

In any event, the knowledge of what happened yesterday would likely stun even someone in the beer business a mere 20 years ago. “Craft Beer is big enough to have a mini-conference in 2014?” That’s encouraging. The unimpressed part is the realization that we have a long way to go.

The event featured a keynote by Ninkasi’s Jamie Floyd and two panel sessions: one on marketing craft beer and one on opening a craft brewery (aside: this panel featured Parallel 49, Bomber and Red Truck, all three of which have cash streams from other existing businesses to draw upon. They were less opening a craft brewery so much as expanding an existing business into brewing. I would have liked to see at least one small independent on this panel like Powell Street or Dageraad, but both David and Ben were probably too busy actually brewing beer to attend). Emcee Joe Wiebe did a good job asking focused questions of each panel, but anyone seriously contemplating opening a brewery needed more detail. Much more. More than could be provided in the few hours we had.

The main benefit of the event was the networking, which was frantically conducted in fifteen minute “beer breaks” between talks. I finally felt justified for ordering business cards, as I burnt through a solid twenty.

When I ran out, I panicked and handed out my credit card by mistake. In any event, y’all should contract me. I’m a marketing genius. Also, can I have my VISA back?

What would I change for next year? Well, I’d have more of everything. Turn the event into an actual day long mini-conference. Have breakout sessions for brewers vs suppliers vs retailers vs media. A long event naturally gives way to longer breaks which means more networking. Have me give the keynote. Small changes like these will make the conference 10x better.

I don’t want to come across as criticizing BC Business for this year’s event. The changes above weren’t possible to do this year because the conference wasn’t big enough. This year’s nano-conference had to happen first in order to make next year’s mini-conference possible. In a few years we’ll fill the convention centre, but you don’t start off over on the waterfront.

Lastly, I’d like to congratulate the panelists on their delicate answer to the worst question of the day: “How big should my brewhouse be?” About half the crowd groaned at the idiocy of this query so, for the benefit of the other half, I’ll answer it in a much more direct fashion so everyone knows what the faux pas was.

Q: “How big should my brewhouse be?”
A: “You’re shitting me, right? ‘How big should my brewhouse be?’ How can you stand up in this room and ask that question? Sit the fuck down, and do us all a favour by not opening your brewery. You clearly have no idea what you’re doing. For the benefit of anyone else in this room who thinks brewing capacity is a number some guy on a stage can just dictate to you: you don’t pick a brewhouse size. You calculate it.

Figuring out how big your brewhouse needs to be is one of the last steps in spec’ing a brewery. First you need to answer questions like: “What market are you targeting? Who are your current and prospective competitors? Do you need to package? Where will you be distributed? Where are you sourcing your brewhouse and tanks? What are your material and utility costs? Bottle vs can? How much space are you leasing? What is your lease cost? How much tank space do you have? How many employees do you need to support all this? How much will you charge for your beer? How much beer do you project selling in year one? Two? Three? Five? How did you reach those numbers?”

Once you answer all those (and more), you’ll find that the answers tell you how big your brewhouse should be, not me. If instead you’re a home brewer and just loving the idea of playing around on the equipment the big boys use, and thus figure the first step to opening a brewery is buying a brewhouse… save yourself two years of your life and all of your loved ones’ money and keep your day job.”

Phew. That felt good. It really did. Go ahead, ask me another, I don’t mind.

Written by chuck

May 30th, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Beer and You,Breweries

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