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Where No Man Has Drunk Before

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Sharon saw this little guy come in over the wire and figured I’d be interested. She was right:

http://www.vancouversun.com/travel/Taking+beer+next+frontier/4801838/story.html

You see, in addition to being a massive beer geek, I am also a massive space geek (by both definitions of massive… bit of space geek humour there for ya… OK, I’ll stop that now). So does it follow that I’m a massive space beer geek?

Seems some guys down under (4 Pines Brewing Company) have set upon the crazy idea of brewing a beer specifically designed to be consumed in space. In additional to gaining a penchant for doing mid-air somersaults, there are also some unique physiological issues that come with spending loads of time in microgravity. Among other inconveniences, all that excess fluid that tends to pool at the bottom of your various internal cavities no longer has such good sense, and decides to go for a bit of a walk about.

That has some rather humorous side affects. For instance, this is why all International Space Station residents have a puffy face and sound like they have a perpetual head cold. With that comes a swollen tongue and a lack of taste sensitivity, which explains why the MRE packs up there come in “Spicy”, “Very Spicy”, and “Hell Fire” varieties: it’s the only way to actually taste something. Sorry guys, the Café De Low Orbit doesn’t actually have shit food; it’s just you.

Now that we have the background out of the way, I’ll put on my usual cranky demeanour and call this an absolutely crock of a publicity stunt. I highly doubt any of this “Space Beer” will ever make its way into space. For one, getting shit to the ISS is fucking expensive. The last number I heard was around $21,000 per pound. I mean, I love beer, but when a 20oz pint of stout breaks the $20,000 mark (just for delivery) I seriously start looking at fermenting my own urine instead. Of course, that assumes the ISS hadn’t already laid claim to it to run the fuel cells. Seriously, getting stuff up there is so expensive they’re reusing your PISS (and then reusing it again after that… and after that… and, well, you get the idea).

Getting stuff on a suborbital flight is a bit cheaper, as Virgin plans to exploit, but even then we’re looking at $100,000-150,000 per person, and I’ll bet the carry-on restrictions make TSA look like stoned college kids… uh… more? I guess? The second issue with suborbital flights is that they are short. Like 15 minutes short, and not all of that is weightless. In 15m the only liquid relocation issues you might have is a bit of vomit, so you’ll be tasting things exactly as you would with two feet planted solidly on terra firma.

Of course, all these silly “facts” have no place in a big PR stunt, so the brewers went to Florida and rented time on the commercial version of the “Vomit Comet” to test their product out. It makes for a great press release, but even in one flight the assembled press couldn’t help but notice the difficulties encountered in trying to actually consume their product. Here’s a hint guys, use a squeeze tube next time.

As a PR stunt this seems to have worked. Google helpfully suggests 4 Pines Brewing first when you search for Space Beer, and hell, here I am–a beer blog in Canada–talking about it. So, congrats to our visionary brewers. You’ve made a stout that very likely tastes gord-awful, and knowing what I do about amping up stout flavours, I’ll bet it’s in the direction of Caribbean Malta drinks. Seriously, has anyone had any of those things? Fuck me.

Written by chuck

June 28th, 2011 at 11:15 am

Posted in Beer and You,Beers

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R & B Brewing’s New Ale

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I have some history with R&B. A long time ago, when my hook-up contacts at Russell sold their fortune to settle a new land (Mark & Peter Russell themselves), I started getting my kegs fairly regularly from the tiny two-lettered brewery at Quebec & Fourth. Much like other early craft beer revolution breweries, R&B have a solid, if not terribly imaginative, line-up of ales featuring such stalwarts as IPA, Pale, Cream, and even Wheat. Their beers are decent, but not fantastic. Only one, Raven Cream, really shines, and honestly that’s only in the first few days after tapping (seriously, try it, it is a completely different beer when über fresh).

But all that’s fine. For kegs, I’m not looking for the best beer on the planet, but rather a solid session ale intended to keep me (and the uncouth drunken slobs that pass for my friends) out of the hidden fridge that contains the Good Stuff. And in this, R&B perfectly fulfills the role. Plus, they’re a fantastic group of friendly folk, and I do take a little pride from supporting a local business (even if it’s under the table). The fact that they’re the closest keg-selling brewery to my house is also a plus.

About a year ago, this all began to change. While the lineup stayed the same, R&B began fucking around with casks. And not in the “cram a handful of centennial pellets into some decanted IPA” way favoured by certain unnamed brewing companies in Yaletown that I so heavily loathe, but in honest-to-gord attempts to create either fascinating or tongue-splittingly awful beers. We’re talking grapefruit IPAs, bacon stouts, and fermented pineapple ales here, and I absolutely love them for it. A cask from YBC, Central City or Granville Island will likely be interesting, but utterly conventional. A cask from R&B is going to be bat shiate insanity in a barrel.

With that innovation has come something new in their regular beer lineup. Sure, you look at that lineup and figure an ESB will be a nice conventional addition to cover all five points of the Boring Beer Star, but then you taste their new East Side Bitter and wow! Holy shit! This is good. Fantastic, in fact. And now they’re bottling the stuff.

Is it the best ESB in the province? Hard to say, only history will tell–scratch that. Yes, yes it is. Central City, you’ve been served.

Go out and get some now. I grabbed a few bottles at Firefly last weekend, and already I’m looking for more. R&B, please tell me this will be a regular addition to your lineup, and reserve a keg of it for my next pickup!

Written by chuck

June 3rd, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Posted in Beers,Breweries

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June Beer of the Month: Driftwood Spring Rite

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This probably surprises absolutely no one. Driftwood just keeps cranking out the great beers, and I just keep buying them. Although, I have to admit, this is just getting silly. At least slow down a bit guys! My cellar is now basically nothing but Driftwood, and if rumours of a summer kriek release are true, I might have to install another cellar in Sharon’s closet while she’s at work.

Issues with storage aside, this is a great beer. It’s a west coast take on the Trappist Ales of Belgium (in particular, this one was modelled after Orval). The “west coast” part means hops, and I very much think a handful of the second sweetest green bud known to man is a perfect addition to the already complex trappist style. With the addition of brett, this beer will also develop and change over time, and that’s why I grabbed two cases of it at Firefly last week.

I’m not going to expound about the subtle flavours because, at $7/bottle, you should just go buy one and find out yourself. If you want a more in-depth review, Vancouver Beer Blog has an excellent summary here.

In the meantime, Driftwood, please tone it down a bit and stop being quite so awesome. I’d very much like to talk about other breweries from time to time on this blog, and you’re hogging all the limelight.


The label is probably the weakest part of this release, in that it’s just good and not excellent. Oh well, they can’t make every label awesome.

Written by chuck

June 1st, 2011 at 11:14 am

Posted in Beers,Breweries

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