Barley Mowat 

Archive for the ‘Breweries’ Category

Beer and Learning: Together at Last!

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I don’t often plug events on this blog, mostly because the events I think are good enough to plug tend to sell out instantaneously so I elect to not rub in the fact that I have tickets. Hey, speaking of which, I have tickets to Hoppapalooza! Suck it, losers! But I digress.

However, one event is upcoming that you can weirdly still purchase entry for. This is likely because it’s not focused on the general public. The Business of Craft Beer (May 29th, 2-6pm) is a four hour long boot camp on starting and marketing a brewery successfully.

Things kick off with a keynote from Ninkasi Brewing’s Jamie Floyd, then a open panel takes questions on Opening a Craft Brewery in BC featuring Don Farion (Bomber), Anthony Frustagli (Parallel 49) and Jim Dodds (Red Truck). Following that a new panel discusses what to do with the beer once you’ve made (Marketing & Selling Craft Beer), with Adam Mills (Four Winds), Ian McKay (Driftwood) and Tim Barnes (Central City).

Hosting the whole thing is that mountain of beer knowledge himself: Joe Wiebe. Also, you can expect me to interject random thoughts throughout the afternoon, at least until they use the gag and tranquilizers Joe no doubt told the organizers to have at the ready.

Why go, though? You already know how to brew beer and maybe even have threatened, conned and outright extorted your way to some seed capital (sorry, mom). You see, over the years I’ve talked to many dozens of brewers and brewery owners. To a person, they’re all lovely people but that doesn’t stop a solid third to half of them from having virtually no idea what they’re doing when it comes to running a brewery as a business. The balance aren’t a whole lot better, either.

Everyone wants to live the dream and start their own brewery. It sounds attractive: taking that hobby which enthrals you for hours at a time every few weeks (and destroys your kitchen) and turning it into your full time job (which isn’t in your kitchen). Having a chance to brew creatively, put your gorgeous beer in equally gorgeous bottles and then reaping the internal reward of seeing your beer right there on the shelf next to Four Winds (only your beer will be even better, ‘natch) is all the motivation you need.

Well, your VISA statement looking like this also
nudges you towards making free, unlimited beer.

That’s the dream, isn’t it? It’s a sexy temptress of an ideal that pulls you in, then gets all “I have a headache and you have books to balance” in the cold clear light of day. Actually crafting recipes and making beer are just two small steps in a long serpent of a convoluted business process. How much should you spend on packaging? Used brewhouse or new? When do you bottle? Do you even bottle? Can? How much do you have to pay farmers to pick up your spent grain? What licenses do you need to open a tasting room? And HOLY SHIT YOU HAVE TO PAY SOMEONE TO COME GET YOUR SPENT GRAIN?!?

Running a brewery is running a business. End of story. If you’re seriously considering getting into this business or even if you’re still in the day dreaming stage, a chance to ask people pointed and frank questions in an open setting is worth far, far more than the $75 cost of entrance, even if food and beer weren’t included (which, by the way, they are).

If you just looked at that “$75” and thought “that’s too expensive” then save us all some time and keep your day job. Starting a brewery will be the hardest, most expensive, most time consuming thing you’ve ever done with your life, and saving a paltry $75 at the start of this process by not attending this event is about the single worst way to save money you could conceive of.

Seriously, saving $1/hr by hiring this guy to be your delivery driver would be smarter.

Maybe I’m recommending this event because the organizers asked me to (they did) or because they gave me a free ticket (also true), and sure, those things absolutely meet my main criteria for blogging on a topic: making my life better. However, I try to think a bit longer term. My life would be massively better if there were even more breweries in BC, and there will be more breweries if the existing breweries aren’t going out of business left, right and centre because their owners put too much emphasis on “making great beer” and not enough on “paying rent.” You can do both, folks, but you gotta learn how.

This event won’t answer all the questions you need answered in order to run brewery as a business. Heck, it won’t even start. However, if you’re lucky and pay attention, it might teach you which questions you have to ask in the first place, and that’s gotta be worth $75.

Buy your tickets here.

Written by chuck

May 20th, 2014 at 2:48 pm

Feature Beer: Turning Point (Stanley Park) Wit

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Whoa, now THAT’S a controversial headline, eh? Bet you didn’t see that coming. So, what happened? Did Stanley Park make a beer good enough to get off my shit list? Have I sold out? Did I burn my tongue horribly and now perceive everything around me to be full of fruity esters and lemon peel? Did I forget my long-standing feud and dislike of the most dishonest brewery in BC?

None of those things happened. Well, maybe the sellout thing, because this was a sample beer sent to me for review and frankly there is no other way I’d crack open a Stanley Park beer outside of whatever bent moral obligation I feel to at least taste the horrid dreck that shows up in the mail. So I guess that counts as a sellout.

The other thing that didn’t happen is the whole “good beer” aspect. This beer is not amazing. In fact, it might be the most boring beer I’ve ever featured. However, what this beer is not, though, is insipid pond water filtered within an inch of its miserable existence in order to appeal to a mouth breathing moron who only just now set down his empty Molson Canadian but yet can’t wait the five minutes it will take to change the keg, so he orders the next tap instead.

A little further to the left and, with a little luck, his life was ruined forever.

It might even qualify as “not bad” and that, my fiends, solidly makes it the Best Beer Turning Point Has Ever Made. Remember my whole spiel a few months back about how a mediocre beer from a terrible brewery is as worthy, if not more worthy, of praise then yet another home run from someone like Four Winds? Well, time to put my blog where my mouth is.

Not only is the quality (and unfiltered-ness) of this beer a big improvement for Turning Point, but so is the branding. Previous Stanley Park beers were wrapped in packaging so dishonest it would make the Ministry of Truth proud. This iteration does away with a few of the nastier claims, but doesn’t quite come clean. Gone are the picture of an impossibly tiny windmill and the ludicrous claim that it somehow powers a major brewery (it doesn’t), and the image of the late 1890’s Stanley Park brewery with the implied claim that this is somehow the same entity (it’s not).

Improved, yes, but not perfect. Still missing are some key facts, including that there is no such entity as Stanley Park Brewery (seriously, there isn’t), and that the beer in question is brewed by Turning Point Brewing which is owned by the Mark Anthony Group (better know for Mission Hill wine, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and Palm Bay).

Additionally, the beer now claims to be one of the best beers on the planet (it isn’t). This is a curious claim backed up by absolutely nothing, much like the bottle’s other claim of being produced in Canada’s first sustainable brewery (it isn’t). I guess if you listed every beer on the planet in order of quality and called it “A List of the Best Beers on Earth” then this beer would indeed appear on said list, but honestly that’s stretching things a bit.

Lastly, the beer 100% claims to be produced in “Vancouver BC” (it isn’t) and gives us a postal code (no address though) that correlates to somewhere around Main and 2nd. No where to be found is the awful truth: that the beer is produced on Annacis Island somewhere around the sewage treatment plant. Further research indicates this location is, in fact, not in Stanley Park.

Still, things are getting better, and that deserves some praise. Despite the ugly neighbours, the brewery on Annacis Island is capable of producing some amazing beer, if only they would try, and we have to encourage them to try.

APPEARANCE Cloudy yellow, almost glowing. Honestly, this is a pretty beer.
NOSE Some Belgian yeast esters, some lemon/orange.
TASTE A boring Wit, but not awful. I cannot stress this enough. Lemon esters are present but subdued. Orange peel is nice at the start but provides a bitter finish towards the end.
STATS 5.0% ABV / 14 IBU / Belgian Wit
SHOULD I BUY IT? Do you want something light ‘n fruity but can’t be bothered to hit up a brewery? At a wedding and it’s either this or listening to the drawn-out speeches sober? Sure. Otherwise, skip it.

Brewery Turning Point / Stanley Park
From Delta, down by the sewage treatment plant
Name Wit
Style Belgian Wit
SOA Now None awarded
SOA Potential n/a
Drink Now
Would Chuck buy it? Well, uh… no.
Availability Everywhere
Cost $12.25 per six pack
Similar Beers Driftwood Whitebark, Powell Street Wit, Moon Under Water Lightside

Written by chuck

May 9th, 2014 at 11:27 am

Posted in Beers

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Driftwood Singularity 2014

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It’s here. Singularity landed yesterday at private stores around the lower mainland (those lucky bastards in Victoria got it Friday). As a result, I spent a good chunk of my Monday evening going from LRS to LRS to buy the maximum they would sell me. As often is the case with these limited one-offs, the private stores put per-customer bottle limits in place to ensure more folk get a chance to buy some. Last year these limits were in the 4, 5 or 6 per person range. This year it’s more like 2 or 3. For future reference, this angers Chuck. Please let me buy it all, dammit!

Also notably, this is the first year that Driftwood has fessed up to the actual alcohol levels in Singularity. While previous years claimed either 11.9% or 11.8% to avoid a stiff tax increase at the 12% mark, the 2014 edition proudly calls out all 146 of its ABV points. Yup, this stuff is 14.6%. Tread with care, as even one bomber is far more than you should reasonably consume solo.

Is it worth the buzz? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s a very good beer (more on that below), but there are plenty of other, better Russian Imperial Stouts made in North America. The trick is that they’re just not available here. Walk into your local LRS and if you’re lucky, you’ll have three RIS’s to pick from: Howe Sound Pothole Filler, Parallel 49 RIS and this one. Sure, Singularity is the best of the bunch, but it’s not twice as good as P49’s quite decent–and still available–RIS.

Enough playing it down. How does it stack up against previous vintages? Well, I won’t dally with downplaying this beer anymore. This is perhaps the best Singularity vintage to date. All the best characteristics from previously vintages are here: deep chocolate, cherries, molasses notes from the malt, plus that smoothy, rich, creamy mouthfeel, plus a nice bourbon burn from the barrel aging. The nose and bourbon burn are a bit harsh, but those will be the first aspects to mellow with some time in the cellar. Even so, it drinks quite well right this instant. Well played, guys.

Special Mention: West Coast Liquor Kerrisdale is selling a 3 year vertical of Singularity. Love it!

APPEARANCE Inky black, with a thin, quickly fading deep tan head. Low carb.
NOSE Liquorice, cassis, chocolate, plus a slightly unpleasant medicinal alcohol tone.
TASTE All the big hits for dark malt complexity: dark fruits (cassis, cherries), sweet chocolate, almost imperceptible liquorice. Bourbon and alcohol are strong now, but will fade with some cellaring.
STATS 14.6% ABV / ? IBU / Russian Imperial Stout / 5.7 standard drinks per bottle / 4oz serving size
SHOULD I BUY IT? Oh please. You already have.

Brewery Driftwood
From Victoria
Name Singularity
Style Russian Imperial Stout
SOA Now Silver
SOA Potential Gold
Drink Late 2015+
Does it taste like green apples? Nope!
Availability Widely available at LRS
Cost ~$13.50 per bomber
Similar BC Beers Parallel 49 RIS, Phillips Hammer, Howe Sound Pothole Filler


Almost gold for right now, as it is eminently drinkable.

Written by chuck

March 4th, 2014 at 11:44 am

Posted in Beers

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