As I type this, it’s 32 degrees outside, sunny, a US IPA is sitting on my desk and a white-capped volcano slowly rolls by to the west.
Yup, I’m Portland bound again, for my annual pilgrimage to Craft Beer Mecca. As usual, I’m traveling in style by train (okay, busted-ass, bumpy Amtrak style, but hey, I have high speed internet, a desk, and a bar is just 40 feet away).
The agenda for this trip is similar to previous ones. Yes, my friends, I go to Portland so often that I have a regular itinerary. You know, the usuals: Cascade, Hair of the Dog, Commons, Pok Pok.
But this time, I hope to add a few newbies to the mix. 10 Barrel, despite officially being a “macro now,” has a new brew pub in the Pearl (thanks to that new AB-InBev cash, it should be mentioned). Plus, there’s a giant new beer bar in town: The Loyal Legion.
Throw onto that mix my first visit to fancy dinin’ Little Bird, and my recent revelation that Bailey’s has a secret Upstairs, and we’ve got a pretty good weekend.
See you next week, with my usual summary and tips.
When you think of craft beer in Vancouver, you don’t often think of Old Yale Brewing. I mean, they’re all the way out in Mordor (the Wack), so their beer can’t possibly be any good, right? So let’s just grab another hop bomb from <insert hip hot new local brewery here> and call it a day.
Thus, when 2014’s Canadian Beer Awards rolled around, more than a few eyebrows where raised when Old Yale’s tried and true Sasquatch Stout won the coveted “Beer of the Year” award. I’ll be honest, it took me by surprise as well. 2013’s winner was Powell Street’s delicious Old Jalopy Pale Ale. I had no problem with that. Hip new breweries beat the old guard, right? Punchy Pales > Boring Old Stouts.
Or so the thinking went before everyone woke up and remembered that Sasquatch is really quite a well brewed Stout. The win looks like it might have been somewhat of a surprise for the fine folks at Old Yale themselves, as the sudden rush of sales and publicity that follows such an award seems to have jarred them into a bit of a brand modernization.
With that rebrand comes a new brew, being right now broadly distributed via the BC LDB. With broad distribution comes media samples, and for the first time ever I received some Old Yale product to open, taste, and trash/praise. So, is Vanishing Monk Belgian Wit any good?
Yup, it is. It won’t blow your mind wide open, but it is a very well brewed example of a style that’s easy to mess up. Frankly, this beer is pretty good. There’s lots of yeast complexity going on here, but not so much it becomes the focus of the beer. There’s a subtle line between a refreshing Wit and a beer that’s all gonzo “Look at me! I’m brewed with a kooky yeast! CAN’T YOU TASTE THE ESTERS?!”
Plus, at 5.59 (before taxes) at the LDB it’s not a bad option. There’s lots of great competition in the Wit Zone, but Old Yale’s is one of the better ones.
Pours cloudy yellow with a thin, instantly dissipating head.
Faint lemon zest, good Belgian yeast esters (clove, black pepper).
creamy mouthfeel, good balance between sugar and yeast complexity. A nice light summer ale.
5.0% ABV / 20 IBU / Witbier
Yes, and then find a patio by a lake for full effect.
Driftwood White Bark, Strange Fellows Jongleur, Brassneck Staircase
If you’re like me, you woke up this morning and realized “oh shit! It’s VCBW today! I need to update my blog!” Admit it, we’ve all been there.
So, credit card clutched in a sweaty, shakey, DT-y hand, you open up the VCBW event website and take a look. Crap. There’s, like, a million events you can still get into. Which ones are fantastic ale-stravaganzas? Which are just you, stuck in a locked room with Graham With, sampling beers that “should probably be sour” for two hours with no escape? (side note to Chris B: can we make this a thing? We don’t even have to tell Graham. It’d be like a beer version of Lockdown.)
Fear not, lazy and/or incompetent beer geek, for I have hastily and last minute-ly gone through the site and offered up my opinions below. Read on, and purchase your tickets in the know that Chuck Hallett totally would have gone to these events if he wasn’t stuck in Minnesota all next week for work.
Lastly, folks, remember that most of these events are all-inclusive but the inclusiveness doesn’t usually include tips. Tip your servers, is what I’m saying.
Sunday May 31st @ 2pm @ The Cobalt
Skip. Oh how the mighty have fallen. The once legendary Hopapolooza has been rendered down to this… thing. What was Nigel Springthorpe throwing a singular focus onto providing the best beer drinking selection and experience BC has ever known has been rendered down to a tap takeover at a metal bar.
Sure, there will be some tasty beers on tap, and some fun times to be had, but that name will put an off flavour in any beer geek’s mouth. There is simply no way this event will measure up to the ghosts of beer events past.
BierCraft Belgian Showcase
Monday June 1st @ 6:30PM @ BierCraft Cambie
If you’d like a good intro to the Belgian classics, or just generally like good Belgian beer, go. If you’re an unrepentant hop head, well, then I don’t like you very much (and you should skip). There probably won’t be many beers on the menu at this event that you can’t simply waltz into BierCraft and order on any day of the week, but the pre-paid-ness of it all means you won’t experience sticker shock when looking at the bottle list. Get in there, order something you’ve never had, and then talk about it with your friends and the well trained staff.
Cicerone vs Sommelier
Tuesday June 2nd @ 6PM @ Legacy Liquor Store
Go. Okay, fine, hosting this in the back of a liquor store is just a wee step down from The Fairmont ARC last year, but I still find the very concept of a beer vs wine pairing competition intriguing. Some of my best
drunken orgies dinner parties revolved around similar themes, and the discussions you get into about why your favourites win are worth the price of admission alone.
Battle of the Bartenders: Beer Cocktail Competition V
Wednesday June 3rd @ 6PM @ The Blackbird
Skip. If you like cheap and boozey then this might be for you, but if those are your two favourite things then you’re probably not reading my blog. Beer cocktails can be interesting but, in the end, I’d just rather have the beer.
Rose City Rampage
Wednesday June 3rd @ 5pm @ Portland Craft
Go. I’m frankly shocked this isn’t sold out. If you can only go to one VCBW event, make it this one. By the time PC makes room for eight brewmasters and their entourages (and the no doubt additional eight BC brewmasters who will tag along), there’s gotta be room left for like 20 tickets to sell. If you’re ready to mingle with the elite of the beererati and up your beer geeking out game, this is a can’t miss.
Brothers in Hops
Thursday June 4th @ 6PM @ Butcher and Bullock
Skip. You’re still too hungover from Rose City Rampage, and really this is just a lesser shadow of that event. Four brewmasters instead of eight. Hoppy beers instead of All The Beers. Stay in bed.
Rookies and Legends
Friday June 5th @ 6PM @ 12 Kings
Skip. It’s just 24 regular taps pouring 24 regular beers. No speeches. No chances to corner Alex Ganum and press him to send us more Sole Compositions. Nothing special. As much as I like 12 Kings and its laid back, un-intimidating, “is this a strip club?” atmosphere, this event just doesn’t make the grade. Save your entry free and go play some foosball another night. Several other nights, in fact.
Saturday June 6th and Sunday June 7th @ 1PM @ PNE Centre Grounds
Skip. I don’t like beer festivals, and this one is no exception. Unless you’re just getting into craft beer in BC, this event probably isn’t worth your time. If you like geeking out about beer, talking to brewers, and comparing beard grooming tricks & hints, then skip this one. If you like drinking good beer with a few thousand of your closest friends under a blue sky, then go. Hmm, not sure I’m playing this one down as hard as I could.