Barley Mowat 

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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Alcohol in Craft Beer

with 187 comments

Stunning revelation time: beer has alcohol in it. I’m sure that you’re shocked to learn this, as I am. To be fair, though, we couldn’t be expected to know this, as it’s not like anyone in the industry goes out of their way to fess up. Bottle descriptions will tell you what types of hops are in the beer, and where they were grown. Some will list the grain bill. Most will talk about yeast and give you tasting notes, but none direct your attention to the small number at the bottom.

So I’ll do it. Beer has alcohol in it. Booze. Grog. Happy juice. Enabling fluid. Whatever you want to call it, it’s in beer, and every time you drink beer, you’re drinking alcohol. A lot of alcohol. In craft beer circles, no one wants to talk about this. It has become the elephant in the room.

And the elephant is drunk.
Seriously, though, how fucked is this train schedule?

Okay, fine. Maybe you’re smart and already knew this. Maybe you’re even are aware that, as fun as alcohol can be, it can be dangerous in large quantities. Perhaps you even know that Health Canada recommends drinking less than 15 beers a week, and you abide by that rule. (10 for women–for simplicity’s sake I’ll focus on men in this article, sorry ladies, but the numbers for women are 2/3 those of men)

Those 15 beers are divided nicely into 3 beers a day. What’s that? 3 beers a day means 21 a week? Well, folks, Health Canada recommends, gasp, not drinking every day. In fact, at least two days a week should be alcohol free, and you should definitely avoid downing more than 4 in a sitting.

4 while standing, though is just fine.
(The top one is for ballast)

“Okay, okay, fine,” you say, “I rarely drink five pints in a night anyways. For the sake of health, I guess I’ll skip Sunday and Wednesday, but every other day I’ll stop off at the bar and have my three pints of Fat Tug, call it a day, and go home to continue my newly healthy, long life.” Not so fast, skippy.

Here’s the kicker: Those 15 beers up there are cans of 5% ABV macro lager. Craft beer is a different beast entirely, and as the ABV wars have escalated the average alcohol content slowly over the years, craft beer drinkers have decidedly not adapted their drinking habits. Judging by the constant stream of Untappd checkins from people I follow, the craft beererati seem to be consuming about the same volumes of beer as their macro drinking counter-parts, and often even more.

Mostly because our six packs have bigger bottles.
Buy this cool holder on etsy

Fat Tug, served in pints, breaks those guidelines in two important ways. First, a proper pint is a lot bigger than a can (67% bigger, in fact), and it’s a lot boozier as well (+40%). Factor those two things in and that 20oz pint of Fat Tug you’re sipping on becomes 2.3 standard drinks. Those three pints you were going to have? 6.9 drinks, or over a six pack of regular beer. That means you can only have one pint, my friend.

Some of you just scoffed at this. “Sure, but those guidelines are for wimps.” Maybe. Maybe not; consider this: compare “I’ll stop by the pub for a few pints” with “I’m gonna slam a six pack with a whiskey chaser.” One is the sort of thing said by a craft beer aficionado, and the other by a smelly skid row alcoholic on welfare Wednesday. Both people, though, are drinking the same amount of alcohol.

Let me say it again: those three pints of IPA are the booze equivalent of seven beers. Seven. Unless you’re 20 and it’s Friday, seven beers is not the best idea. Do it every day after work and you’re seriously flirting with alcoholism. Add a pint at lunch and you’re suddenly on Betty Ford’s Christmas card list. This doesn’t even include pulling a shift at your favourite pub on Friday and Saturday nights.

And that’s Fat Tug, which at 7% ABV is hardly the reigning heavy weight of local brews. Other IPAs are 8% or more, and non-IPA styles like Belgian Strongs are frequently in the 9%+ range. Local Imperial Stouts crest 10% and one example clocks in at a whopping 14.6%. That 14.6% stout, sold in a 650ml bomber, contains 5.7 standard drinks: more than a whole bottle of most wines. Health Canada recommends keeping any single evening to 4 drinks or under, meaning that drinking a bottle of Imperial Stout by yourself would make a doctor frown–opening a second one afterwards is right out.

Unless you share. Then it’s cool; doctors are notorious drunks.

So what is a standard drink? It’s about 17ml of pure alcohol. Since that’s not super helpful by itself, I’ve done the math for you, for a few local brews.

Beer ABV Package Size Drinks in Package Appropriate Serving
Driftwood Fat Tug 7% 650ml 2.7 270ml (9.5oz)
Howe Sound Woolly Bugger 11% 341ml 2.2 155ml (5.5oz)
Phillips Hoperation 8% 650ml 3.0 213ml (7.5oz)
CC Imperial IPA 9% 650ml 3.4 191ml (6.7oz)
Driftwood Singularity 14.6% 650ml 5.7 115ml (4.0oz)

Well, crap. What do we do about this? Demand that beer be sold in tiny, tiny bottles? Nope. We just need to be more aware of the amount of alcohol we’re consistently cramming down our pie holes. When you walk into a bar you need to realize that in the vast majority of cases a pint is not an appropriate serving size for craft beer, unless you plan on making it your only drink of the evening.

And no cheating with the definition of “pint” ya rummy. It’s 20oz or nothing.

Be aware of what you’re consuming, and what’s in it. Try higher ABV beers in smaller sizes (the Alibi has both 10oz or 6oz sizes for just such a reason, in addition to reducing the size of their “large” glass for high ABV beers). At home, exercise some restraint and don’t drink the whole bottle. Crazy, I know, but open beer will last until tomorrow if you cap it (I’ll do some research on this and report back later).

Treat the higher ABV beers with the respect they deserve. These are painstakingly produced and deserve to be sipped and savoured. You should drink them on a timeline closer to a glass of wine than a can of shit lager, letting the flavours open up as the fluid warms and interacts with the air.

As well, if you want more than one pint of beer, try more of the increasingly popular sessional releases that are coming out from local breweries. These guys typically come in below 5%, meaning you can have more than one, or have the same amount and consume less booze. Phillips and Central City have India Session Ales, and sessional beers are increasingly on the menu at Brassneck (although, note that a 20oz pint of 4% session beer still is about 1.3 standard drinks).

Monitor how much and how often you drink. This one might seem a bit extreme on first reading, but no one consciously chooses to become an alcoholic. They just wake up that way one day. What’s worse is that it’s usually a few years later that they actually realize it, and a few more before they admit it to others.

In short, be an adult, and remember that while the drink in your hand is lovingly made in small batches, using quality ingredients, and costs a lot to buy, it’s still a drink.

Written by chuck

February 26th, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Beer and You

2013 CAMRA Beer Awards

with one comment

The CAMRA Vancouver Member Awards were this weekend past, and since I knew ahead of time I was on the award-ee list, I decided to go, because I like external validation.

Much to my surprise, though, the awards were not just a 3-hour gala dedicated to yours truly, but instead I had to share the stage with some other “deserving” folks. Oh well, in the sake of at least seeming interested in things other than myself, I guess I’ll re-post the results here.

Okay, enough of the faux self-absorbed beer blogger persona. In all honesty, congrats to the winners. These rewards represent some serious beer-geek cred. The CAMRA Vancouver membership represents perhaps the crustiest top tier of beer snobs in Vancouver, which is the beer capital of BC and, by extension, Canada. Sorry Victoria, I know you have both Driftwood and a higher brewery-to-populace ratio, but how many new breweries did you open last year? Thought so.

Amongst the just-over 1400 CAMRA card-carrying beererati are a large number of professional brewmasters, retail store owners, restauranteurs and actual professional beer reviewers (remember, I’m just an amateur). Impressing this lot is not an easy task.

Overwhelmingly I agree with the results. Perhaps my only complaint would be that Four Winds Saison Brett didn’t make the Best Seasonal cut, but so little of that was produced that likely not enough voters had tried it. (Also, Howe Sound coming in first for Best BC BrewPub yet only placing third for Best Local BrewPub is a bit odd, but maybe too many folks didn’t consider it local despite the explicit note that Squamish was in-area)

So, without further adieu, here is the full list of CAMRA Member Award Winners. I’ll include their Twitter handles so you can give them a follow or two. Please do so.

Best Beer Blogger or Writer:
Bronze: Jan Zeschky (cialis and women)
Silver: Joe Wiebe (@ThirstyWriter)
Gold: Chuck Hallett (@Barley_Mowat)

Best Beer Name (Gold only):
Gold: Toques of Hazzard (@Parallel49Beer)

Best Beer Artwork (Gold only):
Gold: Craft Beer Month Collaboration Spruce Tip Stout (@CraftBeerMonth)

Best Local Beer Event:
Bronze: BC Beer Awards (BCBeerAwards)
Silver: Hopapalooza (@AlibiRoom / @VCBW)
Gold: Vancouver Craft Beer Week (@VCBW)

Best BC Beer (Non-Seasonal):
Bronze: Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears (@Parallel49Beer)
Silver: Central City Red Racer IPA (cialis on line order)
Gold: Driftwood Fat Tug (cialis 4cpr 20mg)

Best BC Beer (Seasonal):
Bronze: Driftwood Singularity (@DriftwoodBeer)
Silver: Driftwood Lustrum (@DriftwoodBeer)
Gold: Driftwood Sartori Harvest (@DriftwoodBeer)

Best Local Beer Server/Bartender:
Bronze: Nicole Coetzee (Alibi/Brassneck) (@XGingerBeerX)
Silver: Alex Wilson (Alibi/Brassneck) (@A_P_Wilson)
Gold: Nigel Springthorpe (Alibi/Brassneck) (@AlibiRoom)

Best Local Beer Establishment:
Bronze: BierCraft (@BierCraft)
Silver: St Augustine’s (@StAugustinesVan)
Gold: Alibi Room (@AlibiRoom)

Best Local Private LIquor Store:
Bronze: Central City Liquor Store (@CentralCityLRS)
Silver: Legacy Liquor Store (@LegacyLiquor)
Gold: Brewery Creek Liquor Store (@BreweryCreek)

Best Local Cask Night:
Bronze: The Railway Club — Tuesday (@RailwayClub)
Silver: St Augustine’s — Monday (cialis uses for women)
Gold: The Whip — Sunday (@WhipRestaurant)

Best Local Brewpub:
Bronze (tie): Howe Sound Inn & Brewpub (taking cialis overseas)
Bronze (tie): Yaletown Brewing Company (@YBC_Brewing)
Silver: Steamworks (@SteamworksPub)
Gold: Central City Brewpub (megalis generic tadalafil)

Best BC Brewpub:
Bronze: Spinnakers (cialis 20 mg dosage)
Silver: Central City (@CentralCityPub)
Gold: Howe Sound (@HoweSoundBeer)

Best BC Brewery:
Bronze: Four Winds (@FourWindsBrewCo)
Silver: Parallel 49 (@Parallel49Beer)
Gold: Driftwood (@DriftwoodBeer)

Special, Lifetime Achievement Award: John Mitchell (no Twitter)

That’s it, folks. No smarmy trash talk, no funny pictures. This list is about handing praise over to deserving folks, so please go do that now. Tell them you love them, buy their beer, go to their pubs. If you’re really into learning more, do some Googling on this “John Mitchell” character above.

I’ll resume my self-indulgent navel gazing in another post.

Written by chuck

February 17th, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with