Barley Mowat 

2013 Beerdies

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What a night, eh? Wow, that was epic. I have to admit, if you asked me at the start of the evening if I thought I’d be able to get up at 8am to work on the blog I’d have carefully expressed my respectful skepticism. My answer would have morphed from “Unlikely” to “Feeesk yoush… yoush don’t know meee!” right about the time we were saddling that pack of stray dogs, and hanging a cat from a string on a stick.

Okay, fine. I’ll be honest. I wrote this over the weekend and it’s been auto-posted and Twitter-pimped by clever software. I am asleep, or in a ditch, or maybe even asleep in a ditch. You most likely are, too, and might even be beside me, but that’s what cellular data is for.

Last year on New Year’s Day I introduced the “Annual Barley Mowat Excellence in Beer Awards” aka The Beerdies, and I figure there’s no sense in introducing an annual something if you don’t plan on at least doing it every year or so, like clockwork. That’s me: when I make a commitment to give out an award repeatedly, on a set schedule, I come through each and every time. Why are you laughing?

Enough intro, time for the awards! Unlike most Year In Review columns, I’ve waited until the year is actually done, so even newly opened Green Leaf had a chance to be considered. Sure, they didn’t win anything, but they were considered and that’s enough for me.

Brewery What Took Most Of My Money: Driftwood (brewmaster Jason Meyer)

A repeat from 2012, but Driftwood isn’t as far out front here as they have been. This whole “brewery lounge” thing has given a distinct advantage to the newer breweries right by my office, and while Driftwood still won out due to a few great seasonals bought by the caselot, and Fat Tug being my go-to beer in non-beer pubs, Brassneck was not too far behind… and they’ve only been open a few months… I drink a lot after work, is what I’m saying here.


Also before work, but that’s just part of a balanced breakfast.
Hottest Brewery Accessory: Lounges

Tasting rooms were swell, but the ridiculous legal restrictions made them kinda sucky. Lounges, though, turn brewery tasting rooms into de facto bars, but bars that just happen to have direct access to the freshest, tastiest beers around. Chuck likey.

Best Seasonal Lineup: Parallel 49 (brewmaster Graham With)

This was a hard decision to make (see Most Improved for the runner-up), but in the end the sheer number of interesting beers coming out of Triumph Street gave the nod to P49. Sure, they dumped L’il Red on the market like you’d dump an old mattress in an alleyway, but they also released Hopnotist, and about a dozen other great beers.

Best New Trend: Food Trucks at Breweries

Tuesdays have become known as “Pie and Beer Day.” A constantly rotating food truck out front lets the brewery focus on beer, and lets people inside said brewery have an ever-changing rotation of cuisine to choose from. The mix and matching for beer pairings is endless.

Best Nigel Springthorpe: Nigel Springthorpe

Even though Nigel did the unspeakable and shaved away all his beer geek cred in one foolish, marriage-saving move, he still takes home the candy. Nigel’s day-in, day-out commitment to supporting, making, and serving top notch beer has transformed this city into the premier craft beer destination it is today and I, for one, will never stop being grateful.


I can still lament the horrible beard decision, though, right?
Photo credit: Vancouver Sun
Most Improved Brewery: Granville Island (brewmaster Vern Lambourne)

No, I’m not talking about their regular lineup. That’s still dreck. I’m talking about the one-off and seasonal releases that are still brewed on the namesake island/bloated peninsula. Vern’s beers have always been decent, but this year he doubled the special sauce in the ingredient list. They’re better both inside and outside the bottle.

First, I’ve been a champion of differentiating the branding between the Molson-ized 12oz products and Vern’s carefully crafted line of bombers for quite a while, and they finally heeded me (let’s just pretend it was me, okay? It makes me feel important). The bombers don’t lie about where they were made, but neither do they scream Granville Island at you. This increases the chance of their selling on merit, to craft beer types–not the market their mainstream beers are targeted at.

Second, the beers are just plain better than last year. Pucker Meister, Burly Goat, Thirsty Farmer, Mad Dash, Uncle Monty’s–all great. Plus, somehow they made a collaboration IPA with Joey Restaurants that is outstanding (it’s white labeled as “Urban Legend” and getting rare). All round, more good beer, showcasing more of Vern’s talents.

Best New Brewery: Four Winds (brewmaster Brent Mills)

Nothing like an upset, eh? Brassneck doesn’t win Best New Brewery? What gives? Brassneck is producing some mighty fine beer, but Four Winds started off good and has been dialling in their regular line up over the past six months to near perfection. Their IPA is challenging the reigning trifeca of Central City, Driftwood and Lighthouse, and that takes some doing. Then, this fall they went out and released two great barrel-aged beers, and confided in me that a sour release was coming. However, nothing speaks to their potential more than the beer they didn’t release.

Remember that jaw-dropingly awesome Saison Brett? Well, there were two batches of it. Yup, two. Only the first one was released, though, because Brent didn’t feel that batch number two lived up to his quality expectations. That’s a move that takes balls, and shows an unrelenting commitment to great beer, and that’s why they got my nod in this category.

And now, the grand prize of the 2013 Beerdies (aka the Golden Beerdie):

Best Beard in BC Beer: Josh Michnik (33 Acres)

I almost gave this prize to the no-doubt sizeable heap of Conrad’s ex-beard, but I had forgotten that a great BC Beer Beard existed just four blocks to the west. Congrats, Josh!


If you think he looks trepidatious, keep in mind that I just pulled out a camera and asked if I could take his picture “for the internet.”

Written by chuck

January 1st, 2014 at 11:51 am

Beer of the… Quarter?

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It’s been a while since I’ve picked a beer of the… let’s just call it quarter. However, this holiday season there’s one very interesting brew out there that I figure everyone should buy and try.

Beers make it into my acclaimed Box What Is On The Right Of The Blog for a few reasons. Sometimes they’re stonking great, but often they’re just interesting or unique for any one of a dozen reasons. Maybe the brewery is stepping up their game, maybe the packing is interesting, or maybe the beer itself is excellent. This mon–er, quarter, all three are true.

The beer in question is Howe Sound’s Woolly Bugger 2013. In past years, this has been one of the few BC Brewed, English-style Barley Wines on the market and I’ve loved it for that. This year, though, they change things up a bit and went for more of a hybrid form: a strong malt base with a slightly bitter finish. The result is an outstanding step up from previous years, and a beer that is eminently drinkable now but will definitely cellar well for 2-3 years. Right now you’ll get subtle chocolate behind balanced hops, but over time the smooth malt tones will mingle and come forward.

But I said something about packaging, right? Sure did. Check this bad boy out.


Ooooooooo, yeah.

This is a dramatic departure from previous HS bottlings, but also from prior Woolly Buggers. Frankly, I love every little bit of this bottle. To generate this beauty, Howe Sound teamed up with Tom Pedriks from Resonance Branding and, gosh darn it, they did well. In addition to a flat out awesome 19th century pharmaceutical look and feel on a bottle that basically contains medicine, the format of the bottle should not be overlooked.

It’s a 375ml demi bottle. Most local Barley Wines come in 650ml bombers, which can make the commitment involved in cracking one open to drink somewhat daunting. For reference, here is the one I had last night, with the entirety of its contents poured into my glass.


“Drinkable” in beer doesn’t usually means “something you can physically drink in one sitting” but what the hell, I’ll call this one Drinkable.

So, go forth and buy a few bottles of this sweet boozy concoction, and enjoy yourself a cool snifter in front of a roaring fire. It’s what this beer was made for.

APPEARANCE Deep, opaque auburn with quickly dissipating thin head.
NOSE Caramel, chocolate and a hint of backing hops.
TASTE Sharp, but not overwhelming, hops followed by a smooth malt body. Subtle chocolate intertwines with strong caramel.
STATS 10.5% ABV / 75 IBU / 25 Degrees Plato
SHOULD I BUY IT? Absolutely. Buy at least two: one for now and one to drink alongside next year’s version.

Brewery Howe Sound
From Squamish
Name Woolly Bugger
Style Barley Wine (Hybrid American/English)
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential Silver
Drink Now-2016
Thing that could improve label Two gloved hands pointing at the name
Availability Most LRS’s have some
Cost ~$5-7 per 375ml demo
Similar Beers All the other Barley Wines out there right now


 


Time will make it better. Trust me.

Written by chuck

December 24th, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Posted in Beers

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Sneak Peak of Main Street Brewing

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Brewery Creek saw a good year, with two highly regarded breweries opening their doors. Locals, thirsty for a decent pint, flocked to jam-pack first 33 Acres then Brassneck. The clean white interior of 33 Acres couldn’t contrast more with the warm woodiness of Brassneck, but us beer drinkers didn’t care. The liquid on offer was good, so we came–in large numbers. And, as anyone who’s tried to get into Brassneck after 5:30pm on a Friday can attest, we continue to do so to this day.

Meanwhile, not quite two blocks from the bustling, frenetic energy of Brassneck, another brewery is slowly but steadily marching towards opening. That outfit is Main Street, who started out (and currently still run) as a contract brewery compliments of Russell Brewing. They aim to change that status by bringing all the fermentation in-house, and soon. I had a chance to do a brief tour of their current state of affairs this week, and while opening day is still clearly some weeks away, the dream is finally beginning to materialize.


As per usual, the dream involves lots of beer.

These are some teaser shots of what they’re working on. While 33 Acres borrows heavily from a minimalist Scandinavian aesthetic, and Brassneck could perhaps be most accurately described as the ultimate man cave, Main Street will be playing up the aged bricks and beams and soaring ceilings of the aptly named Vancouver Brewery Garage to create something totally different.


If you had a spot like this in your house, you’d turn it into a tasting room, too.

I’d like to say that I’m only sharing three shots because I’m all secretive and stuff, but the reality is that I’m a lousy photographer and the rest came out blurry. I’ll head back in a few weeks’ time with a proper camera (and Sharon to operate it) for an uptime–all the pieces should be coming together by then. Based on my dead reckoning, expect Main Street Brewing to open in February or March of 2014.


Unless that rugged, old roof caves in.

Written by chuck

December 19th, 2013 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Breweries

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