Barley Mowat 

This Just In-ier

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Remember that Craft Beer Market taplist that was leaked last week on reddit? (Hat tip to a few folks for email me about that one, including Rob Ardies) I re-posted it here and generated a bit of comment about whether or not it was legit. Well, it’s legit. CBM has now soft-opened, so feel free to head on down to check things out. If you’re too far away, too busy to make it, or (like me) are just holding out for the official launch, here are some spy shots of the final menu.

[Page 1] – [Page 2] – [Page 3]
(Spy photo credit: Thomas Milne)

There’s not a lot of new information there, though, because the leaked list was basically 100% accurate, right down to which beers go in which categories, and where those appear on the menu. And yes, for those that are interested in such things, this means that Alexander Keith’s was indeed slotted into the IPA category. They did, though, at least put down an IBU rating for each list IPA, and Keith’s is curiously lower than any of the other entrants at 28 (12 lower than the English IPA’s minimum of 40 by style).

The sole change to the early menu is a cider swap-out that saw Foundry get left behind and Sommersby get the nod for game time.

One detail that was missing from the leaked list was the composition of the 13 rotating taps. Wonder no more, my friends (pic):

  • GIB Collaboration Brew*
  • Wolf Red Brick IPA
  • Ninkasi Total Domination IPA
  • GIB Pumpkining
  • Ommegang Game of Thrones Take the Black Stout
  • American Brewing Breakaway IPA
  • Steamworks Pale
  • Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere
  • New Belgium Pumpkick
  • Stiegl Radler Zitrone
  • Elysian Oddland Spiced Pear
  • Big Rock Life of Chai
  • Lighthouse Tasman

* This isn’t my beer as it hasn’t been brewed–or even conceived–yet

Lastly, here are some tidbits for you:

  • 0.4l of Fat Tug is priced at $6.25, or ~$0.46 per US oz. This is fairly pricey according to the famous Fat Tug Index. Aside: why US ounces, Paddy?
  • For those wondering what that would be for a proper pint (and let’s be honest, at least one of us seems to wonder about very little else), that’s about $8.88
  • The rotating taps aren’t pouring yet (UPDATE: Some are; see comments), and won’t be in time for next week’s official opening.
  • Tuesday is cask day. While I applaud having a cask at all, I am very disappointed that one of the rotating taps simply isn’t a cask all the time.
  • Tuesday is also discount beer day. All beers are $2 off. That change modifies Fat Tug above to be ~$0.31 per US oz, or about the same as the Charlatan every day.
  • gives this list an average of 60.2 overall, 66.67 by style. That’s a marked improvement from their Calgary location (53).
  • Worst Beer (according to Bud Light, which gets an “n/a” for overall, and 1 for style
  • Best Beers (according to Ayinger Celebrator, St Ambroise Oatmeal (100/100)

Written by chuck

October 30th, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Bars

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Of Brands and Men

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A strange thing happened this weekend: I realized I might just be a pompous ignoramus screaming unwarranted obscenities from the local craft beer sidelines. Oh wait, no. I realize that every weekend. Aside: The trick to really perfecting your ignoramus-ness, by the way, is to simultaneously realize it and simply not care.

No, the strange thing that happened is that I tried the much maligned (by me) “Best Scottish/Irish Ale in BC”: Lighthouse Race Rocks. I was up at the Harrison Beer Fest (stayed tuned for my review of that affair) and I availed myself of a no doubt fresh-as-possible glass of The Dread RR.

Why would I do this; what could I hope to be different? Well, before tasting it I read up on BJCP Style 9C, which is what Brewmaster Dean Mcleod entered RR as in this competition. So, instead of bracing myself for a beer I had prejudged as awful, I tried my best to clear my head and dive into this looking for the promised mild malt with kettle caramelization, earth tones and balanced bitterness.

Fuck me, it’s there. Race Rocks is a well balanced mild Scottish, and I just didn’t realize it before now. Is it Gold-good? I said it wasn’t on Untappd but, you know what, how the hell would I know? I didn’t try the other entrants in that category. I don’t even know who they were (aside from the other two medal winners). I simply don’t have enough info to make that call. In short, I was talking out of my ass (upon reflection, the “out of my ass” should really be considered implied whenever I am observed to be talking).

This revelation got me thinking, as beer often does, about how we all like to think of ourselves as reasonable, rational beings who are capable of making perfectly consistent judgement calls on a regular basis. The reality, though, is that we’re squishy meat bags of imperfection who are trained every day to like certain things and to hate others. Some of this training is very deliberate and blunt while much of the rest is just us being us.

Lightning? Fire? Dry Ice? Wailing electric guitar? An all-leather-clad, long-haired Michael Ironside using words like “power”? All those things are awesome! This beer must therefore ALSO BE AWESOME! Q.E.D.

The mere fact that Race Rocks came out of a Race Rocks can likely doomed it to a lower opinion from me because of my experiences with this beer in the distant past, when arguably it was the syrupy malt-water I remember it to be. Who knows what caused that initial impression? Maybe the beers I had were sitting on the shelf too long (malt-forward light ales do not do well in the liquor store)? Maybe the brewing wasn’t as tight before Dean showed up? Any one of a million variables could have changed it in the interim.

Maybe it was the biggest variable in the equation: me. It’s very possible that once I discovered more aggressive styles I reflexively labelled my previously favoured styles as bad. It’s very human thing to do, and that impression can be a very strong one to shake.

Here I am just 18 months ago doing a blind taste test on four beers, including Race Rocks. Note how words like “well balanced” show up in my notes. Sounds kinda like the beer I had above, right? (although, notably I did not get even a slight puff of DMS off it this time).

I know what some of you are thinking now: “But Chuck! It’s an Amber Ale! Calling a beer labelled ‘Amber Ale’ good because it tastes like a 80 Shilling Scottish is like calling a beer labelled ‘IPA’ good because it tastes like a light lager.” Fun trick: pick up a pack or can of Race Rocks and really take a good look at it. Find me the “Amber Ale.” I’ll wait.

It’s not there. It might have been there in the past, and it certainly is still there in the “Story Behind Lighthouse” section of their homepage (in 1998 the beer no doubt was marketed as a generic Amber Ale to a beer consuming public that considered beers to be one of lager, amber, pale and Guinness), but the only style label* on Race Rocks today is the one we put there in our minds.

Lastly, does this mean I’m a convert? Am I a Race Rocks Man now? Does such a thing exist? Hardly. Race Rocks is a well made beer, for its style. Ultimately, thought, this particular style won’t be one that I spend my limited beer money on. There are too many excellent examples of more aggressive, interesting, or just plain weird styles out there for me to do that. However, that’s the first thing you learn in Beer Judging 101: Just because you’re not a fan of a style doesn’t mean beers of that style are bad beers.

Except this one. Beers of this style are bad beers.

* — Side note: I don’t like un-styled beers. I want some indication of what’s in the bottle I’m buying, and unlabeled beer just screams of “generic beer” to me. As a fun experiment, I think Lighthouse should release Race Rocks in a 650ml bomber as a new beer: “Dean’s 80 Shilling Ale” complete with craft packaging and branding. I would absolutely love to watch the differences in review scores between that and RR in cans.

Written by chuck

October 28th, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with ,

Going Up River

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I’m off this weekend to check out the Harrison Beer Festival, and just generally relax up at Harrison Hot Springs. Why would a downtown-obsessed geographical quasi-Luddite like me subject myself to nigh-2 hours of car travel that involves any or all of: rush hour, bridges, tolls and Surrey? Well, because the Harrison Tourism Board was nice enough to ask me to come, and I like free stuff.

Without the sign, it’s just garbage.
With the sign… it’s FREE garbage!

Okay, it’s a bit more complex than that. To be honest, we can snottily declare BC to be a craft beer Mecca all we want, what with our recent explosion of producers, bars and brewery-cum-art-projects like 33 Acres and Brassneck, but craft beer truly hasn’t caught on in this province until you can walk into a random truck stop outside Vernon and can get a pint of Fat Tug.

Sorry folks, can’t do anything about the whole “getting shit-canned for not liking NASCAR” thing, but at least you’ll have good beer

However, there are a few hints that the times, they are a-changing. First, there’s the Fraser Valley wing of CAMRA up there fighting the good fight by organizing cask days and generally putting pressure on pubs to care more about beer. Also there are craft beer focused venues cropping up in the high valley like Kingfishers Pub and The District Public House. Since I’m, like, 50% sure that these businesses aren’t fronts for the mob, we have to assume that SOMEONE out there is ordering, drinking and enjoying good beer.

Throw on to this growing pile of evidence the Harrison Beer Fest. 2013 will be this festival’s second year, meaning that enough folk showed up last time to make the organizers interested in doing it again. That this festival is happening at all is intriguing, but I’m really curious about exactly how craft beer is doing in the hinterlands, and that’s why I’m going (also, see above re: free stuff). Sure, the fact that the Harrison Tourism board recommended a pub with nothing craftier than OK Spring 1516 on tap as a craft beer “top choice” indicates they have some ways to go, but at least they’re trying.

If this cask & beer fest is worth a damn, Harrison Hot Springs could shoot to the top of the list of places for us craft beer nerds to take our indulgent significant other for a weekend getaway. They put up with our shit to a degree that makes me very grateful, so maybe a craft beer festival that is also right next to a resort spa might be the kinda of half-way point we can all agree on. Check back next week for my take on how it all looks.

Written by chuck

October 25th, 2013 at 11:42 am

Posted in Beer and You

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