Barley Mowat 

This Just In

with 13 comments

As excitement continues to build for the impending opening of Craft Beer Market in the Olympic Village, an early draft of their fixed tap list appears to have been leaked on reddit.

Sure, I find it odd that anyone who works at a craft beer focused restaurant (and therefore should be experts on beer/food pairings) would be asking a public forum for advice, but this list does appear to be legit (eg no one else considers Saisons, White IPAs or California Common beers to be “Anomalies”).

Remember folks, this is quite obviously an early draft (full of typos/not formatted all purty-like) so don’t be too harsh on them for listing “Strom Brewing Black Plaque Stout” on there.

Here is the list for easy access.

Some quick take-aways:

  • The rotating taps (13 in total) are not listed here
  • This list represents 43 beers from 27 BC Breweries (and 1 cider from BC’s Merridale, and two undoubtedly locally brewed house beers)
  • Ignoring the 13 rotating taps, that gives us a tap list that is 37% BC
  • Or, looking at it another way, a tap list that has 11 more BC products than St Augustine’s
  • Big winners in terms of scoring taps are: Parallel 49, OK Spring, Driftwood, Phillips and Howe Sound, each with three
  • The brewery with the most taps? Deschutes, with 4

UPDATE: After careful analysis I’d say this list is legit, but likely an early version of the tap list. I won’t say exactly why I suspect this (although Rogue Dead Guy is awful hard to get on tap regularly). Expect the final version to be slightly different.

Written by chuck

October 23rd, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Posted in Bars

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BC Beer Awards Response by Dave

with 3 comments

This whole “Not Chuck writing articles” things seems to be catching on. On Monday I wrote an article about my reaction to the BC Beer Awards which, while better this year, definitely still left me more confused than is normal for my day to day. Dave Shea, one of the judges at this event, offered up a response. Seeing an opportunity to boost my blog’s traffic for little-to-no effort of my own, I readily agreed. Enjoy!



When I saw Chuck’s post yesterday, I joked on Twitter that I was working on a follow-up to nitpick his nitpicking. He offered to publish that, and well who could resist the temptation to call him names on his own blog?

ed: Definitely not me. Suck it Hallett!
… I’m not doing this right, am I?

I thought I’d talk a little bit about the process of judging to help make sense of some of the results. Keep in mind that I only rated the beer, you shouldn’t think for a second that I speak for the fine folks who spend months organizing and running the show. Or the other judges either, for that matter.

I’ll take a shortcut by referencing my comment on last year’s post. It’s all still true. And I’d still like to see a public list of the breweries who entered each year to make it clearer that some obvious stand outs didn’t place in their respective categories because they just didn’t show up.

This year I feel like the results aligned much better with my personal expectations of who should be up on the podium. The breweries I like did well, and I was happy to see some surprise wins and lots of new brewers getting recognition. Not to say I agree with every decision, or even every decision I was a part of making for that matter.

But I think the reason the quality of the results was higher this year was because the judges’ ability was higher as well. We now have a lot more Certified — and two National-ranked — judges within the province, but the organizers also put out an open call to the BJCP mailing list and got a handful of experienced judges to drive up from various parts of Washington and help us out that day. I believe every table of three had at least two Certified Judges sitting at it.

ed: And very few had
Certified Homeless Crazies at them

For the past couple years I’ve seen criticism of the BJCP process and style guidelines in response to head-scratching results. Hey, that’s fair; I wish the organization was better at staying on top of current brewing trends for example, and that the process didn’t put so much stock in restrictive and sometimes arbitrary historical guidelines — especially since the commercial Brewer’s Association’s style guidelines describe almost twice as many.

But flaws aside, getting to any level of certification represents a broad knowledge of 75 sub-styles plus a great ability to detect and describe flavours and faults. I’ve judged with non-BJCP folks, the difference between their tasting notes and someone who has been through the certification ringer is something like:

Very dark, good head. Malty, with some bitterness. Pretty good beer.


Medium brown with ruby highlights. Frothy white head that quickly subsides, but leaves lacing down the side of the glass. Toasty, bready malt character with faint coffee notes. Clean esters (though a bit of unpleasant sulfur) and mild earthy hop presence contributing a well-balanced bitterness. Medium, rounded mouthfeel, with prickly, fine bubbles and a slight carbonic bite.

Notice there’s no mention of the beer’s style yet. Judging a beer is an exercise in capturing your perceptions and trying to accurately describe them so that someone not tasting the beer might be able to understand what it tastes like. After you have a handle on what you’re tasting and why, then you can start talking about how good it is and how well it matches whatever style it was entered under.

This is partially why you get anomalies like, say, a bunch of beers sold as amber ales winning the Scottish / Irish category. If they have pleasing malty notes (all ambers should), low hop aroma (they’d place miserably in the American Amber category for that), and taste great, why couldn’t they win as Irish Reds? Fits the definition, and if they’re better than the competition they’ve got a fair shake.

That’s likely the exact bet the brewers made when they entered this category with ambers. Seems to have paid off. Is it wrong? Depends on how closely you want to defend the style guidelines as the final arbiter. But the guidelines are just that. They’re not hard and fast rules, they’re more about setting yardsticks and saying “something like this range, that’s what you’re looking for.”

If a beer is good but it clearly won’t win in the style it’s marketed under for some reason, re-categorizing it to help it place could be considered either A) a better reflection of how good the beer is regardless of style guidelines, or B) a cynical attempt on the part of the brewer to manipulate the process. I’m with the A people, but it does make results more confusing if you’re not aware that it’s happening.

Then there’s the issue of combining categories. I’m not a huge fan of it either, and it probably isn’t super fair, but with only a handful of beers in some styles in this province it’s necessary. I hear even the Great American Beer Festival and their 5000 entries have trouble filling up some sub-categories, so it’s probably not a problem that we’ll see go away.

Lastly, how do you compare an Ordinary Bitter against an English IPA? The only methodology that makes sense is setting a baseline for each individual beer to compare against, and see how close they come to that style baseline. If the IPA is a miserable example of the style, you can boot it and move on. But if it’s a very good beer, you might have to think a bit harder.

ed: Like, for instance, thinking about re-sampling this great beer and calling it a night

The questions I’d ask at that point are not just ‘is this closest to style?’, but also ‘is this an extremely well made beer?’ and ‘how likely would I be to pay for this beer?’ and ‘if I put this up against other similar types of the same style, would it hold its own?’. Some of those are totally subjective, and the only way you can answer them is by having tried a lot of examples of each of those styles, and knowing when a particular beer stands out as being particularly good, compared to your experience with others of its kind.

Sure, the process is imperfect and involves a lot of opinion, but we should all expect that for a topic that’s so subjective to begin with. That’s part of the fun. If everyone all thought one particular beer was the ultimate example of a style, we’d all be drinking the same thing. Oh hey, we’ve been there. It was called the 70’s. Let’s not do that again.

Written by Dave

October 22nd, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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If I Were Judge

with 17 comments

Another year, another BC Beer Awards, another list of results that I can rant about. Sure, I know many of the judges and trust their beer opinions, and I understand that the judging process itself is not perfect but I just wouldn’t be Chuck unless I nitpicked until someone was insulted. So let’s get going.

First up is the Best in Show: Vancouver Island Hermannator. Big surprise: I have no qualms with this beer winning. It’s a gorgeous beer that is a complete outlier compared to the rest of the decidedly down-market beers VIB produces (aka “dreck”).

Now on to specific categories, where I will provide some insights, agree with some awards, shake my head at others, and suggest beers that seem to be missing. Note that the BC Beer Awards did not release the complete list of entrants, or the categories that the brewers put their beers in, so I’m very much ranting in the dark here, as per usual. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but horribly misinformed diatribes are sorta my thing. Notably both Tofino and Storm seem to have decided to sit this one out, but they aren’t the only ones.

Session Lager
Ugh. Really? This category is scarily close to the US’ “American Style Light Lager” in that it’s worded to only include awful beers, then award them a medal. This section’s appearance in 2013 is worrying. To indicate my disdain, I will avoid discussing any of the three awful beers that won.

Although, I wouldn’t object to a “Best Beer Marketed via Body Paint” category, but only because I’m a horrible person with no morals.

Nod: CC Pilsner (1st) – Damned straight this won. Fantastic beer.
Shake: Four Winds – Special Mention? Does this mean a judge wouldn’t shut up about it until they caved an added it as fourth? If so, bravo on you good sir (or madam). Four Winds Pilsner should have been second.

Special Lager
Nod: VIB Hermannator – No qualms here, or with the Best in Show nod. I love this beer, and am cellaring many bottles.
Missing: Parallel 49 Hop-a-fucking-razzi. Thank you.
Missing: 33 Acres Stärke, 33 Acres of Life (I would call both these “Session Lagers” but somehow I do not think this is what that category is for)

Session Ale
I guess the criteria here is “a beer you can drink a lot of”? Not sure this should be a full category, but sure, let’s play the game.
Shake: Nelson Wild Honey – The fuck? I’ve had this beer. It’s awful. Nelson has many other, much better beers.
Shake: Phillips Slipstream – At least the order is right. This is even worse than Nelson Honey.
Missing: Tofino Tuff? Oh yeah, Tofino didn’t enter. Why guys, why?

English Ale
Is anyone else sensing an issue here? Four beers in four styles? With only 14 entries I guess some lumping had to happen, but it’s not fair putting an English IPA up against an English Pale blind. I will assume we’re looking at BCJP Styles 8 (Bitter, Best Bitter, ESB) and 11 (Mild Brown, Southern Brown, Northern Brown) plus English IPAs (14A) but who knows?

Nod: OK Spring showing up here as a Special Mention is curious, but arguably their sugary-sweet Pale Ale is more of a traditional English Ale than any of the actual winners.
Missing: Howe Sound Devil’s Elbow
Missing: R&B East Side Bitter. I think this is the best bitter in the province. There, I said it.

American Ale
At least here’s there’s a BCJP style associated with the category (Style 10), even it’s very broad. 28 entries means there was a lot of variation going on here, although I can’t really argue with the three chosen results.
Nod: Old Yale’s Pale impressed me the last time I had it
Nod: And CC’s Pale disappointed–Still award-worthy, but not the gold magnet of previous years.

Shake: Deep Cove Quick Wit – I have tried both Batch 1 and Batch 2 of Deep Cove’s Quick Wit. Batch 1 was a hot mess of a beer, unless of course you like band-aids in your beverage. Batch 2 improved dramatically, but to swing all the way to gold? No way. Unless this is Batch 3, and it improved a likewise amount over Batch 2…

Fruit Beer
No huge issues here. While I’m not a fan of Fernie’s What the Huck, I’m also not a fan of fruit beers in general.
Missing: Howe Sound’s Bumbleberry Ale is rather tasty, but I haven’t seen it in bottles ever, so maybe it didn’t get submitted.

Vegetable / Spice Beer
Ah, the much vaunted pumpkin-beer category. The fact that only 1 such beer placed says something about this year’s crop of pumpkin ales which, I have to admit, I found lacking in general. Maybe it was the pumpkins?
Missing: Parallel 49 Schadenfreude

Special Beer
Nothing like a grab-all category for those misfits that don’t fit in else where. Sure, Special Beer is an official BCJP Category, but it’s the “everything else” category. Somewhat shockingly, I have no issues with the winners here.

Scottish / Irish
Okay, I have issues with the winners here. Dean, I loves ya, but I don’t loves Race Rocks, and I wouldn’t have given it this medal… as a Scottish Ale… seriously, WTF? There is so much wrong with this category that I can’t seriously rule out a misprint.
Missing: Storm Highland Scottish, GIB Irish Red, Russell Wee Heavy or, you know, SCOTTISH AND/OR IRISH BEERS!

Seriously, not one bad kilt pun in the lot?

Brown / Porter
Argh. I cannot stand Philips’ Choco Porter. I find the sweet–almost fake–chocolate confusing in a style that I revere for its roasted, malty bitterness.
Nod: Townsite PowTown. This beer was an early highlight before Townsite dialed-in their brewing process and started making generally great beer. It’s only gotten better.
Missing: Powell Street Dive Bomb, a fantastic beer that has only just now seen serious competition (from Brassneck)

Nod: Persephone Stout-off. I only had Persephone’s Stout after reading that they won gold. Wow, well deserved guys, that’s a great stout. (Your red ale stinks, though)
Shake: Longwood Stoutnik
Missing: Howe Sound Pothole Filler, Driftwood Singularity

Belgian / Sour Beer
Seriously, could we just break Sour off to its own category and call it the “YBC Oud Bruin v Storm Flanders Red” category? It would save some confusion.
Nod: All three. All three are wonderful beers.
Missing: Storm Flanders Red, Lighthouse Uncharted, Lighthouse Deckhand

Here we are; welcome to The Show. 34 Entries, more than any other category.
Nod: Can’t argue with anything here, although I have to wonder how fresh that Sartori was.
Missing: High Mountain Five Rings, Lighthouse Switchback, CC IPA

Imperial IPA
Nod: All three are good beers.
Shake: Hopnotist deserved first, but alas they have to judge the beers as presented, and not as they were when released (aka freaking awesome). This beer was best fresh, and has declined ever since.

Beers that get you there. Barley Wines, Belgian Strongs, and beers that are just generally high ABV and sweet. Not Russian Imperial Stouts or Imperial IPAs though.
Nod: Thor’s Hammer – Had a 2011 last night. Awesome.
Shake: P49 Vow of Silence – Not a bad beer, but not a silver medal. Only 8 entries, though, makes me think of the less common beers weren’t entered.
Missing: Howe Sound Woolly Bugger, Lighthouse Belgian Black

Overall, I think the awards accurately reflected the evolving landscape of BC Craft Beer. Some old stalwarts hung in, Fat Tug won gold, and some newbies took home some bling. As I’m fond of saying, it has never been a better time to be a craft beer fan in Vancouver, and it just keeps getting better.

Written by chuck

October 21st, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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