Barley Mowat 

Parallel 49 Crane Kick, Snap Crackle Hop

with 8 comments

It’s been a while since I reviewed some beers, so I figured I’d dip my toe back into the critic water and see how it feels. Not surprisingly, P49 has seen fit release a couple one-offs, so let’s talk about those. Rather pointedly, I did not get around to posting a review of their previous special release: L’il Red. This was not due to any sort of beer blogger politeness (many other folk declined to review it, or even rate it on Untappd, because they’re nice) but rather because my day job was busy enough to prevent me posting a multi-page profanity-strewn rant about how bloody awful it was.

Or, I should say, is. Yup, it’s still around. That limited release that should have evaporated like all other P49 releases (which vary from decent to great) is still on shelves everywhere, including all over the LDB. That worries me, since the LDB gets a low of beer newbies, and this beer could be their first exposure to Parallel 49 or even craft beer in general. I’m not sure on the finances of pouring out a few dozen hectolitres of barrel-aged beer versus the risk of bad branding, but minimally they should have considered putting it in the corner for a year or so until they figured out what to do with it, like Driftwood did.

Anyway, I digress. Onwards with the current batch.

Tasting notes:

Crane Kick

I’m not normally a Pilsner kinda guy. Usually I like my beer big, robust, and greedy with hops. However, sometimes you’re looking for something just a little bit lighter. Lighter, though, doesn’t mean lacking in flavour. A few local lagers/pilsners have upped the ante in terms of how good the lighter side could be (notably Central City Pilsner and 33 Acres Ocean), but what would Graham With do? How about a single-hop release based on Sorachi Ace?

It’s a curious combination, but once you have that first sip it makes sense. In the recent arms race to giant floral hops from New Zealand, we’ve forgotten about the subtle delights of Japan’s Sorachi Ace variety. The light sweetness and balanced citrus aroma works well with the cereal rich pilsner malt. So well, in fact, that I’m shocked I didn’t think of this until I tried it.

STATS 5.8% ABV
APPEARANCE Pours transparent hay with strong carbonation and a lasting white head. Aka “like a pilsner”
NOSE Pilsner malt, cereal grain and a light hop finish. Aka “like a pilsner”
TASTE Clean taste with great hops/malt balance. The hops are a little stronger than I’d expect from the style, but the elements of the Sorachi Ace are just fantastic. Aka “like a pilsner, if it was very good and hopped with Sorachi Ace”
SHOULD I BUY IT? Depends. Are you a fan of interesting pilsners? Then yes. Do you consider pilsners to be too close to macros? Then no. Also, branch out, man.

Snap, Crackle, Hop

Okay, here we go. Hop pun in the title? Check. Hops on the label? Check. High ABV? Check. Yup, it’s a giant craft double IPA alright. These all need gimmicks, though, so what’s the gimmick here? Rice. It’s brewed with rice. Rice is what’s used to brew most US Macros, and for a good reason: it ferments very cleanly, leaving very little in terms of residual flavour aside from a faint, well, rice-i-ness.

So, what’s this doing in a giant West Coast IPA, where the malt character needs to balance out all those hops? Not a lot, as it turns out. The hops are way out of balance here. There is basically no body to speak of. If the hops weren’t the current “it” hop Motueka we’d be in major trouble. Motueka, though, is almost sweet on its own. Big florals, big citrus notes, and really quite a beautiful hop profile dominant this beer from start to finish.

In the end, though, I miss the body. If you’re a massive hophead who desires nothing else than no barriers between you and the latest trend in NZ hops, then have at ‘er.

STATS 9.3% ABV, 70 IBU
APPEARANCE Hazy copper with tight off-white head. Medium carb.
NOSE NZ hops: sweet kiwi, jackfruit, citrus. Bitter sweetness in the air.
TASTE Punch in the face of hops. Sweet front with a long lasting bitterness. Bright acidity over a very subtle, almost non-existence grain body.
SHOULD I BUY IT? Sure, why not. It’s a good showcase for Motueka, and sometimes you just gotta get you some hops.

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49
From Vancouver
Name Crane Kick Snap, Crackle, Hop
Style Pilsner Double IPA
SOA Now None awarded. None awarded.
SOA Potential n/a n/a
Drink Now Now
x times better than L’il Red? 10 8
Availability Most LRSs, some LDB
Cost $5-7 per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers (you can buy) CC Pilsner None

Written by chuck

September 10th, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Timing of Pumpkin Ales

with 11 comments

I’ve often toyed with answering user questions via letters, but there have always been a few roadblocks to my taking this idea seriously. These roadblocks are comprised of, but not limited to:

  • Not having any readers who are either engaged or literate enough to ask questions
  • I already get enough spam and hate mail
  • Further raising the chance of coming home to find a bag of faeces crammed through my letter slot with “answer this, asshat” scrawled on it in block letters
  • I kinda don’t wanna

Although, honestly, I would kill to answer questions like this weekly.

However, all that changed this week when this showed up in my inbox:

Dear Chuck,

<Salutations, excessive praise, and platitudes omitted for brevity>

A few of us were having a discussion on this down at St. Augustine’s, and wanted your take on it. This year it seems like the pumpkin beers are coming out much earlier than in past years. I always understood that the timing of pumpkin ales (and other beers) coincided with the end of the pumpkin harvest, when pumpkin was ripe, plentiful, and cheap. Do you think brewers are using some sort of artificial flavouring, an extract, or canned pumpkin? Or am I wrong that the pumpkin beers seem early this year?

Also, you are very handsome and generally awesome*.

Ryan M, Burnaby
* Edited for clarity**.
**Okay, fine, that last line wasn’t in the original.

Well, being easily distracted by beer-related queries, I took my eyes off of the road in front of my gasoline-laden tanker truck for a brief moment to tap out a reply, school zone be damned:


Dear Ryan,

You’re not wrong. There’ve been a few articles in the media about it, eg this one; pumpkin beers are definitely early this year. Heck, Howe Sound and Parallel 49 both have theirs out already. HS’s was out in August, fer Chris’ sake.

The trick here is that pumpkin ales are one of the key predictable seasonal beers, and often the only craft beer that some folk drink. As a result, craft beer sales are higher in the fall compared to the rest of the year. Pumpkin beer is, quite simply, massively profitable and a great gateway product to expose your brand to new consumers.

Brewers–especially the big craft ones–want to capture that temporarily expanded market. Being the only pumpkin beer on the shelf just makes it that much easier to sell more. Thus a calendar game of chicken was born: when is too early to release you fall beer lineup? Apparently not August.


What? You thought this happened because brewers just really like pumpkin beer? Oh you silly, naïve git.

Regarding ingredients, if you had visions of freshly harvested pumpkins being hollowed out by a slaving brewmaster, then dumped in the beer, I’m afraid you’re about to be disappointed. There are virtually no breweries that make beer with fresh pumpkins, even in BC. Now, they’re generally not stooping to extracts or artificial flavours, but they’re also not buying out local Farmer Joe, even though a cask-conditioned ale in a giant, hollow pumpkin would be about 300 kinds of awesome. (Side Note: Graham from Parallel 49 indicates he’s going to try this. Somehow, I knew he would.)

Nope, it’s all canned pumpkin and/or pumpkin pureé. Virtually every flavoured beer uses canned fruits and vegetables. Those cherry berliner weisses? Canned cherries. Many-fruited-ales? Pureé. Blackberry? You see where I’m going with this. Canned goods are easier to work with, easier to order, and let you produce your flavoured beer whenever you want, not just when the ingredients are in season. Plus, you can absolutely get high quality canned ingredients so why not?


While pulled over to power-wash what appeared to be partially liquefied kindergarteners off my truck’s grill, it occurred to me that I had effectively just written an article. Not wanting to let an opportunity to turn random internet correspondence into a lazily slapped together blog post, I decided to go for it.

You know what? It didn’t turn out half awful, so if you have any other beer related questions, feel free to contact me. I’ll do my best to string together enough half-truths and plain old incorrect facts to turn your honest query into pageviews for me. Ain’t I just the best?

Written by chuck

September 5th, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Beer and You

August Jack

with 7 comments

It was with great interest that I learnt of the impending opening of a beer-focused tapas bar mere blocks from Sharon’s apartment in Kits. Prior to this opening, if we wanted an evening out at a restaurant with even slightly decent beer, we had to choose between the Manchester, Bimini’s or, more recently, Ceili’s. Needless to say, we cook a lot.

August Jack promised to change that, so I eagerly accepted their offer of a fully comp’d evening to take their new menu for a spin. I won’t bore you with a course by course rundown of what I was fed; enough beer bloggers went through the August Jack that ten seconds of Googling will get you quite a few detailed takes. However, I will run down what was good, what was okay, and what was worrisome.

The Good

The food ranges from quite good to excellent, and let’s face it, that’s sorta why you eat out. All five menu items I sampled were well structured & balanced dishes, prepared with care, and all priced at a very reasonable level. In particular, the mussels were fantastic. The Pan Seared Beach Oysters offered a very BC-take on our local meaty oysters, and had a rich earthy flavour that took me back to my days growing up on the coast, filling my insatiable oyster craving via my proximity to the beach. Of course, you have to take great food with a grain of salt, as the restaurant was fully aware that over 3/4 of their clientele that evening were reviewing the grub. Anything less than awesome would have been a disaster.


Pictured: Food of some sort.
What do you want from me? I’m a beer blogger.

The Meh

The beers chosen to pair with each meal were a confused lot. Take the opening salvo: inviting a bunch of beer geeks to your new restaurant and thrusting Steamworks Pale Ale in their faces upon arrival is a ballsy move. This is arguably the worst craft pale ale in the province, and using it as your lead move in a beer-pairing restaurant is questionable at best.

Then take the oysters. Why, oh why, would you skip down a tap list that includes Storm’s amazing Black Plague stout and elect to pair your oysters with Unibroue’s Blanche de Chambly? Yeah, I get it; the coriander in the beer is supposed to pair with the tarragon and portobello slices. It makes sense on paper, but it just didn’t work on the plate. Stout with oysters is Beer Paring One-Oh-Freaking-One, and they missed it.

Some of the pairings did work, especially the Odin Kolsch/mussels pair, but overall there were enough misses or questionable decisions to make me not trust the menu’s pairing recommendations… in a restaurant staking its reputation on beer pairings.

The Worrying

A glaring menu omission can be found on the draught list itself. Where are the serving sizes? The beer stats (ABV, IBU, FG)? Tasting notes? The theme of the restaurant is pairing food with beer, but somehow no one thought to put together a couple of lines about what flavours the beer actually has?

However, no aspect of the evening was more concerning than the wait staff’s decision to seat a party of sloppily intoxicated, rowdy 20 somethings in the midst of two tables of mid-review bloggers. I get it; the restaurant was empty and man those folks looked like they’d leave a bit of money behind, but August Jack needs to decide what kind of restaurant they want to be and stick with it.

Conclusion

Overall, my evening at August Jack was a pleasant one, and it does take time for a new restaurant to find its groove. The planned draught expansion, and the beer bottle cellar will take time to build out, but should add an extra level of complexity and quality to a solid start.

Overall, though, the restaurant really does seem like an endeavour from someone for whom craft beer is not a passion, but rather a sound business investment (see owner Chris Hall’s other restaurant, the Sin Bin to back this theory). But you know what? Craft Beer in Vancouver has grown to the point where it really IS a sound business decision, and I’m okay with that.

Will I go back and pay this time? Absolutely. Should you? Yup.


As I am wont to do, I crawled outside the foundation and into their cellar. It’s not loaded with awesome beer yet, but it will be.

Written by chuck

September 3rd, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Bars

Tagged with