Barley Mowat 

BC Beer Awards Hits and Misses

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UPDATE: I’ve since been provided evidence that Driftwood did, indeed, enter at least 1 beer into this year’s BCBA (Fat Tug). So, uh, yeah… there you have it.

Alright, let’s get to this: my takedown of the BC Beer Awards. Last year, the fest took a sharp turn towards credibility by handing a gold to a beer that I brewed (or more accurately, that Vern Lambourne at GIB brewed while I did all the physical labour). How do this year’s results stack up? Will Chuck rant? Read on to see. I’m not going to provide feedback on every category (because, oddly, I agree with most of it), but I will call out a few items.

Disclaimer: Yes, I know how beers are judged, aka by a group of experienced, certified testers working their way through a mountain of entries, blind, and not by a bearded beer geek in his basement, who’s not even wearing pants. Still, this is my take on the results, and what I might have done differently had BC Beer Awards come to their senses and just let me pick the winners singlehanded.

North American Light Beer

1. Tofino Brewing Company: Tofino Blonde Ale
2. High Mountain Brewing: Lifty Lager
3. Granville Island Brewing: Island Lager

Ugh. Why are we rewarding breweries for making beers in this category? It’s kind of like handing out an award for Best Keanu Reeves movie. Sure, they’re sometimes tolerable based on their own unique subset of merits but, ultimately, wouldn’t you want to be watching something else?

Light European Bier

1. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: Craft Lager
2. Central City Brewers and Distillers: Mayor Kolsch
3. Russell Brewing Company: Eastern Promises

Just because it’s from Europe, it’s better right? Well, actually, it sort of is. I don’t agree with placing P49’s Craft Lager at the top of this list. Sure, I haven’t had the most recent iteration (what is it, P49 Lager #5, 6, now?) but the first handful were refining a low-taste, bland recipe that was intended to keep the Surrey residents happy at St Augustines.

Second and third, though, are hard to argue with. I would have moved Russell’s excellent Eastern Promises higher in the list. Lastly, “Bier”? Really, guys?

UK Pale Ale

1. Big Ridge Brewing: Big Ridge Clover Ale
2. Forbidden Brewing Co.: Forbidden Pale Ale
3. Bomber Brewing: Bomber ESB

Amber/Dark Lagers

1. Steel & Oak Brewing Co.: Dark Lager
2. Persephone Brewing Company: Oktoberfest
3. Tree Brewing Co. Captivator: Doppelbock

♬ One of these things is not like the other ones… ♬

UK Red/Brown Ale

1. Whistler Brewing Company: Black Tusk
2. Lighthouse Brewing Company: Race Rocks
3. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: Old Boy

Not quite sure what to make of this category. My gut emotional reaction is that I’m not a huge fan of any of these beers but my brain get’s all logic-y and asks which ones I’d rather see in here.

North American Pale Ale

1. Howe Sound Brewing Co. Sky Pilot Northwest Pale Ale
2. Persephone Brewing Company Pale Ale
3. Russell Brewing Company Hop Therapy ISA

This is interesting: Howe Sound beats out Persephone and Russell. HS’s Sky Pilot was quite good when it was released, so it’s interesting to see this additional validation.

North American Amber/Brown Ale

1. Big Rock Urban Brewery: Hollow Tree
2. Russell Brewing Company: Cream Ale
3. Brassneck Brewery: Brassneck Ale

Hollow Tree? Really? It was not a great beer when I tested it in May (despite being one of BR’s best), but it wasn’t awful. However, I would not expect “you know, not awful” to take gold.

German/Belgian Wheat

1. Barkerville Brewing Co.: White Gold
2. Big Rock Urban Brewery: Dunkelwiezen
3. Granville Island Brewing: Hey Day Hefeweizen

How many entrants were there? I ask because this list starts off at “pretty good” then slides downhill to “what the fuck is IN this bottle” pretty freaking fast.


1. Stanley Park Brewing: SunSetter
2. Tree Brewing Co.: Mellow Moon Pineapple Hefeweizen
3. Strange Fellows Brewing: Framboise Noir

I’ll be honest: it’s not a great category to start with. SF’s Framboise Noir was a pretty decent fruit beer, but it derived much of that appeal by tasting very little like a fruit beer.


1. Tofino Brewing Company: Spruce Tree Ale
2. Stanley Park Brewing: Icebreaker
3. Tofino Brewing Company: Kelp Stout

Oh man, loves me some spruce. Also, interesting to note Stanley Park/Turning Point’s success in the “let’s cram some shit in our mediocre beer and hope it sells” categories.


1. Brassneck Brewery: No Brainer Pre Prohibition Lager
2. Bridge Brewing Company: Wee Tipsy Peated Scotch Ale
3. Steamworks Brewing Co.: Steamworks Gose

I’m not sure if I could come up with three examples of more diverse beer styles if I tried. Sure, I know that is what this category is literally for, but still this is somewhat comically extreme.


1. Doan’s Craft Brewing Company: American Rye Stout
2. Barkerville Brewing Co.: 52 Foot Stout
3. Mission Springs Brewing Co.: Fat Guy Oatmeal Stout

Wood/Barrel Aged

1. Bridge Brewing Company: Imperial White IPA
2. Four Winds Brewing Co.: Pequeno Cabo Tequila Barrel Aged Berliner Weisse
3. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: Barrel Aged Vow Of Silence

This is an interesting, significant win for Bridge. Gold is always nice, but both of the other entries in this list were absolutely excellent. Bridge seems to be putting out better and better beer in their new facility, so we should keep an eye on them for next year.

North American IPA

1. Central City Brewers and Distillers: Red Racer IPA
2. Red Truck Beer: Red Truck IPA
3. Hearthstone Brewing: Hearthstone IPA

Before you freak out: Driftwood did not enter. Okay fine, you can still freak out. I’m surprised to see Red Truck on this list, as while there is nothing off about their IPA, it’s not exceptional either. Hearthstone, though, is no surprise to me.

Specialty IPA

1. Bridge Brewing Company: Black Rye IPA
2. Moon Under Water Brewery: Hip As Funk
3. Bomber Brewing: Blood From A Stone Red Rye IPA

Another interesting win from Bridge… colour me intrigued.

Belgian/French Farmhouse

1. Persephone Brewing Company: Multigrain Saison
2. Dageraad Brewing: Randonneur Saison
3. Ravens Brewing Company: Farmers Ale

Very happy to see the top two here (haven’t had a chance to try #3). Persephone’s was a favourite of mine when it came out, and pretty much everything Dageraad makes should have gold hung around it.

Strong Ale

1. Swans Brewpub: Legacy Ale
2. R&B Brewing Co.: Auld Nick Winter Ale
3. Swans Brewpub: Swans Scotch Ale

Belgian Abbey Ale

1. Dageraad Brewing: Blonde
2. Tree Brewing Co.: Trappist Artist Belgian Dubbel
3. Old Abbey Ales: Belgian Quad

Dageraad tops this category with their Blonde. All is well in the world.

Imperial IPA

1. Brassneck Brewery: One Trick Pony
2. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: 187 On An Undercover Hop
3. Parallel 49 Brewing Company: Hopnitist

Oh great, thanks, world. Now I have a strong desire to down these beers one after another to compare them.

Sours/Wild Ale

1. Four Winds Brewing Co.: Juxtapose Wild IPA
2. Strange Fellows Brewing: Roxanne
3. Dageraad Brewing: De Witte

I’ll admit it: I read the “specialty IPA” category above and just immediately assumed that Four Winds didn’t submit Juxtapose this year.

BEST IN SHOW: Brassneck Brewery One Trick Pony

My only complaint about this result is that OTP is not a single beer. It’s a series of interesting beers that range from “hey this is pretty good” to “shut up, I’m drinking” levels of attention-grabbing awesomeness. I would assume that the BCBA entry was from the current batch: a beer so good that, upon sipping it, you immediately lose the ability to assess other people by any factor beyond their likelihood to limit your access to more of this delicious ambrosia.

Well done, Conrad and Nigel.

Last words: Where was Yellow Dog? I simply cannot believe that YD entered their full lineup and struck out in every category…

Written by chuck

October 28th, 2015 at 4:50 pm

Steamworks Hop Attack IPA

with one comment

I have to admit it: I never thought I’d ever receive a sample from Steamworks again. That’s a shame, too, because they do occasionally make rather good beer.

So, imagine my surprise to see not one, but two bottles of their Fresh-Hopped IPA show up for my consideration. I’m thrilled, to be honest. In any event, let’s not worry about the past, and beer politics, but instead let’s talk about the beer itself.

Any time a brewery moves to a much larger facility there is concern around maintaining quality. Two recent BC Brewery moves, though, show that the concern is often unfounded. Central City’s new facility is producing some of the best, most consistent beer to ever come out of Gary’s brain, and Steamwork’s giant beer-a-torium in Burnaby has also dialled things in.

Their recent wet-hopped IPA is no exception. Frankly, it’s pretty damned good. Sure, this year’s hop harvest is likely lending its helping hand to the quality of this brew (every wet hopped beer I’ve had so far has been fantastic this year except Hoyne Wolf Vine–damn this vintage is nasty), so I’ve begun to hope for a long dry summer every year.

However, even within the range of “damn this fresh hopped beer is fine” there are gradients, and reigning supreme at the top is the usual suspect: Driftwood Sartori. Predictably, it has long since sold out. If you want a 95%-as-good replacement, though, get Steamworks’ offering. “95% as good as another beer” isn’t always considered high praise, but given that the other beer is Sartori, and given that this is perhaps Sartori’s best vintage, and it should be taken as extremely grand praise, indeed.

APPEARANCE Pours hazy yellow amber with quickly dissapating white head.
NOSE HOPS! Wet socks, but in a good way. Fresh hops layered over lots of piney aromatics.
TASTE Well integrated fresh hops, with a sweet backbone and a nice sharp finish.
STATS 6.0% ABV / 60 IBU / Fresh-hopped IPA
SHOULD I BUY IT? Yes, and drown your Sartori-less tears in a glass of runner-up.
SIMILAR BEERS Driftwood Sartori, Phillips Green Reaper
CHECK IN (4/5, Excellent)

I’d say to go out and buy it, but even this guy is getting hard to find.

Written by chuck

October 23rd, 2015 at 1:31 pm

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with 4 comments

UPDATE: Heard from a brewer, who checked my bullshit hectolitre numbers and concluded they were, indeed, bullshit. He also kindly gave me some guidance and, as such, I have update the hL column to try and be a little more accurate. It’s still all guesswork, though.

Every year I dig through the dumpsters outside the BC LDB’s corporate offices for a few days, then spend a couple of months painstakingly taping their shredded financial reports back together to bring you my Annual BC Brewing Financial Report. It’s a long, boring job, but someone has to do it.

Okay, fine. As a public company, they post it here, and I develop a series of scripts to parse out the data and do all the math for me. It takes, like, 30 minutes tops. Happy now?

So here’s the juice, folks. Read away. Fun tidbits: some breweries had banner years, Bomber chief amoung them. Dead Frog, on the other hand, might be doing poorly… (or they might be contracting excess brewing capacity out more and more). Also, there are a LOT of new breweries. For any brewery that hadn’t been open 12 months as of March 2015 their numbers will be lower than one might expect since they didn’t sell 12 months of beer when this report was written. Basically, be carefully before reading too much into this folks.

Disclaimer about hectolitres calculations from last year:
Below I’ve tabulated the 2014 2015 financials for each brewery that I can identify in the report, along with their 2014 numbers, and an approximate guess for beer production in hectolitres. I’m using a soft divisor to get from raw income to production stats, based on my knowledge of the brewery and their market. For instance, an all-draft company will have a lower income per hL because kegs sell for less per hL than bottles.

Lastly, note that these are sales to the LDB which only concerns itself with liquor sales in British Columbia. Companies like Parallel 49 or Central City, who ship a lot of product across the border, will produce a lot more beer than is reported here.

The degree to which these hectolitre calculations should be trusted is reflected by how easily I just changed them out: don’t trust them. These are very approximate numbers only, and should only be used for rough relative comparisons.

All columns are sortable. Just click.

Disclaimers (repeated from 2013, 2014):

  • Because of the craziness of shadow brands and contract brewing, it’s hard to split out some of these numbers. OK Spring, in particular, also produces Sleeman locally, and those sales are blended in.
  • Some breweries are missing, including Coal Harbour and others. I have no idea why. They are likely running under either a numbered company or a name I don’t recognize.
  • I have excluded Labatt’s (Kokanee) simply because it would be impossible to separate out beer produced in-province from imports.
  • Likewise, I have skipped Mark Anthony Group (Turning Point/Stanley Park) because most of their money comes from wine (Mission Hill)

Click headers to sort

Brewery alias/aka/notes 2013 Income 2014 Income 2015 Income 2015 Production (hl) Growth
33 Acres Brewing Company Inc 341586 1319467 3000 286%
Allen Brands Inc Big Surf / Prohibition 2212115 2926208 3109969 6500 6%
Arrowhead Brewing Company 69882 301396 450094 1000 49%
Bad Tatoo 0 0 80601 150 100%
Barley Mill Brewpub 27327 0.0 0 0 100%
Big Ridge Brewing Company 32591 31508 0 -100%
Big River Brewing Company 46422 76883 66297 100 -14%
Big Rock Brewery Inc 6487218 5349530 4077594 8000 -24%
Black Kettle Brewing 0 0 230683 500 100%
Bomber Brewing Corporation 69503 1414258 2500 1935%
Bridge Brewing Corp 58606 354781 716924 1250 102%
Cannery Brewing Co 1391236 1338593 1370312 2500 2%
Category 12 0 0 100930 225 100%
Chilkoot Yukon Beer 0 0 153847 300 100%
Central City Brewing Co 2717936 4043560 8885765 18500 120%
Craig Street Brewing Co Ltd 63910 43137 48710 100 13%
Crannog Ales Limited 367742 399852 425399 950 6%
Cumberland Brewing 0 0 54298 100 100%
Dageraad Brewing 0 0 334524 650 100%
Dead Frog Brewery 1893880 2065463 1211968 2000 -41%
Deep Cove Brewers And Distillers Inc 68699 125774 250 83%
Driftwood Brewing 4049056 5843817 7613331 16500 30%
Fernie Brewing Co 1468056 1670146 2095171 4000 25%
Fireweed Brewing Corp Tree 5391621 5328876 5668754 12000 6%
Four Mile Pub 0 0 251947 500 100%
Four Winds Brewing Company Ltd 365473 1471268 3000 303%
Freddy’s Brew Pub 26466 32842 100 24%
Gladstone 0 0 30765 50 100%
Granville Island Brewing Company 23597424 22831746 19501869 40000 -15%
Green Leaf Brewing Corporation 66654 398267 850 498%
Gulf Islands Brewery Limited 494823 656752 596088 1250 -9%
Hearthstone Properties Hearthstone Brewing? 0 0 372509 750 100%
Howe Sound Brewing 2371393 2560623 3032658 6750 18%
Hoyne Brewing Company Ltd 1204082 2384445 4243236 9000 78%
Lighthouse Brewing Company Inc 5156097 4962174 5113634 11000 3%
Longwood Brew Pub Limited 250872 495047 707964 1400 43%
Low Countries Brewing Strange Fellows 0 0 133721 300 100%
Mission Springs Developments Limited 39391 114057 248890 550 118%
Moody Ales 0 0 175314 350 100%
Moon Under Water Brewery Ltd 97534 310847 406729 850 31%
Mt Begbie Brewing Company Limited 1701101 1874282 2112428 4500 13%
Nelson Brewing Company 2444327 2405093 2677768 5500 11%
Northam Brewery Lp Whistler / Bowen 12412210 14093947 16166478 35000 15%
Old Yale Brewing Co Limited 178992 248412 444725 900 79%
Pacific Western Brewing Company 37038122 33563099 31066148 65000 -7%
Parallel 49 Brewing Company Ltd 1452960 4699953 6674874 14500 42%
Patricia Hotel Vancouver 38787 40202 31552 50 -22%
Persephone Brewing Company Inc 247804 1024781 1900 314%
Phillips Brewing Co 14527143 17209987 19407439 40000 13%
Powell Street Craft Brewery Inc 137405 224252 450 63%
Quarterdeck Brewing Steamworks Brewpub 0 0 25601 50 100%
R&B Brewing Inc Bought by Howe Sound mid-2015 1218933 1047154 812058 1600 -22%
Red Truck 0 0 1885160 4000 0%
RDO Brewing Ventures Ltd Barkerville 36046 506135 1100 1304%
Rossland Beer Comp 0 0 109116 225 100%
Russell Brewing Co Limited Filing as Fort Garry 4162692 3917373 3598273 7500 -8%
Salsbury Drive Holdings Ltd Brassneck 514694 1298719 2500 152%
Sherwood Mountain 0 0 50854 100 100%
Shuswap Lake Brewing Company Barley Station Brewpub 52840 62931 60157 125 -4%
Sleeman Breweries Ltd Sleeman / OK Springs 100826104 97421073 95989942 200000 -1%
Spinnakers Brew Pub Inc 386987 611865 782757 1600 28%
Steamworks Brewing Company Ltd Burnaby location 788268 4379644 8500 456%
Steel & Oak 0 0 350944 700 100%
Storm Brewing Limited 353287 336433 430246 900 28%
Three Ranges Brewing Company Ltd 28436 201256 400 608%
Tin Whistle Brewing Co 449938 100515 222399 450 121%
Torchlight 0 0 56910 100 100%
Townsite Brewing Inc. 561253 799821 838229 1750 5%
Tuff City Brewing Ltd Tofino 532850 956717 1649613 3250 72%
Vancouver Island Brewing Company 8663020 8082863 7161904 15000 -11%
Wheelhouse Brewing 0 0 149938 300 100%
Wolf Brewing Company 200198 100045 142801 300 43%
Yaletown Brewing Co 44347 45243 75 2%
Yellow Dog Brewing 0 0 294108 600 100%

Written by chuck

October 16th, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Posted in Beer and You