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Steamworks Imperial Red Ale

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We’ve all been there: you have a blog on which you talk about beer, and you feel like featuring the odd interesting and noteworthy brew once a month because, well, you want to. Then “once a month” becomes “once in a whenever” then lots of heady talk happens around doing better and being more consistent. Fast forward a couple of months, and your Beer of the Month dates from December and is pretty much sold out everywhere.

Well, screw that. I’m ditching the Beer of the Month and just full-on embracing my sporadic updates as a purposeful feature. Henceforth the BOTM shall be known as the Barley Mowat Feature Beer. I figure if I remove any reference to a timeframe I’m safe to leave that bastard up there until my site’s finally taken down for non-payment of hosting fees.


Actually, who am I kidding, it’ll be shuttered by court order.

So, to kick off this new feature I thought that I’d do something unexpected. What beer is out there right now that is interesting, good, and deserving of more attention? Hint: it’s not from Driftwood (although Bird of Prey is great).

Nope, this beer is from Steamworks. Steamworks gets a bad rap from the local beererati, and there is some reason for the ill will. Ever since busting out of their Water Street on-premises brewing facility like some sort of brew pub Hulk, the produced product has wavered in quality.

The finger of blame can be squarely aimed at Dead Frog, who was not only responsible for both brewing a sub-standard batch of Steamworks’ award-winning Pilsner under contract, but for also releasing that same batch. Even though Dead Frog has since brought their production quality and consistency back up to craft standards (or perhaps higher), the damage was done. Steamworks’ brand was affected.

Throw on to that fire their focus on the mid-scale market, where the more boring, old-school styles of Pilsner, Pale Ale, and Stout dominate, and you wind up with quite a few people who’ve only had either bad or boring beers from SW. Not encouraging.


The frenetic, busy graphics on the bottles don’t help. Hint: if you could throw “Much Beer. So Hop. Wow.” randomly on your bottle and it wouldn’t look worse, you’re doing it wrong.

Then there was that whole ruckus last year wherein a local nuisance blogger pointed out Steamworks’ myriad trademark battles and you were left with a brewery that puts a bad taste in your mouth before you even took that first sip of (likely questionable quality) beer.

Well, it might be time to revisit the (IMHO) ugliest beer bottles in BC. SW has come to the Imperial Red party started by Lighthouse Siren, and shit just got real. Steamwork’s blogger-infuriatingly unnamed Imperial Red is about 10x better than you’d fear, after finally resigning yourself to trying some because talking about beer in BC is your job. You know, as one does.

In fact, it’s even better than Siren which, despite never quite recovering its ambrosia-like pinnacle evident on first release, is still no slouch by any measure. SW Impy Red is no contender against Parallel 49’s recently released Robo Ruby, but it’ll also likely be around a bit longer as well. That’s because this isn’t being brewed on that tiny copper system on Water Street. Nope, it hails from Steamworks’ gleaming new Burnaby brewery, headed by an equally gleaming new Caolan Vaughan. The Burnaby facility will have no problems keeping the thirsty hoards satiated.

APPEARANCE Deep hazy red/brown. Long lasting, thick head.
NOSE Big tropical hops, with a hint of the caramel sugar bomb body in back.
TASTE Balance, with an appropriately tin-y high-malt finish. Booze definitely present, but accentuates malt.
STATS 8.5% ABV / 75 IBU / Imperial Red Ale
SHOULD I BUY IT? Absolutely. You’re hard pressed to get more beer for your $6.25
CHECK IN

Brewery Steamworks
From Burnaby
Name Imperial Red
Style Red IPA/IIRA
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential n/a
Drink Now
Better Steamworks Beers None.
Availability LDB
Cost $6.25 per bomber (LDB)
Similar Beers Parallel 49 Robo Ruby (slightly better), Lighthouse Siren (slightly worse)

 


A Bronze medal for a metallic tasting Bronze beer. Writing these is hard. Does anyone even read this?

Written by chuck

February 11th, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Whistler The Chief Chipotle Ale

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It’s been a while since I last reviewed a run-of-the-mill beer off the LDB’s shelves. Coincidentally, it looks like Whistler Brewing Company has a new bomber out there: The Chief Chipotle Red Ale. If you need a refresher, I’ve been rather harsh on WBC in the past, but I’ve also given props where props are due.

I’m nothing if not pragmatic, and realize it can be hard for a company focused on low-to-mid-range beer to break away from the mass consumer market and instead focus on the high end beer geek crowd, but WBC definitely put their toes in the water with Lost Lake, a delightfully unfiltered IPA. Lost Lake represented a brief, welcome break from a line-up focused on sweetened beers best consumed from a jagged hole in the side of a can. Seriously, they have nine different beers listed at the LDB, and fully five of those are sweetened offerings that can only charitably be called “entry level products.”

Where does The Chief fit in here? Let’s start with the name. Aside from ominously stepping on the Squamish-based product naming scheme of Howe Sound Brewing, slapping “The Chief” on a spicy pepper infused Red Ale should promise a big, meaty, high-malt beer with lots of mineral complexity. This beer is none of those things.

Granted, it’s not awful, which is much better than I’d feared. However, a “Chipotle Red Ale” named after the largest chunk of granite on the planet can ill-afford to be boring, and that’s exactly where this beer leaves you. Whistler, you can do better than this.

APPEARANCE Clear, light auburn red with thin, quickly dissipating white lead. Very low carb.
NOSE Slight chipotle–not much else.
TASTE Not overwhelming, dry, chipotle bitterness, but rather unpleasant. Virtually no other flavour.
STATS 5.0% ABV / ?? IBU / Chipotle-infused
SHOULD I BUY IT? Yeah, it’s a skip. You might have $5.75 burning a hole in your pocket but you’d be better off eating the money instead.

Coles notes:

Brewery Whistler
From Whistler
Name The Chief
Style Red Ale
SOA Now n/a
SOA Potential n.a
Drink Your sink should drink it
Number of good beers with chipotle 0 and counting
Availability Most LDBs
Cost $5.75 per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers Rogue Chipotle Ale

Written by chuck

November 27th, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

BC Breweries by Production 2013

with 10 comments

The LDB just released their 2013 payment numbers, which includes payouts to anyone they owed money to. Since all breweries in the province must by law technically sell their product to the LDB instead of to customers (even if the LDB never physically touches the money or the beer), these numbers act as a rough approximation of brewery production size.

I sat down and did all the math on this last year based on some inside info from a couple of breweries. Looking back, though, I feel those numbers weren’t quite right. I’ve adjusted my dollars to hectolitre conversion slightly, reflecting the improvement in my knowledge of how beer is sold in BC over the past 12 months. Below, I’ve put the 2013 numbers alongside the revised 2012 numbers, along with a percentage change.

As always, the hectolitre numbers are not directly derived from simple math. For instance, if Joe’s Brewery does $2,125,894 in sales, I divide that by 400 (on average, beer sells for 3.75-4.25 per litre) to get 5,314.735 hL. That’s an absurdly precise number for such a generalization. I take that number, and add into it my knowledge that Joe sells his beer mostly on draft (draft beer is more like $3.25 per litre; packaged varies but can be $6.00 or more). So I round Joe’s number up a bit because he had to sell more beer to make his numbers. Let’s say 5,500.

Seriously, that’s how I did this. It goes without saying that these are not precise numbers. If any brewery reading this wants to give me more accurate numbers for their production from March 2012 to March 2013 I’ll be happy to update.

Some fun tidbits:

  • Driftwood has slowed their unbelievable growth, and have only increased 50% since last year instead of doubling as they did every year previously.
  • I have no idea why the numbers for Red Truck dropped off a cliff. Maybe they’re focusing on building a brewery instead of brewing beer?
  • Yes, those numbers for Prohibition / Big Surf are correct. I checked twice.
  • Rock on, Sean Hoyne! Hoyne’s numbers were based off an estimate last year, so that might impact the growth number, but even so making that much beer in a 10hL family run brewery shows major demand for product. Congrats!
  • R&B is down more than I’d like. Everyone go have an East Side Bitter.

Disclaimers (repeated from 2012):

  • The value that seems to best translate dollars to hectolitres for my control breweries is $400. Obviously this is a very rough guess. Draught-only producers will have their production adjusted higher, while bottle-focused producers will be lower.
  • Yes, the final production numbers smell like ass because that’s precisely where I got them from.
  • 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, Steamworks amoung 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)
  • Breweries with no distribution to speak of (mostly brewpubs) have been dropped from the list.


Click headers to sort

Brewery 2012 Income 2012 Production (hl) 2013 Income 2013 Production (hl) Growth
Arrowhead* 167716 400
Red Truck 985213 2500 353808 850 -64%
Bridge* 78141 200
Cannery 1238733 3000 1391236 3500 12%
Central City 2508961 6000 2717936 6500 8%
Crannog 332799 850 367742 950 10%
Dead Frog 1680211 4200 1893880 4700 13%
Driftwood 2653713 6700 4049056 10500 53%
Fernie 1134768 2750 1468056 3600 29%
Tree 5415175 13250 5391621 13250 -0%
Granville Island 24732615 62500 23597424 60000 -5%
Gulf Islands 308883 700 494823 1200 60%
Howe Sound 1924350 4800 2371393 6000 23%
Hoyne 391032 950 1204082 3000 208%
Lighthouse 4684083 12000 5156097 13000 10%
Longwood 250872 625
Molson 57240081 150000 55402987 140000 -3%
Moon Under Water 67124 175 97534 250 45%
Mt Begbie 1484419 3700 1701101 4300 15%
Nelson 2383267 6000 2444327 6100 3%
Northram 10469291 26000 12412210 31000 19%
OK Spring 93446929 233000 100826104 250000 8%
Old Yale 178992 450
Pacific Western 32725605 80000 37038122 92000 13%
Parallel 49 1452960 3600
Phillips 12142566 30000 14527143 35000 20%
Plan B 107520 250 111483 275 4%
Prohibition / Big Surf 276261 650 2212115 5500 701%
R&B Brewing 1428113 3600 1218933 3000 -15%
Russell Brewing 3682097 9200 4162692 10500 13%
Spinnakers 179447 450 386987 950 116%
Storm Brewing 375628 950 353287 900 -6%
Tin Whistle 472565 1150 449938 1100 -5%
Tofino 360314 950 532850 1350 48%
Townsite 561253 1400
Vancouver Island 7689047 19000 8663020 21500 13%
Wolf Brewing 217347 550 200198 500 -8%

* Arrowhead and Bridge numbers are adjusted to approximate annual production, as they were not open for the entirety of the reporting period.

Written by chuck

October 3rd, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Posted in Beer and You