Barley Mowat 

June Beer of the Month

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Another month, another beer to feature. This month’s beer is special for a few reasons, but perhaps most of all because it was brewed by my friend Dave Shea. Yup, I have no qualms promoting my cronies via this here blog. That Nautical Disaster is worthy of consideration for at least five other reasons doesn’t matter. I’d still be singing its praise if it was complete and utter dreck. So what else is interesting? Well, it’s:

  • A Barley Wine released in June, instead of December
  • Brewed at Russell Brewing as a prize for winning a homebrew competition
  • Has an awesome label created by Dave Shea himself
  • Is named after a Tragically Hip song
  • By having a name, avoids the name confusion of the last homebrew winning beer

In addition to all those great reasons, Russell has gone to the effort of putting together a big ‘ole list of places where you can find this beer should you want some. I mean, in addition to Dave’s closet. What more could I ask for in a beer?


Okay fine, flavour and alcohol would be nice, too.

Overall, this is a nice hybrid Barley Wine–somewhere between the sweet English style and its hoppier American cousin. I suspect the bitter finish will mellow out with some time in the cellar, but right now it’s drinking very similar to Central City Thor’s Hammer, and damn if that isn’t a compliment. With a bit of time, though, it should start moving towards Howe Sound Woolly Bugger: a big, complex, malty bastard of a beer. I’m not guessing on this one, Dave has been kind enough to periodically update ND’s Uptappd page with tasting notes tracking the declining hops.

Tasting notes:

APPEARANCE Murky dark caramel brown
NOSE Sweet, malty caramel with hints of more complex sugars. Did I get some light red fruit/cotton candy?
TASTE Young barley wine; lots of subtle red fruit esters and earthy yeast sub-tones; needs a few more months to mellow and blend. A bit bitter on the finish.
SHOULD I BUY IT? Do you like Dave? Then buy one to drink and more to age. If you don’t like Dave, then I don’t like you.

Coles notes:

Brewery Russell x Dave Shea
From Surrey
Name Nautical Disaster
Style Barley Wine
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential Silver
Drink Late 2013 to mid 2014
Should Dave keep brewing commercially? Yes. How about a run of your double IPA please?
Availability Widely available at LRS (list)
Cost $7-10 per 650ml bottle.
Similar BC Beers Central City Thor’s Hammer, Howe Sound Woolly Bugger


It’ll get there.

Written by chuck

June 4th, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with ,

More on Craft Beer Market

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Is everyone all tingly with excitment yet? Vancouver Craft Beer Week, that most wonderful week of the year, is nearly upon us. It all kicks off tomorrow night with the Opening Gala at the Roundhouse. The main focus of the night will be all the new breweries in BC, but alas, they’re so new that only a handful will be able to actually, you know, bring beer. Oh well, the notably beer-less breweries will make up for it with their awesome beards.


These guys could easily sub-in for the villain in an old timey-western. Please don’t hurt me.

This celebration of all things beer and face-follicle-related is brought to you by none other than Craft Beer Market, the mega-taphouse coming to the Olympic Village in the not-so-distant future. I’ve written about them before, but I recently had a chance to sit down and actually talk to Rob Swiderski, the man behind the dream.

From this talk I gleened some insights into both Rob and Craft Beer Market, and it would be remiss of me to not share these with you guys.

At first glance, Rob seems like the kind of guy who you could easily picture shotgunning some Canadian then crushing the can against his head. He’s tan, well built and–get this–completely beardless. I’ll admit it; I was worried. When he opens his mouth, though, the fa├žade falls away and you realize you’re talking to someone with a serious interest in craft beer.

Heck, in some ways, Rob has more beer geek cred than I do. Here is a list of things Rob does that I don’t:

  1. He homebrews
  2. He’s a member of his local homebrew club (Cowtown Yeast Wranglers)
  3. He’s a certified BCJP judge
  4. He’s a certified Cicerone Beer Server
  5. He’s intends to become a full Cicerone

He also talks a good talk. His goal with CBM is to focus on what’s good and local, building a restaurant from the kitchen on out. I lost track of how many times he said the word local while describing his final product, but I was definitely left with the impression that the food being served there will not be coming out of a can.


Nope, it’s free range spamalopes only.

What about the beer, though? Rob’s approach here is practical rather than passionate. If I were to run a restaurant, I doubt I’d make the following choices, but I also wouldn’t be opening a 300 seat mega-bar. Here are some highlights of our talk.

  1. Macros. Yes, there will be macros. More than one, in fact. The reasoning is that these are “entrapment” beers, designed to lure in your average macro lager drinker and make them feel comfortable. Once they’re served their shitty horse piss in a glass, though, the staff will begin making suggestions to move them up the beer-addiction ladder. I don’t even mind this approach. Think about the first beer you drank; I’ll bet it wasn’t Driftwood.
  2. 140 taps, but only ~20 rotating taps. Have you ever trained the staff in a 300 seat restaurant on 140 beers? Would you like to do it every week for the rest of your life? Maybe if you had good, passionate people this might not be too hard (think Alibi Room), but in a restaurant this size your staff turnover will guarantee a steady influx of clueless newbies. While I can’t help but agree that training them would be hard, I still feel limiting the rotating list to so few taps will be a mistake. Seasonal beers and one-offs are the life-blood of craft beer in BC. If I want a regular production beer (eg Fat Tug), I can go to the shitty bar down the street.
  3. Lines on the ceiling. Yup, they’re doing this. It’s not as bad as you think, though, as these will be glycol-sleeved, insulated lines of unusual thinness. The beer in here won’t go bad any time soon. Sure, it virtually guarantees that imperial stout will be poured too cold, but at least it… uh… looks cool, I guess? Oh wait, it’s also inefficient, so it has that going for it too.
  4. Line maintenance. The goal is to clean the lines at least once every two weeks, and preferably every week. This means that, on any given day, 10-20 lines will be fresh and squeaky clean. This is a good thing.
  5. Custom imports. When you buy a lot of beer, you can do some interesting things, and Rob wants to do just that, via importing beer that’s new to BC, but has been featured in his Calgary bar. Sure, he hasn’t tangled with the LCLB on the issue yet, so he still has hope. Let’s not take that from him just yet.

In the end, Rob is a savvy businessman with a solid vision of what his bar will look like. Is it the perfect bar that we’d like to see in the Salt Building? No, but I honestly think that perfect bar would go out of business pretty darned fast. Considering what else could have been there, I think we lucked out that Rob signed that lease.

This isn’t a bar for the high end beer geek, and it’s not trying to be a bar for the high end beer geek. Rob is, however, engaged. He wants suggestions, and seems willing to adapt his model to better fit Vancouver. So, on that front, if you see something you don’t like, let CBM know; I suspect they’ll accomidate us. You don’t get the mega-taphouse you want, you get the mega-taphouse you deserve.

Will I go there often? Sure. It’s got a nice patio, is in a gorgeous building, and will have at least a dozen solidly awesome beers on tap. Will I repeatedly joke about breaking-in on Twitter to gain illicit access to incredibly awesome and rare beer lists? Nope, I’ll save that stale joke for the Alibi.

I hope to see everyone there for the grand opening which, according to Rob, is in August. However, having seen the place just recently, I wouldn’t hold my breath.


Sorry, Rob, but a building that looks like this on May 9th does not turn into a 300 seat restaurant by August.

Written by chuck

May 30th, 2013 at 5:22 pm

Posted in Bars

Tagged with

Parallel 49 Humphrey BdG, VCBW Altbier, Black Hops

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Yeah, that’s three beers up in the title. Sure, Hopnotist got its own post, but it’s one of the most outstanding beers produced in BC in the past twelve months (name another? Okay, Lighthouse Siren; not what you expected, eh?).

Now, I’m not saying these three beers aren’t good beers. They all are, to varying degrees, but I only have so much review bandwidth these days, and thus all three get crammed into a single review. Seriously, folks, my beer closet has an actual, physical queue of beers waiting for me to taste them. This job sucks.

Tasting notes:

Humphrey Bière de Garde

If you asked me a month ago to peg P49’s next release, I absolutely would not have gone with a traditional old-world style like a Bière de Garde. Black Hops (bottom) would have been more like my best guess: a weird West Coast take on a non-mainstream style. Colour me stupid, then, for Parallel 49 went and released both.

In short, Humphrey is a subtle Canadian variation of a malt-forward old world strong ale. I do like this beer, but ultimately it falls a bit short of its potential because of the malt used (a bit too new world grainy for my tastes). Better malt would yield a better product, but alas there just aren’t that many high quality, small batch malts available… yet.

In any event, by the time you’re done the bottle, the pleasant liquor burn (7% ABV) and balanced hops do much to make you forgot your longing for better grain. There is some ageing potential here, but honestly this beer is drinking just fine right now.

APPEARANCE Auburn/amber with very low carbonation.
NOSE Very subtle farmhouse aromatics and grainy malt.
TASTE Caramel, grain, and a great spice from the hops. Subtle flavours build over course of the glass.
SHOULD I BUY IT? As a rare example of a malt-forward ale in this hop-crazy world, you definitely should.

VCBW Altbier

Okay, sure, Parallel 49 isn’t strictly the only chef in the kitchen on this one (as usual, the list includes pretty much every brewer in the province), but it was brewed there, and that means Graham With had much more control over the final product than the designed-by-committee style hints at on the label.

The previous two VCBW collaboration brews were hop-dominant beers (a Cascadian Dark and a Cascadian Brown to be specific), so the third beer in the series represents a 180 on the hops usage, all the way back to Malt Town. It’s almost likely another recently released Parallel 49 beer used up all the hops or something.

This beer is a near-flawless execution of the style, which is a subtley malty brew with a crisp hoppy finish. It’s a great session beer, and if you give it some time there are some interesting, more subtle flavours to be discovered.

APPEARANCE Translucent amber with a persistent off-cream head.
NOSE Caramel malt, some subtler grains. Just a whiff of the hops.
TASTE More of the nose, but with some interesting subtle subtexts (fruit esters, earthiness). Balanced hop crispness.
SHOULD I BUY IT? Do you like any of the 30-odd breweries on the label? Do you want to hurt their feelings? Then buy it already.

Black Hops Cascadian Dark Lager

I had a preview of this beer about a month ago, on cask at the Whip. I liked it. I like it so much, in fact, that I drank four pints of it. Then I drank another two. That cask was a smooth, mildly hoppy and flavourful low ABV beer (at least, low ABV compared to other hoppy beers).

Now that it’s in bottles, and on tap around town, its lost something. It’s still a fine brew, but I’m not going to rave about this beer to the beererati like I did the cask version. Take a beer off the yeast and it changes, folks.

APPEARANCE Black with a thin, quickly dissipating beige head.
NOSE Hops dominate the nose, but are not overpowering. Roasted malt comes through at the end.
TASTE Roasted malt plus a bite-y citrus-y hops finish. Both flavours are muted, though.
SHOULD I BUY IT? Maybe it’s just me, but I’d prefer a proper IPA or CDA. Buy one and see what you think.

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49
From Vancouver
Name Humprhey VCBW Collaboration Black Hops
Style Bière de Garde Altbier Cascadian Dark Lager (or Schwarzbier)
SOA Now Bronze n/a n/a
SOA Potential Bronze n/a n/a
Drink Now-2014 Now Now
Pirate friendly? Yaaaar! Avast!
Availability Most LRSs, some LDB
Cost $6-9 per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers (you can buy) Maybe Driftwood Clodhopper? Driftwood Crooked Coast None


Add in some great barley
and these beers get seriously better.

Written by chuck

May 24th, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Beers

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