Barley Mowat 

Focus on the LDB VII

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If you haven’t been over to the LDB’s website recently, you might have missed their full site redesign, which was quietly rolled out recently. The new site is slicker and sports a more minimalist design that I actually prefer to the old. However, that’s not all. There are also new features, including an easy-to-access list of recommended products (sure, it’s full of crap right now, but give it time), and the ability for the plebs (that’s you guys) to rank their inventory from 1 to 5 stars.

That last feature made the rounds of the local Molson marketing group shortly after the launch of the site, as the entire Molson catalogue was quickly marked up to 5/5 stars, including sub brands such as Granville Island and the lesser known Black Loon. Subtle, guys. Things eventually balanced out, but a few hundred beer geeks going through the beer section would be even better than the general public (hint hint… link).

So, did a new website lead to a new advertising strategy? Not even a little. Well, I guess the new site now has nine prominent advertising slots with which to ignore beer instead of the old seven, which is sort of a change. Our new total gives us:

Wine: +5
Liquor: +2
Beer: +0
Corporate: +1

One of those links goes to the now-permanent Savvy Shopper feature, which is basically “what’s cheap and still gets you there.” Seriously, pretty much anything you see here is best paired with big hair, stained t-shirts and cars on blocks; they might as well sort these listings by ounces of alcohol per dollar. In any event beer does make a small showing in the 31 discounted booze products, even if it’s mostly Bud.

Wine: 15
Beer: 4
Liquor: 12 (lumped the “coolers” in here. Seriously, though, what IS Palm Bay?)

I mean, aside from being the
drink of choice of these people.

In addition to those, the Spring Edition of Taste Magazine has been released. Weighing in at a hefty 180 pages, it contains ads for 185 products, and 6 of those are for beer! In fact, not only are there six more featured beers than last issue, and not only are these pretty decent beers, there’s a whole article about beer by none other than Joe Wiebe! Rock on, Joe!

Sure, Taste is still a meandering, wine-myopic tome (153/185 featured products are wine), and I’m reasonably sure some wines have now been featured multiple times over the past year, but progress is progress. If this rate of increased features keeps up, beer will contribute as much to the pages of Taste as it does to the LDB’s sales figures by, oh, 2017 or so.

Much more likely, though, is the all-Franzia Special Edition.

Taking all that into consideration we wind up with:

Wine: 33 (+6)
Beer: 3 (+1; rounded waaaay up)
Liquor: 12 (+2)
Corporate: 13 (+1)

Lastly, here are three great beers currently on the LDB website that they could have chosen to feature instead of laundry lists of wine that have been featured several times already (The Show, anyone?). Sure, Joe picked six interesting Vancouver-based brews in his article, but those are buried a bit deep for web-consumption.

Beer 1: Phillips Bottle Rocket ISA

Classic LDB attention to beer. They get the name right but neglect to tell you who brewed it. The brewery in this case is Phillips, and this is their new(ish) and impressive Bottle Rocket India Session Ale. It’s a milder, lower-ABV take on the now-common IPA style.

Price: $11.85 for 6x355ml cans
Availability: Very low; likely just starting to be stocked

Beer 2: Central City Pilsner

Need a nice lager to go with the warming weather? Try Central City’s new Pilsner. It’s a superb hoppy Pilsner that’s a near perfect example of the style. Crisp, light with subtle hops.

Price: $12.40 for 6x355ml cans
Availability: Widely available.

Beer 3: Townsite Said the Ale

Need a beer with an awesome storyline? Not too long ago CBC Radio 3 threw out an idea for beers named after bands. Everyone loved the idea, and it took off. The result? Several BC Breweries borrowed the CBC graphics and brewed actual beers that pay tribute to awesome indie bands. This guy is a play on “Said the Whale.” Indie music and craft beer: my two favourite things in the world together at last.

Price: $5.96 for 650ml of indie awesomeness
Availability: Select stores; might have to ask them to ship it to your store.

Written by chuck

May 21st, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Parallel 49 Hopnotist

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Has it been a year already? It seems like only yesterday that a massively-funded brewing start-up in East Van was setting up shop with dreams of selling metric shittonnes of beer to the world. That brewery, of course, is Parallel 49. Just over a year later they’ve proven all my early concerns about over-production to be bunk, and are producing hit after hit after hit, all of which are welcomed then consumed by a growing fan base of ravenous craft beer devotees. Almost anything Graham With brews is gold, and pretty much everyone out there agrees with me, judging by the increasing stack of trophies and accolades in the corner of the brewery’s tasting room.

To celebrate turning one, they’ve brewed and released that heavy of the craft beer scene, an Imperial IPA. This is big news for a brewery that doesn’t even have a Bitter or a regular IPA in their standard line-up. Their one dalliance with the hoppier side of the fence was Lord of the Hops, and while not a bad beer by any stretch, it just didn’t have enough wow factor seriously challenge the reigning IPA kings of Driftwood Fat Tug, Lighthouse Switchback and Central City IPA.

But Lord of the Hops was not an Imperial. How is their first foray into hops madness? Really fucking awesome, that’s how it is. Hopnotist is everything you could hope for from an Imperial IPA: sticky, hoppy, resiny, citrusy, juicy, wow-in-a-jar awesomeness. Did I mention that, in addition to all this, it’s unfiltered? Yup, this beast pours hazier than my Friday night memories of your mom, and the taste is just as… yeah, not going that far. Let’s just say there’s lots of yeast character in this beer.

In short, this is, in my opinion, the best beer Parallel 49 has brewed to date. It is the best Imperial IPA in BC by far, and that’s a province that has all of: Russell Hop Therapy, Driftwood Twenty Pounder and Central City Imperial IPA. The bitterness of the hops, while present, is balanced out nicely by the huge malt. Just when you think the sugar might be too much, the yeast shows up to give it character, depth and complexity.

I bought three, and I did not buy enough.

Tasting notes:

NOSE Huge citrus flavours, orange, jack fruit, kiwi
APPEARANCE Hazy orange with a lingering tight white head
TASTE Balanced, believe it or not. The high sugar lets the flavours of the hops play rather than let the bitterness dominate
SHOULD I BUY IT? Steal from your mom to buy it. I sure as hell did

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49
From Vancouver
Name Hopnotist
Style Imperial IPA
SOA Now Gold. Wanna make something of it?
SOA Potential Might cellar, but how could you leave it alone that long?
Drink Now.
Indecent dreams I’ve had about this beer in the past week 9. I went back to sleep twice to get more.
Availability Brewery and at select LRS
Cost $6.60 per 650ml bottle at the brewery (resupply this Sunday). Slightly more elsewhere. Holy shit that’s cheap.
Similar BC Beers Russell Hop Therapy, Driftwood Twenty Pounder and Central City Imperial IPA.

Here’s a little gold to go on your trophy shelf.

Written by chuck

May 16th, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Naming Your Brewery

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There’s so many new breweries cropping up in BC that there will be one or two more by the time you’re done reading this article. Screw the recession; craft beer is booming big time in BC. The LDB reports 50% year-over-year growth in sales for breweries of 16,000hl or smaller (about the size of Lighthouse or smaller), and I suspect the only reason that growth wasn’t higher is that we straight up drank all the beer on offer. Seriously, craft breweries in BC are starting to actually run out of beer because they can’t grow fast enough to meet demand.

So, say you’re a homebrewer with delusions of grandeur or, more likely, a savvy marketing guy who just sorta understands what craft beer is thanks to a recent Scout Magazine article written by a clever, yet surprisingly handsome bearded journalist. Before you’ve sourced out some money, a few bits of equipment, and warehouse space to put it in (which can now both be in Vancouver and have a lounge), you will need a name.

Picking a good brewery name is incredibly important. It’s responsible for the first impression of your beer to potential customers. It’s how customers recognize you on the shelf, and it’s how they search for you on the Internet. It is, arguably, more important than how good your beer is. (In response to the thousands of sudden, sharp intakes of breath I just heard: it doesn’t matter how awesome your beer is if no one will drink it because it says “Canned Shit” on the side)

Although, curiously, some alternate spellings of “shit” sell well.

So, here it is: Barley Mowat’s Guide to Naming Your New Brewery. I’ll give you a breakdown of brewery names, from worst to best, and cite examples in BC that meet these criteria.

Worst: Names the LCLB won’t let you use

Nothing is worse than a name you can never register a liquor license with because it violates the LCLB’s 1920’s views about what is right and moral to put on the side of a bottle. This category is such a poor choice for a brewery name, that every example here is fictional.

Examples: Binge Beer, Underage Ales, Get Drunk Now Brewery, Beer is Better Than Wine Brewing Company (this one will likely get you blackballed forever by the wine-myopic LDB)

Pretty bad: Names that lie

Breweries tend to be in fairly boring places, places like industrial parks, or down by the sewage treatment plant. But why let the awful truth stop you from associating your brewery with a place that’s much nicer? Nevermind how much damage will be done to your brand once people find out you straight up lied, that’s a problem for Future You to deal with, and that guy’s a jerk.

Examples: Stanley Park Brewing (Annacis Island), Coal Harbour Brewing (East Van), Deep Cove Brewing (North Van), Barkerville Brewing (Quesnel)

Brewery’s don’t just limit themselves to lies about location, they also dabble lies about their actual existence. Shadow Branding is an all-too common tactic whereby a larger brewery invents a whole persona to go with a new beer because… um… the marketing is… uh… easier, somehow? I actually don’t know why they do this, although the big boys do have a lot to gain from distancing these new “craft” brands from their macro roots. I’ll dig deeper into this in a future post.

Examples: Stanley Park Brewing (Turning Point… yup, they’re a two-fer), Cariboo (Pacific Western), Shaftebury (Sapporo)

This is a common dating site tactic, as well. I mean, he could be a NHL defenceman, right?

Better: Place names

Naming your brewery after the location it is (actually) in is not a bad plan. Many breweries are so named, in fact. The trick is to try and be as specific as possible, because eventually another brewery will open up, and suddenly that Google search for “Vancouver Brewery” turns up a dozen other breweries in addition to your own. Just be sure to draw the line somewhere, though, as “534 Cambie Street, Second Floor Brewing Company” doesn’t have a great ring to it–try “Crosstown Brewing” instead. (Sidenote: Anyone? That’s an awesome building just begging for a nano, and it’s for lease!)

This approach becomes an issue, though, if your brewery grows enough that you need to move. If you think finding a good space is hard, wait until you need to do that AND have that space be on a specific street.

Examples (bad to good): Vancouver Island, Whistler, Powell Street, Yaletown, Townsite

Better still: Named after the brewer

This creates a nice connection between the public and the brewery, unless your name is Smith. There’s something neat about waltzing up to a beer fest booth labeled “Jim’s Brewery” and discovering that you are, in fact, talking to Jim himself.

Examples: Hoyne, Phillips, Russell, R & B

I would be remiss, though, in not pointing out a minor issue with three of these names:

  • Russell is named after founder/brewmaster Mark Russell and his brother Peter who, sadly, is are longer affiliated with the brewery that still bears their name.
  • R&B’s Rick Dellow and Barry Benson, though, can still be found down on 54 East 4th street, but R&B has to be about the worst e-name for a business ever. It’s almost impossible to search for in any online database, and all these fun new apps for rating beer (think or untappd) have to be specifically updated to support the & in the middle, and even then it’s often easier to just search for Red Devil Ale to find their brewery.
  • Hoyne Brewing, named after owner/brewer Sean Hoyne is better, but there is a chance for some confusion since Sean isn’t the only brewer in the Hoyne family. Most recently, brother Paul Hoyne was the brewmaster over at Lighthouse so there isn’t much risk of this right now, but if he were to strike out on his own life could get interesting.

Best: Uncommon or made-up terms

These are probably the best type of name for your new company. Uncommon or completely made-up terms are easily trademark-able, and provide unique search results for potential consumers. This is by far the largest category of brewery names in BC. As a side note, I don’t mean breweries with common, single-word phrases for names. Those are bad, folks:

Bad: Bridge, Ridge, Cannery, Tree, Wolf, Canoe, Swan’s, Storm

If you really want to have a generic term in your brewery name, try slapping a adjective in front of it. Truck Brewing is a terrible name, but Red Truck is less so. Think of all the other breweries that used this tactic:

Good: Big Ridge, Big River, Dead Frog, Noble Pig, Okanagan Spring, Red Truck, Tin Whistle, Steel Toad

Either that or pick a less common noun. “Bridge” or “Tree” are common, every day nouns, but when was the last time you used “Driftwood” in a conversation that wasn’t about beer. Again, while “Driftwood” isn’t awful, it could be a lot better. Here are some from okay to great.

Better: Driftwood, Wheelhouse, Crannog, Brassneck

Lastly, after you’ve picked a few good naming candidates, make sure to take 5 minutes and perform both a Canadian Intellectual Property Office Trademark Database Search and US Patent and Trademark Office Search.

Even if you have no plans to expand into the US, that other brewery down south might not feel the same way about Canada. A bit of effort here to pick a unique name (and register it) could avoid you a potential host of problems down the road.

Written by chuck

May 13th, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Beer and You