Barley Mowat 

May Beer of the Month

with one comment

The more astute of you might have noticed my BOTM not being updated for April. This is for a few reasons, namely:

  1. I was in Bolivia
  2. No beer stood out in April
  3. I plain old forgot

Mostly, though, it was number two there. I always said I’d skip a month if no beer of note was released, and that was the case. Sure, there were a few that piqued my interest slightly, but in the end none of them really fit the bill.

May, though, is a different story. A beer was released in late April, and is still available in stores right now, that is definitely something to think about. It’s Driftwood Clodhopper. Clodhopper is virtually unique amongst beers in BC because it’s brewed with barley grown and malted in BC. Sourcing local barley might seem like a huge chore when there’s a nice website you can just plain old order the stuff from by the pallet-load, but it’s the next big step for breweries to take on the road to making better beer.

The problem is this: sure, it’s nice and easy to order from that catalogue, and you sure do get a consistent product, but you know who else can order from that catalogue? Everyone. Every single brewery in BC can, and does, source barley from one of a handful of possible locations. Barley contributes as much flavour to a beer as yeast and hops do, both of which are carefully considered before being used (yeast is mostly propagated in-house, and hops are increasingly locally sourced, or even home grown in some cases). Barley, though? Give Ed at BarleyWorld a call and get 500kg of the Malt. See if we can’t get some with less rats this time.


But not no rats, though. They help with stirring the mash. And add flavour.

Not Driftwood Clodhopper, though. This is made with barley grown mere minutes from the brewery. Sure, the farm isn’t very big, and the harvest is likewise small, so they’re restricted to this one release, but the demand is there and it’s growing. Unique, malt-forward beers are coming.

Unless, of course, the government doesn’t do anything. You see, one of the main advantages of using all-BC ingredients in your booze is you can then sell the resultant happy-juice tax free from your establishment. The goal here is to create demand for BC-grown ingredients that are traditionally sourced from out of province. Demand equals jobs which equals, let’s face it, votes. Wineries have long enjoyed this little break, and just recently the government opened up the legislation, stared long and hard at the wording, and changed it… to include distilleries. Breweries, on other hand, can just go fuck themselves.

How does this threaten beer made from local malt? I mean, if it’s better, you’ll do it anyway right? You sure would, if the farmer hadn’t already sold it to distillers. Yeah, that locally distilled, high octane, booze, in addition to being awesome, is also made from–you guessed it–barley malt. Sucks to be a brewer wanting to make better beer.

Oh well, enough rambling from me, go out and enjoy this beer, and think about all the political nuances that went into its creation.

Tasting notes:

APPEARANCE Low, almost no, carbonation. Dark red/brown body.
NOSE Some darker fruits (plum, cherry), thick sugar/malt nose, with a hint of spiciness on the end.
TASTE Smooth, lots of blackened caramel, and just a wee bit of Belgian funk
SHOULD I BUY IT? Yes. Buy three. No, four.

Coles notes:

Brewery Driftwood
From Victoria
Name Clodhopper
Style Abbey Dubbel
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential Bronze
Drink Now. Might improve with some age, but it’s good right now.
Label Seriously, what an ugly label. What gives, guys?
Availability Widely available at LRS
Cost $7-10 per 650ml bottle.
Similar BC Beers None right now

Written by chuck

May 6th, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Granville Island Cloak and Dagger

with 3 comments

Well, here we are. GIB has finally let loose with the 2013 version of their Cascadian Dark Ale, the 2012 version of which started the whole CascadiaGate issue. Or, at least, that’s Steamworks’ story and they’re sticking with it.

For their part, Steamworks has since announced that everything is fine, and they realized the errors of their ways. Anyone can use “Cascadia” in the style of a beer, just so long as they don’t use it as the name (then they’ll have to pay $1). But I digress, this is not a story anyone even remotely familiar with beer in BC is not completely sick of. Kind of like our overly restrictive beer laws. What? Those are still here? Crap.


Pictured: Great beer in Costco. This is a thing that happens elsewhere in the world.

GIB also took the opportunity to relaunch their Limited Release Series as the Black Book Series. The beers themselves will be familiar versions of Brewmaster Vern Lambourne’s brews of years past, but they will have funky new labels and, for the first time, names.

Naming the beers is a concession to the “style but not name” requirement from Steamworks above, but also overdue. Good beers deserve names. The branding, though, is curious, as it de-emphasizes the “Granville Island Brewing” aspect so prevalent on GIB’s Molson-brewed beers, and instead highlights the specific beer. Frankly, the difference in quality between Molson’s “Granville Island” and Vern’s “Granville Island” has long been ill-served by the similar-looking bottles, so I say “well played, GIB.”

Anyway, back to the beer. What was the point of everyone turning towards Steamworks last fall and muttered “The fuck?” if not to protect a brewery’s right to make a fantastic hoppy beer and rightfully–truthfully–call it “Cascadian.” Sadly, that hypothetical beer is not this one (although Parallel 49 just released a Cascadian Dark Lager…)

Cloak and Dagger is a Cascadian Dark Ale, and all CDAs tend to be good, but it lacks that massive hop punch that trademarks the style. In fact, this is somewhat of a sweet ale… with an approachable taste, and that’s my main issue. CDAs are a beer nerd’s nerdy beer, and this just isn’t that. Sure, it has some of the toasted malt we all like in our CDAs, but that’s about it.

Tasting notes:

NOSE Dark malt, some roast coffee, and a mild punch of hops
APPEARANCE Black as night with light tan head
TASTE Sweet malt, although some bitterness from the roasting, not a lot of hops to back it up
SHOULD I BUY IT? Depends. Do you like sweeter, maltier IPAs? Then yes. Otherwise, give it a skip.

Coles notes:

Brewery Granville Island
From Vancouver
Name Cloak and Dagger
Style Cascadian Dark Ale
SOA Now None Awarded
SOA Potential Not a cellaring ale
Drink Now.
Lawsuit odds I’ll give you 4:1. I just don’t see them doing it.
Availability Widely available at LRS
Cost $? per 650ml bottle (free sample).
Similar BC Beers Howe Sound Gathering Storm

Written by chuck

April 30th, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with ,

CAMRA Sessional Cask Fest

with one comment

One of my all time favourite CAMRA events was the Spring Sessional Fest of Ale of two years past (review here). Sure, it wasn’t perfect (few things are), but it was a great way to spend an afternoon. The company was entertaining, the crowd was friendly, and the sun was shining in through the London Pub’s windows (remember when pubs were required to have darkened glass? WTF was with that?) Adding to this general mood of happiness was the beer itself.

The past decade or so has seen two forms of arms race in the craft brewing world. First, there’s the “how many hops can we cram in this beer without actually turning it green” race, which has slowly morphed into the “so what, it’s green, wanna make something of it?” race. Running parallel to this is the “let’s jack up the booze” trend. A long time ago a 6% ABV IPA would have been considered quite the strong ale. These days, table IPAs regularly top 7 or 8%, with the higher Imperials reaching for (and sometimes exceeding) 10%.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t make these high ABV monsters. They high alcohol helps blend together/take the edge off some of the stronger malt/hops flavours that come with the big beer crowd. Additionally, high ABV beers tend to cellar better, and man am I ever a sucker for a cellaring ale. Plus, there are other, less subtle benefits.


Like making baseball tolerable. You thought I was going with pictures of drunk co-eds doing regrettable things, didn’t you? Shame on you; I’ve matured since my early days.

It’s just that I feel we’ve lost something by moving away from our humble end-of-the-workday table beer roots. Remember how awesome it felt to be able to crack open a bottle of beer on a Tuesday and finish it with no fear of impeded performance on Wednesday? Me neither, but my diary reports the feeling to be awesome. We’ve left those days behind, and now find ourselves in The Time of 8% ABV Saisons. (Aside: I like both beers, especially Deckhand, but Saisons were originally low ABV refreshers for the end of a long day’s manual labour)

That leads us to CAMRA’s latest event: the 2013 Spring Sessional. Sessional’s are low-ABV beers that don’t skimp on flavour. Sure, they might not punch in you in the face like their bigger brethren, but how often do you find yourself thinking “Man, I could go for a full pint of Singularity right about now.”

The goal with sessionals is to create a beer that can be enjoyed 20 ounces at a time, without fear of waking up in the bathroom stall at the Alibi Room, under a blanket, with a note to let yourself out pinned to your chest (note: not actually a thing that happened. I swear. It was a poncho). To accomplish this, they focus on more subtle flavours that build up in your mouth over the course of a pint but don’t wear you out. As I like to say with great sessionals: “This beer tastes like another pint.”

The focus of the event has slipped a bit from 3.5% ABV to 4.5% ABV, and the tasting glasses have shrunk from 10oz to 6oz, but the spirit is still the same. As well, since low-ABV beers are not exactly hugely popular, or even produced by most breweries, we are virtually guaranteed that the entrants will be interesting, novel experiments, which is what I most love about casks. Throw onto that pile of awesome-sounding-beer-event CAMRA President Adam acting as “cask police” and things get even better: many “casks” served locally are really just beer in a cask-shaped vessel–Adam will ensure that is not the case here.

Am I going? Damned straight. And you’d best too, if you know what’s good for you. I heard this AM that there are tickets still available, and for an event of this calibre, that’s been on sale over a month, that is a bloody crime. Shame on you, beer public. You call yourself beer geeks and you allow THIS to happen? Go buy tickets. Buy them all. Buy one for your dog, if you have to, he likes beer.


Okay fine. Here you go. Happy now?

Written by chuck

April 26th, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with