Barley Mowat 

Cascadia Update

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So earlier this month Chris from had an opportunity to discuss the whole “Cascadia-gate” issue w/ Walter Cosman, the President of Steamworks. I won’t repeat his article here, but rather suggest that everyone go over to his blog and read it. Seriously, go read it. Chris did all the work here; I’m just reposting his sleuthing like the lazy bum I am.

One thing I would like to highlight, though, is that as part of Chris’ conversation with Walter, Walter stated explicitly that the use of “Cascadia” in a style is fine by Steamworks. Walter upheld this position even when specifically queried about beer names like “Howe Sound Gathering Storm Cascadian Dark Ale.”

Steamworks is still talking about licensing the term for use by third parties, but presumably that would be for use as a brand name. Since no one ever wanted to use Cascadia as a brand name, just as a style name, I guess we’re done here. Steamworks is basically saying “Sorry! We screwed up!” and, you know what, that’s fine. You’re allowed to screw up, and I forgive you. Kudos for doing the right thing, even if it took a few months for you to come around.

Of course, we’ll see how serious Steamworks is about this whole “we’re fine w/ style names” thing when the company producing said style is Granville Island Brewing, whom they seem to have a special kind of hate for. However, if it’s okay for one company to do it, it’s okay for all.

Disclaimer: Please note that I did not talk to Steamworks directly, and all of this is based off of Chris’ work. As such, it should carry all the weight of something you read online in a blog somewhere.

Written by chuck

January 31st, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Two More Seasonals From Phillips

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It seems like you can’t turn around these days without bumping into yet another one-off from Phillips Brewing, and this time there’s two of them (well, truthfully, there’s five of them but I’m only talking about two today). Leviathan is a Milk Stout brewed with charity in mind, and no, I don’t mean the well meaning stripper at the club around the corner from the brewery. I mean whales, specifically in the form of the Cetus Research and Conservation Society.

Phillips is generously donating the profits from this particular beer to said society, who concern themselves with… uh… riding around in zodiaks and… uh… measuring fish and… hunting whales, I guess? I dunno, I didn’t read the page–it was full of long words. Anyway, bravo Phillips.

The second beer is the first in their Twisted Oak Stillage Series, a Scotch Ale. Basically, Phillips wants to brand all their barrel’d releases under a single banner, and this is the first to get the new branding. As an aside, from beer bloggers everywhere: please pick less complicated names. It would make entering these into our databases easier. This beer isn’t called “Twisted Oak”; it has no actual name, and that means it doesn’t fit into my table below very easily. Oh well, screw it, I’m using Twisted Oak.

Tasting notes:


This is a pretty beer. It pours by the book with a thin tan head, light carbonation and a body black as night. Nose is rich roasted malt, with a hint of chocolate, coffee and an underlying promise of sweet creaminess. On tasting the coffee and chocolate are a bit more obvious, and the creamy mouthfeel is present, but not as massive as could be expected from the style.

The finish, though… wow… that’s where the wheels come off the cart. The finish is a harsh metallic twang that is amplified by the lactose into a nasty, off-milk undertone. It’s almost as if they threw in a few rolled up tubes of pennies in with the lactose during conditioning. As the beer warms the metallic finish becomes less pronounced, almost enough to make drinking one of these for the whales something everyone should do.

Twisted Oak:

Alright, let me say right off the bat that this is not a particularly good Scotch Ale. Great Scotch Ales are rich, creamy, malty and sometimes they don’t wear any underwear, and this isn’t really any of those things. What this beer IS, though, is a fascinating malty, oaked, ale that has lots of complexities and nuances with a distinct Scottish heritage.

The nose is sweet caramel combined with a hint of cherries and oak. The taste is slightly spicey and caramel, but the oak is blended in wonderfully, providing an astringent tannin pull to the sides of your mouth that work well with the high sugar of the body. The slight metallic finish common to all Phillips brews is here, but with a Scotch Ale, it’s on style and works.

All that and it’s only 6.8%, meaning you can have multiples before lifting your kilt over your head.

Coles notes:

Brewery Phillips
From Victoria
Name Leviathan Twisted Oak
Style Milk Stout Scotch Ale
SOA Now None Bronze
SOA Potential n/a; table beer
Drink Now
Do it To support the whales, man To support fucking around with barrels, man
Availability Most LRSs
Cost $6.50-$7.50 per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers (you can buy) Parallel 49 Ugly Sweater As a scotch: lots, including Howe Sound Wee Beastie. As a barrel beer that’s not so scotchy, none.
Chuck says Buy one. Buy several.

Mmm… pennies.

Written by chuck

January 25th, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

Dr Jekyll and Mr Brewer

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Let’s completely abandon reality and pretend just for a second that you’re actually good at something. It doesn’t have to be something that you like; heck, let’s just assume you hate this thing. However, doing this something makes you enough money and gives you enough spare time that you are free to pursue another thing that you truly, deeply care about. Would you keep doing the profitable something?

It’s a hard question to answer, but unless the thing in question was a humanity reducing and esteem debasing action like reviewing macro beer, odds are you’d suck it up like a champ and get back to your client in that dirty alley behind the Biltmore.

Pictured: Capital Investment.

This is the dilemma that a number of BC Breweries currently find themselves in, especially the middle-aged ones that grew up in the late 90s. Back then, that boring pale ale you brewed was just about the most exciting beer anyone had ever drunk, and they loved you for it. Problem is, it hasn’t kept up with the times, and definitely stands out as a first-wave micro-brewed product that is now long past its best-by date.

Now comes the curveball: people keep buying it, and not just a little bit here and there, but in huge, massive volumes–everything you brew, in fact. They grew up on this beer and are brand loyal to it in the same way American yahoos will slit your freaking throat for preferring the wrong type of slightly alcoholic malt-water. On top of that, because the ingredients are simple and don’t contain many of those “hops” the kids are all a-ga-ga over these days, it’s cheap to make and profitable as all shit.

So what do you do? You kind of want to produce better beer in volume, but you also kind of like money and keeping the brewery up-and-running. If you went bankrupt, afterall, you wouldn’t be able to produce those limited run beers that the beer geeks actually seem to like.

Which brewery am I talking about? Pretty much all of them, but especially Granville Island and OK Spring. To a lesser extent, though, this is a problem faced by Lighthouse and Russell. Heck, even Central City and Driftwood are facing early versions of this very problem.

In short, no brewery is safe from this. Let’s assume that Seedspitter continues to sell gang busters in 10 years even after the state of the fruit-based beer art has long left it behind. Will Parallel 49 be able to put the cash cow out to pasture and move on? Maybe after one more season… yeah, just this one…

Somehow I think this goes poorly for the goose.

OK fine, use the money from this year to buy new capacity, then use that new capacity to brew better beer. What’s that? The retailers just want more Seedspitter? Well, I guess… I could always buy a new brewkit next year…

I know what you’re thinking: why don’t they just bite the bullet and simply brew better beer? It will sell just as well, and everyone will be happy! Small craft breweries are the largest growing segment in the BC beer market, afterall! This seems like a great idea, but it won’t work.

I had a great conversation a few months back with OK Spring Brewmaster Stefan Tobler about this very concept, in which I espoused that exact sentiment. I even cited that Goliath of great beer, Deschutes, as an example of how you could profitably brew large volumes of critically acclaimed beer*.

The problem, he says, is that the millions of people that religiously drink OK Spring Pale Ale (one of BC’s best selling beers) aren’t the same millions of people that drink Deschutes Inversion IPA. He has a point. (Also, the ones that drink Inversion are rather inconveniently located in the USA, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Can you imagine what would happen if, overnight, OK Pale Ale was replaced by Really Awesome Cascadian IPA? The loyal crowds would freak out, then flock over to GIB Pale Ale, and the meagre few craft beer geeks that could see past the OK Spring label wouldn’t replace even 1% of them. In six months OK Spring would be sold off by Sapporo (well, in reality, the management staff would all lose their jobs long before that).

Or, we can hope, eliminated one by one in an awesome Japanese game show.

You can move the market, but you have to do it very very carefully. Maybe Lighthouse is onto something by sloooowly changing up their six packs. Heck, even GIB has murmured something about relaunching their IPA. If you slowly make the beer better and better, perhaps there won’t be one jump large enough to confuse the brand-followers, and then they’ll find themselves drinking the same beer as bearded guys at the bar. Kind of like boiling a frog… only with beer. Um, I have to go; I just thought of a great recipe.

* I also suspect that Deschutes has their own version of this problem. It’s hard to imagine that the same folk that give us Dissident, Abyss and Stoic get all a-tingle over yet another 100hl batch of Mirror Pond.

Written by chuck

January 22nd, 2013 at 3:31 pm