Barley Mowat 

Two Seasonals From Townsite

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Ah, December release madness. You think you’ve got it all covered, so you take a day off to relax then Bam! there’s like six more beers to review. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

This round features two interesting seasonals from Townsite Brewing, who are just up-coast in Powell River. Townsite busted onto the BC Brewing scene earlier this year and released a lineup of beers that were quickly met with… acclaim?… nope, that’s not it. Not criticism, either… more like “meh”-ism.

There’s nothing terribly wrong with their beers, but in a brewing market that has become increasingly upscale and snobbish in recent years, about the most charitable thing I could come up with was that they were “making the best beer Powell River’s seen in some time.”

While the beers were decently crafted examples of their style, Townsite wasn’t exactly wowing us beer geeks in quite the same way as Tofino or Parallel 49.

So how do their two most recent releases rank with the biggest bearded beer geek of all (by mass)? Well, both are great beers. While neither is going to be celebrated as best-in-class any time soon, they do represent a step up for the brewing game of Townsite, and indicate that we can expect more great beers to come. Of course, the sword cuts both ways, as now our expectations have been raised accordingly.

And no, our ego is not so inflated that we’re referring to ourselves in the majestic plural. Rather, it’s a medical condition we have and we’d appreciate your tact in this matter.

Tasting notes:

Biere D’hiver (Winter Ale): Nose is light caramel a bit of toffee thrown in because hey, why not?. Sip this back and whoa, we’re talking roasted malt. Heavily roasted, almost burnt malt. This yields an unexpected dark roast coffee flavour, which seems to amp up the dry bittering hops far beyond their stated 27 IBUs.

A few more sips and that roasty-malty flavour blends in with the alcohol to do what any good winter warmer should: make you feel all fuzzy inside.

Shiny Penny (Belgian IPA): Nose is strong Belgian yeast, barnyard funk and straw. On tasting, the dryness from the yeast slows yields to a lingering dry bitterness from the hops. The yeast is very dry and funky here, almost Brett-like, and the body round robust and sweet: a very pleasant, almost ideal combination.

After a few sips the hops fade into the background as your palate adjusts, making the nuances of the yeast more apparent.

Coles notes:

Brewery Townsite
From Powell River
Name Biere D’hiver Shiny Penny
Style Winter Warmer Belgian IPA
SOA Now None awarded Bronze
SOA Potential n/a; table beer
Drink Now
My suggestion for Townsite’s next style Russian Imperial Stout. Can’t have enough RISs. You can even call it “Chuck”.
Availability Limited LRS, and selling fast
Cost $6.00+ per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers Hoyne Gratitude, R&B Auld Nick, Howe Sound Father John’s Lighthouse Uncharted, Phillips Hoperation
Chuck says Simultaneously intriguingly and disconcertingly coffee-like A solid Belgian IPA that I’d drink again in a heartbeat


Like you expected anything else.

Written by chuck

December 17th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Beers

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Barley Wine Time

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Barley Wine season marches on. You already know to buy Driftwood’s dual release, and lots of it (perhaps more OCD than OBD though), but what about the other bottled barley wines? There are four other members of this elite style of beer vying for your attention (that I’m aware of), and three of them are out right now. What says Chuck?

Central City Thor’s Hammer

It’s good, buy it. What? You want more details? How about the fact that the NW Brewing News Readers’ Awards just named it the best Barley Wine… not in BC, but in all of Alaska, BC, Washington, Northern California and Oregon. That swath covers a good chunk of the best breweries on the planet. Sure, I’m not a fan of populist polls, but I do trust readers of NWB to be a little more beer-savvy than readers of the Straight.

What? My opinion? Okay, fine. This is a thinner, sweeter and spicier cellaring beer compared to Driftwood’s OCD, and frankly I don’t think it will improve as much but, you know what, it’s better right now so it all comes out in the wash.

Phillips Trainwreck

It’s not great. Don’t buy it… unless you like burnt nuts and toffee. Now, to be clear, this is not an awful beer (few Barley Wines are), but so far it’s the loser of the 2012 release cycle. That toffee is accompanied by a diffuse maple syrupy sweetness and, dare I say it, tones of bubblegum… in a beer. As a side note, does anyone else wonder how Phillips keeps slipping beer names past the LDB that basically promise extreme intoxication? Amnesiac, Instigator, Trainwreck? Is anyone even paying attention over there anymore?

Howe Sound Woolly Bugger

It’s great. Buy it. It’s not one of these massive, hoppy new world barley wines like Thor’s Hammer and Old Cellar Dweller, no, this is a throwback to the high malt, chocolatey English style, and it’s an absolute delight. Massive malt tone and depth give this a smooth, creamy almost velvety body, rich with chocolate. Balancing out all that sugar is subtle old world hops. Take a sip and guess at the IBUs. You, too, will be shocked to learn this has 75 of the things, and that tells you just how balanced and deep this beer is.

If you see it, buy some, as I have no idea what the production run on this was, since the bottles are not helpfully numbered as they have been in previous years.

Coles notes:

Brewery Central City Phillips Howe Sound
From Surrey Victoria Squamish
Name Thor’s Hammer Trainwreak Woolly Bugger
Style American Barley Wine American Barley Wine English Barley Wine
SOA Now Silver None Silver
SOA Potential Silver None Silver
Drink Now to 2014 Don’t Now to late 2013
Best feature Unusual spicey-ness Name implying this beer will fuck your shit up Consumption-friendly bottle size
Availability Very Limited LRS Widespread LRS Limited LRS
Cost $15.00 per 650ml $5.50-$7.00 per 650ml $4.00-$5.50 per 341ml
Similar Beers (you can buy) Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller, Old Barrel Dweller
Chuck says Stock up Skip Stock up

Written by chuck

December 13th, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Xmas Buying Guide

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It’s gift giving time again, and no matter how strongly folk feel about their non-Christian religious denomination, no one seems to complain too much when the gift in question is beer. Do you have a bearded beer geek in your life? Want to know what sort of hard core or exotic gifts will make even the most cynical BC beer snob quiver in joy? Well, look no further, it’s Barley Mowat’s 2012 Xmas Gift Guide for Beer Geeks*!

Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller Vertical

Hillside Liquor in Victoria is offering up a five-year vertical of OCD. For those keeping track, that’s… all of them. They’ve likely sold out by now, but for those with keen eyes there are the odd 2011 and even 2010 vintages just hanging out on LRS shelves, if you know where to look.

Barley Wine Horizontal

Can’t make it over to Victoria? How about a horizontal of all the current BC Barley Wines? Driftwood has two out, CC released a limited number of Thor’s Hammer, Phillips pushed out Trainwreck, and both GIB and Howe Sound have their own product coming out in the near future. While obviously not as rare as the full vertical of OCD, this sampling of the current state of the BC Barley Wine World is a solid runner up. Just don’t give in to temptation and drink them all in one night.


Or leave them all out for Santa.

CAMRA Membership

No aspiring beer geek should be walking around without a CAMRA card. Not only does membership show your support for local craft beer, it also saves you gobs of cash through discounts at fine CAMRA-friendly establishments and at participating Liquor Retail Stores. I renew every January and usually make my fee back within days (it is no coincidence that Singularity is released shortly thereafter).

Central City Winter Cask Festival Tickets

While your run-of-the-mill beer fests are great and all, hardcore beer geeks like myself are somewhat less enthused. Regular beer fests are often just breweries pouring their production ales for people to sample and try for the first time. The issue is that any good member of the beererati has already had all those beers a few times over so, ultimately, the novelty factor is somewhat lessened.

What about a festival where most every beer is custom brewed just for the occasion? Sold! The leading provider of such festivals is Central City Brewing who, despite being an awesome brewery in their own right, invites everyone over twice a year for a party.

Tickets to this winter’s cask fest are only $30, and can be bought with plenty of time to spare for getting them wrapped and under the tree.

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All these are solid suggestions but, let’s face it: the people reading this blog ARE the beer geeks–not the people buying presents FOR beer geeks. So, in a hat tip to reality, let’s wrap up with a couple great BC non-beer suggestions for our tolerant and enabling significant others. You didn’t complain when we converted your walk-in closet to a beer cellar, and you happily let yourself be dragged along to all kinds of crazy cask festivals. So here’s some Not Beer for you (yes, I do wine too).

Painted Rock 2009 Syrah

A wine of rare quality that you can enjoy right now but which will also improve with a bit of ageing. I suggest you buy a case and age it alongside your Barley Wine, so you can justify the inevitable Beer Cellar expansion into the master ensuite. See also, Painted Rock Red Icon, for a slightly pricer but even more ageing-friendly beast.

Osoyoss Larose Le Grand Vin Vertical

The LDB site only lists the ’07 or ’08 as being available, but if you look carefully you can find some as old as the ’06 and as new as the ’09 (and as big as the six litre!). Of course, there’s no telling how these bottles have been kept by the LDB, who seem hell-bent on destroying as much good wine as possible with heat and light. As an added bonus, though, the Larose Le Grand Vin comes in cool 6 bottle wooden crates, which are perfect for wrapping up (and for storing beer in).

UPDATE: Central City Cask Festival link now goes to something that isn’t 12 months out of date!

* Sure, I realized I missed few things, like the recently released Westvleteren 12 gift pack, but I’m staying on theme here, folks: BC. If I didn’t limit this hobby to just BC I’d be drunk far more often, and I’m already drunk all the time, so I’m not sure how that’d play out.

Written by chuck

December 11th, 2012 at 12:40 pm