Barley Mowat 

Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride

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We’ve all made promises we regret: those decisions made in the spur of the moment that come back to haunt us later. Maybe we had one too many, or perhaps even many too few, but regardless of your state of mind, the promise stands and your future self has to honour it.

Well, I did one of those. Some time ago I made a promise to review all the readily available Amber Ales at the LDB. It sure seemed like a good idea at the time, but somehow these things are never quite as good as you imagined them.

Like my sweet eBay bike. I wound up regretting the horns the most.

Still, I promised to do this, and do this I must. Time to pinch my snobbish nose and take one for the team. And thus I went to the LDB in search of four widely available Amber Ales to inflict upon my palate and the palates of my friends.

I walked out of the liquor store with these candidates: Tree Thirsty Beaver, Lighthouse Race Rocks, Stanley Park Amber and Vancouver Island Seadog.

With the help of the actually-qualified-to-do-this Jenn Gardy, I constructed a single blind taste test and submitted a group of my most non-beer snobby friends to a side-by-side comparison test, with the hope of ranking each beer from 1 to 4 (first through fourth).

The results? Mixed. The actual scores ranged all the way from 2.2 to 2.6 when averaged out. If you’ve taken some stats, you know not to play the lottery. You also know these results are a complete wash. No one beer was measurably better than the others, and frankly all of them were pretty bad. Consider that no beer was more strongly correlated to a high score than it was to the glassware it was served in (wine glasses make beer better, by the way, I have proof).

So what did I, our own inhouse member of the elite beererati think? What’s my professional opinion? Buy something else is my opinion. Why are we fucking around with amber ales when Central City’s whole lineup is just as generally available? Who made this challenge anyways?

Oh. Right. Fuck you, me.

Well, here goes. My notes on these beers are as follows:

  1. Tree Thirsty Beaver — Not bad. My pick of the litter. Decently balance between malt and hops, but no real character to be found.
  2. Lighthouse Rack Rocks — Also well balanced, but a light sniff of DMS put this into second. Another can was better, but that wasn’t the one I judged.
  3. Stanley Park Amber — And here we find the cliff. Hops? What hops? All sweet all the time. Ugh. Beer can’t be sweeter.
  4. Vancouver Island Sea Dog — Oh shit, yes it can. Really? You’re calling this “beer”? Honestly I’m not 100% certain this isn’t contaminated. Just a vile mess of syrupy sweetness.

There, are you happy now? I kept my word. Ugh. And no, I won’t do the lager half of this test. That was always a “maybe.” Next time I do a tasting it will be a best-in-bc IPA-off between Driftwood, Lighthouse, Central City and Tofino. I’ve earned it.

UPDATE: Since I posted this, both Lighthouse and Vancouver Island have contacted me to investigate the reports of off-flavours. Now, I might not love these beers, but I do absolutely love how these breweries have reacted: admit that something might possibly have gone wrong and look into it.

Sure, all this might just be a result of me not having a great palate for this style or beer, or maybe Jenn messed up the samples, but at least let’s talk about it. Too often the result of negative press is the company ignoring or, even worse, trying to discredit or silence the source. By tackling this stuff up front, openly and honestly, the worst case scenario is that I just gained a lot of respect for both breweries. Y’all should too. Good on ya, guys.

Written by chuck

June 4th, 2012 at 6:44 pm

June Beer of the Month

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This month’s beer is special for a few reasons. Perhaps that’s why I’m putting this up early! Yup, leaving my BOTM selection until it’s nigh The Next Month is a thing of the past. So, goodbye Howe Sound 4Way, we hardly knew ye.

And hellllloooo Russell’s Rick August Imperial Stout! To be honest, I have no idea what this beer is really called. Is it Russell’s Rick August’s Stout? Russell/Rick August Stout? Russell’s Rick August Stout where “Rick August” is the name of the beer much like “Blood Alley” is the name of their bitter? I have no idea.

And I don’t give a flying fuck. Why? This beer is good. Damned good. Fantastic, in fact. It’s a solid 7/10 amoung imperial stouts, and that makes it a solid 99.9/100 amoung All Beers. It’s a damned tasty beer, and you should drink it.

What else is special? Well, this beer is actually made by some bloke named Rick August. He won the 2011 Golden Stag Home Brewer’s award with this beer. Well, not technically *this* beer. Just a beer very much like this. *This* beer was brewed recently by Jack at Russell Brewing from a recipe very much like Rick’s, and bottled under his name.

That’s probably why I love this beer so much. Not only is Russell brewing and bottling a scaled home-brew recipe brewed by some guy named Rick from Saskatchewan, but they’re doing it again this year with Dave Shea’s barley wine. In case you aren’t sure, that’s cool. That’s very cool, and it deserves our support.

So, when you see this in an LRS near you, buy it by the armload.

It’s okay to lick the screen. I already did. It’ll be like we’re eKissing!

Written by chuck

May 30th, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Posted in Beer and You,Beers

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The Week That Was VCBW

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Are you ready for my half-assed, far too-short review of VCBW? No? Well, here it is anyway.

VCBW was a massive, rollicking event that spanned 7 days, 4 events, and 4 restaurants. I know the website claimed a fair number more than that, but I can’t really confirm anything I didn’t personally see, so I’m sticking to my 7/4/4 claim.

Hoppapalooza I’ve already covered in a prior post. Go read it here.

Next up was the Driftwood + Pourhouse dinner that was coined “Beach to Bone” and came with a rolling narrative that basically served to roll out a menu that contained oysters, chicken, beef and maple syrup. I bought these tickets menu-unseen, based simply on the people involved. The thinking went something like: Pourhouse is good food and Driftwood is good beer, but… I already have my wallet out, don’t I? Crap.

A similar line of thought about books and John Travolta was less successful

Well, it wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was pretty good, but I can’t help but compare it to the Alibi’s Driftwood dinner and sorry Ian(s), you guys come up short. Of course, it was also half the price, so I guess that makes it pretty good. For a much better review of this event than I can put together, see Jan’s reporting over at the Province here.

Thursday saw me get off work early, then walk a kilometer… then get on a Skytrain… then take that thing all the way to the end… then wait fifteen minutes in the wind for a bus… then take that bus another two kilometers… then fight a balrog… and then finally get to a bar called “Pumphouse”. Ok, one of those things isn’t literally true. The balrog and I settled our differences via government-mandated binding arbitration. 5% wage bump per annum my ass.

The BeerThirst/Elysian tap-takeover out in Ditchmond was exactly as promised: a little slice of the suburbs served up with 20 tasty Seattle brews, many of which had not seen the light of BC yet. Full disclosure time: BeerThirst did indeed bribe me to come out to this event with promises of two free tickets and free beer. And yes, I might not have attended if not for this. However, I started this blog to get free beer, and thus I used this misplaced generosity to dive in and sample a wide range of beers from a decent brewery.

There were quite a few middle-of-the-road beers, and more than one great beer, but the Barley Mowat Best in Show goes to The Dread, an oak-aged imperial stout that is so good, you just know it’s not coming back any time soon. I don’t know why, but the import rules are basically made to keep out good beers, and to let in Becks. Sigh.

Will I be back? Nope. Sorry, folks, I left the rural life behind me, and the Pumphouse just doesn’t jive with my huge downtown snobbishness. I’d love to say that I found hanging out with the salt of the earth very relaxing and energizing, but alas the truth is closer to what Sharon whispered in my ear on the long train ride home: “Can we never go to the suburbs again, please?” There’s just so many better bars so much closer to home.

There’s also lots of shitty bars. I have options, is what I’m saying

Final day, final event: The VCBW Beer Festival. You take a day of perfect weather, a very awesomely restored 80 year old salt refinery, and combine them in a pot with 50 stalls of good beer and you have a very happy Chuck, right? Well, not so fast there skippy. I actually think this might have been my last beer festival. Sorry, festivals, it’s not you, it’s me.

You see, standard beer fests like this one are the same as always: lots of breweries and lots of good beer, but nothing too terribly interesting going on. Sure, they’re very nice, and generally fairly well executed, but consider this: I had not one beer from Driftwood, but three of Storm’s. Driftwood brought their regular (and very good) lineup, but I’d already had that. Storm, meanwhile, being off their meds as per usual, brought three exotic and very odd beers, and I had them all. Storm also ran out of most of their beer.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my 10 4oz samples of random beer, but overall I’m not sure that what was effectively 2 standard pints should have cost me $55, and I certainly didn’t enjoy it anywhere near as much as Hoppapolooza, which was $60 all in and involved literally dozens of intriguingly rare or one-off beers. Sure, I could have stretched out the value for $1.25 per 4oz (or $2.50, which was the going rate at far too many booths), but at 10 I had had everything I wanted (and a few I didn’t… looking at you, Whistler Brewing’s Grapefruit) and was effectively done.

As attractive and well put on an event as this was, the stark reality is that beer festivals are for relative new-comers to good beer, and that just isn’t me. So farewell, beer fests, it was good to know you. And hello cask fests, you come around far too infrequently.

Written by chuck

May 28th, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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