Barley Mowat 

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A Brewer is Me

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Last Tuesday, I had the singular pleasure of being invited down to Granville Island Brewing to create a beer of my own deviant concoction. Why would GIB, or anyone really, do such a thing? To be honest, GIB’s hoping to score some free publicity from me. You see, they’ve recently installed a growler station down on the island, and it’s not getting all the traffic they’d hope. Throw an impending Brewery Lounge Endorsement on the deal, and the thinking is that having ole Chuck along will get folk talking about things.

Sure, there’s a chance that I might see through the ruse and keep mum on the topic, but let’s face it: I’m me, and I have a huge ego. Any external validation of that ego is going to be splashed all over the internet as fast as possible.


Exhibit A.

When GIB approached me about doing a collaboration brew I was, to be honest, confused. Collaborations are typically done between breweries or restaurants, and upon brief reflection I discovered that I was neither of those things. Imagine my shock when, after informing GIB of that sad discovery, they were will still interested.

I sat down with GIB’s brewmaster Vern Lambourne in early November to discuss some ideas. I went in with several ideas queued up because I fully expected any sane commercial brewer like Vern to refuse to pursue my primary concept. It’s everything a profit-focused company like GIB should want to avoid in a beer: a strange style, expensive to make in terms of both time and materials, involves potential brewery-infecting Brettanomyces, and above all, this beer is more prone than usual to going sideways and turning out virtually undrinkable.

However, Vern loved the idea, and a Barley Mowat original was born. The beer in question is a malt-forward golden/pale ale, aged on Brettanomyces in used wine barrels. That noise you heard was every beer geek around you quivering in expectant glee, then awkwardly skulking towards the bathroom. I’m not full of myself here: this style of beer could be mouth-wateringly amazing, if it comes out right. The “if” is the trick: thousands of competing variables will all conspire to make my beer into rancid swill. Choosing this style of beer is risky, but if you somehow luck yourself into an at-bat in MLB, you don’t freaking bunt.


Likewise, if you’re handed the controls of a fireworks display, you logically mash all the buttons at once.

Let’s talk about making the beer. I started writing this section as a blow-by-blow account of how my beer was made. I abandoned this effort when I had the double realization that my beer was made just like every other beer on the planet, and that describing it had resulted in the most boring blog post this site has ever seen, even including that one where I got really baked and just talked about my hands for 5000 words.

Screw that. Select all, delete, problem solved. If you want to know how beer is made, there are a million better stories online, some even with cool videos. Better you go read/watch those then listen to some half-wit who literally brewed his first beer ever 48 hours ago.

Instead of the similarities, let’s focus on what makes my beer different, and let’s start with the recipe. For those of you following along at home with your own 10bbl brewhouse, the grain bill is: 2-row Pale Malt (207.1 kg), Munich 10 (24.2kg) and Cara 20 (10.9kg). All the grain was sourced from Gambrinus, and all the grain was heavy.


Luckily there was a gormless idiot at the brewery willing to lift it into the mill.

I wanted to keep the hop profile low on this guy, so two German hops were chosen in modest volumes. For bittering we picked Magnum (400g), and Perle got the nod for aroma (1500g). As a side note, every time you see “we” or “I” in this article please convert that into “Vern, because Chuck knows nothing about brewing.” I use we/I more for shorthand and convenience than anything else.


Bittering hop addition.
Needless to say, this isn’t an IPA.

All in all, things went fairly well, and I had more fun that I figured possible when participating as manual labour in what is, after all, an industrial manufacturing process. I also found the tips and tricks of the actual brewing process as executed by Vern at Granville Island to be insightful and enlightening. It’s all well and good to know that lautering involves straining the spent grain from the wort, but it’s another thing entirely to actually see the process executed in front of you.


And to also execute the removal of 550lbs of spent grain.

As you read this, the wort is slowly being converted into beer by the healthy culture of scotch ale yeast that now calls unitank #3 home. Once fermentation is complete (and after a suitable pause in a bright tank), the proto-beer will be racked to four barrels of used wine barrels from Red Rooster.

Into the barrels will be pitched two varieties of Brettanomyces (two barrels per strain). B. clausenii and B. lambicus get the nod here. The hope is that B. clausenii will add fruity esters and aroma while leaving the heavy lifting of getting Da Funk on to its loutish cousin B. lambicus.

Each barrel will produce a cask, giving some potential for big variation for Chuck’s Beer a la cask. The tap version, though, will be the result of all of the above blended.

So there you go, that’s my beer in a nut shell. All it needs is a name (although I do like this rendering on Twitter as an early front runner). I’ll post updates on Twitter, and maybe even a bigger update here when I have enough info. For now, though, I’ll leave you with this shot of my precious being oxygenated en route to primary.


Sometimes O2 in a beer is a good thing.

Written by chuck

January 30th, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Beer and You

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Giving Back to the Community

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Something happened recently which will either serve to validate my nascent megalomania or further separate actual reality from how I perceive it: Granville Island Brewing has requested that I do a collaboration beer with their Brewmaster Vern Lambourne. Usually, collab beers are the brainchilds of two (or more) breweries getting together and figuring “sure, why not? seems like fun.”

These beers are a chance for a brewery to perhaps brew outside their comfort zone or even perhaps distribute further afield than normal. As craft breweries grow both in size and number, we’ve seen more and more collaborations: Storm/Russell Big Smoke, Parallel 49/Gigantic From East Van With Love, Powell Street/Four Winds Dunkleweizen are just three that pop to mind, but there are many more (including the “brewed-by-committee” VCBW beers). Collabs are chances to experiment, share ideas and cross-market the resultant product.


The hangover cause and cure, together at last! Wham: instant best seller! Right, guys… guys?

But why, oh why, would a brewery want to do a collaboration brew with me? Last time I checked, I’m not a brewery. I’m not even a brewer… oh crap, I sure hop GIB and Vern aren’t expecting me to, you know, actually do anything here. I mean, aside from sagely overseeing the brewing process and then attempting to single-handedly consume as much of the resulting product as possible in some kind of self-destructive exhibitionist performance art–that, I’m up for.

The reasons, I suspect, go back to that whole “seems like fun” aspect. Sure, there won’t be lots of this beer made, and sure, it won’t be distributed anywhere but in the taproom on the (soon to be operational) growler station but, you know what? Making it will be fun. Certainly fun for me and–I hope–fun for Vern. And, ultimately, isn’t that what making beer is supposed to be?

With that in mind, I have begun soliciting crazy ideas as to what to brew. The conversation started on my Facebook page, but if you missed that or have a new idea (no Jenn, no cat beer) please let me know below. My hope is to read all these awesome ideas and be inspired to create something awesome-r. I will then take that inspiration and go strategize with Vern (it’s 50% his beer, too; this is a collaboration, not a contract).

Budget, timelines and batch size will likely all conspire to rein in some of the crazier ideas, but I’ve very confident we’ll arrive at a recipe with which we’ll both be happy. Ultimately, we might make something awesome or we might make something awful, but either way we’ll have fun doing it, and isn’t that the most important thing?


Of course, Homer also makes a very valid point

Written by chuck

October 18th, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Posted in Beers

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July Beer of the Month: GIB Uncle Monty’s

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Well, it’s official. We now live in a world where someone can have a sip of a 6% ABV Hefeweizen and think “Huh, that’s a nice low-ABV alternative to that 7.7% ABV Hefeweizen I’d rather be drinking.” How did this happen? How did “low ABV” manage to be used in the same sentence as “6”?

To answer this question is to acknowledge a dirty secret in the craft beer community: just as much as there is a very public hops-arms race going on, there is also a much less talked about alcohol arms race keeping pace. If you look closely, though, you can see evidence of a lower-ABV past. BCJP styles, for instance, despite only being 5 years old, consistently show an ABV range below modern examples. Take my two hefs, for example, the BCJP style caps out at 5.6%, meaning both are officially off style.

This escalating booziness is not without merit. High ABV brews are the result of higher sugar recipes and longer fermentation times, which can translate to more intense and complex flavours. These boozy monsters can invariably be found sitting atop the awesome beer scoresheet, mocking their less ethanol-y brethren below. However, just because I do like an occasional 15%ABV Barley Wine sipper, that doesn’t mean I want to drink more than a small glassful.

For sitting down with a proper pint, a lower ABV style is required. Sadly, even “normal” beers are increasingly in the 6%+ range. The sub-4% ABV sessional style is all but lost to memory. Sure, CAMRA has a Spring Sessional festival once in a while, and everyone gets momentarily obsessed with low alcohol sessionals, but then a whooper of a Saison comes out and we decide to stop talking about it.

Not Granville Island Brewing, though. GIB has brought their low ABV (3.6%) Uncle Monty’s Best Bitter from this year’s festival to market. This is a beer you can go into a store today and buy. Heck, buy two, because it’s possible to drink a whole bottle of this and not regret it.


I also like the new labels about 10x more than the old.

Sure, it’s not the best beer from the Spring Sessional (that honour belonged to the nascent Bomber Brewing Company, and their take on a Bitter). It is, though, something that’s being bottled, and bottling an unpopular style like this takes balls.

Those balls make GIB Uncle Monty’s Best Bitter my (somewhat belated) July Beer of the Month. I only wish more breweries would follow suit, especially Bomber when they open up.

Tasting notes:

APPEARANCE Transparent amber body with a semi-persistent white head
NOSE Malt prevails, with a slight hoppy finish
TASTE Light, and a bit watery; good hops character, though, which builds over the glass (as does the grain); low carb doesn’t get in the way of the subtle flavours
SHOULD I BUY IT? Do you like having more than one beer in an evening? Same question.

Coles notes:

Brewery Granville Island (TapHouse)
From Vancouver
Name Uncle Monty’s
Style Best Bitter
SOA Now n/a
SOA Potential n/a; table beer
Drink Right now, and again in 15 minutes
Will anyone else brew a beer like this? I doubt it, but want to be surprised
Availability 600 cases, limited LRS
Cost $5.50-7.00 per 650ml bottle.
Similar BC Beers None. Only example of low-ABV style.

Written by chuck

July 15th, 2013 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Beers

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