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Introducing the Beerdies

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It’s the first day of the New Year: a time for reflection on days gone past, pontification on days yet to come, and perhaps most importantly, a time for reading whatever random crap you can find on the Internet with the hopes of dulling even just a little of the pain inside your head. Seriously, what the fuck did you drink last night? Last thing you remember was opening that bottle of Old Barrel Dweller and grabbing a straw… did… did you make out with your cousin? No not that cousin, the ugly one, cuz ew.

So let’s take our minds off the myriad horrors of braces for a second and talk about 2012 and all the great awesomeness that we saw. In order to frame this discussion, I will now introduce the “Annual Barley Mowat Excellence in Beer Awards”, aka The Beerdies. Other, better blogs and organizations have end-of-year awards focusing on actual merit (eg Best Beer or Best Brewery), so I’ll take up the slack and focus on the state of BC Beerdom from the point of view of the bearded beer geek (aka me).


I haven’t built a trophy yet, but I figure this plus a can of gold spray paint and we should be good.

To avoid repetition, I didn’t actually insert “According to Chuck” at the end of these category titles–just read it in there as you go. Or “In bed”–either works equally well.

Best New Brewery: Parallel 49 (brewmaster Graham With)

I was initially somewhat wary of P49’s potential. After all, here was a brewery focusing on session ales, of all things, and with a near-rookie brewmaster. Didn’t they know that Barley Wines and Imperial Stouts are where it’s at? Well, shows what I know. All their beers are great, and the special release program is bringing interesting and unique brews to the masses. Well played guys (and yes, an Impy Stout is on the way, just to cover all the bases).

Brewery What Took Most Of My Money: Driftwood (brewmaster Jason Meyer)

For the third year in a row, Driftwood woed me with both giant cellarable releases (Singularity, Old Cellar Dweller, Old Barrel Dweller, Mad Bruin) and an excellent on-tap and table beer line-up (Fat Tug in particular). However, the times, they are a-changing. It wasn’t just Driftwood taking up new slots in my cellar this year, Central City, Howe Sound and Granville Island all earned shelf space, and that list is set to grow with Parallel 49’s RIS about to come out.

Hottest Brewery Accessory: Barrels

Driftwood and Central City have been playing around with barrel ageing for a while, but in 2012 this niche concept went mainstream. How mainstream? Here’s the list of breweries that now have barrel programs: Phillips, Driftwood, Russell, Central City, Parallel 49, Granville Island (Taphouse), and more are added every day. P49 is building a dedicated barrel house, they like it so much. While we don’t quite have a Cascade Brewing Barrel House up here just yet, we’re on our way.

Best Seasonal Lineup: Lighthouse “Small Brewery, Big Flavour” (brewmaster Dean McLeod)

Let me list some beers: Belgian Black, Belgian White, Overboard, Siren, Uncharted. All those came from one brewery: Lighthouse. Sure, the small release program from Lighthouse didn’t always hit them out of the park (Choco Porter, sorry Dean), but by and large these weren’t just great beers, they were excellent beers.

Best New Trend: Growlers (in Vancouver)
Honourable Mention: Names Not The Owner/Location (eg: Brassneck, Four Winds, Bomber)

Victoria has been blessed with a growler culture for a few years now, making running a brewery without a growler bar an odd proposition. In Vancouver, though, growlers have been limited to brewpubs. Until now, that is. We’re just getting going, but with two new growler-friendly breweries this year and at least three more in the works, things are getting interesting.

Best Nigel Springthorpe: Nigel Springthorpe

No surprises here, right? A Chuck-based award system that didn’t set one aside for the reigning King of BC Beer wouldn’t make sense. Sure, it’s not fair to all the non-Nigels out there, but this isn’t about fair. It’s about good beer, and so is Nigel.

Most Improved Brewery: Dead Frog (brewmasters Tony Dewald & Tim Brown)

There are so very many things wrong with Dead Frog Brewing that Love Good Beer dedicated an entire post to it, and this is AFTER they released Fearless IPA. I agree; they’re not out of the deep end yet, but Fearless is a step in the right direction. There’s a lot more to running a successful brewery than making good beer, but it definitely helps. Keep up the good work, Dead Frog, and I look forward to what you make next.

And now, the grand prize of the 2012 Beerdies (aka the Golden Beerdie):

Best Beard in BC Beer: Conrad Gmoser

Look at it… it’s just so… glorious. Don’t you just want to touch it? To stroke it? To have it?

I might as well have named this trophy The Conrad, but unlike The Nigel above, this will be available to anyone with follicles, brewing instinct, lots of time and the kind of job that involves both obsessing over a complex process and little to no outside contact. Yup, a brewing hermit is basically a shoe-in.

And that’s all for now! Back to bed.

UPDATE: @GingerLiz corrects me on the mint content of Deans choco porter. Turns out I get confused by leafs on packaging easily.

Written by chuck

January 1st, 2013 at 11:53 am

One IPA To Rule Them All

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As many of you are aware, I recently tasted a Dead Frog Fearless IPA, declared it great, and then loudly wondered if Fearless might count itself amongst the higher echelons of the hop madness that is the BC IPA Market. Thus, I decided to do another one of my blind tastings, only this time with the ranks stacked with good beer (no more crappy lager for me).

As step one, I went out and picked five BC-produced IPAs to stack up in a blind taste test. These five beers were:

  1. Dead Frog Fearless: The reason for this test. Omitting it would be one of the odder moves I could make here.
  2. Driftwood Fat Tug: By popular consensus, this is the reigning king of BC IPAs (what you can buy in a bottle).
  3. Central City Red Racer: The one, the original, the IPA that ruled BC from the Dawn of Hoppy Awesomeness until The Day Fat Tug Was Released.
  4. Lighthouse Switchback: The new kid on the block with some serious chops, and a delightful New Zealand take on this whole “hops” business.
  5. Coal Harbour Powell: Okay, so it’s not really fair to pit an English IPA up against all these Cascadian hop monsters, but I’ve been hard on Coal Harbour in the past, and this seemed like a great chance to do a blind taste test of their award winning beer.

The only images I could find mentioning Beer Statistics are just incredibly depressing, so enjoy this C&H comic instead.

Method
Seven tasters were randomly selected from the group of seven people who showed up to my tasting event. Tasting sheets with five computer-randomized letter codes were printed and distributed (eg “ADBEC” or “CBEAD”). A non-particpant poured columns of each beer out of sight from the tasters, who were then summoned to grab one of each sample. All glasses were uniform. Participants were instructed on the basic IPA features to pay attention to, and were instructed to rank beers in order of preference 1 to 5, with no ties.

Now, why did I do each of these things:

  • Computer randomized letters: Computers are unbiased, and randomizing letters instead of breweries (indeed, before I had even chosen the breweries) removed the possibility of bias being introduced by me at this stage. Since people tend to drink left to right, a single set order could introduce bias to the first hop beast.
  • Pouring out of sight: This is a classic single blind, preventing the tasters from knowing what beer is in each glass. We did consider a double blind (having another person pour from the labeled bottles into a pitcher, then into glasses) but our potential second blind wanted to drink beer, too.
  • Uniform Glassware: Glass shapes affect aroma and flavour; this is why you don’t drink beer from the bottle, or I WILL CUT YOU. Previous experiments of mine showed a much stronger correlation between perceived beverage quality and glass shape than to actual brewery. Having uniform glassware removes this problem.
  • Ordinal Ranking: As I’ve mentioned before, people suck at absolute ranks. Asking folk to give each beer an absolute score would introduce all sorts of personal bias (eg what is a 5/5?).

But enough about that, what are the results? Well, here are the raw data:

Taster 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Central City (“A”) 2 1 3 5 2 2 5
Dead Frog (“B”) 3 5 1 4 5 4 4
Driftwood (“C”) 1 3 4 2 1 1 3
Lighthouse (“D”) 4 2 5 1 3 3 1
Coal Harbour (“E”) 5 4 2 3 4 5 2

Which translates into these scores. Solely because a table with two columns would look lonely, I’m giving you mean, median and olympic averages (throw out highest and lowest, then mean).

Score Median Mean Olympic
Central City (“A”) 2 2.86 3.2
Dead Frog (“B”) 4 3.71 4.4
Driftwood (“C”) 2 2.14 2.4
Lighthouse (“D”) 3 2.71 3.0
Coal Harbour (“E”) 4 3.57 4.4

So there you have, Fat Tug retains it’s crown, and Fearless comes dead last (at least where n=7). Here are some interesting takeaways:

  • No one voted Fat Tug as the worst, and no one voted Coal Harbour as the best. Every other beer had at least one first place and last place vote.
  • Switchback has pulled ahead of Central City for second best IPA in the province, assuming the province is accurately summarized by me and my six friends. Well played, Dean.
  • Fat Tug is statistically out front with a big lead, and then Switchback and CC are effectively tied. Bringing up the (way back) rear is Dead Frog and Coal Harbour, also effectively tied.
  • I’m taster #5, by the way.
  • I was surprised by how much better Fat Tug is compared to the competition. I’ve been on a BC IPA vacation recently, and Fat Tug, CC and Switchback have all clumped together in my brain. In blind tasting, though, I clearly preferred the Fat Tug by a wide margin (so did most everyone).
  • In attempting to ID the beers blind, I nailed Driftwood, but exchanged Switchback and CC, and also swapped Dead Frog and Coal Harbour.
  • Last place here is still a decent IPA. I followed up with a dedicated tasting of Coal Harbour’s Powell IPA to confirm. While it’s not an amazing IPA by any stretch, it is competently executed. A gold star for Most Improved Brewery is deserved.

Written by chuck

December 27th, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Dead Frog Fearless IPA

with 4 comments

Dead Frog Brewing is perhaps best known for crafting horrible fruit/beer combinations that should never have existed outside of the mind of a madman–and a madman who can’t brew particularly good beer, at that. I’m talking about their Mandarin Orange Amber and Pepper Lime Lager, specifically, but there are plenty of other examples out there.

Or perhaps they’re better known for starring on The Big Decision, a Dragon’s Den spin-off that focuses on small businesses facing bankruptcy.

Either way, their reputation precedes them, and that reputation is not exactly stellar. But, could there be hope? I had completely written off this brewery, and wasn’t expecting much when I took a sample of their new IPA at the BC Beer Awards. Tasting that made me loudly proclaim “THEY’RE NOT DEAD YET!”

Is their most recently bottled IPA release as good as the massively hopped IPA I had at the BC Beer Awards? Nope. It’s better.

Fearless is a huge, Cascadian-style IPA. Massive hops and tropical fruit aromas dominate the nose, but a smoother malty body backs it up. It’s as well balanced as Cascadian IPAs get (aka so heavy to the Hops side of the scale the bottle almost falls over).

This beer is such a great IPA, in fact, that I am wondering how it would stack up against the reigning big boys of BC Hop Madness. How does it taste when Fat Tug, Red Racer and Switchback are all in the room? I’ll be doing a blinded IPA tasting in the near future, and will definitely inform y’all of the results.

Until then, go out and buy this great beer from Dead Frog. Please do it. They need the money.

Coles notes:

Brewery Dead Frog
From Aldergrove, BC
Name Fearless
Style Cascadian IPA
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential n/a. Not a cellaring beer.
Drink Now. Please.
Number of good beers they’d have to brew to make me forget Pepper Lime Around 200.
Availability Widely available at LDB and LRS
Cost $4.99-7.00 per 650ml bottle.
Similar Beers Driftwood Fat Tug, Central City Red Racer IPA, Lighthouse Switchback
Chuck says It goes down fast and good. If we buy enough maybe they’ll make more.


See? Breweries with bad track records CAN produce good beer.

Written by chuck

November 18th, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Beers

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