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Driftwood Singularity 2014

with 9 comments

It’s here. Singularity landed yesterday at private stores around the lower mainland (those lucky bastards in Victoria got it Friday). As a result, I spent a good chunk of my Monday evening going from LRS to LRS to buy the maximum they would sell me. As often is the case with these limited one-offs, the private stores put per-customer bottle limits in place to ensure more folk get a chance to buy some. Last year these limits were in the 4, 5 or 6 per person range. This year it’s more like 2 or 3. For future reference, this angers Chuck. Please let me buy it all, dammit!

Also notably, this is the first year that Driftwood has fessed up to the actual alcohol levels in Singularity. While previous years claimed either 11.9% or 11.8% to avoid a stiff tax increase at the 12% mark, the 2014 edition proudly calls out all 146 of its ABV points. Yup, this stuff is 14.6%. Tread with care, as even one bomber is far more than you should reasonably consume solo.

Is it worth the buzz? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s a very good beer (more on that below), but there are plenty of other, better Russian Imperial Stouts made in North America. The trick is that they’re just not available here. Walk into your local LRS and if you’re lucky, you’ll have three RIS’s to pick from: Howe Sound Pothole Filler, Parallel 49 RIS and this one. Sure, Singularity is the best of the bunch, but it’s not twice as good as P49’s quite decent–and still available–RIS.

Enough playing it down. How does it stack up against previous vintages? Well, I won’t dally with downplaying this beer anymore. This is perhaps the best Singularity vintage to date. All the best characteristics from previously vintages are here: deep chocolate, cherries, molasses notes from the malt, plus that smoothy, rich, creamy mouthfeel, plus a nice bourbon burn from the barrel aging. The nose and bourbon burn are a bit harsh, but those will be the first aspects to mellow with some time in the cellar. Even so, it drinks quite well right this instant. Well played, guys.

Special Mention: West Coast Liquor Kerrisdale is selling a 3 year vertical of Singularity. Love it!

APPEARANCE Inky black, with a thin, quickly fading deep tan head. Low carb.
NOSE Liquorice, cassis, chocolate, plus a slightly unpleasant medicinal alcohol tone.
TASTE All the big hits for dark malt complexity: dark fruits (cassis, cherries), sweet chocolate, almost imperceptible liquorice. Bourbon and alcohol are strong now, but will fade with some cellaring.
STATS 14.6% ABV / ? IBU / Russian Imperial Stout / 5.7 standard drinks per bottle / 4oz serving size
SHOULD I BUY IT? Oh please. You already have.
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Brewery Driftwood
From Victoria
Name Singularity
Style Russian Imperial Stout
SOA Now Silver
SOA Potential Gold
Drink Late 2015+
Does it taste like green apples? Nope!
Availability Widely available at LRS
Cost ~$13.50 per bomber
Similar BC Beers Parallel 49 RIS, Phillips Hammer, Howe Sound Pothole Filler

 


Almost gold for right now, as it is eminently drinkable.

Written by chuck

March 4th, 2014 at 11:44 am

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

2013 Beerdies

with 10 comments

What a night, eh? Wow, that was epic. I have to admit, if you asked me at the start of the evening if I thought I’d be able to get up at 8am to work on the blog I’d have carefully expressed my respectful skepticism. My answer would have morphed from “Unlikely” to “Feeesk yoush… yoush don’t know meee!” right about the time we were saddling that pack of stray dogs, and hanging a cat from a string on a stick.

Okay, fine. I’ll be honest. I wrote this over the weekend and it’s been auto-posted and Twitter-pimped by clever software. I am asleep, or in a ditch, or maybe even asleep in a ditch. You most likely are, too, and might even be beside me, but that’s what cellular data is for.

Last year on New Year’s Day I introduced the “Annual Barley Mowat Excellence in Beer Awards” aka The Beerdies, and I figure there’s no sense in introducing an annual something if you don’t plan on at least doing it every year or so, like clockwork. That’s me: when I make a commitment to give out an award repeatedly, on a set schedule, I come through each and every time. Why are you laughing?

Enough intro, time for the awards! Unlike most Year In Review columns, I’ve waited until the year is actually done, so even newly opened Green Leaf had a chance to be considered. Sure, they didn’t win anything, but they were considered and that’s enough for me.

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

A repeat from 2012, but Driftwood isn’t as far out front here as they have been. This whole “brewery lounge” thing has given a distinct advantage to the newer breweries right by my office, and while Driftwood still won out due to a few great seasonals bought by the caselot, and Fat Tug being my go-to beer in non-beer pubs, Brassneck was not too far behind… and they’ve only been open a few months… I drink a lot after work, is what I’m saying here.


Also before work, but that’s just part of a balanced breakfast.
Hottest Brewery Accessory: Lounges

Tasting rooms were swell, but the ridiculous legal restrictions made them kinda sucky. Lounges, though, turn brewery tasting rooms into de facto bars, but bars that just happen to have direct access to the freshest, tastiest beers around. Chuck likey.

Best Seasonal Lineup: Parallel 49 (brewmaster Graham With)

This was a hard decision to make (see Most Improved for the runner-up), but in the end the sheer number of interesting beers coming out of Triumph Street gave the nod to P49. Sure, they dumped L’il Red on the market like you’d dump an old mattress in an alleyway, but they also released Hopnotist, and about a dozen other great beers.

Best New Trend: Food Trucks at Breweries

Tuesdays have become known as “Pie and Beer Day.” A constantly rotating food truck out front lets the brewery focus on beer, and lets people inside said brewery have an ever-changing rotation of cuisine to choose from. The mix and matching for beer pairings is endless.

Best Nigel Springthorpe: Nigel Springthorpe

Even though Nigel did the unspeakable and shaved away all his beer geek cred in one foolish, marriage-saving move, he still takes home the candy. Nigel’s day-in, day-out commitment to supporting, making, and serving top notch beer has transformed this city into the premier craft beer destination it is today and I, for one, will never stop being grateful.


I can still lament the horrible beard decision, though, right?
Photo credit: Vancouver Sun
Most Improved Brewery: Granville Island (brewmaster Vern Lambourne)

No, I’m not talking about their regular lineup. That’s still dreck. I’m talking about the one-off and seasonal releases that are still brewed on the namesake island/bloated peninsula. Vern’s beers have always been decent, but this year he doubled the special sauce in the ingredient list. They’re better both inside and outside the bottle.

First, I’ve been a champion of differentiating the branding between the Molson-ized 12oz products and Vern’s carefully crafted line of bombers for quite a while, and they finally heeded me (let’s just pretend it was me, okay? It makes me feel important). The bombers don’t lie about where they were made, but neither do they scream Granville Island at you. This increases the chance of their selling on merit, to craft beer types–not the market their mainstream beers are targeted at.

Second, the beers are just plain better than last year. Pucker Meister, Burly Goat, Thirsty Farmer, Mad Dash, Uncle Monty’s–all great. Plus, somehow they made a collaboration IPA with Joey Restaurants that is outstanding (it’s white labeled as “Urban Legend” and getting rare). All round, more good beer, showcasing more of Vern’s talents.

Best New Brewery: Four Winds (brewmaster Brent Mills)

Nothing like an upset, eh? Brassneck doesn’t win Best New Brewery? What gives? Brassneck is producing some mighty fine beer, but Four Winds started off good and has been dialling in their regular line up over the past six months to near perfection. Their IPA is challenging the reigning trifeca of Central City, Driftwood and Lighthouse, and that takes some doing. Then, this fall they went out and released two great barrel-aged beers, and confided in me that a sour release was coming. However, nothing speaks to their potential more than the beer they didn’t release.

Remember that jaw-dropingly awesome Saison Brett? Well, there were two batches of it. Yup, two. Only the first one was released, though, because Brent didn’t feel that batch number two lived up to his quality expectations. That’s a move that takes balls, and shows an unrelenting commitment to great beer, and that’s why they got my nod in this category.

And now, the grand prize of the 2013 Beerdies (aka the Golden Beerdie):

Best Beard in BC Beer: Josh Michnik (33 Acres)

I almost gave this prize to the no-doubt sizeable heap of Conrad’s ex-beard, but I had forgotten that a great BC Beer Beard existed just four blocks to the west. Congrats, Josh!


If you think he looks trepidatious, keep in mind that I just pulled out a camera and asked if I could take his picture “for the internet.”

Written by chuck

January 1st, 2014 at 11:51 am

Fresh Hop Showdown

with 6 comments

Scott over at WFLBC stirred the pot a bit yesterday by doing a side-by-each comparison between Driftwood Sartori and Hoyne Wolf Vine. The comparison itself wasn’t the controversy, and neither was the result (he liked Wolf Vine slightly more) but rather his views on the detection of diacetyl and the nuances around that caused more than a few comments.

Now, I agree that Scott took a provocative, abrasive approach to this whole topic. Let’s just say that I’m a fan of this more in-your-face style. I also think a lot of people overreacted. Dude has his own blog. He can post his opinion, even if we don’t agree with it. Heck, he could be posting nothing but pictures of his ass all day and I’d still cheer him on.


Although, I bet if he shaved it he’d get more hits.

In any event, the core issue is three fold. First, is the hype around Sartori justified? Second, is Wolf Vine actually better than Sartori? And third, does Wolf Vine have diacetyl, a buttered-popcorn off-flavour? Let me give you my opinion about all three. If you’re good, my opinion might be more than just three pictures of my ass.

Hype

Driftwood Sartori is probably the most anticipated seasonal beer release in BC. No other beer causes the local craft beer fans to, en masse, walk out of their day jobs and sprint from store to store buying their fill the second Twitter has a hint of availability (or sending non-craft beer husbands/wives clutching an order sheet and the kids, as I’ve seen more than a few times). Is this hype good or bad for craft beer in general? I’m firmly on the “good” side.

Demand creates excitement which creates interest. An independent observer noticing a bearded blogger stabbing a house husband in the neck to get the last case of a particular beer can’t help but wonder what all the fuss is about. Someone is this excited by a BEER? How can that be? Even if Sartori is gone, the newly curious might ask around and find themselves going home with a similar beer to try out. That’s a good thing. Personally, I think we should build the hype further next year and alert the media. A couple segments on the news would be great for local craft beer.


I briefly considered a Thunderdome-style competition for Sartori, but “Two beer geeks enter, both realize the stupidity of their situation and agree to share the bottle!” doesn’t have a catchy ring to it.

Is the frantic demand for Sartori justified? In 2009, Driftwood unleashed the first wet-hopped ale BC had ever seen. It blew our minds with its fantastic awesomeness. Since then it hasn’t been quite as mind-fuckingly-astonishing, perhaps because there are now wet-hopped beers everywhere, or maybe because it just isn’t as good.

Does the 2013 version change this? Is this beer worth the three hours of scrubbing blood off my hands? Nope. It’s freaking good, and a rarity, but this beer alone doesn’t live up to the huge build-up. Of course, we didn’t know that last Monday. We dropped everything and raced to our local LRS for the beer that could have been, not the one we got.

Wolf Vine vs Sartori

Okay, problem two. If Sartori isn’t all it’s built up to be, and Wolf Vine is better than its sales suggest, is Wolf Vine better than Sartori? WFLBC felt that it edged Sartori just slightly, and a look at review sites indicate the crowd is mixed. What about me? What does Chuck think? I compared them last year and declared Sartori better and Wolf Vine a “decent wet-hopped beer that has the advantage of your actually being able to buy it.”

I did a side-by-each comparison of the 2013 versions of Sartori & Wolf Vine last night. This just reinforced the consensus that comparing these beers is difficult. They are very different. WV is a Pale Ale; Sartori is an IPA. There are those that consider IPAs to be superior to Pale Ales by default, so how could this be fair? In short, it can’t, but I did try:

Hoyne Wolf Vine Fresh-hopped Pale Ale
STATS 5.8% ABV
APPEARANCE Quickly dissipating loose head over a hazy copper body
NOSE Biscuit/caramel malt dominated by fresh hops (lemon, grass, slight resins)
TASTE Solid biscuit malt sweetness that’s matched well to the fresh hops. The final result is a sweeter beer than you might anticipate given the prevalence of the west coast pseudo IPA “pale ale”
SHOULD I BUY IT? Fuck yeah.

Driftwood Sartori Harvest IPA
STATS 7.0% ABV
APPEARANCE Light amber, almost yellow gold with tight long lasting white head
NOSE Fresh PNW hops dominate here. Flowery, fresh, slight bitter citrus (grapefruit)
TASTE Builds off the nose. Beautiful hop freshness with a weaker-than-I’d-like-but-not-bad body. Smile-inducing Hop freshness builds over the course of the bottle
SHOULD I BUY IT? If you see it, buy it.

Who wins? Sartori wins. Head to head I prefer Sartori by a fair bit. However, Wolf Vine is unquestionably great and again has the distinct advantage of being a beer you can walk out of an LRS with today (although, notably, there is less supply than at this time last year).


Don’t look at me like that. I was here first.

Diacetyl

Diacetyl is a dirty word to a lot of people, and one that has been associated with Sean Hoyne’s beers since day one. However, it’s not the cut and dry defect that a lot of people seem to think it is. Sure, too much can make your beer or wine taste like buttered movie popcorn, and while I’m fairly sure my buddy Craig might like that, most folk would prefer a slightly more beer-y flavour.

In limited quantities, though, dread diacetyl can actually improve certain styles of beer by imparting a round, full bodied mouthfeel to otherwise thin beers. This is why a low level of the chemical is even considered on-style for some Pilsners.

Enough dancing around the bushes. Does Wolf Vine have any detectable diacetyl? I’m going to say yes, it has a little. I detected small amounts of diacetyl on both the nose and the mouthfeel. It should be noted that Leo from BeerThirst points out that certain malts have diacetyl-like properties, and lacking a chemistry kit, I was unable to determine if I was picking up the real thing or a pretender. Also note that just because I detected it doesn’t mean you will. Other experienced tasters did not detect it, and there is a real chance there might be some inter-batch variability with one bottle having none and the next having a bit.

In the end, though, I don’t care. The levels are not unpleasant, and the effect is very much the positive one I described above. Sure it’s not on-style, but the style was developed to describe more traditional Pale Ales, so screw the style.

And that is all I have to say about that. Ah, who am I kidding? You know I’ll never shut up about anything.

Written by chuck

October 1st, 2013 at 12:22 pm