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Still On Notice

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Just a quick note here. It turns out that I work just around the corner from the Charles Bar, a place I had previously put On Notice for a dismal attitude towards craft beer. Since said notice, I was informed that they now carry a single tap of Howe Sound beer. So I decided to pop in and check things out, and see if their approach has improved.

I soon discovered that they did, indeed, have a rotating Howe Sound seasonal on tap. Things were looking up. I inquired as to what this might currently be, hoping for an answer like “Total Eclipse” or “Pothole Filler” since those are the current Howe Sound seasonal offerings. Instead, I got “some sort of winter ale.” Things were not looking so up.

Don’t get me wrong, Father John’s is a fine brew, but it was brewed way back in December, and this keg was likely delivered not long after that (strike one). I was still hopeful, so I ordered a pint.

Even though I ordered a pint, I was delivered a 16oz sleeve. Strike two. The glass was frosted, and the beer was ICE COLD. Strike three. I mean, really, frosted glassware for a winter ale? I haven’t seen that since about 2003 when I witnessed a surly waitress drop off a pint of guiness in a frosted glass and then proceed to tell my protesting friend that “Beer is served cold, sir.”

I don’t know about you, but I like my winter ales to taste like something, so I was forced to spend the next twenty minutes with my hands clasp around the sleeve, and boy isn’t that a fun way to have lunch?

All in all, this is barely more than the most imperceptible nod towards craft beer. Charles Bar, you’re still On Notice.

Written by chuck

February 29th, 2012 at 5:53 pm

Posted in Bars

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland (December Beer of the Month)

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I’m going to take things in a slightly new direction here, and declare the December BotM to be all the various seasonals that crop up at this time of the year. It seems like you can’t turn around without bumping into a Christmas this, a Barley Wine that, or a Winter Ale there.

So, without further adieu, here’s the winter funtime seasonals that I will be keeping my eye out for, along with a bit of authentic Chuck commentary on each.

  • Driftwood Old Cellar Dwellar — I’ve been proactively cleaning out space in my cellar for this bad boy. I’ll even do a ’09, ’10 and ’11 vertical when it comes out. No, you aren’t invited.
  • R&B Auld Nick — Last year this guy had a bit of a buzz because of the, er, enthusiasm with which it tackled the ABV. This year, while it certainly has a bit more umph than the 6.5ABV label suggests, it’s not the same dark brown beery insanity from last year that made it so very popular with alcoholics. Still good, though.
  • Driftwood Bird of Prey — This came out, and was bought up in record time. I managed to find a few to put down despite missing the initial release. My thoughts? Keep it in your cellar for a year or so. If you want a Flanders Red right now, seek out the Storm version, which is better… now.
  • Howe Sound Father John — Just found a 2010 of this hiding in the closet, so I’ll definitely do a side by side. However, this is one of the best Xmas ales out of the gate, so focus on drinking it now versus later.
  • Vancouver Island Hermannator — I did a side by side of my last 2010 and my first 2011. A year made this beer fantastic, to the point that the new one seems pale and limp in comparison. Buy it to cellar, as it is cheap and there are better Ice Bocks on the market.
  • Fort Garry Munich Eisbock — And this is one of them. Fort Garry has only just now starting showing up out here in BC, and this is a great Eisbock to keep the cold at bay right now.
  • Saltspring Fireside — You know, we don’t get enough of this guy over here. A pleasant mug sipper for those with masonry fireplaces, giant dogs to use as foot-warmers, and awesome lounging jackets.
  • Howe Sound Woolly Bugger — Also a good sipper, if not the best Barley Wine out there. Buy it for the tiny wee bottle if nothing else. (The bottle is actually the recommended serving size for barley wine. I’ll let you ponder that while looking at that empty Old Cellar Dweller in front of you this holiday season).
  • Central City Thor’s Hammer — Expected out mid-December. This is one tasty barley wine; I still think it should be a crime to not bottle this.

Also rans:

  • Dead Frog Christmas Beeracle — Just not very good at all, sorry guys.
  • Central City Winter Ale — Did someone have an accident with the hop bucket while brewing this year’s batch? Much too hoppy for my liking. UPDATE: CC informs me this is on purpose. I’m on the fence, but perhaps they’re about to make a new style? Check it out.

Lastly, I haven’t including anything by the non-bottling brew pubs, as the list was already getting a bit longish. In short, this is prime malty beer brewing and drinking season, so everyone should get out to their local and consume, consume, consume.

Written by chuck

November 29th, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Justice Might Be Blind But Taste Isn’t (Molson Review Part Three)

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I finally managed to gather up enough suckers last weekend to give this whole “blind taste test” thing a whirl. Due to the blog’s resident globe-trotting scientist being off well, trotting the globe, my methods were likely a bit sloppy and the lack of lab coats and protective eye-wear means safety had to be compromised a bit in the interests of expediency (seriously, though: Nature of Things better give Jenn back soon, otherwise I’ll start mixing beers at random just to see what happens).

The assembled panel had a fairly wide range of tastes, from folks nearly as beer-geeky as myself, through a few lager louts, all the way to someone who never drinks beer if at all possible. The beers selected for tasting likewise represented a wide range of options. Of course, both Molson Canadian and Molson M were present, but I also picked up some micro-brewed lagers: Howe Sound Lager (largely due to the can), and Lighthouse’s new Overboard Imperial Pilsner because why the fuck not? If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

I also threw in another macro because, let’s face it, Moslon is not competing with Howe Sound or Lighthouse. Thus I found myself picking up a tallboy of Bud. I gotta admit it, I felt really rather embarrassed and dirty buying this. I would up throwing the can into my bag and out of sight as soon as the transaction was complete, and then covering it up with a liberal dose of porn, lube, pantyhose and condoms in case someone looked.

My six guinea pigs were given unlabeled, randomly ordered samples of each. Aside from the Molson products, even the identity of the candidate beers was unknown until the conclusion of the test. They were then asked to rank each beer upon a variety of criteria, including “Ease of Drinking”, “Refreshment” and “Overall”.


Wow. Even I’m impressed with the professionalism.
And the lack of fire. OK, mostly the fire.

So how’d things stack up? Well, there are a few surprises here. Frankly, I didn’t think M and Canadian would score differently, and I somewhat suspected casual beer drinkers (or non drinkers) would have difficulty telling the ligher lagers apart, craft or no. Here’s some take-aways:

  • People either hated or loved the Lighthouse. It ranked first or last for nearly everyone (one put it at 2nd to last).
  • Canadian and M ranked similarly in all cases, often one immediately after another. However, M always–without exception–ranked lower than Canadian. In all categories.
  • Everyone, craft beer drinker or not, was able to distinguish the craft beer from the macros, and almost unanimously felt the craft beer was a better product, in all categories.
  • Budweiser ranked higher than either Molson product for 5/6 tasters. It even beat Howe Sound in 1/6.
  • The gap between craft and non-craft was fairly large (except Lighthouse, due to some folk just hating it), but curiously the gap between Bud/Canadian and M was just as large.
  • Only one person, the non-beer drinker, picked Molson first, and only Canadian. So, uh, I guess Canadian is the best beer if you hate beer?

So we’ve answered the original question. Is M different from Canadian? I have to admit it, I was wrong. It is demonstrably different after all. It turns out that Molson M is much, much worse.

Overall Rankings:

  • First: Howe Sound Lager (1.67 average score)
  • Second: Lighthouse Overboard (2.83 average score)
  • Third: Bud (3.08 average score)
  • Fourth: Molson Canadian (3.17 average score)
  • Fifth: Molson M (4.25 average score)

And that’s it. I’m done. No more Molson for me, which also means that the bums who collect the empties out of my alley are about to get a treat (or more specifically, 20 treats).

Written by chuck

May 27th, 2011 at 2:32 pm