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2013 Beerdies

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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

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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