Barley Mowat 

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Introducing the Seal of Approval!

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It could be said that I am somewhat passionate about beer. I think about beer constantly. I view rooms in my house by how easily they can be converted into a beer cellars, and when I meet a new person I often gauge my initial respect for them by what beer they drink. Sure, this does occasionally lead to my loudly professing more respect for the homeless alcoholic outside than the skinny-jeans wearing hipster inside, but hey, it’s a system and it (sorta) works.

Toothless Jim? Yeah, quality guy.

I’m a bit more broad spectrum when it comes to gauging restaurants, where I consider other factors such as: Beer Selection (on tap), Beer Selection (bottled), Quality of (beer) Service, Quality of Food (to eat with beer), and Awesomeness of Patios (on which to enjoy beer). So yeah, lots of things being weighed and compared besides beer there.

Being an opinionated loudmouth, I’d love to share these views, but how can I boil such a comprehensive view of the world into something simple and easy for the mouth-breathing masses to understand? Why, create faux medals, of course!

So I now introduce the Barley Mowat Seal of Approval(tm), which will be proudly awarded to fine establishments, fine brews, and fine what-ever-else-I-damned-well-please-s. There are three levels of my fancy Seal, and an implied fourth (no seal means no good). In order to qualify, I must have actually tried out the establishment or beverage at some point in the past twelve months and cared enough to whip out my iPhone and write down my opinions.

Here are the grades, and what they mean:

Bronze: Barely meets my (very tough) standards. I’ll drink this beer or go to this bar without complaint.
Silver: Hey! This isn’t half bad! They’re actually trying.
Gold: World class. I really only blog to get free stuff at these bars, or more of this beer.

And what use would a three grade ranking system be without gimmicky badges, designed by my sometimes co-tweeter, the lovely and talented (?) Miss Jennifer Gardy!

Okay, fine, they’re drawn on the back of a brown paper bag. What else did you expect? Competence? Do you even KNOW me?

I’ll be rolling out the first batch of awards later this week, so stay tuned.

Written by chuck

October 7th, 2012 at 11:28 am

Posted in Beer and You

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Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride

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We’ve all made promises we regret: those decisions made in the spur of the moment that come back to haunt us later. Maybe we had one too many, or perhaps even many too few, but regardless of your state of mind, the promise stands and your future self has to honour it.

Well, I did one of those. Some time ago I made a promise to review all the readily available Amber Ales at the LDB. It sure seemed like a good idea at the time, but somehow these things are never quite as good as you imagined them.


Like my sweet eBay bike. I wound up regretting the horns the most.

Still, I promised to do this, and do this I must. Time to pinch my snobbish nose and take one for the team. And thus I went to the LDB in search of four widely available Amber Ales to inflict upon my palate and the palates of my friends.

I walked out of the liquor store with these candidates: Tree Thirsty Beaver, Lighthouse Race Rocks, Stanley Park Amber and Vancouver Island Seadog.

With the help of the actually-qualified-to-do-this Jenn Gardy, I constructed a single blind taste test and submitted a group of my most non-beer snobby friends to a side-by-side comparison test, with the hope of ranking each beer from 1 to 4 (first through fourth).

The results? Mixed. The actual scores ranged all the way from 2.2 to 2.6 when averaged out. If you’ve taken some stats, you know not to play the lottery. You also know these results are a complete wash. No one beer was measurably better than the others, and frankly all of them were pretty bad. Consider that no beer was more strongly correlated to a high score than it was to the glassware it was served in (wine glasses make beer better, by the way, I have proof).

So what did I, our own inhouse member of the elite beererati think? What’s my professional opinion? Buy something else is my opinion. Why are we fucking around with amber ales when Central City’s whole lineup is just as generally available? Who made this challenge anyways?


Oh. Right. Fuck you, me.

Well, here goes. My notes on these beers are as follows:

  1. Tree Thirsty Beaver — Not bad. My pick of the litter. Decently balance between malt and hops, but no real character to be found.
  2. Lighthouse Rack Rocks — Also well balanced, but a light sniff of DMS put this into second. Another can was better, but that wasn’t the one I judged.
  3. Stanley Park Amber — And here we find the cliff. Hops? What hops? All sweet all the time. Ugh. Beer can’t be sweeter.
  4. Vancouver Island Sea Dog — Oh shit, yes it can. Really? You’re calling this “beer”? Honestly I’m not 100% certain this isn’t contaminated. Just a vile mess of syrupy sweetness.

There, are you happy now? I kept my word. Ugh. And no, I won’t do the lager half of this test. That was always a “maybe.” Next time I do a tasting it will be a best-in-bc IPA-off between Driftwood, Lighthouse, Central City and Tofino. I’ve earned it.

UPDATE: Since I posted this, both Lighthouse and Vancouver Island have contacted me to investigate the reports of off-flavours. Now, I might not love these beers, but I do absolutely love how these breweries have reacted: admit that something might possibly have gone wrong and look into it.

Sure, all this might just be a result of me not having a great palate for this style or beer, or maybe Jenn messed up the samples, but at least let’s talk about it. Too often the result of negative press is the company ignoring or, even worse, trying to discredit or silence the source. By tackling this stuff up front, openly and honestly, the worst case scenario is that I just gained a lot of respect for both breweries. Y’all should too. Good on ya, guys.

Written by chuck

June 4th, 2012 at 6:44 pm

I’m Going To Regret This

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Tonight, Vancouver Craft Beer Week kicks into high gear with Hoppapalooza at the Alibi Room. Hoppapalooza is the annual sold out event where local breweries take the current hoppy beer craze to its insane conclusion. Nigel has put up some teaser tweets, hinting at about 30 IPAs, many of the rare or insane variety (double CC Roach? OK!).

Sure, my palate will likely be completely fucked up about 2 hours into the 6 hour insanity-fest, but I don’t care. Sometimes, if you love something, you just have to go whole hog, strip naked and cover yourself in it from head to toe (unless, of course, that thing is boiling oil but hey, maybe that’s your thing. I’m not here to judge you, you sicko).


Bees, though, are fine. Sexy beard, guy. Rwar.

To fully embrace the off-kilter-ness of the evening, I am handing over my Twitter account (@Barley_Mowat) to one Dr Jennifer Gardy, whose last contribution to this blog was a review sheet from the CAMRA Spring Sessional as covered in unicorns as it was in beer stains.

I understand some sort of tiny plastic animals and cardboard dioramas might be involved. No, I am not kidding. Look for my Twitter stream to stop making any level of sense around 4pm today.

For a less unbalanced version of events, follow me on Untappd (BarleyMowat) as I slowly numb my tongue over the course of the evening.

That’s it for now. See you all tomorrow… but not before noon.

Written by chuck

May 20th, 2012 at 11:39 am

Posted in Bars,Beer and You

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