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Parallel 49 Robo Ruby, Granville Island Auld Skool

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Nothing like a couple of big, malt-heavy beers to battle it out for my winter booze budget. It seems like only yesterday that I was pining for the return of thicker beers to the market and here I am reviewing two of them. Sure, this might have something to do with it being winter, but I’m dumb like that, and haven’t yet pinned down a season-to-beer-style correlation. Instead I’ll just choose to believe that my asking for big malt beers last summer has directly caused those same beers to appear this winter.


Speaking of which,
where are all the light refreshing lagers at?

Parallel 49 Robo Ruby

First up, yet another seasonal issue from Parallel 49’s never-sleeping one-off brew crew. Somehow they find time to take breaks from brewing Hoparazzi, Old Boy and Gypsy Tears 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to crank out a never-ending stream of unique bombers. There’s honestly no better way to tweak the two-sizes too-small heart of your local curmudgeonly beer geek than to constantly flood the market with interesting beer. Sure, not every release they’ve put out has been an amazing success, but that’s to be expected from the shotgun approach to beer styles: try a few dozen, see what works, refine, reiterate.

The bottle says “Red IPA” but I’ll call this an Imperial Red Ale, if only so I can compare it to Lighthouse Siren. Why would I do that? Quite simple: to have an excuse to purchase both of these excellent ales and drink them side by side in the name of science.

That I would even bother performing such an experiment means I’m unsure which is better, and now that I have done so I’m no further enlightened. Both are absolutely great beers, and deserving of some shelf space in your fridge. Siren is the maltier, boozier* of the pair, while Robo comes through with a complex hop profile to scratch that Humulus itch. (* Boozier in taste, not ABV)

Sure, the current canned Siren hasn’t quite lived up to how great I recall the original release being, but of course very few things are as good as we remember them. For instance, I recall early dial-up BBSs being perfection embodied: pure, simplistic delight at the thought of a connection to the outside work. Frankly, the modern internet simply cannot hold a candle to those early days.


Oh wait, yes it can

APPEARANCE Deep amber red/auburn. Long lasting, thick head.
NOSE Caramel malt with a giant double fist of big sweet hops. Cantaloupe, kiwi, jackfruit. Wow.
TASTE Wow again. Seriously impressive sugar complexity that plays very well with the sweet fruitiness of the hops. Alcohol definitely present, but only serves to intensify rather than distract.
STATS 9.3% ABV / 60 IBU / Red DIPA
SHOULD I BUY IT? Hells yes. This might be in the top ten of P49’s one-offs thus far.
CHECK IN

Granville Island Auld Skool

I’m an unabashed fan of the work being done down on Granville Island by Vern Lambourne. Perhaps this is because of the fact that I will be there next week to brew some Barley Mowat Official Unnamed Beer, or maybe the reasoning is vice versa. In any event, I don’t lose my bashfulness for a brewery without reason.

The reason, in this case, is excellent beer. Vern has always taken pride in running an interesting one-off program from his modest 10 hl brewhouse under the bridge (which is, admittedly, a show-brewery for tourists that has as little to do with GIB’s normal beers as flavour does). However, is it just me or has Vern seriously upped his game in recent months?

Starting around mid-summer with Pucker Meister, the beers produced there have gone from “competently brewed, overlooked and underrated” to “seriously good and WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT THIS??!”

Stacked on top of those releases is this year’s GIB Scotch Ale, rechristened under their new naming/branding scheme as “Auld Skool.” This is, quite simply, one of the best Scotch Ale’s produced in BC. The colour is perfect, the carbonation is perfect, the mouthfeel and spicy finish? You guessed it, perfect. Perhaps some more pronounced smokiness would enhance things a wee bit more, but then again, maybe I should leave the recipes to the brewmaster.

APPEARANCE Dark brown, almost black. Thin persistent off-tan head.
NOSE Caramel malt with a spicy end-note.
TASTE Complex sugar caramel with a spicy finish. Lovely.
STATS 6.5% ABV / 20 IBU
SHOULD I BUY IT? Yup. Track this guy down and give the friendly clerk your money.
CHECK IN

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49 Granville Island Taphouse
From Vancouver Vancouver
Name Robo Ruby Auld Skool
Style Imperial Red Ale Scottish Strong Ale
SOA Now Silver Bronze
SOA Potential n/a n/a
Drink Now Now
Availability Most LRSs, some LDBs and at the brewery
Cost ~$7 / 650ml ~$6/ 650ml
Similar Beers Lighthouse Siren Russell Wee Heavy Scotch (ish)


Gonna need a new run of Silver SOAs at this rate

Written by chuck

January 21st, 2014 at 3:15 pm

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

Parallel 49 Braggot, Sahti Claws, Toques of Hazzard

with one comment

Another big ole dump of seasonals from Graham With and the brew crew at Parallel 49, and another triple review by me. P49’s massive brewing capacity fuels their penchant for mass-dumping beers on the market in triplicate. Where most breweries can only afford to dedicate brewing capacity to a single one-off at a time, P49 apparently has no such constraint.

The giant fermenters are apparently pumping out enough Old Boy, Hoparazzi and Gypsy Tears that the little vessels can be handed over to interesting one-offs. And by “little” I mean “25hl conical fermenters”–tanks large enough to be a regular micro-brewery’s main line. It sure is nice to live in a province where a single brewery can profitably produce literally hundreds of hecto litres of beer at a time.

But I digress, on to what I think of these latest releases.

Sahti Claws

Sahti is a traditional Finnish beer that relies upon Juniper berries for bittering instead of (or in addition to) hops. I know all this because I just read it on Wikipedia. The concept of Juniper-infused beer is an intriguing one; perhaps this beer will finally bridge the gap between gin and beer? One can only hope.

APPEARANCE Dark–almost brown–with a very tightly laced, off-tan head.
NOSE Piney, resiny hops dominates completely. Is this the Juniper or the Simcoe or the Juniper? No one knows.
TASTE Sweet, intense hops, but virtually absent malt/sugar body. Fairly one-dimensional.
STATS 7.7% ABV / 35 IBU / Juniper-infused
SHOULD I BUY IT? Meh. There are better beers out there, and this can be roughly simulated by throwing an ounce of gin in an okay IPA.

Toques of Hazzard

As a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of White IPAs. I fully admit this is a personal flaw rather than anything inherently wrong with the style. I just don’t get all a-tingly over these beers as I find the melange of flavours to be almost haphazard (except the juicy, fragrant Powell Street Citra White IPA).

Does jacking up the typically already high ABV to extreme levels change that for me? Not really. However, some of the citrusy sweet awesomesauce that makes Powell Street’s White IPA so appealing can be found in Toques, and that does score it some points.

APPEARANCE Pours cloudy orange-amber with a persistent, tight white head. This is a pretty beer.
NOSE Orange peel with a yeasty punch in the back. Definitely intriguing.
TASTE Bright citrus tang over thin, almost wheaty malt. Strong candy-like sweetness almost completely masks the very high ABV. This is a dangerous beer.
STATS 9.2% ABV / 76 IBU
SHOULD I BUY IT? Ya know what? Definitely worth a try. If you buy two, though, it WILL sneak up on you.

Braggot

Another weird style? Why not? Braggot is a half-beer, half-mead concoction that seeks to combine the best of both worlds. Unlike the Sahti above, I didn’t have to go look up this definition since the beer world has been all abuzz over Parallel 49’s Braggot for about a year now. We’ve been gossiping about this beer so long because it has spent ten months slowly aging in barrels. That should be enough information to influence your purchase decision right there–assuming you can find any of the beeswax dipped bottles at your local LRS.

APPEARANCE Deep auburn, almost black. No carbonation. Thin, quickly dissipating head. High alcohol shows legs.
NOSE Rick oak/vanilla. Some sweetness lingers from the honey. Low hops. Some caramel.
TASTE Sweet and rich with a curious spiciness and high viscosity/luxurious mouthfeel. Hits most of the dark fruit checklist: plum, date, caramel.
STATS 10.2% ABV / 8.5 IBU / Braggot
SHOULD I BUY IT? Yes, yes, oh dear me, yes. Good luck with that, though.

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49
From Vancouver
Name Sahti Claws Toques of Hazzard Braggot
Style Shati Imperial White IPA Braggot
SOA Now n/a Bronze Silver
SOA Potential n/a n/a Silver
Drink Now Now 2015-2018
Availability Most LRSs, some LDBs and at the brewery Uh… Darbys, maybe?
Cost ~$7 / 650ml ~$8 / 650ml ~$15 / 650ml
Similar Beers None Every other White IPA None


Nothing more silver than honey, sez I.

Written by chuck

December 9th, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Posted in Beers

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