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Introducing the Beerdies

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It’s the first day of the New Year: a time for reflection on days gone past, pontification on days yet to come, and perhaps most importantly, a time for reading whatever random crap you can find on the Internet with the hopes of dulling even just a little of the pain inside your head. Seriously, what the fuck did you drink last night? Last thing you remember was opening that bottle of Old Barrel Dweller and grabbing a straw… did… did you make out with your cousin? No not that cousin, the ugly one, cuz ew.

So let’s take our minds off the myriad horrors of braces for a second and talk about 2012 and all the great awesomeness that we saw. In order to frame this discussion, I will now introduce the “Annual Barley Mowat Excellence in Beer Awards”, aka The Beerdies. Other, better blogs and organizations have end-of-year awards focusing on actual merit (eg Best Beer or Best Brewery), so I’ll take up the slack and focus on the state of BC Beerdom from the point of view of the bearded beer geek (aka me).


I haven’t built a trophy yet, but I figure this plus a can of gold spray paint and we should be good.

To avoid repetition, I didn’t actually insert “According to Chuck” at the end of these category titles–just read it in there as you go. Or “In bed”–either works equally well.

Best New Brewery: Parallel 49 (brewmaster Graham With)

I was initially somewhat wary of P49’s potential. After all, here was a brewery focusing on session ales, of all things, and with a near-rookie brewmaster. Didn’t they know that Barley Wines and Imperial Stouts are where it’s at? Well, shows what I know. All their beers are great, and the special release program is bringing interesting and unique brews to the masses. Well played guys (and yes, an Impy Stout is on the way, just to cover all the bases).

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

For the third year in a row, Driftwood woed me with both giant cellarable releases (Singularity, Old Cellar Dweller, Old Barrel Dweller, Mad Bruin) and an excellent on-tap and table beer line-up (Fat Tug in particular). However, the times, they are a-changing. It wasn’t just Driftwood taking up new slots in my cellar this year, Central City, Howe Sound and Granville Island all earned shelf space, and that list is set to grow with Parallel 49’s RIS about to come out.

Hottest Brewery Accessory: Barrels

Driftwood and Central City have been playing around with barrel ageing for a while, but in 2012 this niche concept went mainstream. How mainstream? Here’s the list of breweries that now have barrel programs: Phillips, Driftwood, Russell, Central City, Parallel 49, Granville Island (Taphouse), and more are added every day. P49 is building a dedicated barrel house, they like it so much. While we don’t quite have a Cascade Brewing Barrel House up here just yet, we’re on our way.

Best Seasonal Lineup: Lighthouse “Small Brewery, Big Flavour” (brewmaster Dean McLeod)

Let me list some beers: Belgian Black, Belgian White, Overboard, Siren, Uncharted. All those came from one brewery: Lighthouse. Sure, the small release program from Lighthouse didn’t always hit them out of the park (Choco Porter, sorry Dean), but by and large these weren’t just great beers, they were excellent beers.

Best New Trend: Growlers (in Vancouver)
Honourable Mention: Names Not The Owner/Location (eg: Brassneck, Four Winds, Bomber)

Victoria has been blessed with a growler culture for a few years now, making running a brewery without a growler bar an odd proposition. In Vancouver, though, growlers have been limited to brewpubs. Until now, that is. We’re just getting going, but with two new growler-friendly breweries this year and at least three more in the works, things are getting interesting.

Best Nigel Springthorpe: Nigel Springthorpe

No surprises here, right? A Chuck-based award system that didn’t set one aside for the reigning King of BC Beer wouldn’t make sense. Sure, it’s not fair to all the non-Nigels out there, but this isn’t about fair. It’s about good beer, and so is Nigel.

Most Improved Brewery: Dead Frog (brewmasters Tony Dewald & Tim Brown)

There are so very many things wrong with Dead Frog Brewing that Love Good Beer dedicated an entire post to it, and this is AFTER they released Fearless IPA. I agree; they’re not out of the deep end yet, but Fearless is a step in the right direction. There’s a lot more to running a successful brewery than making good beer, but it definitely helps. Keep up the good work, Dead Frog, and I look forward to what you make next.

And now, the grand prize of the 2012 Beerdies (aka the Golden Beerdie):

Best Beard in BC Beer: Conrad Gmoser

Look at it… it’s just so… glorious. Don’t you just want to touch it? To stroke it? To have it?

I might as well have named this trophy The Conrad, but unlike The Nigel above, this will be available to anyone with follicles, brewing instinct, lots of time and the kind of job that involves both obsessing over a complex process and little to no outside contact. Yup, a brewing hermit is basically a shoe-in.

And that’s all for now! Back to bed.

UPDATE: @GingerLiz corrects me on the mint content of Deans choco porter. Turns out I get confused by leafs on packaging easily.

Written by chuck

January 1st, 2013 at 11:53 am

Parallel 49 Ugly Sweater

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For those that need a primer, a Milk Stout is much like a regular stout, but in addition to fermenting all those lovely malt-derived sugars (maltose) we also get the lazy, good-for-nothing, cows to pitch in and contribute something for a change. That something is lactose, and yes, Milk Stout is effectively raw milk… but mixed with beer… okay, maybe I’m not adequately selling it here…

Believe it or not, all that milk really IS a good thing. Milk Stouts have the richest, creamiest body you could possibly imagine, and brewers exploit that to float very strong, heavy flavours on top of that creamy body. Southern Tier makes a fantastic Crème Brûlée Milk Stout, each sip of which requires solid concentration to consume, and a bottle of which is a solid winter’s evening project.

All of this creates a problem for Ugly Sweater. You see, if it’s in a six pack from Parallel 49 it’s meant to be a sessionable beer, aka something you can quaff 3 or 4 of without thinking twice. The choice of a Milk Stout as a session ale is confusing at best, and definitely worrisome.

But you know what? They pulled it off. Galldernit if those guys over on Triumph street are managing to not only not screw up unlikely beer combinations, but to actually make them delicious. Pumpkin in a Märzen? Golden. Caramel in a Scotch Ale? Solid. And a Milk Stout as a session beer? Done.

The trick is that this beer is not so much a stout as it is a solid porter, and rather than using the lactose to build a massive sweet chocolatey body on top of which to build a skyscraper of flavour, they’ve dialed it down to just a nice creamy mouthfeel with a hint of cocoa.

Serving temperature matters with this guy. You’re looking for about 50F (10C), which means leaving it outside in the day around now should be just about right. At that temperature, you should definitely pick out the chocolate, but also some coffee, toffee and definitely a little bitter bit from the hops. Before you know it, though, your glass will be empty and you’ll be reaching for another.

UPDATE: Dave Shea, who actually–you know–brews beer, corrects me: milk stouts just contain lactose, not fermented lactose. In fact, lactose is added specifically because it doesn’t ferment, which is the source of all that creamy goodness… mmm… creamy goodness… anyone else thirsty?

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49
From Vancouver, BC
Name Ugly Sweater
Style Milk Stout
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential n/a. Not a cellaring beer.
Drink Now. In sixes.
Preferred attire for drinking Oddly enough, a smoking jacket.
Availability Widely available at LRS & some LDB
Cost $12.25-16.00 per 6x341ml bottle.
Similar Beers None in BC
Chuck says Buy a six pack. Drink it. Buy a six pack. Drink it. Buy a six pack…


I’m running out of Bronze medals.

Written by chuck

November 16th, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Posted in Beers

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Parallel 49 Black Christmas

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I suspect the recent increase of seasonal one-offs from Parallel 49 is a calculated attempt to monopolize my blogs’s beer review bandwidth. In addition to Salty Scot yesterday and today’s post, I have Ugly Sweater to get up in the near future (preview: buy it), and P49’s brewmaster Graham With has dropped severals hints of small batch release craziness still in the pipeline.

So what should we expect from P49’s third bomber release, coming directly on the heels of #2 on Wednesday? “Black Christmas” is marketed as a “Christmas Dark Ale,” but don’t go opening one of these guys hoping for a fantastical P49-style twist on your precious sweet, sticky Christmas Ales*. Nope, this guy is a CDA, straight up. I’m not sure where the “Christmas” aspect plays in, aside from the creepy label (side note: it was originally supposed to be the Grinch but the LDB nixed that, saying that a cartoonish label would inspire kids to drink it. To the LDB: The fuck?! Why are you selling beer to kids?)


This is so much… better?

One detail that’s hidden away in the small text on the label is that this beer makes use of “100 Mile Fresh Hops.” Usually beers containing fresh hops have that fact splattered in bold print all over the front, or even incorporated into the name, but not this one. In fact, even while discussing the beer with Graham, the freshness of the hops was not brought up.

But what does it taste like? As you’d expect with a CDA (Xmas or regular Cascadian variety), it pours nearly pitch black with a good deal of carbonation. The fresh hops announce themselves in the nose, followed by a nice malty/raisin scent.

Upon liberally pouring this down your beer hole, you get basically more of the same. The malty-raisin builds slowly sip to sip, and even presents a bit of rhubarb over time. The mouthfeel is rich, creamy, and definitely well executed. Bittering hops are not overdone. Essentially this is a nice well balanced English IPA that’s been coloured black through roasted wheat malt.

Overall, despite Graham’s obvious enthusiasm for this particular beer, I’m not as sold on it. It’s definitely a decent CDA, but the fresh hops throw an off-putting twist on the style. That’s the thing with experimenting, sometimes you get amazing results, and sometimes Chuck’s not a huge fan. Oh well, y’all should still (try to) buy it and drink it, it’s definitely worth a taste, it’s just not something I’ll likely grab again given all the other beers I’m morally obliged to taste and tell you about.

* Update: I’ve heard from the brewery that Christmas was used because of the timing of the release and the pine-forward hops, and that also there’s some trademark issues around “Cascadian”. I’m researching that and will post a hyper-rant if true.

Coles notes:

Brewery Parallel 49
From Vancouver, BC
Name Black Christmas
Style Cascadian Dark Ale
SOA Now Swing and a miss
SOA Potential n/a; not a cellaring ale.
Drink Now.
What Chuck really wanted for Xmas A CDA crossed with an Xmas ale. That would have been swell.
Availability Very limited release to LRS and at brewery
Cost $7.00-$9.00 per 650ml bomber
Similar Beers Howe Sound Gathering Storm, GIB CDA
Chuck says Buy it if you can find it.

Written by chuck

November 10th, 2012 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Beers

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