Barley Mowat 

Archive for the ‘Russell_Beer’ tag

A Word on Beer Awards

without comments

If you were up late last night you no doubt saw the early results coming out of San Diego for the 2012 World Beer Cup. Central City walked away with two awards while Russell picked up one. Good on you guys.

Now the rest of you are likely wondering when the swearing will start. It’s rant time, right? Well, it isn’t. While beer competitions are of dubious merit overall, and some can even equate to a paid endorsement, the World Beer Cup is not one of these. Sure, it’s not perfect, and certainly not how I’d run a beer competition, but it ain’t bad. Here’s what they do right:

  • Entry fees are low ($150 per style)
  • They proactively help you ship product over international boundaries, by arranging pick-up points for you to drop off cases of beer for a set price
  • A very low percentage of all entrants wins a prize (~7.2% this year). Some competitions have that up around 90%.
  • Their sponsor list contains not a single producer of beer, or any affiliated brand
  • While they do generally award Gold, Silver and Bronze, their judges are not required to do so. If all the beer in category X sucks, then no one takes home The Shiny

Sounds pretty good, right? Now for the downside. Beer is very hard to categorize. It’s constantly changing, and so are the styles that people throw awards at. For instance, this year the WBC recognized 95 styles of beer–that’s up from 90 two years ago. More categories means more awards, so that means people go home happier, but it also devalues winning.

What’s more, the sheer number of categories often means certain categories are reserved for awful beer. Take, for example, American-Style Lager, Light Lager, or Premium Lager. Yup, three categories featuring repeat winners like Miller and Anheuser-Busch. Take a stand guys, admit that no matter what happens, Michelob Ultra does not deserve recognition, and winning “Best American-Style Lager” doesn’t mean your beer is any good.

Much like how “most graceful car egress after 40oz of tequila” might not be the spotlight on exemplary gymnastics that you’d expect

Next, you can’t win if you don’t enter. While this seems like a no brainer, it does leave the WBC rather under-represented. Missing from BC are Driftwood, Tofino, Lighthouse, Phillips, etc. In fact, only 8 of BC’s 50-odd breweries bothered to send in beer.

The other dark beer competition secret is that the judges just aren’t that good. Sure, they’re often critics or beer geeks, but very rarely are they trained tasters. Us beer geeks are a selective crowd who really honestly do know our beer, but put 30 different beers in front of us (the # judged per person at WBC), and it all begins to blend together a bit.

These people know beer, and can especially pick out bad beer, but the subtle details that make a single great beer great will get lost by the time your palate is on round 10, let alone 30. Interesting use of hops? No luck. Smoked your malt in a BBQ instead of using liquid smoke? Sorry, didn’t notice. Good colour? Oooo… I can still see! Plus marks!

The end result of all this is that beer awards, even the WBC, are a bit of a crap shoot. Generally shitty beer doesn’t get far (unless you’re in the shitty beer category… you usually tell because it’s won by Coors Light, no really), but the good beers are more or less picked at random.

What does stand out, though, are trends. Look for a single beer consistently winning awards year after year, or a single brewery winning many awards in one year. These are signs to pay attention to. Sure, getting a Bronze in English-Style IPA means that your beer was put in front of a whack of beer geeks and they all thought it was good. That’s about all. But getting Silver for the same beer in the same category two years later? That means something.

So congrats to Russell. Well earned, guys.

Find the full list of awards here.

Written by chuck

May 6th, 2012 at 11:02 am

Dia de San Patricio

with 3 comments

For those of you that don’t speak Spanish and/or are not practising for an upcoming trip to Cuba, that there headline is “St Patrick’s Day” (I think), which falls on this upcoming Thursday. Instead of having my headline hidden in a sea of english versions, I thought I’d go with something different. So sorry to disappoint, this isn’t article about St Paddy’s in Havana, as if such a thing exists.

Sorry about the crushing poverty.
Here, have a green hat.

St Paddy’s day is about as close to a beer-themed holiday as there can be, but honestly it has about as much to do with good beer culture as Xmas does with Jesus. Sure, there’s something about Irish culture and whanot, and that might include a pint o’ the black if you’d like, but hey, buckets of cheap green beer! Woooo! Yeah!

Except not. Ever notice how rotten you feel the next day? Even if you really restrained yourself and only had 8 pints? And how that never happens any other night of the year? Ever also notice how green beer is always made from macro lager and tastes like complete shit, even worse than the crappy lager tasted to start with? Think all these things might be related?

In the end, it turns out pouring gobs of coloured high fructose corn syrup into beer is a shit-poor way of going about things, even if that beer is likely almost entirely corn to start with. There are a few alternatives, like spiking lager with blue caraƧao (blue + yellow = green) which works colour-wise, but congratulations fucknut, you just created 20% ABV light lager. Enjoy your evening on that party bus.

I hope they at least hose it out a bit before school tomorrow.

Alternatively there have been a few attempts at actually brewing beer with algae mixed in to give it that particular hue, but the results have been mixed (from “decent” as per above to “ugh” as per Dogfish Head’s attempt, which scored abnormally low for a DH beer despite even having the word “Good” in the name).

But why all the fuss? Beer is sweet, lovable, and nigh perfect in its existing form, and has natural hues from almost clear through, well, the exact opposite. As well, adding colouring to your beer is just going to piss off the brewers. In yesterday’s post on VancouverBeerBlog, Jack Bensley, Brewmaster from Russell Brewing was quoted as saying “I hope people can appreciate it for what it is rather than putting some green s@#t in it.” That’s the sound of man speaking through clenched teeth. I rather suspect if you coloured his beer he might come over and kick your idiotic ass.

So, by all means, go out and have fun this Thursday. The afore-mentioned VBB article has an excellent summary of places where you can get good, non-coloured beer in Vancouver. In addition to that, Howe Sound’s Brewpub is taking things to the next, much more awesome level, by releasing live snakes in the pub and awarding prizes to whomever can rid the motherfucking bar of the most motherfucking snakes. How cool is that?

Written by chuck

March 15th, 2011 at 11:14 am