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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

Everything In This Blog Is A Lie… Including This

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I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes I go out to house parties. And sometimes, at these parties, my friends show up with mediocre beer. Not bad beer, mind you; they’ve all learnt not to poke the dragon. Regardless of their views on Molson, they’ve come to understand it’s just not worth the resulting lecture to drink it in my presence. Or really to even mention the brand name without an appropriate sneer.

Nah, we’re talking just “meh” beer here. Like Stanley Park Amber, for instance. It’s pretty insipid beer, but you know what? If you threw a dart in the LDB you’d likely come away with something worse (although that does raise an interesting trivia point… what IS the 50th percentile SKU in terms of quality at the LDB? I’ll look into it.)

As a milder form of my Molson/Stella/Heineken punishment, I am fond of playing a little game with the Stanley Park box that I like to call “Count the Implied Lies.” Why “Implied”? Because Mark Anthony Group (the fine folk behind this particular brew) are no dummies. They have lawyers, lots of lawyers. Heck, they might even be lawyers. In fact they have so many lawyers this article might be my last. And their lawyers have helped them craft what is just an absolutely fantastic piece of marketing that approaches, plays with–nay flirts with–nay spends all night buying drinks for, but never actually calls back the next day-with, but does not actually cross the line of false advertising. The package implies lots of facts, but never actually claims something outright that isn’t true.


Pictured: Exhibit “A”
Click to embiggen.

So let’s play a game, shall we? Count the number of implied lies on this great slice of packaging, and let’s compare notes. Please let me know if I’ve missed something.

  1. Brewery Location The brewery is, alas, not in Stanley Park… or close to it. The brewery is not even in Vancouver. It’s on Annacis Island. In Delta. You know, by the sewage treatment plant?
  2. Brewery Name Sadly, this beer is not brewed by Stanley Park Brewing. There is, in fact, no such brewery. Instead, we can thank Turning Point Brewing for this one. And Hell’s Gate Lager. Yum! At least they’ve taken the trouble to make a completely misleading website for us. Note the complete lack of references to any of: “Turning Point”, “Annacis Island” or even “Down by the sewage treatment plant.” But hey! Look at all these fancy pictures of the Sea Wall and nature!
  3. Brewery Founding Date Turning Point began operations in 2010 which a bit of research has informed me, occured sometime after the 1897 so proudly splashed out on their label. Oddly, the first Stanley Park Brewing actually started up in 1896, but perhaps that year didn’t test as well in marketing?
  4. Brewery History Turning Point has no relation whatsoever to the original Stanley Park Brewery. Why would they? That brewery folded over 100 years ago so there’s no trademark to acquire.
  5. Wind Powered Yup, they’ve got a wind turbine. “A” as in “one.” If you believe that’s running the boilers in a ~100 hectolitre brewery I’ve got a wind turbine to sell you. I’d be impressed if that thing powers the lights. As a side note, does anyone else find it odd that it rotates even when there’s no wind?
  6. Sustainable Brewery* Sorry, they’re not a sustainable brewery, in that they use more resources than they put back into the environment, in terms of electricty alone. They also order hops and malt from a catalogue, meaning that their supply chain is also almost certainly similarly un-sustainable. They’re better than most, but still not 100% sustainable.
  7. First Sustainable Brewery Ok, so they’re not perfect (and who is, right?) but at least they’re the first. Uh… nope. Other breweries have tried to be sustainable, most notably Crannog Brewing, who make a point of using solar power where possible, and growing their own hops & barley.
  8. Most Advanced Brewery Actually, I think they have this one. Every source I can find just completely raves about their awesome setup. “Most Advanced” is even less define-able than “sustainable” but at least there’s a few ways in which this one is demonstrably true.
  9. Belgian Amber This one is arguable, but I didn’t taste anything Belgian in terms of flavour. This is a straight up pale amber ale, nice n simple n bland. If there ever was any Belgian funk in that bottle, it was left behind in the filters.

* Sustainable is a very hard thing to define. Heck, the wiki entry on it starts with this notion. However, even the most liberal use of the word generally means a net-zero use of energy and resources, and they just aren’t there. This doesn’t mean they aren’t trying. My opinions on the quality of the end product aside, TP is doing lots of things right when it comes to reducing the environmental footprint of a product that is, afterall, very energy intensive to produce. Things like:
– Recycling spent grain (most places throw it out)
– Reducing water loss during brewing
– By reducing water loss, they also reduce energy costs (steam is lost heat)
– Hybrid delivery vehicles
– And yes, that damned windmill. Even though it doesn’t run the place, it does provide at least SOME engery, and that’s better than the magic electricity hole in the wall

However, despite all this, saying that they’re fully sustainable is misleading at best.

Written by chuck

March 5th, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Posted in Beer and You,Breweries

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