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Steamworks Imperial Red Ale

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We’ve all been there: you have a blog on which you talk about beer, and you feel like featuring the odd interesting and noteworthy brew once a month because, well, you want to. Then “once a month” becomes “once in a whenever” then lots of heady talk happens around doing better and being more consistent. Fast forward a couple of months, and your Beer of the Month dates from December and is pretty much sold out everywhere.

Well, screw that. I’m ditching the Beer of the Month and just full-on embracing my sporadic updates as a purposeful feature. Henceforth the BOTM shall be known as the Barley Mowat Feature Beer. I figure if I remove any reference to a timeframe I’m safe to leave that bastard up there until my site’s finally taken down for non-payment of hosting fees.


Actually, who am I kidding, it’ll be shuttered by court order.

So, to kick off this new feature I thought that I’d do something unexpected. What beer is out there right now that is interesting, good, and deserving of more attention? Hint: it’s not from Driftwood (although Bird of Prey is great).

Nope, this beer is from Steamworks. Steamworks gets a bad rap from the local beererati, and there is some reason for the ill will. Ever since busting out of their Water Street on-premises brewing facility like some sort of brew pub Hulk, the produced product has wavered in quality.

The finger of blame can be squarely aimed at Dead Frog, who was not only responsible for both brewing a sub-standard batch of Steamworks’ award-winning Pilsner under contract, but for also releasing that same batch. Even though Dead Frog has since brought their production quality and consistency back up to craft standards (or perhaps higher), the damage was done. Steamworks’ brand was affected.

Throw on to that fire their focus on the mid-scale market, where the more boring, old-school styles of Pilsner, Pale Ale, and Stout dominate, and you wind up with quite a few people who’ve only had either bad or boring beers from SW. Not encouraging.


The frenetic, busy graphics on the bottles don’t help. Hint: if you could throw “Much Beer. So Hop. Wow.” randomly on your bottle and it wouldn’t look worse, you’re doing it wrong.

Then there was that whole ruckus last year wherein a local nuisance blogger pointed out Steamworks’ myriad trademark battles and you were left with a brewery that puts a bad taste in your mouth before you even took that first sip of (likely questionable quality) beer.

Well, it might be time to revisit the (IMHO) ugliest beer bottles in BC. SW has come to the Imperial Red party started by Lighthouse Siren, and shit just got real. Steamwork’s blogger-infuriatingly unnamed Imperial Red is about 10x better than you’d fear, after finally resigning yourself to trying some because talking about beer in BC is your job. You know, as one does.

In fact, it’s even better than Siren which, despite never quite recovering its ambrosia-like pinnacle evident on first release, is still no slouch by any measure. SW Impy Red is no contender against Parallel 49’s recently released Robo Ruby, but it’ll also likely be around a bit longer as well. That’s because this isn’t being brewed on that tiny copper system on Water Street. Nope, it hails from Steamworks’ gleaming new Burnaby brewery, headed by an equally gleaming new Caolan Vaughan. The Burnaby facility will have no problems keeping the thirsty hoards satiated.

APPEARANCE Deep hazy red/brown. Long lasting, thick head.
NOSE Big tropical hops, with a hint of the caramel sugar bomb body in back.
TASTE Balance, with an appropriately tin-y high-malt finish. Booze definitely present, but accentuates malt.
STATS 8.5% ABV / 75 IBU / Imperial Red Ale
SHOULD I BUY IT? Absolutely. You’re hard pressed to get more beer for your $6.25
CHECK IN

Brewery Steamworks
From Burnaby
Name Imperial Red
Style Red IPA/IIRA
SOA Now Bronze
SOA Potential n/a
Drink Now
Better Steamworks Beers None.
Availability LDB
Cost $6.25 per bomber (LDB)
Similar Beers Parallel 49 Robo Ruby (slightly better), Lighthouse Siren (slightly worse)

 


A Bronze medal for a metallic tasting Bronze beer. Writing these is hard. Does anyone even read this?

Written by chuck

February 11th, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Posted in Beers

Tagged with

GIB CDA Is Coming

with 5 comments

I’m back! Did you miss me? I’m working on a couple pieces relating to my recent journey through South America. One is about the growing craft beerscene in Bolivia, which most of you will be stunned to know exists at all. The second is a wine-centric piece on Chile. Sure it’s not the focus of my blog, but I have a soapbox and I’m going to use it. Look for those two streams of consciousness to appear in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, Granville Island Brewing has gone and done something interesting: They’re releasing a Cascadian Dark Ale. Chris from LoveGoodBeer wrote decent summary a few days ago, and even includes a picture of the label. You can read his summary here.

Last fall, when Steamworks was all “no Cascadia for you” they rather explicitly singled out Granville Island and tried to make the whole issue into a David v Goliath story. The feint didn’t quite work, but all that is in the past as Steamworks has rather generously conceded that anyone can use Cascadian Dark Ale as a descriptor without license.

So, now the first brewery to drop a major CDA release into the market since all this kerfuffle is none other than Granville Island, the brewery whose previous CDA Steamworks cites as the spark behind the whole of Cascadia-gate. That sound you heard was every pair of eyes in BC Craft Brewing focusing on the corner of Water and Cordova, waiting to see how Steamworks reacts.

If SW holds true to their story, they should be fine with this new release from GIB. Heck, GIB even made a concession to Steamworks here by giving a name to their previously-nameless special release, even if “Cloak and Dagger” is a bit tongue-in-cheek. The goal here is to be able to absolutely, 100% point to a name on the bottle and a totally separate style descriptor.

Personally, I think Steamworks will do the classy thing here and let this one slide. GIB has met them half way, afterall.

Written by chuck

April 8th, 2013 at 5:46 pm

Cascadia Update

with one comment

So earlier this month Chris from lovegoodbeer.com had an opportunity to discuss the whole “Cascadia-gate” issue w/ Walter Cosman, the President of Steamworks. I won’t repeat his article here, but rather suggest that everyone go over to his blog and read it. Seriously, go read it. Chris did all the work here; I’m just reposting his sleuthing like the lazy bum I am.

One thing I would like to highlight, though, is that as part of Chris’ conversation with Walter, Walter stated explicitly that the use of “Cascadia” in a style is fine by Steamworks. Walter upheld this position even when specifically queried about beer names like “Howe Sound Gathering Storm Cascadian Dark Ale.”

Steamworks is still talking about licensing the term for use by third parties, but presumably that would be for use as a brand name. Since no one ever wanted to use Cascadia as a brand name, just as a style name, I guess we’re done here. Steamworks is basically saying “Sorry! We screwed up!” and, you know what, that’s fine. You’re allowed to screw up, and I forgive you. Kudos for doing the right thing, even if it took a few months for you to come around.

Of course, we’ll see how serious Steamworks is about this whole “we’re fine w/ style names” thing when the company producing said style is Granville Island Brewing, whom they seem to have a special kind of hate for. However, if it’s okay for one company to do it, it’s okay for all.

Disclaimer: Please note that I did not talk to Steamworks directly, and all of this is based off of Chris’ work. As such, it should carry all the weight of something you read online in a blog somewhere.

Written by chuck

January 31st, 2013 at 4:17 pm