Barley Mowat 

Archive for the ‘tofinobrewco’ tag

Splitting Bitter, Resin-coated Hairs

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I recently posted something on Twitter that garnered a bit of questioning from people who know me. I said that Tofino Spruce Tip IPA is the Best IPA In The World. That’s quite a bold claim, especially from a guy that claims to hate rating beer. I don’t give praise lightly, thus you know I sat down and thought about this before saying it, so what’s my reasoning?

Well, let’s start with a bit of background on India Pale Ales. I won’t bore you with the history of IPAs in general. As someone who can tolerate reading my blog I will just assume you already know this most basic of beer legends for regaling other, lesser, beer nerds at parties.

In recent years, the IPA genre has, much like pretty much all genres, split into English-style and American-style varieties. English-style, as usual, is the more traditional variety and reflects this by being more conservative. These are refreshing, light-to-medium bodied beers with classic bitter hop aroma/flavour and a moderate alcohol level (typically 5.5-6.0%). Want to know what I mean? Try Howe Sound’s IPA. That’s a great example.

American-style means what you’d think: bigger and (therefore?) better. What made English IPA so unique? Hops you say? Well fuck those limeys, we’ll use even more hops! Yeah! U S A! U S A! 6.0% booze? How about, oh I dunno, MORE than 6.0% booze! YEAH! Let’s get fucked up in a parking lot, watch some football and then go bomb some brown people! AMERICA!

Since that first split, though, both styles have further fragmented. Try an IPA in New England and you’ll find it to be fairly close to the English style, but an IPA in California will be heavier bodied with much stronger bittering hops and a tonne more alcohol. Go up the coast a bit to Oregon/Washington and that same IPA becomes even bigger bodied, hoppier and now has a closed-fist punch of aroma-hops. As well, now the mouthfeel becomes a fantastic creamy texture to back up the heavy sugar and bitterness of the brew, bringing the whole thing into final, perfect, balance.


There’s also the “shitty, watery east coast Canada style”.

In fact, the Californian and Pacific Northwest styles are different enough from regular IPAs that they are usually indicated as such on the bottle. This is more commonly done with PNW IPAs, which are sometimes also referred to as Cascadian IPAs. That’s a term I love, so I’ll use it.

Enough background. All that was a complete setup to being able to do this: English < American < New England < Californian < Cascadian. I'm not saying an IPA of English-Style is bad. Quite the opposite, they can be just lovely, but if you're going balls to the wall to make the best IPA you possibly can, you just gotta go Cascadian. Of course, popular beer rating sites like RateBeer and BeerAdvocate disagree. They put the Californian style on the top. Go look at their top IPA list and you'll see lots of Californian breweries: Ballast Point, Stone, Russian River, Alesmith. This is mostly due to a stylistic difference between what the population believes to be a great IPA and what experts (OK, me) believe to be a great IPA. But, it is also because those sites partially rank beers based on popularity (lots of high votes count more than a few very high votes). More people have had the Californian beers because, simply, there are more people in California. However, I've had most of those beers. They are wonderful beers. In fact they are fantastic, even stonking great beers. They are, though, not as good as Cascadian IPAs, such as the ones from Green Flash, Deschutes, Driftwood, Central City, Lighthouse and, yes, Tofino. They lack the big body and creamy mouthfeel that (in my opinion) make an IPA the nigh perfect cumulation of all that is brewing. So, now when I say that Tofino has one-upped that whole mess by seamlessly merging the natural aroma and bitterness of spruce tips into an already fantastic IPA, resulting in the best IPA in BC, you understand how I can extend that acclaim to "Best in the World." This beer is like drinking the rainforest, and how can that be bad?


It’s also a much better result than my last attempt at combining beer with logging.

Alas, the Spruce Tip IPA is a casked ale, and that means it was only produced in very limited quantities. Tofino’s regular Hoppin’ Cretin IPA also features Spruce Tips, but just not in the vast quantities of the cask. Perhaps expense is keeping the sprucey-goodness to a cask, or perhaps it’s the fact that spruce tips only reliably grow in the spring. I don’t know.

What I do know, though, is that this beer is currently on one of the beer engines at the Alibi Room and will disappear fast. So go down there early tonight to drink it before it’s gone and the reigning IPA crown goes back to Driftwood Fat Tug.

Written by chuck

June 8th, 2012 at 10:08 am

Posted in Beer and You

Tagged with ,

Insert Hop Pun Here

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Last night the Alibi opened its doors and welcomed about 120 beer geeks inside from the cold and rain to celebrate Hoppapalooza III, a celebration of all things hoppy (and by “all things” we mean “beer”). I was one of those lucky 120, so I went down to see Nigel and experience my very first taste of what has become a Vancouver beer scene legend.

As is his style, Nigel went a bit overboard on this one: the beer lineup featured over 50 different beers, including 21 IPAs and 5 bitters/hop forward ales. To go with this was bottomless beef, pork or veggie chilli, which is a classic IPA pairing. And, let’s face it, when you’re pairing food with the final product of the entire 2012 hop crop, keeping it simple is a Good Thing. Chilli was the perfect companion to this event.

Despite those numbers above, I was very surprised by the sheer number of non-IPAs. In fact, there were more non-hoppy beers than hoppy beers. By the numbers: 7 Saisons, 1 Red Ale, 2 Barley Wines, 5 Lagers/Pilsners, 2 Wheat Ale, 5 Stouts, 2 Sour Ales, 3 Misc Flavoured Beers. Sure, I could complain that some taps weren’t IPA or even bitter at an event with “Hop” right in its name, but even a curmudgeon like me would look askance at that. 21 IPAs is more than enough for anyone, especially when you look into the details.

Numbers are all fine and well, but the quality/rarity of some of these beers really drove home how far Nigel went to put all his cards on the table. Here are the highlights from my point of view (organized by brewery):

  • Upright — First time (I’m aware of) that all four Upright ales have been on tap together in Canada. Heck, even the Upright tasting room rarely pulls this off.
  • Gigantic — Not just a new brewery, but also a brewery that elected to serve their beer first in BC (although I believe Belmont Station beat the Alibi by a day in getting this into glassware). Imagine this, and let it sink in a bit: A brand new Portland brewery opens up and thinks “I’d love to premier our beer at the Alibi Room in Vancouver… BC.”
  • Deschutes — The Abyss is probably one of the 10 best beers I’ve ever had, and I’ve never even heard of it being on tap. Yet there it is.
  • Odin — Another brewery’s BC launch premiering at The Alibi. Sure, the official launch was at the Hogshack in Steveston, but Nigel served the first pint in BC.
  • Central City — Aged Thor’s Hammer? Imperial Roach? Yes, please.
  • Parallel 49 — Another launch beer (Hopparazzi). I’m starting to think The Alibi is just where good beer is born.

And yes, that is a list of good & interesting beer where a cask of the excellent 2012 Driftwood Naughty Hildegard did not even merit mention. Well played, Mr Springthorpe, well played.

But now to get down to real business: who wins the Hoppapalooza III Barley Mowat Best In Show? No surprise here, the winner is Tofino Brewing’s Spruce Tip IPA, brewed with real trees (I shit you not). This beer combined fantastic conception with near perfect execution and was the solid show favourite of everyone I talked to. The crew out in Tofino keeps on trying new things, and just absolutely nails every one.

The only fault is that there was only 1 cask made of this, and their absolutely tiny brew kit means bottling in any sizeable quantity is a ways off. Seriously, that thing is like 5 hectolitres max. We should start a kick-starter for them to upgrade into the 100+ hl world, and buy a bottling line (and maybe a shipment contract to my door).


What is this? A brew kit for ANTS?!?

The runner up was Gigantic Brewing’s Black Saison; their IPA is pretty regular, but the saison is amazingly unique and worthy of repeat consumption. Look out for this beer to start appearing at your local LRS, and buy it. Buy all of it. Then drink it.

Overall, though, last night gets an A+ from me. Not just for the atmosphere, or the great blues by Rich Hope, or the chance to meet new and friendly brewers, or for the beer geek satisfaction of incredibly rare and delicious beer, but also on value. After all was said and done, last night ran me $60, and included all the beer I could drink and all the food I could eat, a souvenir menu by Perrin (to go with my 100, 200, and 300 tap list menus), and a handy tasting glass.

The tasting glass is an important note, because its small 4oz size actually served to keep the audience relatively sober. Larger pints were available, but for a fiver. This little trick worked out well, and nicely avoided the very real risk of dozens of people getting messy drunk on the almost exclusively high-ABV beer list. Again, well played guys.

If I had to complain about any one detail (and, let’s face it, I do–It’s sorta my schtick), it would have to be the price. At $49 (before tax/service charge) it’s just… too… low. Yup, too low. At $49 a head, The Alibi very likely barely broke even on this event (or maybe even had a small loss). Personally, I would love for Hoppapalooza to have been a massive profit, because then we’d see another one next week instead of next year. But again, that’s about the only thing I can think of to complain about.


Perhaps I should also complain about Gardy posting this in my name, but hey, you buy the ticket, you take the ride.

Written by chuck

May 21st, 2012 at 6:12 pm

March Beer of the Month: Tofino Dawn Patrol

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Continuing in the theme of “new breweries” adopted last month, the Beer of the Month for March is…

Tofino Dawn Patrol Coffee Porter

Tofino’s one of the “five new breweries” I like to talk about whenever someone shows a bit of interest in beer, or gets stuck waiting for the crosswalk light beside me (I honestly can’t tell the difference; it’s a bonafide medical condition). FYI, The other four are Hoyne, Townsite, Coal Harbour and Parallel 49.

Since I’ve only tasted beer from three of those five, it’s a bit early to declare a winner. However, Tofino will be hard to beat. All their beers have been good, but this one made me realize they were playing with the elites.

There’s a depth and complexity here that is just a fantastic surprise for a brewery that’s well short of its first birthday. As I’ve mentioned to Jason from Driftwood: pay attention, these guys are your new competition for the coveted BC Brewing Crown.


Also, they have a cool, simple logo.
No joke here, I love this.

Sadly, the scale of Tofino’s operation still prevents their widespread availability (or bottling). I’m unaware if their distribution has even advanced as far away as Ucluelet. Their current presence at the Alibi Room is primarily a nod to Nigel’s determination to serve all that BC has to offer, but only time will tell how permanent that arrangement is. [Edit: Nigel informs me below that the Tofino guys are delivering the beer to his doorstep. I guess this more speaks to his craft beer influence in the local market; what better way to get your new beer known than to have it on tap at the Alibi?]

What I’m saying is: Drink up; in the future this gem might be a ferry ride away. That, plus a long drive on one of BC’s sketchiest highways.

Where to get it: Tofino, Alibi Room
Where not to get it: Anywhere else

Written by chuck

March 2nd, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Posted in Breweries

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