Wednesday, April 30, 2014

beer column

here are my notes from yesterday's beer column on sessionable beers on cbc radio one's on the coast with stephen quinn:

Spring/Summer beers
aka what the heck is a session beer anyway?!

Coming up on May 10th is Camra Vancouver's second annual Spring Sessional.
 
The general definition of a sessionable beer as interpreted by Camra Vancouver is one “brewed to be low in alcohol (4.5% or less) without sacrificing flavour or the malt to hop balance, resulting in an extremely drinkable beer. The purpose of these beers is to allow repeated consumption over a long session without overwhelming the palate or coherence of the imbiber”.

In other words, tasty beers low enough in alcohol not to get you intoxicated before you finish the first half of it!

Session beers are really a natural progression in craft beer, and a return to old days.  Historically in Europe beer was the beverage of workers – quaffed during the work day - and you can’t have the workers getting all liquored up while you expect them to be working.
Inefficient, not to mention dangerous. 
After the high alcohol wars it only makes sense that the pendulum would swing totally to the other side and brewing lower alcohol beers would be the next challenge.
 
British bitters and milds are traditionally session beers, which we were not seeing very many of in Vancouver of late. But they are making a comeback.   Also many imported beers such as Czech pilsners and German kolschs are lower in alcohol, like Pilsner Urquell.

Any beer style can be made sessionable.  So why are we seeing the CAMRA session festival in the Spring?

It's not just a gap in the calendar that needed filling.  A session beer is a perfect warmer weather drink.  If you're going to be drinking in the hot sun, you need a lower alcohol beer if you're going to make it past one or two. And who wants to stop at one when you're enjoying the sun on a patio?

The trick is to brew a full flavoured beer with a lower amount of fermentable sugars. Session beers are not just watered down versions of higher strength beers. This is where the challenge for brewers is and most brewers love a challenge.

There are a couple of ways to beef up the flavour of a beer without raising the alcohol volume.  I won't go into too much detail here, though!  If you are interested in brewing a session ale, there is plenty of homebrew help online, including recipes.

One of the tricks is to get some unfermentables in there to give the beer body without adding alcohol.  "Unfermentables" are sugars and proteins which do not ferment, meaning that they impart flavour but their sugars aren't eaten by the beer yeast and turned into alcohol.  Dextrins, lactose and oatmeal are examples of unfermentables.
 
Brewers also have to watch the hopping.  Hops add many flavours to beer, but with a lighter body to the beer, you have to be careful with bitterness levels to keep a balance.  Adding hops late in the brewing process can help with adding flavour without overwhelming bitterness, and dry-hopping also works well in session ales.

Some sessionable beers currently available in Vancouver are:

Bomber Brewing's 3.9% Bike Path best bitter, on tap at the tasting room or in 22 oz bombers;
 
Central City ISA – India Session Ale – is a 4% showcase for mosaic hops.;

R&B's SunGod Wheat Ale has been around for years, and weighs in at 4.2%;

Stiegl Radler, that I raved about this time last year, is available in tall cans at liquor stores and in craft beer locations like The Cascade Room.  The Radler is half fruit juice and half lager, and comes in grapefruit, lemon and raspberry flavours, however you are going to be hard pressed to find anything other than the grapefruit around town. It weighs in at 2.5%. On these ones the acidity of the fruit juice gets me long before the alcohol does.
 
I have also just heard that Postmark Brewing, a new micro-brewery set to open at 55 Dunlevy Ave., Vancouver later this Spring will be brewing mostly session beers.

So where should you be trying to drink session ales? How about on a patio?  Vancouver has many a fabulous patio. Where do patios and session beers intersect?

Tap and Barrel Olympic Village has the biggest and sunniest patio in the City. Currently on tap there is the Sun God Wheat Ale, and 33 Acres of Life, which is 4.8%;

Tap and Barrel's other location at the Convention Centre also has a great patio and they offer Central City's ISA as well as the SunGod and 33 Acres of Life;

Steamworks Brewpub in Gastown has a patio and a Cascadian Golden Ale on tap that weighs in at a mere 4%;

Biercraft on Commercial Drive has a lovely little patio, and many of their Belgian offerings weigh in under 5%;

Other large patios in Vancouver that offer craft beer include Dockside on Granville Island, Chill Winston in Gastown, and
Local in Kitsilano,

Smaller craft beer patios like Falconetti's, Tangent, Incendio, St. Augustines, Yaletown Brewpub, Bitter, and all the Rogue locations are great places to get a beer in warmer weather.

The Camra Vancouver Spring Sessional will be held at the Cobalt at 917 Main Street, this year from 1:00 – 6:00 on May 10th, and feature four collaboration casks brewed by homebrewers in conjuction with four breweries in town. There are still tickets for this event, but they're going fast, so get yours today! $30.00 gets you in the door, a taster glass and three tasters of beer. Additional tasters of beer will cost you $1.25 each. There will be a food truck and an ATM onsite.

Also on the horizon is Vancouver Craft Beer Week - May 30 through June 7. Tickets went on sale April 28th. I'll be talking about all the events on my next column in two weeks' time, but you should get on buying your tickets now before they all sell out!

 
Beer Picks:

The session beers I already mentioned are my picks for this week:

Bomber Brewing's Bike Path Best Bitter

Central City's India Session Ale

and R&B's SunGod Wheat Ale

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

on the coast

i will be on cbc radio one's on the coast with stephen quinn at 5:50 today
talking about session beers
tune in to hear me on 88.1 in vancouver
and check out my notes right here on the blog tomorrow

Monday, April 28, 2014

link love

petition to get craft beer into local stadiums
totally a topic i have been looking into myself

double trouble and the royal york fairmont partner on an 85th anniversary brew
1929 cream ale
i'm not a big fan of cream ales, but i suppose i'll try this when i'm in toronto at the end of june

people seem to think this is a good idea
me, i don't wanna see most of you naked, so i'll skip this beer fest thanks!

an update to jan zeschky's new bc microbreweries list for 2014

an older article by joe wiebe in bc living
mapping vancouver's hoppiest neighbourhoods

beer lollipops

vancouver's craft beer scene explodes
a loveletter from a washington state writer

don't want the tv on while you drink beer?  these vancouver craft beer spots have no tv
i have also mentioned several non-tv bars in my column in the bc craft beer news

ooooh, pretty!  a ceramic beer sleeve
that is every bit as slick and stylin' as my new stainless steel innate saison sleeve


an update from paddy treavor about his ongoing campaign to get the government to enforce serving sizes of beer
summed up, here's what you can do on social media:
"Take a photo (or video) of your less-than-a-20oz-pint next to the sign that says “pint” and email or tweet it to @VanEastbeerblog, @CAMRABC @CAMRA_YVR along with the hashtags #FUSS and #servingitwrong and CAMRA & VanEast Beer Blog will help spread the word."

Friday, April 25, 2014

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

corvallis, oregon - part 2

con't from yesterday's post:

After an afternoon of visiting three lovely establishments it was time to ditch the vehicle and continue on foot.  The final four places I stopped were within very easy walking distance of each other. Downtown Corvallis is not very large and boasts a number of craft beer destinations.

 

Fourth stop, Flat Tail Brewing, Corvallis, OR
This is one of the breweries mentioned in Lisa Morrison's book.  I decided to keep going with the taster paddles and chose 8 beers.


We arrived a minute before 6:00 and our server graciously told us if we ordered quickly he could get us in under the“happy hour” wire. Realizing we hadn't eaten at all yet, I ordered the “frickles” - fried pickles with pepper ranch dip - and pretzel sticks with beer & cheddar and honey mustard dips. The pretzels were awesome, the frickles had a bit too much breading on them, but they kept me able to drink my paddle of Kolsch, Amber 8 Man, Bitter Ryevalry, Seriously Low Budget 2xIPA, Akitu Wild, Session Sour Wheat, Big Fin Porter and Rough Cut IPA. The kolsch was incredibly drinkable, the amber was delightful, the low budget IPA disappeared before I realized it, the akitu wild was interesting, the session sour wheat tasted like a gose, the porter was satisfying and the rough cut IPA was very tasty. These were the first satisfying IPAs of my day. The bitter ryevalry smelled hoppy, but it as all bitter rye malt in the taste.
Flat Tail (reference is to a beaver, the fierce animal mascot of Oregon State) is a university hang-out, with a deep fried menu, but what other sportsbar do you know of that offers multiple sour beers?  Worth checking out if you're in the neighbourhood (or would that be neighborhood?).

 
 
Fifth stop, Sky-High Brewing, Corvallis, OR
What a great bar!  The brewery is downstairs, then you go up one and two floors to the restaurant and bar areas. The patio apparently has a great view if you get there early enough in the day to see it, but the hotel being constructed next door will probably take most of that away.


This late in the crawl I gave up on taster paddles and just went for a single beer. I tried the Crowbeer CDA, a 7% tall, dark and hoppy offering. I really enjoyed it and would have liked to spend more time trying out the beers here. I know our bartender Tory told me why it's called Crow Beer but I neglected to write it down in my book and cannot remember for the life of me!  Maybe it is just as simple as the write up, named after Crowbar... but I can't remember what Crowbar is or why they love it so.  I am a bad, bad beer ambassador. 


I really enjoyed my "pint" and the atmosphere of the place.  This is a bar I would definitely visit again.
 
Sixth stop, Les Caves Bier and Kitchen, Corvallis, OR
Related to and located next to Block 15, Caves is incredible! Nicely laid out bar with comfy padded bench seating, it boasts 7 pages of beer bottles on the menu, with 21 draught taps and sours – oh the sours. So many choices, so little time. I went with the Caves 1 year anniversary blend sour, by Block 15. This 4.7%er was tart and complex and obviously the product of great brewing.


Again, I wish I had had more time to sample the offerings here. I would make this my local if I lived in Corvallis.  This place is a beer lovers heaven. Go!  And please take me with you!


My drinking companions (we grew from just two of us to six of us) went with the Kriek Boon, which I had a sip of - a very nice sweet sour - but professed to like mine better.  I love turning former non-beer lovers into sour fiends!  It is so satisfying.  They are Corvallis dwellers and have professed Caves to be their new go-to beer place based soley on its extensive sour list.
 
I had a very tiny nibble from someone else's appy plate of cheese, bread, pickled snap peas and pickled beets. Quite delicious. I just loved the place!  They're totally doing it right.
 
Final stop, Block 15 Brewing, Corvallis, OR
Suggested by Lisa Morrison and the Pocket Beer Guide and they are not wrong on this one! I could only do one more beer, it had been quite a long day and night of sampling, so I went with the Space Cowboy IPA. The Pocket Beer Guide suggested I try the Figgy Pudding, Pappy's Dark and Super Nebula Imperial Stout and Lisa Morrison had suggested trying the Alpha IPA or the Six Hop Wonder, but after a small taster of the Space Cowboy, listed as an IPA and a half, I had to have a full glass of it. Maris otter and caramel malts with apollo and eldorado hops, dry-hopped with galaxy, eldorado and apollo. 7.88% and 80 ibus. I really enjoyed that beer.  So much that I totally forgot to take a photo of it, or anything inside Block 15.
 
Featuring chalkboard table tops with plenty of chalk, it was fun times for everyone at Block 15. We ordered off the late night food menu. Not a whole lotta veggie choices so I ended up with nachos. Nothing to write home about, but probably a very necessary stomach lining for one last beer before bed.
 
Other than the lacklustre late night menu, I would totally recommend Block 15.  Next time I'm in Corvallis I will put Caves and Block 15 much earlier in my pub crawl day so as to give them proper time to fill me with really good beer.
 
 
Lisa Morrison also suggested stops at Squirrels, a tavern, and Oregon Trail Brewing, the original brewery in town. I didn't make it to these two stops due to a lack of time. Unfortunately most places were closed on Easter Sunday so I had to get all my drinking done in just one day.

 
I did manage to visit the Corvallis Sports Park though, just after arriving in town on Friday evening. For an indoor soccer field's attached pub, they had a great menu of craft beers, Sierra Nevada, Ninkasi, 10 Barrel, Deschutes, Lagunitas, including a long list of IPAs.  I went for the Deschutes Fresh-Squeezed IPA and the 10 Barrel Apocalypse IPA.  Which paired very nicely with the extremely nutritious deep-fried cheese and tater tots that were my dinner.  God bless America!

 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

corvallis and albany, oregon - part 1

You hear a lot about the breweries in Portland, but there are many other Oregon towns that offer an impressive number of breweries per capita. I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in Corvallis, about an hour and a half South of Portland. I thought there would be one or two good places for beer in a town of 50,000. Was I ever surprised when I started my research and came out with a long list of breweries and bottle shops. Not so surprising, I guess, when you take into account that Corvallis is home to Oregon State University, an international leader in the breeding and researching of hops. I couldn't make it to all the good beer on offer, but I gave it my best shot to hit as many as I could in a day and a night.
 
Any time I am travelling, I do beer research first, and usually take along a beer book or two (as well as my beer notebook).  For this trip I took Lisa Morrison's "Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest" as she had several entries for Albany and Corvallis.  I also consulted The Pocket Beer Guide by Stephen Beaumont and Tim Webb before I left, which mentions Block 15 in Corvallis as an "Innovative brewery with strong barrel-ageing programme".


 
First stop, Calapooia Brewing Co., Albany, OR
Calapooia was the furthest stop from my weekend home, so we started there.  I tried a sample paddle of 8 tasters: River Dog ESB, Santiamber amber ale, Riparian IPA, Devil's Hole Stout, Summit IPA (a seasonal), Paddle Me IPA, Hub City common ale and their Chili Ale. In her book Lisa Morrison suggests you try the Riparian IPA and the Chili ale. I found both to be solid beers, but the Santiamber and the Stout stood out for me. My drinking companion really enjoyed the Hub City, a nice session ale.



Calapooia boasts a nice-looking patio (it was raining on and off when we were there so we didn't sit out there) and darts. The English pub style menu looked good, but we didn't eat here - it was too soon after breakfast... The tables and chairs were not the most comfortable - kind of a country kitchen style. I can't imagine spending a whole night drinking in them.  Then again, maybe they get more comfortable the more you drink!  Regardless, it was a solid beginning to our crawl.

 
Second stop, 2 Towns Ciderhouse, Corvallis, OR
In a more industrial area of town, the cidery is located in a strip mall which also includes Mazama Brewing.


I tried a sample paddle of 4 tasters, the scrump, the bright cider, the recently tapped seasonal cherried away and hop & stalk, a hoppy cider made with rhubarb stalks.  I enjoyed all four of my choices (especially the hop & stalk) and can see why this cidery is so popular with the locals. They say that the taxes are too high for them to consider entering the Canadian market at this time, sadly.


My drinking companion shared her peach, bad apple and hop mead with me. The mead was too sweet for me, as I usually find meads to be. The peach didn't taste much of peach. The bad apple was very satisfying though.  Better watch that imperial cider though - it does not taste like 10%!


The tasting room is on the small side, but warm and friendly and I could imagine myself whiling away a whole lot of time there if I lived in Corvallis – even though the picnic tables creaked and groaned in a frightening way when I sat down.


We also made friends at the communal picnic table and they offered me sips of their Pommeau 2012, a port-style cider that smells incredibly boozey, but tastes all apple juice, and Riverwood Orchard 2011 brut cider. I liked the brut so much I bought a bottle to bring home with me. I am also in love with the hop & stalk - so much so that we took a growler to go and I bought a couple of bottles to bring home with me.

 
Third stop, Mazama Brewing, Corvallis, OR
Mazama is all about the Belgians. I had a taster paddle of 4 samples, Saison d'Etre which was 6.3 % of dry, peppery saisony goodness. It had a lot of fruit on the nose, but not as much in the taste; the Grand Cru which was a very fruity beer, that I wasn't wild about; the White Wedding, a blend of ½ wit and ½ ipa, which was very dry and bitter but not in the usual ipa-bitter way, more in a sour-wheaty way; and the Sour Sunrise, a peachy lactic subtly sour beer.  Keeping in mind that I am very slowly starting to appreciate the Belgian style beers, I thought these were solid brews.


Located right next to 2 Towns Cidery, which was totally hopping on a Saturday afternoon, I was a little bit surprised to be the only people in Mazama. Super friendly service though, so I'm not sure why it wasn't busier. Maybe Corvallis hasn't embraced the Belgians yet?  They should, this place is great!


Okay, enough for now!
Tomorrow I will post the other four stops of the pub crawl, but with fewer photos as I sorta forgot to take them as the day/night wore on, and I may or may not have gotten tipsy.

Monday, April 21, 2014

link love

i'm still on vacation!  love easter long weekend!
but in case you're not...
i offer you this small token of link love

port alberni homebrewer trying to crowdsource himself into craft brewing

with all the hype about session beers lately
let's go back a couple of years to when it was still just an idea
and get craftbeer.com's definition of sessionability

five american hotels that are conveniently nestled among great craft beer venues
aka rooms with a brew

if you'll be in vancouver on may 10th (i won't be, i'll be in portland attending the cider riot kick-off party - yay me!)
you may just wanna hit the cbc for the microdistillery festival

vancouver island brewing celebrates 30 years of brewing with an anniversary imperial red ale






Okanagan Spirits BC Hopped Whisky is going to be released this Spring and the image is a little sneak peak of the label.
The idea behind the 'Final Proof Master Distiller Series' was to allow the creative nature of our Distiller Peter von Hahn to develop a series of small batch specialty and unique whiskies that we will release over time.
The first release will be BC's first 'Hopped Whisky'.
Barrel aged for five years, this whisky offers a well-balanced flavour that starts with spicy malt notes and finishes with a dry a hoppy kick.

BC's first hopped whisky is priced at $64.95 and is expected to sell out quickly.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

legacy liquor store

new beers available at legacy liquor store in vancouver:

Back in the 1980’s before the Craft Beer boom, Mark Irvin fell in love with suds that were more than just cold. Falling head over heels for the art and science of brewing beer with character, Mark took the next step in 1993 and the Northern Lights Brewing Company was born. Following eight years of producing draft beer and self-distributing kegs to local eateries, Mark and his brewing venture moved to its current location on the Spokane River and added a pub. Skip ahead to 2012 and Northern Lights Brewing is a man stronger with John Bryant, formerly of Deschutes, Odell and Oskar Blues breweries, working together with Mark Irvin to showcase the best of what the ‘Inland Empire’ has to offer. However, not everything was so rosy. Receiving the cold shoulder and the silent treatment over a name dispute with an eastern brewery, Northern Lights Brewing Co. was reborn as No-Li Brewhouse, and a wryly named Silent Treatment Pale Ale took form. Producing beers that are globally inspired with locally sourced ingredients that manifest as crisp desirable brews, Mark Irvin and John Bryant bleed Crimson, Gray and really, really good beer.

NoLi Brewhouse Empire No. 8 Session IPA - $8.15
It might be a bit chilly right now, but keep this beer in mind when the sun comes around. This lower alcohol, hop-forward beer's subtle nutty and honey malt backbone lets the grapefruit and lemon-citrus notes of Cluster and Cascade hops shine through. Enjoy it in the sun, enjoy it with friends, but whatever you do, just make sure you enjoy it.

Joel Wilson | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store

NoLi Brewhouse Spin Cycle Red Ale - $8.15
A malt-dominated beer is always good for a change of scenery. This particular Red Ale is deep amber in colour with plenty of biscuit and caramel-centric malt aromas and just a touch of hops. Toasty malts are just as present on the palate with plenty of caramel, nougat and toffee to go around, leading to a bittering finish thanks to the hops. Rich and flavourful, this one nails it.

Evan Doan | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store

NoLi Brewhouse Jet Star Imperial IPA - $8.85
A big boy from Spokane, this brew is a hazy pale orange with a resinous nose highlighted with citrus and pine. Citrus is the star on the palate with bright hops and a bit of pine to boot. Simple, straightforward, quaffable and delicious, what more could you want from a beer?

Chris Bonnallie | Beer Supervisor | Legacy Liquor Store

i got to try the red ale at the east side beer fest, it's very irish in that the hop presence is quite low... which translates as too low for this pacific northwester!
i also tried their pale ale which i really enjoyed, but have no notes on it besides two thumbs up

Saturday, April 19, 2014

EAT! vancouver

eat! vancouver is coming up
it will be on the same weekend as vancouver craft beer week, but i am sure that i can fit both in
i just won't sleep much...

12th annual EAT! Vancouver Food + Cooking Festival
Friday May 30 - 2-9pm; Saturday May 31 - 10am-9pm; Sunday June 1 - 10am-5pm
BC Place Stadium, 777 Pacific Boulevard, Vancouver BC V6B 4Y8
Info and tickets: www.eat-vancouver.com
Tickets: Adults $17 ($14 online), Seniors $15 ($14 online), Youth aged 13-16 $9, Free for children 12 & under.
 
Twitter @EAT_Vancouver
Hashtag: #eatbuzz

Friday, April 18, 2014

friday frivolity

hoppy easter!
i'm off to corvallis for the weekend
i hear there's good beer there
you know i will report back!



Thursday, April 17, 2014

cbc website

and i made the cbc website again!!!

As people around the world embrace craft beer, beer travel is a growing trend. We do it for wine,  why not beer, asks Rebecca Whyman, a member of Campaign for Real Ale.

Whyman says she would love to travel more often for beer — but when going to every beer festival worldwide is not in your budget, she say you can still get some decent craft beer on your holidays.
Whyman recommends starting with some research on the Internet to find out which breweries are near your destination, and what events are taking place while you're there. She says a recent trip of hers to Mexico produced some delicious results, and on an upcoming trip she will be going to the Las Vegas Beer Fest.

Before you arrive, you can plug into the local beer scene, and start following beer makers on social media.

World travel map
Travel the world tasting beer (CBC)
 
Beer Advocate is a beer magazine and website that can help you find craft beer locales in cities throughout the U.S. and a few other countries. They also have a very extensive beer events calendar.
Ratebeer.com also has an extensive beer events calendar for the U.S. and some other countries, as well as reviews of breweries, brewpubs, bottle shops and craft beer bars.

Some of Whyman's friends also take B.C. beer with them when they travel to share with the locals. They are often given beer in return to bring home with them. She says this is a great way to bring B.C. beer to foreign places, making you a beer ambassador.

Beer festivals

If you are actually intentionally chasing beer around the world, more planning is needed. First, you have to research beer festivals and beer-centric cities, find out when their festivals are and then plan your travel around them. One of the oldest beer destinations has been Germany’s Oktoberfest.
A few other festivals of note are the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado in October, and Montreal's Mondiale de la Biere in June.

Rebecca Whyman
Rebecca Whyman asks why not travel for beer? (CBC)
 
There is a list of beer festivals world-wide on the RealBeer.com website, and a list of Canadian beer festivals on the Canadian Beer News website. Beerfestivals.org is another good site to check.

Festivals aside, beer destinations can also be about the place itself. Whyman recommends travelling to Belgium to try all those great Belgian beers right from the source. Take a tour of the monasteries to learn about the Trappist beers, and bring some of the beer only available on site home with you.
The Westvleteren brewery only sells their beer one case at a time and only by appointment at their door, says Whyman. Achel makes four different styles of beer but only sells one. The only way to try some of these beers is to travel to Belgium.

There are plenty of great beer-centric cities to visit a little closer to home, she adds. Portland Oregon tops that list. Rebecca says she tries to get there at least twice a year as new breweries are cropping up in the city at least as frequently as in Vancouver.

Here are Rebecca's beer picks for this week, from Belgium and Portland:
  • Chimay Red, White and Blue caps are all available at specialty liquor stores. (Blue is a strong dark ale, Red is a dubbel and White is a trippel)
  • Gigantic IPA is available at specialty liquor stores in 22 oz. bombers.
  • Hopworks organic lager is available at specialty liquor stores in four-packs of cans.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

beer column

my notes from yesterday's beer column on beer travel
on cbc radio one's on the coast with stephen quinn

I would love to be able to travel the world for beer! So far, Mexico and Central Ontario are the furthest I have travelled since becoming a beer geek, and those were places I was visiting for other reasons. Those totally count as beer travel though, since I sought out all the beer I could while I was there!

There are two basic methods of beer travel. The first is to find a beer event you would like to attend, or choose a beer-centric place to visit, and then plan a vacation around the beer. The second is to research the beer options available in a place you already have plans to visit. So far my beer travel generally falls into the second category. I find all the beer I can at places I already have plans to visit. Quite often serendipity graces me with a beer festival during the very period I need to be somewhere. For instance the Washington State Cask Festival that happened to fall on the same weekend I had plans that took me to Seattle; and the upcoming Las Vegas Beer Fest that is conveniently taking place on my birthday weekend.

This method of beer travel is wonderfully simple. Once you know when and where you are travelling, you just let your fingers to the walking and see what the internet can tell you about which breweries are near your venue, which beer happenings may be taking place while you are there, and if you are very much a beer geek, you can plug into the local beer scene before you even arrive. The easiest way to do this is to research the local breweries, start following them on social media and strike up conversations.

Beer Advocate is a beer magazine and website that can help you find craft beer locales in cities throughout the US and a few other countries. They also have a very extensive beer events calendar. Ratebeer.com also has an extensive beer events calendar for the US and some other countries, as well as reviews of breweries, brewpubs, bottle shops and craft beer bars.

Friends of mine also take BC beer with them when they travel, to share with the locals. Often they are given beer in return to bring home with them. Sometimes they even share it with me! This is a great way to bring BC beer to foreign places, making you a beer ambassador, which in turn gives you an in with the local beer crowd.

More planning is required for the kind of beer travel that has you intentionally chasing beer around the globe. First you have to research beer festivals and beer-centric cities, find out when their festivals are and then plan your travel around them. One of the oldest beer destinations has been Germany’s Oktoberfest. People from around the world make the pilgrimage. I have not been, but it is definitely on my bucket list.

My beer festival travel has been limited so far to the Great Canadian Beer Festival in Victoria in early September. This year’s festival is September 5 and 6. But I plan to expand that in the coming years to include the Great American Beer Festival in Denver Colorado in October and Montreal's Mondiale de la Biere in June.

There is a great list of beer festivals world-wide on the RealBeer.com website, and a list of Canadian beer festivals on the Canadian Beer News website. Beerfestivals.org is another good site to check. There are so many festivals these days I don’t think anyone could make it to them all in just one lifetime!

But you don’t need a beer festival to attend. Beer destinations can also be about the place itself. Like travelling to Belgium to try all those great Belgian beers right from the source.  You can take a tour of the monasteries to learn about the trappist beers, and bring some of the beer only available on site home with you. Chimay in Belgium sells their Red, White and Blue beers all over the world. Westvleteren, on the other hand, only sells their beer one case at a time and only by appointment at their door. Achel makes four different styles of beer but only sells one. The other three are available only on tap at the monastery's guest house. So the only way to try some of these beers is to travel to Belgium.

There are plenty of great beer centric cities to visit a little closer to home. Portland, Oregon tops that list. A mere 7 hours away by car, bus or train, it is a great long weekend getaway to non-stop beer fun. Boasting so many breweries and bottleshops, it is possible to walk around Portland from brewery to brewery. If you haven’t already been, I strongly suggest you put Portland on your short-list of places to explore. I try to get there at least twice a year as new breweries are cropping up there at least as frequently as they are here in Vancouver.

My internet research only took me to one actual beer travel agency... in France.  But there are plenty of companies around that offer beer tours and beer travel packages.  Because isn't it nice to have someone else getting you to and from the breweries?

Beertrips.com is an American company that offers beer travel packages in Belgium, Germany, Quebec, the Czech Republic, Scotland, Italy… you get yourself there and they take care of the rest.  They aren't cheap tours, but they are small groups escorted by beer experts so they're probably worth every penny! 

In Vancouver alone there are multiple tour offering short tours to get you from point A to point B to point C.  Some of them even feed you!

Vancouver Brewery Tours will take you on a three hour tour.  Leaving from Waterfront Station they take you to three breweries, for behind the scenes tours and intro to the brewing process, plus samples!  You also get a souvenir pint glass to take home with you.  They offer public tours for $69 per person and private tours starting at $600 for up to 13 people.

The Tour Guys host a spring and summer walking tour called Beer Makes History Better that will walk you around Gastown, stopping at 3 pubs along the way.  This 2.5 hour tour costs $49, and will be starting up again for the season in June.

The Original Vancouver Food Tour also offers a 3 hour walking Gastown beer tour, called Craft Beer n’ Bites Tour that takes you to three establishments for food and drink, for $75 per person.

And Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours has an upcoming one-off beer tour in conjunction with Vancouver Craft Beer Week:  4 incredible craft beers, 3 breweries, 2 hours, 1 murder.
Select a team of your most able friends. Get ready to sample some of our city’s finest craft beers. And blaze a trail through Mount Pleasant on a mission to discover … who killed Kraft Bier???
A 2 – 3 hour adventure through Mount Pleasant:
• Sample four incredible local craft beers.
• Visit two of Vancouver’s best craft breweries.
• Enjoy exploring Vancouver’s historic ‘Brewery Creek’ area.
• Learn the true history of craft brewing in Vancouver.
• Prove you have the wits and guile to solve an infamous murder.

The shocking murder of Kraft Bier is long famed as Vancouver’s most notorious unsolved crime. Honest hard-working brewery man Kraft was found floating face down in a vat of cheap lager, more bloated and soggy than the commercial beer industry itself. But who would want poor Krafty dead? Was it hot shot lawyer and future Mayor Gerry McGeer? Showgirl Pat La Belle? Arch-villain Shui Moy? With puzzles, clues and riddles strewn across Mount Pleasant, this is a case for only the most-hardened detectives. But beware, there’s more to the murder of Kraft Bier than meets the eye…
Tickets on sale April 28. More information coming soon.

If this tour proves popular, it could become a regularly scheduled tour.
 

Following along with the beer travel theme, my beer picks for this week are from Belgium and Portland:

Chimay Red, White and Blue caps are all available at specialty liquor stores.
(Blue is a strong dark ale, Red is a dubbel and White is a trippel)

Gigantic IPA is available at specialty liquor stores in 22 oz bombers.

Hopworks organic lager is available at specialty liquor stores in 4-packs of cans.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

on the coast

i will be on cbc radio one's on the coast with stephen quinn at 5:50
talking about beer travel
88.1 fm in vancouver

Saturday, April 12, 2014

legacy liquor store

newly available at the legacy liquor store in vancouver:

A small craft brewery in Southeast Portland, Oregon inspired by European brewing tradition and Pacific Northwest ingredients, The Commons Brewery, formerly Beetje (Flemish for little) Brewery, started small in the summer of 2010 with nothing more than a single barrel nano system in Mike Wright’s garage. Jump to the summer of 2011 and The Commons Brewery has moved from the garage to a 7BBL commercial space and bottle conditioned beer. Striving to produce brews with moderate alcohol and refreshing, unique character courtesy of yeast strains originating in Europe—truly a beer lover’s paradise—these brews are sessionable and geared towards friends, family and sharing time with one another. So grab a bottle or two and gather ’round!

The Commons Brewery Urban Farmhouse - $13.75
A farmhouse ale that fits the bill after a sweltering day working the land. Hazy straw yellow in colour with baking spice, floral hops and a bit of yeast in its aroma, while more spice (coriander for instance), a touch of citrus and a lovely bittering courtesy of Willamette, Golding and Hallertauer make up the palate. Two words: nailed it.

Joel Wilson | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store

The Commons Brewery Flemish Kiss - $13.75
Belgian Pale Ale? Yes, please! This rusty, amber coloured beer smells delicious with appearances of funk and raspberry sweetness. Palate-wise, this particular brew shows off more Brett, strawberries, figs and cereal malt. Complex and tasty, it represents Belgian Pale Ale perfectly, and turns up the volume with a bit of funk.

Chris Bonnallie | Beer Supervisor | Legacy Liquor Store

Thursday, April 10, 2014

more cask

because i wasn't sure about it
i had more of the central city oaked esb cask last night
this time i did my sampling at the cascade room

i like it, i really do
it's hoppy and complex
i still have no idea what that flavour is though, but my guess is it is from the oak
hell, maybe it's oak like i've never oaked before


and while i was there, i couldn't resist the welsh rarebit
gawd, i love welsh rarebit!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

cask

managed to make it out to the railway club for the cask again last night
central city's oaked esb
which for the most part i really enjoyed
but there was an odd flavour that came out as it warmed up
not unpleasant per se, but definitely odd



anyway, the camra cask meet ups seem to be going well
some of the usual suspects were there
and a couple of unusual suspects joined in too
i hope it continues, it is nice to socialize with other beer geeks at a relaxed drop in event

and the railway club has a new menu
not a whole lot of veggie options
(and a couple of spelling errors/typos - yes, i am THAT guy)
but people were saying they liked what they tried last night
(which were the thai coconut rice bowl and the flank "stake" tacos)
 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

cask

i managed to hit two cask nights this past week
the first was the railway cask night on tuesday
where camra vancouver launched its new #yvrcaskmeetup


i was an ambassador and got to great the folks who came out in support

(apparently i was the only one expecting the flash!)
and drink the wonderfully hoppy cask of central city ipa
- so good i had to have two!
 
(shown here with beer brittle made by the talented ryan wong)


on thursday night i went to the yaletown brewpub for their cask of ginger marmalade wit
and some of the seasonal india red ale


all were delicious!
although i never expected otherwise

Friday, April 4, 2014

gmos in beer

further to my radio column about gmos in beer
here is a list of 8 beers that contain them
govern yourself accordingly

update:  and here is a rebuttal to that article
not really touching on the gmo aspect, but totally slamming the rest of the scary beer ingredients aspect
(and fabulous use of my new favourite word: dumbassery - mostly due to it that great silent b in the middle)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

legacy liquor store

freshly arrived at legacy liquor store in vancouver:

Mikkeller Citra Single Hop IPA - $5.65

Often pushing the boundaries of beer with unique brews, Mikkeller has decided to show off the characteristics of a single hop. Beautiful amber orange in colour with a pithy and fruity aroma, on the palate grapefruit, citrus and malt all play their role and showcase what Citra is all about. An excellent choice for any hop enthusiast.

Joel Wilson | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store

Dead Frog Brewery The Obsidian Dagger - $6.95

Reinvention isn’t easy, but Dead Frog Brewery makes it look like it is with another addition to their stellar line-up of 650ml bottles. Dark roasted malts and tropical hops work in harmony in this black IPA—with hops like centennial and galaxy, and malts including biscuit and chocolate, this is a true powerhouse. Enjoy before this limited batch beer is all gone.

Chris Bonnallie | Beer Supervisor | Legacy Liquor Store

Straffe Hendrik Brugs Quadrupel Bier - $10.95

From the fairy tale city of Bruges, Belgium, considered the Venice of the north, comes a little brewery producing some very big beers. Enjoyed in a Belgian chalice, this particular Quad is dark mahogany in colour with an enormous nose of dried figs and raisons, toffee and baking spices. Once you manage to get the glass to your lips, more toffee and dried fruit make themselves known on the palate in combination with a bit of warming alcohol. If you ever find yourself in Bruges, make sure you tour the brewery and taste the line-up, but in the meantime grab a bottle of this brew and let it whisk you off your feet.

Aaron Morten | Office Liaison | Legacy Liquor Store

Mikkeller Imperial Mosaic IPA - $6.25
Click Here to Purchase


This Mosaic IPA is dark, hazy and golden in colour with a punchy, citrusy, floral nose with plenty of tropical fruit to boot. Juicy tropical fruits with plenty of hops make an appearance on the palate with an almost honey-like backing. Effervescent, tropical, resin-y, and just plain tasty.

Joel Wilson | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store

Mikkeller Single Hop Sorachi Ace IPA - $5.65
Click Here to Purchase


Another showcase brew flaunting everything Sorachi Ace has to offer, amber and orange in colour with aromas of grass and lemon tart that pop from the glass. With a palate that is herbaceous from the get-go, but slowly moves into citrusy lemon flavours that work well with a light malt body, this little IPA hides its ABV well with a slightly dry finish and citrus bite.

Chris Bonnallie | Beer Supervisor | Legacy Liquor Store

Mikkeller x Anchorage Brewing Farmhouse Invasion - $25.05
Click Here to Purchase


A collaborative effort and fan favourite from Mikkeller and Alaska’s Anchorage Brewing. A tangerine-like orange in colour that’s grassy and musty at the same time, with a twist of orange citrus. More brettanomyces funk pulls through on the palate in perfect harmony with big citrusy flavours like tangerine and lemon. Complex and mature, don’t let this particular brew pass you by.

Aaron Morten | Office Liaison | Legacy Liquor Store

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

beer column

my notes from yesterday evening's beer column on weird beers on cbc radio one's on the coast
during which the poor sick stephen quinn suffered a coughing attack and could barely participate
oh the joys of live radio!


Did you see the new helium beers debuting from SamAdams and Stone Brewing?  Who would have thought you could put helium in beer, let alone that two breweries would race each other to the post to be the first to produce it.

Oh right, it’s April Fools' Day.  There is no helium beer.

But there are crazy and creative beers out there that are no joke!  Let’s take a quick tour of the zanier side of craft beer.

The craft beer community has embraced all sorts of brewing innovations, like brewing ales with lager yeast, adding different ingredients such as botanicals in the place of hops to experiment with different flavours, the hop wars and the highest alcohol content contest.

There are also interesting flavours brewers around the Lower Mainland and across the United States have been experimenting with. Locally first, Storm Brewing's James Walton is always coming up with interesting flavour twists. Earlier this Spring he brewed a dill pickle IPA. I was fortunate enough to get to try it on cask at St. Augustine's. And I really liked it. I am a big dill pickle fan, and an IPA fan, so it probably wasn't that much of a stretch for me, but I did see some pretty interesting facial expressions on some of the other St. Augustine's patrons when they heard about the cask. I asked James how he got the dill pickle flavour in the IPA. He told me that he took his mother's dill seeds and suspended them in alcohol for six years. Six years! Now that is dedication to your craft.

New Belgium Brewing beers are imported into Vancouver by Beerthirst, so if you haunt your local specialty beer store, you should have come across beers from their Lips of Faith series.  The coconut curry hefeweisen is flavoured with coconut, cayenne, cinnamon, coriander, fenugreek seek, ginger root, kaffir and lime leaf, with a hint of banana from the hefe yeast. 

Illinois' Mamma Mia pizza beer is actually is made with a whole margarita pizza in the mash and plenty of pizza spices to enhance the flavours of oregano, basil, garlic and tomato.  I want to try this beer!  I figure it must taste something like Storm's basil ipa, which I love. If anyone is in Illinois and wants to bring me back one, I'd appreciate it!

Also not available locally is Michigan's Short's Brewing Company's Key Lime Pie, which is made with fresh limes, milk sugar, graham crackers and marshmallow fluff. The prominent sweet-meets-tart flavour won a Gold Medal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival. If you're travelling around Michigan, try to find this one. And again, if you want to bring one back for me, I wouldn't say no!

Freetail Brewing in San Antonio Texas brews a green beer - it is coloured pale greeny blue from the addition of spirulina. Perfect for St. Patrick's day, if you happen to be in the San Antonio area!

Moving away from flavourings now, we arrive at beer for non-humans.  Specifically beer for dogs.

Dog beer is only sort of beer. It does not have the four traditional ingredients in it as hops are toxic to dogs. It also doesn't have alcohol in it, so fido won't be hungover in the morning. Bowser Beer, which has been available in the US for several years, is a non-carbonated mixture of meat-broth and malt barley, with glucosamine added for joint health.
 
Locally, Moon Under Water in Victoria began brewing their fundraising beer for dogs in August last year. It comes in two flavours, Beef & Barley Dunkel and Chicken & Peanut Pilsner, which feature beef or chicken stock, salmon oil and glucosamine to promote healthy fur and joints. There is also a Dog Beer in Australia. Which just shows you how wide-spread the urge is to share man's greatest beverage with man's best friend.

Which takes us to man’s other best friend, his beard.  And beer brewed with yeast propagated from the brewer's beard.

Rogue's Beard Beer is brewed with a yeast created from Brewmaster John Maier's Beard. Rogue says it is perfectly normal to brew beer from beard yeast "Brewers have used wild yeasts in beer making for centuries. John has had the same Old Growth Beard since 1983 and for over 15,000 brews, so it is no great surprise that a natural yeast ideal for brewing was discovered in his beard." Most beer nerds who tried it, and alas I was not one of them, agreed that it was a decent enough beer, but they probably wouldn't drink it again.

For more weird beers, check out these articles, which include a beer that uses yeast from a hornet's abdomen; one that uses a strain of yeast over 45 million years old; beer made from coffee brewed from elephant pooped beans that sold for $100 a bottle; Sapporo Space Barley beer, brewed in 2009, which featured barley from the International Space Station; and Dogfish Head's Celest-jewel-ale contained dust from lunar meteorites. There is no end to creativity in beer brewing!

However, I think the most recent entry into the weird beer sweepstakes takes home the prize for my weirdest beer. To commemorate last weekend's season finale of AMC’s hit series “The Walking Dead,” a Philadelphia beer company brewed up a smooth, pale American stout. So far not weird at all right? Sure, right up until they put goat brains in it! The Dock Street Brewing Co. created the Dock Street Walker for die-hard zombie fans. It is brewed using wheat, oats, flaked barley, organic cranberries (for a nice bloody red hue) and smoked goat brains. Dock Street head brewer Justin Low said that Walker contains “intriguing, subtle smoke notes” thanks to the addition of the brains.

And, just to really make you shake your head, that wasn't the first time that animal heads and their contents have been used in beer brewing… Michigan’s Right Brain Brewery makes their Mangalitsa Pig Porter using actual pig heads and bones. The beer took home a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2011 in the Experimental category. It is only made once a year, and they say that the Mangalitsa Pig Porter is rich, chocolatey and “infused with a symphony of salty, smoky and savory flavors.”
 

I thought after that list of weird and wacky beers that I would keep this week's beer picks in the realm of the experimental, but much more down-to-earth:

First up, a collaboration beer between Victoria's Hoyne Brewing and Driftwood Brewing, the Rock Bay mash-up, is available in 650 ml bombers at specialty liquor stores in the city. Half a baltic porter was brewed and fermented at Hoyne, half at Driftwood. The brews were then combined by running a hose across their connecting parking lot. Available in both Hoyne and Driftwood designed bottles.

Secondly, head on over to East Van and try an infused beer at Parallel 49 and Bomber Brewing. Both tasting rooms have a randall - a tubular tower they fill with fresh ingredients and force beer through to get unique infused flavours. They change the ingredients daily, so follow them on twitter to find out what the flavour of the day is.