Friday, January 11, 2013

BC beer travels 2012 - Part 3: Vancouver Island


I feel somewhat guilty that this part is so small. Vancouver Island, Victoria especially, has a lot of good beer stuff going on but 6 days of kayaking and 2 days of GCBF tends to dominate most of your time. We were also drinking some of the bottles picked up in Vancouver...

In the middle of nowhere…

Well to some extent. 

We went kayaking for 6 days in the Broughtons (A-M-A-Z-I-N-G) and on the final night we had company at the campsite. This company comprised of two (possible retired guys) on their annual fishing trip without the wives. They had pretty much set up camp on this tiny island for some time and happened to have cold beers on their boat which they happily paddled to so we could partake. (We may have admired their empties in advance of the offer...) Much to my delight (you know where this is going) they had ONE can of Red Racer Pale Ale left and, being the gentleman that he is, the other half let me have it. Absolutely perfect setting to drink this and such a lovely pale ale. Had loads of grapefruit and I think it may have tasted punchier than their IPA.

Craig Street Brew Pub

Ahhh Duncan. We would not stop here for any other reason. It’s maybe a 2 hour drive from Nanaimo to Victoria but we timed this drive so we could stop at Duncan for lunch at the brewpub.

The beers:

  • Shawnigan Irish Ale – exactly as I remembered it and still love it. Nothing fancy and tasted particularly good after driving in the hot sun.

Swans Brewery

We finally made it to a pub in Victoria! It’s really quite shameful because there are at least four or five worth visiting (so I hear) and on our last trip I stupidly thought they were nowhere near downtown. Victoria is also so prominent in BC beer history… 

Anyway we made it and had pre-Cirque de Soleil drinks and dinner. Back in the (not so good) old days the powers-that-be insisted that only hotels could have brewpubs/serve their own beers. Swans is one of these places and still has a hotel as well. The interior is a little odd; the carpet and chairs scream “older generation” but it was also full of beautiful native artwork. 

I almost felt like I was back in Auckland at Galbraiths because this is a place you could sit and read a book while drinking a pint. I should point out that your pint would also be hand-pulled. The food was awesome; the beers were awesome.

The beers:

  • Buckerfield's Bitter (ESB) – clean with light bitterness and so sessionable, especially at 5%.

  • Riley’s Scotch Ale – not so sessionable at 8% but lovely nonetheless. Everything a good scotch ale should be but perhaps a slightly sweeter style than some.

BC beer travels 2012 - Part 2: Great Canadian Beer Festival

Some sort of summary

Oh dear… where do I even begin. We’ve done it before, we know how it works. Back in July I had to rise at the most excellent time of 4am (9am BC time) to join the usual crazy fight for tickets. I succeeded and we had tickets for both days once more. This sold out, of course, incredibly quickly. This year was also the 20th anniversary.

On our last trip, the first day was actually a little cold and we ended up leaving early. 2012 was the complete opposite and we were constantly running for shade under one of the many marquees. 

Of course on the Saturday it took almost 30 minutes to get IN to the park as the line curled around 3 sides of the block. 

Certainly makes you work up a thirst although I almost lost all interest in IPAs (it was summer, IPAs were everywhere). I ended up rocking my Hop Zombie t-shirt both days, partly because it was so much fun. Everyone loved the t-shirt; people took photos and others got upset when I told them it wasn’t a beer on offer here and they had quite the distance to travel to get some.

An excellent article was published in the local paper the day before. It has a lot of useful information on the festival if you're interested.

Looking through my phone I see that I wrote separate notes on GCBF. I think I was anticipating having to write an article about it for The Pursuit of Hoppiness.

Day 1

Arrived 2.15pm (3pm start), line only wrapping around first corner so not too bad. Blazingly hot and need beer. Suddenly rethinking my list of must try beers. Not sure I want dark… Maybe in the evening when it cools down. (Afterthought: did it actually cool down that much?) 

End of the day... nearing 8pm

Hop Zombie tee first noticed at official t-shirt stand, photo taken and questions asked about the brewery (I’ll take liquid commission Luke!). Then noticed at Hops and Robbers stand. Random asks me where I got my shirt, is this beer here, damn I wanted some Zombie (afternote: saw this guy the next day working at one of the stands, we had a good chat).

Day 2

Arrived later than hoped. Line to get in is absolutely ridiculous. Almost encompasses 3 of the 4 streets. 30 mins to get in…

Hop Zombie love continues: “does her shirt say Hop Zombie?”, “Yes it does”, “That’s so f*ing awesome. Where did you get it?” Then at the Crannog Ales stand the pourer says “Nice shirt!” Turns out he likes kiwis, obviously liked my shirt and had great conversation while I waited for stout/the last drink of the night. About to leave and stopped again. “That’s a cool shirt, can I take a photo? Where is it from?”

Love, love, love the free bus tokens to get home. Why aren’t you doing this NZ? You do it for the stupid rugby. (I love my notes!)

The beers… and terrible tasting notes:

I will point out that I got mocked by a couple of guys for even making notes

  • Banff Brewing/Jasper Brewing Reverend Rundle Stout (cask) – very alchy. Woooooah. Apparently nitrogen infused.
  • Beau’s Brewery Festivale Altbier – as with my thoughts on most altbiers: meh.
  • Black Oak Saison – no tasting notes
  • Cannery Brewing Blackberry Porter – wasn’t sure if I would like it but liked the idea of it. Tasted a bit like blackberry cordial and I questioned why it was sweet. I would have expected some tartness?
  • Cannery Squire Scotch Ale – a bit sweet. Not bad.
  • Canoe Brewpub Southern Cross IPA – HI NZ HOPS!! Nice bitterness on this.
  • Central City Brewing Red Racer ESB (cask) – never fails! Wondered if there was loads of Citra in this?
  • Central City Brewing Thors Hammer Barley Wine – trying it sans bourbon-aging. Was slightly sweeter and had a lovely tart/bitter toffee flavour.
  • Coal Harbour Brewing Powell IPA – definitely got the caramel mentioned in their tasting notes. Very sessionable, yummy. Reminiscent of caramel toffees.
  • Crannog Ales Insurrection Pale Ale (cask) – wasn’t keen on the aroma but the beer was okay…
  • Crannog Ales Back Hand of God Stout (organic) – really nice stout!
  • Double Trouble Brewery Hops and Robbers – underlined session IPA in their tasting notes. Was lovely but noted I was having trouble with descriptions at that point after so many bloody IPAs :P
  • Driftwood Brewery Farmhand Ale – already talked about this one…
  • Gigantic IPA – smelt like fresh hops and had a lovely bitterness.
  • Gigantic Axes of Evil Stout – questioned whether this was a stout. Seemed like a pale ale? Maybe I didn’t get the correct beer…
  • Gigantic The City Never Sleeps – AWESOME. Three words: clean, black and saison.
  • Great Lakes Brewing 25th Anniversary Porter – nice porter with the requisite toasty-ness.
  • Great Lakes Brewing Karma Citra IPA – yes there’s another Karma Citra out there. This had a nice aroma, wasn’t too bitter and was the first beer of the day.
  • Half Pints Brewing Little Scrapper IPA – their notes said grapefruit-like aroma, I would have said mandarin. Definitely tasted the dry hops though :)
  • Half Pints Brewing Humulous Ludicrous Double IPA – HI MALT! Did not notice the alcohol in this at all.
  • Hoyne Brewing Devils Dream IPA – no tasting notes
  • Lighthouse Brewing Switchback IPA – nice hops: Citra, Zythos and Falconer’s Flight
  • Lighthouse Brewing Blackberry Black Saison – subtle blackberry, nice saison with slight tartness (in a good way)
  • Longwood Brewpub Imperial Stout – light (?), roasty, clean, nice
  • Microbrasserie Charlevoix Vache Folle Imp Milk Stout – and here I gush. We went back to this and told everyone in their line to get it too. Mmmmmmm. Awesome milk stout; rich but not in a clinging way. Doesn’t show the 9%.
  • Moon Under Water Brewery Hop Harvest – lovely fresh hop notes and flavours
  • Moon Under Water Brewery Tranquility IPA – more hop bitterness on this than the Hop Harvest
  • Nickel Brook Brewery Headstock IPA – no tasting notes
  • Noble Pig Brewery Mocha Porter – somewhat standard porter but was probably served a little too cold
  • Noble Pig Brewer ESB (cask) – difficult to decipher my notes on this one. Something about it being like a special bitter with a shot of Youngs Chocolate Stout. I got a lot of caramel and toffee and mmmmmm, the other half got earl grey?
  • Paddock Wood 606 IPA – sadly tasted a bit like a lager
  • Paddock Wood Loki Double IPA – meh. Was rather disappointed with this after having the porter but was impressed that the server remembered me.
  • Paddock Wood London Porter – described as “a very smooth and refreshing porter” which I completely agreed with.
  • Parallel 49 Imperial Stout (cask) – wasn’t bad but was nothing spectacular. Tasted like an alcoholic stout…
  • R&B Brewing East Side Bitter – a hoppy ESB
  • Russell Brewery Blood Alley Bitter – a nice, simple bitter
  • Salt Spring Island Ales ESB – YES! ESB all over. Lovely toffee, perfect bitterness and perfect malt.
  • Salt Spring Island Spring Fever Gruit Ale (cask) – made without hops! Smelt like caramelised sugar or when you make your own hokey pokey. Had trouble describing the flavour as there were so many interesting/different things going on in this.
  • Salt Spring Island Heatherdale Ale – no notes
  • Spinnakers Brewpub Hoptoria (cask) – no notes
  • Swans Buckerfield’s Brewery Extra IPA – yep, this was an IPA. Bitter, hoppy, lovely. Dry grapefruit notes
  • Tofino Brewery Hoppin’ Cretin’ IPA – YUM! So balanced, so clean, so awesome. This is how you do an IPA.
  • Tree Brewing Vertical Winter Ale – caramel-vanilla marshmallows. That probably shouldn’t be good but it is.
  • Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique – OH CRAP! The Quebecois always know how to make a beer. Lingering chocolate flavour.
  • Trou du Diable Shawnigan Handshake – notes say “grabbed this cos no saison” (the saison was unavailable and we were suddenly on a saison kick of sorts) and I assume that was me, not the other half. Anyway it didn’t go down very well as it was far too lagery for me. The other half liked it so we did a beer swap. Described as a hybrid between IPA and a Hefeweizen so I really should have just queued for another beer.
  • Trou du Diable La Mosure (cask) – no tasting notes. I’m guessing I was pretty over IPAs at this point.
  • Wellington Brewery Imperial Stout – yep, it’s an imperial stout. That’s about it, in a good way
  • Wellington Brewery County Ale – probably should have had this earlier in the day. Lovely malty bitterness. I do like malt.

BC beer travels 2012 - Part 1: Vancouver


As usual, after many (many!) months I have finally put together my notes from our beer-related times in Canada. Big surprise, we once again went to BC in August/September for beer and kayaking and multiple trips to MEC.

I kept note of beers we tried and attempted to say something about them but at some stage I think I had a grand plan of incorporating this into a tale of the places we went to get these beers. At least that’s the way I’ve tried to structure this and it ends up being a weird mélange of pub, liquor store and beer thoughts. I swear I get lazier and lazier on each trip with this, so I’ll try…  At times I’ve just quoted my notes directly; either because I was lazy or because they made me laugh for some reason. I tried to condense all of this for an article in The Pursuit of Hoppiness as well. If you’re interested it’s available here.

BC Liquor stores


These are government owned liquor stores and tend to be relatively easy to find. Their beer selection is okay, and you can find some of the better known crafty stuff, but most is the stock-standard “I would rather drink water” beer. Still, there is one store conveniently located about 5 minutes from the HI Hostel we frequent. Not long after our 12 or so hour flight to Vancouver we were picking up some beer. And it was of course our old favourite – Red Racer (Central City Brewing Company).

Tap and Barrel

This was our first “pub” of the visit and was still in pre-opening. We had (okay I had) just spent up large at MEC and realised it was essentially a downhill walk to get to the old Olympic Village (the new place to be really). We quickly decided to head upstairs: no need for a table (and there was probably a wait for one of those) as we were more than happy to sit at the bar. Tap and Barrel only have local beer on tap and also have wine on tap (I was too busy drinking beer to partake). They also have a patio and the views are absolutely amazing. 

Here we met a crazy guy at the bar (I left the other half to talk to him) and an awesome bartender. This guy recommended beers to us and filled table orders while holding conversations with us. He was extremely knowledgeable about craft beer and was also a fellow homebrewer. I did have to explain what BIAB (Brew in a Bag) was though. We saw him at a distance while at the GCBF (Great Canadian Beer Festival) but sadly didn’t get another chance to chat with him.

Our second visit was after a nice leisurely walk along the seawall from Granville Island in the lovely (ie. hot) end-of-summer temperatures. I was definitely ready for a beer. This time we sat outside on the patio and ordered a giant pretzel each, fresh from the woodfire oven. Mmmmmmm. Yes. Anyway, our server was pretty onto it with the beer but not as knowledgeable as our favourite bartender. He did remember our names though and it’s at times like those I catch myself thinking about the service you get when you’re actually tipping. And yes I completely agree with those of you who will say tipping doesn’t guarantee good service, but in most cases I have found the service excellent. Maybe we are just such awesome customers? :P

The beers:

We were introduced to two new beers that really stood out. The first was Crannog Ales Gael’s Blood Potato Ale. I could see this as a sessionable ale and it had lovely malt flavours and was lightly hopped. The second was the Driftwood Farmhand Pale Ale. Up to this point a saison, or similar, was never a win for me. This was lovely and had the flavour of a Belgian beer without the huge alcohol hit, ie. as my notes say, sessionable! It was also a little fruity as you would expect. Naturally we also reacquainted ourselves with some Red Racer IPA and ESB. No notes on those; I’ve talked those to death in the past. We also tried another Driftwood offering, the Fat Tug IPA, which was again lovely and had the typical IPA passionfruit aromas in addition to some fresh hop aromas, was bitter but not overly so, and was generally just a well-rounded IPA. I’m sure I revisited this one at least once on our trip. We also shared a Russell Wee Angry Scotch Ale which we had previously only tried in a bottle. That was probably on our second day in the country so my body was enjoying the lovely summer weather but my head was still constantly trying to drive me to dark beers and this one worked. Yummy rich, burnt taffee or dark candi sugar flavours. On the second visit, I started with a Howe Sound Baldwin and Cooper Best Bitter which was a nice simple bitter (but not overly bitter). Good to sit in the sun with.

Legacy Liquor Store (Olympic Village)

Probably on the advice of our awesome bartender at Tap and Barrel we stumbled across the road after our drinks to explore the awesomeness that was this liquor store. After stocking up we then got to water taxi back to the hostel (this has to be the best way to get home from the pub :P). 

Here we employed the, “they’re looking at beers we like so let’s ask the random stranger for some recommendations”. 

The beers:

  • Spinnakers Ales Mitchell’s ESB - a nice bitter with some nice malt flavours but felt a little light.
  • Hoyne Brewing Co. Dark Matter - came recommended by one of the strangers. Awesome name and awesome bottle. Toasty and yummy but not too thick.

I'm sure we must have picked up some others here but I just can't find the evidence!

Central City Brewing Company (Restaurant and Liquor Store)

The section in which I try not to once again declare my undying love for Red Racer… We braved the 3-zone SkyTrain trip out to the deep dark reaches of Surrey (I go on what I’ve been told…). It was a breeze getting there and all we saw of Surrey was the SkyTrain station and Central City, which is actually located on a university campus. It was a Monday night which meant $12 pitchers. Hello ESB. I also had a Stout for dessert before we headed to their liquor store. We had some fun there, including finding three 8 Wired Brewing beers!



The other beers (from the liquor store):

  • Russell Barrel-aged Anniversary Scotch Ale - definitely got the hints of bourbon from the barrel-ageing and behind that were some lovely rich, roasty, malt notes.
  • Cannery Squire Scotch Ale - cleaner than we were used to for a scotch and not as heavy.
  • 2010 Pike Old Bawdy Barley Wine (OG 1.096) - and here I gush. My notes simply say: “OH MY GOD! I may marry this beer”
  • Central City IIPA - far too drinkable for 9.5%. Tasted less bitter than the IPA and certainly didn’t notice the alcohol on the taste.
  • Hopworks Galactic Imperial Red - awesome label but was rather sharp. Was hoping for a lot more with this. I’m assuming by “more” I meant more flavour or depth or variety of flavour… something along those lines.
  • Lighthouse Dark Chocolate Porter – had a light chocolate nose and was nice but a bit simple.
  • Central City Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine, 2012 vintage, bouron-barrel aged (limited release) - did I read my notes right? Did I say “noms”? Anyway, this was 11.5% and I figured it would probably kick our asses. But we survived. Maybe got some butterscotch from it but apparently I tried to describe the aroma and got high from the smell.

Firefly Fine Wine and Ales

Such an awesome beer selection. I almost froze standing in the walk-in-chiller trying to choose...

The beers:

  • Mt Begbie Brewing Co. Nasty Habit IPA - stuffed up with my beer buying and ended up with two bottles of this. Luckily it was lovely and we subsequently had one to bring back to NZ to share with friends. Nicely balanced IPA.
  • Phillips Longboat Chocolate Porter - loved the chocolate on this. Was drinking it from a plastic glass (beggars can’t be choosers) and wasn’t sure if it was due to that, but tasted a bit like chocolate-covered wafers.
  • Phillips Hoperation Tripel Cross Belgian IPA - not sure about the Belgian part and an “average IPA I guess?”
Again I KNOW there were other beers purchased here. Some came back to NZ with us so I don't have notes...

Alibi Room

Oh hi. It took us awhile to get back here (disgusting behaviour, I should be slapped) and it’s still AWESOME. A constantly changing double-sided A4 beer list greets you at your seat and the staff know their stuff. On our second visit we met up with some fellow kayakers/homebrewers who are also CAMRA members. Basically, they’re the Canadian us. They found me some time ago on flickr due to my plethora of beer and kayaking related photos in Canada. They whipped out their CAMRA card for discount and we stared sadly at our SOBA cards until we realised our cards were actually cooler (theirs are laminated card). Anyway..

The beers:

  • Parallel 49 Gypsy Tears - the new kid on the block with many great reviews. Unfortunately they didn’t have much on offer that suited my tastes but I gave this one a try anyway. Was a fairly simple amber but had some nice light bitterness. Was a good beer to start with but got a bit largery at the end.
  • Hopworks Velvet Organic ESB – this was the other half’s starter for the night and again, it was a good starter. Subtle and simple.
  • Alameda Brewing Barn Owl Imperial Brown Ale - my notes say: “BEAUTIFUL”. Chocolate, porter, roasty (maybe slightly burnt) flavours. Further in I started to get the alcohol and was reminded of an imperial porter.
  • Alameda Brewing Yellow Wolf IIPA - the other half was drinking this while I had the Barn Owl and they contrasted perfectly. This had massive lime zest and grapefruit notes.
  • Elysian Dragonstooth Imperial Stout - oh the Dragonstooth………….. Had a small one to finish. This was super smoooooth and the real flavour came later (was potentially a little too cold to start). Originally got some bacon notes which didn’t go down well with me and then I continued to say it was smooooooth and yummy. On our second trip I think I ordered a pint of this. Didn’t take notes but I’m sure I still thought it was smooth and yummy :P
  • Red Racer ESB Centennial Dry Hop (cask) - it’s Red Racer. It’s the ESB. It was dry hopped and served in a cask. Of course we loved it.
  • Tariq Khan’s nitro-pour English Porter - if I thought the Dragonstooth was smooth this was on another level. Creamy smooth from the nitro-pour. Awesome
  • Tariq Khan’s Wrath of Khan IPA - this would have been the other half’s beer. Slightly grassy.

St Augustine’s

When we found this place in 2010 it was by accident. This time we knew exactly where we were going and only made it on our second last day in Canada. Where to start with St Augustine’s? They have 40-odd local(ish) beers on tap and an LCD screen that shows you what is on tap and what % of the keg is left. Here we started out with tasting paddles, partly because of that huge range.

The beers:


  • For me: Pyramid Thunderhead IPA, Elysian Men’s Room Red, Storm Brewing Scottish Highland Cream Ale, Tenaya Creek Brewing Hop Ride IPA.
    • The Elysian was nice simply because it wasn’t an IPA and I could easily have had more of this. The cream ale was very well done; creamy at the front and easy drinking at the back and only 5%. The Hop Ride was quite zesty and I noted that their malt list was interesting (?). A quick look on tells me: 2-row, wheat, Vienna and caramel. They also used Summit hops for bittering, Ahtanum for aroma and then dry-hopped with Ahtanum, Challenger and Chinook.
  • For the other half: Anderson Valley Boont ESB, Les Trois Mousequetaires Baltic Porter, Storm Black Plague Stout and Les Trois Mousequetaires Dopplebock
    • I didn’t write notes about his but I’m sure they were dark and boozy :)
  • Then in a full pint: Sierra Nevada Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale - yum (I need to extend my vocabulary); light roastiness, essentially a light porter?