Friday, January 11, 2013

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?

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