My top 10 stouts that I had in 2015

1. 2013 Bourbon County Brand Stout
2. 2015 Abraxas Perennial Brewing

3. 2015 Parabola Firestone Walker

4. 2015 Xocoveca Stone Brewing

5. Sump Perennial Brewing

6. Mint Chocolate Stout Perennial Brewing

7. 2014 Bourbon County Brand Stout

8. Cavitica Fort George Brewing

9. 2015 BA Oatmeal Stout Townsite Brewing

10. Mexican Cake Westbrook Brewing

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Whistler Brewing Dunkel

The Whistler Brewing Dunkel is a very popular annual seasonal release.  Usually Brewing starts in September and they have been doubling their batch year after year to try to keep up with the demand, with the tap room kegs usually being sold out by Christmas.  I of course contribute to that problem.  Last year alone I drank 25 growlers, pretty much one a day until it was sold out.  This year they released their 650ml bomber bottles on December 1st and they have been holding back the release of the kegs to the tap room in the hopes that it will last through the holiday season.

A couple years ago I started roughly experimenting with cellaring beers on a small scale (a couple bottles) to challenge if it was worth it and I haven’t had a bad result so far (as I knock on the wood coffee table).  In December of 2014 I bought a couple last bottles of Dunkel in an effort to cellar them.  Firstly I couldn’t resist one last consumption in early January and ended up with just one bottle, paper bagged and put in the back of the fridge.  All other times I have cellared I have kept bottles down by the front door where it was cooler and dark, however in early 2015 I moved into a condo.  In the condo heat control has left me pretty powerless beyond opening the windows and tempering with rain and daily changes of temperature, so thus the fridge is my best choice for cellaring.

On December 1st I picked up two bottles from this years edition, one to enjoy and the other to do a two year vertical tasting.  Consistently the recipe remains the same so this would be a great comparison.

Starting with the 2014 bottle aged for 14 months.  The pour is exactly the same holding a good head of foam and bursting with the full aromatics like I had mixed up the bottles.  The mouth feel was much smoother and mellow compared to the bursting aromatics.  The dark malts were much more present with the chocolate being much softer and silkier.  The orange and coriander were also very light on the palate.  As the beer warms it becomes very creamy and the spice rears its head and over powers the orange and the malts.

The 2015 was much more predictable, much edgier with bright orange and spice on the nose and in the mouth feel.  The orange and coriander spice carry through well into the finish as it smooths out.  The chocolate is present but the other malts don’t shine through whatsoever.  This beer has great balance and is consistent in its flavour all the way through to the last sip.

This was a great experiment and this year I will be sure to get a couple bottles to share the love next year.

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Craft Brewery Tour Vancouver Part One

With dozens of craft breweries, brewpubs and  in Vancouver and the lower mainland, it is both convenient to find craft beer and hard to choose which brewery you will go to and then which style of beer that they have available to enjoy.  I have this same problem each time I go to the city, yes of course I’d love to go to Four Winds, P49, Bier Craft, The Portland, Powell St, and Dageraad on each trip, but that’s not always possible.

Throughout the summer I made several trips to the city and as always I am looking for something different.  Generically I am always looking for firstly an IPA, secondly a stout and thirdly something Belgian/sour.  Now stouts are a little harder to find and are definitely a seasonal style. IPAs are easier to find, however the styles of IPAs vary from season to season.  Now Belgian styles are amazing, the way they can use their yeast strains to bring out the best and most unique flavours from their hops, grain, fruit and herbs.

This summer I visited Steamworks, 33 Acres, Brassneck, P49, Strange Fellows, Postmark, Main St, Black Kettle, Deep Cove, Bridge, and Steel Toad.  As well I managed visit some other great spots around the city that had some excellent beers on tap.

I stopped in at Steamworks in Burnaby on a sunny afternoon in August and I was pleasantly surprised by the amount space that they have in their tasting room and I think it would  a great place for an event.  I sat down and started with a glass of Frambozen, which was a nice relief in the afternoon heat.  After that I met up with John Folinsbee the lead brewer at Steamworks, he took me through their production facility and proved this isn’t just your neighbourhood brewpub.  Seeing the brewing process, including using a hop back on most of their brews, their science room (which I could spend days in their watching all the processes), canning line in full operation, conditioning tanks, oak barrels for aging and their huge walk-in hop storage fridge.  I can really appreciate the amount of money they continually re-invest in the business of making better beer through premium equipment, locally sourced ingredients whenever available and supporting community events and non profit organizations.  My favourite brews include the Jasmine IPA, Heroica Red, my favourite Pilsner on the market.

I had the chance to stop by Bridge Brewing in North Vancouver with a couple of great friends a few months ago and I need to stop in again soon.  Since moving from their original opening location Jeremy and his team have been able to take on a lot more projects like their holding tank of sour, the bourbon barrel aged Grinch and I’d like to see what else Jeremy is working on.  I find that Bridge is actually taking a step in a different brewing direction than most breweries are.  They have developed a great partnership with Tap and Barrel and they are helping each other to build their businesses through great tasting craft beer.  My favourites are their Blood Orange Bourbon red ale, and their Hopilano IPA.  I will also admit that they brew my favourite West Coast Pale Ale in their North Shore Pale Ale.

Stay tuned for Part two coming soon!

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BC Craft Beer Tour Victoria

A couple days after finishing the start of our little brewery tour and some relaxing time in Parksville and Nanaimo, Lochlun and I made the journey through Duncan on our way to Victoria.  Thank you to my brother Mike and his wife Jen for hosting us for our 2 day stay.  Lochluns favourite part was hiking up to the top of Mount Doug and enjoying the 360 degree views on a spectacular blue bird day.

Our first stop after leaving Nanaimo was for lunch in Duncan and I had heard a few good things about Craig St Brewing.  Upon arriving at the brew pub we were refused entry because I had a minor and despite that the liquor laws have changed to allow minors in that “type” of establishment.  Strike one.  We were advised to visit their neighbouring restaurant for lunch, it wasn’t all that bad after all they had a nice upstairs area that would’ve been perfect for a pool table.  We sat down and I was little bogged down by the excessively large menu and the small beer menu.  There was no IPA so I went with the Arbutus Pale Ale which left nothing to be desired after the first sip.  Beyond that the service was horrible, I do not recommend bothering to stop here for quality craft beer.

We continued on with our drive to Victoria.  Later in the evening my brother and I headed downtown to tour a few local brew pubs.  Now before continuing on I have visited Vic before and I have had the pleasure to visit various great beer pouring houses including Phillips, Bard and Banker, Driftwood and so on.  That night we were celebrating my brothers 31st so we headed for some spots I haven’t previously had the chance to visit.

We started the night at Moon Under Water, as expected it was busy but managed to find a spot to sit and have a quick pint before moving on.  We would’ve stayed for a second but felt very unwelcome because we weren’t participating in their music bingo night.  Next we were up for a bit of a walk to get over to the Canoe Brewpub.  The pub was packed, I loved the décor and location.  We sat on the bar side and I was happy with the excellent service level.  We got a couple of IPA’s each, relaxed, enjoyed the scenery and a couple of great brews.  I wouldn’t hesitate stopping by this place again soon.  The last place we hit up that night was Swans.  This place was also pumping with people and tunes, we grabbed a seat on the atrium and waited for some friends to show up.  A couple pints later and I couldn’t stop thinking about trying the Coconut Porter which was to be released soon, when we were accosted by a cougar for a dance and since I was the only single one, I was happy to take one for the team.

Swans was a fun spot, but the winner for the night was Canoe, their IPA is delicious and its well worth the stop next time you are in our Capital.

For my next blog I will be writing about a couple of my quick and recent trips to the lower mainland.  These include stops at Steel Toad, 33 Acres, Bier Craft, Steamworks, Brassneck, Strange Fellows, Big Ridge and B’s Craft Beer Lounge.

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BC Craft Beer tour Sunshine Coast

It as been quite awhile since I last published a blog post and I have been busy exploring many new and old craft breweries in south western BC.

In September I took a trip with my son Lochlun and we explored the sunshine coast and Vancouver Island visiting the hop farm, brewery and rustic tasting room at Persephone Brewing in Gibsons, Townsite Brewing in Powell River, and Gladstone Brewing in Courtney.

Persephone has something really unique going for them, they grow their own hops on their 11 acre farm and use only BC grain.  Earlier this summer they did a work party day and opened their doors to volunteers from around the community to come by and help them plant their 5 acre hop farm expansion. Thank you to Matt for showing me around the brewery production space, bottling line and the farm.  The beers that you must try from Persephone are the Goddess Golden Ale featuring a delicate herbal hop aroma and an assertive bitterness supported by a light biscuity malt character.  Also check out their other mainstays and seasonals such as the India Summer Ale, Dry Irish Stout, IPA, and Imperial Pilsner.

Later that same day we made it through he next ferry crossing and up to Townsite Brewing.  Lochlun loved this place as he got to step inside and see the fermentation tanks in the brewery and they had two cute little kittens they got the day before.  Thank you Andrea for everything, Lochlun keeps asking to come back again for a visit.  While I was their I really enjoyed their Blackberry Sour and the Tin Hat IPA.  Also check out the Shiny Penny, the Charleston and the 7800 Saison.

A couple days later we took the ferry across to Comox and stopped in at the new Gladstone brewery in Courtney.  This spot is really unique as they have a pizzeria that shares the buildings space.  The brewery has couple long public tables inside and then a great patio with individual tables outside.  For their tasting trays they have drilled 4 holes in old BC license plates with a wood base to serve instead of the classic wood paddle. They feature a very robust and tasty Porter that won a bronze medal at the 2015 Canadian Beer awards.  I also loved their IPA, with nice light malts that are complemented by a perfect balance of hops giving this beer an awesome grapefruit aroma and flavour profile.

Coming up in my next blog will be my visit to Victoria including Moon Under Water, Canoe and Swans.

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Barnstormer Saison IPA

Phillips Brewing is known for producing top quality and creative craft beers. I will always enjoy a pint of Amnesiac, Hop Circle, Unicorn or Crazy 8s.  On August 6th it was IPA Day and Phillips posted a photo of five of their IPA’s with this Barnstormer front and centre.  It only made sense for me to pick one up and check it out, well my excitement was soon crushed.

When I started this blog I had originally made a commitment to myself that I would only post positive posts and keep away from negative reviews.  After being urged by fellow craft beer enthusiasts, friends and even a head brewer at a craft brewery here in BC.  After a lot of thought and reflection I have decided that I need to tell the people about a few of the bad apples out there, so you don’t make the same mistake I do.

I didn’t bother contacting Phillips about this cause I knew my opinion would come into play and well that isn’t the best way to get the answers I need.

I was pleasantly surprised to see this weighing in at 7.2% ABV. The token Phillips description states that the “Barntstormer is a Saison IPA Hybrid, high flying funky flavours are deftly balanced wit citrus hops, landing softly with a clean dry finish”.  All alliteration aside, this is a false statement through and through, perhaps there is a touch of citrus hops, but there are no funky flavours.

This does not taste like a Saison or an IPA nor a blend of both.  At the same time its a drinkable beer with an amateur flavour profile. I hope the next creation is much better.

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Old Abbey Ales Belgian Tripel

Old Abbey Ales is a very new brewery on the craft beer scene here in the south west of British Columbia.  They hail from Abbotsford and as their namesake hints to they brew older style ales or real ales as they explain it on their bottles.  One of the best things they did upon opening was to start bottling their three flagship brews.  They brew a Belgian Quad, a Belgian IPA and a Belgian Tripel and I promise you, they are all tasting, hearty and well crafted beers.

You may be thinking wow those are three big challenging beers to brew for a new small brewery that’s invested so much in production, tap room and bottling at the initial start-up.  Well their proprietor Don Piccolo didn’t stop there, he put up some money to acquire a well seasoned and experienced brewing legend Tony Dewald who hails from Quebec.

I first heard of Old Abbey Ales back in May and I was happy to see them pouring their three flagship beers along with a 35 IBU Summer Saison at the Main Tasting Event at the Vancouver Beer Festival.  It was there I met Sandy, their beer slinging sales rep.  Now this guy knows his stuff and he is trying his best to get their bottles in every bottle shop around so he can share these top notch creations with the people.  It didn’t take long before I could pick up a bottle at my local bottle shop and I was glad I could, after doing my own tasting through their lineup again I have decided to review this very tasty Tripel.

This real ale is bottle conditioned thus creating natural carbonation and after triple fermentation weighs in at a hefty 9% and 30 IBUs.  Tony and his team threw in a healthy helping of Pilsner, Cara and Wheat malts and then equalised the Tripel with Magnum, East Kent Goldings along with a Belgian Ale yeast.  Personally being a hop head, I happen to know a few of he extra details for the hops used.  Magnum hops are a popular hop used in numerous other British Columbia craft breweries as a bittering hop.  Goldings hop is one of the oldest hops used in beers and is referred to as East Kent Goldings or Kent Goldings depending on where they are grown.  Either way Goldings hop is used heavily in dry hopping to improve the aromatics of the beer and has a low alpha acid percentage.  Sandy let me know that Tony does source his hops from a multitude of sources throughout the pacific northwest from suppliers that are providing them from their source.

In closing this beer has a solid malt backbone with a gentle hop profile that creates a very well balanced beer that is actually slightly sweet to taste and is warming to drink and well that is obviously due to the 9% ABV.  I recommend that if you don’t enjoy a tasty Belgian tripel, then try their IPA or the quad and check out what Old Abbey Ales has to offer both in their bottle and in their tap room.

Cheers!

  

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