VCBW and the Leading EDGE… Or “Why I’m Not So Sure Craft Can Do Lager but We Should all Enjoy VCBW Anyways…

Alright, So VCBW is quickly approaching! What is VCBW? It’s the best beer bash in Vancouver, or really BC! Just take a look at some of the offerings:

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VCBW 2018 Festival Highlights 

  • 100 + breweries and cideries pouring more than 300 beers and ciders
  • Festivalgoers can create a list of must-try breweries and favourite standout beers in advance through the VCBW website
  • More food trucks
  • BC Ale Trail-er pouring 8 or more craft breweries from the furthest reaches of B.C.’s Ale Trail
  • Craft Beer Market lounge and games area
  • BC Farm Crafted Cider Association’s cider row featuring 10 cideries pouring 16 different ciders
  • United States Brewers Association has chosen the VCBW as their exclusive Canadian festival partner three years in a row. They are crossing the border to pour 30+ beers, many of which have never been poured in Canada
  • Live interactive painting with Vancouver Mural Festival 
  • Floral leis and crown-making from the Leis de Buds solar powered flower bus
  • Dedicated Evo valet parking
  • Live music lineup includes DJ Hebegebe, Dakota Pearl, the Prettys, Youngblood, Mark Woodyard & Friends, the Great Speckled Fritillary, the Spillionaires, Tanglers and GI Blunt

 

VCBW 2018 Festival 

  • Saturday, June 2 from 2p.m. to 7p.m., and Sunday, June 3 from 12p.m. to 5p.m. at the PNE Fairgrounds, Vancouver. Single day, weekend passes and VIP tickets available now at VancouverCraftBeerWeek.comstarting at $39.

 

Why do I love it so much? Because with so many Breweries in one spot you really begin to see where the leading Edge is in Vancouver Beer, you can taste the trends, ride the flavour wave, and vive en vogue (I don’t speak French so I really went out an limb with that one).

For example, Hazy beer really made a splash at the event last year, not only were several breweries pouring the stuff, The VCBW beer (A collab amongst Brewers Row) was a delicious Hazy pale ale with passion fruit and guava.

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This year I’ve heard over and over this is the year of the Lager… I’ve heard this before too, but people are saying it again so lets address it.

Craft breweries have started putting out a lot of Lagers lately, lets list some: Slow Hand Pilsner, Haus Lager, Good Company Lager, Sneaky Weasel, P49 Lager, Back to Basics X 2, there is some older one’s too like Pixel Pils and various Granville Island offerings. Hey Even the next VCBW Collab Beer is a Lager (which I honestly can’t wait to crush at the Opening Night Crusher.)

(Respective instagrams: @goodcompanylager, @slowhandbeer and @haus.beer)

       Even so a lot of releases a trend does not make, here is why:

  • People need to actually want it.

Yes everyone who drinks craft beer wants to convert all their friends to craft beer. We all think that finding just the right transition beer is gonna be the trick, except why would it? If I’m trying to get my friend to enjoy a bison burger instead of Mcdonalds, does it make sense to take out all of the flavour from that bison burger, and make it really thin? Nah because what makes that bison delicious and what makes craft beer delicious is the flavour. If they don’t want it, they don’t want it.

  • Macro Beer is probably better at making Lagers.

Yea so here is the crazy thing about making craft beer, craft beer brewers have no comparative advantage relative to Macro Brewers in terms of production. Macro Brewers are much more efficient, or in other words make beer much more cheaply. The reason we love craft beer isn’t because its cheaper but because its of higher quality… I know you all know this. But Macro Brewers can probably make better lagers, here is why:

  1. Lagers need to be aged (or lagered) much longer than ales. Usually around 6 weeks… That is often double what a craft brewery does with ales and thus makes it much more expensive to produce, so often lager is released young by craft brewers.
  2. Lagers have nothing to cover up flaws and thus really need to be flawless to be good. Craft brewers are great but not perfect, often times those ales we all love have minute problems overcome by hopping or malt or more emphasized flavours. This cannot happen the same way with a Lager, and most craft breweries don’t have nearly the same depth of knowledge to get it just right.
  3. Macro Brewers have a lot of resources in order to get it right. Macro breweries have huge teams to ensure quality (relative term) and consistency. They have sensory analysts, bacterial scientists, and they can afford to dump a tank (something few craft brewers will do).

So am I saying go grab a Coors or Bud Light? No (but some of Vancouver’s best brewers would happily enjoy a Coors), But do check out Pilsner Urquell and Czechvar if you are interested in High Quality Lagers. Unlike American Macro’s who use substandard ingredients (rice) these European behemoths still seem somewhat committed to the craft… maybe I’ll explain why someday (communism and stuff… maybe another live video?)

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GREAT PEOPLE: @Seatoskybeerguy and @andinabrewingco, photo by @bcbeerguy

To end this thing I will say Hopped lagers have a chance. The hops may cover some imperfections and make them more flavourful to new drinkers. The key will be imbibing at the right time, maybe 6-12 weeks. In any case I’ll be first in line for the VCBW hoppy Lager.

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I Was Offered Free Beer, I Said No

I got offered free beer, and said “no”.

 

Occasionally I am offered free beer. It’s a nice gesture and its always appreciated. Often times it is informal and comes after I have already written something or have in the past made it clear it’s a product I enjoy. More rarely I get an e-mail offering me beer with an implied coverage exchange. I’ve said yes in the past, but this time I said “no”.

 

The first reason is basic, I already have enough beer. I know the beer geeks out there will say there is never “enough”, but there is. I have trouble getting through all the amazing beer I have, and I often have to force myself to drink things before they go bad.

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There is a feeling of obligation to provide some sort of positive coverage when given the free beer. This is basic human nature and in most cases a good thing… a little reciprocity never hurt anyone. Even so, in the last few years since I changed the focus of this blog I’ve realized what I really enjoy is pulling back the curtain on the beer industry just a little bit, and telling people when I think stuff isn’t great. There are so many great blogs out there telling people all the good things about beer, and I can’t out do them at that, I might as well do what I can do and get a little meta on the beer scene here and there. I know I can’t do that when I accept free beer in formal  exchange(just look at this article I wrote about Big Rock Beer years ago).

So, if you want my honest opinion on beer follow or continue to follow my instagram.

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I once used this crappy photo in a blog.

 

Finally, I don’t rate beer. I’ve explained why before but the gist of it is the experiential gap between me trying a beer and you trying a beer wherever is just too large to bridge well through a blog, beer is experiential I can’t tell you how to feel about it.

 

So what did I do? I recommended some great blogger friends who could help. I’m not lying when I said I appreciate what the brewery in question did when they offered me some beer. So much buzz is built through influencers (not so much me but the bigger blogs and instagrammers) it’s great to see a brewery trying to reward and get ahead of the curve.

An Inside Look at Selling Your Soul to the Crafty Beer Devil

Before I go further can I qualify the title as being purposely hyperbolic? There has been a trend in the recent year or so for people to describe my writing as view seeking, and purposely controversial… IT IS! My goal is to start a discussion, and if that happens because you strongly disagree so be it. So the above is not intended to single anyone person or brewery out but simply to  start a discussion… the more voices the better.

Marketing in Craft beer is hard, breweries are, at the end of the day, small businesses with little money for any sort of commercial advertising. They are also in competition with large breweries with multi-national marketing campaigns.

Craft Breweries often rely on influencers, people with large followings who are seen to be able to influence others. Think big bloggers and people with massive Instagram followings. Yes I am in this group too (although not to the same extent as some). In most cases influencers promote independently because they enjoy the craft.

Sometimes small brewers, realizing the value of influencers, will offer the influencers a product with no expectation of favourable promotion. I would say this is the most common form of influence peddling.

Sometimes breweries will offer free products in exchange for coverage, this is often the case for beer festivals, (I am currently covering the Coquitlam craft beer festival in exchange  for attendance). I would guess that 90% of influencers only accept these arrangements when they believe in the product.

Sometimes influencers will attempt to sell their influence too. For the record I have no problem with this as long as it is reasonably clear that some sort of exchange has taken place.

Sometimes Crafty beer companies owned by multi-million dollar corporations attempt influence influencers with a six pack…

I recently became privy to such an arrangement and I’d like to share of the broad strokeds of the arrangement with you my loyal readers.

So what does an influencer get for a 6 – pack of crafty seasonal ale? A bunch of headaches and 20 hours of unpaid work.

Crafty Beer companies are happy to give you six seasonal ales if:

You consider their values:

Make sure you read all about their branding and keep it in mind as you work like an unpaid intern all weekend. Don’t forget to have people in your totally candid un-candid photo and make sure you include lifestyle too. Lifestyle is a big deal and they want as much lifestyle as humanly possible, because their brand is really about lifestyle.

You follow the rules like, no filters (gets in the way of the lifestyle), the brand (which is lifestyle) is front and centre, not overly posed (they want authentic lifestyle), Beer is unopened, Glasses are full, one beer per person… it goes on and on.

by the way you MUST NOT SHOW ANY DRINKING… because drinking is not part of the lifestyle they wish to portray (ok I’m pretty sure this is a law thing but whatever).

So you do all of this for a multi-national corporation worth millions… and you get 12 bucks worth of mediocre beer. More than anything I think we are under valuing ourselves.

 

Conclusion:

What I enjoy about craft beer, among any other things, is that so much of it is sold by word of mouth. A friend or friend of friend whose taste you are just in sync with, a beer that blows up on Instagram, a name or label so infamous you just have to know… Craft Beer remains authentic in our hyper commercial society, but this style of inauthentic blatantly posing as authentic is a step too far from me… I wasn’t asked but i won’t participate.

 

 

 

Factory Brewing and Craft Beer Labels

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Factory Brewing is the contract brewing arm of Direct Tap located in their legitimizing East Van space just off Clarke. This Brewery does not brew their own beer rather they brew beer for others… like who?

Well have you seen a lot more Doan’s beer available? That because most of the Doan’s beer is brewed out of Factory Brewing.

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Happy Packs don’t get made in small former houses in East van Breweries… they get made in factories.

Its a fairly simple system Doan’s develops a recipe, they hand it over to Factory, Factory’s brewer with the guidance and oversight of one of the several Doans brews the beer and package it. Ok sounds pretty good… more Doans right?

Who else, well there was talk of some of the larger American craft producers producing some of their beer at factory to skirt tax and import duties just like a branch plant you remember learning about in grade 10 social studies, y’know prior to NAFTA when Canada could put duties on cars imported to Canada so American car manufactures opened up plants in Oshawa and Windsor and gave a generation of high school graduates good paying jobs that pay for homes they would use in their twilight years to lament the laziness of those damn millenials? REMEMBER THOSE? Anyways I haven’t seen anything of that sort yet…

What we have got in spades is Craft Beer brands. Craft Beer made without a home brewery or craft beer companies producing beer on contract basis with another brewery.

Have you heard of Two Wolves? They are all over the place blasting e-mails and facebook announcement anytime another bottle shop takes them on… well they don’t have an actual brewery.

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That’s some slick marketing, slick indeed.

Ever heard of Smugglers’ Trail Caskworks? Nope, no one has they are really bad at social media, and well any media generally… Again no Brewery.

So is this a big deal? Well yea a little. The person executing your recipes isn’t beholden to you, he doesn’t care about your ridiculously named fantasy brewery (Smugglers’ Trail Caskworks? did you just pick 3 alcohol related words from a list and then tack on “works” at the end?) So lets put it to the test and give these a go shall we?

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“So, does anyone know how do a website?” “Well i had a pretty sweet myspace back in 03” “Ok just make sure our logo is a vague rip off of the Vancouver Giants logo”

First up Two Wolves Great Plains Brown Ale

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Dark with good body, and fairly rich. Not especially interesting but a fine example of the style!

I give this a B+ would drink again.

We’ll leave the Smugglers Cove until next week…

Twin Sails 2nd Anniversary

They grow up so fast don’t they? Twin Sails which started as quaint suburban spot for continental ales and Lagers, has become one of the most innovative spots in BC. This Saturday, mere weeks from winning seven BC beer awards Twin (As its known on The RowCelebrates year 2. Twin will be having a party on Friday night, and a big release Saturday morning.

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What to expect on the Friday:

If you are planning on going… GET THERE EARLY. Last year there were lines, this year there will be more.

Incredible Beers… There is no less than 8 releases on Saturday and I would expect most if not all on draught Friday.

What to expect on Saturday:

More LINES… people will line up, things could sell out, be ready for people to mule beer, and get there early if you have to have something.

RELEASES:

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– Space Armadillo – Double IPA
– Boysen The Hood – Boysenberry Double Milkshake IPA
– Bière de Crabe – Saison w/ Crab, lemon peel & sea salt (Dunham Collaboration)
– Farmhouse Saison – Aged 1yr in red wine barrels on Cherries & Blackberries
– Dry Hopped Sour IPA – Fermented on lacto in Chardonnay barrels for 3 months, then blended and dry hopped before bottle conditioning (Field House Collaboration)- Home Ec – Tiramisu Imperial Stout (SOV collaboration)
– 1yr Bourbon barrel aged Imperial Stout
– 1yr Rum barrel aged Imperial Con Leche

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Coalesce Beer Joins the Fold

Well after months of keeping it under my hat it’s finally time to let the cat out of the bag (two cliches, one sentence…) Coalesce Beer has its first release on Saturday. Coalesce has a very cool focus, and I wont try to speak for them so here is how the family run brewery describe themselves:

“family brewing company specializing in mixed fermentation and wood aged beer”

“Seasonality means a lot to us, and for us brewing seasonally is not about brewing a beer for the season, but rather using local produce and ingredients that inspire us and are at their best in that season. Today we brewed a beer with a variety of heirloom squash from @sapobravoorganics which we charred over wood coals. 
This beer will ferment and rest in barrels until maturity, whenever that may be, and may be very “unseasonal” upon release, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

These guys have a clear philosophy that will no doubt be reflected in the beer. I expect see most if not all beers from Coalesce spend some time in barrels and again most if not all be bottle fermented.

 

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Coalesce Beer Instagram

 

Where to find

Coalesce Beers share space with Twin Sails Brewing and will undoubtedly release on weekends that Twin Sails brewing does not. It seems they will have a keg on draught to try with this release but I doubt that will always be the case. The First release “Foreward” a “mixed fermentation ale inspired by the historical saison style. Foreword was brewed with oats, spelt malt and raw wheat and hopped judiciously with Hallertau Hersbrucker and Saaz. The beer was fermented dry with a mixed culture of Sacchromyces, Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus in freshly emptied BC Chardonnay barrels, where it rested for 3 months until mature. It was then refermented and conditioned naturally in the bottle for an additional 3 months.”

Vitals:

Release 12pm 500mL, 6.2% abv, and 21 IBU. 45 cases for sale, 10$ per bottle and a 6 bottle per person limit.

I expect line ups and a sell out.

Brewers Row, the best place to grab a Pint in Canada, just got even more Dynamic.

#VCBW IP HAZY, IS BC HAZY BEER UP TO SNUFF?!

Thanks to the awesome team at Vancouver Craft Beer Week I was recently able to attend #IP HAZY at the Lamp Lighter which was:

“Their first ever Whole Hog Cookout + Crawfish Boil. They’ll be spinning a full pig on the patio while they boil up a massive pot of spicy & seasoned crawfish & veg. While you feast you can sample the Haziest selection of IPAs available”

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Cred- @brewersrow give your head a shake if you don’t follow this page. click the photo for a link…

I came with one question: IS BC HAZY BEER UP TO SNUFF?!

The event featured Hazy beer from A number of BC craft breweries including Hearthstone, Moody Ales, Twin Sails, R and B Brewing, Howe Sound, and Aslan and Brewers Row Collab.

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Photo Cred to @beerthirst please check out their page!

Please keep in mind i’ve scoured the US of A for the best HAZY offerings and had the white whales of Tree House, Trillium, Mumford, Monkish, Pure Project et al. I feel pretty confident in giving you guys an honest opinion of how our shit stacks up.

So does it stack up? YES!… and no….

There is some top notch stuff being produced right now in BC hazy beer, stuff so good its easily as good as the stuff sourced from the states these beers include:

the Superflux Colour and Shape, Twin Sails High Socks (not even the best hazy from twin) , The Moody Ales Huge Citra Pale Ale, R & B Shake your Frooty and the VCBW Brewers Row Collab. Others not at this event but great hazy examples include The rest of TS and Superflux Hazy offerings, Boombox and I’m sure some more by now.

Unfortunately, there are some less than great examples of the style here too and i would recommend not spending your cash on these ones:

Phillips Flamango Milkshake IPA and Howe Sound Hazy Daze NE IPA.

So what did I learn? Well even though its a brand new style to our region we have some world class NE  Hazy style IPAs in BC. But with anything new there are some growing pains and stuff to stay away from.

Final Thoughts: Kudos to VCBW for a great event! I think the future of the event is in these focused events like the IP HAZY.

http://vancouvercraftbeerweek.com

A Guide to the #BeerTrade

So, you want your fridge to look like mine:Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 2.51.25 PM.png=

Chock full of the latest releases from the USA, Hazy IPAs Barrel aged Stouts et al.

The thing is you don’t want to mess with high shipping cost and fear of breaking cross border shipping laws, well here is the solution if you live in the Lower Mainland…

  1. First of all you need an instagram page… like mine:

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2. Start following some cool breweries, Like Monkish, Trillium and Treehouse and decide what you are looking for.

3. Also follow local breweries especially the photos of new releases.Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 3.06.03 PM.png

4. THIS IS KEY, scour the comments sections for three important letters “ISO”. ISO stands for “in search of” and indicates someone is looking for your local beers.

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5. Next take a look through this person’s profile and see if they have access to beers you are interested in. If so contact them politely and see if they are willing to trade.

NOTE: There are several different ways to trade, most often I trade can for can, but its not unheard of to trade dollar for dollar or to trade many beers for one beer etc. IT IS ILLEGAL TO SELL BEER. FINALLY throw is a can or two of your favourites, everyone does this and its great to try unknowns too!

6. Once you have decided on a trade pack a box there is an art and respect aspect to this so try this link http://homebrewacademy.com/how-to-ship-beer/

7. This is where the magic happens. After you have boxed your beer DO NOT SEAL THE BOX. You will drive the box over to the border and tell the Border guard what you are doing if it is your primary reason for going over the border. It is legal to bring the beer over the border and it is legal to ship beer with UPS, FEDEX etc. but NOT USPS. They may ask some questions don’t lie and be ready to answer truthfully.

8. Once you are across head to a shipping store like UPS in Blaine or Bellingham. Go ahead and ship the box, if they ask what it is I say salsa just because it keeps the process moving faster. You will pay significantly less shipping from the states.

9. to receive your beer set up an account with a service that receives packages just over the border like Pic It Up in Sumas. http://picitupinsumas.com

They have a flat 3 buck Canadian fee to pick up a package and good hours. When you head back over the border declare the beer you are bringing back. I have it on good authority that it is not worth the time of the guard to charge duty on anything less than 12 beers after a short stay in the US. Therefore do not bring back more than 12 beers.

NOTE: Make sure you have beer to trade that people actually want. Unfortunatley Canadian beer is really not a big deal in the States. They know little and want little of what we have. What they seem to like at the moment is Twin Sails Hazy beer program. outside of that they seem to care little. We can change this slowly by including other brewery’s beer as a “throw in” to expose them to more beers. I often throw in hazy beers from Yellow Dog, and Superflux. START BUILDING A TRADING INVENTORY:

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Hit/Miss Guide to BC New England/Vermont/East Coast IPA

See your way out kettle sours, there is a new style in town, whose name is hard to pin down and who likes things opaque… the New England/Vermont/East Coast IPA. This new style is pushing the scene forward and i have been searching them out as fast as I can to get the freshest “JUICE”. If you want to get in on it, take a look of my hits and misses.

Ok, what typifies this style? Well it depends what circles you run in but relative a west coast IPA the New England/Vermont/East Coast IPA is:

often more diverse in grain bill, and therefore could result in a more balanced beer.

very often very opaque, often more so than a wheat beer, this occurs for many reasons. It could be due to different grains leaving more micro-sediments in the beer, it could be the yeast by the brewer, it could be fruit particles, in most cases its due to the large amount of dry hopping or lupulin powder.

often fruit is added to accentuate flavour, and occasionally lactose is added (milkshake IPA) to play with the sweetness further.

Often they taste much less bitter than your west coast IPA.

So, they are supposed to look like this:

 

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Photo Credit @BrewsBabesBanny

Don’t Forget this beers are best fresh and can often sell out so here are the ones worth searching out and here are… some others

MUST DRINKS!

Super Flux Shape and Colour– OK, I must admit this is the only one one on the list i haven’t got my hands on… but thats because its gone nearly as quickly as its released. Even so, its had near universal acclaim from those lucky enough to get some. So, if you get some let me know.

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credit-@superfluxbeer

Boombox Brewing- A spiritual successor to Machine/Superflux (at least in my head), brewing out of Callister is Boombox. Boombox doesn’t only do Juice Bomb East Coast ETC IPAs, but they usually have one on tap. I’ve had enough to know that when I see “Boombox” and “NE” near each other its a definite Pint. Releases happen on wednesday… get there.

 

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credit- @boomboxbrewing

Twin Sails Brewing pretty much all their tall can releases- A BREWard Inlet staple that totally reinvented itself Twin Sails has released a plethora of Hazy Juice bombs since summer time with no signs of stopping. In fact words a new line of beers will start to be released tasting room only, making the beers even rarer. Personal Favourites include Space Armadillo, Slam Dank, and newly released in collaboration with Boombox Brewing Tone Def.

 

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credit- @carnellsitka

Steamworks Flagship IPA- This BC beer of the year is the only juice bomb sold as a 6 pack and perhaps is the best suited to be sessioned. This Hazey IPA is in my opinion a better bridge from the west coast style than the others mentioned here, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack a juice punch. Its also likely the most widley available so if you are new to Juice, start here.

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credit-@steamworksbeer

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Yellow Dog High 5 Hazy IPA- I’m not sure if this one is still around, but if it is its worth having. I personally feel the first batch was better than the second but both are great beers. This one, when it is around, is also available in cans.

Bridge East Coast IPA- All I remember about this one is i liked it. Wish i could be more specific.

misses…

I hate to do this, but at this point early in the Hazy game i’d stay away from these guys… or convince your buddy to buy it for the bottle share… anyways…

R and B – Milk Shake IPA

Field House –  East Coast IPA

Bridge – The Fuzz

Sartori Harvest… doesn’t meet the hype

The good folks at Driftwood make some fine lagers and ales. In fact they have such a grand reputation for making fine lagers and ales they have built up a bit of a cult. Among their cult worthy beers like Birds of Prey and the almighty Fat Tug is the King of cult beer thing (i’m out of metaphors and buzzed, ok): Sartori Harvest. I’ve been looking for this beer for years and finally got my hands on some. I couldn’t wait to drink it so i made a video instead:

So, whilst being a decent IPA its not a euphoric state inducing, epiphany causing IPA. The hop flavour is great but the construction is a bit of a mess, poor balance, pour mouthfeel, maybe even some off flavour. Is it worth trying? Yea but one is enough.

DRIFTWOOD Sartori Harvest- 3.25/5