Get Your Shit Together New Vancouver Breweries…

When I go to a brewery I don’t tell anyone who I am. Don’t get me wrong i don’t expect people to know who I am even if I told them, but I still don’t like mentioning I write a blog unless I am trying to get some specific information that really needs consent. I don’t tell because I don’t want to feel bad about telling the truth, when the truth is the beer sucks. I honestly believe if you are going to write a blog about anything you have to be willing to give your opinion, negative or positive… so here it is.

I’ve visited two newer Vancouver Breweries over the past several weeks and in short they were pretty underwhelming. Both Strathcona Brewing Faculty Brewing co. have a lot of work to do if they want to stay relevant.

 

1245

Strathcona presents as a Brand heavy brewery. Great Location in a “real”neighborhood. I say “Real” because it is, “strath” exists as one of the last Vancouver neighbourhoods with a community built outside of gentrification (even if it is on its way). Maybe thats why the cool brewery seems like an anti-septic juxtaposition dropped on the block in a “just-so” way… even the sex-trade workers seemed to give it a wide berth. I’ve been 3 times for some reason in the last month, each time I walk away less impressed. I could go on at length about the tasting room itself, but its not worth it. It’s nice, but an art room in a Strathcona brewery is just little pedantic, when you consider the local community- its just so Vancouver. The best beer I had here was the radler, upsetting as it also contained the least beer. The saison had only hints of the familiar farm house flavours, and the hoppy beers, the British IPA, Northwest Pale Ale, and the ISA, were nearly impossible to discern as distinct styles. These were definatley different beers but someone needs to take a trip to the UK. In short this brewery needs to get its shit together… because gentrification is still a few years away…

Also their website is just a video of people skateboarding… http://www.strathconabeer.com

 

lhiz1gyg

 

Faculty Brewing definitely has more to work with but even so has some kinks to work out. Faculty has opened in the same Brewery Creek neighbourhood as, well, everyone else. They are making decent to good beer, and their tasting room is warm and inviting. So why then do they need to get their shit together?

Because they aren’t doing anything different, and they aren’t doing anything better. I am aware of their intent to rotate beers on a structured basis, some might say this is their niche, but if Brassneck has more available and styles that change nearly as quickly does it really matter? It’s like going to a chocolate cake festival and bringing a carrot cake. Even so, I have high hopes for this fellows and wish them all the best.

Advertisements

Ridge Brewing- COMMUNITY COMMUNITY COMMUNITY, but actually though Community.w

*NOTE I’m going to mention COMMUNITY several times in this article get ready.*

my phone camera doesn’t work anymore so you get stock images

I recently visited the nearby COMMUNITY of Maple Ridge to visit the brand new COMMUNITY of brewers that have opened up shop there. Of course I’m talking about Ridge Brewing and Maple Meadows Brewing.

Whilst at Ridge i was able to sit down and have real chat with both the Owner and Brew Master at Ridge that was enlightening in a really positive way. But lets nail down this brewery before we go any further. Ridge brewing has a small scale brew house nearly identical to Yellow Dog’s when it opened. Nestled in a small business park just off Dewdney near the heart of Maple Ridge this brewery has the potential to become a pillar of the COMMUNITY. In fact thats the Owner Carlos’ goal. Carlos and i spoke for about an hour discussing how a good brewery can really cultivate a strong sense of COMMUNITY, noting how small village pubs in the UK double as community centres. Carlos is actively attempting to foster such a COMMUNITY at Ridge where he was hosting one of his first Open Mic Nights. That’s right an Open Mic Night. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not a music critic but it was clear that it was locals creating this great mid-week show in an outer suburb, creating culture for which there was no outlet previously, and that’s bad ass. You see COMMUNITY is something that we are at a loss for often in the city of Metro Vancouver and brewery’s often fill that vacuum through their art (beer) and art on their walls (many breweries (including Ridge) donate their wall space to up and coming artists). This is awesome, but its usually occurred organically and whilst that great its even nicer to see a brewery actively attempt to foster COMMUNITY to the extent that Ridge has, so hats off to you guys.

TO THE BEER:

Carlos and his Brew Master are both from Mexico and although there isn’t a tequila lime barrelled imperial lime stout yet (actually i think i’ll claim that beer for myself) There are lots of other great beers to choose from.

Bar Stool Bitter- Classic English Session beer, thats definitely not west coast hopped but perfect for the transitioning bud drinker 3.5/5

Gringa Loca Wit Beer- A standard and solid option wit 3/5

Green Eyes Whyte IPA- A delicious west coast IPA that is one of my favourites already 4/5

Cafe Morena Brown- Arguably my favourite Browns Produced in Metro Vancouver 4.5/5

COMMUNITY

Tap East Brewery

For many people like myself shopping centres can be the bane of our existence. To us shopping centres are not shrines to creativity and flair but behemoths of capitalist greed, and incubators of the tertiary service industry slowly destroying the former middle class. But some of them have breweries! A great example of which is Central City Brewing in the Central City mall in Surrey British Columbia, which i believe is among a handful of shopping centre breweries scattered around North America. Although the shopping centre brewery isn’t necessarily odd in North America, in more traditional Europe it is. Thus Tap East stands as an Oddity in its small brewery located in the Westfield Shopping Centre Stratford.

Classic Carnell’s Beer with the crap photo.

Despite being in a shopping centre the quality of ale served was unencumbered. In addition to the beers brewed on premises Tap east also has several beers on tap (Don’t order a grolsch) and a very high quality collection bottled and canned beers some even from America. But lets be honest, when at a brew pub you get the beer they brew… its a rule.

colourful stools

So what did they Brew?

The East End Mild- A classic british style that in the past indicated fresher rather than aged beer and now more predominately means a lightly hopped beer. This beer followed Mild guidelines and was malt forward, with a really pleasant toffee maltiness that was light on the palate. Coming in at around 3% ABV this is a great example of the classic english ale that has great flavour and allows you to enjoy a few in a single sitting.

Coffee in the Morning Stout- England in no newcomer to the coffee-d beer craze and this in another of note. The coffee itself came from just down the hall from a coffee shop called “Grind” (the official drink of westfield?) and was added in the whirlpool stage of brewing. The beer itself is full of coffee flavour, and had in my opinion some acidity which you may or may not enjoy.

Tonic Ale- This is a superb session beer. Built on a light malt base this bright blond beer has fruity hops that are light yet ever-present. A Well done beer.

The beer wasn’t the only great experience, after chatting with the assistant manger i was introduced to the brew master who graciously took me into his brew house. He explained to me many of the interesting tidbits i’ve noted such as how the coffee was added to his Stout. He noted the difficulty of his brewing in his small brewhouse and i had to agree having heard similar stories from the many similarly small brewhouses in Vancouver. But just like in Vancouver, this small brew house put out some great beer. To top it all of when i mentioned i was planning on brewing a british style ale when i returned home the brewer sent me on my way with some English Hops (Bramling Cross). So if you find yourself in a Shopping mall in Stratford or more likely in Borough Market, find tap east, you won’t be disappointed!

The Meantime Brewery

So among the wonderful human constructions that exist within our western society such as the gregorian calendar, and our conception of a year (solar or lunar or something else entirely), is the longitudinal lines. The beginning of these lines exist as a remnant of British hegemony over the world, appearing in neighbourhood of Greenwich giving birth to the phrase Greenwich meantime. As much a human construction as Greenwich Mean Time is the Mean Time Brewery itself. This brewery more than any other I have visited in Europe positions itself as North American Brewery. The brewery is actually split into two with a smaller brew-pub-ish brew pub in the Old Royal Naval College, Itself in a beautiful Park. Rather than take pictures I took it all in so I apologize but suffice to say the experience was sublime. In addition to the Royal Naval College there is the larger production brewery in a more industrial part of Greenwich which houses a proper north american style tasting room. Once again I didn’t take pictures but it was absolutely up to snuff. Of course the beers are where it was at and although i don’t want to give rating as I didn’t take proper notes I was very much impressed and believe this brewery will match the tastes of North American’s more so than any others i have written about.

The London Pale Ale was the closest to a English Pale Ale with malts clearly not two row and more than likely Maris Otter. The beer like many english ales is floral.

The London Stout is very rich and roast and has a great mouthfeel, if Guinness is the bar the meantime raises it ten fold.

The Yakima Red is a delicious beer making use of american hops from the yakima valley! This beer has the hop profile of a american pale ale on the base of  red ale giving it a great nuance.

The fact is I enjoyed this place so much I’m going to attempt to buy a t-shirt on my last day in London.

Bayerischer Bahnhof Brewery- Leipzig Germany

In my last article regarding German beer I mentioned how regional style dominated Germany for many years, what i neglectedto do was tell you about the regional beer from where I am currently located in Leipzig… Gose.

The History:

Brewery In this case the Gose has been produced by the Bayerischer Bahnhof Brewery, itself located in what is considered to be the oldest “Rail Head Station” in the world (don’t ask me what a rail head station is). Bombed during the second world war, and falling within Eastern German territory there was no funds to rebuild the station. Following the reunification of Germany came a plan to restore the station with a restaurant that would house the brewery in question. Beer Gose is a regional beer specialty that was brought to Saxony-Anhalt in the year 1738. Originally Gose comes from Goslar, a small town in Lower Saxony, and the river “Gose” in this town.” -http://www.bayerischer-bahnhof.de/en/unser-bier/index.html

The Experience

Walking towards the brewery visible is architecture of several era’s including: pre-20th century, Soviet era, and modern buildings all exist in the immediate area. Contrasted against the relatively ancient restored station/brewery is a new underground metro station adding the existing rail history of the area. Once inside one can see how this building once existed as a train station however the beautiful brewing equipment in the back smashes any notions that it remains a station.

The Taste

The beer itself is served in a nice spherical glass that taper to the top. The beer pours a vibrant yellow and the is clearly unfiltered. The first flavour is of a light sweet wheat beer, a lemon flavour is present but rather than coming from the hops as i’m used to it seems to emanate from the malts. I’ve been told to expect a salty taste but i fail to recognize anything but a faint saltiness. Overall a sweet light beer that would make a great radler. 4/5

Harvey’s Brewery Lewes

Harvey’s brewery is a great example of an english regional brewery that has existed in some form for hundreds of years. Under the the care of John Harvey in the early 1800’s the Bridge Wharf Brewery was established (Above) and stands to this day. Harvey’s to its credit despite being a large regional brewer (50,000 barrels a year) still manages to remain in line with tradition in a few ways.

My trip the brewery came about via a wonderful trip through the country side. Country lanes at best wide enough for 2 cars and often wide enough for only one wind through fields divided in feudal times. Often times the road is lined by a canopy of deciduous trees including Oak and Yew. At this time of year the leaves hadn’t yet grown through and the early spring sun was able to shine through. As the car came nearer to the south down so to did we come near to pints of real ale.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 4.30.31 PMAfter parking we walked to the high street where buildings lined the street so close together no space existed between them aside from the cut through that allowed us to the street itself.

path to the high street.

Upon taking a side street from the high street to John Harvey’s pub we were greeted by a remnant of tradition. Harvey’s within the immediate area still deliver’s it beer via horse and carriage.

We visited the tied pub rather than the brewery itself as the brewery has a tour wait list of 2+ years. Regardless the pub is an experience in itself. The building is likely of nearly the same period as the brewery and beautiful in its own right.

The beer itself remains pulled from a beer engine, real ale as it were. Of course in a place like this you order one thing and one thing only… bitter.

Like all real ale this beer was cask conditioned and thus a “Real Ale” in the british understanding of the term. Real ales unlike north american beers are not overly carbonated or carbonated really at all. Instead they are what many would describe as flat. Without the bubbles you are really able to taste the beer unabated by the bite of carbonation. Harvey’s Sussex Bitter is malty with a floral hops unlike the punchy bitter american ones most of us are accustomed too. It mixes malt notes of caramel with fruity notes similar to peaches, fig or currants. This is not a challenging beer, to some it might even be called boring but it is traditional and it is well done.

Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter- 4/5

The Break Side Brewery- Portland

BREAK SIDE! this was one of the major reasons I wanted to go to Portland! Ever since trying Wanderlust, (thanks to a Tri-City Brew Club member) I’ve known that i had to visit.

This is delicious, THIS IS PORTLAND!

I didn’t do a lot of research before going to this brewery, I simply decided to go to Portland and go to this brewery. The plan was to hit the brewery before leaving Portland and heading home. When I finally punched in the address and looked at the map i was a little shocked.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 8.16.19 PM

It wasn’t downtown… IT WASNT DOWNTOWN AT ALL! Even so, it wasn’t far. So I went, and I drove, I drove down a main street all normal. Where it got weird was that right turn on the map because following that right turn was a lot of houses. This brewery is in a fairly residential area… weird. But then i thought cool!

Another poor picture on this blog, who would’ve guessed?

How rad would it be too walk the dog (in my case cat) and come upon the brewery among the Little Boxes? So COOL! I think I’m done gushing… ONTO THE BEER! Because of the breadth of beer i just have the cliff notes versions, but there were some amazing beers here.

VanCity do 4 Portlandia do 6!

So from the top of the above list and left-to-right on the beer glasses:

Pilsner-dry, clean, nice malt body, to style 3/5

Dry Irish Stout-bites as its a dry stout then gets roast but a bit too light for my tastes, in their defence they cal it light 2.5/5

IPA- WOW Quite possibly the best IPA i have ever had! i got pineapple off it and it gave me an idea for a fun home brew! 5/5.

I chose not to rate these as my palate was wearing:

Cedarbaumbier-I believe this beer was secondaries with cedar and its apparent in the flavour, with a woody oaken like taste only slightly sweeter.

Tropicalia Saison- Brewed with peruvian peppers this is something else! Unfortunately the peppers were so strong i didn’t get any saison out of this saison.

I can’t comment on the Safeword as the tropicalia burned out my palate, but if you get a chance get lost among the little boxes (this is a reference to the rejection of suburbia and conformity BTW) and have some weird beer!

Fat Head Brewery- Portland

It was mostly beer on tap.

Everyone knows the big dogs in Portland: Rogue, Deschutes, Bridgeport, Burnside and a host of others. So when I walked past a brewery I had never heard of before i decided to learn more, and by that i mean drink! Fat Head follow the Brew Pub model more closely in contrast to production brewery, however I am 90% they still brew for outside consumption. The take up a nice spot in the pearl district with high timber ceilings and their decor suggests they take beer seriously but not too seriously.

Like Steel Toad in Vancouver they have a system whereby beer does not come from 50 litre kegs but is piped from fermentors into holding takes of up to 9BBL which i would hazard a guess makes the beer more consistent and makes form greater efficiency.

ONTO THE BEER!

I only sampled two and only have notes for one but it was a good one!

Fat Head Bean Me Up Coffee Stout, this beer was supremely well executed in my opinion. Starting with a solid roasty stout coffee was added in such a way that all of the great coffee flavour was added without any of the negative acidy flavours sometimes imparted into the beer. This is a breakfast beer if i’ve ever had one.

Fat Head Bean Me Up Coffee Stout- 4/5

Black Kettle Brewery

If you read very closely you’ll notice some Punk Rock references in this blog, like this one right here:

(Click it, its modern Punk Rock) But Punk Rock has always been about more than simply music, Punk Rock is an ideal, its about looking out at whats around you and saying “hey, this isn’t good.” More Importantly Punk Rock is saying “Hey, this isn’t good and I’m gonna live purposely and differently.” Personally i don’t think there is a better way to describe the “Craft Beer Revolution” than punk rock (Come at me Mr. Wiebe, no don’t lets be friends.). Brewers all over this Province said “Hey, this beer isn’t good…”, “…I’m gonna make better beer.” and lo, they did, and it was good. Notice how i emphasize the “Lets make good beer”, and not “Lets sell good beer”? I know, I know everyone needs to make their dime, but go to Storm Brewing and answer me “what is the point of their brewery?” If the answer isn’t to make good beer, i quit. I will admit all breweries do want to make money, but i’d like to believe they want to make money so they can keep making beer. So where am I going here with 200 words written despite not one concerning the brewery of the title? Well as with all revolutions sometimes the revolutionaries sell out.

“Dude! check out my sick “Sans Culottes” get them now at Wal-mart for $9.93.” Said Robespierre. (this is how i justify my degree in history)

I think we can say some of the new breweries out there might have eyes on making it big. I don’t begrudge them that, they still usually make great beer, but there not half as cool as punk rock. So here’s the DROP! Black Kettle is Punk Rock! Everything in this brewery serves a purpose, Fermenting tanks ferment, Brite tanks carb, seats hold tired asses, tall tables allow leaning, repurposed pallet sells beer, beer tastes delicious, repurposed framed building plans evoke pleasure akin to art. Everything that is needed is here, everything that is not is, well, not. For example I saw 3 employees whilst at the brewery, all of them worked the back, the room, and the non-commercial growler machine. Hmmm seems like an example of a society devoid of social stratification to me… and isn’t that what we are all looking for out of a revolution? That said the tasting room wasn’t spartan but it was functional, a nice tv played the games and the nice staff gave me nice beers. Oh how were the beers? SO GOOD I DECIDED NOT TO SIMPLY REVIEW A SINGLE ONE BUT WRITE A LONGER ARTICLE ON THE BREWERY ITSELF CAPITAL LETTERS TO INCREASE EMPHASIS.

Oatmeal Stout, and the IPA.

Pale Ale- Has a maltier backbone than most of the west coast pale ales we usually which in my opinion is a great change of pace 3.5/5 Oatmeal Stout- This bad boy may be the best stout i’ve had in ages, Notes of toffee and burnt sugar with some roastiness hiding in among it, finished well with a hint of bitterness. 4.5/5 IPA- Citrus and spice, yes a little spice, abound in this IPA which i find deliciously hoppy! 3.5/5 So there it is Punk Rock Beer!

Steel and Oak

So i finally made it over to Steal and Oak to sample some of their beer. My first impression was what a weird spot. Geographically its located next to a rising overpass directly after stop light. Moreover despite being walking distance to a pub and a longer walk from New West’s downtown area it definitely feels disconnected from the downtown which has a real character. The Tasting room is nicely appointed in what i would describe as hybrid of Moody Ales and 33 acres.

Please excuse my shitty photo.

Of course the real star of the trip, as it should be, was the beer. I sampled 4 beers all of which i enjoyed. In particular the ESB was great with a nice fruitiness. Also very enjoyable was the porter which i felt was to style and definitely would hit the spot if one is looking for a proper porter. The Red Pilsner was very interesting, clean but with a greater malt background than most pilsners. The best was the autumn dusk though. To be fair i can’t actually remember what i liked about it, and as i didn’t take any notes i’ll just go ahead and say it was mystery awesome! So go there check out the original downtown of British Columbia, and take a long walk to Steel and Oak where you won’t be disapointed!