VCBW is Upon Us and It’s Time To Take Stock.

I am a big fan of Vancouver Craft Beer Week. It’s fun and it brings the whole community together.

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With nearly all the Lower Mainland Region breweries in one place it is  a really great opportunity to consider the Craft Beer trends moving forward. Of course this can’t really be done in advance of VCBW. Even so it is fun to project or guess what the trends will be, and I’ve always thought that the VCBW beer gives us a hint of what is to come.

Two years ago Brewers brought us a Hazy Pale ale which to me announced to the community that Hazy beer was a major part of the industry and here to stay. Secondarily it might have also signalled the success of the suburban and regional Craft beer communities.

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Last year, we had the Sea to Sky breweries affirm the rising prominence of regional craft beer communities, and perhaps surprisingly they made a Lager. To me this signalled that our craft beer industry was ready to move past the anti-establishment roots and include all beer drinkers.

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This year, the 10th anniversary of VCBW we have Four Winds, in collaboration with Powell Beer and Dageraad brewing brewing a dry-hopped table saison.

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I typed that beer style in lower case, because to my mind it is an understated style in the often violently reactionary world of craft beer.

What I take from this, and what I would predict as a major trend in the Vancouver and wider region is a push for higher quality.

It is no secret that I have been fairly vocal about beers that don’t mean my expectations but after the proliferation of craft breweries throughout the lower mainland comes a more competitive period where brewers are selling to an inclusive mature consumer base who are able to tell the difference between OK and great craft.

I believe the choice of three of the Lower Mainland’s 3 most respected breweries in Four Winds, Dageraad, and Powell beer and their choice of a simple yet dynamic style signals to the community at large that things are about to get more competitive. If you are a brewery who wants to stick around you better commit to quality.

With more breweries comes more competition, and since the backbone has of craft has always been its improved quality over macro the competition amongst Craft Brewers will hopefully yield ever high plateaus of quality.

We might also look at the expansion of high quality production in the region to consider the arms race in quality.

-Twin Sails sour program intentionally does not include Kettle Sours. committing to higher labour and cost methods of souring.

-Whole breweries committed to specific styles like Bakery, House of Funk, and Temporal.

-The commitment to high quality Lagers including Foudre and barrel aged versions like those created by Four Winds and Strange Fellows.

We might also consider the results of mistakes

-Riot Brewing on the brink of closing as sales don’t add up

Clearly all of this is guess work and conjecture bused on anecdotal evidence, but if i was forced to hazard a guess… I’d expect your average beer to rise in quality this year.

 

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I Was Offered Free Beer, I said “Yes”

A while ago I wrote an article explaining why I had said no to a brewery’s offer of free beer.

It came off as high and mighty, it wasn’t my intention but it did. Well, since then I have been offered beer a few more times and said no thank you a few more times.

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How I felt publishing that article

Recently, I said yes.  So how did I fall off my high horse? Well its simple really. I don’t have as much beer as I once did.
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Whereas, before my main reason for saying “no” was that I simply had too much beer and there was no point in taking beer that I might not be completely interested while other beer rots in my fridge. Its just not cool.

The fact is I’m getting married this summer and although I have wonder family helping my income is being stretched and I cannot afford to consume as much beer as I have in the past.

Craft Breweries are trying to make a living and offering beer to bloggers and the like is one of the great ways they can keep the beer-intelligensia writing.

So I have swallowed my pride, said “yes, thank you”, and you can probably expect to see it on my instagram.

That said you can also expect to see my honest opinion too.

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Believing the Hype is OK… Usually, well sometimes… Definitely Not Never

The Growler recently published a great article by Dageraad Brewer/Owner/Professional Cool Guy – Ben Coli, where Ben makes a great argument for Mainstays being better than the flavour of the week.

While I appreciate the article and agree in large part I noticed many friends and colleagues applying the argument against Hazy beers en masse. Well as avowed Hazy apologist I have yet another article no one asked for.

Concern 1

Dead on Arrival

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Ben makes a great point to start, many one off beers are ill-conceived. He’s right. There are quite a few beers that should have been aborted long before the ever reach your local’s shelves.

That said a lot of main stays make it to shelves when they shouldn’t. Many breweries including some of your favourites have let main stay beer hit the shelves that has been clearly flawed. So, while main stays have had time to be perfected, they don’t always hit the shelves in their perfect state.

Concern 2

No time to test batch

Here’s the thing… You think Sierra Nevada Pale ale or for that matter Even Steamworks Flagship’s recipe hasn’t changed since its initial sale? Beer recipes often change incrementally, its experimenting in the search of improvement. This happens with Hazy beer too…

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Most breweries have a few go-to basic Hazy recipes, and they tweak for each release. A hop variety here, a different grain there, and an extra hopping addition every so often. It’s not unlike how people incrementally changed their pale ales back in the day, the major difference is whereas in the past the label would never change, these days each release is a new piece of art from a graphic designer whose work spaced is littered with succulents.

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Why? Well the craft market is super crowded and craft brewers don’t have the money to advertise to you and me like the bug guys. Where they can punch above their weight is on the shelf where brewers can quickly pivot their branding to catch the latest craft punter (you)>

I gotta ask, what is the harm in that? More work for artists, more excitement for you and I, and more competition for macro-beer.

Concern 3

If it was any good you’d keep making it.

Early into Twin Sail’s pivot to their White Can Series (following their all german beginnings) they released Space Armadillo. This beer sent shock waves through the community and for some reason it wasn’t released again for nearly a year.

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Don’t you think Twin Sail’s would have loved to follow that rich sales vein? The fact is new breweries can struggle to get consistent supplies for brewing and are often forced into the spot markets. Whereas more established brewers can sign contracts with producers to ensure steady shipments of special hops or adjuncts, new brewers must use spot markets for one time sales.

The fact is Twin couldn’t secure the supplies they needed to make Space Armadillo a core beer.

 

So while by and large I agree in the merit of breweries main stay beers, I think we can agree that one offs serve a purpose and can be great.

Tiering the Breweries of Vancouver and Sea to Sky

I am going to get shit on for this…

But that’s OK, I write to start conversations and lists and rankings start conversations. So here we go.

A little about the rankings… This is about QUALITY of beer… nothing more nothing less. A bad beer diminishes overall quality in my eyes. That said this is my Monolithic view of the quality of beer coming from a brewery… no math.

Breweries within tiers are equal in my eyes.

Not all Breweries are listed, but rest assured I would never say no to a brewery that is listed, as for the others…

These are my personal opinions, they won’t match yours, feel free to be angry anyways

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Tier 4 (Solid Lagers & Ales)

Doan’s Craft Brewing

The Beer Farmers

Strathcona Brewing

Coast Mountain Brewing

Howe Sound Brewing

Trading Post Brewing

Central City Brewing

Ravens Brewing

Storm Brewing

R and B Brewing

Hearthstone Brewing

Coal Harbour Brewing

Brewhall

Main Street Brewing

33 Acres Brewing

Britannia Brewing

Bomber Brewing

Bridge Brewing

Callister Brewing

Tier 3 (Breweries who I can count on to crush it often)

Parallel 49

The Parkside Brewing

Steamworks Brewing

Taylight Brewing

Northpaw Brewing

Field house Brewing

Silver Valley Brewing

Demi-God Tier (breweries I’ll always make a point of visiting)

Dageraad

Beere Brewing

Strange Fellows

Steel and Oak

Brassneck Brewing

Yellow Dog Brewing

Luppolo Brewing

God Tier (Breweries I get stoked to go to)

Twin Sails Brewing

Boombox Brewing

Superflux

Backcountry Brewing

Temporal Brewing

Four Winds

 

 

More News on the Third PoCo Brewery

I’m going to let the Tri-City news take this one away, the article does a great job of breaking down the whole business plan. Their Plan has some really cool parts and some I’m concerned about and will break down at a later date… Until then the Tri-City News Presents:

PATINA BREWING

The PoMo Brew Scene Grows Again

Hot off the heels of the 5th Brewers Row Brewery (Moody Ales side Project Bakery Brewing) and former Callister Brew Team Light Heart Brewing setting up shop in Moody Ales we have another Brick and Mortar starting up.

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Fraser Mills Fermentation, the brain child of many of the group behind the successful Tri-Cities Cask Festival has selected a spot on St. John street in Port Moody.

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The Location is just two doors down from the current Beyond the Grape Location in the former Yamaha Marine building.

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If you aren’t from Port Moody that is a 15 minute walk from the Twin Sails/Yellow Dog hub and 3 minute walk from the skytrain station.

The Brewery will be as eclectic as any brewery in the city, housing not only a 10 hl brewhouse with eleven 10 hl fermentors, 5 brites (where the beer is carbed) and Thirteen 5 hl serving tanks, but a home brew business too. You willbe able to have a beer and then buy the supplies to try and replicate it at home.

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Did I mention that beer isn’t the only thing on the menu? Cider, mead and wine may also be produced on site.

Although exciting, this brewery isn’t quite a sure thing, Michael Druce, current Beyond the Grape and Fraser Mills owner pointed out:

“…we will be going before the Port Moody council sometime in March for approval of a temporary use permit to allow us to do liquor manufacturing in a commercial zoning.”

“…we will need public support for a Temporary Use Permit for the location…”

Public support may come in the form of letters to Port Moody Council or Vocal support at a public hearing. If you would like to show Port Moody Public Council your support for another business in Port Moody please send an e-mail to council@portmoody.ca

 

2018 Breward Inlet Awards

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A crack team of influencers got together to give you the goods on the Tri-city beer scene… heres how things shook out!

Beer of the Year – Tri-Cities (PoCo, Port Moody, Coquitlam)

This category had a great Variety of responses but usually lead back to one brewery – Twin Sails.
Heavy Weight Champ is the Champ here!

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Best Tasting Room

The Parkside repeats as the best place to craft beer and chill..

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Best Branding

Another repeat but can you argue with this branding Kaleidoscope?

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Coolest Personality in brewing (Brewer, Blogger, Beer-tender, instagrammer… etc)

Man, Myth and Legend Sea to Sky Beer Guy isn’t even of this region… But he sure has made an impact on it!

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Best New Brewery

There were a few new kids on the block (and more to come), but PoCo Brewers North Paw take the “W” here.

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Brewery of the Year

There can be only one…

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Thanks to these fine people:
@beerpunkbc
@hopperazi
@ls_karl
@lifeisabeerexpedition
@thebeerdshow
@crafttourist
@theflyingbeergirl
@thirstyexplorersclub
@pacificbeerchat
@thebeerrater
@brewsbabeabanny
@Vancity_beergirl
@seatoskybeerguy
@RedArmyNic

PoCo Breweries

Name: Northpaw Brew Co.

Location: Port Coquitlam’s Fremont Village industrial space behind Wal-Mart

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Style: Contemporary

Tasting Area: 35 seat tasting area and adjacent growler room.

Core Beers: Jamaican Pale Ale and likely more to come.

After a long gestation period North Paw’s Physical brewery has finally been born into life. With it come a tasting room in a prior to underserved area of the Tri-Cities. North Paw is ps proving to be very popular with locals and may just be an instant classic.

 

Name: Taylight Brewing

Location: 402 – 1485 Coast Meridian Rd, Port Coquitlam, BC V3C 5P1

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Style: Contemporary

Tasting Area: The PoCo Standard 35 seater

Core Beers: Too soon to tell but the beers have come from across the spectrum and are well executed. The Hazy Pale Ale is a personal favourite

PoCo’s second brewery has ales crafted for the time being by the brewer formerly of Hearthstone brewing in North Vancouver. It seems Taylight are in the market for a brewer to take their fledgling business into the future.

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UPCOMING – Several New Breweries

See the new breweries page for more info.

 

 

 

New Breweries

Name: Secret Vancouver Brewery (Electric Bicycle) opening up a branch in PoCo

Projected opening: Unknown

Progress: Apparently have space

Notes: This is just a rumour at this point, but the rumours point to the same area as Provincial Spirits, Northpaw, and Tin House.

Location: Fremont Village

Name: Fraser Mills Fermentation

Projected opening: I’d estimate 1 year at least

Progress: Space in Port Moody on St. Johns possessed

Notes: Article here

Location: Port Moody on St. Johns

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Name: Tin House Brewing

Projected opening: 6 months-1 year

Progress:  Equipment has arrived

Notes: Renamed from Tin Shed to Tin House

Location: Fremont Village PoCo

 

 

Name: The Bakery Brewing Company

Projected opening: Months?

Progress: Have Space

Notes: Focus on wild ales sours on Brewers’ Row

Location: Between Moody Ales and Parkside

 

Name: Patina

Projected opening: Based on the posting for a “Brewmaster” I’d say 6-8 months

Progress: Space in Downtown PoCo possessed.

Notes: Article Here

Location: Downtown Poco

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.