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.

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

Blended and Wild Ale is the Next Big Thing in Craft beer

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A bottle share with some blends

Yes I truly believe the next explosion in Beer will be blended, Wild ales and Wild-ish ales. No, I do not mean that I believe Blended and Wild-ish ales will come to dominate the industry like Hazy IPAs have. I do think Blended and Wild-ish ales will come to form a small fraction of the market to become a small but significant portion of the market though. Before I go any further lets get some Vocab down

Blended Ales “involve[s] a brewer sampling multiple beers and then determining (with specific measurements and careful sensory analysis) the right combination of flavors. In barrel-aged beers, this involves pulling nails from the front of aging barrels and sampling the liquid therein.”

https://www.allagash.com/blog/why-blend-beer/?ao_confirm

Wild Yeast Yeast actually is present in the air and wind. Exposing beer to the open air and wind will often lead to fermentation. The problem with this method is the yeast strains are often very localized and can be very different,  giving what many might consider “off flavours”. Some regions and areas (even buildings) are well known for having very desirable local strains. The most beloved strains are often found in Belgium where a few brewers still consistently wild ferment.

Wild Ale “Wild Ales aren’t necessarily Sour Ales, and Sour Ales aren’t necessarily Wild Ales. What makes a Wild Ale a Wild Ale is just that – the presence of a wild yeast or some other kind of uncontrolled or atypical microflora (“bugs,” if you will). These microflora are used in addition to (or wholly in place of) traditional brewer’s yeast (Saccharomyces Cerevisiae). It isn’t necessarily a requirement that the “wild” fermenting strain be derived from the actual wild – it also can come from a pure culture of some particular bug like Lactobacillus (Lacto), Pediococcus (Pedio) or Brettanomyces (Brett).”

https://beerconnoisseur.com/articles/difference-between-sour-and-wild-ale

Wild-ish Ale I made up this term to describe beers that are made from lab curated wild strains, so they may taste like true wild ales but they are brewed in a more modern way. 

Its important to note that there are no hard-fast rules about these beers and Breweries play with the labeling and naming often. For example it is my understanding that Yellow Dog’s recent Blended Reality release used Barrel-Aged Wild-ish beer BLENDED with  a kettle sour. Is that a Wild Blended Ale in a specific sense? No. But, in the broader sense it is Blended and thus a Blended ale, for the purpose of this article I mean Blended Wild Ales in the broader sense.

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Why are Blended Ales about to explode (in relative terms)?

Quality

Unlike other beers which after fully fermenting and conditioning do not change, blended beers are able to be blended to brewers taste. For example a brewer may brew 1000 litres of beer and put the beer into 3 100 litre oaked barrels, 3 100 litre oaked barrels with raspberries, and the rest in a steel conditioning vessel. When it is time to package the brewer can try each vessel. Each vessel WILL have slight to large differences in flavour body etc. The brewer can taste and blend to intended taste ensuring (to a a much larger degree than a conventional brew) that the beer tastes as she or he intends. In short blending allows for greater quality… and yes some beer is often left on the cutting room floor.

 

-Barreling at Coalesce and Temporal Artisan Ales

Cost

Lets make no bones about it when done well the quality of a blended ale should be very high, but what is also intriguing in the low start up cost of these breweries. Whereas conventional breweries really need stainless steel fermenting tanks which cost  in the 10s of thousands of dollars Barrels can be had in the mid hundreds. That is not to say when scaling to larger sizes that the costs of a blended ale brewery aren’t similar to a conventional brewery but rather that in certain circumstances such as a small start up brewery in 1000-3000 sq feet the start up costs can be significantly lower. An example of this is Deep Dark Woods Brewing in Whitehorse Yukon Territory. Another way this happens is when an employee of an existing brewery buys 10-50 barrels, leases space and time on the brewhouse from the brewery and they start a brand, as was the case (or something similar) in Coalesce Brewing and Temporal Brewing.

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Small scale brewing at Deep Dark Woods Brewing, pictured here is the Barrel Mash Tun

If you are looking to give these beers a go locally start with both Temporal Artisan Ales and the coming soon Bakery Brewing on Brewers Row  . Slightly further a field Deep Dark Woods Brewing in the Yukon Territory. Internationally I recommend Drie Fonteinen, Brasserie Tilquin, and Cantillon!

Brewers Row Grows Again

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The most tightly packed strip in all of Canada is about to get more tightly packed! Brewers Row is about to Grow to 5 breweries in 400m!

The new kid on the row is actually a sister brewery to Moody Ales, it will be housed in the former Calabria bakery building nestled between big sister Moody Ales and Big neighbour The Parkside Brewery.

The Bakery Brewery will focus on wild and sour barrel aged beers, and is aptly named for both the bakery that it replaces, and yeast being the most important ingredient in Bread and wild/sour beers.

The Brewery will house 50 seats inside and 50 seats on the patio giving it a grand total of 100 seats (and Brewers Row just under 300 patio seats)

The Brewery will also house a 5 BBL system which is more like a top of the line home brew set up than a brewery but fits this project really well.

The Brewery isn’t open yet, but initial offerings are available now at Moody Ales.Screen Shot 2018-09-19 at 4.15.00 PM.png

 

 

 

Port Moody Breweries

 

Name: Twin Sails Brewing

Address: 

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Established: 2015

Style: Progressive (NEIPA, Pastry Stouts, and an barrel aged sour program)

Tasting Area: Approx. 50 seats, Snacks, frequent food trucks, 30 seat patio (Dogs Welcome), Brick interior. Ciders yes

Core Beers: Dat Juice (Hazy Citra Pale Ale), Single Whammy (HAZY NE IPA)

Twin Sails is no longer the new brewery on the block, but they are producing some of the newest styles in beer today. Originally known as maker of traditional german style Twin Sails has more recently been known for its ultra progressive ales like Space Armadillo and Two Straws Milk Shake IPA-New beers usually drop every Saturday… but don’t stick around long.

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Name: Yellow Dog Brewing

Address: 2817 Murray St. Port Moody

Established: 2014

Style: West Coast

Tasting Area: Approx. 100 seats, outdoor seating, Small fare food, Frequent Food Trucks outside food ok, CIDER-NO.

Core Beers: Play Dead IPA, Chase My Tail Pale Ale.

Yellow Dog was the First brewery in Port Moody and burst on the scene winning best in show for their Shake a Paw Smoked Porter. Since then Yellow Dog has won a litany of awards and is arguably a top 3 brewery in BC.

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Name: The Parkside Brewery

Address: 2731 Murray St, Port Moody, BC Screen Shot 2016-12-28 at 11.02.42 AM.png

 

Established: 2016

Style: Contemporary

Tasting Area: Approx. 100+ seats, Outside food is OK, snacks, Frequent food trucks, video games, Front Picnic area (Dogs Welcome).

Core Beers: Dawn Pilsner, Dusk Pale Ale, Graffiti IPA.

Parkside is the newest Brewery on the Row putting out a range of contemporary ales and lagers to please just about everyone! Guest taps are also available so there is something for everyone.

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Name: Moody Ales

Address: 2601 Murray St, Port Moody, BC

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Established: 2014

Style: Eclectic

Tasting Area: Approx. 75 Seats, occasional live music, snacks, WINE & CIDER AVAILABLE, outside food is ok, front picnic area, frequent food trucks,

Core Beers: Hardy Brown Ale, Sociable Pale Ale, Affable IPA, Chipper Blonde.

Moody Ales opened mere months after Yellow Dog in fall of 2014. Their beer list is ever Changing and you are sure to find something you like on tap.

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UPCOMING – Bakery Brewing

See the new breweries page for more info.