An ale as old as the hills – Burton Ale from VIB & Gladstone

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On a cold November day in the Cariboo, keeping warm is an exciting activity to pursue. While this often takes the form of stoking a wood fire (or cosying up to the fire pit outside), beverages often begin to reflect this too. When I found this collab offering from Vancouver Island Brewing and Gladstone Brewing, the description of a 1920’s style (Although the origin seems to date back to the 1600s). Whatever the case, a 7.5% rich malty beer felt a safe bet to bring to the ranch.

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While the snapshot above doesn’t do it justice, it poured with little carbonation and head. Nicely viscous (I absolutely hate heavy beers that pour like water), it was a dark amber that smelled rich and almost syrupy. I’m no expert on my malts since I drink malty beers during a fairly short window of the year, but VIB lists Maris Otter, Superior Pilsner, Crystal, and Black malt in the recipe. And this combo delivers some liquor luxury.

Side note – while everyone loves a cold beverage (even if in a solid state like below), I recommend tempering this just a little to allow some of those flavours out. I left the bottle on the counter and drank from a tumbler and found that worked well.

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This is a limited release collaboration beer from 2 breweries on Vancouver Island and I felt fortunate to locate a bottle in North Vancouver. I think it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that I am the first person in history to enjoy this historic (specific) beer in all of the Cariboo. Just being a pioneer in my own way.

I mostly chill in the Summertime

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It was only recently that I realized that this blog was sorely lacking in one of my favourite styles – the humble pale ale. I have quickly trolled the archives of late and am trying to add a bit more of what I clearly drink up there but sometimes forget to mention. Like Dude Chilling Pale Ale from R&B Brewing. Drawing it’s name from the smart ass artist who renamed a park in East Van as a stunt, which eventually got the park renamed after public interest was expressed via petition. Because it is awesome after all.

Which leads to the beer, which is also awesome after all.

I was drinking Dude Chilling while bar-be-cueing for a group, and it was perfect. Cold, hop-forward, and easy to drink. I realize I don’t have many photos of pale ales in the snow, so I can deduce that I probably lean more towards the style in warmer months.

And doing a quick search online, BeerMeBC mentions that it’s part of the R&B core lineup, so perhaps I’ll bring a bottle for our New Year’s trip.

Not stumped by Black Kettle Pale Ale

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Being that Pale Ale is one of my favourite craft beer styles, it’s funny that it’s not well represented in my blog. So I dug back in the archives to see what I’d forgotten to talk about and found this treasure from Black Kettle Brewing of North Vancouver. It was the last post about Raven’s Pale Ale that reminded me of this, and it’s likely that much of the new/limited release beers these days are India Pale Ales (NE style, juicy, DIPA etc). I think it’s important to remember that sometimes the simplest things are the best.

I first discovered Black Kettle (the then closest brewery to my home in North Vancouver) when I was “researching” for my short Storyhive (Telus) funded mini documentary called Brew Love. Phil (Brewmaster) had just begun cranking out his core offerings and Pale Ale was the 1st growler fill I came away with. And it was exceptional. It’s not overly complex, which is a strength in my books. It’s approachable and quaff-able. Both are big pluses in my books.

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I also pulled a still frame (below) from the doc for Google images and it’s proven to be a hugely popular image (pats self on back).

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It’s usually at this point in the post that I remember to tell you about the beer itself, but as I’ve said there’s not much to tell (and that’s a good thing). Rather – try it yourself and you will know why it accompanies me on the 434 km journey to our Cariboo haven.

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A Pair of Ravens – Abby Beer in the Cariboo

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On the last trip up to the ranch I did not have much time to stock up on unique beer for our unique ranch. Somewhat fortunately we had to get gas out in Langley and it put us right near a BC Liquor store. I wondered what I’d find in the shop, and while the craft selection was pretty modest, they did carry a few from Ravens Brewing Company. I managed to pick up their pale ale, dark mild, and a limited release called Corvis which is a gose with lime and lingonberry.

Being November, the beer was easy to chill in nature’s fridge – the great outdoors.  I like the bird theme (I trust you read my post about Strange Fellow’s popinjay). It felt fitting for this pair of ravens to sit on the old bench, lightly perched in the shallow snow.

But now – onto the beer. It’s been quite some time since I’ve brought pale ale to the ranch – going all the way back to the PEI Brewing Company Vic Park Pale Ale in August. Which is surprising because I’m such a fan of a good pale ale and it’s the beer I bench mark every brewery by when I can. If I dislike a brewers pale ale, I know it’s going to go downhill from there. Fortunately, Ravens Brewing has done well here. It’s a very straight forward offering, which is great in my books. I don’t see the need to deviate from a classic recipe with odd ingredients unless the brew master has a good idea in mind. So this beer gets the full endorsement for a solid offering.

Unfortunately I didn’t manage to crack the dark mild, so it will have to be explored on another trip. I did get the Corvus opened, so that I’ll explain in another post.

And of course it’s not just an exciting new beer to enjoy in the Cariboo, but I’d like to assert that no one in all of the Cariboo has ever tried this gem, so that makes it mine to claim as first to have it up there.

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Road Popinjay in the Cariboo

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While I seem to take many bombers to the ranch, I am a huge fan of the tallboy and have been actively buying up great BC craft cans ever since West Coast Canning began with Moon Under Water‘s Lighter Side of the Moon.

Thankfully Strange Fellows Brewing came out of the gate with a core lineup in tallboys (Tallisman being my fav). And then came Popinjay – a home run in a can.

Our November ranch trip allowed us to use nature’s fridge to cool our beverages, so Popinjay got left outside to chill a little.

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What’s great about a peacock on the can is it lends itself well to bird-themed environments around the ranch – old roosts and bird houses…

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Even the metal owl sentinels that guard the raised garden.

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Now after all that fun of letting the beer get cold, I should probably mention how spectacular it is. Popinjay is the first non-fruited sour that I can really understand. I’m still wrapping my head and mouth around sour beer and mostly enjoy them in hot weather. However, adding the promise of “West Coast” was a bold move by SF and caught my eye. And then my tongue. And they have created something really special. It gets a gentle hop nose and a little of that juicy citrus but balances amazingly with that subtle tartness that makes me think this is how a sour should be. I really like this beer.

And as I usually end my posts being absolutely certain that I’m the very first person in all of the Cariboo to discover this brewed gold, I must begrudgingly admit that one of my companions callously and wholly unwittingly downed one of these before me. But leaning on the truism that if it’s not online it didn’t happen, I’m going to steal her thunder and stake this claim myself. Also, she shotgunned it so that can’t count.

So when you are heading out to the back country yourself, do yourself a favour and pack along some of these road Popinjays.

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Melts in my mouth, not in the can

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Like many who drink the field of BC craft beer, I often pay attention to new openings and hope that I’ll find a way to try them. It so happened that I have a friend in the township of Coquitlam, and she so happened to be planing on joining us at the ranch…so that’s how I got to be the first person ever in all of the Cariboo region to quaff this brew.

But less about me and more about me drinking this beer. I’ve mentioned in my post about Red Arrow Brewing’s Kölsch and my enjoyment of the style. It extends to other hybrid-beer styles too – this time the cream ale. And of course I actually reference a cream ale that was my gateway beer in my post about how I got more interested in craft beer.

But back to this beer, the cream ale, from Mariner Brewing, that is exceptional. It’s got a hoppy surprise in it’s smooth body and it finishes lovely. Ranch-lovely. It’s the sort of beer that you need to stop what you are doing and enjoy. Which I was happy to do.

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It’s the sort of beer that lets you toast yourself. And again. And it’s ok if no one is there. Or if you are ignoring whomever is there. It’s that good.

I’ve seen that they are about to can an amber ale, and I am feeling optimistic. Teasing us with the “coming soon” status, we do know that growler fills begin Nov 8. So perhaps a call to West Coast Canning is in order to see if they can jump the queue. Because I’m off to the Cariboo shortly after that and getting a little worried about supply.

I don’t shotgun my Dive Bomb

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Powell St. Brewing’s Dive Bomb dark ale

Before my last visit to the ranch, I popped into Powell St. Brewery to inquire if I had missed the fresh hop boat. Which I had by a few days, of course. The super friendly guy behind the counter reminded me that dry hopped beer could also be awesome and pointed out the tall can offerings (my fav format). I wasn’t sure whether to go Cheeky Monkey or Dive Bomb, so my new pal let me try both. And I came away with both.  What I loved when I tried Dive Bomb on the coast was a clean, crisp maltiness that wasn’t familiar at all.  I occasionally enjoy a malty beer, but they usually are awash in those Christmasy/Wintery-flavours. Dive Bomb didn’t carry that burden. Once in the Cariboo on the cusp of Fall, on a beautiful day, this was a perfect sit-on-an-old-wooden-bench-and-bask-in-my-exceptional-privilege kind of beer. And bask did I ever. I find this beer is fantastic with a slight chill to it, and on a crisp day it seems like a pairing made in heaven. And while there were no crows anywhere to be found that could disturb my moment with a dive bomb, the faint cry of an old raven could be heard.

October is an exciting month at the ranch – shorts are no longer packed along, wood fires get stoked at night, and the window in which you can drink a beer outside in a t-shirt gets pretty narrow (like between 12 and 1).

And it’s in those brief moments when I can sit and imagine the seasonal changes. First comes the barest of dustings of snow a the top of the hills. Then (as below from early November last year) the snow line starts to get lower. And the window for a beer outside not huddled near a fire has just about shut.

And of course during that brief time when I’m sipping my glass of this delicious malty magic, I’m realizing that there is no one, anywhere in all of the Cariboo, doing what I’m doing and drinking this particular beer. I’m a pioneer once again, in my own special way. I too have brought something unique to this special place.

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The next phase of Fall in the Cariboo

Andean potatoes and Andina IPAs

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Around the Thanksgiving celebration we hold at the ranch, we usually Winterize the garden and dig up the root vegetables. It’s also a time to stack firewood (which we didn’t get around to), and occasionally drink the odd can of beer. It turned out that we had many types of potatoes in the ground, and I’ve decided that one of them must be Andean in origin…I mean some are purple!

potatoes-3.jpgSo it was with all that extra logic applied that I chose Andina Brewing Company‘s Monita Blonde IPA to pair with the potato acquisition experience. Now I wouldn’t exactly call myself an expert potato farmer. In fact I had to shift from using a shovel to a pitchfork because I was routinely cleaving perfectly good potatoes in 2 with every shovel load. But switching to a pitchfork wasn’t exactly a flawless exercise either – see below:

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But the beer – let’s not forget what this blog is all about and, while I prefer to carry tallboys, I was excited that Andina had begun canning at all and I was happy to get a 6-pack of this one to bring up. I actually made it to Andina for a tasting flight and remember calling out the Monita as the star of the show. But that was there…and this is here. In the Cariboo. Where beer can taste different. And even better.

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And this is a great IPA. Does it need to taste clean while I’m digging potatoes? Nope. Are the citrus notes pleasing while washing the mud from a basket of potatoes? Yep. Is it a crisp beer on a crisp day? Yep. And is it more than just entirely possible that I’m the first – the very first person in all the Cariboo to quaff this 6.5% hoppy nugget of liquid joy? Most definitely.

So while I support you stopping by Andina to grab a 6-pack of this liquid pleasure, I strongly advise you to consider packing it somewhere special to enjoy. And maybe even share. One.

How I got more interested in Craft Beer

It all began in 1993 when I began at UBC. I was 18.75 years old and had 2 night classes. After my Thursday eve class I’d accompany my older classmates for some pool at the graduate lounge and we’d have the occasional beer or 2. What I had never been exposed to (having never been old enough to buy been in a bar) was Shaftebury Cream Ale. That was my gateway craft beer.

Flash forward to 2014 (just 21 years later) and I made the Telus Storyhive pitch to do a micro doc about craft beer.  Being totally not an expert, I required a sizeable amount of the grant funding to go towards research. Meeting the makers, the dreamers who were just building out their new breweries, and bringing my editor and “writer” out on frequent occasions to accompany me on my research trips.

What came out of that journey was my film Brew Love.

 

 

Getting the opportunity to chase the story and meet many of the new brewers was a lot of fun. Being that I had recently relocated to North Vancouver, I was a little North Van-heavy on my interviews (including Green Leaf Brewing, Black Kettle Brewing Company & Deep Cove Brewing), but I wasn’t exactly lazy. I even met with John Mitchell (who coincidentally lives in North Van) who co-founded B.C.’s 1st craft brewery Horseshoe Bay Brewing (with Frank Appleton). I also made it out the BC Beer Awards, met the crew from Strange Fellows who were still building their brewery, got down to Yaletown Brewing and caught Tariq’s interview just before he became a distiller, found time to grill notable beer enthusiast Dave Shea (who let me give him that title), met the Thirsty Writer Joe Wiebe (who had to summarize the history of the BC craft beer scene in under 60 seconds) and gathered a couple of cool members of the CAMRA Vancouver executive at the time. I also got into the guts of Craft Beer Market while it was being built to try and understand why someone was about to open a facility in Vancouver with 140 taps…I was doubtful at the time that it made sense, but I was clearly wrong.

Graham_WithWhat was really interesting was that Telus did not demand exclusivity, so the film was free to tour the film festival circuit. And it was just after I’d learned about a Vancouver-based easy submission platform called Film Freeway. It made festival submissions a snap, especially helping me find the free ones. And surprisingly enough the film got some serious play. Enough that I needed to make an English subtitled version and provide a timed transcript…because someone may want to show it in the Ukraine.

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Dave Shea speaks Russian. With the help of subtitles in a Planetarium in Ukraine.
The film played at 25 official film festivals, as well as pop-up screenings, beer festivals, and several of Joe Wiebe’s events, and even featured at a BC Business conference called The Business of Craft Beer.

The film’s continued success was satisfying – enough so that I thought we might be ready for a short piece on our local distilling scene (I had just discovered Sons of Vancouver), but traction was hard to get on that one.

Ultimately I got onto a lot of invites to really interesting craft beer events and met many more people in the scene…and it’s been hard for me to lose interest the more I learned.

So this blog, which is a pretty ego-centric concept, is my next craft beer project since I’m enamoured with the idea of bringing all these pretty bottles and cans to someplace to special.

 

 

Kool it with the Ks

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My Kölsch awakening moment came years ago at the mighty Black Frog in Gastown where they were pouring Mount Begbie‘s offering. Amazingly I’d never had an authentic German version first, so my understanding of how this beer should be was determined by that BC craft beer. And it was amazing – my gold standard. I learned that it’s a hybrid beer that uses a lager technique with ale yeast. And that can taste really good, or also really bad. When I found Begbie’s Kölsch, there weren’t many others on the market from B.C. In the last 24 months there have been many new arrivals, with mixed results. So when I found Red Arrow Brewing‘s offering on Vancouver Island, I figured it deserved a chance to be test driven in the Cariboo.

Being that my first experience with a Kölsch was on a Summer day in Vancouver, I figured it best to try it on a hot day to give it a real chance. And add in that feeling when there is no way anyone within 500 km has access to one of these bad boys and I was standing there holding the only bottle of this quaffable quart, a gentle feeling came over me. That sensation that no one has yet had this experience up here, and that as the first one to do so I am incredibly privileged. If it doesn’t suck.

And fortunately on many levels, it doesn’t suck. It was a little sweet, but still Cariboo-thirst quenching and went down easy. It had a slight maltiness that wasn’t familiar with this style in my experience, but it was interesting.

My only dislike was the name, using a K in place of a C on a word felt very American, or maybe it hearkens to Chopper culture of which I know nothing. But other than that, I kant komplain about it at all.