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Beer

Tis The Season for Christmas 2020 Beers

Image Courtesy of Bridge Brewing.

Christmas is definitely the time for beer and beer drinking. Craft breweries have really upped their game when it comes to Christmas 2020 beers.

Maybe it was the COVID-19 pandemic that force them to get creative or innovative I am not sure, but I tried a lot of good beers this Christmas. Some were old favourites while others were new ones. A couple of Bourbon Barrel Aged Beers also made an appearance.

The Toques Of Hazzard Parallel 49 Brewing Company

We first discovered this beer in 2017 and it’s been on our Christmas list ever since. It’s an Imperial IPA made with wheat. The beer feels light and is a hazy white. There are Citra and Hallertau Blanc hops used in it. The alcohol level is 9.2 percent so there may be the immediate temptation to drink one quick and get a buzz.

That doesn’t do this beer justice though. I split it over two nights with Turkey Dinner on Christmas Day and the next day. It definitely mixes well with Turkey, Sausage Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Sprouts, Carrots, Potatoes and the massive feast I cooked for Christmas.

DEBAUCHERY
House of Funk Brewing Co.

What can you say about House of Funk but that they do things differently. You may find what they do odd, enjoyable or even unique and while I have a love/hate relationship with what they do this Stout was awesome.

Coming in at 10.5% this beer is not for the faint at heart. I still have another can in my fridge I am saving for a while. I cracked this beer on Christmas Eve as a truly special occasion. I didn’t drink it fast at all. It is a slow drinking beer to truly savour.

House of Funk describes it as “Smooth and balanced with subtle hints of bourbon and chocolate.” Some may like more chocolate, but this is delicious! Rich & complex. It’s aged for nine months in Basil Hayden bourbon barrels. WOW!

WINTER ALE GRAND CRU
Granville Island Brewing Company

This was the second of Barrel Age Beers from my Christmas List. Unlike the House of Funk one, I did not enjoy this one as much. A riff on Granville Islands Lions Winter Ale, It took me a while to get into it and I cannot say it really sold me.

At 8.2 percent, Granville Island describes it as having smooth, oaky aromas, perfectly melded with vanilla bean and rich cocoa. It’s Cellared, aged in ex-Whisky barrels but I was like so what? It was overpowering and not all an enjoyable drink.

This is very unlike me to not want a Granville Island beer again but I wouldn’t likely buy it again.

Vidal Lager
Townsite Brewing

In the midst of all the strong Christmas beers, I needed a lager or pilsner to cleanse the pallet. I am glad I picked this one.

I visited Townsite in 2012 while in Powell River.

Townsite Brewing says that this beer contains “peppery, floral hops and bread flavours from the malts.” Light and almost airy in colour, it’s “Unfiltered too because, Belgium.” A little more research and I found that like a typical German lager. Vidal Lager has Pilsen and Carafoam malts, as well as Saaz and Tettnanger hops. Good to know.

It’s been many years since I tried something from this brewery and I am glad that I did. I will be trying more again soon.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Porter
Bad Tattoo Brewing


I’m always a sucker for anything from Bad Tattoo since my visit to the brewery in 2019. I was able to find this in BC Liquor Stores in North Vancouver which was a surprise and a nice one.

I love a good stout and with the extra twist of peanut butter it is somewhat of an acquired taste. Doesn’t mean I hate it but doesn’t mean I like it either. The core beers from the Bad Tattoo line-up including the Vagabond Pilsner and the Los Muertos Cerveza Negra are probably better bets we are focused on Winter and Dark beers here.

I wasn’t able to find any serious info online about the contents and I mean malts, hops etc. so I will have to leave it at that.

Blitzen

Steamworks Brewing Company

Blitzen is a riff on a classic Belgian Tripel. The Belgian Tripel itself refers to the amount of malt used in the beer in its wort which then yields a higher alcohol in the beer.

A Tripel thus has 9 percent alcohol by volume and has a long history as a popular beer style in Belgium and what is referred as the Low Countries that include the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

It is the first time I have tried this Christmas beer from Steamworks not realizing that it has been around for a few years. I managed to find a single can of it with the only other option being the giant bottle of it at BC Liquor Stores that is 20$.

Steamworks describes it as having apple and citrus aromas. They are using Pilsner and Sugar Malts along with Fuggles and Sterling hops. It gave me the impression of a dry white wine or sweet gurwirtsraminter.

I’d definitely add it to my Christmas list for future years of beer drinking. Belgian Tripels are growing on me for sure.

Santas Sac

Bridge Brewing Company

Whether I meant to or not, I selected this beer from Bridge purely based on the fact that it was made by Bridge. I latched onto the Bridge Brewing brand early as they were the first brewery based on the North Shore.

A little research and some tasting and I realized that I had chosen another beer similar to the Blitzen from Steamworks.

Santa’s Sac is based on a Belgian Golden Strong Ale. The Belgian golden strong ale looks like an easy-drinking pilsner. In the first few sips this beer does taste like that but keep drinking it and you realized that you are in for a treat that is a strong one.

With a 10.5% alcohol content, its brewed with a simple malt and lightly hopped with Nobble Hops. What really made me realize that I had selected another Blitzen style beer was when I read that it was fermented warm with a classic Belgium yeast strain, Trappist Ale.

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Summertime Brews at Streetcar Brewing

StreetcarSlushie
StreetcarSlushie

With the COVID-19 restrictions relaxing a little bit, I made my way down to the Brewery District on Lower Lonsdale to visit a few breweries again after my visit in March.

My March visit was on March 8th right before the COVID lockdown the following weekend.

I stopped in at Streetcar Brewing and had a nice flight of a mix of beers including a Guava Gose, Overcast IPA, Peach Radler and the 153 Pale Ale.

Guava Gose

The Gose beer itself is an interesting one as is its history. Named after the town of Goslar in Germany, This style is characterized by the use of coriander and salt and is made sour by inoculating the wort with lactic acid bacteria before primary fermentation.

I’m not usually a Gose drinker and I know this is a real trend these days in craft beer scene in Vancouver and throughout B.C. My first taste of a Gose was the Lime Margarita Gose from Central City Brewing in which you could really get a taste of the saltiness of this style.

That being said I will try anything at least once or twice in order to push my pallet a little more. This type of beer is not my favourite so perhaps I should leave others to judge and move on from there.

Overcast IPA

The Overcast IPA hits on another beer trend these days, a cloudy hazy IPA that many love. It must be something about the tropical and citrus flavour that hits right with warm weather. I can only take a Hazy trend of IPA’s or Ale’s in doses as well but this one hits the mark nicely.

Image courtesy of Streetcar Brewing.

Peach Radler

The Streetcar Peach Radler riffs on a popular low alcohol style of beer that means cyclist in German. The Radler mixes beer and fruit soda or lemonade.

The Streetcar Brewing Peach Radler Slushie. Image courtesy of Streetcar Brewing.

These beers are generally low in alcohol content and this one is 3%.

Streetcar has also been producing Peach Radler slushies which I did not try but that they are advertising on their social media accounts. Follow them on Instagram to see where and when you can get it.

153 Pale Ale

153 Pale Ale is the last of the four beers I tried and it slots in nicely with the others I tried. One gets the sense of citrus and hints of honey and caramel.

This style originated around 1980. American pale ales are generally around 5% abv with significant quantities of American hops, typically Cascade. The style is also close to amber ale, though ambers are darker and maltier due to use of crystal malts.

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Old Boy Hits The Mark with a Classic Beer Recipe

With the craft beer industry in Vancouver a growing concern these days, Sours, Saisons and Hazy Pale Ales and India Pale Ale’s (IPA) seems to be the brews of choice for local company’s. 

It’s refreshing when a company like Parallel 49 brings back it’s Old Boy Brown Ale to complement current availability because of the classic taste and style of this type of recipe.

A Brown Ale History Lesson

As BeerAdvocate notes, 

“Spawned from the Mild Ale tradition, English Brown Ales tend to be maltier and sweeter on the palate, with a somewhat fuller body.” 

The Mild Ale itself refers to beer that was sold relatively soon after brewing and had not undergone any aging. It was not attached to any particular style of beer. Mild Ale’s were big in England in the mid 20th century but declined somewhat by the 1980’s. 

Brown Ales themselves were brewed in some form before the 18th century but they garnered more interest from drinkers in places like London after that. Bitter versions of brown beers if you can call them that evolved into Porter’s while the less bitter and hoppy style brown or nut brown ales did garner some attention from beer drinkers. 

Old Boy Brown Ale

When I grabbed this beer from the Tasting Room at Parallel 49, I tried one can without chilling it in the fridge. I don’t think it did the beer justice and I don’t normally obsess over serving beers at their correct temperature.

You can view the correct way to serve beer from the Dummies website and the book Beer for Dummies.

What I liked about this beer was its toasted styler, notes of toffee, what seemed like coffee and hints of chocolate. My beer tastes correlate with my tastes in coffee, particularly dark roasted full bodied style coffees that aren’t bitter.  

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Time To Get Weird With House of Funk Brewing

The North Shore now boasts 10 breweries with the latest to open being North Point Brewing in the Shipyards Brewery District. The district which now has Streetcar Brewing, House of Funk Brewing Co. and Beere Brewing as well and is fast becoming one of the places to visit for local beer enthusiasts. 

As someone who lives on the North Shore and at the top of Lonsdale Avenue, I can easily do my own brewery tour of sorts by simply taking the bus down Lonsdale.

Yesterday i managed to hit all four breweries and I will be writing a series of posts on my visit to each of them.

What I like is that all of these places have their own unique style, setting and vibe to them and enough different beers on the menu to make you want to visit each one individually and spend a few hours there.

House of Funk Brewing (HOF)

House of Funk Brewing is owned by Darren and Jody Hollett and online reviews talk of the “heavy emphasis on wood, brettanomyces, bacteria and all around funkiness.”

I actually had to lookup and find out what the word brettanomyces means and it is as follows. Known for its barnyard, fecal, horsey, metallic or Band-Aid flavors, Brettanomyces continues to be unwelcome in many breweries and most wineries. However, Brettanomyces also produces high levels of fruity esters that are desirable in some styles like saison, lambic, and American sour beers.

If you are left scratching your head perhaps this will make a bit more sense when it comes to beer. According to All About Beer Magazine Instead, brewers pitch Brett in place of Saccharomyces for primary fermentation. When used this way, it behaves more like regular ale yeast and will ferment a beer out in about the same amount of time.

Ok got it now? On with the tasting I did.

Incalescent Porter

This Porter was a tasty one and you’ll often find me searching out a good porter to whatever brewery or liquor store I go to. It’s different than the usual porter’s I drink. When looking at the menu what struck me was that Incalescent was conditioned with 10lb of barrel-aged, light roasted Brazil-origin beans for 48 hours before packaging.

HOF does coffee as well in small batch roasting and with an espresso bar to boot.

Syncopation Pilsner – Czech

HOF website tells us that this is their “version of an old world beauty – the Czech pilsner. Hopped with 100% Saaz, fermented with a classic Pilsen yeast and then conditioned in our oak foeders as they did in the Germanic caves of old.

This was the first HOF beer I tried in 2019. It’s hard to go wrong with a classic Pilsner using Saaz hops and Pilsen yeast. If the funkier stuff leaves you uneasy then this is a great place to start. I also love it for warm weather when you want a cool refreshing beer without a lot of heavy duty flavour or strangeness.

Bootsy Farmhouse IPA

Named after the legendary bass player who played with James Brown and Parliament Funkadelic, I found this beer not to my liking. I wasn’t crazy about it being dryhopped with Mosaic and Simcoe hops either.

Daucus – Carrot Saison

This too was another beer that I found strange and funky. I guess it was keeping with the theme HOF has established. On Untappd they’ve included some information about it adding “that chopped young ginger and blanched mandarin oranges, along with a small amount of mosaic hops have been added. They also fermented it with 100L of juiced carrots from our friends at Chaser Juice.”

Ceres

Ceres was a little more to my liking and Ceres is a wheat beer fermented with wild yeast strains. Brewed with only wheat malt and buckwheat, Ceres was fermented for 45 days on Sacch Trois and a house brettanomyces blend, and delicately dryhopped with Ella.

https://twitter.com/hofbrewco/status/1236378981881901056

Vespertine Sour

Brewed with a variety of kilned and roasted specialty malts, Vespertine was fermented with a delicate belgian yeast strain and a souring mixed culture, isolated from one of our foeders. Vespertine was then conditioned on cherry, black currant, and blackberry puree for 1 month. Vespertine is tart and complex, with underlying notes of dark fruit.

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Beere Brewing A Great North Vancouver Find

As part of our North Vancouver Brewery District Tour last weekend, we visited the lovely Beere Brewing, yes that is the correct spelling, for a round of their finest beers. Open since 2017 this is a family-run operation by Matt and Craig Beere.  

We drank Legit Snack, Jog On, Pinky Tuscadero, and Go Easy Pale Ale from their menu.

Legit Snack

Legit Snack is a Double Dry Hopped IPA with El Dorado, Cashmere, and Citra hops and alcohol content of 6.5%. The brewery describes it as having notes of pineapples fresh mangoes, and creamy oats.

This beer to me follows along on the trend of hoppy IPA’s, Hazy IPA’s and Cloudy beers that have become all the rage. There is serious merit in them for me in small doses and what I like to see in a brewery is some variety.

This beer reminds me a lot of Steamworks Flagship IPA which uses Mosaic, Galaxy, and Citra hops.

This beer reminds me a lot of Steamworks Flagship IPA which uses Mosaic, Galaxy, and Citra hops.

Jog On

Jog On is Beere’s light and florally mild English pale ale. English Pale Ale’s and Bitters share a lot of commonalities and this beer could be enjoyed year round.

Jog On is also English slang for Go Away! in British English which makes me love it even more.

I see this beer as a perfect balance to the IPA’s, Sour’s and Double IPA’s that dominate the menu here as well. 

Dry Hopping

One thing that stands out with Beere’s style of brewing is their use of Dry Hopping a process that I asked the owner about and that he confided is something that they love to do.

It’s consistently used in American Pale Ales and American IPA’s with the idea being that you add hop flavor and aromatics into your beer.

Pinky Tuscadero

I tried Pinky purely on its name. I’m not a huge fan of the Sour movement that has become a huge part of the Craft Beer scene in B.C.

Sour’s themselves are not a new style. Sour beer is a beer that has an intentionally acidic, tart, or sour taste. Traditional sour beer styles include Belgian lambics, gueuze, and Flanders red ale as well as German Gose’s.

Pinky is conditioned on a whole pile of raspberries and lemons. It does evoke that taste of a raspberry lemonade on a hot day which I can dig so I shouldn’t let that bias me against some sours which I have found truly awful.  

Go Easy Pale Ale.

This is a dry hopped Pale Ale that to me makes a good cousin to Jog On.

Beere says this beer has notes of mango, orange peel, fresh wildflowers, and ripe nectarine. It has an orange, slightly hazy appearance of course!

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Strange And Scary Krampus Belgian Dubbel Is A Fall And Winter Treat

With the cooler winter weather upon us and the need for dark beer to bring a warming feeling in the damp days of fall, I was happy to have tried a growler fill of the Krampus Belgian Dubbel from Strange Fellows Brewing.

A summer favourite of mine from Strange Fellows is the Talisman West Coast Pale Ale which offers a great citrusy tropical taste.

Who is Krampus?

Krampus, I didn’t realize, is an actual figure who exists in Central European folklore and myth. He is a half goat half demon character who punishes children who were not good when Christmas comes.

He is hairy, usually brown or black, and has the cloven hooves and horns of a goat. His long, pointed tongue lolls out and he has fangs. Scary stuff!

Krampus Belgian Dubbel

Obviously Strange Fellows has hit on this tradition as a way to market this great beer and it does add a layer of mystery to its taste and style.

The beer itself is a Belgian Dubbel which also has some interesting history behind it given its European connections.

Dubbel which stands for (double) has a characteristic brown colour. It is one of the classic Abbey/Trappist types, having been developed in the 19th century at the Trappist monastery in Westmalle. Today, some commercial brewers using abbey names call their strong brown beers “Dubbel”. Typically, a dubbel is between 6 and 8% abv.

Belgian history shows us that beer has been brewed there since the 12th century.

One interesting thing that stands out is the Dubbel’s pairings with different types of foods. Flavoured sausages, meat stews, gouda cheese and anything chocolate are all rich foods in my book. I also associate them with Christmas feasts and foods that are good for warming your insides when its cold.

Be prepared to for the 8.5 percent alcohol content as well which will knock you on your rear end if you drink too many glasses.

Krampus has become one of my winter favourites for beer and I’m always waiting for it to drop at Strange Fellows. Be sure and make a visit to the brewery before the end of the holiday season.

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Beer

Fraser Valley Has Strong Ties to the Craft Beer Industry

A recent summer camping trip to Manning Park led me through the Fraser Valley for the Chilliwack Sunflower Festival and that got me thinking about beer.

The Fraser Valley saw hop growing as a key industry once upon a time and hop farming is back largely thanks to the growth of craft brewing throughout B.C.

Hops in case you don’t know can be a key ingredient in beer and while beer really only requires malted barley, yeast and water, hops in B.C. beers have really become a thing!!

Inspired by the growth of hops in the Fraser Valley, I looked for some breweries on the BC Ale Trail that were near the Sunflower Festival. Old Yale Brewing was the closest.

I tried the following at Old Yale Brewing: They included Head Shaker Honey Lager, Off Trail Pale Ale, Tequila Gose, and Sasquatch Stout.

I have also been a sucker for stout’s, often dead set against drinking a Gose and a Honey Lager and a Pale Ale is always a nice compliment when trying a flight of four beers.

The Sasquatch Stout is always a fav of mine because it satisfies my palet and love for all things coffee and chocolate. It’s the 2014 award winner for Best Beer In Canada and rightly so in my book.

Having tried and not liked the Habanero Peach Goes from Parallel 49 Brewing, I was pleasantly surprised by the Tequila Gose at Old Yale. It contains Pink Himalayan Salt, Agave Tequila, and reminded me of drinking a Margarita. Delicious!!

The Fraser Valley Ale Trail also includes the following breweries. Flashback Brewing in Chilliwack, Ravens Brewing and Field House Brewing in Abbotsford and Langley has Five Roads Brewing, Trading Post Brewing, as well as Dead Frog Brewery.

Dead Frog Brewery has always been a bit of an icon in my book having been in operation since 2007 and with an old favourite of mine their Nut Brown Ale.

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Hitting the Penticton Ale Trail

I stumbled upon the Ale Trail brochure this past summer while in Penticton and while I have been a regular user of the Growler Magazine for a while I liked this concept of doing a self guided tour of local breweries.

I must confess that I have family roots in the Okanagan so I was already tapped into the scene there a bit and have been familiar with Cannery Brewing for its famous Naramata Nut Brown Ale.

Ale Trail Blog Post
Leaving Okanagan Falls and heading into Penticton B.C.

The breweries I visited were as follows: Bad Tattoo Brewing Company, Cannery Brewing, Highway 97 Brewing Company, and Slackwater Brewing.

The Ale Trail brochure lists The Barley Mill and Tin Whistle Brewing as two other spots as well as several additional local bars to try.

I won’t get into an extensive explanation of beer tasting 101 here but have included a video from YouTube on some things to look for in beers.

Cannery Brewing

Cannery offers a great room with a nice patio as well as live music. You can find a complete list of their beers over on their website.

My list of samples at Cannery included the Naramata Nut Brown of course, Sunblink Berry Sour, and Hop Chowdah IPA.

The Hop Chowdah IPA is a stretch for me as the hazy New England style beers are not a favourite of mine. Glad I tried this one though to expand my horizons.

Highway 97 Brewing Company

Like the name says Highway 97 is right on the highway as it bends through town and into Penticton. It ultimately becomes Eckhardt Avenue.

Highway 97’s sampling room and brewery are all together as seats overlook the production floor the brewery.

I tried their Amber Ale, Dirt Road Double IPA, and Salted Choc Porter.

The Salted Chocolate Porter was my favourite and I took home a 6 pack to sample over the next few weeks.

Slackwater Brewing

Slackwater Brewing
Lager
Pale Ale
Porter
Cherry Sour

Bad Tattoo Brewing Company

While I enjoyed them all my favourite has to be Bad Tattoo. Their unique marketing and style of brewing coupled with their delicious pizza and great beer menu has made them someone whose beer I get when I can. I bought their 8 pack of tall cans back. That pack had the Vagabond Pilsner, Los Muertos Cerveza Negra, Tramp Stamp Pale, and seasonal Kolsch. Below is a beer list of brews I tried at Bad Tattoo.

Melon Gose
Bike Barn ISA
Kolsch
Blackberry Sour
Hang Ten Hefe
Vagabond Pilsner
Los Muertos Cerveza Negra
Tramp Stamp Pale
West Coast IPA

My favourite is Los Muertos Cerveza Negra. I’ve gotten more into Dark Lager’s over the years and flavour profile of this beer immediately appealed to me.

It’s a dark coloured lager made from a mix of Pilsner, Crystal and Munich malts. It is reminiscent of a light German Bock, but with a Mexican twist.

I do have an additional brewery in Firehall Brewing in Oliver added to my list that isn’t obviously on the Penticton Ale Trail but it is definitely worth visiting if you want to drive south

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Sunshine And Suds On The Sunshine Coast Ale Trail

With family living on the Sunshine Coast, I travel up there quite frequently to take a break and take in what the Coast has to offer. Whether it is great beaches, hiking or shopping and now beer, the Sunshine Coast Ale Trail doesn’t disappoint.

Persephone Brewing

I first tried Persephone Brewing in 2013 when it was the only craft brewery on the lower part of the Coast. Townsite Brewing is also on the Sunshine Coast but it is in Powell River and I don’t get their frequently to visit.

As their website tells us “Persephone Brewing Co. (PBC) operates an 11-acre farm and craft micro-brewery in the community of Gibsons on BC’s Sunshine Coast.”

With a number of core beers and a selection of rotating and seasonal taps I tried the following beers while at Persephone. They were the Black Lager, Dark Cherry Sour Ale, Double IPA
Amarillo Pilsner, and Coast Life Lager.

The Black Lager has always been a favourite of mine given its “Roasty, clean and chocolaty with a graham cracker finish.” It must be because of my love of dark coffee, dark chocolate and porter and stout beers.

Tapworks Brewing

Opened in 2017,Tapworks Brewing, formerly known as Gibson’s Tapworks is tucked away on Cruice Lane.

Once a cosy one level tap room and brewery, Tapworks has expanded and now includes a beautiful rooftop patio, food and music options.

The core group of beers includes the Stormrider NE IPA, Blonde Logger Blonde Ale, Lower G Brown Ale, One Sailing Wait IPA, and Oatmeal Stout.

This is a delicious set of beers and I liked every one of them despite my preference for darker beers. The Stormrider NE IPA fufills the need for a hazy, juicy style IPA that is all the rage these days.

Highway 101 Brewing and Distillery

Situated on Highway 101, Highway 101 Brewing is the newest of the three Sunshine Coast craft breweries.

Coupled with a great location and good food, their Bob’s Auto Lager is and will always be a choice of mine. As the 101 website says Bob’ Auto Lager is “A cool, slow fermentation gives this German-style lager a clean, light, and malty flavour profile.”

I did not sample the spirits offered by the 101 as the locals call it. They also offer a large food menu and live music.