Alibi Room 500th Tap List Celebration cometh

Alibi Room has reached their 500th tap list and that means it’s time to party! I expected 500 a lot sooner than now when they reached the 470s last Autumn, but then I kept seeing lists like 482b. My guess is that Nigel wants these celebrations to happen around this time of year or he was waiting on some crazy special beers to show up. If 500 is anything like 400, there will be special beers aplenty.

Alibi Room have been teasing us with beer announcements on Twitter. To sum up:

  • 22+ casks
  • Four Brassneck collaborations with P49, Four Winds, Occidental, and Gigantic
  • Eight custom casks from Portland brewers
  • A special Driftwood cask (my guess is Singularity, or some form of super Singularity)

No 500!!!

Keeping with the tradition of adding a day each centenary, this years celebration will span five days. First day is this Sunday March 9th and they’re opening at 2pm. Expect a line, a big line! March 10-13, they open at 5pm as usual. First come, first serve, and no reservations, unless you’re a ridiculously regular regular. All beers will be 500 cents for 12oz and they are doing some good charity stuff too. I would have come anyway, but well done on the charity stuff.



Double Morning Gold

It is a good day to be Canadian. We rose early this morning to watch our fellow countrymen systematically do what they do best, play hockey at an elite level. The weather was even onside – rare Vancouver snow fell to the ground in true Canadian fashion as our men took home the gold. Today is a day of Canadian stereotypes. We really do love hockey – a lot.

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Hockey Love!

The game started at 4:00 AM and ended less than three hours before the sun had a chance to rise. Needless to say, my day has had two mornings – an early hockey morning followed by the ‘sun has been up for hours post-nap’ morning. With victory in hand, what are we as a nation supposed to do with ourselves? Watch the sports media say good things about our countries’ favourite game, make a sandwich, and drink beer. But to keep the victorious stereotype alive, make it an all Canadian super sandwich.

Bacon, the maple kind of course, and smoked salmon BLT club with an egg – a nod to Canada’s hockey gold double-morning. A sandwich and morning friendly beer – Central City Brewing ISA - is a good choice.

Today is our day. Cheers Canada!


BC Barley Wine Throwdown!

Winter is barley wine season, so I went out and grabbed every annually released BC barley wine I could get my hands on. Trouble is, it’s tough to drink a whole bottle of barley wine on your own, what with the high alcohol content. It’s even tougher to drink five, so I had a few friends over for an epic barley wine THROWDOWN! What that really means is we drank a bit of each one, in full comparison mode.

bc barley wine

Our contenders

A few years back, a tasting like this wouldn’t have been possible. It’s only in the past three or so years that we’ve seen barley wines regularly released by BC’s top breweries. What with breweries popping up seemingly every month, I’m sure there will be even more to choose from next year. Note: I don’t count Russell’s one off Nautical Disaster or Scandal brewing’s offering as annual barley wines. I don’t even count Scandal as a real brewery, nice try Pacific Western, can’t fool me.

I’ll start from the top, so as to highlight BC’s finest examples.

1. Central City Thor’s Hammer 2011

Hand’s down the best, though we cheated on this one. Our bottle was a 2011, since no recent batches have been bottled, though you could get 2013 at their brewpub in January. This year’s Thor’s Hammer probably would have won anyway, since it’s always outstanding. A year in the cellar (2011 was actually released in bottle’s in late 2012) didn’t hurt though, this beer was incredibly smooth and had an amazing depth of flavour.

2. Howe Sound Woolly Bugger 2012

Another cheat, we had a bottle of 2012 kicking around, so we tossed it into the mix. Turns out aging barley wine is a good thing to do. Woolly Bugger 2012 smoked the pants off 2013. It was just so much richer and smoother to drink, dangerously couldn’t taste the alcohol at all.

3. Granville Island Barley Wine 2013

Note to everyone, you can still buy 2012/13 verticals of this beer at the better beer stores around Vancouver, so go buy some. This is a really solid barley wine, very fruity and malty. Despite drinking this guy fresh, the liquor was well hidden by the body of the beer. Another great seasonal from Vern at GI.

4. Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller 2013

A fantastic beer, but is it a barley wine? We didn’t rate this one very highly because it didn’t measure up to the other barley wines, mostly because it more closely resembled a super imperial IPA. There’s little to no malt character of fruitiness. It pours golden in colour and hops are very prominent. Amazing aroma, but just not a barley wine. It will be very interesting to see how this one ages.

5. Howe Sound Woolly Bugger 2013

Another solid barley wine, but it just didn’t compare favourably to 2012. You could taste the alcohol and this one was sharp, where 2013 was smooth. This is going to be a great beer in six months to a year.

6. Phillips Trainwreck 2013

Quite clearly the loser in our eyes, and the only one I don’t recommend trying. I’ve enjoyed this beer in the past, but 2013 had that metallic taste Phillips has become known for. Tasted hollow in comparison to the others.

What did I learn? I like barley wine a lot. Also, aging barley wine is a great thing to do.



Beer in Montreal and Quebec City

I spent a good chunk of the holiday season in la belle province. I wasn’t there to seek out beer, but for good times in general. That being said, I did manage to get to a few beer spots and I was not disappointed. I’ve often been told that Quebec produces most of the best beer in Canada, but I’ve only managed to thus far sample the odd Dieu du Ciel or Trou du Diable that makes it to Vancouver. While those are great beers, they don’t represent a whole province… or do they? Turns out Quebec brews a lot of good beer and I got my hands on some of the best of it. If it wasn’t so damned cold, I’d say Quebec is Canada’s beer heaven.


I commenced my beer explorations in Montreal and I did not get off to a good start. First off, Les 3 Brasseurs. Meh, with a capital M. These pubs are all over and the beer is very below average, so give this one a miss.

Next stop was Brutopia, which was a bit better, but they served me a horribly oxidized pint that I sent back. I send back about one beer every year or two, so that give you an idea of how bad it was. The pub at least had character, worth going to if you’re in the area.

I was beginning to doubt Montreal’s brewing prowess until I stumbled upon Le Saint Bock on charming rue St. Denis. They brew their own beer and also serve good stuff from other Quebecois craft brewers. It was here that I first sampled Les Trois Mousquetaires Réserve de Noël, which assuaged my doubts completely. This is a great place and worth checking out.

Another good but not overly amazing brewpub is Bennelux Brasserie. It’s a modern brewpub and quite close to the McGill and the city centre. The beer is pretty good, again worth it if you’re in the neighbourhood.

Now for the good stuff…

Vices & Versa

I looked this place up, saw some good reviews, and then decided not to go there because it was a ways out of the way. Then I met up with a local former colleague, who said we should go. I’m glad a listened because this place is fantastic, like the Alibi Room of Montreal. It’s not just a great beer bar, but likely one of the best of the world, and every beer on the menu comes from Quebec. They post their current beer list online here. Mine was different, more Christmasy, but you get the idea. I ended up ordering three tasting trays, each with six 4oz tasters (which I shared somewhat). Of the 18 beers I tasted, most were good to great and none were bad. I loved this place and highly recommend it.


vices et versa

Good times at Vices & Versa, pays to know a local

Dieu du Ciel!

Most everyone into beer in Canada knows about these guys; their reputation is well earned. Visiting their cozy brewpub in Montreal is a pilgrimage we beer geeks must make, and I finally did it. This is my happy place. The neighbourhood and atmosphere are both great, and then the beer is fantastic. I think we tasted twelve beers there. Outside the regular lineup, the standouts were Disco Soleil, a kumquat IPA, Solstoce D’Été, a sour wheat beer with prunes, and Chaman, an imperial pale ale. Love this place, a must visit.

dieu du ciel outside

I made it! You might not be able to see the sign, but this is Dieu du Ciel

dieu du ciel tasters

I want to taste them all! Dieu du Ciel and chocolate

Depanneur Peluso

On the outside, and even on the first half of the inside, this place looks like a shitty corner store, complete with gross rolling hot dogs. As you get to the back of the store, it turns into beer wonderland. I’ve never seen so many beers from one area (Quebec) available in one place. They have a Legacy sized beer section, but then 95% of the beer is from Quebec. I asked one of the guys working there to point me towards the best examples of Quebecois beer. He showed me at least twenty before I eventually stopped paying attention because it was too much to handle. I did end up with Charlevoix Dominus Vobiscum Lupulus and Les Trois Mousquetaires Porter Baltique, plus a few (seven) others. Had to drink those that wouldn’t fit in the suit case, oh well!

depanneur peluso

Too many choices at Depanneur Peluso..

Places I missed

There are a lot of brewpubs in Montreal and there wasn’t time (or liver) enough for all over them. I would have liked to visit Brouhaha, Hopfenstark Station, Cheval Blanc, and la Succursale.

Rad Montreal Food Things

Montreal is a big city with a lot going for it. I would be remiss not to mention some of the great food experiences we had. Interestingly, we noticed and enjoyed the abundant use of foie gras and maple syrup, totally goes with everything.

Quebec City

We didn’t do as much in Quebec City as we’d hoped, mostly because of the -30 degree or worse temperatures. I wanted to check out Bateau de Nuit, a supposedly cozy bar with a solid Quebecois beer list, and La Barberie, a coop brewpub.

We did get to Depanneur La Duchesse d’Aiguillon, which is almost as good as Peluso, just smaller. I picked up a few bottles and then hibernated indoors. We also hit up Pub St. Alexandre, which was fine but a bit disappointing. Their good stuff was mostly bottled and from Belgium. Not bad, but not what I wanted in Quebec.

Is it worth it?

Yes, Quebec makes great beer. Montreal is a fantastic city to explore, for beer lovers and just anyone. Even thought it’s a five hour flight and they speak a different language, it’s still Canada too. You should go to there.



The Consumer’s Business Case of Craft Beer

Craft beer – its good for the local economy, it has flavour, its nutritious and healthier than corn laden macro beer, it may even help prevent, or at least reduce the dreaded hangover. And lets not forget the environment – local craft brewers pollute less making our future cleaner and greener. Are any of these claims true? I haven’t the faintest idea!

I drink craft beer because it tastes good. I also like the back-story – where the artisan David, battles the industrial Goliath.  Craft beer makes my life better, so I drink it.

If I learned anything from the one macro-economics course I took over ten year ago, it is that the economy is far from simple. I am not so sure that buying local is the way of the future. As much as I would like purchases made within my local community to improve the economy, I much prefer my local shops to the Walmart’s of the world, I haven’t seen enough data to substantiate a yea or nae outcome on the topic. I am far from an economics master, nor am I cynical enough to provide note worthy commentary, but the idea that buying local = good for the economy, seems only half baked. But by no means should we stop supporting local producers. Support local community artisans because they make a good products, not to bolster the economy.

Of course small scale craft beer tastes better than the alternative. Taste being subjective makes it hard to come to a clear cut conclusion as to what tastes best, but I am a beer geek with a beer blog, beer is my life, no support needed. However, I do understand that some people prefer very light beer – and industrial grade beer is a great and highly consistent light beer. The growth of the craft beer segment indicates that tastes are changing, and more and more beer drinkers are choosing to drink flavour forward ales and lagers. I think this is good thing.

The environment, you know that under appreciated life sustaining thing we all should love a bit more, does keep us alive after all. The simple argument that locally produced food items have fewer food miles, may or may not be true. Like the economy, the carbon footprint of a product can be tricky to determine. In order for the buy local and save the planet argument to stick, a thorough supply chain audit is needed of both the large and small scale producers. Small scale does not necessarily mean clean. For all I know, my local brewers fire their kettles with coal and fly half of there specialty malt in from Europe. The food miles argument has a lot of logic to it, but it is not end all and be all of sustainable buying.

And then there is health. As a beer drinker, I like the idea that beer is good for me, I also like the idea of Santa Claus. Of course beer is good for me, nearly all food items have health benefits, when consumed in moderation of course. Sure, craft beer is arguably healthier than the industrial grade alternative, but how much healthier?  Craft beer still has the potential to cause diabetes and liver disease. I have heard that the remaining yeast left behind in most craft bottles, as a result of minimal filtering, results in a higher B vitamin content, which is said to reduce the severity of a hangover. Perhaps this is true, but after drinking too much, a hangover is inevitable. The trick to reduce the severity of a hangover is to drink less – sad but true.

Whether craft beer is good for you, or if the environment is spared when you choose to support your local small scale brewer, has yet to be seen. Should you choose to ring in 2014 with a pint, choose a beer that you love, a beer that tastes good, maybe even a beer that is made by people that you know. Don’t worry about the economy or the nutritional content in your glass come midnight. Drink good beer because it tastes good. Yes, it is just a pint, but life is nothing more than the sum of thousands of joyous pints. Cheers to 2014 – may it be a year filled with many delicious pints.