Monthly Archives: March 2009

Washington Cask Beer Festival

As a follow up to Erik’s last post, I thought I’d chip in with my impressions and some pictures of the Washington Cask Beer Festival.  It was definitely a very good time and a very impressive festival.  Vancouver has nothing to rival this event, which hosted almost forty craft brewers and sixty cask conditioned beers.  I was surprised at how crowded it was; even knowing that this was the second of two sessions to sell out.

As for the beer itself, it was good.  I can’t say much more than that, mostly because I don’t remember.  I recall liking some more than others and, like Erik, I recall a particular fondness for Port Townsend and their Hop Diggidy IPA.  We did manage to soldier through and taste each of the sixty beers on offer, although we were sharing tastes by the end.  Those who opted out of the sharing duly suffered, up was chucked….

We definitely drank too much.  Next time (oh yes, we’ll be back), we won’t hit up a German restaurant with a solid beer selection beforehand.  It definitely didn’t help that the majority of the beer was 50% to 100% stronger than normal.  Highlights of the evening include my wife stealing a wet floor sign, silly walking across the festival floor, and talking to Chris Martin of Coldplay (not even a good facsimile).  It was also cool to see pregnant Darci having a great time taking down our tasting notes.  She proved that you can have fun without drinking, which scientists had previously thought impossible.  It was also really fun to read the tasting notes the next day, one from Peter read “tastes like dry erase marker, but I like it.”

As for the pictures, you can clearly see how our night progressed:

We begin, a nice normal picture

We begin, a nice normal picture

An hour later, not quite as subdued

An hour later, not quite as subdued

Only a corner of the festival floor, it was big and well attended

Only a corner of the festival floor, it was big and well attended

And the fun begins

And the fun begins

Cool tasting glasses.  Erik and I smashed ours for not being made of glass.  How dare they?

Cool tasting glasses. Erik and I smashed ours for not being made of glass. How dare they?

Erik's face, why not?

Erik's face, why not?

The wives, not as happy the next morning, still married to us.

The wives, not as happy the next morning, still married to us.

After a while, nobody wanted to share with me anymore.

After a while, nobody wanted to share with me anymore.

Still going strong...

Still going strong...

Wooooooooooo!

Wooooooooooo!

Action sip.

Action sip.

Why not a group hug?

Why not a group hug?

Hands in...

Hands in...

From there we went and took ridiculous pictures with the Space Needle, which I will spare you from viewing.  Then the night sort of feel apart, but we ended up having a good time the next day.  More to follow.

Cheers,

Chris

The New Imperial Empire

As Chris mentioned in his previous post, we attended the Washington Cask Beer Festival.  As can be assumed, it was great; never have I seen so many casks of great beer in one single room.  For a first timer to this festival, I and possible the rest of the people in my party, may have gone a little overboard.  Half way through the evening we decided that the only way to possibly make it through a good number of the casks was to share each tasting three ways.  Those who adopted this sharing strategy made it through the night largely unscathed – those who choose not to share claimed to have had a ten minute conversation with Coldplay’s front man Chris Martin at the end of the event.  Perhaps adding a few chefs to the bill would have made for a slightly less alcohol intensive evening while adding a great opportunity for food and beer pairings – pretzels are only good for so long.

The three winners of the six to ten o’clock tasting round, Laughing Buddha’s Pandan Brown Ale, Harmon’s Vanilla Porter and Ram’s Coconut Porter, were all great and worthy of recognition, although the Vanilla Porter was a bit cloying for my tastes.  My personal favourite brewer of the evening was Port Townsend Brewing, hands down winner.  Both the Porter and IPA from Port Townsend were flavorful and brewed to style while remaining distinct from a myriad of other Porters and IPAs.  Ram’s coconut porter was my favourite adjunct beer of the night – the coconut flavour was very noticeable but not overpowering.  The beer selection was great, but I think beer diversity could be improved upon.

I would like to point out what I consider to be a growing epidemic in the world of craft beer – Imperialism; the super-sization of ale.  I may receive criticism from many beer lovers for saying this, but it must be said.  Brewing a stronger, imperial version of an existing beer is just not creative.  Not every beer becomes better by adding more hops and more grain – bigger is not always better.   The Washington Cask Beer Festival was filled with Imperial strength versions of a brewer’s standard offering.  If craft brewers continue walking down the imperialist path, I fear we may lose our much loved session beers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love strong ales – but when inundated with such potent brew over and over again, a person’s taste buds simply give up and that once enjoyable over the top Imperial IPA begins to taste like a tree.  There is no shame in showing up to a cask festival with a regular strength English Bitter – I personally would have loved to see a selection ranging from light session beer to heavily hopped Russian Imperial Stout.

It is time for all beer lover to unite, stand strong and say enough is enough – we demand regular strength cask ale.  This regular strength ale can of course be poured alongside a cask of imperial strength beer – this will add diversity to an often pallet numbing cask experience.

Erik

Feierabend is good German times

Erik and I, as well as Peter and our wives, went down to Seattle this past weekend for the Washington Cask Beer Festival (another post to follow).  For obvious reasons, we thought it a good idea to get something to eat before the festival.  After scouring the internet for the most appropriate place we stumbled onto Feierabend, a German restaurant with an excellent German beer selectionGoogle Translate informs me that Feierabend means “closing time” or “end of work”, but we were just getting started.

We were put off by the sketchy website and the disconnected phone line, but decided to try our luck anyway.  My anxiety was not assuaged after it appeared we were heading for the middle of nowhere, but were pleased to find an open Feierabend tucked away in a Yaletown like alley.  We were not the least bit disappointed with our restaurant selection after we walked in.  It was a well put together pub and they did indeed have many lovely taps of rare (at least for us Canadians) German beer.  I was delighted with both the Spaten Helles Bock and Hacker-Pschorr Alt Munich beers I chose.  Everyone else was happy with their beer also (except for Darci, who dutifully abstained).  The food was merely good, attempting German authenticity.  I had a bratwust sandwich with sauerkraut and spaetzle, which wasn’t overly impressive, but we couldn’t complain at such reasonable prices.  I would definitely go back.

It was also at Feierabend that my wife let me know how embarrassing the photos I put on this blog are.  Apparently my iPhone doesn’t cut it, not that I really minded.  It is true, neither Erik nor I are much into photography, assuming we remember to take pictures in the first place. The solution?  Get the wife to take the pictures, her handiwork is below.

In retrospect, consuming copious amounts of German beer before the festival may have been a mistake and surely contributed to the fiasco that followed.  Stay tuned.

Erik and Chris at Feierabend

Erik and Chris looking foolish at Feierabend

The wives at Feierabend

The wives

Beer and pretzels at Feierabend

Beer and pretzels

Beer eye view

Beer eye view

Me and my Spaten Helles Bock

Me and my Spaten Helles Bock

Peter with a Dunkelweizen

Peter with a Dunkelweizen

Not the best spaetzle I've ever had

Not the best spaetzle I've had

Cheers,

Chris

What is your favorite beer?

When people find out we are into beer we inevitably get asked one question, that being “what’s your favorite beer?”  The trouble is, we never know what to say.  It’s a tall task to pick one favorite from all of the great beers out there.

I have a really hard time picking favorites.  I worry that I’ll be judged harshly for picking one beer above all others.  I never want a friend to buy a beer I recommend and be put off, because everybody has their own tastes. There are many factors that go into choosing the right beer for an occasion and so many styles to choose from, how do I pick just one?

If anyone ventures to take our tastes seriously, I’ve created a new Favorites page where we’ll periodically list some of our favorite beers.  This may come in handy when purchasing gifts for us, which you should feel free to do at any time.

Just this past week I drank the Old Yale Pale Ale I picked up when I stopped by Old Yale in Chilliwack earlier this month.  It is one of the best pale ales I’ve ever had and has made its way onto my favorite list.  Old Yale is a small brewery that I find is largely ignored, but I feel like BC beer drinkers should be giving it a lot more attention.

If you have a favorite beer that you think we should try, please let us know.  We’d love to try it.

Cheers,

Chris

Hey – we are here too

Cloverdale, a small suburb of Vancouver, is home to two culinary gems. When it comes to a food scene, city suburbs tend to lack the creatively and diversity that one finds in a major urban center such as Vancouver. This observation has always struck me as somewhat odd seeing that Vancouver’s outlying neighborhoods are home to pristine farmland where a good portion of the city’s food supply is produced, or at least should be produced. Great restaurants are few and far between in the Fraser Valley, but there are some incredibly talented chefs, restaurateurs, and brewers spread out over Vancouver’s local bread basket that are making a difference. The Vault Restaurant and Boonies BBQ & Soul Food, both located in Cloverdale, are two great examples of what Suburbanites are cable of.

My wife and I enjoyed an evening out at the Vault Restaurant tonight, and were treated to a spectacular and flavorful meal. Visiting the Vault in March has become somewhat of a tradition – the restaurant offers $25.00 off during the month of your birthday, but only once a visitor card has been filled in, which is only available to previous customers. It is a great way to get repeat customers.

The beer menu at the Vault is reasonably impressive, offering a good draught beer selection of pseudo-craft brew and surprisingly, Blanche de Chambly. To clarify, pseudo-craft brew is the category that Okanagan Springs Brewery and Sleeman Brewing fit into; their beer is far more flavourful than a generic lager, but also not as creative as a beer brewed by a small microbrewery. A selection of import beer was also available in bottles, but that was not the real highlight.  Budweiser, Canadian and Coors were nowhere to be found on draught,  or maybe I have learned to tune out these brewing giants. Aside from polishing off a half priced martini with a tandoori chicken appetizer, I enjoyed a slightly light-struck Newcastle Brown Ale with my meal.  Clear bottles are such a terrible invention.

I was served the most succulent braised beef short ribs I have ever had the pleasure of eating. These short ribs were slow braised in ale and finished with a bourbon barbecue sauce reduction – this was clearly the work of a master chef. Beef short ribs are one of the most flavourful parts of a cow, but flavour often means high amounts of fat and connective tissue, and connective tissue is usually found in tougher cuts of meat. Braising is a great way to break down the tough connective tissue in a short rib allowing the fat to slowly render away keeping the meat moist and delicious. Often times, I speak from my own cooking experience here, the braising process is rushed which results in a tender piece of meat but without allowing the fat to render out – the meat is tender but huge pieces of unpleasant fat are left to be removed by the eater. The other disaster that can occur, and again I speak from experience, is the meat can simple be braised or stewed in too much liquid, resulting in a watery unpleasant meat-mush. This particular short rib was braised to perfection – it was tender but not mushy, incredibly rich but not fatty and moist without being watery. I was in heaven.

The other great restaurant is found in the Cloverdale Curling Arena. Boonies BBQ & Soul Food is a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant operating as a soulful curling rink cafeteria. Because Boonies is essentially a glorified “cafeteria”, beer is not found on the menu, but don’t be too downhearted, it could be worse. I just found out that many counties in the Southern States have yet to repeal prohibition and are still dry- egads! Boonies offers authentic southern home cookin’ and BBQ – a rare find. Their prices are ineradicably reasonable and the portions are southern sized. Although the atmosphere is somewhat lacking, the idea of eating authentic Southern soul food in Canada while watching curlers throw rocks down a sheet of ice is quite comical.

For any of you who have yet to enjoy what these two fantastic establishments have to offer, please do so. A trip into the city can be a great culinary experience, but the Fraser Valley is home to some great restaurants that should not be taken for granted.

Erik