Monthly Archives: May 2009

First Annual Whistler Brewhouse Beer Festival

The Whistler Brewhouse is an establishment that I love.  I’ve been going there for many years, long before I’d even fully discovered my love of beer.  Some friends and I stumbled upon it during a ski trip one winter and have been going back ever since.  We found the fresh beer and food to be excellent and the atmosphere to be delightfully cozy after a day on the slopes.  The Whistler Brewhouse was also where I first enjoyed many lesser known beer styles, including a cherry ale, barley wine, and dunkelweizen that I can recall.  When I found out that the Whistler Brewhouse would be hosting a beer festival this year, my interest was piqued.

I heard about the festival via the CAMRA Vancouver email newsletter, but haven’t been able to find very many details online besides the image included in this post and a Facebook event.  The festival is said to be happening on Saturday June 27th from 12PM to 6PM and over twenty unknown microbreweries will be on hand.  Tickets are $25 ($20 for CAMRA members) and are on sale at the Brewhouse and at Dix in Vancouver.  Despite the lack of official details, the mere mention of a beer festival at the Whistler Brewhouse is enough for me.  Erirk and I will be heading to Whistler that weekend for the wives for what will surely be an excellent time.  To all my friends who expressed interest in previous beer festivals and were less than impressed when I didn’t invite them, please feel encouraged to join us at this one.  It is going to be fun.

Cheers,

Chris

Jake’s Steakhouse and Piano Lounge

I went out for dinner last night with a few friends and visited one of CAMRA Vancouver’s newest corporate member’s, Jake’s Steakhouse and Piano Lounge.  I found out a few weeks ago that any business can join CAMRA Vancouver as a corporate member. Dedication to quality beer is not a requirement for corporate membership, so long as the membership fee is paid they are in.  But CAMRA membership is much different than CAMRA recommended, where a good beer experience can be expected.

I was a bit hesitant recommending Jake’s to our friends, an unproven restaurant in the heart of Whalley is not all that enticing.  For those familiar with Vancouver’s Skytrain system, Jake’s Steakhouse is found at the  Skytrain’s last stop in Surrey in the Compass Point Inn, not exactly the nicest part of town.  But our friends live in Whalley, so I figured their expectations wouldn’t be too high?

I was completely blown away by Jake’s Steakhouse.  Who knew a restaurant in Surrey offering a great selection of beer existed, and further yet that they make food and beer pairing suggestions.  This almost makes me think that this whole craft beer thing is beginning to catch on.   On top of the impressive beer list, the menu was also great, featuring an array of classic steakhouse dishes with a local and seasonal influence.  Unlike many restaurants offering a seasonal vegetable side, Jake’s seasonal veg was actually seasonal, and  included fiddleheads, asparagus and other early spring vegetables.  Fiddleheads – in Surrey – really?

Although my steak was cooked well past medium rare and into medium territory, an almost unforgivable offense, we had a great evening.  For once I was able to enjoy a steak alongside a full flavored ale – Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter to be exact.  Something about Whalley makes me think of Hunter S. Thompson. Gonzo Imperial Porter, brewed as a tribute to the late Hunter S. Thompson, seemed an obvious choice.

Jake’s Beer Menu includes the following:

Draught

Bottles

Standard imports and domestic beer is also available.  All of the beer mentioned above comes complete with food pairing recommendations.

Jake’s Steakhouse and Piano Lounge is a great restaurant where beer and wine enthusiasts can can both sit down and enjoy a well prepared meal.  And if a meal is not in the cards during a visit, they also happen to have a great piano lounge to relax in.  I am sure Jake’s would be happy to receive support from the local beer community.  Don’t let the Whalley neighborhood or the long skytrain ride scare you away – Jake’s is a great place for great food and beer.

Cheers,

Erik

Beer in Greece

I’ve returned from our vacation in Greece and am now sufficiently recovered from jetlag to write a bit about the beer there.  While in Greece I learned that hobbies of Greek people include yelling at each other, smoking, and driving their vehicles wherever they might fit.  I also learned that Greeks drink macro lager.  Everywhere in Greece that sells beer, and there are a lot of places in Greece that sell beer, offers Amstel, Heineken, and Mythos in bottles and cans.  Literally everywhere, no matter where we were, we could count on picking up a 500ml bottle of one of these three for a euro or so.  We did encounter a few different varieties of lager for sale here and there, including Alfa (the other big Greek brand) and Lowenbrau, but always lager.  But as they say, when in Greece do as the Greeks do.  We did enjoy some of these brews (mostly because they were cheap) while sitting on patios or watching sunsets and we did find them refreshing in the Greek heat.  We also noticed that some establishments in Athens had Craft Lager on tap, Craft being the name of the brewery.

A cool Mythos at a taverna on a hot Athens day

A cool Mythos at a taverna on a hot Athens day

We ventured to visit the aptly named Craft Microbrewery, the only microbrewery in Athens.  I expected great things of Craft based on the glowing Beer Advocate reviews of the place, but left a bit disappointed.  They certainly put the effort on presentation with shiny vats and tap handles glistening at their location, but we found their “pub” reminiscent of every other Athens cafe we’d visited.  They did not manage to put forth the homey brewpub atmosphere I’d hoped for.  I was impressed to be presented with a complimentary taster of their six brews upon arrival.  The beers themselves consisted of a lager, a pilsner, a dark lager, a red ale, a wheat beer, and a smoked lager.  I found all of the beers to be very light and hollow tasting, merely average, and was not particularly impressed.  Still, I am glad I visited the only microbrewery and brewpub in all of Greece.

Craft Microbrewery Athens

Craft Microbrewery Athens

Tasters at Craft Microbrewery Athens

Tasters at Craft Microbrewery Athens

The bottle lineup at Craft

The bottle lineup at Craft

A pint of Craft's Athens Lager

A pint of Craft's Athens Lager

As suspected, it turns out that Greece is not much of a beer country, some great wine though.  We did come across a few specialty bars and restaurants serving some interesting Belgian and German beers where I enjoyed a very expensive Paulaner Hefeweizen (could have had eight Mythos!).  Other than the odd case, it was just the big three everywhere.  I do have fond memories of enjoying Mythos or Amstel in some fine locations, but I think it may have had more to do with the locations.  The Greek islands were lovely, but the wife has already agreed to my beer tour of central Europe for our next trip!

Enjoying the Santorini Sunset with an Amstel

Enjoying the Santorini Sunset with an Amstel

Cheers,

Chris

EAT Vancouver

Eat Vancouver, an annual food and cooking show held at BC Place, took place weekend – I attended.  The show consisted of a large number of trade booths selling or promoting food or food related products, cooking demonstrations, a beer, wine and spirits tasting area, and a smattering of restaurants, many being South Asian inspired, offering a small tasting menu.

The trade show floor was similar to last year and just not all that impressive – how many ready-made frozen curries does the world really need?  But there were a few really interesting booths, including Sweet Tree Canadian Birch Syrup.  If you haven’t tried birch syrup, do.  Finally a natural tree syrup that West Coast Canadians can proudly boast about – move so than maple syrup.  Similar to the trade show floor, the beer, wine and spirits tasting area was not overly impressive – too many distributors an not enough brewers, vintners and distillers. However, there were a few great breweries represented, Rogue, Brooklyn Brewery, R&B and Dead Frog to name a few.

The real draw this weekend was not the trade show booths or the food samples, it was the cooking demonstrations and food and beer seminars.  Chefs ranging from Food Network Canada hosts to accomplished local and international kitchen veterans teach eager home cooks how to prepare their favourite dishes.  The fine people at Just Here for The Beer hosted a series of seminars on beer – I was only able to attend the food and beer pairing session.

The food and beer pairings chosen for the seminar were:

The pairings all worked well, but I was hoping for a  more creative selection- Belgian Ale, the king of food and beer parings, was nowhere to be found.  That aside, Just Here for The Beer did a good job promoting beer and proved to many happy beer drinkers that wine is not the only drink that can enhance a great meal.

Cheers,

Erik

Hops from British Columbia’s Past

I was out shopping for heirloom tomato plants at a local nursery last weekend when I made an interesting discovery.  Amongst a selection of rare ornamental plants and hard to find heirloom vegetable plants I came across four pots filled with what looked oddly similar to a young hop bine.  Not a spelling mistake, the long and fast growing shoots of the hop plant are bines, not vines.  It turns out the four potted plants not only looked like young hop plants, but in fact were young hop plants.  One of the owners of this greenhouse quickly took notice of my wide-eyed appearance and obvious interest in this plant and approached me.

I asked the owner if he knew what variety of hops I was about to purchase.  He was unsure of the exact variety, but assured me that the plant I was about to purchase would produce hop cones suitable for brewing.  After talking for a few minutes, I learned that this man’s father was born in the UK and was raised in a hop growing region of the country.  As a young adult this man’s father moved to Chilliwack, BC where he found himself surrounded by the familiar aroma of the hop yard.  Upon the closing of BC’s last hop yard, this man’s father walked through the remnants of this dead industry and pulled up one of the few remaining rhizomes left in the field.  He gave this rhizome to his son, an owner of this small greenhouse operation, who planted the last remaining rhizome in his back field.  This hop plant is still growing strong year after year – the aromatic hops cones are occasionally harvested, not used as a brewing ingredient but instead serve as pleasant reminder to this man’s father of his childhood in England.

Potentially BC's oldest hop plant

Potentially BC's oldest hops plant

The plant I purchased, believed to be a descendant of BC’s booming hops industry, is happily planted in the ground where it will rapidly grow at a speed of up to 50 cm a week.  I am not expecting much as far as hop cone production goes, but in future years look forward to brewing with what could be one of BC’s last remaining hop plants from our long dead, but potentially revived, hops industry.

Cheers,

Erik