Monthly Archives: June 2012

BC Beer Awards 2012

BC Beer AwardsSpeak of the devil, shortly after I write a post criticizing beer awards, the BC Beer Awards are announced.  I swear I didn’t know this was going to happen. Notably, in previous years this event was done in conjunction with Vancouver Craft Beer Week.  Interesting that the 3rd beer awards didn’t line up with the 3rd VCBW, do I smell a rift?

I really like a few things I see in the press release below.  First, they clearly state that they’ll only have twelve categories, that these will be inclusive of all BC beers, and that judging will be based on taste.  Second, this event will be going on at the same time as CAMRA’s Harvest Cask Festival.

I’m not super keen on the idea of celebrity judges.  What if they like lime flavoured beers? I hope these celebrity judges are carefully vetted. Do marginally talented beer bloggers count as celebrities?  If so, I’m hereby volunteering to judge.

Press release below.

Cheers,

Chris

THE BRITISH COLUMBIA BEER AWARDS RETURN TO VANCOUVER ON OCTOBER 13TH!

3rd Annual Event Showcases the Very Best of Local Beer and Brewers

Vancouver, BC – June 27, 2012 – We’re back!!

Eagerly anticipated by BC beer fans and brewers alike, the 3rd Annual British Columbia Beer Awards, sponsored by The Brewery Creek Liquor Store and in partnership with CAMRA BC, is set to return to our city to help launchBC Craft Beer Month on Saturday, October 13th, 2012.

One of the most focused beer events in Western Canada, the BC Beer Awards showcases and celebrates the very best of locally-made beer.  Open to the public, this one-day-only event will be held this year at Chapel Arts(304 Dunlevy, Vancouver) and will include not only the awards ceremony itself, but also CAMRA’s Harvest Cask Festival, with food provided by some of Vancouver’s acclaimed and beer-friendly restaurants. 

Last year’s award ceremony included over 400 unique entries from over 35 BC breweries and brewpubs, with winners selected in 12 distinct categories.  Judges included certified Beer Judges, Cicerones, Sommeliers, Journalists, as well as noted beer and food lovers.

Highlights from the forthcoming 2012 event will include: 

* A one-day-0nly afternoon event that includes both the 2012 BC Beer Awards presentation ceremony, as well as the hotly-anticipated CAMRA’s Harvest Cask Festival consumer tasting.

* Certified Judges paired alongside celebrity panellists in order to increase festival attendance and exposure.

* Participation of acclaimed Vancouver restaurants.

The primary goal of the BC Beer Awards is to reward excellent beers even if not brewed exactly to strict style guidelines. Secondary is ensuring that every beer brewed in BC can be entered regardless of whether it fits in a style or not.  A preliminary list of categories will be issued shortly, with reference to the various BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) categories they include.  

Tickets for the 2012 BC Beer Awards, including the awards ceremony and Cask Festival are set to go on sale on September 1st.  Please visit www.BCBeerAwards.com for the latest updates.

The Trouble with Beer Awards

Every time I visit a tasting room, beer or wine, I see a lot of awards on display.  It seems like every product is an award winner of sorts.  But if every beer is an award winner, how are we, the gullible consumer, supposed to know what is actually the best?  Most breweries use “award winning” in their marketing, a message I find misleading.

central city canadian beer awards

Central City’s Canadian Brewing Awards, including brewery of the year

I really like the idea of beer awards.  They give brewers something to strive for, they provide the chance for brewers to commingle, and they sound like really fun times.  That being said, whenever I see a press release by an event or brewery bragging about some new award, I think about these things:

  1. Brewers pay to enter – An entry usually costs $100 per beer.  This means that only brewers willing to pay up (say $500 to a $1000 per product line per event) are actually judged.
  2. Who actually entered?  – Almost no beer awards list all of the entrants in each category, only the winners.  The gold medal for best IPA doesn’t mean much if only a handful of beers were actually entered.  I feel like full disclosure is warranted, otherwise how can we trust the authenticity of an award?
  3. There are too many categories - Most events have 30+ categories.  I feel like some categories are invented so that macro breweries win (sponsorship money?).  Consider that breweries are more likely to enter if they think they can win and that awards events have an economic interest in soliciting as many entries as possible.  Making everyone a winner seems like a pretty good deal for all involved.
  4. Beer is judged on style, not taste - If a beer most closely matches the style guidelines of its designation, it wins gold in that category.  Maybe this is the only way to judge beer, but I’d much rather prefer an award based on taste.  A bad tasting beer that is very exemplary of a style beats a very good tasting beer, wtf?
  5. What beer was actually served?  - Where did the beer the judge tasted come from?  Did it come from a bottle off the shelf? Did it come from a cask, brewed specially for the awards?  How did the beer get there?  How was it stored?  When was it brewed?  How do we know the playing field was completely level?
  6. There are a lot of awards –  There are so many awards events and so many categories that everyone wins, rendering the whole idea of awards pretty useless. It’s like primary school sports day all over again, here’s your (Pabst) blue ribbon!

I’m writing this post because the winners of the Canadian Brewing Awards were just announced, an event I’ve written about before.  There were 44 BC winners out of 111 possible awards, most of whom I consider deserving.  Central City was named Canadian Brewery of the Year, which I think is totally awesome.  While I’m very proud of how well BC did, I have seriously misgivings about these awards.  First, check out the list of categories and the eventual winners.  Now take a look at the entry form and consider the points I made above.  Some key questions:

  • What the hell is Phillips Blue Buck Pale Ale doing in the North American Amber Lager category?  It’s a pale ale and it won a silver medal as an amber lager?  Somebody made a serious mistake there.
  • What’s the difference between lager and premium lager?
  • Why is there a category for light beer?  Shoot me in the head.
  • How did Moosehead win four times?
  • How did three terrible beers win in the fruit category?
  • How did Driftwood, Central City, and Dieu du Ciel not win in every category of each beer they make?

These awards just seem incredibly incomplete to me.  I won’t be buying beer based on the medals they gave out. I have more hope for the BC Beer awards, which are slated to resurface this October as part of BC Craft Beer Month.  Here’s hoping they do our province proud.

Cheers,

Chris

The Great Vancouver Pizza Explosion

Pizza has exploded in Vancouver.  I’m not talking about standard, run of the mill, delivered to your door in less than 20 minutes or it’s free pizza, many of which still claim to be made with 100%  real cheese –  since when was fake cheese an option?  I am talking about the wave of 90 second Neapolitan pies that are quickly becoming the new pizza norm.

I’ve posted many times about pizza and beer inVancouver. I started with Marcello’s on Commercial Drive, where they have been making thin crust pizza long before it was in fashion.  The pizza here is good and was arguably one of the best pizzerias in Vancouver for a number of years.

I then moved on to Incendios West (now closed) and The Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, hoping to find the best pizza Vancouver had to offer.  I was excited about both locations, the beer menus looked good  and so did the pizza. The crust at Incendios West fell flat – under-baked, gummy and a bit soggy. RockyMountain, it turns out, doesn’t use salt – enough said.  I’ve heard from a number of trustworthy sources that Incendios Gastown location has stepped things up since a fire, which gutted the restaurant a few years back, forced them to restart.

Then along came Nicli Antica Pizzera in Gastown. Things changed after Antica Pizzeria opened.  People started to crave Neapolitan pizza.  Foodies began to talk, all of them claiming to have found the best 90 second pie in town. Restaurateurs took notice.  And now Vancouver is a pizza town.

I am more obsessed with pizza than ever before.  I overheard a friend of friend, whom I met just hours earlier, visually describe the chewy naan-like crust at a new pizzeria on Commercial Drive last night. I may have told this near stranger that I loved him – perhaps I came on a little strong?

I am going out for pizza tonight.   I am probably going to visit two places – Pizza Farina and Viva Tevera Pizzaria.  Yes, two pizza place in one evening may be a bit excessive, but what is life without a little excess now and again?

Want great pizza in Vancouver? Check out some of these places:

Nicli Antica Pizzaria – Makers of what many consider to the best pizza in town (I am one of the many).  The beer is good and the pizza is out of this world.  The ambiance is a bit stuffy for Gastown, but when the pizza is as good it is, ambiance doesn’t really matter.

Red Card – If you like sports, good beer and pizza you will like Red Card.  Rick Green, local food and beer aficionado, turned me on to Red Card.  The pizza is heavily charred, in a good way, and the craft beer selection is a big plus.  Possibly the best foodie and beer geek friendly sports bar inVancouver.

Verace Pizzeria Napoletana and EnotecaThe pizza here is good, delicately chewy crust with a healthy char and traditional Italian toppings.  Located right next to Rogers Arena, Verace Pizzeria is a great pace to go before a game.  Be warned; arrive early on game days if you want a seat.

The Golden Boot – Located in Coquitlam, The Golden Boot makes what may be the best pizza outside of the Vancouver core.  Probably not worth the drive if you live more than 30 minutes away, but if you happen to be in the area and have an urge to eat good food it is worth a stop.

Viva Tevera PizzeriaI have heard great things about Viva Tevera, but never been.  Having recently opened their doors just weeks ago the wait to get a table can exceed 90 minutes.  Viva Tevera is one of the two pizza stops for tonight!

UPDATE:

Viva Tevera Pizzeria was good. The crust was chewy but also a bit dense. The flavours were a bit heavy and didn’t allow the the distinct taste of each ingredient (cheese, tomato, basil etc) to come through. Overall an enjoyable experience and in a very interesting part of Vancouver. But not the best. I’d still give that to Nicli Antica Pizzeria.

Pizzeria Farina - One of my most trusted food sources tells me that Pizza Farina makes the best crust inVancouver.  After this evenings pizza adventure I hope to confirm or deny this lofty claim.

UPDATE:  

Pizzeria Farina impressed me. Not as traditionally Italian as the others (which doesn’t really matter), but very well made pizza  –  fantastic dough/crust.   The restaurant, although very small, was inviting. I’ll be back.

Cheers,

Erik

In Defence of Gluten

Almost three years ago I wrote one of this blog’s most (un)popular posts of all time, about Bard’s Gluten Free Sorghum beer.  Since returning to Vancouver, I’ve noticed that gluten has fallen considerably farther out of favour.  I cannot stand for this; I must defend the merits of my dear friend gluten.

gluten free beers

Some uninspiring gluten free beers

SORRY COELIACS, YOU POOR BASTARDS

To sum up my previous post, gluten free beer is not good and I feel sad for people with coeliac disease.  Yes, I’m aware that a small percentage of the population (far less than 1%) can not consume gluten because of this terrible affliction.  I’m also aware that there are others who are so intolerant of gluten that the resulting discomfort caused by it’s ingestion makes avoiding gluten a prudent course of action.  I also feel sorry for these people, though I feel they should make certain allowances for the finest beers and baked goods.  So there you have it past commenters, I know that some people have severe problems with gluten.  This time if you’d like to call me an idiot, please do so for reasons otherthan my assumed ignorance on this particular matter.

gluten allergies are bullshit

Woah google, settle down, we're having a civilized discussion here

FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS

I recently read a book called the Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  I found it to be a ridiculously good book and I highly recommend it to anyone that eats food.  The idea behind the book is that people are omnivores and find ways to eat pretty much everything.  Nowadays, at least in the modern western world, we have so much food and so much variety that choosing what to eat is much more of a problem than finding enough to eat.  Talk about your first world problems. As such, we North Americans, who lack a traditional food culture, are easily absorbed into an obsession with health and eating the “best” food.  This opens the door for food companies, who need to find new ways to sell more food at higher profit margins, to suck us in with clever marketing.  Tell an Italian to stop eating pasta or a French person to stop eating baguettes and they’ll likely punch you in the balls.

nature valley oats and honey

Does the green package and 'nature' make this healthy?

WHAT IS GLUTEN ANYWAY?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.  These are the grains we humans use to make bread, pasta, pizza, baked goods, breakfast cereal, and beer.  It’s not bad for you in any way unless you are a coeliac or have a substantial intolerance.  You can’t even be allergic to gluten.  Gluten sensitivity or intolerance is not an allergic response.  That’s not to say intolerance isn’t an issue, because it is.  Symptoms can be painful and prolonged gluten consumption can lead to malnutrition because the body stops absorbing everything to keep out the gluten.

gluten make you fat

No, you make you fat

AM I GLUTEN INTOLERANT?

If you have the symptoms, take them to a doctor, she tells you to stop eating gluten, then your symptoms go away, then most likely.  If not, then probably not.  If someone is telling you that you have problems with gluten, ask yourself if this person has anything to gain from you financially. I sincerely doubt chiropractors can do anything about gluten problems.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me they felt better when they started eating gluten free.  However, in some cases I don’t think their feeling better had much to do with cutting out gluten.  Gluten is found in whole, nourishing grains.  It’s also found in a lot of processed crappy food, like triscuits (what is a triscuit anyway?).  Food scientists (yeah, that is a thing) take real food like wheat and make food that tastes perfect to us, then we eat too much, then we get fat.  I’ve noticed a correlation between people who feel better after going gluten free, but are also making an effort to “be healthy” in the rest of their lives.  Instead of going gluten free, why not try eating real food for a while?

MMMMM GLUTEN

Gluten doesn’t actually taste like anything, but it is found in a lot of tasty foods.  What does it do for food, you ask?  Well, it gives it body mostly.  In bread, it contributes to dough elasticity, overall shape, and chewiness.  The best breads and pizza crusts owe much of their finery to gluten.  In beer, gluten contributes to body and mouthfeel, hence why many gluten free beers come off as watery.

gluten grains

This is bad for me?

HOW MUCH GLUTEN IS IN BEER?

Not very much actually.  Beer is brewed, denaturing many of the gluten proteins found in barley.  Beer is also naturally filtered during the fermentation process as the wort is drained through and out of the mash of barley husks. A beer contains around 10mg of gluten, whereas a piece of bread contains 5g.  All but the most afflicted should be able to enjoy beer.

SOME GLUTEN FREE BEERS

I’ve seen quite a few gluten free beers in Vancouver recently.  Bard’s, New Grist, and Green’s are a few to look out for  Are they good?  Well, taste is subjective, but no they are not.  I really like this article about the 14 best and worst gluten free beers, complete with % like actual beer rating.

DEFENDING MY BUDDY GLUTEN

It really comes down to this, some people have a lot of trouble with gluten and I feel really bad for them.  Gluten is in a lot of the best foods, not to mention beer, and I would be really sad if I couldn’t consume those anymore.  I think a lot of people who think they have gluten problems don’t actually and I implore those people to open their minds.  Most importantly, try drinking really good beer because gluten free beer is not as good.

Cheers,

Chris

Central City New Limited Edition Collection

Central City Brewing has been one of British Columbia’s top breweries since they first opened.  Gary Lohin, Central City’s brewmaster, makes great beer and has proven that great products sell – its that simple.  Red Racer IPA, a mainstay amongst westcoast hopheads, consistently wins top awards when entered into competition and is a shinning example of how great a hop forward West Coast IPA can be.

Central City is growing rapidly and is expanding their brewing operations to keep up with demand.  This means more great beer will soon hit store shelves.  This is great news as availabitliy of some of Central City’s greatest beers has been limited to select beer-centric establishments and at their Surrey based brewpub. But this is about to change.

May 31st marked the launch of Central City’s limited edition collection.  The first of a three part offering (on store shelves as of May 31) is a well hopped Imperial IPA.  Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine and a Bourbon Barrel aged version of Thor’s Hammer is also planned for release shortly.  All three of these new releases are top quality beers.  An aged Thor’s Hammer was my first barley wine and it has remained a prefference since.

I look forward to all three releases, even though it may not be the best time to release a big barley wine (its more of a winter seasonal).  But the only rule that truly matters in the craft beer industy is make good beer – Central City has no problem with this.

Cheers,

Erik