Monthly Archives: July 2012

Is Spruce beer a thing now?

A couple months ago Tofino Brewing produced a few casks of what they called Spruce Tip IPA.  I tried this delightful beer at the Central City Summer Cask Festival and found it to be awesome.  It was like their regular, very good IPA, but with a nice spruce aroma.  It tasted a little bit like trees, in a good way.

Today I got an email from Phillips Brewing letting me know that they are releasing a limited quantity of Evergreen Ale, a spruce infused west coast pale ale.  Two spruce beers in two months!  Like fresh hops a couple years ago, is this going to be a new trend in west coast brewing?  Phillips indicated in their release that Captain Cook was the first to brew a spruce beer in BC back in 1788 (check out this old timey recipe).  Clearly, he failed to start the trend.  However, I did do a little research (read googled ‘spruce ipa’) and it seems that a few other breweries and plenty of home-brewers have been brewing with spruce tips of late.  Both Tofino and Phillips used Sitka Spruce, maybe because it’s the tastiest spruce?  I really have no idea.

Anyway, if spruce beers taste like Tofino’s Spruce Tip IPA, then I would like more spruce in my beer please.

phillips evergreen ale



Bridge Brewing Company Now Open

Bridge Brewing Company opened their doors in North Vancouver this weekend.  Check out their snazzy new website, is that a train going across the bridge?  Billed as Vancouver’s first nano-brewery, their 4HL brewhouse is putting out just one beer to start.  North Shore Pale Ale is a 27 IBU, 5.6% west coast pale ale that I haven’t tried yet, anyone?  The website mentions that seasonals will be available at the brewhouse. I’ve also heard they’re filling up growlers on Friday and Saturday afternoons.  Expect to see North West Pale ale on tap around town in the near future.



bridge brewing company


north shore pale ale

Beer labels should never suck

I’m not a graphic designer, nor am I all that artistically inclined.  In fact, I can barely write my name legibly, to the extent that people have asked me why a retarded four year old german shepherd scribbled all over my notebook.  Despite all that, I appreciate good visual design, at least to the extent someone like me can.  And yes, I’m aware that this site is not all that lovely, but we’re working on it.

I drink the beer I drink because of the way it tastes, but am also attracted to cool beer labels, especially when trying something new.  It always shocks me when I see horrible labels.  Most customers only interact with a given brewery via product in the store, so why not put the best foot forward?  It is all about the beer, to an extant.  Appearance matters and I guarantee that prettier labels work out to more sales.

Driftwood logo

Driftwood, a shining example of great beer and brand

Today at work someone shared a really awesome site with me, Oh Beautiful Beer, which highlights really cool beer label design.  This got me thinking about the labels around town that I really like or don’t like.  Two of the breweries whose beer I like the most also have the most attractive packaging.  I really like both Driftwood’s website and bottle label design.  Their brand is simple, attractive, and distinct.  Central City is another company I like style and beer wise.  Their Red Racer brand is super recognizable and the red racer girl does her job (objectification of women complainants, justify Magic Mike).  Turns out that dudes, who drink the most beer, also tend to like boobs.  Weird, eh?  Hoyne and Parallel 49 are also nailing it.

Red Racer ESB

The Red Racer girl, now a beer icon

Now for the bad examples… I don’t buy bottled R&B beer because their bottles make me think and thinking is hard.  If I can’t figure out what’s on the label and what the beer is in five seconds, there’s a problem.  Auld Nick Winter Ale is the worst offender, why is Santa looking at me with those rapey eyes?  Dead Frog’s Beermaster series is another offender.  Their regular bottles are beautiful, if not partial to skunky beer (bottles are clear) and terrible for the environment (their custom bottles are crushed, not reused).  For a company whose entire brand has nothing to do with beer and is all about standing out, what’s with the poopy Beermaster series labels?

R&B Auld Nick

You’re freaking me out man


Dead Frog Brewmaster Series

Trick is to make sure nobody can read Beermaster Series

Seriously, having a terrible label is like wearing crocs to a wedding, not cool for anyone involved.  I know that it costs money to design and print new labels, but think of all the confidence to be gained from brand augmentation surgery?  All of a sudden all the boys are looking and sales are perky.  Seriously though, I’m not advocating sexist labels, but I do think certain breweries should give my friend, who just whipped up a sweet landing page for Powell Street, a call.  This is not a shameless plug; I only know one designer.



Beer In Chicago

I was recently in Chicago for a quick vacation at the end of May. For a city that happens to be in the middle of the uniformly functional American Midwest, and that is located on one of the great lakes (all of which are not all that great), it is actually a quite beautiful city.

Aside from tall buildings, once successful sports teams, and deep dish pizza, Chicago has quite an active food and beer scene.  The Michelin Guide, the de facto standard when it comes to reliable restaurant reviews, is only available for three North American cities, and Chicago happens to be one of the three.  Needless to say, most of my time in Chicago was spent eating and drinking.  The primary goal of any other non-food related tourist actively was to burn off enough calories to get us to the next meal.

When it comes to beer in Chicago, Goose Island Brewing tends to dominate the market – their beer is available at just about every restaurant in Chicago, and possibly throughout the entire Midwest. This once independent craft brewery is now owned by AB Inbev, yet they have managed to maintain their unique local character. Most Chicagoans seem to take pride in Goose Island, but the beer I tried was just okay to good, perhaps even better than good at times, but I’m a tough critic.

Here a few places that I particularly enjoyed while in Chicago:

Clark Street Ale House – Appears to be a typical pub at first glance, but the impressive beer menu puts this tavern among Chicago’s top 10 beer destinations.  The wood paneled walls create a warm atmosphere completely devoid of any prentense.    Clark Street Ale House feels like a pub that just so happens to serve excellent beer, which is exactly what it is. I had a few afternoon pints while escaping the abnormally hot May weather. Founders Red Rye PA was the standout pint of the afternoon. Just about everything Founders creates is excellent.

Hopleafrated as world class by Beer Advocate for a reason.  Hopleaf offers a great selection of local and international draught with a noteworthy bottle selection in the cellar.   The beer garden inspired patio found out back is perfect during warm Chicago weather (but probably not quite so useful during the cold winter months).  Aside from great beer, Hopleaf cranks out some delicious food which has awarded them with a Bib Gourmand rating in the Michelin guide (Bib Gourmand is awarded to establishments that offer high calibre food without the Michelin star price tag).  The menu strays a bit from traditional gastro pub fare at times, with creative dishes such as the CB&J (Grilled Cheese with Cashew butter, Fig Jam and Raclete cheese), Ramp Waffles and locally sourced Rabbit Confit.  The CB&J was one of the most memorable meals of the trip.  Hopleaf is a bit out of the way, but is well worth the trip.

Gilt Bar – has a modern speakeasy ambience, with a good selection of beer, but the real reason to go here is that the kitchen can cook.  The best meal I had in Chicago was at Gilt Bar –smoked and then braised pork belly with a caramelized shallot jam over a grilled asparagus and warm faro salad.  It was basically a big slab of well rendered, tender bacon – wicked!  The atmosphere and beer selection made it easy to stick around for a few more drinks, the dessert menu also helped.

Other places I did not get a chance to go to but would have if I had an extra day or two:

  • The Map Room – a top ranked Chicago beer destination according to Beer Advocate
  • The Publican – said to offer top notch food alongside a great craft beer menu.
  • Revolution Brewing – From what I heard this may be the best brewpub in town.



Best of Central City Summer Cask Festival 2012

I went to the Central City Summer Cask Festival last weekend and it was rad.  I hadn’t been to a cask festival at Central City yet, having been away for the last two, and was very impressed.  Unlike at the old Dix Caskivals, there was actually room to move around.  It got busy, but not crazy busy, and the patio made getting some fresh air a breeze.  The food available was also very good, another bonus.  But, of course, the main draw was the beer.  According to my tasting notes, these were my favourites:

  • Whistler Brewhouse Oaked Amarillo Dry Hopped IPA – Very pronounced oaky vanilla flavours.  Amazing malt/hop balance, my pick of the bunch.
  • Tofino Brewing Sitka Spruce Tip IPA – Amazing aroma, appropriately malty IPA.
  • Elysian Brewing Splitshot Coffee Milk Stout – Somewhat sweet, milky taste.  Coffee detectable, but not interfering.
  • Central City Citra Dry Hopped ESB – Great fresh aroma, superb ESB.  I could (and did) drink a lot of these.
  • Water – Very watery, no malt, hops, or aroma to speak of. Excellent water taste.  I actually wrote this down, likely near the end of the festival.

There were a few duds but, on the whole, most of the beers were excellent. I was idiotically unable to get to Odin’s Thor’s Oakuinox to try it, which was devastating. Some other beers, which I’ll mention because they were interesting, included Crannog Mead, Central City Chilli Stout, and Storm Raspberry ESB.  All in all, it was a good time and I’m looking forward to the winter festival that promises to provide stronger and more adventurous beers.



Elysian Splitshot Coffee Milk Stout

The cask of Elysian Splitshot Coffee Milk Stout

Central City cask festival

Busy, but not oversubscribed

us dudes at cask festival

A few of us dudes enjoying the festival