Monthly Archives: January 2013

Beers of the Central City Winter Cask Festival

The 2nd annual Central City Winter Cask Festival was this past Saturday.  It started at 11AM.  If you, like me, think that’s too early to start drinking beer, well then hundreds of people don’t agree with you.  I arrived at noon, only to find all the tables and seating occupied.  Apparently the line was substantial at 10:30AM.  Why can’t we have beer festivals that start at evening time?  I shouldn’t have to guess whether Tofino’s Dawn Patrol Coffee Porter really tastes that much like coffee, or if I still have morning coffee breath.

On a less whiny note, by arriving at noon I was able to taste the last of the Driftwood Singularity.  Singularity was the most popular beer by far, but I don’t think it was the best, or even in contention.  My personal favourite was the Parallel 49 Braggot.  If you don’t know, and I didn’t, braggot is an old timey beer style mentioned in Canterbury Tales and other old English/Irish literature circa 13th century.  It’s mead and beer mixed together, often with herbs and spices.  This one was sweet with an amazing aroma, my drunk tasting note “could drink a lot”.

Another problem with cask events is that my tasting notes quickly become incomprehensible.  This time I went with an advanced check mark system to indicate my favourite beers.  Other notables (ones with lots of check marks) were the Storm Saison, Yaletown Oud Bruin, Old Yale IPA, Storm Black Forest Cake, R&B Latte Stout, and Tofino Coffee Porter (tons of coffee flavour, not morning coffee breath).  Check out the whole cask list:

  • Central City Brewpub – Oaked Imperial Porter
  • Tofino Brewing – Dawn Patrol Coffee Porter
  • R & B Brewing – Latte Stout
  • Storm Brewing – Black Forest Cake Stout
  • Driftwood Brewing – Singularity
  • Phillips Brewing – Hammer Imperial Stout
  • Big Ridge Brewpub – Whalley Winter Ale
  • Spinnakers Brewpub – Biere De Noel
  • Salt Spring Brewing – Spiced Fireside Winter Ale
  • Moon Brewpub – Weizenbock
  • Longwood Brewpub – Doppelbock
  • Lighthouse Brewing – Smoked Hop Bock
  • Howe Sound Brewpub – Super Duper Grapefruit IPA
  • Dead Frog Brewing – Fearless IPA
  • Old Yale Brewing – Centennial Dry Hopped IPA
  • Coal Harbour Brewing – Powell St. English IPA
  • R & B Brewing – Dry Hopped Red Devil Pale Ale
  • Red Truck Brewing – Fresh Hopped Red Truck Ale
  • Elysian Brewing – Perseus Porter
  • Swans Brewpub – Legacy Ale
  • Granville Island Brewing – Barrel Aged Barleywine
  • Cannery Brewing – Cracken Nut Brown Ale
  • Gigantic Brewing – Black Friday Imperial CDA
  • Whistler Brewhouse – Grand Cru w/ Orange Peel
  • Canoe Brewpub – Lager with Lemon Rind
  • Steamworks Brewpub – Conrad’s Golden Ale
  • Storm Brewing – Daniel Knibb’s Sour Fig Saison
  • Boundary Bay Brewpub- Cabin Fever Scotch Ale
  • Parallel 49 Brewing – Braggot
  • Russell Brewing – Dry Hopped Wheat Wine
  • Yaletown Brewpub – Oud Bruin
  • Mystery Cask!

Yes, there was a mystery cask.  What it was remains a mystery to me, because I thought I was voting for my favourite beer.  It was the end of the night and I’d had a few tastes, but I hope my vote for Parallel 49 Braggot amused somebody.

Of course, I forgot to take pictures, so here’s one of my crumpled tasting guide (which made it home along with useless tasting pencil, no sign of tasting glass).

central city cask festival menu

Cheers,

Chris

Epic Tap Lists

Today St. Augustines celebrated their 500th tap list by stocking it with numerous fantastic beers.  You may already be too late to try many of them, but check out their live beer menu to see what’s still on.  They had Driftwood Singularity available in cask and it sold out in fifteen minutes.  We’ve also seen the last of Storm’s 15 year old Lambic, all drunk tonight.  Tomorrow you’ll still be able to have amazing beers by Deschutes (Abyss and Black Butte XXIV!), Upright, Uncommon, Elysian, Gigantic, Logsdon, and others on tap.  Checkout the St. Augustines Facebook page to see what you may have missed.

But why am I posting about this now?  No, I’m not just rubbing your nose in what passed you by, nor am I giving you a last chance warning to get over to St. Augustines tomorrow (though I kind of am).  What I’m really getting at is this, Alibi Room’s 400th Tap List is coming.  Last I was there, the menu was numbered in the 390s and I’ve heard rumours that 400 will drop in late February or early March.

What does this mean? An epic party and an epic beer list are on the horizon.  I didn’t make it to 200 or 300 because I was living overseas, but I did jealously read about how awesome they were.  I did get to 100 and it was a fantastic and raucous party.  I’ve heard the 400 list is going to blow away the previous centennial lists, possibly even featuring Cantillon on tap.

I’ve also heard, that unlike the three day affair that was 300, 400 is going to be a one day do.  I’m hoping it’s going to start at a reasonable time so I don’t have to pitch a tent outside the Alibi Room and camp overnight.  It would be great if they sold tickets for certain time slots, to avoid me and others fighting each other to get in.  And I will fight you, I’ll fight you hard.

One thing I do know for sure, a special 400th tap list beer was chosen via a home-brew competition.  They put a call out via VanBrewers and I heard they received something like 80+ entries within a week.  The winning beer, by Jeff Hay-Roe, will be brewed by Howe Sound in time for 400. Winner announced via this tweet.

alibi room 400 winning beer

Alibi Room announces the winner, image borrowed from twitter.

Anyway, it makes me very happy that St Augustines and the Alibi Room will have had 900 tap lists combined.  See you at 400, I’ll be the one offering up my first born child to get in first.

Cheers,

Chris

A chat with Steamworks about Cascadia

Last week I wrote a post about the PR problem Steamworks currently has with the craft beer aficionados of BC.  I got into a discussion with Steamworks’ PR firm, who eventually put me in touch with Walter Cosman, President of Steamworks Brewing Company.

Let’s just set this straight right off the bat, I’m not trying to kick up another fuss over Cascadia.  This topic has already been well covered by three comprehensive posts over at Barley Mowat and I’m not intending a rehash (side note: I talked to Chuck last week and he was super helpful and informative in regards to this topic).  My angle is this, why is Steamworks doing (admittedly good) PR when there’s a massive other problem to deal with?  They gave me the opportunity to ask questions so I asked them, what do you plan to do next?

Walter Cosman, President

As I mentioned, Walter is the President of Steamworks Brewing Company.  He called me last Monday and we had a really good chat over twenty or so minutes.  My impressions of Walter are that he’s a really nice guy and that he really cares about craft beer.  He emphasized that he used to be on the board of the BC Craft Brewers Association.  All of my industry contacts echoed my impressions of Walter, though I couldn’t find anyone willing to say anything nice about Steamworks owner Eli Gershkovitch.  Throughout the conversation, I got the sense that Walter and Eli don’t completely agree on how to handle the Cascadia Trademark situation.  It should also be noted that Walter used to work for Molson and then for Granville Island Brewing (his tenure at GIB overlapped with the trademark dispute parent company Cascadia Brands had with Steamworks over Cascadia from 1999-2006).

Apologetic

Walter admitted that Steamworks didn’t handle the Cascadia-gate situation well, by deleting Facebook posts off their wall and not responding to the community right away.  He said their initial reaction was to do nothing and see what happened, which admittedly didn’t work out too well.

Cease and Desist

According to Walter, three breweries were actually contacted to stop using Cascadia in their beer names, those being Coal Harbour, Howe Sound, and Phillips.  Phillips was the only brewery to receive an actual cease and desist notification.  He said he wished they hadn’t sent a cease and desist to Phillips and wouldn’t have done so if it was his call.  Coal Harbour and Howe Sound received friendly calls and were allowed to use up their product, and I’ve heard that Granville Island also received a call, though he didn’t speak to this.

License for a dollar

Steamworks intends to offer a $1 lifetime license of the Cascadia trademark to any Canadian craft brewery, or American craft brewery wishing to sell in Canada, wanting to use the descriptor.  He hopes that this can be sorted out soon, at which point Steamworks will host a Free Cascadia party.  One brewery that will definitely not be offered the $1 license is GIB/Molson. The whole $1 lifetime license deal is dependant on how GIB/Molson reacts.  My question: reacts to what and by when?

Steamworks vs Molson

It sounds like Steamworks has a serious dislike and/or mistrust of GIB/Molson.  I’ve heard that Eli considered the recent GIB Cascadian Dark Ale a deliberate provocation, based on the previous trademark challenge, and that’s why he decided to get all litigious.  Walter definitely billed this as a little guy vs big guy fight, stating that he didn’t want Molson to water down or tarnish the term Cascadia.  He also mentioned that Steamworks wanted to defend the integrity of trademarks and preserve their brand.  As most beer lovers in Vancouver would say, what brand?

Cascadia Cream Ale

If you don’t know much about trademarks, have a read of this excellent post over at hoplog.  Basically, a trademark, when applied to something like beer, should be distinct and recognizable in a specific geographic area.  Meaning that if the Steamworks Cascadia trademark were to be defended, people like us in Vancouver should automatically think of Cascadia Cream Ale when Cascadia is talked about in terms of beer.  For me, and I think for most of us, this isn’t the case.  I was surprised when I found out Steamworks ever even brewed a Cascadia beer, thinking only of Cascadian Dark Ale or Cascadian hopped beers when the term is bandied about.

Looks like, if the beer rating websites are to be believed, Cascadia Cream Ale hasn’t been rated since May 2010.  Thing is, with a trademark, you have to use or lose it.  Funny thing, six weeks after this whole deal blew up, Steamworks Brewpub now has Cascadia Cream Ale on tap.  Turns out that’s just enough time to brew a beer.  Steamworks still hasn’t updated the hastily patched Cascadia Cream Ale entry on their website, which still describes a nut brown.

Craft over Brand

Walter actually said that the craft was more important than the brand, which is definitely contradictory to what’s been going on.  He told me that Steamworks has relented to the point that only beers containing Cascadia in the brand name are now infringing, which means beers using Cascadia as a descriptor are free and clear.  I asked him this directly, and he indicated that Howe Sound Gathering Storm and Phillips Skookum are now okay, whereas these breweries were previously warned to stop using Cascadia.  So there you have it, you can call your beer a Cascadian Dark Ale, or Cascadian whatever else, without worrying about legal action from Steamworks.  I’m guessing Steamworks relented here for two reasons, because of the reaction from the community and because they couldn’t legally stop anyone from using Cascadia as a descriptor.

The Community

I asked Walter what kind of relationship Steamworks now has with their fellow craft brewers.  He said things were initially pretty awkward, but that they’ve patched things up with Howe Sound, Phillips and others.  I also asked about Storm’s Cease and Desist CDA, apparently he’s all for it, and thinks it quite clever.

I reached out to a few brewers for comment and only heard back from Matt Phillips.  He did indicate that he’s now on better terms with Steamworks, but also offered up this poignant quote:

I hate all this trademark stuff, it is the kind of thing that tears apart beer communities, and while I understand the need to protect brands, it still sucks that this seems to be the new normal.

I hear that.  Note that Matt has previously had trouble with Red Truck over Blue Truck (now Blue Buck) and is now rumoured to have Labatt breathing down his neck over Blue.  Yikes, that can’t be fun for a small business owner to deal with.

The Bottom Line

When I asked Steamworks if this Cascadia affair had affected business it all, he said it hadn’t.  Their pub is still busy and their bottles are selling well.  Steamworks also recently hired a new brewmaster and are opening their own brewery, production from which will replace what’s currently contracted to Dead Frog.

What now?

Steamworks still hasn’t released details about their proposed license deal, but have assured me they are working on it.  Seems to me that Steamworks is relenting a bit as they are figuring things out.  I’m guessing they don’t want to get into any actual legal battles and are also finding out what they can and can’t legally protect, hence why style descriptors containing Cascadia are now apparently okay.

Personally, I don’t really care what a beer is called, as long as it tastes good.  I’d drink Driftwood Dog Rapist if it tasted like Fat Tug.

Do the right thing

What I don’t get, also why I wanted to talk to Walter in the first place, is how Steamworks plans to win this situation? They now have a community of brewers and craft beer fans who don’t look too kindly on them, who aren’t going to forget this for years.  Their biggest worry is Molson, who could probably crush them with legal strength.  And Cascadia Cream Ale isn’t even a very strong brand, so is it worth protecting?  What does victory look like for Steamworks?  I was hoping to figure this out when researching this post, but I still don’t see it.

If I was them, I’d give up the trademark right now and throw the Free Cascadia party.  Even doing that isn’t going to win the craft beer community back, but it’s really all they can do to limit damage.

Here’s hoping these sorts of legal actions don’t become the norm in craft beer.  Craft beer in Vancouver is booming and we don’t need this shit ruining the party.

Cheers,

Chris

East Van Update

Hi! My name is Gavin, and I’m the newest member of LGB. I’ll be responsible for some of the aesthetic changes you’ll see here in the next few weeks/months. I also live and work on the Powell/Cordova corridor, which gives me unhealthy access levels to some of Vancouver’s newest breweries.

So, to that effect, I’m gonna keep my first post short and sweet, and simply let you know what’s up in (North) East Van, as far as I see it (which isn’t very far… I’m a little guy, and I have trouble seeing over single story buildings).

1. Parellell 49 has realeased a Russian Imperal Stout (Yes, beer nerds know this, but I’m just laying it out for context, because…)

2. Parallel 49 is, at least experimenting with, freeze distilling said RIS to the high teens, and possibly early tweens (that’s 20% ABV). They were tapping it straight from the barrel when I rolled by to fill my growler (not with RIS unfortunately). If I do say so myself, it’s a ridiculously balanced, yet apparently/possibly (nobody from the LDB was there, so how could we know?!), high teens in terms of ABV. While I thought their first stab at the RIS could probably use 6-12 months aging to chill the f**k out, this was quite drinkable. I could drink a whole pint.

3. Powell Street is releasing their IPA tomorrow. No big deal, but they’ve got it pegged at 8% and 88 IBUs… not exactly your run of the mill IPA… More like an IIPA… but time will tell. I’ll be there.

4. I love what you’re doing East Van breweries, keep it up (also North Van and Main Street). Beer tourism? Bam.

Anyway, Cheers!

Gavin

Portland = beer heaven

Portland is beer Mecca, it’s really that good. No other city has such a huge selection of high quality beer available. It should come as no surprise that Portland is one of my favourite places to visit. For such a small city, Portland is overwhelming. There is too much good food, at too low prices and too much great beer, pretty much everywhere. And unfortunately there is never enough time to take it all in, literally.

I am a die hard eater and beer drinker to the end. When travelling the majority of my time is spent eating, drinking, or searching for places to eat and drink, with a small amount of time spent walking. In Portland I walked mostly from food cart to pub to restaurant to pub and so on; the caloric burn associated with the walking is a side benefit. If eating five meals a day was a viable lifestyle choice, I would make it happen. But I’ve tried, and it does not feel good. I had the opportunity to go to Portland over the Christmas holiday. The city did not let me down. I am by no means a Portland expert, but here are my thoughts on the places I’ve visited. Hope you enjoy.

Go Immediately

Cascade Brewing Barrel HouseCreators of the best sour beers this world has ever known. That is about all I can say. The beer at Cascade is phenomenal.  Their world class rating on beer advocate is well deserved.  Try as much of everything as you can, and go immediately.

Pok Pok – is Thai food heaven. Although not really a beer hotspot, they do list a few good local options, in true Portland fashion. It seems the entire city of Portland is in love with Pok Pok, and fair enough, it’s damn good. After 90 minutes of waiting at Pok Pok’s Thai inspired back alley whisky soda lounge, we were in. The food here is unlike any Thai food I’ve had – Ordering #72, mild, with coconut rice is not an option. Crazy good Thai wings, salt crusted fish served in a lettuce wrap, papaya pok pok salad are a few of the dishes that can be found here. I will return to Pok Pok on my next visit.

Deschutes Brewery – The quintessential brewpub. Located in downtown Portland, Deschutes is stumbling distance to a number of other worthy food and beer establishments. The beer is consistently good, as is the food. The large list of constantly changing seasonals is probably the best place to start. I have visited Deschutes three times and have never left disappointed. Side note – Deschutes’ men’s room has the craziest urinals I’ve ever seen. 

Voodoo Doughnuts – Because sometime all I want to eat is doughnuts, even more so after a night of beer drinking. The fact that they are fresh and sometimes covered in bacon is a bonus. I can’t tell if the doughnuts at Voodoo are that great, or if I am just a diabetic-to-be, madly in love with freshly fried dough, glazed, coated and dusted in sugar. But it really doesn’t matter, they are good.

Belmont StationThe best place to go for take home beers. They also have a tap room where they rotate through a selection of top quality beer.

Tug Boat Brewing CoThe beer isn’t that great, it might even be bad at times, and the food comes from a microwave, but I still love it here. Board games with missing pieces and an old toppley game of Jenga are available for play. It’s a great place to end an evening. This is Portland’s oldest brewpub and for some reason I love it. Yes, Bailey tap room located next door will have a better selection on tap, but they don’t have Jenga.

Beer Menu at Cascade

Beer Menu at Cascade

Voodoo!

Voodoo!

Beer Sampler at Deschutes

Beer Sampler at Deschutes

 

If You Have Time

Hair of the DogGreat beer as expected. The food was less than stellar, this is more of a tasting room than a pub so no surprise on the food.

BridgePort Brewing The beer is mostly okay but some quite good. The food is just okay – typical brewpub menu.

The Commons BreweryThe tap room is the brewery, and the beer is very good. Their beer is far more Belgian than Westcoast, which is a nice change when in Portland.

LaurelwoodThe food and beer are very good, but not exceptional. As with many Portland brewpubs, Laurelwood has multiple locations throughout Portland.

Horse Brass PubAs a beer geek I am supposed to love this place, but I did not love it, I just liked it. The beer selection is top notch (I enjoyed Pliny the Elder here just last week) and the ambiance is warm and cozy – although it did remind me a bit of a number of older run down pubs found in the suburbs of Vancouver. I will probably return to the Horse Brass on my next visit as I feel I may be missing the magic.

Not Really Worth it, but its still not bad beer

Rogue Public House Feels like a family restaurant gone all wrong. I did not like it here. The food is sub-par and the beer is good, but not good enough to make me want to come back. Other’s may have a different opinion than me on this one, but I did not enjoy the Rogue experience at all.

Lucky LabradorIf you have a dog or like hanging out with dogs while drinking beer, you will like it here. But the beer just isn’t that great.

Rock Bottom - Really not a very good brewpub. If your guidebook tells you to go, as many do, don’t. In a city like Portland there is no need to visit Rock Bottom.

If I’m missing anything amazing in Portland please let me know. Portland is full of great beer and I am sure I am still missing many.

Cheers,

Erik