Beer at the World Cup in Brazil

I’ve just arrived in Brazil to take in the World Cup! As a soccer fan, this is one of those bucket list things I had to do. As a beer drinker, I did some advanced scouting to figure out what to expect down here. Turns out Brazil has a bit of a craft beer scene in the bigger cities like Rio and Sao Paulo; there’s even a Delirium Cafe related to the Brussels one in Rio. Also, a fair number of Germans migrated to Brazil over the years and the town of Blumenau has the second largest Oktoberfest in the world, after Munich.

So Brazilians do drink a fair amount of beer, and some quite good beer at that. However, they don’t drink at soccer/football games, because alcohol is banned at stadiums country wide. Not at the World Cup though, since Budweiser is a major FIFA sponsor. FIFA sent me a food and beverage guide for the stadiums ahead of time. Bud and Brahma will be available, so not great, but at least it’s relatively affordable by western stadium standings (R$2 ~= $1 CDN)? I do like that FIFA has added some local specialties to the menu, if not local beer.

Beer at the world cup in brazil

Who cares though? I’m in Brazil for the mother effing World Cup!



Finally, Beer on TV is good

Yesterday CTV featured local craft beer on their morning show, link here. This happens from time to time; local beer gets featured on TV, usually by somebody not quite in the know. What’s different this time? The beer they featured is all really good beer with serious beer nerd credibility! We’ve finally made it, craft beer is just regular beer in Vancouver now.

Craft beer on CTVThe beer they talked about:

  • Steamworks Pilsner
  • Four Winds Saison
  • Driftwood Fat Tug IPA
  • Central City Imperial Porter

That’s a lineup that I’d dive right into, and it was featured on regular mainstream TV. Happy Vancouver Craft Beer Week!



Double Morning Gold

It is a good day to be Canadian. We rose early this morning to watch our fellow countrymen systematically do what they do best, play hockey at an elite level. The weather was even onside – rare Vancouver snow fell to the ground in true Canadian fashion as our men took home the gold. Today is a day of Canadian stereotypes. We really do love hockey – a lot.

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Hockey Love!

The game started at 4:00 AM and ended less than three hours before the sun had a chance to rise. Needless to say, my day has had two mornings – an early hockey morning followed by the ‘sun has been up for hours post-nap’ morning. With victory in hand, what are we as a nation supposed to do with ourselves? Watch the sports media say good things about our countries’ favourite game, make a sandwich, and drink beer. But to keep the victorious stereotype alive, make it an all Canadian super sandwich.

Bacon, the maple kind of course, and smoked salmon BLT club with an egg – a nod to Canada’s hockey gold double-morning. A sandwich and morning friendly beer – Central City Brewing ISA – is a good choice.

Today is our day. Cheers Canada!


BC Barley Wine Throwdown!

Winter is barley wine season, so I went out and grabbed every annually released BC barley wine I could get my hands on. Trouble is, it’s tough to drink a whole bottle of barley wine on your own, what with the high alcohol content. It’s even tougher to drink five, so I had a few friends over for an epic barley wine THROWDOWN! What that really means is we drank a bit of each one, in full comparison mode.

bc barley wine

Our contenders

A few years back, a tasting like this wouldn’t have been possible. It’s only in the past three or so years that we’ve seen barley wines regularly released by BC’s top breweries. What with breweries popping up seemingly every month, I’m sure there will be even more to choose from next year. Note: I don’t count Russell’s one off Nautical Disaster or Scandal brewing’s offering as annual barley wines. I don’t even count Scandal as a real brewery, nice try Pacific Western, can’t fool me.

I’ll start from the top, so as to highlight BC’s finest examples.

1. Central City Thor’s Hammer 2011

Hand’s down the best, though we cheated on this one. Our bottle was a 2011, since no recent batches have been bottled, though you could get 2013 at their brewpub in January. This year’s Thor’s Hammer probably would have won anyway, since it’s always outstanding. A year in the cellar (2011 was actually released in bottle’s in late 2012) didn’t hurt though, this beer was incredibly smooth and had an amazing depth of flavour.

2. Howe Sound Woolly Bugger 2012

Another cheat, we had a bottle of 2012 kicking around, so we tossed it into the mix. Turns out aging barley wine is a good thing to do. Woolly Bugger 2012 smoked the pants off 2013. It was just so much richer and smoother to drink, dangerously couldn’t taste the alcohol at all.

3. Granville Island Barley Wine 2013

Note to everyone, you can still buy 2012/13 verticals of this beer at the better beer stores around Vancouver, so go buy some. This is a really solid barley wine, very fruity and malty. Despite drinking this guy fresh, the liquor was well hidden by the body of the beer. Another great seasonal from Vern at GI.

4. Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller 2013

A fantastic beer, but is it a barley wine? We didn’t rate this one very highly because it didn’t measure up to the other barley wines, mostly because it more closely resembled a super imperial IPA. There’s little to no malt character of fruitiness. It pours golden in colour and hops are very prominent. Amazing aroma, but just not a barley wine. It will be very interesting to see how this one ages.

5. Howe Sound Woolly Bugger 2013

Another solid barley wine, but it just didn’t compare favourably to 2012. You could taste the alcohol and this one was sharp, where 2013 was smooth. This is going to be a great beer in six months to a year.

6. Phillips Trainwreck 2013

Quite clearly the loser in our eyes, and the only one I don’t recommend trying. I’ve enjoyed this beer in the past, but 2013 had that metallic taste Phillips has become known for. Tasted hollow in comparison to the others.

What did I learn? I like barley wine a lot. Also, aging barley wine is a great thing to do.



The Consumer’s Business Case of Craft Beer

Craft beer – its good for the local economy, it has flavour, its nutritious and healthier than corn laden macro beer, it may even help prevent, or at least reduce the dreaded hangover. And lets not forget the environment – local craft brewers pollute less making our future cleaner and greener. Are any of these claims true? I haven’t the faintest idea!

I drink craft beer because it tastes good. I also like the back-story – where the artisan David, battles the industrial Goliath.  Craft beer makes my life better, so I drink it.

If I learned anything from the one macro-economics course I took over ten year ago, it is that the economy is far from simple. I am not so sure that buying local is the way of the future. As much as I would like purchases made within my local community to improve the economy, I much prefer my local shops to the Walmart’s of the world, I haven’t seen enough data to substantiate a yea or nae outcome on the topic. I am far from an economics master, nor am I cynical enough to provide note worthy commentary, but the idea that buying local = good for the economy, seems only half baked. But by no means should we stop supporting local producers. Support local community artisans because they make a good products, not to bolster the economy.

Of course small scale craft beer tastes better than the alternative. Taste being subjective makes it hard to come to a clear cut conclusion as to what tastes best, but I am a beer geek with a beer blog, beer is my life, no support needed. However, I do understand that some people prefer very light beer – and industrial grade beer is a great and highly consistent light beer. The growth of the craft beer segment indicates that tastes are changing, and more and more beer drinkers are choosing to drink flavour forward ales and lagers. I think this is good thing.

The environment, you know that under appreciated life sustaining thing we all should love a bit more, does keep us alive after all. The simple argument that locally produced food items have fewer food miles, may or may not be true. Like the economy, the carbon footprint of a product can be tricky to determine. In order for the buy local and save the planet argument to stick, a thorough supply chain audit is needed of both the large and small scale producers. Small scale does not necessarily mean clean. For all I know, my local brewers fire their kettles with coal and fly half of there specialty malt in from Europe. The food miles argument has a lot of logic to it, but it is not end all and be all of sustainable buying.

And then there is health. As a beer drinker, I like the idea that beer is good for me, I also like the idea of Santa Claus. Of course beer is good for me, nearly all food items have health benefits, when consumed in moderation of course. Sure, craft beer is arguably healthier than the industrial grade alternative, but how much healthier?  Craft beer still has the potential to cause diabetes and liver disease. I have heard that the remaining yeast left behind in most craft bottles, as a result of minimal filtering, results in a higher B vitamin content, which is said to reduce the severity of a hangover. Perhaps this is true, but after drinking too much, a hangover is inevitable. The trick to reduce the severity of a hangover is to drink less – sad but true.

Whether craft beer is good for you, or if the environment is spared when you choose to support your local small scale brewer, has yet to be seen. Should you choose to ring in 2014 with a pint, choose a beer that you love, a beer that tastes good, maybe even a beer that is made by people that you know. Don’t worry about the economy or the nutritional content in your glass come midnight. Drink good beer because it tastes good. Yes, it is just a pint, but life is nothing more than the sum of thousands of joyous pints. Cheers to 2014 – may it be a year filled with many delicious pints.