I was at GCBF last weekend and I have a substantial amount to write about it, but thought I’d first share this juicy little tidbit. I was in a long line for the ATM at GCBF (no beer tokens included?) behind one of the sales managers of Victoria’s own Lighthouse Brewing Company. We got to talking when he wondered aloud at what extortionate banking fees we might be charged for that extra $20 we needed for tokens. We struck up a conversation and talked about his beer, Lighthouse breaking into the Vancouver market, competitive beers, and the like (it was a really long line). I quite like Lighthouse beer in general, but my one beef with them is that they don’t do anything special. I asked him why Lighthouse didn’t do any seasonal releases. He said it was because Lighthouse was only equipped for canning until recently and that cans had to be ordered in minimum batches of 10000. He said that with their new bottling line (Race Rocks Amber and Riptide Pale are now available in bottles) that seasonals were now a possibility and that the brewers were clamoring to do something Belgian. I pushed to know the particular style, but all I got was ‘something Belgian’.
There you have it, the first bit of beer news (or speculation) broken on LoveGoodBeer.com, a potential upcoming limited release from Lighthouse Brewing. If they were to do a seasonal release, and I hope they are, I think it would be great for Lighthouse. Nothing generates more buzz than something new or special and I think Lighthouse’s beers are worth hearing about.
Stella's is now BierCraft
People always tell me to go to Stella’s Tap and Tapas Bar on Commercial Drive in Vancouver (there is a new one on Cambie too). They rave about the awesome beer selection, but I’d never considered Stella’s a destination worth seeking out. I’d go to their website to check out their beer menu and not be particularly impressed. What they have on tap is pretty solid, but not enticing enough to warrant a special trip. Turns out there is a whole other beer menu on the website under the Fresh Sheet tab that I’d been completely missing.
I finally made my first visit to Stella’s after work on Friday with some coworkers. The Fresh Sheet beer menu at Stella’s is even more impressive than the one on their website. I was delighted to find a six page menu listing many fine Belgian style beers. There were so many that I had a hard time deciding what to have. I ended up choosing Troublette, a witbeir from Brasserie Caracole, which was lovely.
I’d tried many of the sixty odd beers on Stella’s menu, but there were a few rare gems that I’ve never even seen available before. I’ll definitely be making the pilgrimage to Stella’s a few more times now. The appetizers we shared were delightful and where we sat on the patio offered entertaining views of Commercial Drive‘s funky residents. I know most Vancouver beer enthusiasts already know and love Stella’s, but I highly recommend making the trip if you haven’t yet.
I sometimes flinch when people say they do or do not like Belgian beer. A year ago, I might have said something similar, but I’ve since learned that Belgium is country and not representative of a beer style. In fact, Belgian beer comprises a vast and diverse collection of very delicious beer styles. The most interesting moniker attached to a category of Belgian beer, to me at least, is Trappist. Trappist is also not the name of a beer style, but signifies that a beer has been brewed under the control of Trappist monks. Trappist beer is available for sale, but the monks use any proceeds to carry out their monastic lives, not for profit. I find this pretty freaking cool, that I can drink beer made by monks in the same way they’ve been making it for hundreds of years. Check out the Wikipedia page for more info on Trappist history.
There are currently only seven Trappist breweries remaining in the world, six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands, and all are currently attached to active monasteries. They are Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, Westvleteren, Achelse Kluis, and Koningshoeven (the Dutch one). Trappist beers were traditionally brewed with greater strength to help sustain the monks during their fasts (which may or may not explain some saintly visions). Today, Trappist ales can generally be categorized among the dubbel, tripel, Belgian pale ale, or Belgian strong ale styles. Many confuse Belgian beers sporting the abbey label with trappist beers. The abbey label arose around the same time that Trappist beer became popular, but abbey is only a competitive marketing term. Abbey and Trappist beers are generally brewed in the same styles, but the abbey label does not necessarily signify that a beer was actually made by an abbey, not that it really matters. There are many fine examples of excellent abbey beer (Unibroue in Quebec brews some of the finest belgian trappist/abbey style beer in the world), but you can be sure that authentic trappist beers are of the finest quality.
The seven Trappist Beers
I for one am excited to get into the stockpile of Westmalle, Rochefort, and Chimay authentic Trappist beers I have recently amassed. A Belgian tasting night might be in order, complete with sasions, browns, wits, lambics and more. If you haven’t tried any Belgian beer styles, I highly recommend you do so. There will definitely be at least one that strikes you as lovely, and you don’t want to be missing out.