Tag Archives: central city

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.



Alibi Room 400th Tap List Celebration

This week the Alibi Room is celebrating their 400th tap list rotation by stocking said tap list with epic beers.  This Monday to Thursday (you may have already missed two days, but still two to go) they are opening an hour early at 4pm and selling 10oz glasses of said epic beers for $4 each.  It’s quite the beer list and you can view it in full over at Barley Mowat.  As far as I know, this is the first time Cantillon has ever been available on tap in BC.  Special note, I contributed some bacteria to the two year old lambic.

Alibi Room 400th tap list

Lucky for me, one of my beer buddies made a reservation for 4pm on the first day and made a seat available, thanks Gerry.  Sure enough, at 4pm a largish crowd of beer nerds assembled and the Alibi Room quickly filled up.  It was so busy, in fact, that it took forty five minutes to get our first beer(s).  Our whole table ordered one of each Cantillon right off the bat.  I have to say, I love Cantillon, but drinking three glasses of lambic in a row is a bit much.  I preferred the Gilloise to the Gueze to the Kriek, though all were good.

Me and Cantillon and happiness

Me and Cantillon and happiness

Next up was the Tofino Spruce Tip IPA I so fondly remembered, which I didn’t find as delightfully sprucy as last year’s version.  I’ve heard that collecting spruce tips is an arduous task, so maybe they skimped a bit this time around?  What followed was a collaboration by Graham of P49 and Tak of Steamworks called, and I’m not kidding, Besties with Testis, an IPA fermented solely with brettanomyces.  I hazily recall it being great, hopefully the first and last time I enjoy putting testis in my mouth.

Here’s the full list of beers that I did gone and drunk, in order:

  • Cantillon Gilloise
  • Cantillon Gueze
  • Cantillon Kriek
  • Tofino Spruce Tip Aged Hoppin Cretin’ IPA
  • P49 + Steamworks “Besties with Testis” 100% Brett fermented IPA
  • Central City Citra hopped Imperial IPA
  • P49 Lord of the Hops IPA
  • Upright Bourbon Sour blended Stout

Central City imperial IPA is always great, but I set myself up poorly for P49 Lord of the Hops.  I believe P49 is going for the session crowd with this one, meaning I found it severely lacking in hops and almost cloyingly sweet. I need to give it another shot though, since I drank the CC and P49 IPAs in the wrong order.  I finished strong with the Upright Stout, which was just fantastic.

I’m heading back tomorrow to enjoy a few of the other beers I missed out on.  That’s what’s great about this 400th celebration, I didn’t have to over indulge because it’s one night only.  Sure, some of the more popular beers were consumed immediately, but Nigel staggered the list such that some excellent brews will be coming on at the halfway point.  I was worried I was going to have to wait in a giant line, buy a ticket, or fight someone to get in, but instead I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised at the civility of this celebration.

If you have time, read the forward Nigel wrote in the beer menu.  If more businesses appreciated their customers this much, people would give them more of their money.  I would personally like to thank Nigel and the Alibi Room for all their hard work in taking the BC beer scene to the next level. See you guys again tomorrow.



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



Voting for the CAMRA Vancouver 2012 Beer Awards

Every year, for the past seven years at least, CAMRA Vancouver puts on a local beer awards.  These awards are a little different in that they are voted on by CAMRA Vancouver members like you and me (hopefully you).  The award winners are announced and given out in front of the boisterous (drunk) membership at the CAMRA Vancouver AGM, coming up Sunday, January 13th.  If you’re not a CAMRA Vancouver member yet, sign up for the sweet benefits and camaraderie and mostly the sweet benefits.

This is who I think should win this year’s awards and why:

Best Local Brewpub: Central City – Sadly there aren’t that many tremendous local brewpubs in Vancouver.  Central City lacks the coziness I like in a pub, but makes the best beer by far.

Best BC Brewpub: Howe Sound – They make good beer and have a much cozier pub than Central City, plus Central City already won the previous award and should share.

Best BC Brewery: Driftwood – Because they make the best beer all around.  Their regular stuff is loved by all and their seasonals have beer nerds staking out liquor stores.

Best local beer establishment: Alibi Room – Because it’s the Alibi Room with a massive selection of tasty beer, good food, top notch coziness and because it’s the Alibi Room.  This is the most obvious award and should be renamed the Alibi Room Award and given to the Alibi Room for being the Alibi Room.

Best local beer server/bartender: Nigel Springthorpe – For bringing us the Alibi Room.

Best local private liquor store: Brewery Creek – Small and friendly, with a great selection and a helpful Facebook feed of new release information. Honors the CAMRA discount on all purchases, unlike other establishments that just discount beer.

Best local cask night: The Whip – In an effort to stave off obesity, I don’t go to cask nights very often.  I’ll give this one to The Whip over St. Augustine’s because they’ve been doing it for a long time. Also every night is cask night at the Alibi Room.

Best local beer event: Central City Cask Festivals – I heard the VCBW event at the Alibi Room was amazing, but I didn’t get a ticket and so try to pretend it didn’t exist.  Central City Cask Festivals, both summer and winter, are excellent though.  Lots of one off amazing beer and, hey, there’s another one in three weeks.

Best BC beer: Driftwood Fat Tug IPA – Because it tastes the best.  I want to bathe in it, but don’t because that would be a waste.

Best BC seasonal beer: Driftwood Sartori Harvest IPA – A fresh hop IPA that makes beer geeks behave like sharks at a feeding frenzy on release day.  This could go to any number of other Driftwood seasonals, like Cellar Dweller or Singularity.  Shout out to Central City Thors Hammer here too.

Best local beer blogger or writer: Barley Mowat – Because unlike most of us beer bloggers, he does actual work and research to write interesting things.  Favourite posts include the Cascadia story and his takedown of the upcoming Craft Beer Market. Always a good read.

So that’s who should win and I think I’ll be pretty close to nailing it, but we’ll see what happens. Where am I wrong?



Central City Winter Cask Festival 2013 is coming

Central City
just announced their fourth cask festival in two years (two summer, two winter), establishing them as the de facto best, or at least most consistent, cask festival in the lower mainland.  I went to the last summer cask festival held at Central City and it was excellent.  The upcoming winter edition is going to be on Saturday January 26th from 11am to 6pm at the Central City brewpub in Surrey (right by the Surrey Central skytrain station).  Your $30 admission gets you in, a tasting glass, and three beer tokens, where additional tokens are $1 each (a steal of a deal).  Best call to book your tickets now, these cask festivals sell out fast.

What can you expect? Well, besides getting a bit day drunk (seriously, why do these always start so early?), you can expect some really strong winter beer.  A version or two of Thor’s Hammer barley wine will surely be available, as will many other ~10% ABV beers.  You’ll probably see a lot of winter spice on hand too, cinnamon, nutmeg and the like.  Expect a few one off magical beers too (à la Tofino Spruce Tip IPA last time).  See you there!

central city winter cask festival