Obviously I know that almost all beer has hops in it, but not necessarily the high levels you find in the pacific northwest. When I moved to London I thought I’d be moving to a beer mecca, cask beer everywhere! I actually feel like I’ve taken a step down beer-wise. While there is a thriving pub culture here that I very much enjoy, I can’t say as much about the quality of the average beer. The majority of cask ales have been open a bit too long and taste a bit stale. Even the freshest cask of English ale can only be described as a mild pale ale by west coast standards. We’re blessed in Vancouver to have been influenced by the hopheads of Oregon, Seattle, and Northern California and it tastes good.
Sweet, sweet Central City IPA
I didn’t realize quite how much I missed a 60 IBU West Coast IPA until I had a slew of visitors gift me fantastic bottles from the motherland. Amongst my blessings I counted Central City IPA, Granville Island Imperial IPA, and Deschutes Hop Trip. They were delicious, thanks for asking. Of course there are British exceptions, such as the brilliantly hoppy offerings from Brewdog in Scotland, but I can definitely say that UK brewing lacks the adventurous extremes of the North American west coast and Belgium. Lucky for me, I’m making a quick return to Vancouver next week. Canucks woooo!
I knew that I missed hockey, but (again) I didn’t realize how much until I was reminded of it’s absolute awesomeness. Game 4 of the Vancouver Canucks vs San Jose Sharks series was at noon pacific time, meaning it was on in London at 8PM. I seized my big chance to watch live hockey for the first time in over a year at the Maple Leaf pub in Covent Garden, as did every other hockey starved Vancouverite in London. I can honestly say it was one of the best atmospheres in which I’ve ever watched a hockey game. The place was packed out with fervent Canucks fans decked in blue and teal, complete with UK levels of alcohol consumption, which resulted in really good times. What choice do I have but to come home for the parade?
At the Maple Leaf for game 4
Hank didn't touch it, we're good
Erik bought me the book Hops and Glory as a Christmas present last year and I just recently finished it. The book is written by a man, Pete Brown, who endeavors to take India Pale Ale by boat from England to India. Not only this, but he plans to take his beer the long way around the Cape of Good Hope. He reckons the journey hasn’t been made this way since the Suez Canal opened in 1869 (I’m sure he’s right, why would you bother?). Despite only hearing good things, it took me a while to get into this book because I sincerely doubted there was enough material on the topic of IPA to fill a book. I was wrong, this book is a fascinating journey through not just the history of IPA, but also of British colonial rule in India and of the British brewing industry.
The first part of the book describes (and laments) the dilution of the IPA style from a good, strong, hoppy beer to a mere shadow of its former self in England. Having lived in England for a while now, I can confirm there is very little India Pale Ale that we West Coast hopheads would deem up to snuff. Greene King IPA is the most common IPA you’ll find around these parts and it more closely resembles Alexander Keith’s IPA (blah) than anything good. Side-note: I have seen Sierra Nevada Torpedo multiple times around town. Not to give the book away, but Pete does his research and brews his IPA as it would have been brewed in Burton for export in the early 19th century. It sounded delicious.
The book then alternates chapters between Pete’s voyage and the story of that historical voyage. Knowing nothing about international shipping, I was just as enthralled by the journey as I was with the history. I don’t want to spoil the book for you, but it’s crazy to think there is so much of this globalized world that remains so foreign to us city dwellers. As for the history, I found the details of British rule in India and the history of English brewing very illuminating in understanding aspects of modern politics and commercial brewing. I had no idea that Bass was the UK’s first registered trademark and was once the world’s largest brand. I was also taught in school to think the British were benevolent colonists, misguided in trying to help modernize their territories. I was wrong, the British were a big bunch of jerks.
This book is not as much about beer as you would think and would appeal to all those interested in interesting things. I recommend giving it a read. There was one very profound quote in the book that I particularly wanted to share with you, but now I can’t find it.
My search for the perfect pizza and beer combination continued yesterday evening at the Mission Springs Brewing Company in Mission. Mission Springs is home to a large restaurant and pub complete with an outdoor beach volleyball court, but the purpose of this visit was not to play volleyball, it was to see what they can do with their in-house wood fired pizza oven. Yes, you read correct, Mission Springs brewing company serves fresh local craft beer alongside what could potentially be the perfect pizza. Hallelujah!
Getting strait to the point, the pizza was well below average and quite disappointing. The crust was completely dry and tough – offering none of the tender, crispy and chewy quality’s that a good pizza crust should have. Over topping, a common mistake made by many pizza chefs, made for a soggy, greasy pizza experience. However, not all was bad, as shown below the pizza arrived at our table in an oblong shape – this is a good thing. There is no reason for pizza to be perfectly round – a slightly misshapen pizza pie is a clear sign that caring human hands were involved in the pizza making process. An off-round pizza has far more charm and character than a perfectly round, and lifeless, pizza.
The perfect imperfect pizza shape
Aside from the pizza disappointment, my wife and I had a great evening and were able to enjoy some great local beer. Mission Springs’ current seasonal is a Red Ginger Ale (the ginger is actually very mild in this particular beer). The beer was served far too cold and was at first dominated by a spicy earthiness, after reaching a more appropriate ale temperature, a pleasing fruitiness became noticeable making for an enjoyable experience. My wife ordered not one, but two pints of the Bombshell Blonde Ale over the course of the evening, which she kindly allowed me to steal a taste of. Mission Springs’ Blonde Ale is one of my current favourite light craft beers, and is a great introductory beer to those not yet exposed to the craft beer world.
The real highlight of the evening was the gravity defying Black and Tan. Breaking the laws of physics and all things science this exclusive pub-only beer consisted of a rich Oatmeal Stout floating inexplicably atop a bed of well balanced India Pale Ale. The Black and Tan was equally impressive to the eyes as it was to the taste buds and stomach. A proper black and tan is a beer experience worth celebrating.
Black and Tan
This was not my first visit to the Mission Springs Brewing Company,and nor will it be my last. They may not know how to make the perfect pizza, but the unique country-bar atmosphere and simple yet delicious beer offerings help to make up for their erroneous pizza pie.
The spring season is finally here; the sun is shinning, the earth is slowly warming, the trees are beginning to blossom, my garden plants are sprouting and India Pale Ale is now is season. My latest IPA that I started six weeks ago has finally finished bottle conditioning and is now fit for enjoyable consumption, although it is still somewhat green and could use another three weeks to fully come together.
My IPA is not the only IPA of the spring season; many other brewers have used the early spring or late winter to launch their own IPA offering. Central City Brewing, Russell Brewing, and Granville Island Brewing have all recently launched an IPA into the market to compete for the growing hophead demographic. I am most excited about Central City’s Empire IPA and, although it has been sitting on store shelves for quite some time, I have yet to pour it out of a can in the comfort of my own home. Gary Lohin of Central City Brewing is one of British Columbia’s most talented brewmasters and he has yet to disappoint me.
I am less excited, yet still quite hopeful, about the Russell and Granville Island IPAs. Both brewers have shown they know how to craft a delicious IPA, yet have a tendency to water down their beer to reach a larger market. Granville Island’s past seasonal IPA was delicious and Russell’s IPA Cask served recently at DIX was flavorful and well hopped. As previously mentioned, I am not a huge hophead and hope that both the Granville Island and Russell IPAs make great summer beers.
Granville Island’s IPA, named Brockton IPA, and Central City’s IPA have both been available for some time now. Russell Brewing’s IPA has yet to reach liquor stores and I cannot provide a date when this new offering will be available. I recommend visiting Rick Green’s Blog for updates on upcoming beer releases; Rick has an immense knowledge about BC’s beer scene.
As for my IPA, which as yet to be named, it is malty and not overly hopped, but sadly will only be available to those who stop by for a visit or to those who invite me over for dinner.