Tag Archives: Thor’s Hammer

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.



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



Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine in bottles

thor's hammer barley wineThor’s Hammer by Central City brewmaster Gary Lohin was the first barley wine I ever tasted.  It was five years ago at the Central City brewpub in Surrey and it was one of the first times a beer every blew me away.  I’ve tasted similarly good or better barley wines since, but I’ll never forget that first sip of the golden nectar of the gods.

If you don’t know, barley wine is very strong beer that is often very sweet and aged a long time to both add flavour and subdue the high alcohol content.  Barley wines usually come out around Christmas time and are warming, festive drinks, perfect for dulling the harshness of relatives.

You used to only be able to get Thor’s Hammer at special beer events or in the Central City Brewpub (or at Sailor Hagars before that).  This past summer Central City released a limited collection that included Oak Aged Thor’s Hammer and now, for the first time, they are releasing a bottled run at the appropriate time of year.  Thor’s Hammer jostles with Driftwood Old Cellar Dweller for the title of best barley wine in BC and is a must buy for BC beer nerds.

It should hit stores in Vancoucer this week or next, likely on a Thursday.  If you don’t want to miss out (only 99 cases made), I suggest you like Brewery Creek or Legacy on Facebook to get their notifications.



Central City New Limited Edition Collection

Central City Brewing has been one of British Columbia’s top breweries since they first opened.  Gary Lohin, Central City’s brewmaster, makes great beer and has proven that great products sell – its that simple.  Red Racer IPA, a mainstay amongst westcoast hopheads, consistently wins top awards when entered into competition and is a shinning example of how great a hop forward West Coast IPA can be.

Central City is growing rapidly and is expanding their brewing operations to keep up with demand.  This means more great beer will soon hit store shelves.  This is great news as availabitliy of some of Central City’s greatest beers has been limited to select beer-centric establishments and at their Surrey based brewpub. But this is about to change.

May 31st marked the launch of Central City’s limited edition collection.  The first of a three part offering (on store shelves as of May 31) is a well hopped Imperial IPA.  Thor’s Hammer Barley Wine and a Bourbon Barrel aged version of Thor’s Hammer is also planned for release shortly.  All three of these new releases are top quality beers.  An aged Thor’s Hammer was my first barley wine and it has remained a prefference since.

I look forward to all three releases, even though it may not be the best time to release a big barley wine (its more of a winter seasonal).  But the only rule that truly matters in the craft beer industy is make good beer – Central City has no problem with this.