Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Word About Light Beer

First, let's mollify a few people. Fancy a popsicle?
Delicious. Everybody else, try a bite of this penis. I mean sausage.
Now that we're all comfortably settled with our Freudian slippers on, let me get out the ol' soapbox.

I'm all for the idea of session beers. They make perfect sense to me, as best exemplified by Moon Under Water where the pub is a buzzing social hub, rather than the place where everybody forgets your name because they're on their eighth IPA. Being able to pop in for a weekday pint without worrying overmuch about the residual effects of dissolving a large portion of your frontal cortex come next morning is a delight.

But good session beers are not supposed as thin and characterless and forgettable as Paris Hilton. They're supposed to be rich and tan and have around a 4% alcohol-by-volume content. Like Paris Hilton.

Here's my quantum theory of lite: "Whereas any product is available in regular or light formats, be it determined that the descriptor 'light' is interchangeable with 'crappy'."

Thus, mayonnaise-type dressing is an affront to mankind, diet soft-drinks taste like pH balancer for the hot-tub, and "light-beer" is the biggest oxymoron since "BC Liberals". I find the cutesy "lite" appellation particularly offensive, as though cartoonizing the spelling makes it any less galling to swallow preservative-laden, artificially-engineered, hyper-chemical pseudo-food.

It's kind of like what McDonald's has done with their oatmeal; it should just be oats, milk and fruit, and somehow they've managed to create the worst oats-related thing since "Private Eyes".

Drink better. Drink less. Run More.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Kilt Made of Grass Leaves

I'd wager this is the only bottle of Innis & Gunn on the whole island of Oahu. Well, was the only bottle.

This libation is a little treat I promised myself weeks ago as a reward for hitting the magic 2000 page hits and 100 twitter followers. Unfortunately the following happened:

Teh Interwebs: "You have 100 Followers!"

Self: "Hooray!"

*runs to fridge*

Self (reaching for bottle opener): "Well, I'd really like to thank my Mom, and Jeebus, and.. uh..."

Teh Interwebs: "You have 99 Followers!"

Self: "What!?!?"

Teh Interwebs: "You have 100 Followers!"

Self: "Yes, well. Yeah. That's right. 100, baby! Wooo! Wooo...."

Teh Interwebs: "You have 98 Followers!"

Self: "What!?!? No no no, I didn't mean that vegan thingy!"

Teh Interwebs: "You have 97 Followers!"

Self: "Brrraaaaaaaaaaaghgghghhghhgh!"

After a little Crying Game style shower-sobbing, I returned to the keyboard, determined not to be over-eager again, but to instead maintain a solid lead before claiming victory. It was worth it.

If you'd like to hear a fair-n'-balanced review of Innis & Gunn's Highland Cask, head over to Ian's place for a nice assessment of its honeyed character. For me, I must confess that the delicious oaky overtones so familiar in an I&G offering were also tinged with the tincture of victory. Additionally, I'm on holiday and having just visited the Arizona memorial, I was greeted by a Navy band playing the Hawaii 5-0 theme. As Jim Ribble says, "You can't make this stuff up!"

Truly though, it's not so much a personal accomplishment as a tip o' the hat to thee, noble reader. As a sometime journalist, I'm ever-cognizant that a writer is nothing without an audience. In fact, emblazoned above my keyboard is the motto, "Nobody has to read this crap," a lesson well-learned from Tim Radford.

So to you, who lends legitimacy to my drunken ramblings by actually reading them, a bend of the elbow, and a hearty Sláinte! My original 100th follower, @hilaryipes will be getting a special beery-type present from me.

For those of you numbering between 101-150, I've got good news. Using the hallowed tradition of eenie-meenie-minie, one of you is getting a present too. Stay tuned.

Now, here are a bunch of ducks. One of them looks like the Hamburglar.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Best Little Beerhouse in Hawai'i

Look what a pathetic haole I am, trying to spell Hawaii with an apostrophe and everything, like I was a local. I may be the whitest person in creation.

Anyway, if there's one complaint about living in a tropical paradise (and I turned pro at Complaining a long time ago), it's that the micro-beer culture here is pretty invisible. Let's be polite and call it nascent. However, I've remarked before on the scavenger hunt nature of your average beerthusiast, and just because my brain is on holiday doesn't mean my liver is. Far from it.

A bit of careful googling resulted in a path being beaten to the Liquor Collection, a shoebox-sized store that has a heart of pure beer. And they have fine wines and stuff. Who cares.

Admittedly, it did require a little navigation to get there (Honolulu was apparently laid out be a guy with a spirograph), the traffic was terrible, and the music on the only reasonably-good radio station kept getting interrupted by DJ Tokesalot trying to string his four remaining tar-coated synapses in line long enough to read the surf report. "Hey, so... there's- what? Oh yeah."

Thirty seconds of silence.


Anyway, here's the haul:
I know dan has laid out a field guide to beer bloggers already, and this falls firmly in the reprehensible Trophy-Hunter category, but just look! Pick of the litter? Probably the Basha, or maybe the Idiot IPA. You are what you drink. I left more on the shelf too: Delerium Tremens, Infinium, Abyss and some more crazy Beerdog stuff. I gave the proprietor my best Arnie impersonation. He thought I was asking for a bock.

Also, how cool is this: they give you a buck off for buying "real" beer, and they don't carry Coors. Rad.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Penance. Volume 2

There are 244 steps here. I know. I counted them.

So here's the painful truth about beer: it's probably the quickest way to make yourself fat. Given the carb content, the (my) inability to stop at just one, and the nature of alcohol metabolism (primarily converted to acetate immediately), beer is definitely an important part of the Dr. Nick Riviera diet for dangerously underweight individuals.

However, seeing as I haven't brought my mumu with me, there's still a way to have your cake-in-a-can and drink it too. See, there's no such thing as a beer belly. While excessive beer consumption may result in swapping your six-pack for a keg, you can simply balance it out with a little light exercise. Based on how much I consume, "light" exercise won't cut the dijonnaise.

Today's excursion was a 5 km hike in air of such high humidity, we were practically breathing water. In fact, I'm pretty sure I just saw Kevin Costner swim past the window. The reward was not a spectacular view, nor a rippling physique (although bits of me do ripple in the breeze), but the satisfaction that I earned my libation this eve.

Bit of a slog, though.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Aloha, You Poor Frozen Sods.

The first thing that hits you in Hawaii is the humidity. After leaving behind crisp air and snow-capped North Shore mountain vistas at YVR, the sweaty, hibiscus-scented Honolulu night instantly lets you know that there's a chilled bottle of lager out there, oozing fat beads of condensation like a corpulent secret agent undergoing interrogation.

But first things first. Minor mystery solved.

Q: when does a Molson Canadian actually taste good?

A: when served at 29000 feet. For free.

Remember when they fired all those people, and instead of benefits, Air Canada hired Celine Dion to come and ululate hypersonically to boost morale? Yes, well. Never failing to disappoint, Air Canada Flight whatever-it-was left the terminal an hour late with no hot water on board. As a sop to the hundreds crammed into a tube-shaped sardine can that was about to take to the air and spit in God's eye, we all got one free drink. Beer choices were Molson Canadian, which is pretty weak, or Heineiken, which is a Dutch word meaning "urine".

I went with the Molson.
You'll notice that I've paired "The Best Canada Has To Offer" with a roast beef sandwich. Air Canada has seen fit to interpret "roast beef sandwich" as "a loaf of bread cut in half and filled with an entire head of lettuce, some gristly meat from a cow that probably died before British Columbia entered the Dominion, and a slice of cheese so thin you could read the newspaper through it".

On the other hand, surrounded by squalling toddlers, breathing desiccating, recirculated air crammed with the flatulence of innumerable butts and drifting clouds of avian influenza, with the guy behind me kicking my seat like he was a retired Russian folk dancer and the lady on the left coughing like a tubercular Victorian, that beer tasted like dew from the Garden of Eden.

Anyway, I'm ensconced in Ohau now, and good news everyone! I've just been to the beer store.

Admittedly, there's not much in the way of Hawaiian beer out there. Here's a mixer six I just grabbed.
Nothing particularly special here except the coconut porter. It's delicious, and if you're stuck in an office reading this, why not drop by Swan's on your way home and knock back a pint of Victoria's own tropical mix on a wet-coast favourite?

Currently, I'm drinking a Torpedo from Sierra Nevada, and yes, I know, why bother with a Californian beer when in the tropics? But while I may be surrounded by lizards and birds of paradise and street signs with more vowels than consonants, Hawaii is America, and it gets all the good stuff from the mainland. This was a regular 9-buck sixpack.

I also have some Longboard Lager.

That ought to cover me for Sunday.
Stay tuned, I brought something special from a very cold place.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Damn Good: Moon Under Water

Note: This is not a stock picture. Katie took this shot just outside our door after we came home from the pub. Eerie.

It's not often that I can come home after a few pints and feel clear-headed enough to attempt a posting. My usual routine is to stagger up to the keyboard, full of muzzy ideas and high-test IPA and then collapse into darkness, waking to find my laptop coated with viscous drool, as if recently rescued from the lower intestine of a whale, and its screen filled with strings of gibberish like I've been typing with my elbows.

Not so tonight, as I've just returned from an excellent meal and a couple of session bevvies at Moon Under Water, the newest brewpub in Victoria.

I love the idea of a lower-alcohol session ale (in this case, a rich-tasting English Bitter). Don't get me wrong, I'm as much about monster IPAs as the next individual with a failing liver, but it's kind of hard to root for the 'Nucks in the third when you're lying on the floor, comatose. Not a problem at Moon Under Water though, where you can get a proper pint, brimmed expertly to a bulging meniscus (I hate being cheated out of beer by getting served three inches of foam), and the beer is as comforting as an episode of your favourite TV show, rather than akin to being round-house kicked in the face by Chuck Norris wearing cowboy boots doused in hop resin.

Also, there's proper pub food.
Now, admittedly, Moon Under Water's proprietors have been unable to resist the temptation to put something on the menu that involves aioli (it's mayonnaise, people) but the rest of the bill of fare is simple and hearty.

The above-pictured Toad-In-the-Hole was just the right pairing for the Bitter, being that it contained a full day's recommended serving of Brown, and was chock-full of warm mushy gooey gravyish deliciousness. If you listen carefully, you can hear the faint sounds of a vitamin crying softly to itself because it is all alone and has no friends. Dave says the burger is pretty good too.

I'm miffed to be missing the Sunday night roast and the launch of their Tranquility IPA. Don't you miss it too.

On the other hand, I was pleased to see a stack of labels behind the bar: bottles are on their way!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hot Damn of the Week: Howe Sound Brewing's Megadestroyer

Note: I have tried to keep the blog relatively free from swears so that it would be safe to read with your children before you tuck them in bed with a nice milk-stout. It was very hard to do so with this one.

N'other Note: It has come to my attention that some vegans may become offended by a comment in this post. In response to such, may I just point out that this a blog where at one point I'm wearing a hat made of Post-Its?

I have a big soft spot in my heart for Howe Sound Brewing as it was there, a pint of Diamond Head stout on the table, that I witnessed Sidney Crosby's Golden Goal. It's in all the papers these days, the so-called unifying moment that galvanized the country and etc. Personally, my Oly games highlight was
Jon Montgomery pwning a pitcher of beer. Still, there I was, wearing the decade-old t-shirt pictured above, leaping around like a deranged orangutan, slapping people on the back, hootin' and (I'm sorry to say) hollerin' and generally carrying-on. It was Epic.

Small wonder then, that a beer of such epic-ness would be put forth from the same place that saw us unified as a nation (i.e. as defined by victorious comparison to the Yanks). I'm making a new word up: Epic-centre. HSB is an epic-center.
Exhibit A: The Megadestroyer.

HSB puts a little swing-cap on their beer so that if you don't finish it all at once, then you can re-seal it for another day. Aw. Isn't that cute?

Obviously, they've never met me. If I have a soft spot in my heart for the brewery, then I have an extra lobe in my liver for Imperial Stouts, and I'm extra-excited to be trying this one with its licorice over-tones and big star anise nose. But there's a problem.

Megadestroyer doesn't just have a cool name, it comes with its own leather coaster. Want to see what happened to a regular coaster when I tried to set my beer down on it?
I haven't seen anything blister like that since the last time Mel Gibson accidentally trod on sacred ground.

I know I've said that this isn't going to be a beer-pairing blog, and that there are plenty of places to go if you'd like to use beer in some sort of fruity wine-guy thing where you have triple-creme brie and thin slices of granny smith apple and a gewurtztraminer (actually, that sounds pretty good), but there is something that can handle the epic-ness of the Megadestroyer.

Today is Valentine's day, and I've already launched one missive to the world about my amazing wife and her inexplicable amour for her fat lazy ginger husband, but here's a little glimpse as to what I'm talking about when I say she's an incredible woman. It was one of my Christmas presents:
Yes, that does say, "Bacon Jam".

On a relationship scale, this is not like John Cusack standing in the rain, holding a boom box over his head that's blasting Peter Gabriel's "In your Eyes". No, this is like Simon Pegg and Nick Frost doing the same sort of thing

Being that I've now taken to calling anything good, "Baconjam", I'm happy to report that the Megadestroyer is indeed baconjam.

But wait, how do I pair the most Epic beer on the market with the most epic spreadable product on the market? I mean, you can't just smear pork on liquid, and believe me, I've tried. Wait, what if...
Oh yeah. Yeah I did.

So what does the combination taste like? Well, basically, It's
dinosaur-flying-a-jet-plane awesome!

The Megadestroyer is as thick and rich as a rapper's widow, and the baconx2 pairs with it like Thor fighting demons with a hammer made of pig. Truly, it is the most epic pairing since Page and Plant, Morello and de la Rocha, John Mayer and John Mayer's Ego.

One thing: why do I have shooting pains up my left arm?

Howe Sound Brewing Megadestroyer Imperial Licorice Stout
Recommended if:
-you think Mastadon is appropriate dinner-party music
-you're Dutch. Ishn't that weird?
-you've watched an Olympic hockey game with Nigel's (of the Alibi Room) mother-in-law. I have.

Not recommended if:
-you own a Kenny G cd
-you think twizzlers only come in red
-you're a vegan. Because your feeble bones will melt.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Battle Royale No. 4: S'Macro Smackdown

One of the great joys about being a beer snob is finding yourself in line at the liquor store behind somebody carrying a cube of Labbatt Blue or similar and thinking to yourself, "I'm better than that person." Thus, you hoist your three bombers of dry-hopped, stone-fired, barrel-aged, lambic, trappist tripel on to the counter with a thump like that of a silverback gorilla beating its chest, fix their supermarket suds with a baleful look and exchange meaningful glances with the knowledgeable private-store clerk (what, shop at a BCLDB store? With the rest of the proletariat? I think Not.).

Then, when the huddled mass has shuffled off with their lump of corporate swill, you can bask in the glory of being asked, "Oh I didn't know we had this in yet, is it any good?" and respond with a three-part treatise on the sub-atomic nuances of bottle-conditioning. It's like heading out to a foreign film festival and seeing all the dullards lined up for the latest Twilight dreck. Endlessly satisfying.

The only problem with this state of affairs is that, at some point, you will be tempted to Offer A Suggestion to random bystanders. I have done so twice, and both times were spectacular failures. You know the setup: you're striding towards the beer-wall with purpose, seeking out the latest hop-filled delight that the local brewery's just tweeted about; they're standing there, slack-jawed and glazen of eye, overwhelmed by sheer variety. All quite innocent, up until you're seized by the impulse to swoop in and rescue the gape-mouthed peasantry with a brilliant display of Expertise.

The first time this happened to me, I accosted a pleasant-looking young couple who were filling a basket with a variety of singles, just as the girl was reaching for a bottle of Czechvar. "Oh, you'll find that a bit boring," I opined, "It's basically like Budweiser."

*GLARE* (uh-oh)

The young lady rounded on me like she was a Gorgon and I just had suggested she might have a snake or two in her hair. "I know!" she huffed, "That's my country's national beer, and it's my very favourite!" Whoopsie. mumble-mumble-mumble exit-stage-left

After a while I forgot that little incident and, naturally, the same sort of thing happened again. This time I overheard another couple looking for Lighthouse Keeper's Stout, which wasn't available. I bumbled in with "You could try the Okanagan Springs Porter," and received a frosty look and an "I don't like porters." Like a fly repeatedly smacking its head against a window, I persevered. "Well, what about [Nelson Brewing's] Blackheart Oatmeal Stout?" Response: "I don't like oatmeal." Um, ohhh-kay. After a while, they wandered off with some Guinness.

So here's a valuable lesson to all my fellow beer snobs. Just like I now do, keep your fat, stupid, self-important gob firmly shut.

Here's the second lesson: while it's lovely to drink Winkle's Very Old Peculier with silt and twigs and white-tail-deer turds floating in it, not everybody else likes crazy beers, which is why you can't always find them outside specialty stores and pubs. So what do you do when you find yourself rubbing shoulders with the riff-raff, with NASCAR on the telly and Nickelback on the stereo? Why, you seek refuge in an offering from a micro that's nearly a macro: the small macro-brewery. Or the big micro-brewery. Whatever.

So I headed down to the BCLDB (ewww) like the rest of you anarcho-syndicalist-commune types and spent a good half hour wandering around trying to select two challengers, finally settling on Okanagan Springs 1516 Lager and Granville Island's Island Lager. Island's Island? I mean GIB's Island Lager. Moving on.

I know there will be much tooth-gnashing about my selections and definitions of micro/macro, but blame @sticklebract for the suggestion. Dean actually also suggested something from Pacific Western, but I found myself physically incapable of reaching for a six-pack of Cariboo. I still have that damned Keith's IPA cluttering up the fridge, and I don't need to add five cans of crappy seven-dollar beer to the crisper.

Granville Island Brewing Island Lager vs. Okanagan Springs 1516 Lager

Round One: Fight!

First problem: I don't really drink lager. I mean, I'm aware there's a type of beer called lager and it's supposedly the pinnacle of the brewer's art and requires a great deal of precision and technical know-how and wearing of black turtlenecks and listening to Kraftwerk to make it, but I prefer my beer to be a bit simple and a bit heavy. Like me.

Yes, I know anyone with a sack of grain and a moderately dirty bathtub can make an ale, but I really get tired of all the lager commercials that repeat the words "crisp" and "clean" so many times, you'd think they were advertising an iceberg-lettuce-based furniture polish.

However, before I turn into even more of wretched snob: it's yellow, it's got bubbles in it, ergo it's beer. Let's have a peek and a sniff.

The 1516 smells like nothing. I mean, it's a bit beery, but there's very little there. The Island Lager is very very slightly more malty, like if a mashtun just off-gassed 400 miles away. It's also slightly more yellow, but it's like choosing between beige and taupe, or deciding who's more orange, Siegfried or Roy.

Round Two: Fight!

I kind of feel that since the Post-It sou'wester, there's a general expectation that I'll always wear entertaining headgear. Not sure what would be appropriate here. Probably a flat-billed baseball hat. Either way, sorry to disappoint.

The Okanagan 1516 is clean and crisp. God damn it.

Well, it is. There's really no other better descriptor. A quick malty fizz, a little bitterness on the palate, and then it's gone, leaving nothing but a general refreshed feeling. If I came inside on a summer's day after mowing the lawn or working on the car or just reading a book in the hammock to find one of these little beauties in the fridge, well, I'd have little to complain about. Not that I wouldn't try.

Now the Granville Island.
What the hell? They're completely different!

The Granville Island tastes bizarre with the 1516 still fresh on the palate. It's almost like a pale ale, or if not a pale ale, then what a really mainstream brewery would produce and slap a label on saying "pale ale". That's not a shot at GIB, you understand, it's just noticeably sweeter, fuller and maltier than the 1516. Is that a good thing? I'm not sure...

Round Three: Fight!

This is a toughie.

On one hand, we've got the Sapporo-owned Okanagan Springs, and much like the bitterly cold karaoke juice that their Nipponese parent company are best known for, their brew is somehow crisper in finish, and if you're a lager-head, isn't that what you'd go for?

But on the other hand, shouldn't a craft-brew have a bit more body than the commercial guys? Or is it less about a fuller body than about the package as a whole? Certainly, both these beers are as smooth as a Grover Washington Jr. track.

Ummmm.... I pick..... that one.


Okanagan Springs wins by eenie-meenie-minie-moe.

Post-Battle Review

I gotta say, what a great province we live in when this is what passes for mainstream. To think some people call these beers bland. Smooth like butta, as drinkable as prosecco in a heat wave, cheap as Molson, available everywhere: quite frankly, I'm stoked for a summertime bbq with either one of these beers floating around these ice chest.

Two left, I'm picking the 1516, but you'll be happy with either.

Okanagan Springs 1516 Lager
Recommended if:
-it's hot outside
-you can spell "reinheitsgebot" without googling it
-you've just invented Crispy Pledge

Not Recommended if:
-you've never been to the BCLDB
-you only drink beers with twigs in it
-you're afraid of Ogopogo

GIB's Island Lager
Recommended if:
-you've just picked up some finocchiona at Oyama
-you prefer a slightly sweeter finish
-it's hot outside

Not recommended if:
-you're that Kokanee ranger
-you're looking for the beer equivalent of barley soup
-you've only got seven bucks in your pocket

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

10 Reasons Victoria is a Kick-Ass Beer Town: #6 Phillips Brewing

Note: This is the start of a new series on YADBB, listing the best beery things about the place I live. It's not in any order, which is why I'm starting at #6 with Phillips. Doing things out of order like this virtually ensures that I'm going to get muddled and end up with two #3 spots. So be it.

Today is the third week since I started this blog, and we're sitting at 1500 pageviews. Not bad! Pass the link around, as always. I'm also happy to announce that a version of these meandering and beer-soaked writings will soon be appearing in the North Shore News periodically, right up until they start getting too many letters of complaint. Which shouldn't take too long.

But enough self-congratulatory fiddle-faddle, let's talk beer.

Possibly the greatest thing that happened as a result of my wife Katie and I moving from Vancouver to Victoria is that we increased our proximity to Phillips brewing. Not that we couldn't find their excellent beers in the big Smoke; in fact, I fondly remember the days when you could still get Phoenix Lager in stubbies and the cases were stamped "Imported From Esquimalt".

But now, the Phillips brewery is a scant 10 minutes away, and we can pop in and have a 2L growler filled with fresh-drawn, draft-style beer for all of ten bucks. Bargain.

So, thinking to celebrate the steady flow of traffic to YADBB (what, are you people all brain-damaged or something? Oh, that's right, you're probably all just drunk) I selected and rinsed a likely pair out of our growler collection, chucked 'em in the Soob and booted it.

Empty growlers. Sad panda. Yes, that is a growler cozy. What, you don't have one? *tsk*

Matt Phillips is basically the Kevin Smith of brewing. Both couldn't get financing to follow their dreams, so both maxed-out credit cards and cut corners to create masterworks. Matt slept in his brewery and made deliveries in an old Subaru, and to be honest I don't see what all the fuss is about because I'd be perfectly happy to sleep in a brewery and I drive an old Subaru now, and it's not in any pursuit of some damn dream.

Anyway, thus was born
Clerks and the original Phillips beer lineup including Phoenix and some other ones which I'm too lazy to look up right now. However, then Kevin Smith went on to make Jersey Girl, and up until Phillips releases a Hobo-Urine seasonal, I'm going to say their careers have diverged somewhat.

Roll into the parking lot at the Government Street brewery, and your nostrils are immediately tantalized by the smell of the mash tuns. It's twice as good as the smell of baking bread, and quite frankly, I'm not sure why real-estate agents don't set up homebrew equipment when they're having an open-house.

Step in the door and again you'll find something special. The front retail part of the brewery is set up as a kind of art studio, and functions from time to time as a space where you can rub elbows with artists and brewers and beery guys like me. They're
launching some new beers tomorrow, don't miss it.

You'll also notice a coupla taps and a chalkboard showing what's growling today. Talk to Bill, a guy who's as nice as he is hirsute (which is a lot, fyi), and he'll be happy to fill yer bucket with some of Victoria's finest suds.

I picked myself out a
Hop-Circle and a coffee stout for those late night deadlines, and bumped into Deebs, the brewer. He was absconding with an interesting-looking 12-pack, and when I checked the fridge, I found even more booty.

Check out this haul:
What noise? Oh, that's just my liver, screaming. Quiet, you!

Any road, for a hop-head like me, this beery cornucopia was akin to checking your phone and unexpectedly getting naked texts from Jessica Alba. Or from Brett Farve, if you're into elderly micro-peen. Either way, score!

Here's the bombers, a triumvirate of Hoppy Tripel, Malty Imperial Red and Ginger Beer (the replacement for Gentleman Jim):
But what about the contents of that inscrutable cube? Not since the Borg has a square object been more filled with dangerous mystery....

What a lineup! It's the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition for hops. We've got the ever-popular Hop-circle and Skookum, the fresh hop ale Grow-Hop (which Deeb says will be rotating with whatever is the current seasonal hop, so centennial right now) and the "guest" beer, a rye IPA called Krypton, which I'm currently drinking. It's as tasty as Lex Luthor is villainous (not the lame Gene Hackman version). My house now has more hops than a Texan rabbit sanctuary.

So let me just recap: local, fresh beer readily available and basically the same price as the corporation's swill; a strong community presence and sponsorship of local events; friendly, hairy staff; a dedication to brewing great beer; and last but not least, a plethora of seasonals, experimental beers and a general willingness to try new things. Plus, they like
My Little Pony.

Phillips, we salute thee. Bottoms up!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Friday Night's Alright For (beer) Fighting: Taking Suggestions For Battle Royale 4

EDIT: @sticklebract has come up with the "S'Macro Smackdown", a slugfest for the small macro-breweries like Okanagan Springs, etc. Now to select a champion for each: coming Friday!

The countdown has already started to the next Battle Royale but, sadly, my beer fridge appears to have been stocked by the Mother Hubbard Delivery Company Ltd.. As in, there's nothin' interesting in there. I therefore turn to you, erstwhile reader, to give this poor dog a bone: help me out with a pair o' brews I can throw down for an epic show-down.

So what would you like to see? U.S. vs. Canada in a gold medal beer action? A pair of Belgian blondes mudwrestling? (hey, get yer mind outta the gutter) Something silly like Lucky Lager vs Dogfish Head 90min? What about some draft-beer dodgeball?

Please leave a suggestion in the comments section, send me an e-mail, or fire something over to me on Twitter.

The winning suggestion will receive whatever Keith's IPA I still have in my fridge. Or, I dunno, what else have I got around here... uh, a Red Racer toque, maybe? Or a firm handshake. Anyways, something, I promise.

Watch Friday to see who enters the ring.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl First Down: Dead Frog Citra IPA

I have to say, I like American football. It's brash and noisy and fast-paced and is probably what cavemen played before they discovered ice hockey. But I don't follow it regularly, so I have a hard time picking a team when it comes to Super Bowl time.

Picking a beer to quaff during the commercials, though, comes easier. Yes, it's another damn IPA (sorry Sports Andy).

I first had a glimpse of what Dead Frog brewing could put out after attending a CAMRA event at the now-defunct Dix's in Yaletown. There were something like six IPAs available that evening -the memory is hazy, and no wonder- but a standout for me was a heavily-hopped version of Dead Frog's Nut Brown Ale.

Since then, though, it's been pretty tame stuff: the most interesting thing about the Aldergrove-based Brewery was their silly name and the catchphrase, "Nothing goes down like a cold dead frog." That might be true if you're a Frenchman with a busted microwave, but for me, I'm picking a beer that's still capable of leaping off the lily-pad and onto my taste-buds.

However, here comes another big-beer series from a brewery not previously known for experimental stylings. It's Dead Frog's Citra IPA and it has a label that's about as subtle as T-Pain's dental work:
I mean, honestly. Liberace could wear that as a belt buckle.

But who cares? The last beer I drank with a silly label was Lighthouse's Deckhand, and it was agreed by all involved to be excellent, despite the cartoonish lady lumps. Speaking of lady lumps, that half-time show was the biggest outrage visited on music since Simon Cowell was spawned. I very nearly pulled a double Van Gogh with a butter-knife.

There are now more types of IPAs out there than there are versions of Wiz Khalif's "Black and Yellow"; so many that it's hard to remember what the original was like. This one is crammed with Citra hops: a hybrid variety consisting of 50% German Hallertauer Mittelfrüh, 25% U.S. Tettnanger and 25% East Kent Golding, German, Brewers Gold, and other unknown hops. If that sounds book-smart, I just copied-and-pasted it off of Left4Beer. Imitation, flattery, etc.

Anyways, this beer has a nose like Cyrano de Bergerac and an aftertaste as astringent as chewing partially cured leather (or as bitter as a Steelers fan, as it turns out). It's fantastic!

Dead Frog Citra IPA
Recommended if:
-you want a Dead Frog that still Hops
-you own a cubic zirconium tie pin
-you enjoy chewing black tea leaves

Not Recommended if:
-you like your beer to be like lager leftover from St. Patrick's day: flat, green and flavourless
-all your pimp chalices are in the dishwasher
-you're still a Black Eyed Peas Fan, because then you don't have any taste

Friday, February 4, 2011

New, But Any Damn Good? VIB Double-Decker IPA

If you were to ask any of my friends to describe me, they'd say, "Brendan? Total car nut." Then, if pressed for more details, they might add, "Oh, he's got red hair too." So it shouldn't surprise you to hear that I spent my entire day today running over to the mainland to get progressive-rate lowering springs and Koni inserts installed in my jalopy by a specialist. Result? It's like a new car, but most importantly, it was able to use its enhanced cornering abilities to get me back in time to grab a six of Vancouver Island's new beer: Double-Decker IPA.

I wasn't quite in time to hit VIB's store, but after bleating out a call for assistance, I was reminded of the little gem that is the Penny Farthing liquor store, which I always forget about, and never fails to stock at least one beer I couldn't find anywhere else. Yes, you do have to navigate Oak Street Village and its suicidal octogenarians that dart out in front of you (dart is perhaps too strong a word), but hey, at least brittle bones don't mark up the paintwork much. It's like worrying about colliding with meringue.

I'm a bit confused about how to feel about Vancouver Island Brewing. On one hand, I have fond memories of scouring Vancouver for the few cases of Hermannator Icebock that ever made it over, at one point forcing a dejected BCLDB store employee to hand over the flat he'd hidden in the back for himself (I felt bad and left him one case). But on the other hand, I've got a friend who insists on using another term for their Sea Dog when ordering, which is a bit off-putting. And, I don't mean sailor.

So pints of Seaman aside, I consider VIB to be Victoria's Granville Island Brewing. Both were (weirdly) founded in 1984, both have a full and varied lineup, and both have paved the way for upstarts like Driftwood and Phillips to come bounding on the scene with crazy beers like Singularity and Hop Circle. So can Vancouver Island Brewing put out a beer that competes with the whippersnappers? Well, as it turns out, yes.

Oh bugger, I've spoiled the rest of the review.

Well, for those of you still reading, there are two things you need to know. First, be prepared for the inevitable endless onslaught of babbling about the brewery mixing Victoria's English roots with westcoast brashness to produce a blend of old and new. Those red double-decker buses are now chiefly used by tour companies to ferry about ancient and foamy-boned tourists, while anybody actually going anywhere takes a bus that's more Star Trek shuttle than Coronation Street. Never mind twee references to tradition and heritage and all that claptrap. This beer needs to stand on its merits alone.

Second, if you're looking for a beer that's hoppier than a crack-addled Bugs Bunny, look elsewhere. This is not an IPA version of an extreme sport, where the volume knob goes up to eleven and you can't come first unless you fracture something. Rather, this beer is a gentleman's sporting event. Like cricket. Or philandering.

As it says in the sidebar, there are many great beer-blogs out there that will deal with a beer review by assigning a rating, drawing comparisons and listing tasting notes. So make sure you wait for Ian's take on it at
Left4Beer, or check out what Dan will have to say over at the Small Beer Blog. You really should be reading these guys anyway.

All I can tell you, without reference to mouthfeel or anything like that, is that I liked it. It was not dissimilar to the
Propeller IPA I had last week in that it tasted nearly like something Fuller's or another English brewer would make. As you can tell from the colour, there's a lot of malt in there, but the crispness that rests on the palate isn't of the same everything-else-now-tastes-like-styrofoam intensity of a Dogfish Head 90min, just a nice dry finish like the tannins in a cup of strong black tea. It's also insanely drinkable and smooth, and there's something just out of reach, like a hint of Teutonic brewing influence. There might be a German spy in the O.A.S.

Vancouver Island Brewing Double Decker IPA
Recommended if:
-you're taking public transit home from the pub
-you favour smoothness over intensity
-you were weaned on Islander Lager

Not recommended if:
-you're Kevin Falcon
-you're looking for hop salad in a bottle
Kriss or Kross

A Brief Mathematical Explanation of the Theory of Delta-B

What contemptible scoundrel has stolen the cork to my lunch?
---W.C. Fields

Two summers ago, I took some courses in SFU's publishing program. I say "courses", they were actually immersives, and the difference is akin to that between taking a quick shower and, say, drowning. For two weeks, I was thrown together from 8a.m. til the wee hours o' the morning with a group of book-world miscreants in an ever-increasing Lord Of The Flies scenario until Piggy finally got hit in the head with a styrofoam rock and fell off the cliff. I was Piggy.

Actually, I'm just joking: we all got along famously and are now all connected on facebook, whatever that's worth. It was a crucible out of which we all emerged like spectral beings and beautiful butterflies and soaring eagles and.... shit. [/Emily Howard].

I also made an important discovery.

During the lunch break, we would often pop across the street to Steamworks in the old railway station, there to sooth our battered intellects and nosh on burgers and fries. And, inevitably, we'd all have a pint, and once or twice two.

It was about this time I noticed something curious. While before lunch we were as collectively productive as a hive of bees that've just attended a Tony Robbins seminar, our post-lunch output was both greatly reduced and frequently filled with gibberish. In a fit of genius, the idea of Delta-B leapt into my hazy brain. Thus:
Where delta-b is the not the point at which beer is consumed, but where it starts to take effect.
The original graph, drawn on a corner of the classroom chalkboard was so universally admired that it made its way into the following year's course catalogue (without any explanatory caption). I count it among my greatest achievements.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Note: Just rolled over 1000 page-views on the counter! Many thanks to all who read and comment, and special thanks to the nice folks who brew me my delicious fizzy Medicine. No beer today, but a post to mark the occasion nonetheless.

The woman gazing pensively out into the misty beyond in this picture is my lovely wife, and ninety-nine percent of the time, she is kind and loving and wonderful beyond words. I am perfectly aware that I have many faults, chief among them the inability to organize my way out of a wet paper bag even when provided with a giant pair of pruning shears, a headlamp, and a large-print edition of the book "Organizing Your Way Out Of Wet Paper Bags For Useless, Bumbling, Incompetent, Pea-Brained, Blithering Idiots: A Pop-up Book".

If she ever leaves me, it will be about ten minutes before I'll be found dead, curled up in the fetal position in a pool of my own drool, vomit and urine.

So ninety-nine percent of the time, she's great, and my heart leaps about in my chest like a gaffed salmon just thinking about how much I love her. However. HOWEVER. One percent of the time I go running with her, and then the bubbly sweet-natured girl I married turns into something that makes Pol Pot look like a recess lady. Forced death march doesn't even come close. You can see from the picture that the rock surface we are descending is as slippery and dangerous as Charlie Sheen. She made me run down it, and then run back up it again, even after I'd already climbed up the other side of the mountain (it's Mt. Finlayson, local peeps).

But even here I appreciate her for the prodding, while she leaps up the hillside like a deranged mountain goat and I labour on behind, tomato-faced and apoplectic, because without it, I wouldn't really get any exercise. And with apologies to Left4Beer and his studies around the health effects of drinking beer, and taking the general view that a beer now and then lowers my stress levels back down to a more-manageable DEFCON 3, there is only one thing I absolutely know about the physical effects of drinking beer: it makes you fat.

It has been clinically proven, without shadow of a doubt, that if you drink enough beer regularly, you will turn into Zach Galifianakis. After he's just eaten John Goodman. Deep-fried. Except you won't be funny.

And given that I have the build of a teenage Laotian ladyboy, I can't really carry any extra poundage unless I want to resemble a burlap sack full of suet that somebody's stuck four pipe-cleaners into. So today is a beer-free day, and tomorrow I have to go for a run, and Friday I should probably do a long bike ride, and maybe by Saturday I can think about cracking open something delicious (suggestions? Howe Sound, perchance?).

However, I'm happy to do Penance for my beery sins since the good craft brewers of B.C. continue to tempt with lascivious hoppiness. Ooh, that reminds me! Naughty Hildegaard soon?

Hot Damn of the Week: Red Racer ESB Falconer's Blend Cask

There is a certain element of scavenger hunt in any beer enthusiast, and I'm no exception. While we're pretty much spoilt for choice in Victoria with five or six local craft breweries all producing little brown bottles full of deliciousness, I read Red Racer's twitter about an upcoming cask at the Beagle with the same trembling anticipation as a methamphetamine addict unexpectedly finding a fifty dollar bill. Then I found out they were tapping it two hours before I got off work and I had a spaz-attack like that same meth-head realizing the fifty was actually monopoly money. I may have punched out an old lady.

Still, a man who can craft a sou'wester out of Post-Its is not about to be fettled by the constraints of space and time. Acting in secret, I first re-tweeted to the effect that the Beagle doesn't open until 9 p.m. on Tuesdays. Having stalled for time, I then sent forth nefarious agents to secure the precious like I lived in New Zealand and my name was Sauron.

Success (clearly)! The last pint in the place was waiting for me in a hidden fridge behind the bar, which should tell you two things:
1) It pays to have friends at your local pub.
2) The only way to gain access to good beer is lots and lots of drinking. Liver transplant, please!

So what about the beer? Well, Cask Ales are the holy grail of the brewing world: mention an upcoming cask to a member of the Campaign For Real Ale, and they'll immediately have to sit down or hold a cushion in front of them to hide a sudden concupiscence. As such, I was on that isht like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible IV (the one where he brainwashes ex-cast-members of Dawson's Creek before harvesting their souls).

And my wire-assisted gymnastics were worth it: Central City does not disappoint. The smooth, dry-hopped tweaking of their excellent ESB was an Extra Special Bitter indeed. Apparently, the cask sold out in just over an hour, which is pretty good for a town where everybody has to be in bed with a Barbara Cartwright novel by seven.

The Central boys are hitting the bars with tactical casks regularly. Add 'em to your twitter-feed and check off that box on your scavenger hunt list. Getting your picture taken with a policeman optional.