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
-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
-you're Kriss or Kross