Friday, March 11, 2011

Battle Royale No 5: The Hockey Drafts

Note: Of course, a thought to Japan. What you can do: Red Cross.

Here's truth: beer on tap tastes better. Thus it is that the rather serious folks over at the Journal of Food Science put down their clipboards and headed off to something like 70 pubs in 14 countries to track down the best-tasting Guinness in the world, and then found that it tastes best in Ireland.

Well, I could have told you that. If you're interested, it tastes best either in Temple Bar (although you'll be neck-deep in tourists), or in a little pub in a tiny town just South of Strabane that I can't remember the name of. It wasn't this one:
But I thought it was worth a mention anyway. Can I get a pint of Darkness!

More rambling (and ranting) about Guinness closer to St. Padraig's day, but let's have a good look at our current combatants.
On one hand, we have (left) the Gold-Medal Winning Red Racer IPA. It's already a champ, and might just be the best beer you can get in a can. Certainly it's a front-runner for hopheads seeking a sixer on the way home. How does it stand up on draft and without home-court advantage?

On the right, it's perennial home-town hero Driftwood with their Fat Tug IPA. Honestly, it's worth ordering it for the pardon-me-miss wink-wink nudge-nudge snap-snap grin-grin double entendre name, but it's a frankly excellent beer, and has firmly supplanted the no-longer available Hop Circle as the hockey-watching beer of choice down at The Beagle.

Ah yes, the Beagle. This great little neighbourhood pub is our beers' battleground tonight, and as well as the main event, it appears we have a little side-skirmish on ice: 'Nucks vs. Sharks. Eeexcellent.
(sigh: I really need to learn to use Photoshop.)
Central City Red Racer IPA vs. Driftwood Fat Tug IPA

First period: Fight!

Central City drops the gloves right after the faceoff with a smasher of Cascade hops. It's 1984, this beer is Dave Semenko, and you've just laminated Wayne Gretzky to the boards. Hope you enjoy the taste of broken face.

But Fat Tug is no whinging Kyle Wellwood. Right from the get-go, you can tell this is going to be a bench-clearer, as the Driftwood hits right back with citrusy, hoppy goodness.

'Nucks up by two, battling IPAs at One-All...

Second Period: Fight!

Both beers are out of the locker rooms after getting a pep talk from their head brewers, and having their knuckles taped up. Meanwhile, the Sharks take just over a minute to tie it up. This might go more than three periods. Hope me oul' liver can take it.

Body-wise, Red Racer has the edge. Or does it? It's certainly got a heavier malt and a denser feel to it, but it's paired nicely with a dry, dry finish that keeps you reaching for that next sip. It's a bruiser but a speed-skater too.

Only an idiot would call Fat Tug a lightweight, but it is certainly less heavy than the Racer. Mind you, that works in its favour. The citrus notes are enhanced to a degree, as though between two varieties of grapefruit, one tarter than the other. I'm just alternating sips here, back-and-forth, end-to-end. Nobody's playing the trap, both are going for broke.

'Nucks-Sharks 3-2, IPAs 2 each

Third Period: Fight!

It's down to the wire, but I still can't make my mind up. You'd think the Red Racer would overpower the Fat Tug because it is a bit heavier, but Tug comes from the guys who bring you Sartori and Singularity and old Cellar Dweller. They're CAMRA gold-medallists too, and the super-balanced nature of their IPA is hard to find fault with.

Everybody's tied up. IPAs and hockey teams.

This looks like just a crappy picture, but it's actually a rather accurate representation of my view of the screen right now. The thing about sessioning IPAs is that they don't tend to hold back, and both these enforcers are absolutely Bertuzzi'ing my frontal cortex.

But even with extra minutes, I've got to go to the shootout. So do the Canucks.


Okay, here's the thing. If I rolled into a pub in Vancouver, I'd be reaching for the Red Racer unless there was something missing on my untappd list. It's a huge IPA; an unconcussed Crosby I'd be happy to put up against the best that the Yanks have to offer. That means you Dogfish.
But I'm not in the Big Smoke. I'm in Victoria, and specifically, I'm in the Beagle, the place where Driftwood first rolled in a cask and essentially said, "we're here to brew great beers."

It's all down to the goal-tending, folks, and the home-team wins this one. On-screen, Cory Schneider does his best impression of a Pink Floyd Album, and I ain't talkin' Dark Side Of The Moon.

Fat Tug wins by decision. 'Nucks win by (quite frankly) luck.

Post-Battle Review:

Honestly, one this close could have been swayed by a food-pairing, or simply the mood you were in. It's like picking a Sedin: I'm just glad I wasn't at Christie's where Hop Circle gets thrown into the mix. Let me just put it this way: how killer is it that we've got both these breweries in BC, putting out some of the best beers in the world? I'd even say they were nearly as good as Dockside.

Driftwood Fat Tug IPA
Recommended if:
-that's what she said
-you want one of the best beers on tap. Period.
-you would consider
this counts as a cruise

Not Recommended if:
-you want to remain conscious into the 2nd OT
-like a rabbit with polio, you don't "do" hops
-you're at the tiller of the
Queen of Oak Bay

Red Racer IPA
Recommended if:
-you're near Central City Brewing. As in: within 500kms of it.
-you want one of the best beers on tap. Period.
-you're an '80s oiler fan

Not recommended if:
-you're a lager lout
-the pub you're in has just run out of it
-that's it, I'm out of reasons. Just order yourself a pint.


  1. I personally'll take Red Racer, but yup it is very close. CC holds up better in the can V bottle comparison, though. Fat Tug just seems to lose... something... when bottled.

  2. You must have missed my post yesterday, supposedly Guinness tastes better in Malaysia.


  3. I'll take CC can vs bottle for sure. Fat Tug citrus flavour goes Flat Tug in the bottle. But I can't fault the decision with taps in Vic and that game to track to boot. I suggest a rematch at St. Augustine's.