Friday, June 24, 2011

Hot Damn of the Week: Belle Royale is Back

Pretty much anytime a new Driftwood beer hits the shelves, it's a cause for celebration. Check out this nice little piece from the Times Colonist on the brewery:

Hmm.. I never really noticed that the Driftwood tap handles look a bit phallic. Looks like the guys are standing around holding Ent thingies.

Anyway, anybody who stands within earshot of me for five minutes is going to learn two things. Firstly, Minilites are the best style of wheels ever. Second, Driftwood is probably my favourite Canadian brewery. And here's a good example of why.

I bought plenty of Belle Royale last year, but never actually tasted any because Mrs. DBB always drank it all before I got home. Seeing as it's a whopping 9% and she's the size of a marmot, she would then be extremely loopy for the rest of the evening.

This year I made sure to get stuck in first. (Thanks to Firefly for letting me know it was in stock - check them out on Cambie and 12th -

You can tell immediately from the colour that this beer is going to pack a wallop of cherries. It also smells like a roadside Okanagan fruit stand at about nine in the morning when everything's still fresh but warming up.

But even with all these eight-foot high roadsigns, you simply can't prepare for how big this beer is, and how hard it hits. Wham! Pow! Blammo! It could be a campy Batman super-villain! Unbelievably good. Go track it down, now.

Driftwood Brewing's Belle Royale
Recommended if:
-you're a fan of Driftwood's saison-style beers
-you like cherries more than Pac-Man
-you're currently breathing

Not Recommended if:
-you're under the impression that "Royale" means "with cheese"
-your wife is faster than you with the bottle opener
-you can't find it because everybody else has bought it all up

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Damnbeerblogger Goes To Portland

Portland is an interesting city. While Seattle is represented in the public imagination as either a grey, rain-soaked hangout for murderers (The Killing) or as a refuge for broken-hearted architects and the women who stalk them (Sleepless in Seattle), Portland is best-known for Portlandia, a TV show that lampoons a sort of hipsterish miasma of beardy bicyclists and crunchy granola types.

On the other hand, Portland is Beer Mecca. So yes, the populace may look like the cast of Napoleon Dynamite after a shopping spree at American Apparel, but its worth braving the sea of card-spoked fixies and iconically-moustached douchebaggery for some great micro-brew. Hell, at least these kids in skinny jeans and silly hats seem quite peaceful, as compared to the gold-chained, white-shirted louts that smashed up Vancouver and now blubber into CTV's microphones. I guess it's because every third person in Portland looks like Jesus. After he ate Buddha.

So, with a smoky pall hanging over the Big Smoke, what better time to get out of town and hit the road?

Vancouver to Portland is about six hours plus or minus Godawful Lower Mainland commuting issues and tailbacks at the border. We left mid-day, thus dodging both handily, but requiring a mid-way pit-stop. Thankfully, a quick perusal of the Northwest Brewing News had identified a likely spot.

Red Hook is no destination brewery, less'n you happen to live in Woodinville. However, their beer is pretty good, as is the food. Or so we remembered from the last time we were there.

I had an ESB, the Mrs. a Hefe of some description. Both were good. The food was less so. The service was less so. Mrs. DBB added a buck's worth of guacamole to her burger. It looked like someone had sneezed on the bun. Lightly. I asked what the password for the advertised free WiFi was. The server seemed bewildered, as though INTRNETZ 'tweren't allowed 'round these here parts and then disappeared to "ask someone".

By which, of course, she meant, "I'm going to bugger off and not come back ever." Which, quite frankly, is what we did after grabbing a quick growler-fill of porter at their attached beer store. An employee there suggested a nearby stop for us on the way back up, but more on that later.

After staying overnight in a charming campsite (Lewis and Clark State Park - recommended for leafy quietude), we meandered through Vancouver - the other one - and into Portland around lunchtime. First stop? A McMenamins.

If you've not been to a McMenamins before, you are very strange. Get off the computer and go. Their institution in Troutdale, Edgefield, is a must-go for every beer-head. Not that their beer is so amazing, but it's just so much fun. McMenamins Edgefield is essentially Beer Disneyland and is best enjoyed with a couple of friends. They are booked up from now until the End of Time. Best of luck.

We've been to Edgefield numerous times, so we wanted to check out the Kennedy School for a spot of lunch. It was typical McMenamins fare: lots of funky folk art, meandering old building, harassed waitstaff. Here's a tip servers (no pun intended), if you are short-staffed, apologizing once is perfectly acceptable and will win over the customer immediately. Complaining incessantly about how horrible the management is will not.

Mind you, this place still gets a recommend, simply because you can get cajun tater-tots and mix different beer-styles together (Ruby Red and Terminator Stout = Rubinatior, etc.).

Continuing on in to Downtown Portland, we made our way through the usual maze of one-way streets to our overnight stay, the Ace Hotel.
This place is as awesome as everyone says it is. Yes, you may be knee-deep in beardy weirdos, but it matters not: the Ace oozes charm from mural-painted walls to funky lobby. There's even this filing cabinet on floor 1-and-a-half that's full of random pencilled notes from guests.

Unfortunately, parking is an extra expense, so we scurried off to lodge the car above the REI and then wandered around the Pearl District, finally stopping in at Deschutes for a quick one (but more on them later).

After a quick pint there, it was on to Powell's books (a staple) and then back to the hotel to regroup. We identified a likely-looking taproom and hit the streets.

In hindsight, the above juxtaposition of signage illustrated above should probably have been paid attention to as a harbinger of coming events. Not that there was anything wrong with the place, in fact it's a must-go.

However, sub-$5 proper pints of 8%+ beer are not a good idea in a place that doesn't serve food. Also, there were these bunch of guys:

Who, if you can't tell from the bleary photo, are playing Connect-4 with the slow intensity of Russian Chessmasters and wearing fedoras.

I believe we went to Whole Foods next and bought more beer and food to eat at the Hotel, but don't quote me on that.

Next morning, I awoke feeling like someone had parked me on Georgia Street last week after hanging a Bruins flag on my antenna. In short, I was a bit green about the gills. However, there is one sure-fire cure to hangovers big and small, and you can find it here.

This, my friends, is Night Before kryptonite. Keep it simple with their biscuits and gravy (mushroom is better than sausage) and gradually feel your stomach stop complaining and start chuckling. It's amazing stuff.

Naturally, post-biscuit, you may want to go for a bit of a hike, which we did, and then find yourself hankering for a beer. Time to check off a must-visit pub.

Hopworks Urban Brewery is probably best-known for their florally-excellent IPA, but they had a full dodecuplet of taps available when we popped in. We elected to skip the light stuff in favour of the two cask-conditioned variants: all were excellent, but particular shout-outs to Intergalactic Red, Ace of Spades and the boringly-named-but-delicious Deluxe Organic Ale.

HUB is a bit out of the way, although we didn't check out their Bike Bar, which is something I'd try for next time. Worth making your way over for, certainly.
Post-HUB, we did some varied wandering around and shopping, the details of which I won't bore you with. Later that evening though, it was back to the beer.

By the way, our second Hotel sucked. This was a last minute jaunt, so the Ace only had space for one night; second night we had to stay at the Lucia. There is nothing wrong with this place per se. It's clean and friendly, and quite fancy. It also has all the character of an IKEA kitchen chair and they want to charge you - wait for it - ten bucks a day for WiFi. Ten. Bucks. A. Day. This ain't a cheap place to stay, and how places that try to charge for internet stay alive in this day and age, I'll never know. Not going back.

Anyways, the internet shortage problem created its own solution: we just walked up the street to the Ace Hotel, and caught a bite to eat in their restaurant instead. Moderately good beer list, really awesome cocktail list, pretty kickass food.

Taking the tapas approach, we figured on just grabbing a quick one and then heading on to the next place, Rogue.
Rogue was very cool, gritty and stickily authentic. Amazing list of beers, and any visitor to the Alibi Room might recognize the Frat Bat setup that we put into play to try and sample as many types as possible without getting totally blotto.

Favourites? Well, John John Juniper is worth the price of admission, as is Old Crustacean. I have to say though, that I can't get over how good Rogues Soba Ales are. Morimoto is just so consistently delicious. It's can't-fail beer.

Next up was Deschutes.

I've complained about service twice already, and I'd hate for you to think that I was excessively demanding: I'm not. However, the way you get treated at Deschutes in Portland is the way you should be treated everywhere. They're all ridiculously nice: just as you'd expect people to be who are surrounded by amazing beer all the time.

We had come back specifically for this dessert beer, their fabled XXIII anniversary ale.

It's delicious, and a fitting crown on the other tap-only beers I'd had the opportunity to taste earlier. Also, we got Maple Bacon Cheesecake.

Maple Bacon Cheesecake!

Sadly, this was our last night in Portland, and we hit the road the next morning. Ish.

That last stop near Woodinville on the way up? Well that'd be Black Raven Brewing. Great little tasting bar of a place, and the local pizza joint delivers right to the front door.

All in all, a whirlwind tour, and there were many more joints I'd love to have tried out. As a last bonus, we stopped in at an old friend, the Co-Op in Bellingham.

People might not know this, but you can bring more beer across the border duty-free than any other alcoholic beverage. After a 48 hour stay it's two bottles of wine, 1.5 litres of spirits, or EIGHT AND A HALF litres of beer. Each! We always stock up before heading back to BC. you should too.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Spot of Light Rioting

Good morning everyone.

As you are no doubt aware, the Canucks did not win the Stanley Cup. In fact, the only objects being hoisted above the heads of anyone in a Canucks jersey were trash cans, shortly before being thrown through the plate glass window of a shop front. Yes, fans of the nearly-best team in the NHL decided that the best reaction to the loss was to have a bit of a fracas.

Well, I say "fans". What I really mean is, "fat, stupid, ignorant, drunkardly, puerile, obtuse, moronic, half-witted, mouth-breathing gobshites." In a single evening, these knuckle-dragging ignorami burned trash, smashed glass, flipped cars and micturated all over Vancouver's hard-won reputation as jewel by the sea.

Where once we glittered in the reflected glow of Olympic ideals, now we awake to heaps of ashes where thugs heaped our collective character on a pyre and set fire to it.

That haze hanging over the city? It's a miasma of embarrassment and shame. As I scrolled through my twitter feed, facebook and the like, the same theme kept repeating itself: we're humiliated, we're abashed, we're disgraced, we're ashamed.

Well I'm not. I'm bloody irritated.

Were you one of the australopithecus gibbering and flinging your poo around downtown last night? Congratulations: you are F'd in the A. This is not 1994, bonehead, and posting, "LULZ BRNING CARZ IZ FUN :)" as a status update with an iPhone picture of you throwing up the devil horns while kicking a cop car is not smart. But then, neither are you.

Already, all the hundreds of pictures taken by all the hundreds of cel-phones that were in downtown Vancouver are being thoroughly sifted by the Police. Thousands of people who are NOT gormless idiots are pitching in with tips and evidence to help identify the apes who thought it was a good idea to stage a mosh pit on Georgia.

You are going to get caught. You are going to go to prison. This being Canada, you are probably going to get a Social Worker who wants to spend hours talking about your feelings. Either way, there will be Consequences for your Actions.

Most importantly, next year, when the same Canucks team, now forged together by a lengthy playoff run and tempered by adversity; now backed by a legion of true fans, cheering them on win or lose; now ready to take their place as a championship team:

When they hoist the cup next year?

You're not invited.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Brewing Beers Fruit.

Drinking orange juice makes you gay.

Now obviously, no it doesn't. What a ridiculous statement, and how potentially offensive to people of all orientations and creeds. If this was the sort of site that had legal counsel, I'd probably have to put some rider in so as not to get sued by the unhumourous buggers at the Florida Orange Grower's Council. Pun semi-intended.

So, Professional Driver, Closed Course. Or something.

Anyways, my point (such as it exists) is not to denigrate OJ, nor to invoke the Chewbacca Defense. It is simply to point out that people who take the position that drinking Fruit Beers is not for quote-unquote Real Men, are being completely silly and more than a bit insufferable. Not to mention that nothing can "turn" you gay. Except for Bill at Phillips of course. Rowr.

Drinking fruit-based beers will no more revoke some imaginary Man Card than eating an apple will turn you into Emily Howard.

In fact, some (me) would argue that one of the chief attributes of your Real Man is that he doesn't give a toss what anybody thinks about what he's drinking, and can quaff whatever he wants as long as it doesn't contain

(a) poison


(b) one of those stupid little umbrellas

Also, we don't ask for directions. EVAR.

I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to Granville Island Brewing's taphouse to taste their new summer beer: False Creek Raspberry Ale. Normally I don't receive many invitations except of the sort to appear in front of the local magistrate to explain my appalling behaviour on the night of such-and-such, so naturally I was excited to attend.It was a fun event, what with the local news media and cheese plates and gelato and - of course - free beer. I was particularly tickled by the fact that several people I follow on Twitter were sending messages from the venue AND I HAD NO IDEA WHAT THEY LOOKED LIKE.

Ah the internet age, where you can cheerfully exchange all sorts of intimate information with people and then do a little, "Sooo..... You like.... stuff?" foot shuffle when you actually meet them in person. If you meet them in person.

And always assuming they don't murder you to death.

"But what of the beer?" you cry, and well you might. It's good! Seeing that it was a sunny day pre-Canuck meltdown, the refreshing zing of raspberry on the tongue was as welcome as.... as a really welcome thing. This is a great patio beer with next-to-no hop presence and fullish malts. Easy drinking. If I had one criticism, it would be to pull an Oliver Twist with the raspberries: More Please!

...Which you can get here.
Many of you are no doubt familiar with McAuslan's St-Ambroise Apricot Wheat Ale (NB try Cannery Brewing's version - very nice). This is McA's Raspberry Ale, and it's quite different from GIB's. Both are delicious, but both contrast quite nicely. Perhaps a Battle Royale is in order?

Very quickly, let me throw out a link to and a shout-out to Karen. Lots of fruity beer recommendations on that site. Now, off to manfully drive a hybrid across town so I can sit meekly in the car while my wife buys furniture.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Damnbeerblogger Returns to Vancouver. It Rains.

Note: I still love you, Boston. Just not your hockey team.

This is what it looks like outside now:

It did not look like this yesterday. I forgot to take a picture, but here's a rough approximation:
Ille, as the French say, Pleut.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As you may or may not know, I've moved from (sunny) Victoria to (damp) Vancouver, and along with considerably more precipitation comes considerably more beer. As they say, "When it rains, it's time to pour yourself a beer". Thus, as prevention against damp spirits, Mrs. Damnbeerblogger and I donned our least porous articles of clothing and headed out into the incessant June-uary deluge.

You know, what? 'Tweren't so bad after all. Our lift dropped us off on Broadway and Cypress and we walked down to Granville Island, one of our favourite places in #yvr, and certainly a fitting place to kickoff our unofficial "welcome-back-to-Vancouver" tour. First stop, the Market (and what a melange of memory-laden smells that place has). I've been going here since I was a kid. We used to go to Kids Only and admire all the Lego sets. Nowadays we go to Oyama (which is what Rome would look like if the Pope was a sausage, and not just a German).

We went to look at the Lego sets afterwards.

Part of the joys of being an adult, aside from getting funny looks for freaking out about how cool the latest Star Wars Lego set is, is that when you're finished establishing yourself as a infantile, regressive Peter Pan, you can go drink beer with the grown-ups. This is where the Granville Island Brewing tap house comes in.

The perfect pairing for a pint of Brockton IPA -which I have to say tastes pretty damn good this close to the source- is some surreptitiously sneaked salami (that's what she said) in this case, finocchiona. These two go together so well, I ploughed through them like Alex Burrows through a box of ladyfingers.

Mrs Damnbeerblogger loved her False Creek Raspberry Ale (as you can see, she was a bit impatient for me to stop taking pictures). I had a sip: good job GIB, but more on that later.

Next stop was scheduled at the Alibi Room where we had arranged to meet up with a buddy who's a neophyte homebrewer. His best creation so far: Erythmic Ale - seriously red.

I love this place. Never mind Vancouver, I would move to someplace bleakly horrible like Antarctica or Death Valley or, y'know, Boston just to come here and try to drink my way through their epic beer-list. She had a Gold Tooth (hey, that's a great band name!), and I had a Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down. And then a Vern's Session. And then a Rasputin on Nitro.

Then it was time to stumble North to the Whip, a journey through some very sketchy areas that had me mentally clutching my purse. Of course, I was just fine, although I did see a well-dressed businessman urinating beside his Nissan Pathfinder's open door. Ooo-kay.

Ah, the Whip. How choked was I to miss their annual show-and-shine? Very. And aren't they supposed to do it on Father's Day anyway? I have a bottle opener to that effect somewheres. Any-hoo, place was packed, beer was great (although only one seasonal). I had the Wee Angry and a Black Plague Stout. Russell and Storm need more recognition for their fine ales: these were delish.

It's good to be back. I'll miss Victoria, but coming through downtown on Wednesday night after the game and feeling the electricity in the city whet my appetite. Now that we've hit up our old haunts, it's like catching up with an old friend.