Wednesday, October 2, 2013

beer column


these are my notes from yesterday's beer column on cbc radio's on the coast:

Oh, look at that, its October - and that can mean only one thing... it's time to talk about B.C. Craft Beer Month! 

Year three brings a few new events and the return of some favourite province-wide events - for the whole list, see the website at www.craftbeermonth.ca. Some of the local highlights are:

On Thursday evening there's the Beer Battle Royale at Doolin's pub - this is where four breweries battle it out to have their keg drained first. Winner gets bragging rights and their beer featured on tap for the month of November. Battling this year are Four Winds, Granville Island, R&B and Steamworks;

There will be a brewmaster dinner at the Pumphouse in Richmond this Friday, and one at Hop and Vine in Vancouver on Friday, October 25th;

There will be a women and beer dinner at Darby's pub on Monday, October 21st;

New this year, there will be an already sold-out beer festival in Steveston this Saturday night;

And if you feel like travelling outside of the city, there's the Harrison Beer Festival on October 25 and 26. I will be attending this weekend of events, starting with a cask night on the Friday night, followed by a beer festival on Saturday afternoon and ending with an Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday night. I'm very much looking forward to attending, and I plan to dress up for Oktoberfest!

There are also Oktoberfests in Powell River (sold out), Fernie and Penticton;

And last, but not least on this don't-miss list, there's the BC Beer Awards and Festival on October 19th, hosted by none other than On the Coast’s Stephen Quinn!

I volunteer each year at the BC Beer Awards and Festival, pouring some delicious beers to thirsty festival-goers. Tickets are on sale now, and I would jump on them as this event does tend to sell out every year. Tickets are $35 which gets you in the door, plus you get a keepsake taster glass and four drink tokens.

This year is the 4th annual and will be held a larger venue than in years past, the Croatian Cultural Center at 3250 Commercial Drive in Vancouver. The awards ceremony and beer festival is a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

The beer festival begins at 1:00 and continues on until closing at 6:00 p.m. Attendees wander around from station to station trying cask, kegged and bottled beers from participating BC brewers. Later in the afternoon the BC Beer Awards will be given out – that will be Stephen's part of the festivities! The trophies are awarded by beer style to first, second and third place in each category, and then a 'best in show' is awarded at the end.

The beers have already been judged, by accredited judges in a blind taste test to ensure impartiality. There are a couple of things to keep in mind, though about these awards, the first of which is that a beer has to be entered in order to be judged. This is generally true of all beer awards. It costs only $20 to enter a beer into the judging at the BC Beer Awards, but not every brewery in the Province participates, and not all participating breweries enter all of their beers. Why is this? I don't think there is one hard and fast answer, you'd have to ask each brewery why they do or do not enter, but as there were no fewer than 20 beers entered in the IPA category this year, there is definitely some fierce competition!

The other thing to keep in mind is that the beers are judged by style guidelines as outlined by the Internationally-recognized Beer Judging Certification Program (BJCP). This means that the winning entry for each style category is going to be the beer that most strictly keeps to the guidelines and exemplifies the style. So a beer that strays too far from the style guidelines will not win in its category, even if it is the most delicious beer in the world. Hold on a minute, you might be thinking, then how do we know the winner of best beer in BC is actually the best beer in BC? The short answer is you don't, but then again, are we really all going to agree on the best beer anyway? Its really far too subjective to take all the beers in BC and compare them to each other. By using the style guidelines, the accredited Judges can compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges and pick the best in each category. Then from those winners they choose the best in show, and that beer gets the bragging rights of being the best beer in BC this year. And that's how a lowly pilsner won best beer in BC last year (Steamworks Pilsner brewed by Conrad Gmoser, now of Brassneck Brewing) over arguably more popular styles like IPAs or stouts. That beer was the stand-out for being both delicious AND well-brewed according to its style guidelines to exemplify the style.

So where do all those crazy beers that don't follow a style guideline get judged? Besides at the cash register when you buy them, there are categories at the BC Beer Awards for them. Like the "Special Lager" category that was won last year by a black lager from Okanagan Spring, or the "Specialty" category that was won by Kevin Emms, then of Coal Harbour Brewing, with an Imperial Smoked Ale.

I will go out on a limb and say that, provided it was entered, I think that Powell Street's Old Jalopy Pale Ale will win the pale ale category, and possibly even best in show, cementing its win for best beer in Canada at the Canadian Brewing Awards. Again, provided they entered, I also expect other new kids on the block, Four Winds, to pick up an award or two.

And for as long as they last, at your local liquor store you can find BC Craft beer taster packs. These come in 12-packs of cans and bottles and feature a variety of BC craft beers. Picking up a couple of these would be a great start to a tasting party. And a great way to introduce yourself to a new favourite BC craft beer.

The bottle pack includes 2 bottles each of:

Steamworks Pale Ale
Whistler Chestnut Ale
Vancouver Island Storm Watcher Winter Lager
Dead Frog Bold Belgian Pale Ale
Russell Blood Alley Bitter
Lighthouse Switchback IPA

The can pack contains 2 cans each of:

Nelson After Dark
Tree Groove Session Ale
Phillips Bottle Rocket ISA
Howe Sound Lager
Cannery Naramata Nut Brown
Fernie Griz Pale Ale

Both packs are available now at select BC Liquor outlets and private liquor stores throughout BC, retailing for $24.95 each.

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