Wednesday, October 16, 2013

beer column

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

It's officially Fall. That means its time to talk about autumnal beers.  
 
Once the hot weather and long patio evenings of Summer fade into Fall people tend to put down the wheat beers and lagers and instead pick up a spiced ale, or a stout. Often lighter beers, in both presentation and alcohol content, make way for heartier and higher alcohol beers. We're not yet at the winter ales point, or very high alcohol percentages of barleywines; we're still adjusting to the colder temperatures and enjoying the leaves falling off the trees. This is an in-between season and that is reflected in the beers that are associated with Fall.
We just had thanksgiving, a time which heralds the return of pumpkin beers to the shelves of liquor stores and the taps of bar-rooms. Pumpkin beers tend to hover around the 5% alcohol mark, but feature heartier malts and spices that evoke the harvest season and crisp fall air. 
 
A few great choices for local pumpkin beers would be:
 
- Parallel 49's Schadenfreude, an amber lager laced with all-spice for those who prefer a more subtle pumpkin flavour;
- Red Racer Pumpkin Ale, a rich and creamy pumpkin pie in a can for those looking for a just slightly sweet pumpkin beer;
- if vanilla and cloves are more your thing, go for the Steamworks Pumpkin Ale.
 
Brown ales are an often overlooked beer style, but are perfectly suited to the Fall season:
 
- Parallel 49's Old Boy brown ale is one of their year-round offerings that comes into its own in the cooler weather. ;
- Howe Sound's Rail Ale Nut Brown, Cannery's Naramata Nut Brown and Dead Frog's Nut Brown are nuttier, richer versions of the brown ale. All are available year-round, but are particularly satisfying beers for the Fall season.

Stouts and porters also make their way back into glasses come the Fall.   But what the heck is the difference between these two styles anyway?

I wish it was as easy as 1, 2, 3 or a, b, c, but with stouts and porters it just isn't. The Porter style was born in the 18th century pubs of London. It tended to be a blend of younger pale ales and darker old ales that the porters favoured. The recipes of the original porters are lost to the annals of time, but the ideals around the name live on and beer lore has it that industrial brewers tried to mimic this blend that the porters of the time favoured and sometimes made a very strong version of the brew which was referred to as a stout porter. Eventually the word porter was dropped and stout became its own style.
 
Fast forward to today and try to tell the difference between the two. Speaking very generally, stouts are brewed with roasted barley. This means coffee and dark chocolate notes as well as a dry bitterness on the palate, so if your dark beer has more pronounced and deeper roasted notes to the nose, as well as a more pronounced dry bitterness on the palate, it is probably a stout. Porters are commonly perceived as sweeter on the nose and palate. Furthermore, the color range for stouts is darker, ranging from dark brown to black, while porters rest more firmly in the brown spectrum. But not absolutely. Cuz it just can't be that easy!
Stouts contain a wide range of specialty ingredients, from oatmeal, to chocolate, and even to novelty items like bacon and peanut butter. Porters also manifest in numerous forms, from relatively mild to strong, from rather standard production to smoked and barrel aged beers. This diversity makes any simple distinction between the two styles almost impossible. Often it is just down to the brewer and what they want to call the deep dark beer the are brewing.
A few local examples of these arbitrary styles are:
- Crannog's Backhand of God is an amazingly malty on the coffee side of roasted malts, kind of stout. Deep, dark and delicious. Not to mention totally organic and sustainable. This one is not available in bottles, so you'll have to enjoy it on tap at various places around town, including the Railway Club;
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lso only available on tap is Storm Brewing's Black Plague stout, which is a dry Irish-style stout with licorice root and cocoa;
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n tap around town as well as available in bottles is R&B's Dark Star oatmeal stout. Oats give the beer a nice creaminess.
- Powell Street - when you can get it - makes the Dive Bomb Porter, toffee, coffee, cocoa and a little bit of hoppiness in this one;
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or something a little bit different, Cannery Brewing adds blackberries to their porter for a nice bit of fruitiness. I hear this beer makes for great blackberry pancakes!
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or the chocolate lovers out there, Lighthouse's dark chocolate porter will satisfy your next chocolate craving.
Also of note:  Brassneck Brewing is finally open! The eagerly anticipated joint venture of Nigel from the Alibi Room and Conrad, formerly head brewer at Steamworks and the mastermind behind the pilsner that won best in show two years running at the BC Beer Awards, opened its doors two weeks ago. You won't find any of their beers in bottles, so you'd better stop by the Main Street tasting room to sample their beers and fill your growlers. You'll also find Brassneck beers on tap around town.
Speaking of the BC Beer Awards, I'm very much looking forward to them on Saturday. There are still tickets available. Everyone should come out and sample the beers of British Columbia... and enjoy Stephen Quinn as host!
There will not be tickets available at the door, so please go online to to purchase yours - quickly, while you still can!

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