Friday, January 31, 2014

friday frivolity

i'm still on vacation
so that means friday frivolity time!

Monday, January 27, 2014

link love

just a wee one this week as i'm on vacation!

beer flavoured jelly bellies?

craft beer by the number?
is it really the way you should choose which beer to order?

five perfect pints in vancouver
nothing you didn't already know in this one
but it's nice to see non-beer specific publications espousing craft beer

not a link
just some news from spinnakers:
"Not long now until you can get your Spinnakers fill at the Victoria airport. You'll find us just past security in the departure hall. We'll be the ones with 12 taps of Spinnakers beer, a locally focused wine and spirits menu and a full menu infused with our signature Spinnakers’ style, as well as Grab and Go items to take on board."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Thursday, January 23, 2014


well that's it
i'm off to mexico for a couple of weeks
i'll be searching for craft beer
fingers crossed it's not all going to be macro lagers everywhere i go!

i will be spending time at this joint in playa del carmen
club de la cerveza
and these places in puerto vallarta
los muertos brewing
la cerveceria union
so i'm not too worried about those stops on my tour
it's cancun, sayulita and nuevo vallarta that may prove to be macro only

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

beer column

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

I am winging my way to Mexico tomorrow which I can guarantee you means that I have Mexican beer on my mind!

But, why would a self-identified beer geek go to Mexico?  Is there such a thing as Mexican craft beer?

Poor Mexico!  It does have craft beer, but the fact that very few people have heard of it is testament to how much further behind Mexico is in the craft beer revolution than a country like Canada.  

Mexico would be pretty far down the list of world craft beer destinations.  But it's not their fault!  First of all, most of the great beer brewing countries in the world have colder climates, which are more conducive to brewing beer in the first place, and to being able to easily store and ship it after the fact.

Also creating a roadblock in Mexico is the fact that the government has not traditionally legislated against monopolies.  So two companies (FEMSA Cerveza/Heineken and Grupo Modelo, a subsidiary of AB-InBev) own most of the breweries and liquor licenses - nearly 99% of the beer market.  I understand that if you want a liquor licence from them, you have to agree to sell only their products, and 95% of beer serving establishments have such exclusivity agreements.  However the government is stepping in to even the playing field a little bit – they have legislated that the big two have to reduce the number of exclusivity agreements to 25% of their total accounts.
Mexican taxes are also a factor for beer sellers. I understand that 40 percent of the purchase price of beer goes straight to the government, which to a small business is a large amount of potential profit.

There is craft beer in Mexico though!  All is not lost!  There are valiant types who have taken on the challenge and are micro-brewing in Mexico.  I have noticed a marked increase in the availability of Mexican craft beer, both local brews being available in Mexico and those beers being available internationally, over the past five years.  It is also getting a little bit easier to find international beers imported into Mexico as well.  Not everything is macro lagers.

Tijuana in particular has had a vibrant craft beer scene for years, probably in large part due to cross-pollination from San Diego just across the border.  Breweries like Cerveceria Tijuana (11 years old), Cervecería Insurgente (whose motto is “We are a group of rebels dedicated to liberating you from the tyranny of flavorless beer.”, a nano-brewery who have an IPA and a black IPA in their repertoire), Cervecería Zesde (now 4 years old and brewing a smoked saison and a winter stout with raw sugar), Border Psycho and Tres B (second largest brewery in Tijuana, brewing a strong ale and a traditional Bavarian Hefeweizen.  They are looking to expand to Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey) are some of the players in the Tijuana area.  
Tijuana also hosts the touring Baja Beer Festival every year.  Tijuana beers were not widely available across Mexico though. For example Cerveceria deBaja California, which brews Cucapa beers, has been around since 2002 and bottling since 2006.  They brew styles from a kolsch to a barleywine.  You may have heard of them as their beers are available in Canada and the United States, but finding one in other Mexican States is difficult.
Baja California state has approximately 80 breweries, but only two of those export to the US.  Good news for Baja though is that municipally the local authorities are writing the cervecerias into the revitalization plan for the historical district – including the stipulation that to get an alcohol permit new bars and restaurants have to agree to sell at least five Baja beer brands. Mexico City boasts a few microbreweries, including Cervecería Primus, celebrated for its double malt and Cervecería Calavera, based west of the city and producing a selection including a witbier, a Mexican imperial stout, and a Belgian Abbey triple-style ale.  There is also the Guadalajara-based Cerveceria Minerva, whose offerings include an imperial stout and pale ale.

Baja has also embraced craft beer tasting rooms and bottle shops.  The Tijuana based distributor Baja Craft Beers operates a tasting room with dozens of local Tijuana and San Diego-area beers on tap, as well as bottles from craft brewers across the U.S.  The Beer Box promises the true craft experience at their tiny “beer boutique,” with bottled selections available from brewers all over Mexico.

In Mexico City there is beer store-cum-tap room El Deposito, which is a joint venture between two craft breweries (Minerva and Primus) that, besides providing taps for their own beers, acts as a tasting room for others. There’s a whole shop’s worth of interesting bottles on offer from other breweries, both domestic and imported, making it especially a favourite for expats seeking their old familiar brew.   El Black, with walls lined with beer bottles and a back refrigerator filled with brews from Cucapá, Minerva and Calavera, is a small restaurant, but it has a beer fridge.

About three years ago, in Playa del Carmen, Club dela Cerveza opened.  It is a small bar at the quiet end of La Quinta that imports beer from Germany, Belgium and England, and from across Mexico.  It was there that I first tried craft brewed Mexican beer, most of it from Tijuana.  I hope that when revisit Club de la Cerveza in Playa del Carmen this week that there will be an even bigger list of imports. I would love to be introduced to a European beer that isn’t available in Canada and a hop-forward Mexican craft beer from a brewery that doesn’t export outside of Mexico.

And let’s not forget the brewpub!  Mexico has those too.  Los Muertos Brewing in Puerto Vallarta just celebrated its one year anniversary.  It is a brewpub that is brewing stouts and pale ales and fruit beers as well as lagers.  I am looking forward to trying Los Muertos’ hoppy pale ale.  I want to see what is passing for a hoppy beer in Puerto Vallarta.  So many tourists flock through P.V. I am hopeful that they are brewing some hop-forward beers to woo the craft beer geeks from the usual lagers.
And Ensenada’s Old Mission Brewery is a pizza and beer brewpub with nine year round beers, and has just begun to sell bottles in the US under the name Ensenada Brewing Company.
I am happy that my entire vacation will not be spent with only macro lagers to keep me going between margaritas!

Beer Picks:
– available at Legacy Liquor Store

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

on the coast

i'll be on cbc radio one's on the coast this afternoon
talking about the craft beer situation in mexico
5:50 p.m. 88.1 fm

Monday, January 20, 2014

link love

you'll live longer!

another best beers list
this one is the best 365 in the world
but don't be dismayed when you click the link and the list isn't there
you actually have to pay for the privilege of reading the list
the link is to a blog post by the guy who wrote the list about why he thinks there does so need to be another best of list

if i didn't have a pesky day job
i'd be going to kwantlen college

if you are a camra vancouver member
please go vote for the 2014 best ofs!

arguably the best craft beer joints in vancouver
(i don't like craft at all, so it doesn't make anywhere near my top 10)

victoria beer week events are up!
march 1 - 8, 2014

a spa where you can bathe in beer?
yup, and it's not just any beer, it's dogfish head

great beer ads for tourism portland
like this guy who really likes beer

nordic beer history
ancient grog reborn by dogfish head

parody of hipsters ordering craft beer
you're not this guy are you??

breweries to watch in 2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

legacy liquor store

new and delicious beers at legacy liquor store in vancouver:

Upright Brewing Co. Seven - $12.55
French inspired ales with a West Coast twist to give them an identity all their own. This Portland brew has a slight haze to its brassy golden colour, and once it hits the glass you immediately plunge into an intense aroma of fruit and white pepper with a touch of Belgian malt. A dry beer with pear and apricot on the palate that hides the 8% ABV perfectly, it’s a simply remarkable offering from the state of Oregon.

Evan Doan | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store

Fernie Brewing Co. Snowblind Belgian IPA - $6.95

The second installment of Fernie’s Bucket List Series, this Belgian IPA combines the traditional style with new hop varietals from Australian and New Zealand. Unfiltered and hazy with a 7.9% ABV and a 68 IBU kick, this little treasure from the BC interior boasts the best of a Belgian IPA and the brews currently coming out of British Columbia.

Chris Bonnallie | Beer Supervisor | Legacy Liquor Store

Micro-Brasserie Le Trou Du Diable La Buteuse - $11.35

Paying tribute to Jacques Buteux, sent down the Trou Du Diable (Devil’s Hole) in 1652, this brew is clear and gold in colour with a big, bold, Belgian malt nose, with fruit and a bit of pepper to back it up. A balanced palate of fruit, pepper and a strong Belgian malt backbone ties up beautifully with a full body. A delicious take on a Belgian Tripel.

Joel Wilson | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store

Thursday, January 16, 2014

stupid cleanse

beer friends,
january looks like it has been a stellar month so far for craft beer in vancouver
but then, it always looks that way to me when it's january and i'm doing a stupid cleanse
day 16 of 21 and i'm still going strong
i may shoot the next person who invites me to a beer pairing dinner or a cask night though!
shoot them a snide email or a dirty look, of course, i am canadian afterall

so why do i do this to myself every year?
1.  it really is kinda fun to be holier than thou, at least for a couple of weeks
2.  some part of me really believes this is good for me and maybe, just maybe, will balance out the mean things i do to myself the rest of the year
3.  january becomes a "me" time - less going out, more getting stuff done
4.  i often go to mexico in february and it sure is easier to fit into my swim trunks if i cleanse first!
5.  everything tastes so much better after taking a break from crap and getting back to basics - except the fake crappy stuff.  that just tastes awful and is easy to stay away from for a couple of months.

which beer will be my first post-cleanse?
since i will be breaking my cleanse in cancun, mexico
i figure it'll be something macro and only somewhat satisfying
but it will be cold and i'll be totally warm while i'm drinking it!
(the next day i'll be in playa del carmen, drinking at club de la cerveza, so good beer will happen for me, never fear!)

which food do i miss the most on my cleanse?
cheese!  so i will be ordering something con queso for my first meal
(and probably most other meals for the rest of the vacation - bring on the oaxaca cheese!)

how is my spanish?
not too horrible - i can ask for any number of beers
then tell you whether i liked them or not, including whether i am enchanted by them
and i can order the food i want to go with it
AND, if people speak slowly enough, i can even understand a bit of what they're telling me!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

on the coast

if you missed me on cbc radio one's on the coast with stephen quinn last week
and you'd still like to catch me getting all excited about the new craft breweries in the lower mainland that opened in 2013 and those touted to be opening in 2014
then all you gotta do is clicky and choose the january 7th show
i'm on about 10 minutes from the end, in case you wanna fast forward

Monday, January 13, 2014

link love

is brewing an extreme sport?
twisted pine brewing seems to think so gives some love to the new central city brewery expansion

brewed awakening 2013 poll results
no real big surprises in the results, but very gratifying that so many people took the time to vote!

are there british beer gangs?
not for reals, but these kinds of beer people don't sound like they're only to be found in britain...

cicerone chosen best beer bangs for your buck

and lastly, not at all beer-related
how to fold a pocket-square!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

beer column

my notes from tuesday's beer column
on cbc radio one's on the coast with stephen quinn
(you can hear me wax poetic about craft beer every second tuesday at 5:50 p.m. - 88.1 in the lower mainland)
Is there such a thing as too many local breweries?
Is the Lower Mainland beer market hitting the saturation point - - or is more beer always better?
It's probably safe to say that 2013 was a banner year for craft beer in the in the Lower Mainland - - certainly a banner year for local breweries.
So what awaits Vancouver beer lovers in 2014?

5 breweries opened in the Lower Mainland in 2013, with GreenLeaf at Lonsdale Quay getting in just under the wire in late December.  (33 Acres and Brassneck in Vancouver; Deep Cove in North Van; Four Winds in Delta; plus major expansions at Steamworks and Central City).

I have heard of 6 new breweries slated to open in Vancouver in 2014, plus one in Abbotsford. Bomber Brewing on the Adanac bike path in East Van looks set to be the first, hopefully opening later this month. (Dogwood, Main Street, as-yet-unnamed, Steel Toad and a community start-up in Vancouver, Surlie in Abbotsford)

Will they all survive and thrive?  I think that as long as everyone opens up with a strong brand behind them and a focus on a niche market there will be room for them all. Judging by the line-ups at Brassneck and 33 Acres, two of the 2013 openings, the Main Street / Brewery Creek area alone hasn't even reached its saturation point yet. And of course quality is important. You have to brew quality beer, consistently, to stay in the market. If the new breweries are brewing quality beer, the people will drink it!
If we take a look at where the 2013 new breweries have positioned themselves, and where the 2014 are looking to position themselves, you can see that these are not breweries started by people trying to make a quick buck. They're in it for the long-haul and for the love of the beer. That alone speaks volumes to the probability that all will thrive and continue to make Vancouver a craft beer haven for the locals and a craft beer destination for tourists.

Each of the breweries has been able to open a tasting room, which gives people who live in the area the ability to sit down at their local brewery and try the product they're being asked to buy. Formerly only brewpubs could sell their beers on premise, and there are very few of those around. The ability to open a tasting room has been a huge boon to the new breweries.  I don't think I can emphasize enough just how much of a difference it can make to open a new brewery with the ability to have a tasting room right off the bat:  instant ability to offer your product for taste-testing; instant source of direct revenue; instant chance to invite the public into your brewery and show them who you are and what you're making; and when they like it, instant pride of the locals that you're their local brewery.  It's a whole new world!
Secondly, there is something unique about each of the breweries:
Brassneck on Main Street doesn't bottle their beer, but they do have a sizeable list of regular beers, which they often brew with slightly different ingredients so every time you go there, you'll get a different beer. They also have three different sizes of growlers to take home with you.   Being co-owned and operated by Nigel Springthorpe of Alibi Room repute doesn't hurt either.
33 acres, located just off Main Street, has gone with just a couple of regular beers including the only California common style beer in the City, and then offers a seasonal to round out their line-up.   Their aesthetic also sets them apart. Stark white brewery and tasting room, simple lines and beautiful ceramic growlers.
Deep Cove in North Vancouver is a brewery and distillery with three staple beers available on tap and in bottles, plus seasonals and a vodka (so far). Deep Cove's brand is young and energetic, like the team behind it.
Four Winds is a family business on River Road in Delta whose claim to fame is their award-winning saison. They have a full line-up of beers, available on-site with 8 always on tap for tasters and around five for growler fills, and are now bottling their beers as well.
GreenLeaf only has 2 beers (stout and pale ale) available currently, but what they lack in variety they more than make up for in location, location, location. Right inside the Lonsdale Quay GreenLeaf has the advantage of being the only brewery nestled in with a public market - buy your fresh fish and your fresh beer in one stop. Or just grab a growler to take home on you way home from work. They have no plans to bottle, but they do have plans for a couple more beer styles to join their line-up, as well as seasonals, and to join forces with other businesses in the Quay to keep things hyper-local.
Of the planned 2014 breweries, my sources tell me Dogwood will feature organic beers, Main Street will be built around their pilsner and an as-yet-unnamed brewery will focus on low country styles (Belgium and the Netherlands) with a sour program right from the start - three niches not yet filled in the Lower Mainland.

I am optimistic that there is room in the market for more breweries in the Lower Mainland and look forward to the new breweries opening up elsewhere in the Province sending their brews down here for us to try as well. Eventually the market will hit its saturation point, but I believe we are still a ways off from that point. I'm still excited about every new brewery opening, and about every pub that changes its line-up to include craft beer.  [Hint: so if you're opening one, invite me won't you?]
If you have not yet made a new year's resolution, or if you've already broken the ones you made, I suggest resolving to try more locally brewed craft beer this year. An easy resolution to keep, and one that supports your local economy - it's a win win!
And with that in mind, here are my beer picks for this week:
Brassneck - Passive Aggressive IPA
33 Acres - 33 Acres of Life (California Common)
Green Leaf - Stout
Deep Cove - Smooth Criminal Stout
Four Winds - Saison Brett if you can find it, otherwise their regular Saison will more than suffice

Friday, January 10, 2014


friends, abject apologies for my absence of late
i am in the midst of having a website made (check out the progress)
and there have been some issues with integration with the blog
which locked me out of the blog for a time
(and there were the holidaze and all that jazz in there mucking stuff up too, i can't blame the website for my whole absence...)
hopefully it's all back to normal from here on out
oh, except for the fact that i'll be going away for a couple of weeks in a couple of weeks
but more about that later

in the meantime, here are some lovely beers that have been arriving at legacy liquor store in vancouver over the past few weeks:

Phillips Brewing Black Jackal Imperial Coffee Stout - $6.95

This sweet little collaboration between Phillips Brewing Co. and 2% Jazz Coffee Co. is as dark as the underworld Anubis himself guards. Rich and roasty on the nose with intense aromas of espresso bean and dark malt, on the palate even more roasty espresso and of course roasted malt come through. A nice dry finish wraps this dark elixir up, the perfect partner brew for those that love all things dark.

Evan Doan | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store

Wolf Brewing Imperial Maple Stout- $9.95

From the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island comes a Maple Stout of darkest brown. Its bouquet is slightly smoky with robust notes of coffee, maple syrup and a touch of chocolate, while on the palate this full-bodied stout is mouth-coating with big flavours in play—coffee and a whole lot of maple highlighted by smoke and chocolate. Enjoy this brew, but take it slow because this Brewmaster’s Reserve will knock your socks off.

Chris Bonnallie | Beer Supervisor | Legacy Liquor Store

Brasserie Dieu du Ciel Dernière Volonté - $16.95

A Belgian IPA from Quebec—what more could you ask for? This cloudy, unfiltered gem is peachy and blond in colour; exotic fruits own the nose with ripe nectarine taking the forefront bolstered by plum and apple. Lively and fresh on the palate, with notes of citrus and hop that eventually wrap up dry, crisp and refreshing, this simply amazing Belgian-inspired beer is both complex and ridiculously refreshing.

Joel Wilson | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store

Granville Island Barley Wine - $10.35

Our friends down on Granville Island have crafted the perfect robust brew, amber in colour with big notes of vanilla, toffee, burnt brown sugar and bruised fruit. The palate closely resembles the bouquet, but with a more prevalent appearance of hazelnut. Enjoy this treat today or let it age and drink later, but make sure you grab a bottle before it’s gone because this brew is perfect for keeping you warm in cold weather.

Evan Doan | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store

Central City Imperial Porter - $16.15

Originally only available at Central City, this stunning porter comes in 650ml bottles ready to please the palate. As dark brown as one can get without being black, it has a nose that packs a boozy punch with a nice hop and biscuity malt. Delicate roasted malts and American hop harmonize perfectly with the upfront alcohol, making it the perfect brew for sipping on a rainy January afternoon.

Chris Bonnallie | Beer Supervisor | Legacy Liquor Store

Shmaltz Brewing Death of a Contract Brewer - $8.85

Celebrating the birth of their new brewery and the end of contract brewing, Shmaltz Brewing has carefully crafted another fine beer deep black in colour with amber highlights and a hoppy, roasty nose featuring everything from earthy hops to roasted coffee malts and so much more. The flavour profile lives up to the nose with more citrus, pine, spice, roasted malts, chocolate, caramel and anything else you’d want in a celebratory beer that’s a real treat for anyone.

Joel Wilson | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store

Lighthouse Desolation Oyster Stout - $7.55

When oysters hit the brew something magical happens and a new frontier of flavour is reached. A deep and opaque brown in the glass with a touch of salinity that fades as it warms up into notes of roasted malts and soy, this brew is smooth with an almost vanilla-like presence, molasses and a finish fringed with oyster salinity. An excellent imperial stout and an even better imperial oyster stout.

Evan Doan | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store

Longwood Winters Own - $7.55

These cold winter months can chill you right down to the bone, but this winter beer will bring your temperature right back up. A German style wheat bock, this seasonal brew is malty, spicy, fruity and refreshing. Slightly cloudy with a bouquet of vanilla bean, banana and spice, all of which follow through on the palate in addition to a nice dry finish, a glass of this gem will help you shake off Old Man Winter’s touch.

Chris Bonnallie | Beer Supervisor | Legacy Liquor Store

Shmaltz Brewing Jewbelation Reborn - $15.05

No longer bound by contract brewing, Shmaltz has stepped up their game with the ownership of their very own brewery. To celebrate, they’ve brewed a huge beer with 17 different malts and 17 different hops. Nearly pitch black in colour with all sorts of chocolate, roasted malts, char, coffee and a punch of citrus on the nose, the palate of this colossal beer is all of the above with a bit more of the citrus, tangerine, orange and pine. Powerful like a black IPA, this brew is plain delicious.

Joel Wilson | Beer Team | Legacy Liquor Store