beer column

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

As the year draws to a close, let's recap the beer happenings in 2014.

2014 has been quite the year for craft beer!  So far 20 new breweries have opened up across the province.

I’d like to welcome the newest Vancouver craft brewery:  Strangefellows!  Strangefellows is now open on Clark Drive in East Vancouver.  They are still jumping through hoops to get their lounge endorsement, so currently they’re just serving up growler fills.  Iain Hill, formerly of Yaletown BrewPub, is the brewmaster and he is well-known in the craft beer world for his incredible sour beers.  Strangefellows will have a barrel program, so look for sour beers from them in 2015.  Currently they have a deliciously hoppy pale ale on tap that is a mere 3.8%, a wit, a lager and a brown ale.

Also freshly opened are Category 12 Brewing in Central Saanich and Sherwood Mountain Brewhouse in Terrace.

Cumberland Brewing (Comox Valley), Gladstone Brewing in Courtenay and Hearthstone Brewery in North Vancouver may squeak their openings into 2014.

Numbers-wise that could take us to 23 new breweries in BC in 2014.

Five breweries opened in the Lower Mainland in 2013 (GreenLeaf at Lonsdale Quay, 33 Acres and Brassneck in Vancouver, Deep Cove in North Van, Four Winds in Delta).

That number more than doubled this year.  Among the breweries opened in the Lower Mainland in 2014 are: Bomber, Main Street, Steel Toad, Strangefellows and Postmark in Vancouver, Dageraad in Burnaby, Moody Ales and Yellow Dog in Port Moody, Black Kettle in North Van, White Rock Beach in White Rock, Surlie Brewing in Abbotsford, and Steel & Oak in New Westminster. 

Add to that the out of town breweries opening up tasting rooms in Vancouver – like Howe Sound Brewing from Squamish’s Devil’s Elbow alehouse on Beatty Street and Prohibition Brewing from Kelowna’s tasting room on Hamilton Street.

And all the expanding breweries:  both Bridge Brewing and Powell Street brewing left their original nanobreweries behind in 2014 and opened larger facilities.  Parallel 49 keeps on expanding, and the newly opened Bomber brewing expanded within weeks of opening.  Demand just keeps growing for craft beer and breweries keep expanding to keep pace.

It will be interesting to see if 2014 is the peak year for brewery openings or if the upward trend can continue.

2014 was also a year of many liquor law changes.  I think most people are happy that the provincial government is addressing our very antiquated liquor laws.  Many of the changes are small and just make sense, like allowing patrons to carry their own drinks between areas in an establishment.  Previously a server would have to carry your drink if you moved from the restaurant area to the pub.  Now it is legal to carry your own.  Phew!

But not everyone is happy with the bigger changes to the liquor laws.  For example, the happy hour law change should have made it possible for bars to serve beer at a discounted price.  This has been achieved in Vancouver where bars mark the beers up higher than other places, so charging the minimum price is a discount.  But in many smaller locales, the price of beer actually had to go up to meet the minimum 25 cents per ounce price put on it by the government.  That is hardly a win for consumers or small businesses.

Other law changes such as allowing minors into pubs during certain hours, allowing alcohol sales at farmer’s markets and whole site licensing seem to have escaped complaint.  I guess that means people are happy with the changes… or haven’t even noticed them!

April 1st marks the date the next set of changes take effect, including sale of alcohol in grocery stores and standardized liquor pricing.  These changes have been controversial, so I expect we’ll be hearing more about those as they come into effect, especially if they translate into the higher prices many are predicting.

As for beer trends in 2014, my favourite is the rise of sessionable beers.  These are beers with less than 5% abv.  Full flavour without a staggering alcohol volume is a welcome addition to anyone’s beer offerings.  If you know you’re settling in for several hours of convivial drinking it’s nice to have a lower alcohol option.  (I'm putting my money on sours as the beer trend of 2015).

I think the "hop of the year" must be Mosaic.  It is very tropical fruity, think mango lemon and pine.  You can try it in Central City’s ISA, Phillips Brewing’s Kaleidoscope and Deschutes Fresh-squeezed IPA.

And finally, I have to mention how happy I am that Rogers Arena and the PNE have added craft beer to their beverage line-ups.  This has been a long time coming and sporty craft beer fans are rejoicing loudly!

Beer Picks:

The hobbit Trilogy series of Beers

Central City Brewers + Distillers acquired the right to brew Hobbit beers for the Canadian market back in November.
The three beers should be making an appearance in BC Liquor stores this week.

Gollum Precious Pils is a 5 percent lager
Smaug Stout is a whopping 9.5 percent and brewed with chili peppers
Bolg Belgian Tripel is 8 percent .

Parallel 49’s Sahti Claus is a Finnish style beer brewed with rye, barley and juniper berries.  Traditionally this style doesn’t use hops, but P49 has put Chinook and simcoe in to add to the piney flavour.

Dead Frog's Nutty Uncle Peanut Butter Stout is a treat!  Not too sweet, not too nutty, and not too heavy hitting at 6.1%.

and the westender article about the perceived craft beer bubble


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