Wednesday, April 1, 2015

beer column

my notes from yesterday's beer column on cbc radio one's on the coast with michelle eliot:
(listen to the audio here)

Geoff Turner (a producer at CBC) tweeted last week that he thinks growlers are “a really stupid way to buy your beer”.  In a twitter exchange with beer advocate Rick Green (@BCbrews) he called growlers “trendy silliness”.  Rick pulled me into the fray so I decided to do my beer column about growlers, and other ways to enjoy fresh beer.

Growlers have been around for centuries, originally in the guise of a lidded pail, but are definitely enjoying their 15 minutes of fame right now.  10 years ago only beer geeks knew what they were.  Now you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in the Lower Mainland who doesn’t. 

There’s nothing like drinking fresh beer – before it loses flavour or becomes spoiled. If you can’t be drinking the beer right at the brewery, then growlers are a great way to transport that fresh beer to where you will be drinking it. 

My opinion?  Having been around forever, growlers are definitely not ‘trendy silliness’.  Giving the masses fresh beer makes growlers emphatically not a ‘really stupid way to buy’ beer!

But  (gasp!) I don’t think growlers are always the best way to buy beer. Yup, I said it. Growlers are not perfect.

As Geoff Turner pointed out, unless you’re interested in drinking the beer very soon after filling the growler, you might be better off buying a six pack of recyclable bottles or cans.  The main drawback for me with growlers is the very short shelf-life.  Generally, if I'm at a brewery I'm drinking my fill of fresh beer while I'm there.  Unless I know my beer fridge is empty at home (which NEVER happens) and I'll be able to drink a growler of beer within days, it just isn't practical for me to fill a growler to bring home for myself to drink.

Growlers are a great choice if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to feed fresh beer to multiple people – like at a party, bbq, or to take camping.  I love showing up at a party with a couple of growlers of different beers to share.  And hey, if you've got kids or other reasons why you'd be drinking at home rather than at the brewery, then stopping in to fill your growlers just makes sense.

As Rick Green pointed out to Geoff Turner, growlers come in 1 litre and 500 ml sizes as well as the more commonly recognized 2 litre size, so you don’t always have to buy and drink the equivalent of a six-pack at a time.  I find I fill a 1 litre growler for personal consumption and my 2 litre ones when I’m going to be sharing with others.  And because I live right in the middle of 6 breweries that do growler fills I’m always passing one on my way to or from home, so filling growlers when I do decide to is very easy for me to do.  Not everyone has that luxury and a liquor store might be more convenient to stop at.

I prefer to use my stainless steel growlers over glass ones.  The seal is better on the stainless, there is no chance of the beer being light-struck, and the growler is much harder to break.  The beer also says colder for a long time in a double-walled steel growler, which is always a plus.

To sum up:
Growler Pros:
- reusable
- full of fresh beer
- less costly than packaged beer
- locally sourced
- for breweries, a quick way to start bringing cash in the door

- no specialized equipment required (although many put in special growler fillers)
- growler fills help turn over beer quickly, keeping it even fresher 

Growler Cons: 
- no shelf life
- potential sanitation issues
- doesn’t hold carbonation once opened
- sometimes seals don’t work (lose CO2 and let oxygen in)
- glass ones can expose beer to light
- have to go to the brewery to fill
- can be heavy or awkward to carry

But wait! There’s a new growler alternative in town that may have perfected the beer-to-go package!

Have you heard about the “canpedo” that Bridge Brewing debuted the other week?     

It’s a 950ml aluminum can that is filled to order at the brewery.  With a shelf life of weeks rather than days, you don’t have to drink these right away.  It is a version of the “Crowler” invented, and trademarked, by Oskar Blues Brewery (Colorado) in 2013.  The topless can has the oxygen blown out of it with CO2, then it is filled with beer and the top put on and sealed by a seamer.  Packaged fresh before your eyes, in a portable container!

Like cans over bottles, the canpedo solves a couple of growler issues, like oxidation and getting light struck.  Neither light nor air can affect the contents once sealed in the can.  Plus, cans aren’t breakable and weigh less than bottles.

The cans are single use, but are made from mostly recycled aluminum and can be recycled.

Bridge Brewing and Moody Ales are the only local breweries to offer canpedos/crowlers.  And two of very few breweries in North America to jump onto the year-old technology.  But I think that more and more breweries are going to get on board and we'll all be taking canpedos camping!

Bridge Brewing was nice enough to give me one of their canpedos, filled with their new Berliner Weisse – a style of sour beer.

Berliner Weisse is a classic german wheat beer, very popular in Berlin.  It is a cloudy beer, usually around 3% alcohol, made from barley and wheat malts, kilned at low temperature to keep them very light in colour, and fermented with yeast and lactic acid. Typically served in bowl shaped glasses and in Germany the preferred way to drink them is flavoured with a syrup like raspberry or woodruff.

The Bridge Brewing Bruke beer (Brucke means bridge in German) is "a very tart, clean and easy-drinking sour beer.  Pouring a very pale straw colour and at just 2.8% ABV, this is a zesty and highly carbonated beer that is perfect for warmer spring and summer days.  Clean on the palate with very low hop bitterness and a slight grainy taste from wheat malt."

They also provided me with some syrups to try with the beer: blueberry, raspberry and woodruff.  For those who find the Berliner Weisse too tart, the syrups add sweetness and mellow out the flavour.

Of course, I love the Bruke just as it is - so refreshing and light!  But I did enjoy trying it with the syrups too.  My favourite of those was the woodruff.  Note to self: research woodruff and start putting it in everything.

Beer picks:

Beside the Bridge Bruke, which is only available at the brewery, I have two other beer picks this week:
Parallel 49’s mixed 12 packs of Brews Brothers are now available.  12 different collaboration beers make this an ideal party offering.  Available at liquor stores.

Dogwood Brewing’s organic Honey ale – Dogwood is a newly opened organic brewery just off Marine Drive and Knight Street.  The honey ale is 4.5% - light and refreshing.  Available at the brewery for tasters and growler fills.

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