Value On Liquor Store

Posted by Chuck from Barley Mowat

New Liquor Retail Stores are cropping up left right and centre in this town, making me think that I’m not the only one getting a bit disenfranchised with the whole LDB monopoly thing. While it is true that the selection of good beer at the LDB is increasing, it’s really only because existing LDB brands (notably Lighthouse) have started producing better beer. Value On Liquor Store. Value On Liquor SW Marine Vancouver BC

However, if your good beer desires stretch beyond the 4 or 5 reliable brands carried by the LDB, or if you want to interact with staff who actually give a crap about good beer, you have to haul your lazy ass over to an LRS. And over at that LRS you will generally find much better selection, a staff as snooty as you are, and prices that can sometimes verge on bankruptcy inducing. Value On Liquor. Value On Liquor Vancouver BC

Say what you want about the attitude you get for not buying Molson at the LDB, but that bomber of Driftwood Fat Tug sure is $5.50. That same bottle is >$7 at many LRSs, and even more at Viti, who annually win both the citation for Highest Prices in Town and that other award for Closest LRS to Chuck’s House. Value On Liquor Store Vancouver BC

 

It’s a cash prize.

 

At Value On Liquor, though, that bottle of sweet, delicious liquid hops rings true at $5.50. Yup, Value On offers LDB price matching, which is a Good Thing. Of course, as someone who lives downtown, it’s also a Moot Thing, as I most certainly didn’t drive past three or four perfectly good LDBs to buy the same schlock for the same price, only further away. I’m here precisely because the LDB doesn’t have good beer.

 

It’s a cash prize. And sadly, Value On doesn’t have a lot of good beer either. Sure, they’ve got the standard mix of Deschutes, Lagunitas and Green Flash, and even some of the odder Canuck ales like Garrison, but where are the Uprights or Belgians? The store is still new, and there are lots of empty slots on those shelves, so perhaps they’re still stocking up, but somehow I don’t think so. Value On Liquor Store. Value On Liquor Fraser Arms Hotel SW Marine

You see, in order to get to those above mentioned brands, you have to walk past their massive Wall of Beer (the back wall is all glass fronted coolers). And the first thing you’ll notice is that this Wall of Beer is comprised of Bud. And Coors. And Labatts. Lots and lots of it. For comparison, go to Viti, Legacy, Brewery Creek or Firefly and try to find the pyramid of Bud. Value On Liquor Store South Granville Vancouver BC

 

Much like Tall Food, stacking beer does nothing to make it taste any better.

 

 

It’s very clear that the big name brands are where Value On expect to make their money, and I get the feeling that the relatively small section of craft beer is only because a rep at AFIC or BeerThirst was able to convince them to try just the tip, just for a bit, just to see how it feels. RainCity, notably, is completely absent, so don’t go here hoping to grab an Upright or Glazen Toren. Value On Liquor Store. Vancouver Craft Beer

Their wine selection is significantly better, though, and the price matching guarantee stole Sharon from my side for an extended period of time. I could always figure out where she was in the store by the muted “clinks” that came from her ever-increasingly-burdened basket every few minutes, but alas I’m a beer guy first and I was nowhere near as excited. Value On Liquor Vancouver BC. Value On Liquor Craft Beer value on liquor

And while the price matching is a nice benefit, it goes right out the window for beers not offered at the LDB. Deschutes Mirror Pond? $15, same as the LDB (roughly twice the $7 it is in Oregon). Deschutes Inversion IPA, which is $8 in Oregon and not available at the LDB? $21. Throw on to that price the fact there is no 10% discount for CAMRA members and their beer is starting to look a bit pricey… at a store that obviously is positioning itself on price. Value On Liquor Vancouver BC Craft Beer SW Marine Drive

 

And on an First Nations burial ground. Next to an old strip bar. (Haunted strip bar?)

 

Perhaps this place might be a good middle ground for beer-loving geeks and their wine-loving girlfriends, but I’m not going out of my way to come back. Could I walk in en route to a party and find some beer that I would have no shame consuming? Absolutely. Is there anything here to geek out about? Not really. Craft Beer Vancouver 

Sure, it’s a giant step up for people that live in the area, but a store as large and as ambitious as Value On needs to be much, much more than that. It needs to be good enough to give me a reason to come back other than when I’m en route to get drunk watching the planes land at YVR.

UPDATE: I would be remiss if I did not at least mention that the famous Lundy Dale (of CAMRA BC and Firefly fame) will be involved with Value On Liquor. Lundy is sure to bring good things to the 3 or 4 craft beer coolers available to her, and maybe might even begin a program of annexation of the macro displays. I have no doubts that she’d like to, but what management wants to do might be another thing altogether.

Posted by Chuck from Barley Mowat

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Barrels of Fun by Barley Mowat

Barrels of Fun

The local beer scene has improved vastly even since I started writing this blog. A few short years ago the realm of Good Beer was left to a relatively small number of startups, while the big boys kept on keeping on producing middling to mediocre ale. That has recently changed, and the variety of decent beer available is increasing daily.

The one sub-category of great beer I’d like to see more of, though, is barrel-aged bottle-conditioned beers. Yeah, it’s a tiny, hyper-specialized sub-market of beer, but what else did you expect from me? I’m such a massive beer snob that even this tiny niche will only be exclusive enough for at most a couple of years.

 

My porn fetishism is even weirder.
It’s not the furries that do it for me, though.

 

The only problem with such a niche desire is that it’s very hard to fulfill it. Let’s say you like IPAs, well you’re in luck because pretty much every brewery in BC makes those. Imperial Stouts? About 5. Sour Reds? 2. Barrel-aged bottle-conditioned beer? Zero. Yup, zero.

This means I have to go to the US to get my kink on. While this is generally a great deal of fun and involves my getting drunk on the train then playing a rousing game of Cow Not Cow, it is not a great way to satiate a hardcore substance abuse habit. I tried a few alternates to manual import, like leaving barrels of corks on Driftwood’s loading dock, but no dice.

So, like any junky going through hardcore withdrawal I did a bit of googling and came up with a solution to make it myself (to stay in character, I stole the computer first and sold it for $10 after). Yup, I’m going to make my fix in my apartment, and the internet has taught me how.

 

To be honest, though, I’m
not quite sure where the barrel goes.

 

I’m about to place an order for internet oak barrels, and like anything you order online it’s cheap, of undetermined quality, and very likely mail ordered from Russia. Here’s my supplier: Oak Barrels LTD. I have selected them for two main reasons: First, they are cheap cheap cheap, and Second, their barrels come in desktop-friendly sizes like 1, 2 and 5 litres. Even if all I produce is mold-infused botulism in a wooden container, these barrels are worth buying just to look at.

Sure, I realize that these anonymous barrels are almost certainly Hungarian Oak, as opposed to French, American or even Canadian Oak. And yes, Hungarian is supposed to be slightly less snooty. It’s also slightly less-than $200 per barrel. Seriously, those things are like $30. I could light one on fire the second it gets here and still be ahead.

The idea here is to use an existing beer as a start, cram it in a barrel, throw in some brettanomyces lifted off a bottle of something belgium, cram in some sort of fruit, and see what happens. I might also fiddle around with lactobacillus just to increase the number of variables that can go horribly horribly wrong. I’m of course open to suggestions, as it should be noted that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing here.

Before I start, though, I’ll need to order the damned things. And then, when they arrive, I’ll need to prime them with something in the hopes of imparting some extra flavour into my frankenbeer. Cheap wine or whiskey is an easy guess, but again I’m open to new ideas.

 

20 minutes on Google and not one scantily clad coed in a barrel. So here, have some kittens.

Posted by Chuck at Barley Mowat

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Beer Samplers in Vancouver

Being a Beer Tourist in my own Backyard

Instead of my usual cross-border dash on long weekends, I played tourist in my own hometown this Saturday visiting a couple of our great taproomsThe Alibi Room and Bitter Tasting Room.

The two locations have quite a bit in common with their hipster chic décor of industrial fixtures and reclaimed wood, foodie menu staples (local chicken undergoes spiritual counselling prior to be brought to your plate), slightly gentrifying neighbours and neighbourhoods, and of course the obvious care and attention lavished on their beer selection. Luckily for beer geeks there are also some key differences, which means you really need to try both places.

The Alibi Room concentrates on draught beers, presenting an impressive menu of over fifty beers broken down into various styles bolstered by a couple of cask selections. Obviously the focus on is local breweries but a number of American and foreign craft beers can also be sampled. Eleven dollars buys you a flight of four so you can try a variety before committing to any one pint – as every good beer geek knows you gotta do your homework. Alibi Room is bright and spacious with long communal tables that allow you to interact with your best new beer friends aka your tablemates. You can do a little train watching while you drink, and the ‘stick a bird on it’ mentality further ensures hipsters feel comfortable. There is even a bar downstairs to accommodate an extra busy night. Stairs, many stairs, to the bathroom always seems like an inherently bad idea in a place serving alcohol but they present a good challenge after a few rounds of taster trays.

 

Bitter Tasting Room is a smaller space with a central bar, a cool wall of illuminated fridges and a throw-back speak-easy vibe emphasising black and white décor, metal fixtures and interesting graphics/fonts everywhere you look. Here the focus is on the bottle with an extensive line-up of brews and half a dozen or so taps for good measure. One really neat menu item is their selection of beer cocktails from the staple shandy, to a beer geek take on the Caesar, to a grown-up version of root beer. You can order flights here as well but they are pre-set selections based on style (mix of draught and bottle). We tried the dark beer trio for eleven dollars. I like the idea of letting the learned bartender set out choices that complement one another. The food menu is not that dissimilar from The Alibi Room but they have pretzels (!!!), which were obviously invented just to pair with beer. Really nice and informative staff – someone helped me take pictures and our server debated the merits of adding sea salt to stout (I think this is a brilliant idea). Rumour has it that they will be opening a patio onto the side street maybe in time for summer.

 

Now onto the Beer…

First, I always try the cask beer at The Alibi Room just because I have to. After the casked brews I pick whatever piques my interest and whatever I haven’t tried before. Sadly, this time out I was really stretching for a beer I liked enough to order by the pint. Out of the twelve samples my favourites were both from Yaletown Brewing Company, the Oun Bruin Flemish Brown Ale and the Raspberry Ale.

I went to Bitter specifically to try the R&B Milk Stout (an exclusive) since I am a pretty big fan of Rogue Creamery but alas this milk stout was just okay for me. Of the dark trio I actually think the Mill Street Coffee Porter was the best of the lot. Luckily The Bitter Chill was a standout for me, a savoury and spicy beer cocktail that would work wonders on a hot day.

Closing Thoughts

I am not sure I get the late opening times for the tap houses, do people really only want to drink beer after 5pm? The Alibi Room opens earlier on the weekend but then the kitchen closes mid-afternoon until dinner. If you can’t get any food to soak up some of your beer, you can’t makes room for more beer, which ends the vicious but profitable cycle that traps beer geeks like lint in the dryer. Also, I know we live in Vancouver but eleven dollars for a flight of beers? Really? C’mon.

Posted by Sara at The Parting Glass

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Lighthouse Brewing Switchback IPA

April Beer of the Month: Lighthouse Switchback IPA

By Chuck of Barley Mowat

Another 30 days have past, and that means it’s time for me to shine the deserving spotlight on yet another beer for my loyal minions to go forth and consume. Taking a bit of a break from my monthly Driftwood special release love-in, I am forgoing the obvious choice of Driftwood Son of the Morning (despite my really quite liking that beer), and winding up at Lighthouse Switchback IPA.

The label apparently recommends drinking a six pack and doing some downhill. Yeah! EXTREME!

This beer is intriguing–and deserving of notice–for multiple reasons. First and foremost, it’s good. Very good. One bottle of this in my gullet and it was pretty obvious that this new beer was gunning for the top. Yup, it’s in that elite league at the high-point of BC Beer rankings, all buddy-buddy with Driftwood Fat Tug and Central City IPA. Is it the new king? Fuck no. Heck, it’s not even displacing Central City for second; it’s a very close third, and that is no easy feat.

Second, this beer represents an intriguing development down there on Devonshire Road. Up until recently Lighthouse was almost two breweries. One produced a fantastic series of interesting Belgium X New Zealand beers in 650ml bottles, and the other produced… well… let’s just say “less interesting” beers. It seemed that brewer Dean McLeod was allowed to play around with oddball styles so long as he kept them away from the main bottling line (am I the only one picturing Dean labouring over a manual bottler, while the line sits in the background idle, and he steals short, longing glances at it? Really? Just me?)

Well, all that changes with this beer. This beer reeks of Dean’s involvement, and I’m not just talking about the baths he takes in the conditioning tanks after everyone else has gone home. Seriously good beer is bleeding into the mainstream at Lighthouse, and Chuck likey.

Third, this beer has hops, and I mean lots of hops. Citra really stands out (and is my favourite IPA hop), but then two combo blends (Falconer’s Flight and Zythos) pack in so many more it’s hard to count them (more Citra, Simcoe, Sorachi Ace, and about ALL the C-Hops). You’d think it would come out as a bitter mess, but the Citra holds it together nicely.

Fourth, it comes in a six pack. The trend of awesome beers being in anti-weeknight friendly 650ml might just be coming to a close. Central City has long put out their beers in single serving cans, and now Lighthouse is following suit. Throw into the mix Parallel 49 launch their whole lineup in “work the next day” friendly sizes and we’re on to something.

Fifth, this is NOT a special release. This is a new member of Lighthouse’s regular lineup, and that’s definitely something to thank Dean for.

So there you have it. Go forth and consume, my legions.

I am less enthusiast about the beer/biking blend. Although in many ways this is more extreme.

Posted by Chuck of Barley Mowat

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Extra Special Bitters

Some Extra Special Blogging or Thoughts on Hops

By Sara of The Parting Glass

 I have mentioned this before but it bears repeating that every once in a while I get hop fatigued from all the big, brash IPA’s here on the West Coast, not to mention the generous hop profile of almost every other beer style out this way. When this ennui sets in I want something with just a touch of hoppy bitterness, or dare I say subtlety, while still maintaining the light bodied crispness of the pale ale family. Now before you start throwing holy water on me and shoving crucifixes in my face I absolutely have a place in my beer stockpile for the hop bombs but this time out I want to delve into the diversity of the bitter family.

 

Pale Ales and Bitters comprise one of those beer families where the style names tend to be used freely and interchangeably. According to Mosher inTasting Beer, the term Pale Ale typically applies to bottled beers on the strong end of the range while Bitter generally refers to drafts of all strengths. Add into the mix the qualifiers “Ordinary”, “Best”, “Special” and “Extra Special Bitter or ESB” and we are not really that much further ahead in our understanding. For quite some time I simply thought IPA=USA and ESB=UK but this is a bit too simplistic.

At the heart of the style lay the common elements of lightly kilned pale ale malt, which imparts that subtle nutty flavour and just a bit of toastiness, and hops in varying quantities to add the requisite bitterness. India Pale Ales comprise the far end of the hop spectrum while the English Pale Ales and Bitters offer a more balanced profile but tend to blur the style boundaries. Turning back to Mosher, he suggests, English Pales Ales tend to be more substantial beers than bitters, can be brewed with all-malt versions and must display the English hop character (especially important to the aroma). I guess this leaves the term Bitter to denote everything else.

According to the Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) Style Guidelines the English Pale Ales are divided into three styles Standard/Ordinary Bitter, Special/Best/Premium Bitter and Extra Special/Strong Bitter. I have included the ‘Overall Impressions’ provided in the guidelines to give you a rough idea of what differentiates the three bitters apart from adjectives:

Standard/Ordinary Bitter – Low gravity, low alcohol levels and low carbonation make this an easy-drinking beer. Some examples can be more malt balanced, but this should not override the overall bitter impression. Drinkability is a critical component of the style; emphasis is still on the bittering hop addition as opposed to the aggressive middle and late hopping seen in American ales.

Special/Best/Premium Bitter – A flavorful, yet refreshing, session beer. Some examples can be more malt balanced, but this should not override the overall bitter impression. Drinkability is a critical component of the style; emphasis is still on the bittering hop addition as opposed to the aggressive middle and late hopping seen in American ales.

Extra Special/Strong Bitter – An average-strength to moderately-strong English ale. The balance may be fairly even between malt and hops to somewhat bitter. Drinkability is a critical component of the style; emphasis is still on the bittering hop addition as opposed to the aggressive middle and late hopping seen in American ales. A rather broad style that allows for considerable interpretation by the brewer.

 

Got that? Me neither, so let me try to put this into terms that speak to what really matters to beer geeks …what do I put in my fridge?

 

For this portion of the show I present two examples of the style for your considerations. The first is East Side Bitter from R & B Brewing Co. This beer is named after a vibrant area in Vancouver, and the bottle sports a great label featuring street signs, a transformer and shoes hanging from the power lines. Rick and Barry (R & B) describe the beer as “not your typical English Extra Special Bitter. Northwest hops and lots of them added to the kettle and a ridiculous amount added post fermentation give this beer its unique aroma and crisp refreshing finish.” The second beer is Extra Special Barney from Full Sail Brewing Company. This beer is the part of the Brewer’s Share series from Full Sail; four times a year the brewery lets the brewers create at will and then the winner’s brew is shared with the “entire beer-geekosphere”. Extra Special Barney is the winning creation from brewer Barney Brennan. The beer is described as “a nicely balanced small batch bitter…featuring five different specialty malts and aromatic Challenger hops.”

Before I move onto my reviews can I just say kudos to both brewers for their clever use of acronyms, as a geek in general (not just a beer geek) I appreciate the word play.

East Side Bitter – A clear, copper/amber coloured beer with tons of cream coloured head that sticks around. Very hop heavy on the nose with pine notes and some floral elements. Bitter taste at the front of the mouth and a slightly sticky mouthfeel. The hop character seems to be all in the mouthfeel with a surprisingly subtle finish. Settles nicely, becoming smoother as it warms in the glass. An ABV of 5.5%. Overall 3.5/5

Extra Special Barney - Pours clear light amber with a small amount of white head. Subtle malt on the nose and a caramel, fruit sweetness in the mouthfeel. Some hops come through in the flavour but not overwhelmingly so. Medium bodied with a bitter, burnt toast, finish. Like the East Side Bitter it warms nicely in the glass smoothing out the flavours. An ABV of 6.5%. Overall 4/5

Posted by Sara of The Parting Glass

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