British Columbia is a charming place. Canadians are a charming and welcoming race. So welcoming in fact they even named a street and a brewery after me.
My trip took in 7 breweries, 68 different beers (not all pints!) in 3 days and was pretty much wall to wall pleasure albeit experienced through the jaded lens of jetlag.
My most Canadian moment was in a Canadian brewpub, surrounded by ice hockey fans listening to Bryan Adams, drinking a beer made with maple syrup. I only needed to get arrested by a Mounty for assaulting a moose with Celine Dion to complete the set.
|Turning Point in all its glory|
Beer-wise the highlight was a Flemish Oud Bruin (tasted more like Rodenbach Grand Cru than Rodenbach Grand Cru) from Yaletown Brewery and a staggeringly accomplished Pilsner and Amber from Turning Point. My namesake brewery Howe Sound made some crazy, crazy brews such as the Megadestroyer Imperial Stout brewed with star anise which helped me forget how tired I was. Franco and Dave there were so impressed with my reaction to it they gave me a T shirt! My Molson Coors Craft comrade Vern Lambourne at Granville Island made an excellently balanced Imperial IPA and was very generous with his time.
|Vern Lambourne and an ugly English bloke|
There were some beer low points. All the smaller breweries seemed to me most comfortable brewing hop forward beers. I didn’t taste a poor example of an US IPA or Imperial IPA at any of the brewpubs. UK brewers could learn a thing or two about this style from these guys. This was not always the case with the other styles. Obviously in keeping with national politeness I will not name names but a couple of the brewpubs’ attempts at lager were so heavily polluted with diacetyl that you could smell them from 10 yards away. I can only assume that the entire brewing team, serving staff and managers are anosmic to it. Aside from the Yaletown Oud Bruin the Belgian strong style beers seemed to be the biggest challenge, two tripels and a saison were horrific.
Back to the UK and Monday saw the last in the 2012 Connoisseur’s Choice beers return from bottling. Dubbel Coffee Stout is better than it was when it left and it was pretty bloody good then if I do say so myself. I have to admit to not being the world’s biggest fan of stouts. Monolithic, uber-hopped, black-as-pitch imperial stouts which are so thick they resemble a non-Newtonian fluid are probably my least favourite beers. They seem to me like a teenagers half-pissed cookery experiement where they put as many ingredients in as they can in the hope the positive aspects of each ingredient combine to make the perfect combination.
My stout therefore had to embody the elements of a strong dark ale which I enjoy most yet retain my beer’s trademark subtlety, balance and finesse. I wanted the beer to be fruity, rich, sweet and warming but to finish cleanly with a moreish linger. The selection of one the world’s fruitiest yeast strains was intended to boost ester levels to compete with the malty and burnt notes from the special malts. I also used a vigorous 2-hour boil to flash off the most fervent burnt aromas. The coffee was used to work with the esters and alcohol to give the beer an Irish coffee feel.
So far those in the brewery and the flavour panel who have tried the beer have enjoyed it. Some have loved it. A lot of people have started off feedback with “I don’t usually like dark beers but…” This could be a good thing or a bad thing. It’s not likely to prosper in competitions where styles must be adhered to but should hopefully convert some people to the dark side.
With the tropical weather we are currently enjoying, spontaneous Panzerfaust has awoken. There is a good 10cm head on the beer and it is smelling like a very musty brewery fermentation. As long as it doesn’t start to head down the rotting meat/faecal route Adrian and I could be onto a winner.
Next week, not only do I get to receive Sharp’s IBA medals at London’s Guild Hall but I also get to visit the palace of ultimate brewing excellence that is Duvel-Moortgat and meet St. Hedwig Neven and thence head down to Leuven for the Zythos Bierfestivaal. Can’t type…. any.....more….. too……… excited!