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B.C. Brews News
By John Rowling

B.C. beer lovers were disappointed last June when Sailor Hagar’s in North Vancouver closed its brewery. The brewing equipment went to northern France, and Gary Lohin, the brewer behind those wonderful beers (remember the Wit?), went on to other things. Al Reidlinger, one of Sailor Hagar’s owners, explained that they needed the space to expand their beer and wine store. The good news is that the beers continue to live! Fabian Sprecht, Lohin’s former assistant brewer, is now making some of the same great beers at Howe Sound Inn and Brewing in Squamish. Reidlinger said they are adding Phillips’ Maple Cream Ale, Crannóg’s Organic Brown Ale, Tree’s Amber and Peak’s Lager to the draught selection.

Gary Lohin has reappeared at Central City Brewing Company (604-582-6620). This new brewpub is located in the Central City Mall near the end of the Skytrain run in Surrey. This is a very large (250-seat) pub with space for another 450 in the standing-only areas. One of the partners is Colin James (the blues/rock guitarist), so there are frequent concerts in the pub: Doug and the Slugs, and Barney Bentall and the Legendary Hearts, to name a couple. According to Lohin, there’s an extensive menu of great food and the full range of his beers.

"I’ve been given license to brew whatever I want, and that’s been successful so far. My beers range from a copper bock to a stout to a bitter, a German lager and a wheat beer. This is the challenge — educating a new clientele to what beer really can be.”

Belgian-beer heaven is the theme of Vancouver’s new restaurant Chambar (562 Beatty Street, Vancouver, 604-879-7119). The name is a derivative of the French chambard, meaning mayhem or disturbance, maybe even crazy. Owners Nico and Karri Shuermans aren’t crazy. They’ve come up with an interesting focus: nouveau Belgian cuisine with an African twist. All the traditional dishes will be there (there are five variations on moules frites alone!), but Nico’s Rwandan upbringing is reflected in some of the dishes. One of the Moules frites comes a la Congolaise, cooked with fresh tomato, smoked chili and cilantro with a touch of coconut cream and lime.

All the standard Belgian beers are there, from Stella Artois to Hoegaarden, but there are also about 25 more, ranging from Abbaye des Rocs to Westmalle Abbey Tripel. The amazing part of the menu is the right-hand side. None of the main courses cost more than $20. Now that’s crazy!

New from Vancouver Island Brewing is Islander Lager. This beer is clean, light-bodied, lightly hopped, crisp and refreshing. It is very pleasant and well-balanced and has a mild flavour. This year’s VIB Hermanator ice bock sold out even before December.

Looks like some interesting beers ahead at Spinnakers Brewpub in Victoria. For the winter, Lon Ladell brought back last year’s very popular Fogfighter, a strong Belgian blonde ale. Ladell has brewed a chai vanilla stout and soon expects an Apple Honey Lager made with fresh Merridale apple juice. In addition to the regular Friday night cask-conditioned beer, Ladell will be continuing with the experimental small cask every couple of weeks.

Gulf Islands Brewery has released a limited-edition seasonal, Fireside Winter Ale. This is a true winter warmer, a rich, full-bodied, big-flavoured beer, dark copper in colour, and 7% abv. Fireside Winter Ale comes in a collectable half-litre ceramic swing-top bottle.

Phillips Brewing has moved to a larger building and has installed more tanks. With the increased brewing capacity, Matt Phillips has launched three new beers. The first is Amnesiac Double IPA (what could be better than an IPA? A double IPA!). This beer is in the West Coast big beer style.

According to Phillips, “We’ve added more malt to our usual IPA to give a bigger body and 8.5% alcohol, and matched that with beefy additions of Pacific Northwest hops to give a mind-blowing beer.” Next up is Longboat Double Chocolate Porter, which is a rich porter made with an addition of chocolate. The last is Black Toque India Dark Ale (IDA), a cross between a brown ale and an IPA. In addition, the Maple Cream has been renamed Draught Dodger Maple Cream Ale, and together with the regular IPA will now be sold in six-packs of 355-ml bottles.

Okanagan Spring Brewery introduced two new beers in 2004. Bavarian Helles is a lower-alcohol (4% abv), well-balanced beer that has more hops than the average light beer. Munich Dark Mild is a traditional Munich dark (dunkel) lager made with lots of dark malts and a little roasted and caramel malts; it has a mild hop flavour. This is an easy-going beer designed more for the malt lover.

Granville Island Brewing has several new beers in its 650-ml Limited Releases series. The Merry Monks Dopplebock (8.0% abv) was released in November. Also, the Lions Winter Ale (similar to the Amber Ale but with vanilla and chocolate notes) is back. In January the Scottish Ale returned; brewer Vern Lambourne described it as “a big, malty beer, full-bodied, at 5.7%. Made with lots of pale, crystal and chocolate malts, plus roast barley.”

Longwood Brewpub, Nanaimo, has its spectacular barley wine on tap. This beer is three years old and 10% abv.

Larry Caza of Old Yale Brewing at Chilliwack reports that the Seargents IPA won a gold medal at the Canadian Brewing Awards. Caza also gave a hint of a future brew that will be “a big, thick stout.”

John Rowling lives in Victoria, B.C., which, according to him, is "a seven-brewery city: one for every day of the week." He was CAMRA Victoria's first president, and he is one of the founders of the Great Canadian Beer Festival.


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