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B.C. Brews News
By John Rowling

The Six Mile Pub in Victoria is celebrating 150 years of beer drinking on the banks of Millstream Creek. Friday, July 13, 1855, was when Bill Parsons, ignoring the inauspicious date, opened for business. Bill Parsons is alleged to have been a senior London “Bobbie” who left England in a hurry after one of his men was killed while he was drinking at a party. Parsons built the Parsons Bridge Hotel, as it was known, in 1855, and beer has been served continually there ever since. Parsons didn’t purchase his “country retail licence” until the next year (perhaps encouraged to do so after paying a fine of two pounds, 10 shillings). This made official what is the oldest pub in B.C. still operating today.

The Six Mile was the heart of the community and was used as a postal address when the stagecoaches began to run in the 1880s. Roadhouses, as they were called (hence the name Six Mile House), were dropping-off points for the mail. All that’s left of Bill Parsons’s original hotel are the bricks from the foundation that you see in today’s fireplace. The hotel burned down in the late 1800s and was completely rebuilt and expanded. During Prohibition, though officially closed, the hotel continued to be a meeting place for many locals, who went there to talk politics and drink. Bootlegging was a popular sport, and Six Mile House was the local hub.

Today the enlarged pub has 250 seats, with another 75 on the patio. With its gazebo and flower boxes, the patio is one of the nicest spots in the neighbourhood on a summer evening. There are 22 taps, with B.C. micros well represented. This is a happy pub. The menus on the tables carry pictures of the fun of last New Year’s Eve. This building has an atmosphere about it that reeks of history. And so it should.

At the other end of the spectrum, Dix Barbecue & Brewery in Vancouver’s trendy Yaletown district is a relatively new pub. On the last Saturday of April, Dix hosted the first Hop Madness: “all the meanest, gnarliest, most challenging, highly hopped, aggressive, mind-blowing IPAs in the province gathered together.” The event was meant to be a cask-conditioned IPA fest, but not everyone was prepared for that. In the end there were nine gravity-fed casks, eight draughts and one Party Pig. This was a delightful beer festival. It was small and intimate, and the beers were wonderful. With virtually no lines, plenty of space and a wonderful food menu, the afternoon passed all too quickly.

The beers ranged from plain and simple IPAs to taste challenges such as Storm Brewing’s Wormwood IPA and Yaletown’s Lavender IPA. The last produced quite a few comments: “Tasted like Grandma’s old sock drawer” was one of the printable ones. Iain Hill, Yaletown’s head brewer, said he made it for fun, hoping to “make it smell like Grandma’s drawers,” at which point I stopped writing down any more comments. Storm’s Wormwood IPA has tincture of wormwood added and was exceptionally bitter, especially at the back of the tongue.

Hop Madness: “all the meanest, gnarliest, most challenging, highly hopped, aggressive, mind-blowing IPAs in the province gathered together.”

By unanimous consent, the crowd favourite was Central City Empire IPA. This was not cask-conditioned but was a superbly balanced beer, finished with Amarillo and Crystal hops. It was very drinkable and disappeared quickly. Gary Lohin, former brewer at Sailor Hagar’s, has succeeded in introducing several exciting new beers at Central City. Two more outstanding entries (both cask-conditioned) were Old Yale Sergeant’s IPA and Granville Island IPA. The Old Yale was finished with East Kent Goldings and dry-hopped with Chinook hops. This beer had recently been picked as the best of B.C.’s bottled IPAs. The Granville Island IPA was very smooth with a lovely maltiness. It was finished with Chinook and dry-hopped with Centennial.

Many brewers were present, and it was nice to be able to discuss the beers with the people who made them. Tony DeWalt, Dix’s head brewer, hosted the festival, together with Keith Lemke of the Siebel Institute of Technology. Lyn Kruger, president of the Siebel Institute, also was in attendance. Both Rick and Barry of R&B Brewing were there, Barry proudly showing off photos of his new twin boys.

There are three new beers we tasted especially for this magazine from Phillips Brewing, available in 650-ml bottles. Matt Phillips has obviously pushed the envelope and raised the standard for B.C. beers.

The first beer was Longboat Double Chocolate Porter. There’s lots of sweetish dark chocolate aroma in the nose, just like opening a new box of chocolates. The beer is very dark red with a tan head. It is smooth and surprisingly full-bodied for a 5.2% abv beer. The initial taste of chocolate gives way to chocolate, and then more chocolate! There’s a bit of tartness at the beginning, but it has a nice, clean, dry, mild hop finish. This beer would go very well with a fruit tart, or you could drink it curled up with a good book and a box of cherry chocolates!

Next was Black Toque India Dark Ale. This beer pours with a nice dense head and has a gorgeous mahogany colour. It has a beautiful fruity aroma, with an interesting interplay between the roasted barley and the hops. The initial impression of malty sweetness quickly gives way to hops. However, there’s a long, lingering malt finish that dominates the hops. This is a very good beer that is deceptively strong (6.5% abv). It would go very well with curry or other rich meat dishes.

Last up was Amnesiac Double IPA. This has a deep amber-coppery colour and a dense white head. Great aroma of candied orange or marmalade from the very fruity and citrusy Pacific Northwest hops. This is an extremely bitter beer that is well balanced with lots of malt, creating a very clean flavour. Despite being 8.5% abv, there is no heat from the alcohol, which is testimony to the skill of the brewer. This beer is not for the faint of heart but is so well balanced that it will make hop fans everywhere sing its praises.

Six Mile Pub
494 Island Hwy.
Victoria, B.C. V9B-1H5

Dix Barbecue & Brewery
871 Beatty St.
Vancouver, B.C. V6B 2M6

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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