JUN/JUL 2006 | REGIONAL | INTERNATIONAL
B.C. Brews News
By John Rowling
Gerry Hieter’s Beer Camps have been so successful that
more are planned for the fall. Two camps were sold out this
past winter, and no wonder. At $35 (Cdn.), they were a bargain.
Not only were they fun … they were educational! Hieter
has teamed up with Becky Hay at Vancouver Island Brewery in
Victoria to give four-hour courses. Hay starts off with a
comprehensive tour of Vancouver Island Brewery’s
state-of-the-art brewery and packaging plant. Hieter then
runs the group through beer history, beer brewing, what to
look for in tasting beer and what to look for (or avoid) when
purchasing beer. Throughout the evening, participants sample
about a dozen B.C. craft beers and match them with various
foods, finishing up with dessert: a chocolate brownie paired
with Vancouver Island’s Hermannator Ice Bock. (For details
about next winter’s Beer Camps, call Becky Hay at Vancouver
Island Brewery: 250-361-0007.)
Spinnakers Brewpub, Victoria, was recently
voted Best Brewpub in B.C. by the readers of the Northwest
Brewing News. The Best B.C. Brewery was Granville
Island Brewing; the Best B.C. Beer Store went to
Swans, Victoria; and the vote for the Best B.C. Ale House
was split between the Strathcona Hotel and Christie’s
Carriage House, both in Victoria.
There is a busy summer ahead for B.C. brewers. At Granville
Island Brewing, Vern Lambourne is brewing several
beers that will be available only at the brewery store. The
new Ginger Beer (5% abv) is made with lots of imported Hawaiian
ginger, especially in the dry-hopping, to give a very fresh
ginger aroma. This beer pours with a beautiful golden colour
and has a spicy warmth to it. It will be followed in the store
by the Raspberry Ale. In the limited-edition series, GI Bitter
is now available. Lambourne brewed the Bitter with Warminster
Maris Otter malt from the U.K., bittered it with Target hops,
and finished and dry-hopped it with East Kent Goldings. This
copper-coloured beer is a good example of an English best
bitter, with a moderate hopping level (35 IBUs), a medium
malt body and lots of Goldings in the aroma (makes you think
of Earl Grey!). Also back is the IPA and the ever-popular
Mingler, a 12-pack comprising Cypress Honey Lager, Robson
Street Hefeweizen, Island Lager and Kitsilano Maple Cream
In downtown Vancouver at Steamworks, fans
will be pleased to know that the Frambozen and Ipanema Summer
White are here again. The White ("Tall and tan and young
and lovely," to quote brewer Conrad Gmoser) has a subtle,
perfumey spiciness, just right for hot summer evenings. The
high-gravity raspberry undergoes a slow second fermentation
with tons of fresh, whole Fraser Valley raspberries, resulting
in an intense raspberry flavour and a luscious pink head.
At Central City Brewing in Surrey, Empire
IPA is back in a new and improved version. Gary Lohin has
brewed this beer with floor-malted Maris Otter pale malt from
the U.K.’s Warminster Maltings. This great brew now
has more body and was hopped at 70 IBUs to make a well-balanced
big (6.5% abv) beer. Soon the Raspberry Wheat Ale (5% abv)
will be on tap. This is made with unpasteurized, de-seeded
Fraser Valley raspberry purée. Also new in the brewery
is an Italian-built canning line. Lohin is brewing a premium
German-style lager to be canned for sale at the on-site liquor
At R&B Brewing, Head Brewer Alyson Tomlin
and Brewer Ben Van Hae were very pleased when their Raven
Cream Ale won a bronze medal at the World Beer Cup in the
English-Style Mild Ale class. This beer won silver at the
1998 World Beer Cup. And now, according to Barry Benson (the
B of R&B), it’s heads-down for a busy summer!
Over on the Island in Nanaimo, Longwood Brewpub
has expanded its kegging operation to accommodate the demand
for its beer. The Framboise, made with whole organic raspberries,
is available all summer. On hand-pump, Harley Smith has a
Two Penny Ale for a summer session beer (4%) and a 60 Shilling
Ale for a lighter Scottish tap. Smith has brewed a Vienna
Lager in honour of Spinnakers’ Lon Ladell’s “tying
the knot” this summer.
In Victoria, Benjamin Schottle at Hugo's Grill &
Brewhouse has a Mandarin Hefeweizen in line for the
summer. Schottle serves this beer with a wedge of Mandarin
orange. “It works better than lemon,” he says.
“Try it with a Hacker-Pschorr Weisse beer, and you’ll
see what I mean.” Never at a loss for experimentation,
Schottle is also planning a Green Tea Lager made with Shotgun
tea from Victoria’s Chinatown. Some will be added in
the last two minutes of the boil, and the rest will be used
for dry-hopping. To counteract the bitterness of the tea,
spicy hops such as Perle or Spalt will be used.
Smooth Sailing Honey Ale is on tap again at Swans Hotel.
This is the beer that was brewed as a special for last year’s
Tall Ships Festival in Victoria. After this, Tessier’s
Witbier will be available on draft and in bottles. This is
a refreshing, spicy, traditional Belgian white beer made with
imported Belgian yeast. Also on all summer will be the Extra
IPA. Brewer Andrew Tessier has brewed Blue Bridge Barley Wine,
ready for the winter season. This beer is mostly Maris Otter
pale malt and is hopped with Warrior and Fuggles. Tessier
has had to add three extra taps (two hand-pumps) to keep his
more popular beers on all year-round.
The Hefeweizen will be pouring at Spinnakers Brewpub
all summer, together with the Dunkelweizen on a more regular
basis. Spinnakers brewers Lon Ladell and Rob Monk have been
brewing with new yeasts, and the results show in their beers.
As soon as the local raspberry crop is at its peak, Ladell
will start making his very refreshing Raspberry Ale, ready
for the September crowd.
Canoe Brewpub will again have the Summer
Honey Wheat Beer on tap for the summer. This light (4.8% abv)
golden beer has citrus notes in the nose and is an “easy-drinking”
beer brewed with the patio crowd in mind. The good news is
that it will be available for take-out in bottles this summer.
Phillips Brewing has doubled its floor space
and added more conditioning tanks. And Matt Phillips has made
a couple of changes to his beers. Replacing the Espresso Stout
is a brilliant Oatmeal Stout (5%). Phillips describes it as
“a really nice, robust stout.” It pours with a
dense, tan head and leaves a nice lace all the way down the
glass. It has a beautiful aroma and a lot of roast flavour.
Also new is a small batch of bottle-conditioned Surly Blonde
Tripel. This is a seasonal blonde brewed to the Belgian tripel
style, which means it is strong (9.1% abv). It has fruity
flavours up front and a clean, dry finish.
Postscript: Chris Gress, Craig Street Brew
Pub’s new brewer, says that the Duncan brewpub
should be open by the end of June.
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.