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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 Ale.

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 store.

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.


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