Another year, another great Vancouver Craft Beer Week come and gone. I had the pleasure of partaking in the wrap-up event this past Saturday at the Olympic Village Event Grounds and let me tell you, it was a beauty.
It was a bright, sunny day, and over 70 breweries were on hand to share their hoppy wares with us. If that sounds like a lot…it’s because it is. As much as I would have loved to sample every new and interesting beer I could, it simply wasn’t possible to do so (although I tried).
Events like this can be a double-edged sword for breweries and beer fans alike. On the one hand, it’s a great way to sample all kinds of awesome beer and hang out with like-minded beer enthusiasts. For breweries, the power of exposure cannot be understated. On the other hand, with so many beers to sample, the variety inevitably wrecks your palate, making it difficult to form a realistic opinion on many of the brews, particularly ones sampled later in the day. This becomes a problem for the breweries as well, how to stand out, how do you make your beer/brand stand out when so many people can’t taste the nuance in your brew anymore?
I think the pros far outweigh the cons, however. Otherwise events like this wouldn’t be so successful, and continue to grow and expand. You can count me as one of the people happy about that.
With regards to the actual beers, I kept a sort of diary on my phone of what beers I sampled and what I thought of them. So without further ado, here’s the list (in no particular order):
Steel & Oak Brewing Co. – Beechwood-Smoked Hefeweizen
S&O is opening up this year just a few blocks from my condo, so I was very excited to see what my possible future watering hole had to offer. Jorden, Jamie and Pete didn’t disappoint with their excellent Beechwood-Smoked Hefeweizen. I admit I was dubious at first – I’m not usually a fan of smoked beers – but this is absolutely one of the better Hefes I’ve tasted. Score one for the new guys.
Powell Street Craft Brewery – Old Jalopy
The 2013 Canadian Beer of the Year. This is one of the best pale ales you’ll find. Though the market is becoming more and more crowded with great competition, Old Jalopy still holds up well.
Storm Brewing – Orange Creamsicle, Basil IPA, Imperial Flanders Sour Ale
Brewmaster James Walton is known as a “mad scientist”, and for good reason. Take a look at the growler fills board at the brewery and you may be treated to “Brainstorms” such as Granny Smith Apple Pie Ale, Vanilla Whiskey Stout, Dill Pickle IPA, Sour Cherry Stout, Cinnamon Bun Ale, and more. James isn’t afraid to experiment, and when he does, he doesn’t mess around. That Orange Creamsicle Ale actually tasted like an orange creamsicle. And the Basil IPA had so much basil I could season an Italian dish with it.
The Flanders is a mainstay brew, and it’s one of the best you’ll find anywhere. I really can’t get enough of this beer.
Merridale Cider – Merri Berri, Cyser
Some of you may be saying “Cider isn’t beer!!”, and you’d be right. It is, however, part of VCBW so it gets a mention. It tastes more like alcoholic fruit juice than anything (big surprise, considering it’s made with apple juice), but that doesn’t change the tasty-factor. This is pretty refreshing stuff on a hot day.
Dead Frog Brewery – Rocket Man ESB, Super Fearless Imperial IPA
Dead Frog is seeing a bit of a resurgence lately, and if these beers are any indication, it is well deserved. The Imperial IPA is a proper hop bomb, and the ESB totally subverted my expectations by coming in with a malt-forward taste that I loved.
Brasserie Dieu Du Ciel – Peche Mortel, Derniere
I may have squealed a bit when I saw the Dieu Du Ciel booth. Are you kidding? One of the most revered breweries in the country? Yes please! To get an idea of how highly respected their beers are, go to Ratebeer or Beeradvocate and sort out a list of the highest rated beers in Canada. You’ll notice a *lot* of DDC up at the top of that list, topped by the sublime Peche Mortel.
I won’t say much else other than – you owe it to yourself to try their beers. You won’t be disappointed.
33 Acres Brewing Company – 33 Acres of Sunshine
An nice white ale, solid aroma and taste. Overshadowed by the awesome shirts they were wearing – “B33R”. I want one of those!
Prohibition Brewing Co. – Bootlegger Amber Ale, Smuggler Scotch Ale
Nothing special with these. They weren’t bad, but they didn’t blow my hair back either.
Longwood Brewery – Berried Alive
Longwood is benefiting from some great marketing. Stoutnik is one of the best name/label combos around and Berried Alive had me giggling as well. That said, the beer doesn’t quite match up to the awesome names and labels. It’s good, but not great.
Howe Sound Brewing – Sky Pilot
Brewed to celebrate the opening of the Sea-to-Sky Gondola in Squamish, this is a pretty decent Northwest Pale Ale with just a bit of a hop bite.
Harvester Brewing – Pale Ale
What’s this, a gluten free brewery? I suppose that’s not a big surprise, there’s a few kicking around. The real surprise is that the beer is actually pretty good. Not at all a bad option for those with gluten sensitivity.
Wait, there’s more to this list! Be sure to check back for Part 2 of my list.