Ten Reasons Why Beer is Better Than Wine

10 Reasons Why Beer Is Better Than Wine

mmm…beer.

It’s all about wine.  Not this column, but seemingly everything else.  Wine seminars, wine tasting events, winery tours- wining is rampant.  The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival went on for 7 straight days!  Event after event revolving around wine, many of them sold out immediately upon release of the tickets.  Which leads us to the obvious question: Have these people never heard of beer?

As beverages go, wine is okay.  But if you think about it logically, beer truly has many advantages over that fermented grape beverage.  And in order to help you think about this logically, I give you the following reasons as to why beer is better than wine:

  1. On a hot day, after mowing the lawn, do you really crave an ice-cold wine?  No.  You want an ice-cold beer- and dammit, you should have one.
  2. You can get a bottle of imported beer- tasty, nuanced, flavorful, the recipe refined over hundreds of years- for between 5 and 10 dollars.  In some cases less.  Wine in the same price range?  Tooth staining plonk.
  3. With beer, you don’t have to read the asinine, self-centered “tasting notes” and food pairings on the back of the bottle: “This inky black Cabernet Fred brings a floral bouquet on the nose initially and follows through with flavors of Slovenian plums, tempered by notes of star fruit and hints of Northern Ugandan oak.  Pairs well with panko crusted braised platypus livers, imported lawn weeds, and obscure cheeses that you have never heard of.”
  4. Beer commercials: excellent.  Wine commercials: do they make wine commercials?
  5. Although I am not a huge fan of either beverage, you know that if it came down to it in a street fight the Budweiser Clydesdales would hand the Yellowtail Kangaroos their asses.
  6. The history of brewing can be dated back to the 6th century B.C.  One of the earliest surviving examples of writing is a Sumerian tablet from about 2050 B.C., a receipt for “best beer”.  You want a beverage steeped in history and tradition? You want beer.
  7. The song is “One Bourbon, One Scotch and One Beer”, not “One      Bourbon, One Scotch and a Half-Carafe of Good Valpolicella”.  Why?  Because beer is better.  And no one can rhyme “Valpolicella”.  Which brings us to number 8:
  8. I can not off the top of my head think of a single “wine drinking song”,  but references to beer crop up in numerous songs- it would appear that the musical muse responds better to a couple o’ brew.
  9. To pick a special wine you do some on-line research, choose a      few likely candidates, consult with your local wine merchant and make a choice.  In 5 to 10 years you can be drinking that vino in its prime.  To pick a special beer you do some on-line research, choose a few likely candidates, consult with your local beer merchant and make a choice.  In 5 to 10 minutes you can be drinking that brew in its prime.  Seriously, any questions?
  10. In the beer making process, at no point does anyone step on the ingredients with their bare feet.

    Good to know these guys were thigh-deep in your beverage.

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Tenaya Creek Red Ryder

What happens in Vegas is now exported to Canada…

I’ve never been very good at gambling.  But for some reason I felt I should roll the dice on the latest seasonal from the Las Vegas brewers Tenaya Creek.  As it turns out, my luck may have changed.  Maybe I don’t have to give up on Vegas after all.

Eye-catching label art and a cheeky description on the bottle piqued my interest, but there’s no hiding behind that when the liquid hits the glass.  So what did this lady bring to the table?

The beer pours out a cloudy copper-red, topped with a tight tan head.  The aroma shows lots of  smoky cedar with just a whiff of caramel sweetness showing up.  The flavor is toasty and chock full of peppery hops as well as some herbal, oregano notes.  The addition of rye to the malt contributes to a creamy mouthfeel and lends some nice complexity, a warm spiciness, to the beer.  And again that caramel sweetness dances around the edges.  At the finish there is more of the “spice box” feel, as well as an herbal citrus note.

The further I got in to the beer, the more I enjoyed it.  Then it struck me (I am prone to epiphanies half way through a beer): it reminded me of some of my favorite English ales, but concentrated.  An “imperialised” English ale, if you will.  More hops, higher alcohol, deeper flavor.

In summary, a gamble that payed off.  Big , bold, well-balanced.  It’s a seasonal, so if you find it, grab it!

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A Few Enjoyable Beers From The Past Year

We’re well in to the new year now, and the Christmas/ New Years stress has subsided.  This has allowed a little bit of time for perusing tasting notes from this past year, and sorting out some thoughts regarding British Columbia craft beers.  And let me assure you, 2011 was a banner year in B.C.  As mentioned in my last article,the bar has been raised for our local craft brewers.  What follow is a fairly random assortment of beers that I felt stood out amidst a strong selection of B.C. offerings.

Fernie Brewing Pumpkin Head

Forget about the bountiful fruits and grains produced out here, 2011 was the year of the pumpkin.  The big orange squash showed up all over the place this year.  Possibly due to the success of Phillips, Howe Sound and Red Racer pumpkin ales in previous years, or maybe based on a bumper crop of pumpkins, everybody threw some in the mash tun. While those are some fantastic beer, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of newcomers.   Fernie Brewing had a great pumpkin ale (Pumpkin Head) based on their popular brown ale recipe, a true session brew with just a hint of pumpkin.  Kelowna’s Tree Brewing created a great sipper in more of a winter ale style with Jumpin’ Jack Pumpkin Ale.

On second thought, let’s not forget about ALL the grains.  Let us remember that wheat can be a powerfully tasty addition to the brewing process.  Throw in a little Curacao orange, some coriander, and you’ve got yourself a beer!

Cannery Apricot Wheat Ale- an Okanagan summer staple.

In a strange twist, my favorite wheat beers this past year have been somewhat non-traditional.  Howe Sound made quite an impression with their “imperialised” King Heffy.  It contains all the elements that I like in a wheat beer, concentrated.  Bigger alcohol, bigger flavor, bigger bottle.  A great take on a German style.  The other favorite (yet again) is Cannery Brewing Apricot Wheat Ale.  It may be because I was raised in the Okanagan, but the smell and taste of apricots always makes me think of August on the lake.  A crisp, refreshing beer with just the right splash of apricots gets my whole-hearted endorsement.

It has been mentioned before, but it bears repeating: I am easy for stouts and porters.  Put some dark roasted malts in a beer and you have my attention.  Driftwood Brewing’s Blackstone Porter, Crannog’s Back Hand of God Stout, Vancouver Island’s Hermannator, Coal Harbour Breakfast Stout-I could go on and on.  If you’re a fan of the style there were numerous great examples to choose from.  But for me this year, the best stout/ porter that I had to have been Swans Buckerfield’s Coconut Porter.  So right on every level (and apparently available again RIGHT NOW).

For those with a bit of a hop addiction 2011 was an absolutely classic year.  There was a flood of outstanding IPAs and bitters on the market.  Red Racer IPA, Mt. Begbie’s Nasty Habit, Russell Brewing Blood Alley Bitter, Phillip’s gave us Amnesiac Double IPA and

Beer O' The Year!

Hoperation Triplecross, and Tree Brewing offered up Hophead, Double Hophead and Hophead Black.  But all took a back seat to Driftwood Brewing.  The people who brought you Sartori Harvest fresh-hopped IPA and the Twenty Pounder IPA took it to the next level with Fat Tug IPA.  I could wax philosophical about it at this point, but what do you need to know other than it was awarded Beer of the Year at the Canadian Brewing Awards.  Huge hops, perfect balance.  It embodies the Pacific Northwest style of India Pale Ale perfectly.

As it turns out, not all beer needs to be serious.  There is a time for, and a benefit to, having session beers.  And darned if the local brewing community didn’t come to the plate on that matter as well.  At various times throughout the year, Cannery’s Naramata Nut Brown, Howe Sound’s Lager, Fernie’s Buck Wild Ale and Mt. Begbie’s High Country Kolsch have lubricated social situations for me, and done so admirably.  It’s important to have a “higher volume” beer and any of the ones named have worked out well for me.

The beers discussed here are by no means a complete or comprehensive list.  You don’t have to look too hard to find tasty offerings being brewed up in B.C.- it seems that every  time I turn around there is something new to try.  However, in my opinion, the listed items would be an excellent place to start.  As mentioned in the beginning of this article, it would appear that 2011 was an impressive year for the craft brewers of our fair province.  And 2012 is starting to look real good as well.

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Awards I Would Hand Out For 2011

In the spirit of offering something other than a “best of ” list for the previous year, I present my list of what I consider to be the highlights of the B.C. craft beer industry in 2011.  Just to be a little different,I’m presenting them as awards (hey, it’s my blog).  As well, in the spirit of narcissism, I shall call them “The Hammies”.  Read on for a completely subjective take on the year in beer.

Why Can’t We Be Friends Award:  The Craft Brewers Association of British Columbia.  Finally!  The B.C. craft brewing community banded together to put out a mixed 12 pack of bottles and a mixed 12 pack of cans, each containing beers from 6 different brewers.  An excellent method for introducing people to a variety of styles and breweries.  An outstanding product and  idea: it works on every level.

Can-tastic Idea Award:  While this is not specifically a new idea, it is encouraging to see how many craft brewers are putting good beer in cans.  Red Racer has been doing it since their inception, Cannery Brewing has jumped aboard (fitting, given the name), Mt. Begbie has their immensely quaffable Kolsch in cans.  Also Tree Brewing, Nelson Brewing, Howe Sound Brewing, Fernie Brewing… the list goes on.  It’s an idea that makes sense.  Cans are easy to transport, light, 100 % recyclable, and harder to break than glass.  We will probably (hopefully) see more small brewers investing in canning lines.

Most Overworked Beer Style:  IPA.  Hopheads start hating me right now, but you have to admit that this horse has been flogged to near death.  Traditional IPA, Northwest IPA, Black IPA, Double IPA, Triple IPA, spiced IPA- I get it!  What’s the next step?  Light IPA?  Non-alcoholic IPA?  Don’t misunderstand me, I love a good balanced hop bomb myself (I’m talking to you Drifwood Fat Tug), but let’s move around a bit stylistically.

Best Use of Social Media:  Hands down, Cannery Brewing.  These people could hand out lessons in how to use Facebook, Twitter and the blogging community to increase a company’s profile.  Meticulous about keeping their social media sites updated frequently, promptly replying to post and tweets, actively engaging with the beer bloggers and generally keeping themselves constantly in touch with their consumers.  As well as brewing great beer.

Best B.C. Festival:  The Great Canadian Beer Festival.  Anyone who would argue this has obviously never been. What’s right about it?  Well, let’s see: the venue, the beer, the entertainment, the beer, the massive volunteer presence, the beer, the laid-back left-coast vibe, and did I mention the outstanding line-up of beer?

The Great Canadian Beer Festival 2011

If you haven’t been, get there- if you can find a ticket.

Highest Concentration of Great Craft Beer Per Capita:  Victoria.  Again.  If I have to explain myself, let me say only this: Phillips, Driftwood, Lighthouse,  Vancouver Island Brewing, Swans Buckerfields, Spinnakers, etc, etc.  Sadly it looks like a long time before any other city catches up.  Happily, it appears that such a high concentration of breweries is leading to an embarrassment of good beer.  We can only hope that the citizens of our capital city know how good they have it.

Most Ill-Conceived  Recipe Idea:  A tie between chocolate mint beer and jalapeno pepper lime lager.  I understand the idea of pushing the limits, thinking outside the box, staking new ground.  But these two should never have made it past the test batch.  You know who you are.  We expect better from you.

There’s more.  I didn’t even touch on some of the amazing beers that were produced here in beautiful B.C. this past year, but that will be another column. I could write about the incredible growth the craft segment has seen, but that requires research and actual statistics.    So I will leave you to ponder these less than objective awards, while you eagerly look forward to next year’s edition of “The Hammies”.   Love it or hate it, that’s my take on some of the more compelling themes from 2011.  It appears the B.C. craft beer industry is in fine form as we move in to 2012.

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The Twelve Beers of Christmas- XII

37th edition from Anchor Brewing

  San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing can trace its roots back to 1849, making it one of the oldest breweries in America.  They have been leaders in the craft brewing movement long before the term “craft brewing” was coined.  So it should not be surprising that they have been producing a Christmas seasonal beer for  37 years.   Since it is available in a 1.5 litre size and clearly states a happy New Year greeting on the label, guess what this beer geek is substituting for Champagne this New Year’s Eve?

Dark chestnut in color, this beer carries a tall, persistent rocky tan head.  You can smell lots of sweet malt and caramel in the aroma, as well as raisins, cinnamon and allspice.  The taste is full of dark chocolate, cocoa, cloves and dried fruits.  Essentially, a glass full of Christmas.  Things dry up a bit on the finish with a pine/spruce hop bitterness showing up, but there is still a caramel sweetness in the back of the mouth to balance that.  All things considered, the perfect beer to welcome in a new year with.

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The Twelve Beers of Christmas- XI

St. Nick’s Oak Spiced Porter

  A few days before Christmas an early present arrived on my desk: a couple of bottles of Christmas beer that I had not been expecting or had even heard of.  The mystery beer was a collaboration brew by the teams at Russell Brewing and their sister company Fort Garry Brewing, and went by the name St Nick’s Oak Spiced Porter.  I have always been a strong proponent of being gracious about accepting a gift, so I took it home and drank it.  And if you should come across one, you should too.  Here’s why:

  The porter is a deep brown, almost black, and holds up a tight tan head.  The scent of the porter is wonderfully complex.  I found lots of malty molasses, black cherries and a coffee/vanilla combination that put me in mind of a vanilla latte.  Full-bodied, creamy, with  tastes of dark chocolate, coffee, cocoa, molasses and subtle vanilla and spice hints.  More of the same on the finish, with the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg) exerting a little more influence, and a dark plum note as well.  A superb blend of flavors.
  So while I can not tell you for certain that there is a Santa Claus, I strongly suspect there is.  How else would this beer arrive, unannounced and unexpected?  I can, however, guarantee you that there is a St. Nick.  And he makes a darn fine porter.
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The Twelve Beers of Christmas- X

From Santa’s fridge to yours

Christmas beer number 10 sees us visiting Newport, Oregon.  The hardworking crew at Rogue Ales has been  supplying the thirsty masses with quality craft brews since 1988.  And since it is currently December 25, it seems only fitting that we should be sipping on Santa’s Private Reserve.

This is not your typical winter ale.  Santa’s Private Reserve pours out a hazy, ruddy, brown with a tan head that leaves a ton of lacing.  The scent is mostly citrus and pine hops, with a vague burnt sugar aroma.  The taste is all about hops.  Pine, pine sap, peppermint, oregano and just enough caramel maltiness to keep you coming back for more.  The ale finish is long and sharp with a little bit of a buttery feel.   Rogue has provided a nice change from the usual winter offerings - winter ale for hopheads.  No wonder Santa has been holding out on us.

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