Yes, I am late posting about this. I do apologize, I was in a rush to get things done before my vacation and left this post a little too late. However, it was a really good event and the first of its kind in the South Okanagan, so I wanted to make sure to give it some attention.
This event was the creation of CAMRA SO’s Home Brewing Liaison, Eike, our President, Kim, and Kari and Brent from Square One Hop Growers. Entry was limited to 10 brewers, but otherwise open to any brewer and any style category. It was held at Square One’s beautiful location on the Upper Bench, off the road to Naramata. Many of the hop bines were still hanging in the yard, giving it a very appropriate ambiance!
We were all a bit nervous the day of, as when holding an event for the first time there’s always concern that something may go wrong, or even worse, no one will show up! The brewers were all getting their tables ready when I got there. I had volunteered to serve for a friend of mine, Steve (who you may remember from my post on A Guy With A Shovel Hop Yards) who made an ESB fresh hopped with his own Centennial and Cascade hops.
Due to the damp weather, the brewers were setting up inside of the shop building (that was under construction when I interviewed Kari and Brent earlier this summer). It was a good thing the construction was finished, as it was nice to be out of the wind and rain. We were also sharing the space with racks and racks of drying hops, which lent an enticing aroma to the space. Wine Crush Market was also on site, serving the most amazing stuffed beer burger on spent grain buns – it was life altering! Their wood oven was set up outside, which also added to the aromatics of the farm! We were ready to go!
At first there was just a trickle of people coming through, some clearly recognizable from the local beer scene. Then more and more people started arriving, people I had never seen before. I started to wonder what was going on when one old fellow kept asking the different brewers about how beer was made, and was quite surprised to hear that it ferments in a process similar to making wine! Square One is located in the middle of Naramata’s winery belt, and so it seems a number of wine-tours had seen the cars parked outside and wandered in, thinking it was a winery event! Brent and Kari had also erected signs on the popular KVR trail beside their property, drawing in a number of curious neighbours and hikers.
There was an incredible amount of people, and great exposure both for the home brewers that were competing as well as for craft beer and homebrewing in general. Square One were great hosts and gave demonstrations of their hop harvester as well as tours of their hop farm. As well Shawn from Kelowna Brew Supply competed and brought some brewing equipment down to display and was able to answer questions about homebrewing ingredients and equipment.
I did get a chance to get outside of my booth and sample some of the competitor’s goods. I was so impressed, everyone had a beer that I absolutely would have had at least another glass of (if not several). The winners were all very deserving: Marc with his Chocolate Chip Cookie Ale took 1st, 2nd was Evan with his Area 34 Milk Brown 34C, and 3rd was Brad with his Slippery When Wet Hop Pale Ale (Brad’s dry hopped version was also very good!).
The success of this event was discussed at our last CAMRA SO meeting, and we’ve all agreed it will be held again on the 3rd Saturday of September next year. The main issue this year was that notice for the event was a bit short, so I’m hoping that if we can give brewers more advance notice next year we’ll have even more talented brewers participating!
Today’s Beer: I’m enjoying a $9.00 pint at Millstream in Toronto’s airport while waiting for my flight to Amsterdam. I stayed true to my roots and chose the West Coast IPA, which is actually pretty darn tasty. Brewed with Mosaic, El Dorado and Hallertau Blanc it’s got lots of fruity grapefruit and tropical notes. Not too bad for my last Canadian beer for a while!
Today’s Beer: I can’t go to Vancouver without dropping by Brassneck to see what’s new on tap. Today we have 10×10 centennial pale ale, Passive Aggresive dry-hopped pale ale, On Trick Pony single hop amarillo IPA, Raspberry Changeling sour, No Brainer corn lager, Joe’s Barn saison, Hibiscus wit and Brassneck Ale. I’m loving the Changeling while Scott’s all about the One Trick.
Today’s Beer: Finally made it up to Red Collar in Kamloops. I’m enjoying a jug of their Belgian Wit with my sister, outside while the sun goes down. Aroma is a little funky, but the flavour is crisp with a hint of citrus and a bit of bitterness, followed by a classic wheat finish. A perfect patio pint.
Today’s Beer: I drove down to the Firehall Beer Shop for their Sask Cask tonight. They took their False Alarm Bitter, aged it in an oak cask (that is starting to develop some wild yeasts), added a whole whack of Saskatoon Berries, half a vanilla bean and some virgin spirits (to sanitize the berries). It’s a neat blend of tart, rich and bitter. It’s super fun hanging out listening to vinyl and chatting beers with the gang here. Wish this place was open when I used to spend more time in Oliver!
Today’s Beer: stopped by Bad Tattoo Brewing to try their R&D Cherry Wit. This beer is the culmination of a year-long homebrewing competition. Derek Hyde, the winner, got the opportunity to collaborate on and brew this beer with the Bad Tattoo team. A light fruity aroma blends with a spicey and slightly tart flavour. Very easy to drink and refreshing – this is sure to be a hit on the patio today!
I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Sunshine Coast and Tofino in May for a week-long road trip with my boyfriend, Scott. Of course I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit a few breweries along the way. This followed the route of the Coastal Ale Trail, part of the larger BC Ale Trail tourism initiative to establish craft-beer specific tourism. This project will be officially launching during Craft Beer Month in October, but check out the newest issue of What’s Brewing Magazine for a sneak peek at some of the routes.
Persephone Brewing Company – Gibsons, BC
The circular route we followed included several ferries. The problem with ferries is if you don’t have a reservation, you might not make it on the boat. We were “coned” – which if you aren’t familiar with the term involves a BC Ferries Worker stopping you from proceeding in your line-up onto the boat by placing a large orange traffic cone in front of your vehicle. Horseshoe Bay isn’t a bad place to spend a few hours, but unfortunately I had booked a tour at Persephone and they were too busy to reschedule to later in the day. I was crushed, but decided to look at it as an opportunity to plan another trip to Gibsons later this summer.
We still stopped off at the Brewery, in order to quench our thirst and to pick up some beers for the trip. The place was packed, there were people everywhere – inside, outside, everywhere you looked. A live band was playing inside, and some really tantalizing smells were wafting from the food truck outside.
We got a couple of flights and tried the Golden Goddess Ale, Hop Yard Red Ale, Best Bitter, Dry Irish Stout, Double IPA, and a collaboration ale with Deep Cove whose name I can’t recall but it had coffee in it. I liked the Red ale best, while Scott was a fan of the stout. We hung out for a bit savoring our drinks and people watching. Bohdi got to join us on the patio and as usual he got lots of attention from everyone around. They had a crew there filming for the just-launched investment opportunity, so it was cool seeing that go on as well.
We filled up some growlers, grabbed some cans (to take hiking later in the trip) and a few bottles to bring back home. Here’s hoping to get back there again and actually do a tour with the crew there – the Beer Farm has some really great ideas about sustainable agriculture and community involvement so it would be really neat to be get some more details on how they are operating.
Always good advice.
Townsite Brewing – Powell River, BC
I was able to arrange a tour with Andrea, the (read card operations manager) and I was really looking forward to visiting as we have a hard time finding their beer in the Okanagan. If you are wondering why the name Townsite it’s because the brewery is located in the historic section of Powell River, known as Townsite.
The brewery itself is located in a beautiful heritage building, and I learned that the tanks and fermentors had to be built specifically to fit into the low-ceilings of the brewing space. Andrea told us that all of their equipment was as manual as possible, as it is easier to fix than automatic parts. However, manual equipment is also quite labour intensive, and all of the staff work quite hard to keep things running smoothly and keep the beer flowing.
Cedric, the head brewer, was spotted hard at work taking samples from the fermentors to check specific gravity. Andrea told us that he and his wife, Chloe, met in Montreal, and both are highly educated in the brewing sciences. Cedric originally started his career in Belgium, which explains that countries influence on many of their beers. They came to Powell River with the specific goal of opening a brewery, which was a bit unusual due to the geographic isolation and the relative lack of craft beer options in the town at that time. The local population has really embraced Townsite, and it is available on tap in many locations in the town. They also do good business out of their tasting room, with several beers available for growler-fills only, such as the Suncoast Ale.
The brewery was under construction while we were there, they are renovating the upstairs portion of the building to create a new tasting area up there, as well as improvements to the current grain and barrel storage rooms. The barrel room was really interesting for me to see, for a limited production brewery they had an impressive barrel collection, one piqued my interest being labelled as a Brett from December 2014. They get many of their barrels from Vancouver Island wineries, one beer is aging in a blackberry wine barrel, which sounds amazing!
We followed Andrea down to the tasting room where we tried a dizzying array of samples. I was really impressed at the number of variations of styles that they were producing, with year-round, seasonals and single-batch beers being produced. I have to admit, tasting all of this wonderful beer at 11:00 in the morning… I may have lost track of all of the ones we tried. I can say that every single one of them was amazing, and many were totally unique. As best as I can remember we tried the Suncoast Pale Ale, Pow-Town Porter, Tin Hat IPA, Zunga Blonde Ale, Zwarte Wheat – a dark witbier, 7800 Saison, Charleston Belgian Triple, Perfect Storm Oatmeal Stout, Shiny Penny Belgian IPA, Cardena Belgian Quad and probably a few more. I also really enjoyed the names of the beers – many are named for local landmarks such as Tin Hat Mountian, or local colloquialisms such as Zunga – the name for a rope swing that you use to launch yourself into a body of water.
Again we filled up growlers for our trip, and filled a box with beer to take home. You’ll probably notice several Townsite beers on the blog over the next few weeks as I work my way through my collection! (talk about the beer that is even better when cellared)
Gladstone Brewing Co. – Courtenay, BC
I had heard that there were several good breweries in the Courtenay and Cumberland area – Gladstone, Forbidden, and Cumberland. Sadly, Gladstone was the only one open on a Monday, so I wasn’t able to go to the other two, which was really disappointing for me. Oh well, looks like I’ll have to try again next year!
Gladstone was on the corner of a funky complex that also housed a pizzeria and a coffee shop. The vibe there was sort of garage/DIY/Rockabilly blend. I tried the Sterling Belgian Single, Pilsner, Royston IPA and the Porter.I enjoyed all of them, but found the Royston IPA really stood out with lots of citrus and tropical flavours.The tasting lounge was cozy, but had an impressive set of long tables made with the trunk of an entire tree. They also had a spacious patio outside, and with the pizzeria next door you could probably spend quite a bit of time there.
Tofino Brewing Co. – Tofino, BC
We staying in Tofino for 6 nights, and kept coming back to the brewery to refill our growlers. I love their beer, and love visiting the brewery. It might not look like much from the parking lot, but it’s open and spacious, due to the high ceilings and big bay doors, and has a welcoming atmosphere. On one side is the tasting lounge and on the other is the brewery. While we were there we were able to watch various aspects of the brewing process unfold while we sipped on the final product! It was always packed full of people, no matter what day or time we were there, it seemed like a great local hangout!
While we were there we had fills of the Kelp Stout, Hoppin Cretin IPA, Tuff Session Ale and Blonde Ale. All four are great. I especially enjoyed making radlers with the blonde to have earlier in the day, and finishing off the evening with the stout around the fire. We also were able to pick up their Lager in cans, which was so great for our various adventures around the area. I’m really glad to see more breweries taking advantage of mobile canning units, as travelling with growlers or bombers is pretty awkward.
We were also lucky enough to be able to arrive just as they were releasing their Spruce Tree Ale, which out of all of the various tree-inspired beers in BC is my personal favourite. I learned on one of our visits that they actually pay someone to go out into the forest and pick the Sitka spruce tips for this beer. That sounds like such an awesome job! As well, I also learned that the Kelp Stout, probably one of the most unique beers around, uses fresh kelp straight from the ocean both during the boil and then to condition the final product. The kelp is also harvested locally. No wonder this place is always packed with locals and tourists alike, they really have embraced the spirit of the West Coast here!
Longwood Brew Pub – Nanaimo, BC
On our way home, I wanted to stop off in Nanaimo and check out the three breweries there, Longwood, White Sails and Wolf. It was a Monday again, and Wolf was closed, but I was able to check out the other two.
Longwood Brew Pub has been a popular pub in Nanaimo for a while now, but underwent a rebranding recently that wound up with them opening a production brewery for bottled product as well as selling draught beer at the pub. We had the IPA, ISA, Dunkleweizen, ESB, Irish Red Ale, Framboise, Russian Imperial Stout and Two Penny Ale. I liked the Irish Red and the Dunkelweizen the best, while Scott really liked the Stout and the Raspberry.
The beers we had at the brewpub are made on site, so they do differ somewhat from those brewed at the production brewery. The grain is stored on the top floor, brewed on the middle floor, and then the fermentors are in a cold room on the bottom floor – all visible to the public from the different areas in the pub. I also found it interesting that half of the offerings were served at cellar temperature, which you don’t see too much these days.
White Sails Brewing – Nanaimo, BC
This brewery was the hidden gem of the trip. I had never had anything from them before, and I was really impressed. The space was bright and open with the brewery behind glass on one side, and the tasting room on the other. There was lots of seating and a stack of board games as well, which made me wish we didn’t have a ferry to catch!
I tried everything on tap, and again was really blown away by the quality of their beer. All styles were crisp, clean and very well executed. We learned that they use local and organic ingredients where and when they can. I had the Departure Bay Session Ale, Old City SMASH II, Buttertubs Tafelbier, Yellowpoint Pale Ale, Mount Benson IPA, Snake Island CDA and Gallows Point Chocolate Porter. In case you couldn’t guess, all of the names are local geographic features from around the area. The IPA and CDA were standouts for me, but most of all was their chocolate porter. I have never had a beer like that before in my life. It was so rich and smooth with minimal bitterness. It was so good I had a growler to myself later in the week to celebrate my birthday, and it was like drinking liquid chocolate cake! I am sure we will be seeing more from this brewery in the future, but if you are ever in the area for sure check these guys out!
Of course the trip was over too soon, but I was happy that in just one week Scott and I got to visit quite a few breweries, as well as go hiking, kayaking, surfing, fishing, and also had some time to just relax on the beach. We really live in such a beautiful province, there is so much to see and explore!
Today’s Beer: okay so it’s not a beer, but this cider from Howling Moon is definitely craft. I stopped by the cidery in Oliver a few weeks ago for their opening. The owners are charming and have big plans for their property including a teaching orchard where growers in the valley can come to learn more about cider apples. With farmer’s struggling to make ends meet with dessert apples, it makes sense to look at cider apples, which bring in much better prices! This cider is their dryest version, tart and slightly tannic made with 60% cider apples. I’m not a fan of sweet cider, so this English-style is perfect for me.They also do an off-dry for those who prefer some sweetness and an apple wine blended with late harvest Pinot Blanc grapes. If you’re in the area stop by and say hello!
Today’s Beer: stopped at Persephone Brewing on our way up the Sunshine Coast today. The place was packed, with live music playing and a food truck onsite. I felt like we could have hung out on their Beer Farm all afternoon, it was so relaxed and welcoming. We tried the Best Bitter (regular and nitro), Red Ale, Goddess Golden Ale, Double IPA, Dry Irish Stout and a Coffee California Common which was a collab with Deep Cove. Top choices were the Red and the Bitter. Delicious!
Today’s Beer: this is not the first time I’ve posted about Cannery Brewing’s The Muse and The Golden Promise, but it’s the first time from a bottle, so that counts as different enough, right? Ever since this Extra Pale Ale was released as an Ex-beer-imental tap a few months ago I’ve been hooked. Using Golden Promise malt it has an enticing malt aroma enhanced with fragrant Simcoe hops. While it comes across as quite hoppy, there isn’t the lasting bitterness you would get from an IPA. Crisp, well carbonated, balanced and flavourful this is such a great beer, it is right up in my top 1o province-wide right now. Dig the dreamy label? A local artist and brewery customer, Myron Campbell, created this!