Saturday, June 2, 2012

Vancouver Craft Beer Week

Vancouverites look forward to spring since April showers brings May flowers. How lovely. But really, what do we want besides sprouting daffodils? Vancouver Craft Beer Week! The brainchild of Rick Green and Chris Bjerrisgaard – two craft beer loving guys who wanted to kick it up a notch in Vancouver. Our craft beer scene has expanded exponentially year after year so it’s only fitting that we have 60+ breweries at 60+ events over nine days (ok, we know it’s more than a week but craft beer 1.28 week didn’t sound as good).

There were so many great events to pick but we had to pace ourselves. The coveted beer nerd event was the Alibi Room’s Hoppapalooza and after some challenging ticketing issues, we scored two tickets (at 1:30am…).

But first, our Saturday night at our local pub in Richmond, O’Hare’s Gastropub. This was a non-ticketed event and the masses showed up for a great list of ten taps including the VCBW’s own Cascadian Brown and an amazing cask from Russell – the Imperial/Double IPA wooden cask. The Beerthirst crew were representing in full force and even had a tasting of the Russell beers at the O’Hare's liquor store including the Blood Alley Bitter, A Wee Angry Scotch Ale and the award winning IP’eh. I had some of my favourites including the North Coast Le Merle Saison, A Wee Angry Scotch Ale (said in the worst Scottish accent you can muster up) and the Acme California IPA. Of course, I had to try the cask and it was so damn tasty! The downside to that, everyone else thought so as well so a second pint wasn’t an option. We spent a great evening with the Beerthirst guys and our other craft beer pals. It was good to see some of the O’Hare's regulars trying out new beers and instead of ordering their normal honey brown, they ventured out and had one of the special taps. We’re converting you, one at a time….beware!

Tom from Beerthirst pulling pints of the Russell
Inperial/Doubel IPA
O'Hare's Beer List

Since we walked there on Saturday night, we had to go back on Monday to visit the liquor store and came home with the motherload, per usual. If you haven’t checked out the O’Hare's liquor store, do it! Best selection in Richmond hands down! We just signed up for their beer club for 5% off on all liquor store purchases plus bi-monthly, they put together a box of 7 – 9 beers. I’m interested to see what they source for these boxes.  

Sunday night was Hoppapalooza at the Alibi Room, which have been serving craft beer for years and have become one of the best known craft beer restaurants in the city.

The first four pages of the Hoppapalooza program were dedicated to some solid advice from owner, Nigel, and shoutouts to the local beer industry. He could have just given us the list of beers, which occupied pages five through nine, but he took the opportunity to share some thoughts and comment on the local beer scene.

Nigel's Words of Wisdom
The beer list didn’t disappoint with twenty-six breweries on tap and in casks. With a name like Hoppapalooza, I expected only hoppy beers but they threw in some saison’s, barley wine and sours to name a few. There were plenty of hoppy IPA’s to keep us hopheads occupied, no fear! We stayed until the bitter (no pun intended) end at 10:00pm.

I always try to taste beers that I haven’t had before, or a cask of what I’ve had in bottle, as there’s always a distinct difference. We were just at Upright Brewing in April and had their full line-up so while people were clamouring for Four, Five, Six and Seven, I ventured to other breweries. I wish I could have tried them all but of the tasters I had, my favourites were, in no particular order:

-          Thors Hammer – Barley Wine; Central City Brewing
-          Frambroise Sour Raspberry; Iian Hill of Yaletown Brewing
-          City Never Sleeps – Black Saison; Gigantic Brewing
-          The Abyss; Deschutes Brewing
-          Wrath of Khan (cask) – Home Grown Hop IPA; Tariq Khan of Big Ridge Brewing
-          Barnacle (cask) – White IPA; Lighthouse Brewing

We had a great night with beer friends Kristi and Derek and look forward to Hoppapalooza IV!

Wednesday night wasn’t a planned night out but we decided to go to the Blue Canoe and check out their Driftwood beer pairing taster menu.  The Blue Canoe is always a great choice and the smoked duck prosciutto wrapped Qualicum bay scallop sounded too good to pass up, paired with a White Bark Ale. Two minutes after we sit down and who comes in? Why it’s the Beerthirst guys – Tom, Rob, Leo and Norm. And who do they have with them? Well no other than Dick Cantwell (Head Brewer and Founder) and Matt Thompson (Director of Sales and Marketing) from Elysian Brewing in Seattle. They asked us to join them and we had platters of amazing seafood, as Blue Canoe is known for, as well as great Driftwood and Elysian beers. Dick started with a Fat Tug and liked it so much, he made it his session beer. I knew I liked this guy for a reason. They were in town as the following night, there was an Elysian twenty tap takeover at the Pumphouse Pub, but I’ll get to that shortly. Amazing food, service, beer and company and as far as impromptu evenings go, this one is high up on my list.

Amazing Seafood Platter at Blue Canoe
Thursday night we had double duty – we couldn’t decide between Smiley’s Brothers in Hops and the Elysian Twenty Tap Takeover at Pumphouse Pub so doing the only reasonable thing, we did both! We both work downtown so we headed over to Smiley’s right after work and enjoyed beers from Gigantic, Central City and Ninkasi. We planned an 8:30 departure time and headed to the Pumphouse. They had sold over 180 tickets to the Elysian event and the place was hopping! What beer nerd wouldn’t want to sample twenty different Elysian beers especially ones that had never graced our blessed Canadian soil before? I only had a few samples, but the Split Shot Espresso Milk Stout was my favourite of the night. Elysian, you can come do a tap takeover in my city any time you wish. Any time. I’ll even come pick you up. A big thank you to Beerthirst for bringing them to us and for hosting such a great night. And Friday, unlike my unfortunate husband, I took the day off and whispered happy thoughts to my liver.

My only regrets about the VCBW – that we couldn’t be in two places at once. We went to Hoppapalooza the same night that the Hog Shack had their Odin Brewing dinner. I heard it was outstanding and chef John Hing did a fabulous job with the pairing. The only other regret, that Gatorade wasn’t on sale that week…     
Until the next beer event, cheers!