Friday, December 27, 2013

Craft Beer Advent Calendar

As a kid, I looked forward to the chocolate advent calendar. You know the one – Mom bought it for 99¢ and the chocolate tasted like cardboard dipped in chocolate syrup. It was glorious.

Now that I’m a bigger kid and can’t stomach fake chocolate (blech), I needed something else to entertain me through the holidays other than making fun of the Xmas sweaters at Northern Reflections. Well low and behold, last year Craft Beer Importer  released a craft beer advent calendar. Thank you Santa!

Each day in December 2012, we opened the box with great anticipation. And each night, after drinking the European beer, we were filled with regret. Regret that we paid $130 for introductory craft beers from Europe that didn’t travel well and were bottled in the summer. Low ABV beers that travel from Europe and then proceed to sit in an unrefrigerated  warehouse for months are a recipe for disaster.

We swore we wouldn’t buy it again in 2013.

Ok. We caved. We bought it again in 2013. Now don’t shake your head at me, it was North American beers this time and we’d heard that they wised up and used higher ABV beers this time. We kept last year’s box and decided to make our own advent calendar with beers that we’d purchased throughout the year. After all, there are two of us and one shared little bottle isn’t very much holiday cheer.

So let’s do a comparison of the purchased calendar vs. our home made calendar. Rock and roll.

Craft Beer Importer Calendar
Lynn & Kelly’s Super Awesome Calendar
My Rating
My Rating
Dec 1
Nickel Brook – Maple Porter
North Coast – Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout
Dec 2
Back Forty – Kudzu Porter
Evil Twin – Ashtray Heart Imperial Stout
Dec 3
Cucapa – Obsura Porter
Brooklyn – Black Chocolate Stout
Dec 4
Yukon – 39 ½ Foot Pole Fruit Beer
Sierra Nevada – Narwhal (2012) Imperial Stout
Dec 5
Newport Storm – Hurricane Amber Ale
Crooked Stave - L’Brett D’Or
Dec 6
Grizzly Paw – Moose Knuckle Winter Stout
Brouwerji De Ranke – Noir de Dottignies Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Dec 7
Stillwater – Existent Saison
Brasserie de la Senne – Taras Boulba Belgian Pale Ale
Dec 8
Lake of Bays – Spark House Red Ale
Brouwerij Abdij – Westmalle Tripel
Dec 9
Tap It – IPA
Brasserie d’Orval – Orval Belgian Pale Ale
Dec 10
Back Forty – Truck Stop Honey Brown Ale
Dogfish Head – 120 Minute IPA (2013)
Dec 11
Newport  Storm – India Point Ale American IPA
Brouwerij De Sint-Sixtusabdij – Trappist Westvleteren 8 (2012) Belgian Dubbel
Dec 12
Cameron’s – Auburn Amber Ale
Left Hand – Fade to Black Vol 4 Black IPA
Dec 13
Peak – Espresso Amber Ale
Wasatch – Polygamy Porter
Dec 14
Nickel Brook – Bolshevik Bastard Russian Imperial Stout
Stone – Smoked Porter with Chipotle Peppers
Dec 15
Scheldebrouwerij – Hollow Point Quad
St-Ambroise – Russian Imperial Stout
Dec 16
Lake of Bays – Crosswind Pale Ale
Brasserie de la Senne – Zinnebir Belgian Pale Ale
Dec 17
Ruckus – Hedonism Irish Red Ale
Stillwater – A Saison Darkly
Dec 18
Cameron’s – Cream Ale
Abbaye Notre-Dame – Trappistes Rochefort 6 Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Dec 19
Newport Storm – Rhode Island Blueberry Fruit Beer
Howe Sound – Woolly Bugger (2012) Barley Wine
Dec 20
Lighthouse – Winter Ale
Brasserie du Bocq – Blanche de Namur Witbier
Dec 21
Peak – Hop Noir Black IPA
Lost Abbey – Red Poppy Ale (2013) Flanders Red
Dec 22
Tap It – American Standard Pale Ale
Stone – Oaked Arrogant Bastard Strong Ale
Dec 23
Evil Twin – Low Life Pilsner
Brouwerij De Sint-Sixtusabdij – Trappist Westvleteren 12 (2012)
Dec 24
Brasserie Dunham – Black IPA
Left Hand – Milk Stout Nitro


You don’t need to be a whiz at math to see who won this battle but I still did the math for you.  Lynn & Kelly’s Super Awesome Advent Calendar crushed the North American box. We are the champions my friends….and we’ll keep on drinking ‘til the end….
Did you notice that six breweries had more than one beer in the box? (Newport Storm had three). That’s not necessarily a bad thing but I was surprised that they didn’t have 24 unique breweries represented.
I don't think the importer is doing the breweries any favours by selling their beers in this format. I know that a lot of these beers would have been better fresh and thus, I'm certainly not making an opinion about any of these beers or the breweries. Try them again, fresh, before deciding.

The moral of this story, even if you tell me that the 2014 box is full of puppies, I will not be buying it. Well, maybe if it really is full of puppies, but not if it’s more entry-level, ho-hum beers that were bottled in the summer and aren’t destined for greatness after sitting in a warehouse for 6 months. Screw that. Now we have two boxes we can use to make our own calendars.

For 2014, Kelly and I are going to shop separately (likely in the US) in November and make each other a fantastic box of beers. Next year’s winner will be a tough one to call since we both have fantastic taste in beer.*

*I’ll win

Monday, November 18, 2013

Will Travel For Beer

From the latest issue of BC Craft Beer News


Attending beer festivals in your home town is convenient, affordable, fun and full of people you know (and hopefully like), so why travel to a festival?

You deserve a vacation (yes, you) and it’s a great excuse to discover new beers that you can’t find at home. I’ve had many a beer adventure in the past few years and my husband and I now plan our trips around this theme. Close to home, we go to the Great Canadian Beer Festival (GCBF) in Victoria, which is held during the first weekend of September (September 6-7, 2013). Established in 1993, GCBF is the longest running, craft-only festival in Canada. It hosts many BC breweries, a smattering of other Canadian breweries as well as a few from the USA. It’s a well-run festival with plenty of beer options and a beautiful city to visit.

Canada is stepping up their game and more large festivals are cropping up every month. Cask Days, in its 9th year, is a Toronto festival (October 19-20, 2013) and has an impressive lineup of over 200 casks representing more than 100 breweries from Canada and this year’s feature breweries from the United Kingdom. This is a worthy vacation destination for this festival alone.

Explore New Cities & Countries
Your vacation may have a beer festival as its epicenter but while you’re there, you will undoubtedly explore the new city/country. Discovering the local culture and meeting new people makes traveling interesting and rewarding.

Our vacations have mainly focused on US destinations such as Seattle (Seattle International Beer Festival), Portland (Fresh Hop Festival), San Diego (Stone Brewing Anniversary and Invitational Beer Festival), New York (various venues) and most recently, Denver for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) Oct 10-12. I’ll write on the GABF experience in my next article. The US has a huge craft beer market and with a little research at, you can find your next vacation destination. Beer Advocate has a great search engine where you can sort the festivals by country.

Internationally, the options are limitless. Belgium is a mecca for amazing beer and enormous beer festivals and is on our list for September 2014 (Borefts Beer Festival). Germany, England, Australia and countless other countries host beer festivals – you have a lot of traveling to do so get on it.

Size (matters)
The local Vancouver festivals are relatively small (20 - 30 breweries participate), last 4-5 hours and can have limited selection. Depending on the festival , each brewery may only bring one cask/keg or if it’s a larger festival with an broader audience of both new and experienced craft beer drinkers, they may bring a few of their standard beers. Although I may like their usual beers, I like to try new and experimental beers, casks, seasonal releases and rare or aged beers. A larger beer festival that is stretched over two or three days is a perfect opportunity to challenge your palate and try numerous beers.

Mmm, no, I’m not talking about a pretty new spoon for your collection – you’re bringing back beer, t-shirts and glassware from breweries and maybe a growler or two. Keeping within duty limits, of course, maximize your 8.5 litre allotment per person and purchase bottles from your favourite breweries. Hopefully you’ll find some rare gems to make your friends even more jealous.

Have I convinced you yet that travel and beer go hand-in-hand?   Good – here are some travel tips.

Travel tips
  • Pack lightly so you have room to bring back beer and souvenirs.
  • Consider taking some of your favourite local beers to your destination. Your new beer friends will love you.
  • Bring an extra carry-on suitcase in your checked luggage. It’s cheaper to check two bags than to pay the overweight charges on one bag.
  • Pack bubble wrap – t-shirts work too but I use bubble wrap on the bottles and t-shirts to fill in any space around the bottles. I haven’t had a broken bottle yet.
  • Take a travel scale to make sure you don’t go over the 50lb weight restriction!

Now go enjoy your vacation and don’t forget to send me a postcard, or better yet, bring me back a beer.

Upcoming Beer Festivals


November 30, 2013    FRASER VALLEY CULTURE & CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL, Chilliwack, BC
March 08, 2014           FREDERICTON CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL, Fredericton, NB
April 19, 2014              ALBINO RHINO BEERTUBEROOLAPOLOOZA 2014, Ridgeway, ON
June 11 – 15, 2014     MONDIAL DE LA BIÈRE 2014, Montreal, QC
July 25 – 27, 2014      TORONTO’S FESTIVAL OF BEER, Toronto, ON
September 5-6, 2014  GREAT CANADIAN BEER FESTIVAL, Victoria, BC

USA and International

November 2013
MEDWAY BEER FESTIVAL, Chatham, England (14th – 16th)
NEW YORK BEER FESTIVAL, Rotherham, England (14th – 16th)
THE DRAFT FESTIVAL, Houston, TX (17th)
STOKE BEER FESTIVAL, Stoke, England (17th)
BELFAST BEER & CIDER FESTIVAL, Belfast, Northern Ireland (21st – 23rd)
CARRIBEAN RUM & BEER FESTIVAL, Grand Anse, Grenada (22nd – 23rd)
CAPE TOWN FESTIVAL OF BEER, Cape Town, South Africa (22nd – 24th)
DUDLEY WINTER ALES FESTIVAL, Dudley, England (28th – 30th)

December 2013
PIG’S EAR BEER & CIDER FESTIVAL, London, England (3rd – 7th)
HARWICH & DOVERCOURT WINTER ALE FESTIVAL, Dovercourt, England (4th – 7th)
SMUGGLER’S NOTCH BREWFEST PART 1, Jeffersonville, VT (7th)
FRIDAY THE FIRKENTEENTH, Philadelphia, PA (13th)
KERSTBIERFESTIVAL, Essen, Belgium (14th – 15th)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Steveston Beer Fest!

My quaint neighbourhood of Steveston, in Richmond BC, has a great selection of craft beer at O’Hare’s GastroPub, Hog Shack, Blue Canoe, Mandalay Lounge & Steakhouse, Gudrun,  The Buck & Ear and you’ll even find a few at Tapenade Bistro. Not bad for sleepy little Steveston, not bad at all.

O’Hare’s decided to take Richmond beer drinkers to the next level by hosting the inaugural Steveston Beer Fest on October 5. The event sold out weeks in advance to 450 happy beer drinkers – that’s pretty damn impressive for their first year. What was even more notable was that the net proceeds from the event were donated to the Richmond Christmas Fund which, I hear, amounted to more than $10,000!

I’ve been to many beer events and believe me, they’re not always organized well or held in a good location. A huge hat tip to O’Hare’s as the historic Gulf of Georgia Cannery was a cool venue to host the event. Built in 1894, the 55,000 s.f. museum allowed for multiple beer and food tables to weave in and around the canning equipment. The evening flowed seamlessly and the crowd appeared to be having a fantastic evening.  Over thirty-five breweries were represented ranging from BC craft beer favourites, imports and a couple of bigger breweries that most beer drinkers would recognize. The event wasn’t just for the beer geeks, it was meant to appeal to the macro beer drinkers – who would likely try craft and would live happily ever after in the magical world of craft beer, unicorns and bunnies. It’s nicer on this side.

Steveston is a true community and this was evident by the list of non-beer vendors that participated in the festival. I’ve never been so full after a beer festival but it was difficult to walk by all the delicious food samples. Other festivals should take note of this as the food was included in the price of admission ($40) and it ensured that people had many food options. The food was fantastic and included all my favourites: Bean & Beyond Café, Bell’s Bake Shop, Blue Canoe, D Original Sausage Haus, Hog Shack Cook House, Mandalay Lounge & Steakhouse, O’Hare’s GastroPub, Pajo’s Fish & Chips, Steveston Pizza and Tapenade Bistro.


Since O’Hare’s is a six minute walk from our house (not that we’ve timed it), we’ve gotten to know Erinn & Grant from O’Hare’s over the past couple of years. They are fantastic people, huge supporters of craft beer both in their pub and their neighbouring liquor store, and give back to their community. It’s apparent from the local vendors that supported this event that they are well respected in the community.

Errin & Grant
I’m looking forward to year two of the festival!
Huge thanks to Erinn, Grant and Krystle from O’Hare’s for all their hard work planning this event and putting Steveston on the map. Cheers!  


(check their websites to see the brands they represent)