Tag Archives: Craft Beer

Visiting Driftwood Brewery, Victoria, BC, Canada

driftwood brewing

Driftwood opened back in 2008, when there were just 55 breweries in British Columbia. Now there are 155. They’re based in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, which has around 25 breweries and brew pubs. Driftwood have grown quite a bit and now are the fifth largest craft brewer in BC. They do just larger format bottles and draft.

Gary Lindsay. co-owner

Gary Lindsay. co-owner

‘We wanted to brew a number of different styles, and the 650 ml bottle makes that possible,’ explains co-owner Gary Lindsay. ‘It’s the best margin and it’s simple.’

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As they’ve grown they’ve invested $2m on a new bottling line which allows them to control oxygen pick-up, resulting in better quality beers that last longer. The bewery capacity has risen from 30 hl to 60 hl, and this year they’ll produce 21 000 hl of beer. They make six core beers and on top of this there are seasonals and limited releases.

Gary explains that as a hop-centred brewery, the hop profile is key to the success of their beers. ‘If it changes, customers notice,’ he says. So a lot of work goes into making sure that the beers are consistent even though the hop harvests are different. They have their hop contracts sorted out until 2020.

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Driftwood have 60 barrels and produce a range of sours. Gary prefers barrel-aged sours and isn’t a fan of kettle sours. ‘For an IPA the turnaround is 10-14 days. For sours it is a year,’ he explains. ‘They cost a lot to make.’ Despite the current popularity of sours, he doesn’t think they will be the next IPAs because of this cost, and the fact that the flavour is not for everyone.

When Driftwood started in 2008 it was at the height of the craft boom, and they couldn’t source the hops to make IPA. So they began by focusing on Belgian styles. Now, though, their best-selling beer is the Fat Tug IPA. It’s 65% of their sales. There’s a huge malt base here but it isn’t a complex malt base. A ton of dry hopping develops the nose and flavour, but with the right base these bitter, astringent characters work really well. This is Driftwood’s skill: beers where all the flavours are integrated.

driftwood fat tug ipa

The beers

Driftwood Cry Me a River Gose
5% alcohol
A salted sour white beer. Fresh, tangy and a bit salty. Tart and sour with some citrussy notes. Has freshness but also nice texture. Refreshing and saline. 8/10

Driftwood Farm Hand Saison
5.5.% alcohol
Made with Chouffe yeast plus white and black peppercorns. Fresh and tangy with lovely detail, and quite a bit of spiciness. Lively, spicy and vivid with a peppery edge. 8.5/10

Driftwood Entangled Haffenweis
7% alcohol
With the fruity, tropical north American hop Mosaic. Extremely fruity and very tropical, with some passionfruit. Nice texture here with toffee, apricot, marmalade and spice. 9/10

Driftwood Black Stone Porter
Burnt coffee nose. Very dry and savoury. Complex and spicy with tarry roast coffee notes. Dry on the finish, with some iron notes. 8/10

Driftwood Fat Tug IPA
7% alcohol
Amarillo is the main hop, supported by Cascade, Columbus and a few others. Beautifully complex, fresh and spicy with grapefruit and passionfruit. Powerful with a bit of sweet malt but also lovely complexity and freshness. 9/10

Driftwood Sartori Harvest IPA
7% alcohol
This is a fresh hop beer and it sells out quickly. It’s made with Centennial, grown in BC. 400 pounds of wet hops go into 70 hl of wort. This is lively and spicy with fresh hoppy notes and some marmalade. Grassy and herby, dank and skunky. Brilliant stuff, full of interest. 9/10

Driftwood New Growth IPA
5% alcohol
This is made from processed BC hops. Very fresh and lively with lemony fruitiness and some spiciness. It’s quite herbal and there’s some earthiness. Distinctive, hoppy and drinkable. 8/10

Thanks to Brent Muller of Vessel Liquor store, Victoria, who set this visit up

 

The beers of Goose Island, with founder John Hall

goose island

‘One thing we pride ourselves on is that we make balanced beers,’ says Goose Island founder John Hall. ‘Drinkable beers.’

I caught up with him at the Goose Island Block LDN party in Shoreditch. It was a sell out event, with a band, food stalls, lots of Goose Island beer and a relaxed, alternative vibe.

John Hall, founder, Goose Island

John Hall, founder, Goose Island

‘Beer has been around for the ages, and the most popular beers that people drink are the balanced beers,’ says Hall. ‘That’s what makes beer such a popular drink.’

Hall’s story is an interesting one. ‘I was in corporate America, and I spent a lot of time in Europe,’ he recalls. ‘When you came over here you saw a much wider variety of beers than we saw in the States.’

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So in 1988 Hall decided he’d start making his own beer. He opened a brewpub in Chicago. ‘It was the best decision I ever made,’ he says. ‘I patterned it as much as anything after Fullers.’

A big moment for Goose Island was in 1992. Hall’s son Greg had begun working with him, and Greg met Jim Beam’s grandson at a cigar/beer/bourbon tasting. He had the idea of putting beer in a bourbon barrel. These barrels could only be used once, so there was a plentiful supply of them. Greg and John got six of them, and made beer in them. They were the first commercial brewery to do this style, and when they entered a beer in the Great American Beer Festival in 1995, it was a real hit. But the beer got disqualified, because it didn’t fit into any category. Now Bourbon-aged stout is an official category!

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A short film of the Block Party, with John Hall giving a speech:

 

In 2011 Hall sold Goose Island to Anheuser-Busch InBev. He’s now on the board. The world was watching: was quality going to suffer from this take-over, and inevitable expansion of production? Hall says he never had any doubts that quality would be maintained, and in some cases he thinks it has been improved. ‘The recipe hasn’t changed,’ he says. Hall is an advocate of balance. ‘I like a balanced beer,’ he says. ‘If it’s not balanced then I’m not crazy about it. I’m sensitive to ABV now.’

We tasted through a range of the beers, including some special production brews. These were a very exciting set of beers indeed.

Goose Island Sofie Saison
6.5% alcohol
Lively, spicy and vivid with lovely freshness and detail. Complex, spicy and food friendly with an almost saline edge to it. A lovely beer. 9/10

Vans x Goose Island Golden Lager
5.1% alcohol
This pilsner style beer is zippy and hoppy with subtle herby hints. There’s some spiciness and real bite. 7.5/10

Goose Island Juliet Sour
This is a sour made in white wine barrels with 50 lbs of blackberries in each. It’s inoculated with brettanomyces and spends around 10 months in barrel. Tangy and a bit spicy with lovely fruitiness. Very lively with a wine-like fruity quality and nice texture. There’s some sweetness here. 8.5/10

Goose Island Illinois Double IPA
8.4% alcohol
This is dry hopped with Citra, Cascade and Meridian hops. Sweetly textured and powerful with lovely spice, herbs and tangy hoppiness. Rich yet balanced. Lemon and tangerine peel notes here. There’s a hint of bitterness on the finish. A really lovely beer. 9/10

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
14.2% alcohol
This is a truly remarkable beer, and it’s from the 2014 batch. Opaque black in colour, it’s so rich and powerful with complex flavours of treacle, toffee, roast coffee and vanilla. There’s lots of chocolate and vanilla, and also some black cherry. Astonishing stuff. Apparently it went to barrel at 11% alcohol and came out at 14.2. 9.5/10

Goose Island Bourbon County Templeton Rye
13% alcohol
51% rye. Rich and textural with spicy, dense, intense flavours of toffee and treacle. Bold, but not as sweet as the stout. Pretty serious stuff. 9/10

Goose Island Brewery Yard Stock Pale Ale
8.4% alcohol
This is is made to an old fashioned recipe with 4-5 lbs of hops per barrel. Initially it is too bitter to drink, but time in oak mellows it, while the alpha acids keep bacteria at bay. After 11 months in barrel it has picked up alcohol and lost bitterness. Lively, tangy and herby with real power and zippy acidity. Tangy and bitter but balanced and lovely. 9/10

Goose Island Lolita Sour
8.5% alcohol
A sour aged in barrels on raspberries. Tangy and intense with a nice spicy bite and some fresh citrus notes. Lovely raspberry and cherry fruit with some noticeable volatile acidity. Detailed and exotic, and quite wild. 8/10

Tuk Tuk microbrewery and brewpub, Franschhoek, South Africa

tuk tuk

While I was in Franschooek I visited the Tuk Tuk microbrewery. This is part of the Leeu Collection, and it’s a collaboration with CBC (Cape Brewing Company), one of South Africa’s leading craft breweries.

dewald goose

I met with brewmaster Dewald Goosen (pictured above with his partner Romy) to taste through some of the beers and find out about the project.

The beers are brewed on site in a state of the art microbrewery. Dewald is employed by CBC, but he’s making the beers here different to the regular CBC range. There are very few brewpubs like this, where the beer is all made on site.

It’s an exciting phase for the relatively new South African craft brewing culture. ‘I think in the next 5 years we are going to see many changes, and very interesting beers coming out of South African breweries.’

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Tuk Tuk Pale Ale
4.8% alcohol
Galaxy and Cascade hops. Classic American-style pale ale. Tangy, citrussy and tart with lovely complexity. 7.5/10

Tuk Tuk Dunkel (dark lager)
5% alcohol
Made from a special dehusked roasted malt, Carafa Type 1. Brown/bronze colour. Malty and rich with toffee and chocolate notes. Very rich with a warm edge to the palate, and some sweet apple notes. Has some malt sweetness. 7.5/10

Tuk Tuk Weizen
5.2% alcohol
This is brilliant. Made from Southern Passion (a South African hop) and Amarillo. Very fruity and lively with amazing zippy notes and some lively fruitiness. Lemons, white pepper, spice. Some sweetness and a fruity personality, with real interest. So lovely. 9/10

 

 

Strange Fellows Brewing Reynard Oud Bain, Vancouver, Canada

reynard oud bain

Strange Fellows Brewing is a relatively new East Vancouver (Canada) craft brewery, and this is a really interesting beer, which I drank with Brent Muller of Victoria’s Vessel Liquor Store. It’s an Oud Bruin (translates as Old Brown), which is a Flemish style of ale that combines sour elements with more standard brown ale characters, with a distinctive personality from spending a long time in oak barrels. This is such a distinctive beer, but it’s really lovely and the rather disparate flavour elements all mesh well.

Strange Fellows Brewing Reynard Oud Bruin, Vancouver, Canada
6.5% alcohol
Brown colour with a copper edge. This has lovely balance. It tastes of apples, pears and spice with a sour cherry character. Very fruity with lively acidity, and it’s quite wine like, with some blackcurrant hints and dried fruits. 9/10

 

 

Visiting Beavertown Brewery and Duke’s Brew and Que

beavertown

The London craft beer is exciting at the moment, and one of the leading players is Beavertown, a brewery that’s just four years old. They’re based in Tottenham Hale on an industrial site, and although they’ve not been there that long, they have outgrown it and are looking for new premises around three times the size.

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This is a remarkable journey for a brewery that started as recently as 2012 as part of Duke’s Brew and Que, an American BBQ joint in Hackney. It was founded by Logan Plant, son of famous rocker Robert, and self-taught brewer. Logan was inspired by the BBQ joints he’d come across in the USA which served amazing craft beer, and he wanted to bring this back to London.

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The canning line

The canning line

They can produce 15 000 litres a day, which equates to 45 000 cans, and about half this is just one beer, the Gamma Ray IPA. Production is also split 50/50 between small and big pack, and the brave move they have taken is to move pretty much all the small pack to cans. This is good for freshness.

Key kegs

Key kegs

They also use quite a few disposable key kegs, which are plastic containers that dispense the beer by air pressure on a metallized inner bag. This have quite an advantage over stainless steel kegs which need returning.

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The illustrations on the cans are by Nick Dwyer, who previously worked at Duke’s as a waiter.

The original kit from Duke's

The original kit from Duke’s

The Tottenham Hale brewery is open 2-8 pm each Saturday as a tap room.

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We visited the brewery and had an excellent tasting of some very interesting beers. We then popped over to Hackney to sample Duke’s. As well as serving the Beavertown range, Duke’s also has a really impressive list of craft beer. It was quite the day.

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Beavertown Neck Oil Session IPA
4.3% alcohol
I love this lighter-styled IPA. Very fresh, bright and linear, with lovely lemon, grapefruit and pith notes. This has real precision: it’s pure, direct and focused. 8.5/10

Beavertown Gamma Ray IPA
5.4% alcohol
Lively with nice spiciness. It has a bit of malt, quite a lot of hop character, and lovely weight in the mouth. Quite classic in this IPA style. 8/10

Beavertown Peacher Man
6.2% alcohol
A collaboration with Heretic, containing peach juice, oats, nutmeg and a Belgian witt strain of yeast. Cloudy and a bit brown. Very powerful and concentrated with lovely sweet fruity notes and a bit of earthiness. There’s also some banana and clove from the yeast. 7/10

Beavertown Bloody Ell
7.2% alcohol
This is made with blood oranges from Sicily. Beavertown take the whole harvest from a couple of farms, because they want the zest non-waxed. The beer contains zest and juice from the oranges, with the former going into the mash and the the latter in the fermenter. It’s a lovely beer with the oranges adding flavours that fit in well with the hops. Notes of orange peel: spicy, tangy and detailed. Lively and bright with a bit of pithiness, and lovely texture too. 9/10

Beavertown/Boneyard Bloody Notorious
This is Bloody Ell with some Notorious IPA from Boneyard in Oregon. 9.1% alcohol. This is such a beautifully complex beer. Amazing nose of peach, mandarin, some saline notes, oysters and seaweed. Lovely powerful, textured palate with real concentration. Complex and delicate with a grapefruit freshness. This is so delicious, showing lovely weight. 9.5/10

Beavertown Sour Power
7.8% alcohol
This is from Beavertown’s Tempus project, which involves barrels. It’s a mixed fermentation with Pediococcus, Brettanomyces and Saccharomyces. Redcurrants and sour cherries are added, too. It’s a remarkable beer with cherries, sour plums and damsons on the nose. In the mouth it’s quite sour with some fruit sweetness and an expressive personality. So detailed and fine. 9/10

Beavertown Holy Cowbell
This is a dry-hopped India stout. Powerful flavours of coffee, spice and nuts with nice black coffee aromatics. Fresh, complex and detailed, with lovely weight. 8/10

Beavertown 8 Ball Rye IPA
Orange/brown in colour. Sweet and textural with nice richness. Smooth and broad with interesting texture and nice depth. There’s real finesse to this beer. 8/10

Beavertown Delta Unda
This is no 10 out of a series of beers called invasion of the upuloids. 5.7% alcohol. Hops: citra, matoueke and enigma. Cloudy yellow colour. Lovely aromatics and a nice broad texture with a slight creaminess. Lovely depth and texture. 9/10

Beavertown Black Betty Black IPA
7.4% alcohol
Complex, powerful and textured with sweet coffee and chocolate notes, but also a luvely personality and some sweet creaminess. Complex, harmonious and balanced. 9/10

Here is a video of the visit to both the brewery and Duke’s:

Beerd Brewery Slivertip New Zealand Pale Ale, from a Bristol craft brewery

beers_silvertip

This is interesting. It’s a bottled beer from Bristol craft brewpub Beerd, which is owned by Bath Ales. I’m not sure it’s so clear describing it as a ‘New Zealand Pale Ale’, when it’s an English beer, but this is probably the wine part of me being sensitive. It is made exclusively from New Zealand hops, including the famous Nelson Sauvin variety. Maybe New Zealand-style is better? I think this is something the beer fraternity need to address. But it’s a really nice beer. This bottled version is available as an exclusive from Bibendum to the on-trade.

Beerd Brewery Slivertip New Zealand Pale Ale
4.7% alcohol. Full gold colour. Lovely aromas of herbs, citrus and hops. The palate is fresh with a light sweet maltiness and savoury, hoppy, herby notes as well as bright lemon and grapefruit characters. Very refreshing and not as exotic as many craft beers. 7.5/10

Two ‘craft’ lagers, from Fullers and Greene King

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This is why the term ‘craft beer’ needs a definition. Two respectable enough beers from big brewers, but not really craft at all, even though they appropriate the term.

Fuller’s Frontier New Wave Craft Lager
4.5% alcohol
Made with new world hops. Golden colour. Rich and full flavoured with a distinct maltiness and a hint of herby, spicy hoppiness, as well as lemony notes. Full flavoured lager that’s just a little bit boring. 6/10
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Greene King Noble English Craft Lager
5% alcohol
Brewed with Tettnang hops. Gold colour. Sweet and herby with some toffee notes. Very fudgy and sweet but there’s an attractive tangy, citrussy hoppy edge to the palate which saves it. I’m not keen on the toffee notes, though. 7/10

Moncada Brewery Notting Hill Amber

Notting Hill Amber Moncada

Moncada is another new-ish (2011) London brewery, located in Notting Hill, west London. I’ve tried the blond before, and it’s fabulous, but this amber is approaching perfection, at least to my palate. Such a well crafted beer, and the website usefully gives a full list of stockists.

Moncada Brewery Notting Hill Amber
4.7% alcohol
Gold/bronze colour. Amazing aromatics of perfumed, floral peach and passionfruit characters. The palate is warm and herby with some spiciness. Really nice balance here: hoppy for sure, but with a lovely grassy, herby, tea-like finish. 9/10

Revisionist beers from Tesco

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It’s time for the big brewers and supermarkets to jump on the craft beer bandwagon.

Guys, clamber aboard, but be aware that your beers will be subject to scrutiny. I’ve nothing against larger brewers when they make great beer. But I can’t stand it when they make boring beer and use distribution and marketing clout to put it in front of poor suckers who don’t have much in the way of alternatives.

Tesco has just launched a range of ‘craft beers’, which they’ve called ‘Revisionist’. The packaging is great, and all but one is made by Marston’s (the odd one out is from Wychwood). How do they fare?

Revisionist Craft Lager
5% alcohol
Dry hopped with Admiral and Boadicea, made by Marston’s. Yellow/gold colour. Full flavoured lager with notes of herbs, straw and hay, with some citrus and bitter hop characters. Real personality here. 7/10

Revisionist Dark India Pale Ale
4.8% alcohol
Made by Jon Tillison and Dave Carter at Wychwood, dry hopped with chinook and citra. Full brown colour. Malty and warm but with fresh tangy citrus and herb hoppiness. Some bitter black chocolate notes too, and some floral characters. An odd beer that doesn’t quite know what to do with itself. 6/10

Revisionist Pacific Hop Red Ale
4.2% alcohol
Made by Simon Yates at Marston’s, hopped at four stages with Waimea and Pacific Gem. Red brown colour. Sweet, malty and quite rich with some warm herbiness and contrasting bitter hop notes, as well as a bit of roast coffee and chocolate. Despite the hops this is a slightly cowardly beer, a little afraid of flavour. 6.5/10

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Revisionist American Hop Rye Pale Ale
‘Craft brewed by Marston’s’ and dry hopped with Amarillo and Citra, made using rye crystal malt. Spicy and slightly toffeed, with a rich nose that has floral herby notes. There’s a hint of roast coffee on the savoury, tangy palate as well as some bright, spicy notes. Could do with more richness and hoppiness? 7/10

Revisionist Belgian Saison Beer
5% alcohol
Made by Marston’s, dry hopped with Styrian and Lubeski. This is interesting: it tastes Belgian, a bit like Leffe Blonde, with lovely spiciness and a rich, sweet core, coupled with bracing citrus freshness. Real interest. 7.5/10

Revisionist California Common Steam Beer
4.7% alcohol
Made by Marston’s. This is a lager fermented at higher temperatures to produce a sort of lager/ale hybrid. Gold/bronze colour. Simple, a bit spicy, with nice fresh hoppy bite and some malty richness. A bit boring. 5.5/10