BREWER’S BLOG | On Two World Wars And Surviving Belgium’s Dark Age Of Light Beer

April 17, 2014 

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This is the seventh in a nine-part story chronicling Dageraad brewer Ben Coli’s exploration of two questions he had to answer before taking the gamble of his life in starting a brewery: What is Belgian beer and can it be brewed here?

by Ben Coli | In Belgium’s forested, hilly Ardennes region, there is a valley called Vallée des Fées (Valley of the Fairies) and at the bottom of that valley there is a tiny village called Achouffe. In this village there was once a cowshed, and in that cowshed a tiny brewery was born.

Brasserie d’Achouffe was started by Pierre Gobon and his brother-in-law Chris Bauweraerts in 1982, which was a dark time for Belgian brewing. With the number of excellent breweries thriving in Belgium today, it’s easy to forget that Belgium, like North America, went through an age of industrial lagers.

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Of the more than 3000 breweries that operated in Belgium in the early 1900s, only 750 survived both world wars. The wars were tough on Belgium’s small breweries: those that weren’t outright destroyed had their equipment requisitioned by the metal-hungry German army.

When the smoke cleared and reconstruction began, things got really tough for small Belgian brewers.

Light, pilsner-style beers came into style in a big way, and improvements in refrigeration and transportation made it easier for enormous industrial breweries to distribute nationally. All across Belgium, small breweries that had been making regional styles of beer for generations went bankrupt. By the end of the 1970s, seven breweries were responsible for 75% of the beer made in Belgium. More than half of the country’s beer was brewed by just two breweries: Artois and Jupiler.

Today we can only imagine how many amazing styles of beer were lost with the closing of so many small breweries. In fact, witbier, that classic style of Belgian wheat ale that is now the darling of British Columbia’s craft brewers, was actually extinct.

But in the midst of the carnage, Belgian brewing still had glimmers of hope. In 1966, brewer Pierre Celis resurrected witbier when he opened a brewery in the village of Hoegaarden. Then in the early 1980s a few upstart breweries began to emerge from the metaphorical rubble. Anyone who has witnessed the explosion of craft brewing in the US and Canada over the last 30 years will recognize the story of Belgium’s beer renaissance: a few dedicated homebrewers, bored of industrial lagers and nostalgic for what beer tasted like in the “good old days”, started tinkering in their kitchens. They got their hands on some old tanks from the dairy industry, cobbled together makeshift brewing equipment and started a revolution.

Among them were Achouffe’s Pierre and Chris. Brewing with a lauter tun crafted out of the drum of a washing machine, they began hand-filling and hand-corking repurposed champagne bottles and selling their brew to locals.

To compete with the flood of industrial lager washing over Belgium, Pierre and Chris would need an amazing yeast, one that could complement their blonde ale with a balance of subtly spicy phenols and juicy, fruity esters. Fortunately for them, when they went to one of the few remaining local small breweries with a bucket, they got a yeast capable of turning their hobby into an empire.

La Chouffe image with permission from La Chouffe | Map: Eli Horn | BREWER’S BLOG ARCHIVE

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P&I_00040728Ben Coli is owner and brewer of Dageraad Brewing, British Columbia’s first brewery specializing in Belgian-style ales. An award-winning home brewer, Ben formalized his brewing knowledge at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and at Brewlab in the United Kingdom, earning a certificate from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. Before his beer obsession took over, Ben was a writer of books, magazine articles and marketing content. He is currently writing a book titled “How to Love Beer.”

GOODS | Red Truck Wins Gold With Pale Ale At The 2014 “Fest Of Ale” In The Okanagan

April 17, 2014 

Red Truck Beer Co. is located at 1015 Marine Dr. in North Vancouver | 604-682-4733 | www.redtruckbeer.com

Red Truck Beer Co. is located at 1015 Marine Dr. in North Vancouver | 604-682-4733 | www.redtruckbeer.com

The GOODS from Red Truck Beer Company

Vancouver, BC | The 2014 “Fest Of Ale” event was held on April 4th and 5th at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre and had 35 brewers from BC and beyond. Each of the participating breweries put forward their best brews for judging. The awards were determined by industry experts Joe Wiebe, Craft Beer Revolution; Jim Martin, Metro Liquor; David Beardsell, brewery owner/consultant; Mike Garson, Mike’s Craft Beer; and Allan Moen, NorthWest Brewing News. The Judges awarded Best in Class for Pale Ale to Red Truck Ale made by Vancouver’s own Red Truck Beer Company. Take a look at the other award-winners after the jump… Read more

GHOST HOODS | On The Rise And Fall (And Rise) Of Mount Pleasant’s “Brewery Creek”

April 10, 2014 

The GHOST HOOD series dovetails with the new HOODS section of Scout (launching on Monday)

by Stevie Wilson | In conversations about Mount Pleasant these days, the old “Brewery Creek” moniker is being increasingly employed on account of all the new breweries that have arrived in recent years. But what exactly is the significance of the name? It’s important to note that although it’s generally thought of as synonymous with the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, the “Brewery Creek” distinction refers to a particular stretch of waterway that was integral to the growth and economic development of the area. Long before white settlers arrived, this expansive region was a popular harvesting location for First Nations. It would later become an important economic sector for new businesses thanks to its flowing natural resource.

The patch of land that became known as Mount Pleasant was originally shrouded in dense, dark rainforest. The creek that drained this forest into the salty waters of False Creek sat at the bottom of a large ravine that was open to the sky. It offered an abundance of flowers, berries, and other plants used by First Nations for medicine and food. The (now lost) waterway began near where Mountain View Cemetery is located today. Water flowed downhill just west of modern-day Fraser Street to a marshy, dammed area near 14th Avenue (Tea Swamp Park). From here, the creek flowed down the Mount Pleasant hillside, following a northeastern path alongside a First Nations trail (near where Kingsway cuts across Main Street), and continuing into the eastern waters of False Creek (which have since been filled in) near Terminal Avenue.

In 1867, the creek area in Mount Pleasant became Vancouver’s first piped waterway, delivering water by flume to Gastown – then the center of the city – and the boilers at Captain Edward Stamp’s Mill near the foot of Dunlevy (later known as the Hastings Sawmill).

The Brewery Creek region was defined by its open landscape, its distinct flora and fauna, and the numerous businesses that followed the path of the waterway – including several slaughterhouses, the nearby Vancouver Tannery, and an assortment of local beverage-makers that used the creek to power their water wheels: the San Francisco Brewery (later known as the Red Star Brewery), Mainland Brewery, Landsdowne Brewery,  Lion Brewery, and the Thorpe & Co. Soda Water Works. Read more

BREWER’S BLOG | Yeast Lands In BC From Oregon By Way Of The Ardennes In Belgium

April 10, 2014 

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This is the sixth in a nine-part story chronicling Dageraad brewer Ben Coli’s exploration of two questions he had to answer before taking the gamble of his life in starting a brewery: What is Belgian beer and can it be brewed here?

by Ben Coli | When Erin and I found the address we’d been given for Brouwerij De Glazen Toren, we were sure there’d been a mistake: we were standing in front of a suburban-style house with a large garage on a residential street in a little village. It turned out that the large garage was actually a very small brewery run as a retirement project by Jef Van den Steen and two friends.

We barely had a chance to say hello to Jef’s partner Dirk De Pauw, because as we arrived he was loading a case of beer into his car and leaving on a run to a nearby brewery to trade beer for yeast. Glazen Toren is too small a brewery for yeast propagation equipment, and they brew too infrequently to maintain all of the different strains they use for their various beers. Instead, they decide which local brewery’s yeast would work well with that week’s brew, and they trade beer for it.

In the old days, yeast was an extremely local ingredient of beer. Beer was fermented by whatever wild yeast happened to float by on the wind, which varied with local climate and geography. The beer would be fermented by whatever yeast lived on the fruit skins from a nearby orchard. A couple of kilometers down the road there might be another orchard with different fruit and a different airborne fermentation culture that produced different-tasting beer.

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When brewers began to domesticate yeast by reusing slurries that had made good beer, a newly-domesticated strain of yeast would be confined to one brewery. But when the brewery down the road had a fermentation problem, the brewer might come to borrow some yeast and carry a slurry of that particular strain home with him in a bucket, making a house yeast into a village yeast. If it was an exceptionally good yeast, it might be shared again and again and become a regional yeast.

Breweries sharing yeast used to be common practice. A healthy fermentation produces much more yeast than is needed to brew the next batch of beer, so if it isn’t given away, that excess yeast would just be discarded. Some breweries are getting more tight-fisted about sharing the biological property that is responsible for so much of their beer’s unique character, but there are other ways to get yeast now.

Trading beer for yeast sounds like a nice way to operate, but nowadays most breweries get new yeast from labs run by universities and private companies. These labs maintain libraries of hundreds of strains of cryogenically frozen yeast, which they will propagate on demand for breweries.

In Vancouver, we’re lucky to be close to the American west coast, the epicentre of that country’s beer revolution. In Hood River, Oregon, Wyeast maintains and propagates world class brewing yeast and sells it to both commercial breweries and home-brewers.

It is a strain of their yeast on which Dageraad’s core beers will be based. I first came across it at Dan’s Homebrew Supplies on East Hastings. The first beer I brewed with it absolutely hooked me. It was a beautiful Belgian blonde, fruity, complex and subtle. It was beginner’s luck. It would be a year before I’d manage to brew another beer as good as the first one.

But Wyeast doesn’t create its yeast strains from nothing. They scour the world’s breweries for their yeast, capturing, cataloging and storing the brewing world’s biological treasures and making them available to brewers everywhere.

Wyeast doesn’t say which particular brewery each yeast strain comes from, but certain brewing experts have some educated guesses, and these experts and my palate agree Dageraad Brewing’s yeast strain comes from a brewery in a tiny village in the Belgian Ardennes.

Illustration: Brockhaus & EfronEncyclopedic Dictionary | Map: Eli Horn | BREWER’S BLOG ARCHIVE

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P&I_00040728Ben Coli is owner and brewer of Dageraad Brewing, British Columbia’s first brewery specializing in Belgian-style ales. An award-winning home brewer, Ben formalized his brewing knowledge at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and at Brewlab in the United Kingdom, earning a certificate from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. Before his beer obsession took over, Ben was a writer of books, magazine articles and marketing content. He is currently writing a book titled “How to Love Beer.”

BREWER’S BLOG | On Belgian Yeast, The Character-Giving Engine Of Fermentation

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This is the fifth in a nine-part story chronicling Dageraad brewer Ben Coli’s exploration of two questions he had to answer before taking the gamble of his life in starting a brewery: What is Belgian beer and can it be brewed here?

by Ben Coli | Kris Herteleer opened the door of his fermentation room and, with an arched eyebrow, beckoned us to enter. Inside we found something that is becoming increasingly rare in breweries: two open fermentors lay before us in the cramped room, each brimming with a head of yeast floating atop the fermenting beer. The head on one of the tanks had the rocky texture of yeast that had been fermenting for several days; the other was topped with a fluffier crown of yeast, indicating that it was a day or two younger. The yeast, joyfully devouring maltose, had filled the room with their farts of CO2, which immediately made me lightheaded. I rudely shoved past several of the other people on the tour to escape the room before I passed out and tumbled into the fermenting beer.

Most modern breweries now protect their fermentations from contamination by enclosing them stainless steel tanks. At De Dolle Brouwers, Kris is less concerned about contamination by bacteria because he deliberately adds three strains of lactic acid bacteria to add character and a sour tang to his beer. However, the bulk of the work of fermentation and most of the character of the beer are the responsibility of a strain of brewing yeast. Kris originally got his yeast culture from the Rodenbach Brewery, but after hundreds of generations of the yeast spent their lives fermenting his beer at De Dolle, the culture has slowly evolved and developed a character that is the brewery’s own.

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Brewing yeast is part of the great biological legacy left to us by the generations of humans who spent the last few millennia taming the world. When you drink a beer, you’re drinking the product of centuries of brewing tradition, a reflection of what those old brewers wanted their beer to taste like. Yes, the brewer of today chose the hops and the malt, but it was generations of brewers who decided what flavours the yeast would produce.

When yeast ferments the sugar extracted from barley at a brewery (or grapes at a winery, or honey at a meadery), the chief waste products they make are alcohol and carbon dioxide, but they also create trace amounts of hundreds of other organic substances that contribute to a beer’s flavor. The level of these substances are measured in parts per million or even parts per billion, but if they weren’t present, beer wouldn’t taste like beer.

If you go back far enough, all yeast was wild; it came from the air, from fruit skins, from nature. In a brewery it behaved unpredictably and sometimes produced many flavours you wouldn’t necessarily want in your beer, like plastic, burning hot alcohol or nail polish remover.

Just as food crops and farm animals were selected for hardiness, size and yield, brewing yeast has been selected for centuries to create the flavour profiles that brewers wanted. If a particular yeast slurry fermented well and made good beer, it was reused and shared with other brewers. If not, it was discarded. Over the centuries, most brewers selected for well-behaved yeast that produced cleaner-tasting beer, and that yeast is what most beer is now brewed with. The epitome of this is the clean-fermenting yeast that is used to ferment industrial lagers, yeast chosen to impart as little flavour as possible.

Some brewers, though, recognized that fermentation flavours aren’t all bad. Sure, a blast of phenols can taste like plastic or bandages, but a small dose of the right phenols can have a flavour of cloves or white pepper, which is lovely in the right beer. And while an excess of esters in beer can be like drinking solvent, the right amount of the right esters can give a beer a nice fruity aroma, like bananas or red apples.

From the legacy of yeast they left behind, we can see that Belgian brewers of old were more concerned with good flavours than with clean fermentations. They picked yeast cultures that produced the nice flavours they wanted, while minimizing the bad ones. The yeast that emerged from this centuries-long process retained a lot of the “wild” yeast characteristics that most other brewers were so eager to dispose of. What remains is yeast that can be more difficult for a brewer to manage, but one that produces beer with that quintessential Belgian quality: complexity.

So if it’s Belgian yeast that makes Belgian beer, Dageraad is going to have to get some. But how does yeast travel from there to here?

Photo: Goffe Struiksma | Map: Eli Horn | BREWER’S BLOG ARCHIVE TO DATE

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P&I_00040728Ben Coli is owner and brewer of Dageraad Brewing, British Columbia’s first brewery specializing in Belgian-style ales. An award-winning home brewer, Ben formalized his brewing knowledge at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and at Brewlab in the United Kingdom, earning a certificate from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. Before his beer obsession took over, Ben was a writer of books, magazine articles and marketing content. He is currently writing a book titled “How to Love Beer.”

GOODS | “Wildebeest” Set For Craft Beer Supper With Delta’s Four Winds Brewing Co.

Wildebeest is located at 120 West Hastings Street in Vancouver, BC | 604-687-6880 | www.wildebeest.ca

Wildebeest is located at 120 West Hastings Street in Vancouver, BC | 604-687-6880 | www.wildebeest.ca

The GOODS from Wildebeest

Vancouver, BC | On Wednesday, March 26th at 6:30pm Wildebeest celebrates the special release of several new craft beers from Four Winds Brewing Co. with a five-course menu created by Chef Wesley Young. A local favourite, Four Winds Brewing Co. is known for using a combination of new world and old world methods to produce flavourful West Coast, Belgian and German style beers. With representatives from Four Winds Brewing Co. in attendance, guests have an exclusive first look into the brewery’s freshest additions, and feast on innovative, seasonally inspired dishes crafted in harmony with each new brew.

Tickets for this event are limited and on sale for $69 each, which includes a five-course dinner and Four Winds Brewing Co. craft beer pairings. Reservations can be made by contacting eat@wildebeest.ca or for more information visit us on facebook. Menu and details after the jump… Read more

BREWER’S BLOG | So What Is Belgian Beer And Can It Be Brewed In British Columbia?

March 13, 2014 

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This is the second in a nine-part story chronicling Dageraad brewer Ben Coli’s exploration of two questions he had to answer before taking the gamble of his life in starting a brewery: What is Belgian beer and can it be brewed here?

by Ben Coli | I’ve often seen someone take a sip of beer and say, “that tastes Belgian.” I’ve often seen someone take a sip of beer and say, “that tastes Belgian.” And when I take a sip of the same beer, I instantly know what they’re talking about. It does taste Belgian. But what is that taste?

It’s difficult to make generalizations about Belgian beer because one of the defining characteristics of Belgian brewers is their disdain for the whole concept of beer styles.

When a British brewer makes up a recipe for a new beer he plans to call Uglington’s Best Bitter, he’ll put his own stamp on the beer and make it a little different from other bitters, but he will be sure that the beer will be recognizable as a bitter; any creative license taken will be exercised within the boundaries of the style. That way, when Richard and Davey belly up to the bar and order an Uglington’s Best, they know they can expect a beer that’s more or less an English bitter, and that helps keep the peace until they start discussing trade unionism and Margaret Thatcher.

When a Belgian brewer invents a new beer called Engeltjespis, he’s thinking about creating a sublime new drinking experience, not about beer styles. He has a particular taste in mind, an idea of textures and aromas, and that’s what Engeltjespis will be. He doesn’t care whether a certified beer judge will think he’s brewed a category 18B Belgian Dubbel, or whether the high alcohol will push it into category 18E Belgian Strong Dark Ale, or whether the use of spices will get it kicked out of the styles altogether and lumped into the catch-all category for Belgian misfits, 16E Belgian Specialty Ale. And when Francois and Koen belly up to the bar and order Engeltjespis, they’ll be open-minded enough to drink the beer and appreciate it for whatever magic it contains.

And besides, they’ll be too busy arguing about the status of Brussels in the event of federal dissolution to worry about beer styles.

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Despite the flagrant creativity of Belgian brewers and the stubborn individuality of their beers, the BJCP (an American beer judge certification program) has described thirteen styles of Belgian beer. Yet I’d guess about half of the beers brewed in Belgium defy categorization completely, falling into that fourteenth catch-all category, “Belgian Specialty Ale”.

But in spite of its riotous variety, there is something unified about Belgian beer, a special something that makes people say, “That tastes Belgian.”

If I was backed into a corner and asked to sum up the defining characteristic of the taste of Belgian beer in one word, I’d say “complexity”.

Belgian brewers often supplement the balance of malt sweetness and hop bitterness you find in every beer with fruity, spicy, floral and herbal aromas. Some Belgian beers are like running through a hayfield at harvest and others explode with a whole orchard of fruit flavours. You can sometimes find earthiness, a savoury, mushroomy umami taste, and you can sometimes find sourness, ranging from a light tartness to a mouth-puckering acidity. There can be subtle flowery aromas from hops, hints of cardamom or chamomile, and perfumey alcohol aromas that smell like rose petals. You can find those same toasty or caramelly flavours you’ll get from English beers, but they might be accompanied by a distinct aroma of dates and spices that transports you to a Levantine bazaar. Most importantly, when it’s done properly the flavours are harmoniously balanced.

Where do these flavours come from? Historically, Belgians weren’t constrained by tradition or by law the way many British and German brewers were. Belgium never had an equivalent to the celebrated German reinheitsgebot, the purity law that restricted brewers to brewing with nothing but barley, hops, water, and yeast. If Belgian brewers wanted to use oats or wheat in addition to barley, they were free to do so – and for that matter, they could also add carmelized sugar and a big bucket full of coriander or aniseed or thyme if they felt like it. That freewheeling tradition continues, and Belgian brewers remain more concerned with flavour than with ensuring that their beer is “pure” of spices and non-barley grains.

But grains and spices are just a part of the story of the unique flavour of Belgian beer. Brewers in other countries are more open to using a variety of grains and spices these days, but Belgian beer still tastes “Belgian”, while spiced Christmas beers in Britain do not. Tracking down the factor that defines Belgian beer is difficult in a country with a brewing tradition as ancient and cloaked in legend as Belgium’s.

Photos: Goffe Struiksma | BREWER’S BLOG ARCHIVE TO DATE

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P&I_00040728Ben Coli is owner and brewer of Dageraad Brewing, British Columbia’s first brewery specializing in Belgian-style ales. An award-winning home brewer, Ben formalized his brewing knowledge at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and at Brewlab in the United Kingdom, earning a certificate from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. Before his beer obsession took over, Ben was a writer of books, magazine articles and marketing content. He is currently writing a book titled “How to Love Beer.”

BREWER’S BLOG | On “The Dageraadplaats” & Making Belgian-Style Beers In Vancouver

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This is the first in a nine-part story chronicling Dageraad brewer Ben Coli’s exploration of two questions he had to answer before taking the gamble of his life in starting a brewery: What is Belgian beer? And, can it be brewed here?

by Ben Coli | On any sunny day, the Dageraadplaats, a square on the east side of Antwerp, is full of people.  Kids ride laps around the square on their bikes, form impromptu gangs and generally run wild, while parents sit and chat with friends and neighbours while enjoying the sun and watching passersby.

The square contains no monuments and no public buildings of note. If it appears in any tourist guide to Antwerp, it’s as a footnote, not a destination. The Dageraadplaats isn’t a ceremonial space; it’s just a pleasant place for the community to gather. There’s a basketball court and picnic tables under the trees in the middle of the square, and the edges are lined with café patios.

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At any of the cafés, from the Moeskop to the Zeezicht, you can buy incredible beers like Orval, Duvel and Westmalle Dubbel at very reasonable prices. These beers are simply a part of life in Belgium. It is not uncommon to see a couple of retirees drinking Tripel Karmeliet at a café at ten on a Tuesday morning. What else is retirement for?

By mid-afternoon, the café tables begin to accumulate a wide variety of beers, each served in its own particular glass. There is Rochefort’s graceful goblet, Mort Subite’s fluted tumbler, Duvel’s iconic tulip bulb, and Kwak’s ridiculous flask and wooden stand. More often than any of these, you’ll see the bolleke – an upward-sweeping footed goblet full of copper-coloured beer from Antwerp’s own De Koninck brewery. So much variety, so many different flavours, so much beer culture, all from one tiny country.

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I love Belgium. I love the people – the Flemish and Walloons both. I love Antwerp and the Ardennes. And I really love the beer. But I don’t live in Belgium, I live here in Vancouver. I love our beer, too, our IPAs and our imperial stouts. But when I’m not in Belgium, I miss Belgian beer. I miss its diversity and complexity, its depth and surprises.

Can we have that beer here? Not just occasionally as an expensive, imported bottle, but as a standard, locally-brewed beer? Can we drink an authentic-tasting Belgian-style beer from the other side of the city, instead of the other side of the world?

Dageraad means “daybreak” or “sunrise” in Flemish. Vancouver is already experiencing the dawn of a new beer culture, and Dageraad Brewing will be part of it.

I’ve been visiting friends in Antwerp for about a decade now, and over the years I’ve had a slow, smouldering love affair with Belgian beer. It started off as a dalliance, a summer fling, but it gradually grew into a passion.

A year and a half ago I made a commitment: I went to brewing school and took two beer sabbaticals to Belgium. I brought along the other love of my life, my wife, journalist Erin Millar — or she brought me along, it’s hard to tell. We visited breweries and were often welcomed by brewers who recognized us as fellow aficionados. It was an amazing opportunity to learn about Belgian beer and ask brewers for their secrets.

It has been my experience that most brewers are incredibly generous with their time and knowledge when they meet a kindred spirit. In the following eight posts, published here over the next few weeks, I’ll recount what I’ve learned about Belgian beer, in part to pay forward the hospitality I received from brewers in Belgium, and in part to announce my new brewery.

I’m opening a brewery.

It’s called Dageraad Brewing. It’s named after a square in Antwerp. It’s also named after what that square is named for: daybreak or dawn, that period of time when the sky is brightening but the sun has yet to rise, when there are still stars in the western sky and the pale moon is just starting to fade into the pale blue sky.

The beers aren’t going to be Belgian. Belgian beers come from Belgium. My beers are going to come from a little industrial unit in Burnaby, BC, Canada, so they’ll be Canadian or British Columbian or Burnabarian, which is a word I made up that I like very much. But the beers will be Belgian-inspired, because those are the beers I like best.

Can you brew authentic Belgian-style beers in Canada? What does Belgian-style even mean? In coming posts I’m going to explain what Belgian-style means to me and argue that yes, you can brew those beers here. And then I’m going to prove it.

Photos: Goffe Struiksma | Map illustration: Eli Horn

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P&I_00040728Ben Coli is owner and brewer of Dageraad Brewing, British Columbia’s first brewery specializing in Belgian-style ales. An award-winning home brewer, Ben formalized his brewing knowledge at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts and at Brewlab in the United Kingdom, earning a certificate from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. Before his beer obsession took over, Ben was a writer of books, magazine articles and marketing content. He is currently writing a book titled “How to Love Beer.”

DRINK THIS BEER | The Exceptional Saison Brett By Delta’s Own “Four Winds Brewing”

December 5, 2013 

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by Chuck Hallett | We lead a charmed life here in BC, at least as far as good beverages are concerned. Entire swathes of the beer-drinking world are still stuck under the oppressive thumb of Big Beer, knowing naught of the delightful, hand-crafted products that the rest of us take for granted, never even suspecting that beer can be more than something to get drunk on before a football game.

But the isolation knife cuts both ways. Us spoiled BC-types have a tendency to get complacent. We forget that while we do generally have pretty great beer, in the grand scheme of things most of our craft beer is fairly average. Beer releases in BC that are truly world-class come along only on very rare occasions.

This is one of those occasions. Four Winds Brewing of Delta have proudly declared their membership in the upper echelon of BC breweries by throwing down a Brettyanomyces-fermented and corked whopper of a Saison, titled simply “Saison Brett.”

Before winding up in your mouth, this beer spent six months fermenting away inside six used wine barrels from BC’s own Burrowing Owl and Stag’s Hollow wineries. During that time the beer absorbed depths of character from the oak and bubbling Brettanomyces dried it out while adding a funky, straw/barn-like complexity to an already exceptional beer.

Reviews have generally been of the “frothing-at-the-mouth amazeballs” variety and, frankly, I agree 100%. This is an outstanding beer that can either be eagerly drunk this instant and or cellared (marvellously) for up to two or three years. I’m not kidding when I say that this is the best beer to be produced in BC in a very long time. As per usual with beers of this quality, only a very limited quantity was released, so get some sooner rather later or you’ll probably regret it.

Find yours at select private liquor stores (my full list) for $12 to $15.00 per 750ml bottle. Note that only 136 cases were made and even less were distributed, so you best move now.

DRINK MORE BEER STORIES

DRINK THIS BEER | Brassneck Delivers The Goods With New “Fall Back” Session Stout

November 18, 2013 

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by Chuck Hallett | Like many Vancouverites, chances are that you’ve been cautiously following the recent craft beer boom from afar. Good for you! Maybe you’ve picked up some of the beers featured on Drink This Beer before, but it’s rather more likely that you saw a few bottles/brands at the store and vaguely recognized them before proceeding to the till with your regular beer purchases, what ever they might be.

Well, it’s time for you to jump straight into the bleeding edge heart of Vancouver Craft Beer, because there really is no better time than now. Stouts are an increasingly popular feature on local craft beer menus recently. Maybe it’s the flavour (malty, coffee-like in both taste and appearance), or the low carbonation, or even the sub-5% alcohol levels that makes tipping multiple pints of stout so easy an exercise. Likely, it’s all three, so dive in there.

The new Brassneck on Main St. has just released its Fall Back, a session-stout that is about as perfect an after-work refresher as anyone could hope for. Perhaps you’ve canned salmon all day and need something to take the edge off before going home to your delightful family. Or maybe, like me, you’ve spent all day typing at a desk and need a gentle point of entry before moving on to that 7% hop bomb of an IPA. Either way, this beer needs you to drink it.

Between this beer and Persephone Brewing’s Dry Irish Stout, the gauntlet for a fine pint of the black has been thrown down in BC, and I’m loving every second of it. Is it the perfect stout? No, but it does garner that highest of praise from me, which is to say that it tastes like another pint.

You can only find it at Brassneck (drink in + growlers) at 6th and Main. The price is $11 for a 1.9 litre fill. Brassneck has already established the habit of selling out quickly, so go. Now.

DRINK MORE BEER STORIES

DRINK THIS BEER | The “Hermannator”, A Dark Lager From Vancouver Island Brewery

November 6, 2013 

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by Chuck Hallett | The start of the winter cellaring beer release season is upon us. How can I tell? Vancouver Island Brewing has dropped the 2013 version of their famous Eisbock, aka Hermannator. Now in its 26th year, this dark and strong bugger comes out mere weeks before the rest of the winter heavies, giving us beer geeks time enough to clear out a shelf or two in our cellars.

You wouldn’t know it by looking at it, but an Eisbock is actually a lager; a pitch black, strong (9.5%!) lager that, upon tasting, you’d be forgiven for confusing with a rich ale, what with all the chocolate, caramel and brown sugar that comes through on the palate. And is that some raisin I taste in there, too? Yes it is. This is a brilliant beer to sip out of a snifter on those cold winter evenings (drink it from the bottle and I will break into your condo, hurt you, and take it away like a cruel sort of reverse Santa Claus).

And don’t just take my word on it. Hermannator was recently awarded the coveted Best Of Show Award at the 2013 BC Beer Awards, which is some serious beer geek cred. In addition to being almost universally acclaimed as awesome, Hermannator is a great starting beer for those interested in cellaring. Properly stored, this beer will age and slowly improve for five or more years.

If you’re keen on cellaring, look for the limited edition waxed dipped 650ml bomber with the 2013 vintage stamped into the wax-dipped top at private stores in Victoria, and at select private stores in Vancouver (VIB will announce who gets the goods via Twitter).

Where to get it: The LDB carries the six packs. Private stores in Victoria will get access to the waxed 650ml bombers.
How much is it: $13.75 for six 335ml bottles.
When to get it: Hermannator six packs stick around for a few months, but generally are gone by February.

DRINK MORE BEER STORIES

DRINK THIS BEER | Cassis-Heavy, Limited Release Driftwood “Lustrum Wild Sour Ale”

October 29, 2013 

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by Chuck Hallett | For their fifth anniversary, Victoria’s Driftwood Brewing has dropped a surprise on the BC Craft Beer scene: Lustrum. This cassis-heavy beer was brewed with local wild yeast harvested from near the brewery and aged in French oak for a year before bottling. In short, they swung for the fence with this one and, while they don’t quite make it all the way, it should be good for a triple.

As soon as you pour this guy you know you’re in for something special. The colour is a deep red/purple and, if it weren’t for a lighter red head, you’d be forgiven for thinking this to be an old Merlot. And speaking of wine, that’s the kind of glass you should use here.

The cassis dominates up front with an almost-vinous richness, but slowly the sour funk of the yeast builds up before giving way to a subtle vanilla/oak finish. The only flaw here is a too-strong bitter astringency, but that should age out with some cellaring. By any definition, though, this is an intensely interesting beer worthy of your attention.

Where to get it: Most private beer stores, but especially Vita, Legacy, Firefly and Brewery Creek.
How much is it: $12-14 per 650ml bottle.
When to get it: Like all Driftwood limited releases, this will go fast, so hurry.

DRINK MORE BEER STORIES

GOODS | “Cannery” Partners With BC Craft Brewers Guild For ‘Natural Selection’ Packs

October 8, 2013 

Cannery Brewing is located at 112 – 1475 Fairview Rd. in Penticton, BC | 250-493-2723 | www.CanneryBrewing.com

Cannery Brewing is located at 112 – 1475 Fairview Rd. in Penticton, BC | 250-493-2723 | www.CanneryBrewing.com

The GOODS from Cannery Brewing Company

Everywhere, BC | Cannery Brewing is pleased to partner with the BC Craft Brewers Guild and a number of other BC Craft Brewers in the launch of two collection packs. Cannery Brewing’s Naramata Nut Brown Ale will be featured in the Natural Selection Can Package.

The BC Craft Brewers Guild has released two different 12 craft packs of natural, flavourful BC Craft Beers for BC beer lovers to discover and enjoy. “As the days get shorter and evenings colder, what would be better than a hand picked Fall selection of BC craft beers to enjoy?” said Ken Beattie, Executive Director of the BC Craft Beer Guild. “With two different mixes available, and six beers in each craft pack, you can savour some long?time favourites and discover something new to please your palate while supporting Craft Brewing throughout BC.”

The BC Craft Brewers Guild has assembled a selection of some of the best Craft Beers our BC brewers create in Natural Selection twelve packs of cans and bottles. The bottle pack and can pack feature a different selection of six BC Craft Beers brewed with passion and dedication for Fall throughout the province. This limited release is available at selected BC Liquor Stores and private stores throughout BC at $24.50/pack. Partial proceeds fund the BC Craft Brewers Guild. Read more

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