DRINKER | New Craft Brewery “Steel & Oak” Now Open (And There Was Much Rejoicing)

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by Chuck Hallett | Well, that didn’t take long. Not quite a week since the last brewery threw open its doors to make the world slightly more awesome, the new New Hot Thing is crouched at the starting line, ready to burst onto the scene in a haze of hoppy glory.

If you’re keen on ticking off yet another “Brewery Opening” on your list of Things To Do, though, get ready for a bit of a trip. Steel & Oak Brewing, the wort wizards in question, are all the way out there in New Westminster. I took the plunge and sat on the Skytrain for five hours (OK fine, twenty minutes), to trek out there last week for a bit of a preview so you didn’t have to. Well, fine plan that was. They’re good enough that you really, honestly should head out today to see for yourself.

Before we get on to the part of the brewery preview where I attempt to make yet another wood-clad tasting room sound original and inspiring, let’s take a second and review how you should actually go to S&O. Google might tell you to walk along Stewardson after leaving the weird mall/Skytrain stop that is New West Station. Don’t. Despite diesel particulate’s rumoured effectiveness as an aphrodisiac you might be better off with a short detour over to the boardwalk along the Fraser. Click here for a map.

Alright. Now you’re there. What should you expect? Co-owners Jorden Foss and Jamie Garbutt have put together a fine micro-brewery that, astonishingly, has some space left to grow. Plans are already in play for a barrel aging program and German-trained Brewmaster Peter Schulz is already concocting recipes in that precise, analytical brewing mind of his.

For opening day, S&O will have up to four beers ready to slip past your hipster moustache, and they’re all good. Damned good. Very damned good. So good that I wonder if the Fraser River is the common bond between great breweries because the last place to open of this calibre was Four Winds, downstream in Delta. In addition to the quality of the product in the tap, the balance of the brewery outside the tap is similarly fancy.

Yes, I did just compare S&O to the best brewery in BC. Now get ready for this: I think they could eventually be better. Sure, Four Winds is better right this instant, but they have a full year under their belt (happy anniversary, Mills’s!). When they first opened my reaction was “yeah, that’s a decent beer.” S&O beats that. Here are their beers:

Red Pilsner | Pretty much a perfect Pilsner nose, but a rich body that keeps on giving. I’m not a Pilsner guy, but I sorta love this beer. Start here.

Smoked Heff | Just the right balance of smoke. Not overpowering nor invisible. I’ve heard rumours of a bourbon barrel aged version, and I think it’ll slay.

English Pale | Tad young when I tried it, but had the start of a malty, chewy light pale ale that tastes exactly like Another Pint.

West Coast ESB | Also young when I tried it. Big tropical hop nose on this guy, but a bit unbalanced on the bittering. I suspect this is brewed more as a salve for the local hopheads than through any strong passion.

Coles Notes
Steel & Oak Brewing | www.steelandoak.ca
1319 Third Ave, New Westminster
Hours: 12pm-8pm Daily (10pm Thurs-Sat), Closed Mondays
Growlers: 32oz ($6), 64oz ($11.50)
Bottles: 650ml, coming in the fall
Barrels: Yes (not yet, though)

DRINK MORE BEER STORIES

GOODS | Red Truck’s Limited Porter Lands Silver Medal At The Canadian Beer Awards

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 | Our most recent Red Truck Limited release-Red Truck “Road Trip” Porter took home a silver medal at the 2014 Canadian Brewing Awards last week in Fredericton, New Brunswick.! You may still be able to get a taste of this award-winning beer at St Augustine’s, Chewies, Mamie Taylors, Pizzeria Barbarella, Rogue (Gastown), Biercraft on Commercial and Local in Kits. Congrats to all the BC breweries that took home awards! Read more

GOODS | Sunday BBQs By Big Lou’s Butcher Shop Get Set To Launch May 25 At 33 Acres

Big Lou's Butcher Shop is located at 269 Powell Street in Vancouver, BC | 604-566-9229 | www.biglousbutchershop.com

Big Lou’s Butcher Shop is located at 269 Powell St. in Vancouver, BC | 604-566-9229 | biglousbutchershop.com

The GOODS from Big Lou’s

Vancouver, BC | While BBQ and beer is a combo which tastes great at any time of year, there’s something about summer sunshine which makes it taste even better. That’s why Big Lou’s Butcher Shop is so pleased to announce the launch of a series of regular Sunday BBQs this spring and summer at 33 Acres Brewing.

The Big Lou’s Butcher Shop team will be on hand cooking up a range of locally-sourced slow-cooked treats to enjoy with some delicious 33 Acres beers. Alongside signatures like the Big Lou’s Red & White Burger and Pulled Pork Sandwich, the menu will include meaty treats that haven’t been served at Big Lou’s before.

33 Acres Brewing Company is an ideal partner for these BBQs, sharing the same dedication to small-batch crafted excellence. Located just off Broadway at 15 W. 8th Avenue, the Sunday BBQ at 33 Acres will be convenient one-stop for delicious summer eats and drinks, whether enjoyed in the tasting room or taken away to be enjoyed in the sunshine. Details after the jump… Read more

GOODS | Wildebeest Celebrating Quebecois Craft Beers With Special Feast On June 3rd

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 Tuesday, June 3rd Wildebeest celebrates Quebecois craft beers with “Da Beest & Da Block”, an exclusive six-course dinner paired with pours from three of La Belle Province’s finest microbrasseries. As part of Vancouver’s Craft Beer Week, guests are invited to enjoy six unique brews from Quebec’s celebrated Le Trou du Diable, Dieu du Ciel and Les Trois Mousquetaires microbreweries alongside a French-Canadian inspired menu by Chef Wesley Young.

In addition to the brews paired during dinner, special edition beers will be poured by Le Trou de Diable brewmaster Isaac Tremblay. Guests are able to taste a selection of beers chosen by the brewmaster himself, including Le Trou de Diable’s Amer Indienne Belgian IPA and “Dulcis Succubus” Wine Barrel Aged Saison. With three seatings — 5pm, 7pm, 9pm — guests have several opportunities to enjoy this one night only event.

Tickets for this event are limited and on sale for $99 each, excluding taxes and gratuity, which includes a six-course dinner and six unique craft beer pairings. To secure a ticket and select a seating time please purchase online. Menu after the jump… Read more

DIG IT | Drinking Up 101 Years Of History In The Building That Houses The “Alibi Room”

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by Stevie Wilson | It has been renovated and repurposed as one of Gastown’s most popular restaurants, yet the Alibi Room at 157 Alexander Street still retains much of the unique character and historic architectural features of the building’s many previous iterations. Constructed on three small lots in 1913 by E.W. Cook & Co., the Classic Revival-style building was designed by famed Canadian architect William Marshall Dodd and is celebrated as his only example of commercial architecture on record in Vancouver.

Originally, this address served as the warehouse for Jacobsen and Goldberg Co., one of the thriving businesses engaged in the province’s fur trade. Later, the “White Seal” mittens decal across the western wall of the building (now covered) advertised the products of White Manufacturing Co.. The BC Grinnall glove manufacturers were another company found on the ground floor. The H.G. White Manufacturing Co., a shipping company, purchased the building circa 1919, when the address was 149 Alexander. The property was an excellent location for each and every one of its successive businesses, including Burnyeats B.C. Limited in the 1930s, due to its proximity to the nearby port and the CPR Railway.

The exterior of the building remains virtually untouched, including the mock voussoirs above the first-storey windows and brick corbelling across the top. The original glass in the arched fenestration on the ground floor, reminiscent of the building’s original commercial purpose, is still intact (the glass on the bottom half has been updated for safety reasons).

In later decades, the address’ upper storeys were converted into offices, and by the 1970s the ground floor was known as the Banjo Palace, a 20’s-themed club boasting the country’s largest circular barbecue. The owner, George Patey, had purchased pieces of the brick wall involved in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and had it re-constructed in the men’s room (true story).

Prior to the Alibi Room (which was reopened in 2006 after a change in ownership), the address was home to the Archimedes Club, an infamous watering hole for Vancouver’s taxi drivers where a signature on the membership book got you access to $5 pitchers (or so go the legends).

The historic brick interior is still on display all throughout the Alibi Room, where they have since turned the basement – once an office space – into a secondary seating hub perfect for a few pints with friends. The next time you bend an elbow within its cozy confines, let your eyes wander and your ears imagine all the old brick walls have heard in the last 101 years.

Special thanks to Perrin Grauer at the Alibi Room

HEADS UP | Everything That You Need To Know About “Vancouver Craft Beer Week”

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Photo Credit : www.twopeas.ca

Craft beer has never been bigger in Vancouver. One needs to look no further for confirmation of this than the 5th annual Vancouver Craft Beer Week, which goes down from May 30 to June 7th. With 21 events and over 60 breweries, this nine day celebration of fermentation has become the official kickoff to summer for the beer nerd faithful. This year, they’ve seen fit to push the festival boundaries with a hip hop-flavoured theme. Don’t believe us? Press play on the ridiculous promo video above and behold some of the illest white guys in the local brewing scene…

Below you’ll find VCBW web and social media digits together with a linked up list of events that stand out for us. Get busy and snag your tickets before they all sell out!

VancouverCraftBeerWeek.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Signature Events

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Friday May 30
The Peak Presents VCBW Opening Night hosted by Prevail – Gossip Night Club – 5:00-10:00pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Saturday May 31
New Belgium vs Steamworks Collaboration Throw Down – The Bimini – 12:00-6:00pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Monday June 2
BierCraft Belgian Showcase – BierCraft Cambie – 6:00-11:00pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Tuesday June 3
Battle of the Bartenders Beer Cocktail Competition III – Blackbird Public House & Oyster Bar – 6pm – Late
DETAILS & TICKETS

Wednesday June 4
Cicerone vs Sommelier – ARC Restaurant at the Fairmont Waterfront – 6:00pm-10:00pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Thursday June 5
Brothers in Hip-Hops – The Butcher & Bullock – 6:00pm-10:00pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Friday June 6
VCBW Beer Festival presented by CRAFT Beer Market – Olympic Village Event Grounds – 4pm – 9pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Saturday June 7
VCBW Beer Festival presented by CRAFT Beer Market – Olympic Village Event Grounds – 2pm – 9pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Feature Events

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Saturday May 31
Pumphouse’s 35th Birthday Celebration – Pumphouse Pub – 3:00-10:00pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Sunday June 1
The 5th Element: B-boy & IPA Battle – Fan Club – 4:00-8:00pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Craft Beer Bingo! – Doolins Irish Pub – 7:00-9:00pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Monday June 2
Maenam Has Company – Maenam – 6:00-9:00pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Tuesday June 3
In Da pourHouse! – Pourhouse – 7:00-9:30pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Beest & Da Bloc – Wildebeest – 5:00pm-11:00pm (Multiple Seatings)
DETAILS & TICKETS

Wednesday June 4
The ANZA Presents: Craft Beer vs Kyprios & The Chaperones – Anza Club – 8:00-2:00am
DETAILS & TICKETS

Thursday June 5
Portside Samples – Portside – 4:00pm-Late
DETAILS & TICKETS

Cider Rules – August Jack’s – 6:00-9:00pm
DETAILS & TICKETS

Photo Credit : www.twopeas.ca

BREWER’S BLOG | Yes We Can Brew Belgian Beers In BC, But Do We Have The Drinkers?

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This is the last 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 my first post of this ode to Belgian beer, I promised to answer some questions: What is Belgian beer? And, can authentic Belgian-style beer be brewed here? I’ve spent the past few weeks answering the first question. I hope I didn’t ruin the magic by peeking under the monks’ robes. But that leaves that second question: can we brew it here?

Well, I don’t need monks, which is good, because I don’t have any. I can get the yeast from Oregon. Hops and malted barley are global commodities.

And from what I saw in Belgium, you can brew Belgian-style beer on practically any kind of brewing system. Achouffe started out brewing great beer with homemade equipment and now brew great beer with a modern brewing system and giant outdoor fermentation tanks. Orval brews great beer with a state of the art computer-controlled brewery, and De Dolle brews great beer using 80-year-old equipment, including open fermentors and an ancient Baudelot heat exchanger, which trickles hot wort down the outside of pipes that have cold water running through them.

One brewery in Belgium is wood-fired. At Brasserie Caracole, François Tonglet and his fellow brewers light a fire the day before a brew and they spend their brewing day feeding four-foot lengths of wood into the oven beneath the kettle and hot water tank, taking care to keep the fire hot enough to boil the wort, but not so hot that the wort boils over.??François taught me that if you’re dedicated to it, if you’re obsessed with the details and willing to do the work, you can brew good Belgian-style beer on any workable brewing system – including the little brewpub system I’ll be using.

Which brings me to another vital ingredient in any good Belgian-style beer: obsession. I encountered some kind of obsession at every Belgian brewery I visited. The brewers I met love the beer they brew, and they obsess over the details of how to make good beer – even if they obsess over completely different details.

Nico Bacelle at Brouwerij De Ranke is content to ferment his beer using a fairly pedestrian variety of dry yeast, but is obsessed with hops. He bemoaned the present state of Belgian brewing and how none of the major breweries used nearly as much hops as breweries used in the good old days. Nico went as far as having an asymmetrical direct-fired boil kettle custom-built for him, because he is convinced that the rolling boil it provides keeps the hops in circulation and extracts the maximum amount of flavor from them. Nico obsesses over the hop harvest and uses as many locally-grown hops as possible so he can inspect the crops himself.

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Glenn Castelein at Brouwerij Alvinne barely mentioned hops in the hours I spent with him. Instead, he is obsessed with aging beer in wine barrels and with his fermentation culture. He and his partner use a proprietary culture that includes a strain of brewing yeast, a strain of wild yeast, and a strain of lactic acid bacteria, which they propagate afresh for every brew. The brewers of Alvinne take trips to the wine regions of France and Spain to hunt for the exact right wine barrels to age specific batches of beer in. Glenn bemoaned the present state of Belgian brewing, saying that none of the major breweries’ sour beers are as sour as they once were.

So, I’ll need obsession. I’m pretty sure I have it. If I need any supplemental obsession I won’t have to look any farther than Vancouver’s vigorous, inventive and unruly homebrewing community.

But there is one final ingredient a brewery needs to successfully brew beer. The ingredient is very local, highly influenced by terroir, and changes enormously with seasons: Drinkers.

Beer can’t be brewed if there’s nobody to drink it.  The real reason Belgium has such an amazing variety of complex and interesting beers is because Belgian drinkers love complex and interesting beers.  I can source a strain of Belgian yeast and find the malt and hops that will produce the subtle Belgian flavours I want, but I can’t import Belgians to drink the beer. And I’m making a pretty big bet that I won’t have to.

I know that if I’d tried to start Dageraad Brewing 10 years ago, it would have died from lack of demand. But times are changing, and British Columbia’s beer culture is changing, too. A lot of breweries have released seasonal Belgian-style beers, and a few breweries already have saisons and witbiers in their year-round lineups. Dageraad will be the first brewery in British Columbia dedicated to making nothing but Belgian-style beers, and I’m betting that you’re ready for it.  There are two parts of this equation, mine and yours. For my part, I’ve changed careers, gone to brewing school, found a space, secured permits and licenses from four levels of government, and spent a ton of borrowed money setting up a brewery so I can brew the beer I love.

Your part is simpler: drink the beer and tell your friends about it. British Columbia’s beer culture is experiencing a new dawn. Dageraad Brewing will be part of it.

photo by Wim Van Fossen  | 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 Pilgrimages For Yeast And The Beers From “Brasserie d’Achouffe”

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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 | Plunging down the steep hill into the Vallée des Fées I could smell my bike’s brakes smoking. Torn between the exhilaration of the descent and fear of repeating a previous year’s crash, between my impatience to drink La Chouffe and my desire to have two intact clavicles, I braked my weird little folding bike into the corners and let it run fast down the straightaways.

Erin and I were on a pilgrimage to the reputed origin of my yeast.

The village of Achouffe had grown a bit since the brewery was founded 31 years earlier, but it was still very much a one-horse town, and that horse is Brasserie d’Achouffe. The brewery is near the middle of town and the brewery’s cafe is right in the middle of town, but then again, Achouffe is small enough that everything is pretty much in the middle of town.

We were given a private guided tour of the brewery, which is in the same location, but is technologically a far cry from Chris and Pierre’s original set-up, with its washing-machine-drum lauter tun. The present brewery is a large facility with rows of enormous outdoor fermentation tanks looming overhead. Our helpful guide answered every question I asked him, right down to the mash and fermentation temperatures, practically daring me to make a beer as good as theirs.

But the real point of our visit was in the brewery’s café. I wanted to taste one of my favourite beers while it was as fresh as possible, right outside of the brewery’s doors.

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All beer begins to change subtly as soon as it’s bottled, in some ways for the better, in others for the worse. Hop aromas fade, chemical processes slowly create new esters, and no matter how well-packaged the beer is, oxygen inevitably finds its way in.

Many stronger beers, such as barleywines and Belgian quadruples, are built to withstand age and can be much more complex after three or five years of careful aging than when they’re fresh. Lighter, crisper, hoppier beers are almost always better fresh.

A strong beer stored in a dark place with cool, stable temperatures can slowly evolve into something truly magical, but no beer is better off after all the jostling, temperature fluctuations and time spent sitting on docks in shipping containers involved in shipping a beer overseas. I never had a worse Sierra Nevada Pale Ale than one I drank in Britain, 8,000 kilometres from where the beer was brewed. Fortunately, Belgian beer can withstand transportation better than a 5% alcohol pale ale. Higher alcohol levels and bottle refermentation help to ward off bacteria and oxygen, making Belgian beer more resiliant than most.

I’ve been drinking La Chouffe and Chouffe Houblon on tap at Vancouver bars like Biercraft for years now, and I’ve always loved both, even after their long voyage. It was a different story drinking them a hundred meters from the boil kettle.

La Chouffe is a bit different than it is at home; I wouldn’t say it’s remarkably better, just different. The fruity esters are a bit less pronounced, the hop character a little more present. But the Chouffe Houblon is a completely different story.

Brasserie d’Achouffe invented the Belgian IPA style by brewing Chouffe Houblon in 2006, when an American importer asked for a beer that would cater to the hop craze sweeping America. The beer was originally designed to be exported, which is unfortunate, because it tastes much better if you drink it fresh. A hundred meters from the brewery, the beer delivers an explosion of American and European hop aroma, coupled with the fruity esters of Achouffe’s famous yeast.

No Belgian IPA brewed on this side of the Atlantic has ever equaled the original, but I can’t blame brewers here for trying. It’s a style of beer that just doesn’t taste the same if you drink it too far from where it was brewed.

Photo by Goffe Struiksma | 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 Two World Wars And Surviving Belgium’s Dark Age Of Light Beer

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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

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

DINER | “The Settlement” In Railtown Set For Postmark Brewing & Belgard Kitchen

by Andrew Morrison | 55 Dunlevy St. has seen a lot since the Vancouver Urban Winery took it over a couple of years ago. The old railtown address, all 7,700 sqft of it, is home to not only VUW – with its own Roaring Twenties Wine label, retail shop, and 36 tap wine lounge open to the public – but also FreshTAP, the company that brings BC wine to Vancouver’s forward-thinking restaurants serving the stuff on tap. It can be a little confusing with so much going on under one roof, so they’ve gone ahead and rebranded the whole building, sort of as an umbrella moniker. As of this afternoon, it’s called The Settlement Building. The rebrand is just as well, as the place will soon shelter two new companies.

The first of these is a 65 seat eatery called Belgard Kitchen. It’ll offer day/night service, low and cozy hideaway booths, and bar height tables. Overseeing the food program is 19 year Earls veteran, Reuben Major. Together with chef de cuisine Jason Masuch (ex-Brix) and sous chef Mark Reder (ex-Fish Shack), Major plans on serving shareable small plates in the evening (eg. Swiss cheese fondue, bacon mushroom pate) and a larger lunch program that will see sandwiches, chile, soups, salads, slaws, a house special ramen, and a daily crockpot. I looked in on construction yesterday and they were just about to start installing the bulk of their kitchen equipment.

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What’s in a name? I had to consult a 20 volume version of the OED to find the answer. It turns out that a belgard came to English (the poets, natch) from the Italian in the 16th century or so, and it means “a kind and loving look.” ”The team felt the meaning captured what they’re all about and what guests through the doors can expect,” The Settlement’s PR person, Kate MacDougall, explained. “It’s their everyday disposition – made easier, I’m sure, surrounded by wine – and their service style.”

Opening Day for Belgard Kitchen is set for the middle of April.

The second new company in The Settlement Building is a microbrewery called Postmark Brewing. It’s being led by managing director Nate Rayment, formerly of Howe Sound Brewing, while the “brew chief” is none other than polymath Craig Noble, who made the engrossing 2007 Tableland documentary (also the brother of JoieFarm‘s Heidi Noble).

Postmark will produce four sessionable beers that will be available for growler purchase/refill, on tap (one presumes) 20 feet away at Belgard Kitchen, and in local beer-loving restaurants around town. If all goes according to plan, we’ll be drinking their first beers in June.

The one catch to it all is that FreshTAP is moving out to make room for Postmark, which matters not to the public because it never provided any on-site services to the end consumer. In the grand scheme of things, however, it’s worth noting that the little company with the big idea of selling local wine in steel kegs to local eateries has already outgrown its nursery (slow clap all around). They’re looking at options for a new and scaleable space as we speak. Good luck, and well done indeed.

ALL ANTICIPATED OPENINGS

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.”

BREWER’S BLOG | Trappist Breweries: The Ancient Traditions & The Modern Realities

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This is the fourth 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 | A year after we were turned back at the walls of Westvleteren, Erin and I pedaled our bikes through the wooded hills that shield the Orval abbey from the secular world. Despite being jetlagged from the transatlantic flight the night before, I could hardly contain my excitement.

We were about to tour a real Trappist brewery. Although the Orval brewery normally only admits visitors one day a year, Erin had leveraged her journalistic credentials to arrange a private tour.

Orval is a legend in its own right. The monastery produces only one beer, but that beer is totally unique. Orval is a copper colour and pours with a rambunctious, foamy head, and it tastes unlike any other pale ale on the planet. The beer has the hops of a pale ale, sure, but there’s something else; there’s a peppery mystery and a murmuring of dark berries.  As the beer ages, it changes to a greater extent than any other beer I’ve ever encountered.

As an Orval gets older, the hop aroma fades into the background and is taken over by pepper and berries, and by a magnificently bucolic aroma of horses and meadow grass.  Local beer enthusiasts in Florenville and other surrounding villages always check the date on a bottle of Orval before pouring it, and many are known to cellar freshly-bought beer until it reaches their preferred age.

Some like it fresh, but most of the locals prefer their Orval aged for one to two years. One local man is reputed to have cellared a quantity of the beer for three years for his daughter’s wedding, although it’s not clear how he had three years’ notice.

Amid the ruins of the old twelfth century abbey of Orval, near a 300-year-old oak tree, Erin and I found a clear pond, fed by the same spring that supplies the brewery with water. The pond is said to be the site of the legendary scene depicted on Orval’s label: a trout surfacing, bearing in its mouth a golden ring lost by a countess, causing her to declare that this is indeed a valley of gold (val d’or; thus or-val). Inspired by a reverence that had more to do with the brewery than the abbey, Erin and I knelt and tasted the pool’s clear waters.

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Leaving the old abbey’s ruins, we passed the new abbey and entered the brewery for our appointment with vice president François de Herenne. The atmosphere of the brewery was certainly less fraught with romance and legend than the abbey ruins had been. There wasn’t a single monk or a single bubbling copper cauldron in sight. Instead, we were given a tour of a thoroughly modern brewing facility complete with a computerized control room.

Looking for a hint of ancient tradition, I asked François whether the current beer bore any resemblance to the beer the monks brewed in the Middle Ages.

His answer, given without hesitation, was an emphatic no.

The Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval was established in the 12th century and its monks almost certainly brewed beer from the beginning, but the abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution and the order dispersed, leaving behind little more than romantic desolation and a spring-fed pond.

The abbey was re-established in the 1920s, and in 1931 the brewery was opened to help fund the reconstruction of the monastery. The beer owes its recipe to the first two brewers from this period: the first was a German, who followed the German way and brewed something crisp and hoppy, and the second was a British-trained Belgian who introduced British techniques, including infusion mashing and dry hopping.

This is the reality of contemporary monastic brewing. There are no ancient copper vessels, no arcane 800 year-old recipes and monks are seldom seen in the brewery.

Monastic breweries are now professionally managed and operated by lay staff. The beers are made with modern brewing equipment and the recipes are of relatively recent origin. All of the Trappist monasteries in Belgium stopped making beer at some point in the last hundred or so years. Recipes have been tweaked and new beers have been invented to keep up with changing tastes. When you bring a trappist ale to your lips, you are drinking a very good brew, but you are not drinking an ancient brew.

What I saw at Orval was a very modern brewery with a secular staff.  What I tasted was one of the most distinct, unusual and complex beers in the world. And what I learned is that you don’t have to be a monk to brew it.

But there is another cloistered population of tirelessly hard-working organisms without whom Belgian beer would be impossible to make.

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.”

BREWER’S BLOG | On Trappist Breweries & Revering The Legendary Beers Of St. Sixtus

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This is the third 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 | The most pervasive legend about Belgian beer is that it is made by monks, which is true, in a way: some of the best Belgian beers really are brewed within the walls of Trappist monasteries.

When I first learned of monastic beers, I imagined tonsured monks in brown robes leaning over copper vats, stirring concoctions with wooden poles and adding arcane ingredients according to 800-year-old recipes.

The first time I tasted Trappist beer, it was easy to imagine it was brewed this way. I was used to drinking lagers and English-style ales – good, straightforward, honest beers with nothing to hide, but with no mystery. Then one day I drank a strong, dark beer from an abbey at the edge of the Belgian Ardennes. Rochefort 10 is a miracle of complexity, of spice and dried fruit flavours I had never experienced in beer before. This was beer? This was beer! Only monks could craft such an elixir!

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No Trappist brewery is as revered or cloaked in legend as Westvleteren, at the abbey of Saint Sixtus. The monastery produces such small quantities that the beer is scarcely distributed. Until recently, it was impossible to buy in North America. Even Belgians had to travel to the west Flemish countryside and wait in line (possibly overnight) to buy the monks’ famed beer. Visitors are barred from the brewery and are only allowed into the abbey by invitation.

In June 2012, my wife and I cycled halfway across Flanders to Westvleteren. Along busy highways and bucolic canals, through cities and cow pastures, in the sun and in the rain we pedalled, fully aware of the futility of our pilgrimage. When we arrived we could only look longingly at the abbey wall before turning around and crossing the road to the monastery’s café.

We sat on the sunny patio at the café with a couple hundred other beer fans, and we drank the monks’ beer and ate their cheese and pâté, content to simply be near where the beer was brewed.

The beer is so scarce that we had only ever had the opportunity to drink it twice before, once because we were given a bottle by a Belgian friend who had camped out overnight at the abbey, and once because a rogue beer distributor imported some to Canada against the wishes of the monastery. I’d never even had a full bottle to myself before, and suddenly we were able to order as much as we wanted and revel in the rich malt, dark fruit, and mysterious spicy depth of Westvleteren 12. It took some restraint to make it back to our guesthouse on two wheels.

That night I lay boozily in bed with the taste of Westy 12 still in my mouth, wondering what divine brewing miracles had been performed behind the walls of the monastery. The Westvleteren legend remained safely in the cloisters.

Image: Wikipedia Commons | 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.”

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