Harley Zipori

Harley Zipori- Local Beer and His Adventure to Western Canada

Harley Zipori- Local Beer and His Adventure to Western Canada

I was once in a pub in England that had a large selection of beers on the menu. A number was printed after each beer indicating the number of miles from the pub to the brewery where the beer was made. This allowed patrons of the pub to know exactly how local the beer was.

 

Harley Zipori- Local Beer and His Adventure to Western Canada

I was once in a pub in England that had a large selection of beers on the menu. A number was printed after each beer indicating the number of miles from the pub to the brewery where the beer was made. This allowed patrons of the pub to know exactly how local the beer was.

 

My annual vacation this year took me to western Canada. Primarily British Columbia and included a short trip to the Canadian Rockies in the province of Alberta.

Harley Zipori- Local Beer and His Adventure to Western Canada

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For those Americans to whom this might be confusing, a province is the Canadian equivalent of a state. Canada is the country that governs the land just north of the US border. It is not a colony of the U.S. but they do speak of form of English that can be comprehended by most Americans.

 

The differences between the US and Canada can be subtle so it’s easy to understand how Americans can get confused on the matter. A fairly definitive summary of the differences between the two countries can be found at the following link. Although it is lacking in academic citations, it ties in quite well to my blog.

 

As usual when I travel, I search out local beers. I knew that British Columbia has microbreweries and a craft beer culture. I did some research as usual before travelling but it did not prepare me for the reality.

 

I could give all kinds of facts and figures or a rundown on the list of beers I tasted or brewpubs I visited. And I will do some of that shortly. However one example seems to sum up the situation as I see it regarding craft beer in Western Canada.

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I visited a pub in Victoria (the capital of the province of British Columbia and the largest city on Vancouver Island). It’s just a nice friendly neighborhood pub called the Beagle. No tourists. Not downtown or in the heart of some gentrified culinary center. I counted the number of beers brewed in British Columbia on their menu: 31 beers from 14 different breweries. Many of the breweries were in Victoria or elsewhere on Vancouver Island. They had 3 taps that were not local craft brews: Molson Ale (one of Canada’s common commercial lagers), Guinness Stout and Strongbow Cider (a leading British hard apple cider). I need to correct my statement above. A few of those 31 “beers” I remember to be hard ciders. Beer and hard cider are closely related. Just ask Denny Neilson.

 

In any event, you could see by looking around at the glasses of the tables in the Beagle, that a good number were clearly not a Pilsner like Molson or a stout like Guinness. However in those 31 local beers, there was no shortage of styles that could pass for Pilsner or stout so I think it’s fair to say that many if not most of the pints poured in that pub are local craft beers or ciders.

Harley Zipori- Local Beer and His Adventure to Western Canada

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Vancouver Island is a large island on the west coast of Canada. The city of Vancouver is not on the Island. Victoria is on the southern tip of the Island, facing the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington. The island is large and sparsely populated: one and a half times the area of the state of Israel with one tenth the population. From one list of breweries in British Columbia, I count 17 breweries alone on Vancouver Island. The same list shows 78 breweries in the entire province which has just over half the population of Israel..

 

I give these numbers as an illustration of the vibrancy of the craft beer culture and industry in British Columbia. OK, Canadians are known to be relatively enthusiastic drinkers. But then, as has been pointed out by others, the people who drink a lot of beer are most likely not drinking craft beer.

 

It’s definitely not fair to compare cultural trends in Israel with those of any other part of the world. So I won’t. We have our own culture. It’s easy to get enthusiastic over a new place with trends that resonate with me personally.

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The first brewpub I visited in British Columbia (hereafter referred to as BC)  was called “Over the Moon”. The pub has very unassuming but friendly decor and I remember the brewery being clearly visible behind large panes of glass. Lesson one I learnt in BC is that at any one time a brewery will have a relatively large number of beers. Here is the standard list from the menu at Over the Moon:

  • Lightside of the Moon – Session Lager

  • Potts Pils – Dry Hopped Lager

  • Creepy Uncle Dunkel – Dark Lager

  • Tranquility IPA – West Coast India Pale Ale

  • Hip as Funk – Farmhouse IPA

  • Berliner Style Weiss

  • Bulldog Belgo Scotch Ale

  • Boom Boom Boom Belgian Tripel – 9% alcohol

 

The rotating guest brewery tap list included:

  • Pfriem Belgian Dark Strong – Pfriem Brewery Oregon

  • Double Dragon Imperial Red Ale – Phillips Brewery, Victoria BC

  • Saboteur Baltic Porter – Gigantic Brewery, Portland Oregon

 

They also had food as any self-respecting brewpub would have.

 

One way of checking out the beers in a pub is with a “flight”; a number of small glasses each with a different beer. A typical number is 4 glasses with the total volume of a single pint (about 500 cc). This allows people to taste a variety of beers offered at the pub. I made it a habit of getting a flight whenever I could.

 

Another brewpub I happened upon purely by chance was Swans. It is a very nicely appointed pub restaurant attached to a small hotel, situated right on the waterfront in downtown Victoria.

 

I sat at the bar, which put my back to the view of the waterfront out the window, but allowed me to make acquaintance of Gavin who is one of the friendliest and most knowledgeable bartenders I have run into. Gavin helped me put together a flight of 4 beers out of the 10 on the menu:

  • Arctic Kolsch

  • Old Town Pilsner

  • Pandora Pale Ale

  • Berry Ale

  • Extra IPA

  • Riley’s Scotch Ale

  • Buckerfields ESB (Extra Special Bitter)

  • Appleton Brown Ale

  • Oatmeal Stout

  • Black Cygnet IBA (India Brown Ale)

 

I chose for my flight the following: the Kolsch, Extra IPA, Black Cygnet IPA and the Oatmeal Stout. I also tried the Berry Ale which was delicately flavored with raspberries and the Pandora Pale Ale, named after the street the pub is located on. The pale ale was a British style bitter as opposed to the American pale ales common in the Pacific Northwest where they have developed all these fruity hops. The IPA I tasted had that characteristic Northwest fruity flavor.

 

All the beers were top quality and memorably distinct. From what I remember, the beers are brewed in the basement and are piped up to the bar from 600 liter tanks. Why bother with kegs if you don’t have to. I can see from the size of the place and the number of people there for lunch on a weekday, that they do a pretty brisk business. A friend from Victoria says that Swans is one of the nicer places in the city to go out to, even if you are not going for the beer.

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One beer that stood out for me was the Kolsch. It was clean and crisp as I remembered Kolsch to be from my trip to Berlin in 2014 that I blogged about in detail. Kolsch originates in the German city of Cologne and is a golden ale as opposed to the traditional German lager or standard Pilsner we are so used to. Kolsch is a good session beer and the Swans Kolsch was as good as any I remember in Berlin. Of course I couldn’t do a side by side tasting but to me it was the genuine article.

 

A few days later, we were in the Canadian Rockies and we were still running into brewpubs. We were there in the beginning of May before the tourists arrive en masse and I was assured then starting in June, there would be throngs of people visiting the towns of Jasper (with the Jasper Brewing Company) and Banff (with the Banff Avenue Brewing Company) and their resident pubs and restaurants. I didn’t get an opportunity in Jasper to try the local brewpub but did manage to catch lunch in Banff where the Banff Avenue Brewing Co. has a lovely restaurant pub with a nice selection of beers:

  • Pilsner Bow River

  • Lower Bankhead Black Pilsner

  • Head Smashed IPA

  • Brewers Oar Cream Ale

  • Reverend Rundle Stout

  • Pond Hockey Pale Ale

  • Muscles from Brussels Belgian Witbier

  • Banff Earthquake Double IPA

  • Snowdays Winter Ale

 

A couple of the beers were not available when we were there but it was an impressive list and I love the way the names of the beers reflect the place and atmosphere. To be in Banff is like being in a magical kingdom anyway and I feel the names of the beers try to capture some of the magic of the place.

 

My final brewpub was a large one spread out over 2 floors in Gastown, Downtown Vancouver. The Steamworks brewpub/restaurant was fairly crowded on the weekday we visited with a good menu and nice selection of their beers:

  • Pilsner

  • Pale Ale

  • Empress IPA

  • Kanadische Kolsch

  • Killer Cucumber Ale

  • Imperial Red

  • White Angel IPA

  • Oatmeal Stout

  • Jasmine IPA

 

They also announced their soon to be released beers.

  • Saison

  • Golden Coconut Ale

 

What stands out for me in this list is that there are 3 IPA’s. Also, they don’t really go for the cute names for their beers. I guess it’s about the beer, as it should be.

 

I managed to get a taste of 6 beers all told at the Steamworks. The Killer Cucumber Ale really is made with cucumber and had a subtle but distinct pickly taste. The Pale Ale was what I would expect from a Pacific Northwest pale ale with a nice balance and a noticeable citrusy and fruity taste. The Imperial Red was very unique with a taste I could not identify and a nice bitter finish. The Oatmeal Stout was a nicely balanced, full flavored stout. The White Angle IPA had a very different flavor most likely due to a hops variety I am not familiar with.

 

I also had a small taste of the Saison they had not yet tapped. It was delicious. Saison beers are quite popular in the US and Canada. I remember finding them during my 2012 trip to North America and I saw several examples during my recent visit. The style is supposed to copy the farmhouse beers brewed in French speaking Belgium during the winter months. They are often fruity, but not in the manner of the North American pale ales.

 

I also had a chance to talk with one of the brewers at the pub. The pub is not the only site they brew beer but the Saison was brewed there. They apparently tend to do the seasonal and experimental beers at the brewpub brewery and brew large batches at other locations as the Steamworks also sells their beer outside the pub. Among the interesting facts I discovered is that Steamworks uses over 30 varieties of hops. This explains the unique tastes I discovered in some of their beers and attests to the brewers’ willingness to extend the range of the flavors of their beers and venture beyond the tastes that even the most ardent craft brewing fans have become accustomed to.

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I would heartily recommend any of the brewpubs I visited during my recent Canadian adventure. They were all excellent examples of what a brewpub should be with fresh quality beer and good food.

 

I also believe that a brewpub is the best, if not only, way to really explore the full range of beers made by a single brewery. Many of the pubs and restaurants in Canada I visited had a nice selection of craft beers but only a brewpub can have on tap the 8 or 10 beers that truly express the range of creativity of a top notch brewing team.

 

One further honorable mention was at the Tap and Barrel restaurant in Vancouver. While not having an impressively large beer selection on tap, they had clearly given their menu some thought. I shared a 5 beer seasonal flight with the following beers:

  • Howe Sound Super Jupiter Grapefruit ISA

  • Driftwood New Growth Pale Ale

  • Hoyne Off the Grid Red Lager

  • Tree Mellow Moon Pineapple Hefeweizen

  • Parallel 49 Jerkface 9000 Wheat

 

It was an interesting selection and I give full credit to the management of the Tap and Barrel for selecting a good range of out-of-the-ordinary beers. Of course for me the beers are not ordinary but who knows, for the typical Vancouver craft beer drinker this could be run of the mill. There was just so much beer in such an astounding array of styles that I would guess that the BC brewers work overtime to come up with new tastes and experiences for their loyal beer drinking fans.

 

I will wrap it up now. I’ll write another blog soon and perhaps have a few observations on the local Israeli craft brew scene after I have processed the entirety of my beer experiences in Western Canada.

 

In the meantime I have put a bunch of beer related pictures in an album that help illustrate some of the places in mentioned in the blog and miscellaneous bottles that tasted. I can always be reached at maof.beer@gmail.com.

Harley Zipori- Local Beer and His Adventure to Western Canada

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