Category Archives: BC Beer Industry

Snowy Mountains and Beer

As a casual observation, beer that is marketed with snowy mountains seems to be almost universally bad.

Packaging-Design-Kokanee-beer-3 44124-CoorsLight-can
beer-keystone  Busch

Perhaps snowy mountains suggest the ideal temperature (freezing cold) for consuming this beer. Or perhaps glacial mountains is part of a marketing scheme that highlights the water used to make the beer is glacier water.

This is horribly unfair to snowy mountains. Snowy mountains are quite nice actually. So to hopefully restore snowy mountains’ reputations, we offer our homebrew, on top of a snowy mountain, with a snowy mountain in the background.

Mountain Beer

Location: Panorama Ridge (the mountain in the background in Black Tusk), Garibaldi Provincial Park, British Columbia

Date: June 15, 2013 (and look at all that snow still)

Beer: Honey Nut Brown Ale (which upon opening, promptly foamed all over the place due to bouncing around in a backpack for 7 hours)

Honey Hefeweizen

The Story

Caribou Honey Lager

Bowen Island Honey

Granville Island Honey Lager

British Columbia is notorious for honey beers. Just check the list of beers brewed in BC. Nearly every brewery attempting to market to the lager drinking crowd has a honey beer. One theory is that honey makes beer sound more sweet, thus more easy drinking. For those who are weary of the bitterness of beer, honey sounds quite appealing. However, since honey is very fermentable, when it is added to beer most of the sweet honey flavour turns into alcohol. So the sweetness people expect from a honey beer generally comes from the malt, not the honey.

Seeing as it is summer, and we have a lot of Gambrinus Honey Malt lying around the brewery (and we want to fit in with other BC breweries), we made a honey hefeweizen. Most of the honey sweetness comes from the Gambrinus Honey Malt. We added 1 pound of Raspberry Blossom Honey after the beer had fermented, and then 1 pound of plain unpasteurized honey to carbonate. Most of the sugar from the honey turns into alcohol, drying out the beer; however, some of that honey flavour and aroma sticks around. Combined with the banana, clove, and sweet flavour from the hefeweizen yeast, this beer could end up being like alcoholic banana cream pie.

The Tasting

Honey HefeweizenAppearance: Slightly darker than a normal hefeweizen, but still very refreshing looking. Very foamy, strong head, with tonnes of lacing.
Aroma: Very floral honey aroma, with a hint of hops.
Taste: Immediate honey and banana flavour, with the bubble gum coming in later. There is malty sweet flavour as well coming from the honey malt and biscuit malt. After swallowing, it becomes very dry and slightly bitter. This is likely from the large amounts of honey (2 pounds) put into the beer. There is a slight grainy taste as well. Very carbonated, making almost soda-like, yet the body is very heavy.
Overall: It is a casual summer beer. Hefeweizens generally seem to be a beer that has a wide appeal, and this beer is no different. It is obviously very sweet because of the honey malt, but it also has a heavier feel because the honey malt and biscuit malt. Thus it is not as refreshing as other hefeweizens, but it is very flavourful. The White Lab 380 does produce a lot of bubble gum, which AJ has become less a fan of. It’s a fine beer, but adding Gambrinus Honey Malt makes a beer less refreshing because it makes the beer heavier and sweeter. Sweet and heavy are two adjectives not normally used to describe refreshing beers. Perhaps less honey malt. Also we should have mashed at a lower temperature

The Process

Specifics: 23 litre batch, 66% extraction efficiency, ABV 5.0%, O.G. 1.050, IBU 16, single infusion mash: 60 minutes at 68 Celsius.

Grain Bill
This is a fairly typical hefeweizen with wheat malt and pale malt making up a majority of grain bill. However, we added nearly a pound of Gambrinus Honey Malt to really bring out the toasty honey flavour.

Gambrinus Pale Malt: 5 lb
Gambrinus Wheat Malt: 5 lb
Gambrinus Honey Malt: 14 oz (8 oz of honey malt provides a slight honey flavour, while anything over a pound of honey malt can become cloyingly sweet. We wanted a noticeable honey flavour, without being cloying, so we settled on 14 oz)
Belgian Biscuit: 4 oz (We tried this in our Honey Nut Brown Ale, and it adds a great toasty, bready flavour that really brings out the flavour of the honey malt. So we added a little bit to our honey hefeweizen as well)

Honey in Honey Malt

(Honey surrounded by Gambrinus Honey Malt)

Hop Schedule

We only did first wort hopping, in order create a smoother bitterness that will hopefully bring out the honey flavour.

First Wort Hops: 1 oz Ultra (We have plenty of ultra remaining from our last order from Hops Direct. It is a noble type hop that works well in wheat beers and lagers. Very clean bitterness, with a slight floral aroma.)

Fermentation
Rinsed White Labs 380 yeast from the Cascade Falls Hefeweizen.
Primary Fermentation: 14 days at 21 Celsius

Adding Honey

(Adding honey to the secondary fermenter. Before the honey is added, this beer is about 4.5%)

Added 1 pound of Raspberry Blossom Honey when racking beer to the secondary.
Secondary Fermentation: 14 days at 18 Celsius
Added 1 pound of unpasteurized honey for carbonation

Fermenting Honey Hefeweizen

(The beer starting to ferment again. After all the honey fermented in the beer, the alcohol increased to 5%)

English Revolution ESB

The Story

This beer is actually a remake of one of our first amazing all-grain batches of beer. The recipe came from our fantastic, yet sadly far away, homebrew store, Dan’s Homebrewing. Despite Vancouver’s location in the Cascade region, for a long time there was only one homebrew store. Without Dan’s Homebrew store, Robert and I would not have been able to pursue our passion of barley juice. So if you live in the region of Vancouver, British Columbia, visit Dan’s store. It is reasonably priced and the people there are helpful.

This beer is the ESB. We first made it nearly two years ago. It is full of malty, carmel flavours and just enough hops to make it interesting. We have tinkered with the recipe a bit, such as adding our own farm grown hops, but the spirit remains the same. Anybody we’ve ever given this beer to has enjoyed it because it is very drinkable, yet it is interesting enough to impress beer critics. This is perfect beer for the dog days of winter.

cascadeESB

The Tasting

Appearance: Cherry wood colour. Thin, but stable, creamy head.
Aroma: Sweet and carmel aroma, and a very light woody, earthy aroma from the English hops. There is a little bit of yeast flavour, which will subdue with time.
Taste: Very thick and creamy body that is taken over by rich carmel and candy flavours. Very little bitterness, despite the (assumed) 42 IBUs. You could say the carmel is somewhat cloying, but not overly unbalanced
Overall: This beer is very malty and creamy. The lack the any bitterness makes it very appealing to people who may often limit themselves to lagers. The carmel 60 comes through quite strong and is the dominating flavour, resulting in sweet carmel flavours that may turn some off. The technique of first wort hopping gives this beer a very smooth bitterness, with no harsh edges. It is similar to many ‘pale’ and amber ales in the BC beer market such as the Granville Island’s Pale Ale, Stanley Park’s Amber Ale and the Phillips’ Blue Buck Pale Ale. For those who swear allegiance to only IPAs (branch out people!), this beer is not for you.

ESB

The Process

Specifics: 23 litre batch, 80% extraction efficiency, ABV 5.6%, O.G. 1.053, IBU 42, single infusion mash at 67 Celsius for 40 minutes

Grain Bill

We followed the recipe fairly closely from what Dan provided. We changed two things in the grain bill. Instead of Pale Malt, we used Gambrinus’s ESB. We also added 8 oz of barley flakes for a little extra body.

Gambrinus ESB Malt: 10 lb (ESB malt is labeled “ESB” malt; it’s practically a divine order to use it in our ESB)
Carmel 60: 12 oz (an ESB needs that darker crystal malt to give it the toffee and carmel flavours)
Barley Flakes: 8 oz (to give it that extra body and head retention; barley flakes are like cheap Carapils)
Chocolate Malt: 1 oz (such a small amount to added the slightest of roasty flavours; any more would be too much)

Hop Schedule

We changed the hops a bit as well. We used the hops we grew at our farm (thus we don’t know the exact AA% of the hops, thus the IBUs are likely incorrect). We also added first-wort-hopping to create a smoother bitterness we find desirable. Lastly, the last hop addition (0.65 oz of Kent Golding) was supposed to be added at flame out. However, we moved them up, boiling them for 15 minutes, to let the malty aroma shine through the hops.

First Wort Hopping: 0.4 oz Kent Golding (These hops will create a very smooth bitterness, taking the harsh edge off the 60 minute hops. First wort hopping is fantastic for balancing out the malt without adding any bitter hop flavours)
60 minutes: 0.9 oz Zeus
15 minutes: 0.65 oz Kent Golding

Fermentation

For yeast, we just used a packet of Nottingham dry yeast. Nottingham yeast will result in a cleaner, less fruity/ester-y beer than the style calls for, but that isn’t a big deal for us. In our minds, Nottingham yeast is good for all American and British ales (though we do switch up the yeasts every once in a while). It is cheaper than liquid yeast, it generally does not require a starter, and it ferments clean with few off flavours.

Primary: 7 days
Secondary: 15 daysAJ

(AJ thinking about all the money he has saved by using Nottingham yeast compared to expensive Wyeast and White Lab alternatives. Perhaps he can use that money to buy some new clothes at the thrift store.)

Phillips’ Hop Box

IMG_20130118_191407The Hop Box, as the name suggests, is a 12-pack filled with IPAs. The box contains four different IPAs: Hop Circle IPA, Krypton Rye PA, Skookum Cascadian Brown Ale, and so-called “special guest” IPA. We don’t think these are the best IPAs in BC; however, a product that offers so many IPAs at one price should be purchased.

We reviewed the 4 beers: Hop Circle IPA, Krypton Rye PA, Skookum Cascadian Brown Ale, Chinook IPA. We put them all in the same type of glass (because the shape of the glass affects the aroma of the beer). Given the strong flavour of each of these beers, order of drinking the beer is important because the preceding consumed beer can influence the taste of the succeeding beer. With that being said, we didn’t care, and drank the beer in whatever order we pleased.

The only real problem this box has is writing on each of the bottles describing the beer. The ‘pithy’ little blurbs on the bottles tell us perfectly nothing about the beer, aside from the fact that somebody at the brewery hired an Liberal Arts student for a marketing internship. We’ve included all the descriptions of the beers for your own judgement.

IMG_20130118_191639
(From left to right: Chinook IPA, Hop Circle IPA, Krypton Rye PA, Skookum Cascadian Brown Ale)

Hop Circle IPA

“With a hop flavour that is out of this world, Hop Circle IPA will probe your taste buds and abduct your sense. The gravitational pull of this IPA will have you searching the galaxy for another close encounter of the thirst kind. Resistance is futile”
Appearance:
Dark golden with a quickly receding head. Very clear.
Aroma: The aroma reminded us of opening our bag of Centennial hops, but not quite as strong.
Taste: Opens with a grassy and slightly sweet flavour. It is not an overly bitter beer, and the bitterness does not last very long.
Overall: It is a fine IPA, but there is nothing that is overly noteworthy about it. It is balanced more towards the hoppy side. Unpleasant caramel taste.

Krypton Rye PA

“Better tasting than a speeding bullet, Rye PA will be hard not to drink in a single gulp. Spicy rye malt and big citrus hop flavours make Krypton the perfect IPA for your fortress of solitude. Hop, hop and away!”
Appearance:
Deep golden colour, with little head.
Aroma: Fantastic aroma of sweet hop juiciness. Floral and grapefruit
Taste: A very floral beer with the perfect amount of bitterness. It is like somebody dry hopped this beer with rose pedals. A slight spiciness you would expect from the rye. This beer sets the mood for a romantic evening.
Overall: A gift from the gods; this beer is floral, citursy, spicy and truly device. Our favorite from the Hop Box.

Skookum Cascadian Brown Ale

“Skookum from Chinook, West Coast North America. 1. A monster indigenous to the Cascade region. 2. Strong, reliable and/or hard working. 3. IPA with big, bold, characteristics and smooth, rich maltiness. 4. The unofficial fuel of the Cascadian revolution”
Appearance:
Dark brown, transparent when held up to a light. Very strong, thick head.
Aroma: It is like being at home over Christmas. Smells like hot chocolate, marshmallows, and a slightly spiciness.
Taste: Surprisingly not too rich and thick, yet still being smooth. Well hopped with good hop aroma and flavour (slightly spiciness), yet there is a strong dark chocolate flavour.
Overall: Coming in at second is the Skookum which is chocolatey, spicy and full bodied.

Chinook IPA

“Chinook: the only hop used in this beer. Bittering cariety with aroma characterics, bred by crossing a petham golding with the USDA 63012 Male; a high alpha acid hop with wonderful herbal and grapefruit like character”
Appearance:
Fairly clear, thin head, but it remained
Aroma: Not an overly strong aroma, but notes of pine, herbs and slight grapefruit (Robert actually inhaled some trying to detect more aromatic notes.)
Taste: A somewhat heavy body, fairly smooth with the hop bitterness coming in later. Not an overly fruity IPA, mainly limited to pine and herb flavour. Though citrus flavour does come through much later.
Overall: This is is not an overly complicated beer, but it showcases what Chinook hops smell and taste like. More breweries should make beers like this that educate consumers on the ingredients in the beers.

Breweries We Like

British Columbia has a wealth of microbreweries. From the well known, such as Granville Island Brewing, or the hidden gems, such as Old Yale Brewing. While all these breweries bring different beers that we enjoy, two breweries stick out to us.

Phillips

Phillips is fantastic for how crazy and weird they are. They experiment with many different types of beer, from ginger beer to many types of IPAs. Not everything they make is a classic, but it is nearly always interesting. In this sense, they are sort of like a homebrewery. They are making the beer they want to drink.

Some of our favorite beers from Phillips:

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Here’s a link to our review of the Hop Box

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Driftwood

If Phillips is the crazy one, Driftwood is the more serious, conservative and perfectionist brewery (it may not be, but this is our perception. And just look at the difference between their labels. Driftwood is stylish, muted and somewhat minimalist; Phillips’ labels are generally just pure crazy). Driftwood doesn’t make as many beers as Phillips, but what they do brew, they brew very well. Their styles aren’t as out there (aside from their regular saison Farmhand Ale, which is amazing), but the styles are nearly perfected.

Some of our favorite beers from Driftwood:

500 Pounds of Barley

Nearly every beer that is made primarily consists of barley. Thus every brewery uses a large amount barley. At Mt. Lehman Brewery, we get most of our barley from Gambrinus Malting Corporation in the Okanagan Valley. Barley grown in British Columbia and Alberta is shipped to Gambrinus where they malt it, a process that converts the starch in barley into sugar. Gambrinus’ malted barley is distributed throughout BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado and further. If you are drinking a beer from a brewery in the Pacific Northwest, it is very possible that beer was made with Gambrinus malt. As the smallest malting company in North America, they are like Canada’s micro-malthouse. Perhaps because of their small size, they have great customer service and are willing to sell malt to homebrewers at very reasonable prices, given you pay in cash/cheque and pick it up in person.

okanagan valley

(The Okanagan Valley: an area more known for its wine than its beer)

AJ combined a visit to his brother, who lives near the malt-house, with a trip to pick up eight 25 kg (55 pounds) bags of barley from Gambrinus. The drive from Abbotsford (the home of Mt. Lehman Brewery) to Armstrong is roughly 4 hours, but is completely worth it. Plus AJ got to drink beer with his brother.

bags of barleyOur order consisted of:
Pale Malt: 4 bags (its our primary base malt)
ESB: 2 bags (a malty-er, more bread-like alternative to the Pale)
Munich Light: 1 bag (we go through enough of this to justify purchasing of bag of it. It adds a deep amber colour to our beers, plus a sweet, malty, nutty flavour)
Wheat Malt: 1 bag (we still have half a bag of wheat left, but we need more for summertime wheat beers)
We did not order more honey malt because we still have 40 pounds left from our last order in Janurary 2012.

The big advantage of buying directly from Gambrinus is selection. While you can get a bag of Gambrinus Pale malt from nearly any homebrew store, Gabrinus Malting Corporation can offer bags of ESB, Pilsen, Vienna, Munich light, Munich dark, honey malt, and wheat malt. They also have organic offerings of some of their malts. Gambrinus only sell their malt in 25 kg bags, so do not expect to be able to just purchase a couple pounds of a particular malt.

A word of caution: buying specialty malts in 25 kg bags is a rather onerous undertaking. You might easily go through a bag of Pale malt because you are using 10 pounds each batch. After 5 batches, you will have nearly finished the bag. However, buying a bag of honey malt is likely going to last you a very long time. Let’s assume you put 1 pound of honey malt (which is a lot, we normally don’t put more than 8 oz in a batch) in every batch of beer you make. It would take 55 batches to finish off that whole bag of honey malt, resulting in 1265 litres of beer. You might need to extend your circle of friends to dispose of that much beer. While we think honey malt is a fantastic malt, you are nearly guaranteed to be unable to finish the bag. Depending on your brewing habits, it may also be difficult for a homebrewer to finish bags of Munich Light, Munich Dark, and Vienna malt as well. If you want these malts in smaller quantities, you should go to your local homebrew store.

More information about the malts offered by Gambrinus Malting Corporation can be found here. It is not their official website, as they don’t appear to have one. It is the website of some malt broker. However, the website provides the necessary information on the colour, protein, moisture etc.

gambrinus
(The sign for Gambrinus Malting Corporation, between BWP Millwork and Steve’s Used Auto Farts.)

silos

(The grain silos at Gambrinus Malting Corporation)

malthouse

(Complexities of the malt-house.)

   barley field

(Fancy farm mural showing barley. Culture!)