Thursday, July 18, 2019

Great Canadian Beer Fest celebrates a quarter-century in style

September 20, 2017 by Patrick Newman, contributing writer

Gettin’ loose
Friday, September 8: media tour

Friday may have started off with a bit of morning rain, but the sunshine came out in the afternoon, and so did the beer fans. They were headed to the 25th annual Great Canadian Beer Festival, and so was I.

Racing down to the park, I was thinking about how this wasn’t my first beer festival but it was my first as a member of the media. We gathered together for a press tour of the fest grounds, which started at the tent of Spinnakers, BC’s oldest craft brew pub and one of the original beer fest participants. Unfortunately, their keg hadn’t arrived yet, so we had to skip them this time around.

This year’s beer fest was a hit, again (photo by Jay Wallace).

Next was a stop at one of BC’s newest brewers, Riot, to try their popular and refreshing Sorry We Took So Long Saison, inspired by their seven-year-long journey from concept to opening late last year in Chemainus.

Langford’s Axe & Barrel shared a Fruity Mutha Pucka Sour with us—it was tart but too heavy on the berries for my palate. Moody Ales’ Lusty Chocolate Oatmeal Stout is not something I’d drink much of, but it’s perfect for dessert. Finally, we visited Gibsons’ Persephone to try their refreshing Amarillo Pilsner, which was a nice way to cleanse the palate. Then we were on to the cask tent—I tried the Briteline tangerine IPA from Foamer’s Folly, which was okay but didn’t wow me—before being turned loose to explore the festival on our own.

Gettin’ hazy
Friday, September 8: sampling solo

Finally, I was in my beer-nerd element. Wandering amongst the many attendees pouring in to get tasting, I wasn’t too interested in trying beers I could buy in town or have already had; I wanted to taste brews that were made just for the festival, and to get sneak peeks of beers to come. I wanted to challenge my palate.

I went to Twin Sails, who are known for taking a different approach to brewing. I was not disappointed. Their Dad Jokes double IPA was crazy hoppy, and I was worried it may have done permanent damage to my palate—in a good way. I followed that up by sampling their Con Leche milk stout and was wowed by the beautiful coffee and cinnamon flavours; I’ll definitely pay the extra dollar to treat myself to this if I see it on store shelves.

Twin Sails was just the first of many breweries from the mainland that brought its A game to our island festival. Small brewers such as Hathi (brewed through Abbotsford’s Ravens Brewing), Brassneck, and 33 Acres offered festival-goers a fresh taste of what competition on the other side of the Georgia Strait is like. Hathi’s Coriander Pale Ale was a standout for me—the seasoning often used in Indian cooking added bright citrus notes.

Gettin’ rainy
Saturday, September 9:
the booze continues

Bright faces were common at the festival this year. Even though the sunny Friday afternoon was followed by rain on Saturday, everyone at the festival was really having a great time. Hoods and umbrellas may have hidden some faces from the rain, but they couldn’t hide the big, beaming smiles and jovial laughter of family, friends, and strangers enjoying themselves.

Festivals have that effect on people; beer festivals, doubly so. Speaking of bright, my favourite brews were just that.

Luppolo’s Black Lime Gose is made with sun-dried limes and salt, and it reminded me of being a kid and sucking on those tart little tablet-shaped candies; it would pair well with peppery pasta and grilled fish.

Beau’s, from Ontario, offered Buenos Dias, a zesty gruit-style beer made with citrus fruits that had me craving a few more weeks of sunshine. The Bandit, a kölsch from Bomber, reminded me of how much I deplore cutting the grass in summer, but it also reminded me that the reward of a cold beer like the Bandit afterward makes it all worthwhile.

Spoke Oceanside Brewery offered what was my favourite beer from the island breweries: its High Tide Rye Imperial Rye Ale, which had that toasty warmth and spice that rye imparts; it reminded me that good things come in late summer.

But, like summer, all good things must come to an end, and that includes festivals. On my way out, I reminded myself that summer would return next year, and I hoped the beer fest would too.

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