Thursday, June 27, 2019

Not even rain can ruin the Great Canadian Beer Festival

September 8, 2018 by Greg Pratt, managing editor

The weather wasn’t great on Friday, but not much can really ruin a weekend like the one the Great Canadian Beer Festival offers. The fest’s triumphant return this year, on Friday, September 7 and Saturday, September 8, was tons of sudsy fun, despite the return of fall weather. Nexus went, Nexus conquered a whole lot of great beers. Here’s what I can remember.

On Friday, the festival led media through a sampling tour; first off was East Vancouver Brewing Company’s When it Rains it Porter, a 5.0% American-style porter that went down smooth and had a carbonated kick that threatened to be overpowering but didn’t quite distract from the malty notes of this delicious dark brew. Next up was Ravens Brewing Company’s award-winning 4.5% Corvus Lingoberry Lime Gose; this seems like a good time to mention that I generally don’t want fruit anywhere near my beer, so even the saltiness of the gose couldn’t distract me from the fact that this felt more like a juice than a beer. Well done for fans of the flavour, no doubt; that just ain’t me.

Cheers, Spinnaker’s Bourbon Black Lager, you amazing beer, you (photo by Greg Pratt/Nexus).

Moving along to Sooke Brewing Company’s IPA, a big 7.0% whopper of an IPA that more than held its own; it’s a sweet drink, but it also is bold and heavy, a tricky balance that Sooke Brewing got right here. I expected to hate Whitehorse’s Winterlong Brewing’s Spruce Tip pale ale; I dislike forest “tones” in my beer as much as I dislike fruit in my beer (I’m trying to be unhealthy here, people) but Winterlong somehow made this one, which had heavy raspberry overtones, taste good. I wouldn’t drink a lot of it, but this is pretty convincing stuff.

Fuggles & Warlock’s Last Strawberry witbier had lychee berries and strawberries and tasted more like one of my kids’ juiceboxes than a beer. Again, done well, but not for me. Locals Swans had the GCBF Collaboration Dunkelweizen on tap, and this 5.5% dunkel was a victory, all dark, malty, complex, and delicious. It was the best beer of the media tour, and a great way to end it off.

Then, we were left to our own devices. And, because space is short, let’s do this: Cannery’s Naramata Nut Brown Ale was great, easy drinking but with enough rich dark flavours and a bit of sourness. Spinnaker’s Bourbon Black Lager was incredibly thick, strong, and smoky; tons of great flavour in this amazing drink. Persephone’s Dry Irish Nitro Stout was really smooth and really, really good, with hints of mocha helping it go down; surprisingly refreshing for such a dark beer.

Lighthouse’s Siren’s Echo Imperial Red Ale was strong, tons of flavour, almost too bitter but refreshing all the same. It’s a great drink, unlike their Numbskull Imperial IPA, which they poured a citra edition of at the fest; it was just way too much of a bitter hop explosion for my tastes.

Brittania’s Ashore Rye Porter was one of my favourites, with a bit of spice from the malted rye; Bomber’s Russian Imperial Stout was a huge 9.5% and brewed with oak chips, which I assume added to its incredibly strong and tasty flavour. A serious drink but seriously worth it.

White Sails’ Cathedral Grove California Common was a very well-balanced, malty but still light drink (in my notes: “happiness,” which was either a weird autocorrect thing or me being drunk). Category 12’s Juicy Data Hayz IPA had a refreshing, fruity nose (and, again, I don’t want fruit in beer, so that’s saying a lot), and went down easy, with a thicker body than IPAs usually have. Blasted the hell out of my taste buds though, with a bit too much lingering bitterness.

Trois Mousquetaires PQ’s Porter Baltique was a big 10% porter with a surprisingly light body and a very strong, tasty flavour to it. Delicious. Back to Category 12 and their Mainframe Red Ale, which was quite hoppy for a red ale, a lively combo that worked. Twa Dogs’ Rebel Run ESB was a fantastic ESB, with a perfect amount of flavour; it was easy to drink, with a nice dry finish.

I saved the biggies for last: a 2015 Thor’s Hammer from Central City had hints of toffee and sherry and a mouthful of oh my god this is one of the best beers ever, and Fieldhouse’s Salted Black Porter, which packed a good bite and was nowhere near as “look at me!” as it could have been; instead, Fieldhouse took on a complex beer and emerged victorious, the subtle saltiness mixing perfectly with the porter’s pitch-black beauty.

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