It’s been almost a year since my last beer list and the landscape of my local liquor store has once again reconfigured Matrix-style to suit the tastes ‘n times. I’m happy to report that the BC craft beer industry in general has mostly marched past the pumpkin spice frenzy of Octobers past (only counted two!) and has focused on more quality-crafted brews with, say a new strain of hops standing in for what used to be a lot of guava and Vanilla-Rooibis nonsense.
The sours are still a thing; especially Gose, a type of German-style wild fermented sour beer with lemon and tropical fruit characteristics. Also a lot of wheat beers around (yeaaaaah!) some flavoured with citrus and others as is. A lot of the big breweries are now making multiple versions of their flagship brews with slightly different hops or yeast. I’m not sure who’s buying ‘em but they’re available.
A much more profound change has come to the packaging. Fewer BC breweries are filling the 750ml “bomber” bottles anymore and are instead sliding some cheaper 475ml “tall boy” cans towards us for a much cheaper price. It’s the same beer with a cheaper and easier entre point for new beer enthusiasts, and it seems to be working. A good chunk of the 20+ new breweries that have opened this year have gone for cans over bottles.
So there you go, a year’s worth of loitering in liquor stores comes down to five really good bombers and one adorable tall boy. Of the lists that I’ve done in the past this one feels the most solid in terms of quality and the general consensus from the interwebs. Not that that’s ever been something I care about, but it’s good to know these brews have gotten lots of love and won awards all over the province.
2018 Autumn BC Beer List
Dry Porter – Salt Spring Island Brewing (Salt Spring Island, BC)
Up until last summer I was never been much of a fan of porters and always kind of dismissed them as “poor-man’s stouts”. Now I know a bit better (“Stout” and “porter” are near-interchangeable terms historically) and I’ve acquired quite a love for these kinds of dark ales. This is all thanks to a porter from Salt Spring Island with a Winnebago on the label.
That label doesn’t lie! There is none of the overly sticky, treacly sweetness that sometimes poisons porters here, it is bone dry… Dry as dust… Dry as John Cleese’s delivery… It’s dry. And mellow, with hints of vanilla wafers and salted caramel which swell up and finish with this HUGE coffee flavour that lingers long, loud ‘n proud.
Best Enjoyed : At a table covered in newspaper with family separating the seeds from pumpkin muck so you can roast ‘em!
Flammenbeer Octoberfest Smoked Lager – White Sails Brewing Co. (Nanaimo, BC)
I tried this fine brew last October when it was released as a limited edition batch. It was so good that the memory of that taste coupled with the anticipation of this autumn’s batch kept me in good spirits during a year plagued with health problems and other sanity-shaking events. *laughs* I’m so glad they brought it back!
Up front this beer is dry ‘n crisp with an almost savoury barley flavour balanced by a slight maltiness and very little hops. The smoke starts creeping into the finish but never overpowers the palate. It’s a really nice balance and a really warm, comforting flavour. Like a big ‘ol macramé scarf for your insides! It’s also really good to cook with, perfect for autumn comfort foods.
Best Enjoyed : In Carbonade de Flamande, the traditional Flemish beef ‘n beer stew.
Nectarous Dry Hopped Sour Ale – Four Winds Brewing (Delta, BC)
This is the beer that won all the awards and started he whole “Dry Hopped ___ Sour” fad across the province these last few years. And though Four Winds Brewing must do some major penance for spawning a million cheap imitators all is forgiven every time I crack open another Nectarous and remember what a well-balanced sour ale is all about.
Light, hazy and smelling of peaches this golden draught hits you right in the back of the cheeks with lots of tropical fruit and citrus flavours but never gets overly sour. That sweet fruitiness coupled with some champagne-like bubbles keeps the whole affair light and the finish from getting too pithy. It’s really easy to drink and perfect for sharing with friends if you can get it in the taller, corked-style bottle.
Best Enjoyed : With your Mountain biking crew while you pick all the dead leaves out of your chain ring.
Oumuamua Milk Stout – Driftwood Brewing (Victoria, BC)
It’s not an EDB “Best of” style beer list without Driftwood Brewing’s beers swaggering onstage to show everyone how it’s done. It was a close race between this exceptional milk stout and Driftwood’s equally stunning “Last Aurochs” Weizenbock. In the end my love of wheat beers was crushed by this stout’s dark ‘n monolithic coffee and caramel flavours.
The closest beer I could compare it to would be Hoyne’s Dark Matter, but even that legendary draft can’t match this alien’s syrupy sweetness and slightly-bitter roasted character. It’s perfectly balanced, and now the beer I think of when someone’s looking for a new “dark” beer… And yes, of course I bought it for the label, same as any other Driftwood beer… I mean c’mon, it looks like the Dreadnaught from Destiny!
Best Enjoyed : playing Destiny! *laughs*
SOVEREIGN Super Saison – Four Winds Brewing (Delta, BC)
Our second Four Winds beer of the list is a sterling example of a saison, which is one of my absolute favourite styles of beer. The minute you pop the cork on this bad boy (it comes in a champagne-style bottle like most of Four Wind’s beers) you get hit with huge, yeasty banana bread and floral aromas. The body is equally big with a funky, yeasty flavour and a slightly bitter cardamom finish to cleanse the palate and keep you sipping. Altogether one of the best saisons I’ve ever had!
Best Enjoyed : At the Thanksgiving table alongside some turkey and pumpkin pie!
Bonus! Little Can Review!
Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Beer IPA – Parkside Brewing (Port Moody,BC)
I had to buy this beer the minute I saw the label. Luckily for me a) it was a tall boy so it only cost me a couple bucks and b) it turned out to be a very drinkable and refreshing IPA that bucks all the Westcoast norms and keep the hops down, the fruit subtle and the finish light.
Best Enjoyed : while doing housework on a rainy afternoon.