Friday, September 1, 2017

Your Guide to Extreme Beers at the 2017 Great Canadian Beer Fest

Craft beer is an ever-changing beast. What was "extreme" or innovative one year may be commonplace the next. And in a year's time, a style that was barely on the radar (hello New England-style IPAs) can proliferate. So it's always with great anticipation I approach the Great Canadian Beer Festival—celebrating its 25th anniversary no less—to see what's new and what's cutting edge. Like a lot of craft beer diehards, I want to try something I've never had before.

That's why every year I comb through the listings of what beers will be poured to find what I think will be this year's cool, interesting brews that are worth shelling out a token for. This is one beer drinker's opinion and keep in mind I wrote the Brewtal Truth to Extreme Beers, so I definitely have my biases. I don't only drink extreme beers, but when I'm at a festival where a lot of breweries still mostly pour their core brands, I'm looking for something to challenge me.

So without further ado, here's my list of the extreme beers—something that goes a little bit (or a lot!) beyond the norm—to seek out at the 25th Great Canadian Beer Fest. And if you don't already have tickets, there are still some left, which you can order here.

(Congrats should also be given to Gerry Hieter who's been making this great gathering happen faithfully every year for a quarter century. Thanks for all you do for great beer in Victoria, Gerry.)

Captain Cooper's Tart Cranberry Ale
For the last few years I've complained about that fact that more brewers aren't using wild yeasts to brew their beer, but this year they are very much part of the mix. This "wild sour" was brewed with cranberries and should be a good one for slaking your thirst in the summer heat. 
713 Balsamic Stout (Cask) 
If someone offers you a "Balsamic Stout" you politely say "hell yes!" For this cask of their Oaked Stout, Faculty infused it with a balsamic reduction, which is just plain brilliant. 
Anytime any brewery brings a steinbier, I will recommend it. It's an obscure German lager style whereby hot chunks of granite are used to caramelize the wort in the brewing process. There's something primal and elementary about this that I'm personally fascinated by. Plus it tastes good, and this one is a collaboration with actual Germans at Freigeist Bierkultur.

Cherry High
Brettanomyces yeast and cherries are a killer combination. The funk and the fruit are a perfect pairing. For that reason alone, you should try this. 

Year V (Cask)
Moon's anniversary brew is, no exaggeration, my first stop every year, because it never fails to utterly impress. Year five's delight is a Citra dry-hopped Imperial wheat wine blended with barrels from last year's Year IV ale. Wow. Can't wait.  

Wild Saison
Approach with caution if you're a wild ale/brett newbie. This saison is 100% Brett C fermented so the funk will be strong in it. However, the addition of fruit puree in the secondary fermentation will no doubt tame that funk a bit. 

Pitch Black Chamomile Pilsener
Lucifudge (Friday Cask)
OK, the only thing more insane than a "Pitch Black Chamomile Pilsener" (I HAVE to know what that tastes like), is a cherry chocolate porter (sort of) named after a Danzig album. Hilarious!

Buenos Dias Gruit Ale
When Beau's gets all crazy, you can rest assured it'll taste great. These Ontario vets are crafty and clever. This low-alcohol, hop-free ale is brewed with organic lime juice, orange and lime peel, and is accented with hit of sea salt to complete the Margarita reference.

Lusty Chocolate Oatmeal Stout
For those who love dark, malty brews, this oatmeal stout sounds like liquid love. It's brewed with specialty chocolate malts and cocoa and conditioned on locally roasted cocoa nibs. So much good in one beer. 

Field House X Brassneck - Wild Brett Wasp Ale
If you haven't had any previous versions, this is a must-try sour ale that was fermented with yeast harvested from a wasp's gut, and finished with brettanomyces. It gained additional character from airborne yeast exposure in a coolship (open-air fermenter) with elder flower and hops. Wow. 

And while you're at Field House, try everything else.

Bois Savauge
Townsite's Bois Sauvage wild, funky, barrel-aged brews are incredibly complex with notes of bright fruit, light funk and earthy wood. 

Éphémère Sureau
As a longtime fan of Unibroue's Éphémère series of light and effervescent fruit-flavoured wheat ales, I've gotta know what a version with elderflower and elderberries tastes like. 

They had me at "four-year barrel aged." I implicitly trust Four Winds when it comes to barrel-aged brews, so I'm sure this dark American-style sour ale, conditioned on black currants, will absolutely slay. 

Framboise (cask)
Spinnakers has been hitting quite a groove recently with some beer/wine crossovers. Their version of a sour framboise was put in red wine barrels with fresh local raspberries and given a year to mature. Should be fruity, funky and earthy.

Lastly, don't miss The Drake Cask Tent, where several breweries who won't have their own tents this year will pour their brews.  

Adem Tepedelen is the Victoria-based author of the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing's Outer Limits. Autographed copies are available locally at Cook St. Liquor (230 Cook St).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Metal + Beer in Philadelphia, April 22-23

Holy shit. It's actually happening. And I'll be there to witness it firsthand.

The Decibel Metal and Beer Fest is a big deal for me. After writing my Brewtal Truth craft beer column in Decibel magazine every month for eight years, this is like seeing that column made real. Many of the musicians and brewers I've interviewed over the years will be pouring beer and playing at the festival.

I can't take credit for assembling the brewery or band lineups—Decibel booked the bands and consulted with me on the breweries—but I have to think that this thing never would have happened if I hadn't planted the seed with my column years ago and continued to nurture it issue after issue.

So even though I live on the opposite coast, the weekend of April 22-23, I'll be at Fillmore Philadelphia soaking up every minute of the inaugural Decibel Metal and Beer Fest. Amongst all the breweries, some pouring beers specially brewed for the fest, Decibel will have copies of my book, the Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers (perfect pairing for a weekend of extreme music), for sale.

Hell, Dave Mustaine is even gonna be there on Saturday, April 22, showing off his new Unibroue A Tout Le Monde Dry-Hopped Saison with Unibroue brewmaster Jerry Vietz.

This festival is the first of its kind and I'm excited to be part of it. If you live anywhere near Philadelphia, you should go. Tickets are available here. Let's have a beer (or several) together.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Your Guide to Extreme Beers at the Great Canadian Beer Fest

For BC craft beer drinkers, the Great Canadian Beer Festival is THEE craft beer event of the year. I've been attending for at least a decade—doing a preview post for three years—and every year I look forward to these two days in September when I can immerse myself in the ever-evolving world of Canadian craft beer. This is when brewers from across Canada can show their best stuff. Or not.

I've griped about it in the past, but it's ridiculous in 2016 that so many breweries are trotting out the same tried and true beers that are on tap everywhere, that anyone who has ever had a pint of craft beer in this province has tried. Why bother? So, in addition to my extreme beer picks listed below, I have included the first annual "Why Bother?" awards for the worst offenders who have chosen to be predictable, stay the course, and bring the same stuff they bring every year—beers that we all know too well. Yawn.

So, for my extreme beer suggestions, I want to celebrate the breweries that are at least making some semblance of an effort to bring something new/interesting/different to the GCBF. It doesn't even have to be extreme, it just needs to demonstrate that they want to engage, tantalize and maybe even create a buzz this year. The breweries I remembered from last year were the ones that offered something new, maybe even unexpected. The breweries I didn't even bother visiting were the ones that only poured beers you can find at any BC liquor store.

These French Canadians are obsessed with saisons, and this unfiltered "specialty grain blanche/saison hybrid brewed with rye, wheat and oats and a small amount of fall honey," sounds like another winner.

Sour #2 Cherry 
A lot of breweries are doing kettle sours these days, but for a sour beer with depth and complexity, you need some barrel aging. This is a "red Kriek infused with cherries, aged for two years in oak barrels." Two years. That'll be good.

Deep Cove's Kriek didn't spend as much time in oak as Central City's, but it should still have some good character and depth from the "house blend of wild yeasts and bacteria," as well as the oak barrel contact.

Driftwood (Booth 58)
Latus Flanders Red
If you missed out on Latus when it was bottled in the spring, or you just want more, then this is a good opportunity to taste a Belgian-style sour red ale that was aged in oak wine barrels for a year.

Field House (Booth 52)
Salted Black Porter 
This new brewery is putting its best foot forward with a beer that had me at "salted." This porter is brewed with "traditional Dutch dropsies (salted black licorice)," and sounds like a big, yummy mouthful of umami goodness. 

Le Trou du Diable (Booth 9)
Dulcis Succubus Saison
Here's something I'm going to say multiple time in this post: why aren't more breweries using wild yeast (brettanomyces)? This amazing saison is aged for twelve months in Californian white oak barrels and is bottle conditioned with brett for incredible complexity. Do. Not. Miss. This. 

Lighthouse (Booth 34)
Kamaraj (cask)
An India Pale Ale with toasted coconut and Madras curry powder? Sold! I'm already planning to go back for seconds.  

Sang de Merle Sour (cask)
Moon has shown remarkable versatility in the many styles it successfully brews—from perfect traditional German beers to forward-thinking Brett IPAs. The sours have been a welcome surprise in the last couple of years. You've gotta love this blackberry port barrel-aged sour with blackcurrant addition that's cask conditioned. Mouth watering.

Parallel 49 (Booth 27)
Dumb Funk Brett IPA
Why aren't more breweries using wild yeast??? This was my favourite beer at Hopoxia. The brett plays well with the fruity hop notes, making this an easy entry-level beer for the wild yeast-curious. Another silly name from Parallel 49, but this is a beautifully balanced beer.

Phillips (Booth 46)
Longboat Porter with Sorachi Ace (cask)
I'm only begrudgingly including Phillips here due to their insistence on pouring Blue Buck (and Blue Buck with Citra, really?), but I just have to know what Longboat with Sorachi Ace (a hop variety with strong lemon notes) tastes like. 

Red Truck (Booth 8)
IPA with Ataufo Mango Habanero (cask)
While I'm not generally a fan of all these newfangled IPA "radlers"—IPAs with fruit added—but I like the idea of a "mango salsa" IPA with some heat. 

Salt Spring Island Ales (Booth 64)
Red Cedar Kelp Ale (cask)
Jalapeno Raspberry Wheat Ale (cask)
This is a brewery that has a very hit and miss record throughout its existence. But there's reason for optimism thanks to some recent changes. I like the fact that they are pushing the envelope with their cask offerings this year. They may be swings and misses, but I can honestly say that I have never had a beer with the words: red cedar and kelp in the name. Talk about a local brew. 

Strange Fellows (Booth 45)
Coup de Foudre Sour
I left GCBF 2015 last year thinking that Strange Fellows was one of BC's best new breweries. I think I tasted everything they brought and loved it all. Brewer/co-owner Iain Hill knows sours and this fouder (big oak barrel) fermented should be funky and sour. 

Swan’s (Booth 61)
Bourbon Kelp Scotch Ale (cask)
Thanks to some recent management changes at Swans, brewer Andrew Tessier has been given the green light to let his freak flag fly, which has resulted in some impressive new releases. I don't know what this beer is all about, but I want to taste it. 

Three Ranges (Booth 3)
Canadian Peso (cask)
This is good in so many ways. A pilsner spiced with cumin and locally grown jalapeños and cilantro. Yes. And the name? Perfect.

Scurvy Dog Spruce Ale
Smokehouse Kolsch
Divide Ride Red Ale
Northern Forest Berry Saison (cask)
Talk about swinging for the fences (both proverbial and literal, since GCBF is in the HarbourCats ballpark), this upstart brewery is unleashing four beers that totally qualify as extreme! Spruce ale? Smoked kölsch? Cedar aged red ale? Saison with four kinds of West Coast berries? Yes, yes, yes and yes!

Ginger Lime Gose
Gose is a light, tart German style traditionally brewed with salt and coriander. But ginger and lime sound good, too. Especially if the weather is warm.

WHY BOTHER? AWARDS - Nothing to see here...
Steel & Oak

Adem Tepedelen is the Victoria-based author of The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing's Outer LimitsAutographed copies are available locally at Cook St Liquor (230 Cook St).

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Bringing the Brewtal Truth to the Great American Beer Festival

It's pretty likely that there will an uncomfortable moment between me and Brooklyn Brewing's brewmaster, Garrett Oliver at the upcoming Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Sept. 24-26. Personally, I like the guy a lot. He's been nothing but extraordinarily helpful on the multiple occasions I've interviewed him for stories I've written. In person, he's equally magnanimous and friendly. He's as passionate about craft beer as I am and seems to work tirelessly spreading the good word.

But on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 26, from 1:30 to 2 pm, we'll both be signing copies of our books in the Beer Geek Bookstore at GABF. That would be fine—damn cool, in fact—if my book wasn't about extreme beer. Unfortunately, Garrett is not a fan. In fact, he was quoted in a 2008 New Yorker feature by Burkhard Bilger stating this opinion in no uncertain terms: "I find the term 'extreme beer' irredeemably pejorative," he was quoted as saying. Later in that same article he concludes, "The whole idea of extreme beer is bad for craft brewing."

Which should make for a nice exchange and that uncomfortable moment I mentioned above when I shake his hand to say hello and reintroduce myself. And then sit down in front of a stack of books with "EXTREME BEERS" in all caps on the cover. Awkward.

I make no apologies for the book I wrote and I think differing opinions on what's best for the craft beer industry are healthy. Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head— an unabashed proponent of well-made extreme beer—and Garrett Oliver both brew really good beer that I enjoy drinking. I think that continually pushing boundaries, being creative and exploring possibilities are noble pursuits in craft brewing.

So, if you don't find the "idea of extreme beer bad for craft brewing," stop by the Beer Geek Bookstore at GABF, pick up a copy of my book, The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing's Outer Limits, and have me sign it during one of the two sessions listed below.

Friday, Sept. 25, 8-9pm
Saturday, Sept. 26, 1:30-2pm (members only session)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Your Handy Guide to Extreme Beers at the Great Canadian Beer Festival

While other beer festivals follow a more structured and predictable format, the Great Canadian Beer Festival, in Victoria, BC, seems to morph ever so slightly every year under chairman Gerry Hieter's guidance. This year, for instance, the festival is 100% Canadian (as it should be). However, with the recent rapid growth of the local BC craft beer industry, this year's fest is very BC heavy. There's a small Quebec contingent (Unibroue, Le Trou du Diable, Les Trois Mousquetaires and Dieu du Ciel!), but beyond that, very few other provinces are represented.

What's made this BC-dominated festival possible in 2015 is the simple fact that a crazy number of new breweries opened in the last year. This has been a trend of late, but it has accelerated exponentially in the last two years to the point that it's hard to keep track of all the newcomers. And the lineup announced for this year's GCBF doesn't even represent the entirety of the BC industry. There are many breweries who, for whatever reason, have opted not to participate (looking at you, Brassneck).

On the positive side, the ones who will be there have some really interesting brews on tap. We sorted through the entire list to pick a bunch that we think are a little "out there." These are the unique brews that you shouldn't miss at GCBF in 2015. As a disclaimer, I'll note that these are not the only extreme beers being served at the festival, just the ones I think are worth trying.

33 Acres of Nirvana  Double IPA
I love Nirvana and double IPAs, so this is kind of a no-brainer. Probably not "extreme," but we'll give it a pass for the name alone.  

Category 12 (Booth 23)
Distruption Black IPA (cask)
For this cask conditioned version of their tasty CDA, C-12 went all batshit crazy and added fennel, extra Simcoe dry hop additions and Saccaromyces trois yeast.

Patrick O' Pumpkin (cask)
I'm not the biggest pumpkin ale fan, but I will line up for an imperial version that was matured in bourbon barrels. Especially if it's from Central City.

Dageraad (Booth 58)
De Witte Sour Witbier (cask)
If sour is the new bitter, this beer has all the bases covered. It's a sour Belgian-style witbier brewed with passionfruit and dry hopped with citra hops.

Dieu du Ciel! (Booth 62)
Disco Soliel IPA
Even though there's nothing extreme about "disco," we admire DDC's brilliance of  brewing an IPA with kumquat, which is both fruity/citrusy and bitter. 

American Rye Stout
These fellas love their rye and they aren't afraid to brew anything with it. Including this rye stout. Not sure what the "American" part means, but maybe it's about the dose of Cascade hops this brew gets. 

Lighthouse (Booth 27)
Pear Pale Ale (cask)
OK, I'll bite. I've never had a beer infused with locally grown pears, and given Lighthouse's expertise with, uh, challenging ingredients, I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt here. 

Loghouse (Booth 14)
Kettle Sour Spruce Tip Ale
New brewery on the block goes big at its first GCBF with a spruce tip kettle sour. Impressive.

Free Spirit Cascade Berry Sour (cask)
This is how you get on the Brewtal Truth's GCBF recommended brews list. You bring a spontaneously fermented sour beer that was aged for 18 months.

Intrepid Matcha Saison
The name brings to mind dirty hippies, but we have it on good authority that it's delicious. Very West Coast.

Hip as Funk
This kind of thinking—using brett and saison yeasts for an IPA—is what makes craft beer great. Taste the future.

Persephone (Booth 36)
Imperial Pilsner
If it has "imperial" in the name, it's already in extreme beer territory, but we're a sucker for an imperial pilsner. And knowing Persephone's M.O., it's liberally hopped. 

Super Cooper Anniversary Ale (cask)
They actually brewed this STRONG 14th anniversary beer a year ago (way to think ahead!) and aged it in bourbon barrels. Oh yeah, and then dry hopped it. That about covers the bases.

Hunt & Gather
Everything's coming up berries this year. Tons of breweries have discovered that the local fare tastes pretty good in a beer. This kettle sour features locally sourced salal berries and blackberries.

Adem Tepedelen is the Victoria-based author of The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing's Outer Limits. Autographed copies are available locally at Cook St Liquor (230 Cook St).

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Seattle Book Signing With Brann Dailor of Mastodon, April 26 at Schooner Exact Brewing

For me, one of the coolest things about writing The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers was getting to bring together two of my biggest passions: craft beer and extreme music. My "Brewtal Truth" column in Decibel  magazine, which was the precursor to my book, offered me the opportunity to connect with some well-known musicians within the scene who shared my passions. So, when it came time to put the book together, it seemed like a good idea to include some of those guys in the mix.

As luck would have it, two musicians I interviewed for the book, Mastodon drummer Brann Dailor and Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster are doing a North American tour together and making a stop in Seattle on April, 26. So, I'm excited to announce that Brann will be joining me at a brief book-signing at Schooner Exact Brewing Co. (3901 1st Ave, S), not far from the club, Showbox Sodo, he'll be playing at that night. J-P has other obligations and can't join us, but from 5-6 pm, you can stop by Schooner Exact, grab a beer, buy a book ($20 cash or charge) and get it signed by Brann and me.

The Mastodon/Clutch show is already sold out, but this event will be free and open to the public. No ticket needed. The show doesn't start until 7pm, so you'll have plenty of time to swing by Schooner Exact beforehand.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Quick Guide to Extreme Beers at the Great Canadian Beer Festival

Chairman Gerry Hieter has been doing an amazing job of putting on a well-run beer festival for more than 20 years, but the breweries attending Great Canadian Beer Festival haven't always put their best foot forward in what's arguably THEE craft beer event of the year. Without naming names, year after year, a number of breweries bring the same brews (and brews that are available on pretty much any liquor store shelf in town and most bars). Every brewery should be bringing at least one or two beers that will get people talking and cause a little buzz.

This isn't the same craft beer crowd from a decade ago. They have more sophisticated palates, they've been exposed to amazing beers from around the world and they are always looking for something new and exciting. The Great Canadian Beer Fest is the perfect place for breweries to show off a bit.

If the 2014 lineup of beers posted at the GCBF site is any indication, things are slowly changing. There does seem to be a lot more creativity in the offerings this year. Not only are there a bunch of new breweries—many of which clearly have an ambitious streak—many of the established breweries are putting forth some really interesting efforts this year. I don't think I could have done much of a "Guide to Extreme Beers at the GCBF" a couple years ago, but this year, I was able to put together what I think is a solid collection of "out-there" beers to seek out. As a disclaimer, I'll note that these are not the only extreme beers being served at the festival, just the ones I think are worth trying.

Magic Beans Strong Brown Ale
The "beans" are coffee beans and they are used in quite an interesting fashion here. Brassneck cold brewed the coffee in the beer, so instead of the usual roasty/burnt notes, you get fruit notes and acidity.

Belgian Apricot IPA
Belgian IPAs typically have an abundance of fruit notes from both the hops and the Belgian yeast, and this brew, made with experimental hops and 90 kgs of apricots, is an interesting take on the style. 

Both Barrels Imperial  IPA
This is a collab with Ninkasi, P49 and Gigantic that was aged in Cognac and bourbon barrels. Nuff said. 

Smoke & Mirrors Imperial Smoke Ale
Smoke can be an overwhelming flavour in beer, but Coal Harbour have gone all in on this one, utilizing both German smoked malts and Scottish peated malts.

Singularity Russian Imperial Stout (Friday)
This massive brew is known for its incredible strength, which is aided by time spent in Makers Mark bourbon barrels. 

Serendipity Apple Saison
Beers brewed with wine grape must (juice) have been gaining in popularity (try Dogfish Head's Sixty-One in the U.S. Pavilion), but this saison features the addition of Granny Smith apple juice. 

Currant Event
Lighthouse is going "all in" with this brew. It's a wheat, rye and spelt saison that was refermented on oak with black currants. 

2nd Anniversary Ale
Last year's first anniversary brew was amazing, a huge beer befitting a momentous celebration. This year's—a red wheat wine refermented on grape juice and oak—should be just as impressive and big.

Spruce Tree Ale
Others have tried this style—which is conditioned on Sitka spruce tree tips—but it's challenging to find the balance where the spruce doesn't dominate. Tofino gets it right. This offers a glimpse of the kind of ingredients beer was brewed thousands of years ago. 

U.S. Pavilion
I focused on Canadian (well, as it turns out, BC) beers above, but there will be some must-try extreme beers in the U.S. Pavilion as well. Many of these have either never been poured in this market before, or are back after a long absence.

• Alameda Yellow Wolf Imperial IPA (100+ IBU hop bomb)
• Dogfish Head 61 (brewed with wine grape must)
• Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (one of the original mega IPAs)
• New Holland Dragon's Milk Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout (pretty much says it all...)
• Saugatuck Serrano Pepper Ale (spicy!)

If you're a fan of extreme beers, you can find autographed copies of my Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers: An All-Excess Pass to Brewing's Outer Limits at Cook St. Liquor.