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.

Tofino
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.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers in Chicago & at Dark Lord Day in April!



My first visit to the Windy City will be a momentous one. Not only will I be doing a book-signing event at one of the coolest craft beer bars in the Midwest, Northdown Cafe & Taproom, I'll finally get to attend and do a book signing at Three Floyds' Dark Lord Day.

The Northdown event will be in the late afternoon, so you can still make it over to the Metal Alliance tour with Behemoth, Goathwhore, 1349, Inquisition and Black Crown Initiate later that same evening at the House of Blues. So if you couldn't get a ticket to Dark Lord Day, here's your chance to get an autographed copy of my book from me. As usual, I'll have copies for sale for $20 ea. and I can now take cash, check or credit card.

And, yes, Dark Lord Day is totally sold out already. But if you're one of the 6,000-plus attending, look for me amidst the chaos of amazing beer and amazing music from Witchbanger, Iron Reagan, Brain Tentacles, Correction House, Vulgaari, Eyehategod and High On Fire.

• Friday, 4/25: Northdown Cafe & Taproom, 3244 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL, from 4–7 pm. I will be joined by some very special guests who will be there signing books with me. Map

• Saturday, 4/26: Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds Brewery, 9750 Indiana Pkwy, Munster, IN, from 10 am to 10 pm. You have to have a ticket for this event, which are long sold out. But if you DO have a ticket, come buy a book! Map



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Bringing the Brewtal Truth to Tucson, Arizona!


I'll be hitting the road in mid-March to do two book-signing events in a much warmer climate. It's purely coincidental that, as a huge baseball fan, I'll be heading to Arizona. These events, however, are a couple hours southeast of MLB's Cactus League Spring Training facilities in the Phoenix area. Yep, I'm heading to Tucson.

Sunday, March 16, I'll be selling and signing copies of The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers at the Tucson Festival of Books. This free literary fest is held on the University of Arizona campus every year and attracts more than 100,000 book nerds attendees. I'll be set up in the Author Pavilion West from 9:30–11:30 am. This will be my first "dry" event. Sorry. If you're like me and you're into books, the event itself is worth coming out for. Plus, it's free.

• [VENUE CHANGE!] Wednesday, March 19, I'll be selling and signing books at 1702/The Address Brewing (1702 E. Speedway Blvd), starting at 8 pm. There will be beer sold here, and lots of it. Might even be a few beers featured in my book on tap at the event. I'll also have some Uinta swag to give away for anyone who buys a copy of my book.

Come on out and celebrate extreme beer with me, Arizona!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tasting Extreme Beers on Shaw TV!

Shaw TV Vancouver Island reporter Sucheta Singh interviewed me about my book recently at Cook St Liquor. Watch as I show off some British Columbia examples of extreme beers from Howe Sound, Lighthouse and Russell.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Four Brewtal Truth Book Signing Dates in the Pacific Northwest!


In two weeks, I'll be hitting the road for some book signing events in the Northwest (see below). This is where my craft beer odyssey started, so I'm excited to visit Seattle (twice), Portland and Eugene over the course of a week. Hope to see you there!

I'll have books will be for sale at every event, but feel free to bring your own to have me sign it if you've purchased it elsewhere.

• Saturday, 12/7: Brouwer's Cafe, 400 N 35th st, Seattle, starting at 4pm. This amazing event will feature special guest Todd Haug, head brewer of Surly Brewing, who will be bringing seven Surly beers that will be on tap (including the three I included in my book). Map

• Thursday, 12/12: The Beer Junction, 4511 California Ave SW, West Seattle, from 5-8 pm. There will also be a Ninkasi tasting. You can sample 5 different Ninkasi beers for $4. Map

• Friday, 12/13:  Ninkasi tasting room, 272 Van Buren St, Eugene, OR, from 6-7:30 pm. Map

• Saturday, 12/14: Green Dragon, 928 SE 9th Ave, Portland, OR, starting at 5pm. Map

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Brewtal Truth Guide to Extreme Beers is Finally Out!



The official release date for the book is actually November 12, but you can now go online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell's and other online retailers and order it. Finally! In fact, there's a shortcut to the book on Amazon to the right of the this post. If you're ready to place your order, please do use that link. Order now and you'll have it in your hands long before the actual release date!

In the coming weeks, I'll be using this blog and other social media to promote book signing events and other happenings, so stay tuned. I'd also encourage you to, if you do purchase the book, please leave a review on Amazon or B&N or wherever—whether it's positive or negative.

And if anyone from a book store, bottleshop, brewpub, pub or brewery is reading this and is interested in having me do a book signing event. Please get in touch at brewtaltruth at shaw.ca.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Beer Fest + Birthday = Best Weekend of the Year

The last two years, one of the two days of the Great Canadian Beer Festival (this year, Sept 6-7) has fallen on my birthday. Needless to say, last year much celebrating was done with a beer in my hand. It'll no doubt be the same this year.

The GCBF is an interesting event and, as far as festivals go, a good place to celebrate a birthday. It is tiny compared to Great American Beer Festival standards (8,000 attendees vs. 49,000; 55+ breweries vs. 600+), but there's no shortage of good craft beer to be had. And the setting—outside, with lots of room to move around—is way preferable to Denver's packed, weirdly lit convention center.

The Victoria, BC-based fest—now in its 21st year—has been improving annually since I've been a regular attendee (from about 2007, I think). Not only is BC beer getting better and better (and there's way more of it now), the quality of breweries attending from other provinces and the U.S. Northwest has gotten dramatically better. Many of the breweries bring a special cask beer for each day and there's a good mix of styles to be tasted.

This year, there are even after-fest parties at a couple of the bars in Victoria! Irish Times is hosting a New Belgium event (which is brand new to the province) on Friday and Saturday, while The Guild is featuring a tap takeover by Upright and Gigantic from Portland on Friday.

Dig the Municipal Waste hat. A trve craft beer fan.
My only complaint about the GCBF is that many of the BC breweries are a little conservative in the lineup of beers that they bring. Some I can list off the top of my head—they trot out the same three or four every year like clockwork. There's just nothing "festive" about beers that can be purchased at any store or pub in BC year-round.

The attitude at the GABF seems to be dramatically different. There, the brewers, who are keenly aware that their beer is being scrutinized and tasted not only by the public, but by the 600 other brewers, bring beers that create buzz and attention. They bring interesting, special brews designed to impress. The brewers participating in GCBF could take a cue from that.

Don't get me wrong, many of them do bring some unique and interesting beers, but there are too many that seem like they are participating because they have to, not because they want to actively promote their beers and craft beer in general. Craft beer drinkers in BC are more knowledgeable today than they were five years ago. They're thirsty for new, interesting brews when they go to festivals like this. It would be nice if all the breweries rose to the challenge and tried to impress them.

I can't complain, though. There aren't too many weekends of the year, where I get to try new beers all day. And celebrate my birthday, to boot.