I missed the Great Canadian Beer Fest last year — Shawn and I couldn’t justify the cost and didn’t want to volunteer — and this year I decided I would buy two tickets and worry about who to take later. That was a mistake; while I did eventually find a friend to come along, they were sick today. (Sadness!). I debated a long time what I should do. Eventually I decided to just go — screw it! Year of yes! I packed a book, and figured if I didn’t run into anyone I knew, I would just treat it like a journalism assignment — drinking for research!
As it turns out, just after I purchased my tokens, I ran into Shane, his Dad, and his friend Alan with whom he records the Crafty Boys podcast about beer. Shane invited me to join them and, with no plan of which breweries to hit, we started wandering around the venue. Eventually I managed to try 19 beers (which I realize is the most I have ever drunk at the GCBF!) and had perogies from the Hungry Rooster in between.
So… here is the rundown this year:
- Bomber Brewing from Vancouver was the first contender and they had a Chocolate Porter on tap that did not disappoint. Not terribly chocolaty but a solid porter choice.
- Moody Ales tempted me wit the Smoked Porter that smelled just like bacon but the scent didn’t translate to the taste.
- As is my tradition, I made sure to have the Longwood Brewpub Berried Alive, but it may have been unseated as my favourite fruity beer this year.
- Postmark Brewing out of Vancouver had on offer a Raspberry Lemon Zest Hefe that totally surprised me. It was light and fruity and barely beer — very refreshing; I almost went back for a second.
- Another hefeweizen followed that, from Hoyne (normally, I drink their Dark Matter but I can get that anywhere); I tried their Summer Haze Honey Hefe which uses honey from the Empress Hotel’s bees, and tasted almost like mead. Very tasty.
- Tree Brewing’s Knox Mountain Brown Ale was my first real disappointment today; I dumped half of that one out because the hoppy aftertaste obliterated the nuttiness from the first sip.
- I lined up at Bad Tattoo out of Penticton hoping to get their stout but they hadn’t tapped it yet. Instead I went for the Los Muertos Dark Ale which was very good, considering I am not much of an ale fan.
- Cumberland Brewing had a couple of temptations but I ultimately settled on the Sour Cherry Saison and was not even slightly disappointed.
- I couldn’t resist the Strawberry Rhubarb Blonde ale from Vancouver Island Brewery — another light refreshing brew that tasted great under the hot afternoon sun.
- From Quebec, I zeroed in on the Cocoa Vanilla Stout from Dieu du Ciel — man, that is a dark beer you could stand a fork in. Very thick, very robust, very flavourful. Highly recommend.
- Found another smoked porter at Yellow Dog, Shake a Paw, and it was perfectly passable as a stout but even less smokey scented than the Moody Ales and no stand out flavour.
- Perhaps the biggest surprise to me, especially for one who does not like IPAs, was the Earl Grey IPA from Salt Spring Brewery. Amazing palette that perfectly blended the bergamot with beer in a way that neither overpowered.
- Yukon Brewing had a lot on offer but I went for the Cranberry Wheat. Disappointing in that I could taste lots of wheat and not much cranberry. Dumped the latter part of that one.
- Wolf Brewing had a Black and Tan on tap that seemed promising but was ultimately underwhelming.
- Still trying to find the right smokiness, I tried the Smokehouse Kolsh from Wheelhouse but realllllly didn’t like it. Couldn’t finish it at all.
- Possibly the biggest surprise to me was Obscuritas Dark Sour from Driftwood Brewery — it took me a few sips to figure it out but it tasted uncannily like those sour gummy worms from the bulk candy bins. Debated a second helping of that one but resisted.
- Bridge Brewing promised something layered with its Bourbon Blood Orange Wheat Ale. It was tasty, but not complex.
- Big Rock Brewing had what I presume was a late entry (it’s not in the printed guide) of a Rhubarb Wit that was very enjoyable; the rhubarb wasn’t too noticeable and yet it was definitely fruity enough to balance the wheat.
- With the last call bell rung, I headed to Moon Under Water Brewpub for a Creepy Uncle Dunkel — solid dark beer with a nice sweet nutty aftertaste; the perfect closer for the day.