Maybe I am showing my age, but when I hear whispers of “Mango…,” a part of my brain leaps to the SNL character played by Chris Kattan, the running gag being that the ambiguous character was irresistible to virtually everyone. The rest of my brain is simply saying “Eww,” because mango is not a fruit I enjoy.
So when every other cask at this year’s Great Candadian Beer Festival turned out to be mango-something-or-other, I started rolling my eyes at the flavour-of-the-hour. Not that it mattered, there were plenty of beers to try that had no trace of mango!
I’ve been to enough GCBFs now that I’ve tried a lot of the standard offerings — some breweries never seem to change up what is on tap — and I was looking for new and different. Aside from mango, sours were the popular brew this year (though often the two were combined). I attended with my two partners this year so, as a team, we would sometimes get three different brews from a booth and taste each of them. As a result of this plus some rather haphazard note-taking this year, my tasting notes aren’t as robust or orderly… but here are the overall results by brewery:
Axe and Barrel [Westshore]: I tried the Raspberry Sour. Nice colour and fruity scent and not nearly as pungent as some of the other sours I tasted. I could finish a full pint.
Brasserie Dunham [Dunham PQ]: The only brew I couldn’t come close to finishing was their Saison Cassis. More sour than most of the sours and with an overwhelming cough syrup aftertaste I couldn’t pawn this one off on either companion so it got dumped into the Royal Athletic Park grounds.
Bridge [North Vancouver]: Filled my glass with the Lemon Gin Saison which was a nice blend, the flavours played together well, but it was not a brew I’d ever order again. I also had a sip of the Blood Orange Wheat Ale and pulled a bitter beer face — the wheatiness was too pronounced for my palate.
Crannog Ales [Sorrento BC]: I tasted three of their offerings and all are recommendable! I filled my glass with The Other Hand Whiskey Ale which was tart but very smooth and I tasted the Backhand of God Stout which had rich chocolate and coffee notes — either of these I would be able to drink by the pint quite happily. The other one I tasted was their cask offering, Gael’s Blood Potato Ale, a red ale that was not quite to my taste as a red ale but I’d recommend it to others.
Driftwood [Victoria]: I tried the Latus Flanders Red a hearty deep sour, well balanced by the oak barrel aging.
Fernie Brewing [Fernie BC]: I was lured in by the promise of maple in their Sap Sucker Maple Porter which was a perfectly passable dark beer but I couldn’t detect either a note or aroma of maple. Disappointing and remarkably average.
Fuggles and Warlock [Richmond BC]: my very fave beer from this year’s festival was their The Last Strawberry Wit, a Belgian Wit with pureed strawberries and honey. Reminiscent of the best strawberry lemonade, the pale pink brew was the only one I would have had seconds if there were time. Long line was totally worth it. They also had on tap one of the best dark beers I tasted this year, Bean Me Up Espresso which has an amazing dark roast flavour thanks to Salt Spring Island coffee.
Granville Island Brewing [Vancouver]: Their cask this year was a Berliner Weisse, a light wheat ale which I tasted with a blackberry syrup added. Very pleasant, fruity and light; I could definitely drink a whole pint of that one.
Hoyne Brewing [Victoria] — my local fave: I ended the night with a glass of Dark Matter which is my go-to dark beer of choice year-round and a fitting way to toast the end of the festival for me this year.
Lighthouse Brewing [Esquimalt]: On offer was something I was very curious to try and happy that I did, a Coffee Lager. Normally, coffee pairs well with darker beers — stouts or porters — so I was curious what the effect would be in a lager. Well, if you consider Starbucks Blonde Roast or the ubiquitous Timmies, then this all makes sense. One sip and I was convinced: if Tim Hortons sold beer, it would taste like this. While it would never be my first pick for a coffee beer, I happily emptied my glass and I wouldn’t turn down a full pint. They also had the most beautiful painted kegs on display!
Philips Brewing [Victoria]: I tasted the beer one of my companions was brave enough to try, their cask was an Altbier with cardamom and cinnamon and while it smelled amazing, the taste left a lot to be desired. No chance I was filling even a 4 oz glass with that one.
Postmark [Vancouver]: another fruity beer here, this time a Raspberry Ale which smelled far stronger than it tasted. Overall average, I wouldn’t turn it down but wouldn’t order it myself.
Powell Street [Vancouver]: I adopted my companion’s choice of the Dry Hopped Sour, which was a peach sour. She couldn’t finish it, but I rather enjoyed the almost cloying canned-peach flavour that balanced the sourness of the underlying brew.
Ravens [Abbotsford]: I eagerly filled my glass with the English Dark Mild which promised toffee and hazelnut aromas in an earthy and hardy brew. Alas, with each sip the beer tasted progressively more bitter to me and by the time I got to the bottom of my glass I was definitely ready for something to clean my palate.
Steel & Oak [New Westminster]: I grabbed the Smoked Hefeweizen which was light and smoky and while I probably wouldn’t have picked out the banana note without the write-up in the guide it was definitely recognizable. I’d buy a bottle to enjoy as a nice summer evening beer.
Swans [Victoria]: having tried the Coconut Porter from Maui, I was curious about Swans’ take on that. It was good, not nearly as rich as the Maui version but, as my companion said, “The coconuts are probably a lot fresher in Hawaii.” Too true. I was content with the sip I had.
Twa Dogs [Victoria]: The Brewery arm of the new Victoria Caledonia Brewery and Distillery takes their brew inspiration from Robbie Burns. I selected the Holy Willie Porter which was a very nice, smooth, dark brew. Would happily drink a pint of that wherever it’s pouring.
Yellow Dog [Port Moody]: only a sip here of the Ginger Lime Gose cask. It was OK but happy I didn’t bother to fill a glass. (Sidebar: their webpage is still Coming Soon — since 2014 — and instead they are relying on a Facebook page. Hey if you need a website, I know someone who can help… )
PHEW! So that’s all of it. I went through 14 tokens (4 leftover from last year plus 10 I bought this year) and while I adopted one glass, I also dumped a glass but that is still just shy of 60 oz of beer! Already looking forward to next September.